Teachin’ Tots

Posted by Paula Paine on February 14, 2011 in education, "School of Education"

Before kindergarten, parents teach their children everything from animal sounds to the alphabet. Kids attend music classes, preschool and ballet lessons. According to Assistant Professor Annette Blecha ’76, play and physical activity are important elements for not only physical development, but also for the social and cognitive enrichment of children.

That’s where the partnership between Ottawa Recreation Commission (ORC) and OU comes into play. Physical education majors combine forces with ORC to offer Teachin’ Tots, a community-wide program that teaches both gross and fine motor skill development through a variety of activities and games.

Each week, students in Blecha’s course take turns as lead teacher and helpers in Teachin’ Tots. They create lesson plans which must pass Blecha’s approval before implementation. Then they have fun.

Sean Blosser, senior physical education major, says, “Teaching at this level really helps you focus on how to make the lesson interesting to the students, so they want to learn because it is relevant to them. This is key because children of this age are egocentric and will only do things that are important to them.” What’s important to two and three year olds? Playtime is high on the list, of course.

Lessons consist of circle time with stories and active movements or games that often mimic animals. Each session is unique and includes avenues such as partner pairing, playing with balls of varying sizes, crafting, and reading books aloud. The last twenty minutes of class is completely unstructured and just allows kids to do what they do best—play!

“We wanted to participate mostly because it would provide a great time for Cody,” says Lisa Rivers ’00, mom and OU graduate. “It also helps OU students get hands-on experience working with kids. The parents were right there with their little ones on the floor pretending to be cats or bears.”

Brandy Shoemaker ’04 is ORC’s recreation supervisor for pre-K activities. This is the third year for Teachin’ Tots, and Shoemaker sees it as a great success. “The parents and kids have been extremely receptive to the program,” says Shoemaker. “We have received numerous compliments on how well the OU students interact with the children and how impressed the parents are with the activities they plan.”

Ottawa Recreation Commission continues the program during each summer, and while OU doesn’t offer Teachin’ Tots as part of a course at that time, ORC often hires instructors from among OU’s physical education students. Sarah McAdoo, senior physical education major, served as lead instructor for Teachin’ Tots this past summer. “I loved seeing the children make improvements in just one short summer,” says McAdoo. “For example, kids who wouldn’t leave their moms’ legs at the beginning were playing alone with other children by the end.”

“This experience is a great tool for us as students,” says Blosser. “I am one hundred percent sure that we get more out of this than any of the tots. Getting the chance to work with them gives us the chance to really hone the skills we need so we can give them the skills they need.”