As you know, quality early childhood education and STEM education are top of mind concerns for our community, as well as across the nation. Believing these two topics to be inextricably intertwined, on May 1, 2019, Thinkery, (a member of the Greater Austin STEM Ecosystem Steering Committee Way for Greater Austin and KLRU-TV are hosting a convening on the state of early STEM learning in our community. Please join us to share your knowledge and understanding of STEM learning in early childcare and educational settings and discuss a vision for young children’s STEM education in the future. The convening will be held at Thinkery from 8:00-10:00 am. We will provide coffee and breakfast tacos to support our creative thinking. We will send an agenda in advance of the meeting. See parking details below.

We hope that you are able join us!

Trish Young Brown, CEO, Thinkery

Cathy McHorse, Vice President of Success by Six, United Way for Greater Austin

Ben Kramer, Vice President – Educational Services, KLRU-TV, Austin PBS

PARKING: Validated parking is available in the McBee Street Parking Garage (behind Thinkery), please bring your ticket to the Admissions desk for validation. Street parking is available for free until 10:00 am.

Free Webinar – Culturally Appropriate Positive Guidance with Young Children in Our Care

The article “Culturally Appropriate Positive Guidance,” featured in Spotlight on Young Children: Social and Emotional Development provides insight into how culture plays a role in classroom interactions and how educators can guide children to recognize and understand diverse cultural practices.

Join NAEYC on Wednesday, April 10, from 3–4 p.m. EDT for a webinar with author Zeynep Ercan where she will discuss ways early childhood professionals can transform their thinking around children’s actions by using culturally appropriate positive guidance, highlight examples from her article, and how educators can practice the idea of cultural responsiveness in the context of guidance issues linked to variations in family practices.

Register Here –


CLI – Developing Pragmatic Language Skills

Developing Pragmatic Language Skills

Oral language is the ability to comprehend receptively, to process and understand heard speech, such as a story read aloud or a question prompt. It also includes expressive language which is the ability to verbalize and communicate to others. These abilities include listening comprehension, conversation skills, vocabulary development, grammar and phonological awareness skills.

Pragmatics are the functional use of language in social contexts; essentially the conversation skills.

This is when appropriate use of language is used to communicate effectively in many different situations and for many different purposes. This involves how something is said, the intention of the speech, the relationship between those in conversation, and any cultural expectations that influence the meaning.

Very early on, babies learn the beginnings of pragmatics. Eye contact, little smiles and gurgles are all early pragmatic skills that babies acquire much like other milestones in their development. Through responsive interactions with others, children learn how to engage with others and take turns in conversation.

Children must learn the social scripts that adults use subconsciously: greetings, conversation openers, the rhythms of questioning and answering, and so on. Effective interpersonal communication is learned through practice in large groups, small groups, and one on one. By talking with others, children learn to:

  • Share ideas and experiences
  • Develop new insights
  • Dispel misunderstandings
  • Build relationships
  • Answer and ask questions
  • Wait for their turn in a conversation
  • Use body language that shows interest in a speaker’s message
  • Use appropriate volume and intonation for different situations

In the eCIRCLE course “Setting the Stage for Children’s Talk” emphasis on creating a classroom environment in which children feel comfortable—even eager—to talk is a critical part of developing and promoting conversation.

Every teacher must find their own style, their own way of engaging children in talk. That said, research tells us that children are most compelled to talk when there is a reason to do so, when opportunities for talk are presented in meaningful or authentic contexts (for example, asking children to describe their pets, or what kinds of food they like or dislike).

On a related note, children’s talk cannot be forced. When children are pushed too hard they tend to shut down, become less responsive, and at times develop a negative attitude toward speaking. Rather than push, teachers should always try to find new, fun contexts in which young learners can talk because they feel compelled to say something.

The following three components make up a teaching style that supports and scaffolds children’s talk. Through talking and listening, children learn:

  • Attention and Responsiveness

Good teachers pay close attention to children’s verbal signals and nonverbal gestures. By observing children, and listening carefully to what they say, we become aware of where they are developmentally, what interests them, and their level of engagement in activities. Teachers can respond to this information by drawing an excited child into deeper conversation, by giving a child extra time to respond to a question, or by asking children about the things that interest them.

  • Content and Stimulation

Rich language, rare words, and open-ended questions that make young children think and exercise their speaking skills are all examples of content and stimulation. When children are presented with meaningful language and language forms, they are quick to put them to use and build on them.

  • Emotional Support

Oral language lessons are most effective when teachers demonstrate enthusiasm and respect for both what children say and how they say it. A warm and accepting attitude toward children’s talk can be conveyed verbally with praise or through body language: gazes, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Remember to praise and acknowledge children for good speaking and listening behaviors.

By staying mindful of the components that make up a supportive teaching style and applying those components in an integrated way, teachers create classrooms in which children’s talk blossoms. A supportive teaching style also sets the stage for a well-managed classroom: children learn to take turns by being given their turn, they learn to listen by being listened to, and they learn to speak well and respect the words of others by being spoken to and respected.

teaching tips

Create social scripts to help better children’s ability to communicate in social situations. Scripted Stories for Social Situations help children understand social interactions, situations, expectations, social cues, the script of unfamiliar activities, and/or social rules. The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) provides prepared practices.

Find activities in the CIRCLE Activity Collection for Pre-K such as Greetings to help develop oral language pragmatic skills. The purpose of this activity is to develop children’s oral language skills by participating in a song. This activity and many others are aligned with the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework (ELOF), Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines, and the Kindergarten Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

Greetings Prekindergarten Activity

  • Domain: Language and Reading
  • Subdomain: Speaking and Listening
  • Setting: Center Time
  • Alignments:
    • Head Start: Goal P-LC4. Child understands, follows, and uses appropriate social and conversational rules.
    • Pre-K Guidelines: II.B.2. Child engages in conversations in appropriate ways.
    • Kindergarten TEKS: English Language Arts and Reading 16 (B)
  1. Introduce

“Every morning, we will get together on the carpet and sing a song to greet one another. Greet is another word for saying hello. You will each get a turn to be the greeter for the day.”

  1. Model and Explain

“When we greet someone, we shake hands, smile, and look at each other’s eyes. Let me show you.” Model how to greet someone by choosing a child from the classroom. “We will sing a song and you will get to greet your friends by shaking hands, smiling, and looking at their eyes to make our greeting fun!” Model how to greet everyone in the circle as the chant is sung.

Chant (Sung to the tune of “Farmer in the Dell” or other familiar tune):
_________ is here!
_________ is here!
It’s a great day because ________ is here!

  1. Guide Practice

“Are you ready to try it? Let’s begin with [child’s name] and have him decide how he would like to go around the circle to greet everyone. Everyone else sing along with me!” Select a child to be the greeter to greet their classmates. The child walks around the circle, greeting each classmate and shaking hands, as the chant is sung. Assist if necessary.

  1. Summarize

Let children know that they can greet anyone. They can greet their family members with a hug and a kiss, a friend with a hug, and a teacher by shaking hands.

Review the Infant & Toddler Developmental Checklists on CLI Engage, where you can find a complete list of developmental milestones related to language and communication for birth to 4 years of age. These checklists can help teachers become aware of what skills are expected at what ages and acknowledge what the child is accomplishing.

Complete the eCIRCLE professional development course Setting the Stage for Children’s Talk. This 6-hour certificate online course covers instructional strategies for supporting language and communication skill development.

Conscious Discipline Podcast – Setting Healthy Boundaries

Listen Here –

Episode Summary

Setting healthy boundaries is a vital skill that protects our identities and self-esteem. Without healthy boundaries, we open the door for others to determine our thoughts, feelings, and needs, losing a sense of self. Strong boundaries give us the confidence to make our own choices without yielding to a sense of sacrifice or obligation.

Lessons about boundaries begin early in life, first with our parents and then with our peers. Adult upset language becomes a child’s self-regulatory voice, which in turn sets the child’s boundaries. Attempting to teach children who they should be, what they should think, and how they should feel creates unhealthy boundaries. In addition, helping children create healthy boundaries requires that we model healthy boundaries ourselves.

Listen in as Master Instructor Jill Molli and her daughter, college freshman Meg Molli, share their experiences with setting healthy boundaries. While Jill has sometimes struggled with healthy boundaries, especially around work, Meg is not easily influenced by outside forces. The mother-daughter duo discusses why this difference exists, how Meg sets effective boundaries, and how Jill has learned to do the same through conscious effort. You’ll also hear tips on how you can set and strengthen your own boundaries.

Essential Takeaways

  • Healthy boundaries protect us from manipulation, violation, and being used. They express our values of respect and responsibility, keeping us safe because they allow us to separate who we are and what we think from the thoughts and feelings of others.
  • The adult’s upset language becomes the child’s internal self-regulatory voice, which in turn sets the child’s internal boundaries.
  • Parenting or teaching that tells a child who they should be, what they should think, and how they should feel creates unhealthy boundaries. Unhealthy boundaries can also stem from fear: fear of abandonment, being judged, losing the relationship, or hurting another’s feelings.
  • Keys to healthy boundaries include confidence and the ability to notice, name, and manage your feelings.
  • Steps For Tomorrow
    • It’s important to be in touch with and own your feelings, or you will try to take on and manage the feelings of others. Practice noticing and naming your feelings. This builds your awareness of what you think, feel, and need.
    • Once you can notice and name your feelings, you can regulate your inner speech and calm yourself in moments of upset. This process is helpful in setting boundaries without being overwhelmed by worries or fear of how others will react.
    • Reach out to your connection network when you need extra support. Knowing that you need help and asking for it is another form of healthy boundary.

    Important Links

    Product Mentions

    Show Outline 

    • :30 What is Conscious Discipline?
    • 1:05 What are healthy boundaries and why are they important?
    • 4:08 Internal and external boundaries
    • 7:37 Introduction of special guests Jill and Meg Molli
    • 10:20 Jill and Meg’s different approaches to setting boundaries
    • 18:36 Confidence as a factor in setting healthy boundaries
    • 25:50 Inner speech and healthy boundaries
    • 27:40 Naming and taming emotions
    • 38:30 Reaching out for support
    • 43:16 Recap: Tips for setting healthy boundaries
    • 46:25 What’s Becky up to?
    • 46:48 What’s Becky celebrating?

    Thank You for Listening

Free Event – Texas Early Childhood Learning Summit July 10-12, 2019 at the Marriott Marquis in Houston

TEA is excited to announce registration is open to public prekindergarten staff for the Texas Early Childhood Learning Summit on July 10-12, 2019 at the Marriott Marquis in Houston.

Please click the Registration Link and select “Attendee (ISD)” as “Reg Category”. From the drop box select your school district’s name.

Spots are limited – register soon!

Complete all the information requested. An email confirmation will be sent to the email you denoted within 24 hours of registering. Please ensure that you check all inbox folders, including junk/spam.

Hotel reservations will be made from the link provided in the email confirmation. Please ensure that you read the email confirmation in its entirety.

If you have any questions about registration, please contact TECL Summit Staff at

Region 13 staff does not handle registration, please direct all questions to TECL staff.

Can’f find the time to teach science? Come learn how literature can jump start your next Science Lesson!

Join Cynthia Holcomb, as we take a look at life science using engaging picture books that address the PK Guidelines and TEKS for organisms, ecosystems, and life cycles. Each story will be followed by Pk Guidelines and TEKS-aligned science activities and investigations, as well as strategies to promote literacy skills. Science is so much fun when you can find it right in your bookshelf!

Science Book Frenzy: Looking at Living Things Pk – 2nd Workshop ID: SP1940876

March 4th, 2019


Register Here:


Free Webinar | Make your classroom library a welcoming space!

Encourage a Love of Reading
Language, Literacy, Lounging, and Laughing: Rethink the Library

Monday, December 17, 2018 | 12:30 p.m. CT  – Recording will be available later

Register Here –

In an early childhood setting, an effective Library area conveys the message that exciting things can happen when children engage with literature. As the hub of literacy learning, this often-underappreciated area can become a powerful ally as help children build important literacy skills. In the final webinar in our Encouraging a Love of Reading series, you’ll gain insights into working with what you have to design a welcoming space, make the most of your materials, and most importantly, interact with children in ways that not only support vocabulary, knowledge of print, and phonological awareness, but also instill in children a lifelong passion for reading as a source of enjoyment.

Presented by: Breeyn Mack
Senior Director, Teaching Strategies

Free 3-Part Webinar: Building Safety and Connection in Foster and Adoptive Families

*From the Conscious Discipline blog –

Across our country, there are thousands of children in the foster care system who need permanent family connections to carry them into adulthood. Conscious Discipline celebrates the countless families who say YES to foster care and adoption. Equally important is acknowledging the unique challenges that often accompany this choice.

Conscious Discipline is designed to create the safety and connection that children and adults need to build healthy relationships, solve problems and thrive. Safety and connection are especially important for children who have experienced trauma, a category that applies to all children who find themselves in foster care.

That’s why we’re introducing a FREE three-part webinar series titled Building Safety and Connection in Foster and Adoptive Families with Amy Speidel.

Amy is a Conscious Discipline Master Instructor as well as a foster and adoptive mother. She is passionate about supporting families as they navigate trauma and transition. Amy has decades of experience coaching parents and educators and is eager to share what she’s learned with you.

Over three video sessions, Amy shares stories, inspiration, and specific tips and examples that will help you deepen connection and emotional health in your family. Topics covered include helping children acclimate, teaching expectations and skills in a way that feels safe, providing structure, anticipating events that may be triggering, and managing big behaviors.

We’re hopeful that this resource will help you navigate the journey Amy describes as “complicated, messy, and completely worth it.”

As always, I wish you and your family well

Encourage a Love of Reading Read It Once, Read It Twice, Read It Once Again – FREE Webinar

Only through deep, analytical book discussions can children truly benefit from the dynamic characters, rich vocabulary, and powerful social-emotional themes that present themselves in high-quality children’s literature. Join us for the first event in the Encourage a Love of Reading webinar series, as we explore how repeated, interactive read-alouds not only promote listening skills, comprehension, and critical thinking but also present opportunities to guide and support preschool and kindergarten children’s social-emotional development.

Presented by:

Breeyn Mack
Senior Director, Educational Content
Teaching Strategies

Watch the recording here –