Dr. Rebecca Isbell’s Blog

Young children become very excited during the holidays, with their anticipation building over time. It is important or early childhood teachers and parents to try to keep the environment calm during this time of year. Here are a few hints for managing your classroom and preserving

  1. Delay talking about specific holidays. The earlier you start talking about events, parties, and presents, the more difficult it is for the children to contain their excitement. If you focus on the holidays every day, you will build the excitement to an unmanageable level.
  2. Play soft and calming music. As the saying goes “music calms the savage beast” in this case, “music calms the anxious child.”
  3. Maintain the regular and predictable schedule. Young children like predictability and the sequence helps them understand how the day will progress. When the order of things is disrupted, they grow increasingly upset.
  4. Watch both your and the children’s diet. Limit the special treats you have in your classroom. So many of the foods we eat during the holidays are full of sugar. Think about having oranges, apples, nuts, cheese, and other nutritious foods to eat throughout the day.
  5. Focus on making gifts or helping others rather than “what’s for me?” Find ways of helping families and giving presents made by the children. These will be greatly appreciated because they are unique and made by little hands.
  6. Find time during the day to rest, nap, or read a book in a quiet place. This time will allow the animated child time to regroup and relax. It is not necessary to sleep, but rather slow down and clear your head.
  7. Get outdoors, take a nature walk, take big blocks outside in wagons, and add bells or chimes to the fence for playing. Being outside puts everything in perspective and provides many opportunities to use young children’s unbelievable amount of energy.
  8. You are their role model, so try to remain calm. Slow down the level of stimulation in

You will enjoy your time with young children more if you intentionally plan ways to maintain a Happy Holidays to you and your young children!

This is a powerful headline that is questioning our priorities. This issue was posed by Nicholas D. Kristof in the New York Times. He believes that it is a moment of opportunity for the country to establish a national early childhood program.

In his opinion piece, he explains that there is a growing body of research that suggest that the best way to address American economic inequality, poverty, and crime is through early childhood education programs. I would add to that assertion that it must be quality early childhood programs.

Kristof identified national polls that show that this initiative is supported by 84% Democrats and 60 % of Republicans. Even when these programs stall in DC, many states and localities are moving ahead. In Michigan, for example, they are doubling their efforts for early childhood programs. This support is based on the long-term research done with the Weikart High Scope program that showed positive impacts on children who attended the quality program. These participants are now adults and had higher graduation rates, are less involved in crime, and more of them are employed.

David Deming of Harvard, in a long-term study of Head Start, found that academic advantages may fade, but “life skill” gains do not.

The article concludes by saying “children can’t vote, and they have no highly paid lobbyist” so it is critical that we as early childhood educators speak up. Let’s work together to make sure children’s needs and voices can be heard!

Read the entire article for yourself in the New York Times, Sunday review:


Are you going to NAEYC?

Come visit me in Kaplan’s main booth no. 2200.  I will be doing a workshop on “Extreme Classroom Make Overs” using visuals, handouts, with examples of how to accomplish some amazing changes.

That session will be on Thursday, November 21st at 2:30.

I  would love to see you, renew connections, and talk to you about your classroom or centers!

It is always so exhilarating to be at NAEYC and be with so many early childhood educators. Hope to see you there!

– Dr. Isbell

NAEYC Washington DC

Fall Science Centers

Today there is a major focus on including science in the curriculum for children, as seen in STEM. This emphasis on science and math is being encouraged in the early years and primary grades.

STEM-logoIt is important to remember, however, that young children are already natural scientists as they manipulate, explore, and question their physical world every day.

Because they are so interested in their physical world, it is a perfect time to add a new and exciting Science Center to your classroom.  This addition will encourage young children to examine real items from their environment, and connect their knowledge to things that interest them.

Items to Include

The concrete materials you include should be items that they see in their environment on a regular basis. It is also helpful to provide a few novel items that might stretch their thinking and invite problem solving.

Early Childhood Science CenterIn our region, there are many different kinds of nuts that are falling from trees during this season.  For example: pecans, walnuts, and chestnuts that all look, taste, and crack differently.

Other possibilities might be: dried flowers, and a variety of leaves, herbs, and bulbs.  Including some of these in the Science Center will provide a perfect match for young children’s way of learning.

These materials will encourage their examination and use of language as they discuss the fall items.  Don’t forget to include all of the seed and flower catalogues. They will add interesting printed material to the Science Center, and create a literacy opportunity.

Free Resource Download

Click the button below to download a PDF of the basic design, objectives, vocabulary, and webbing that can provide the foundation for your Fall Science Center.  Also included are activities, materials, and literacy suggestions that can be adapted to a fall theme.  These are for you to use and modify for your special group of children.  Let me know what exciting things you are including in your new and improved Science Center.


[button_icon icon=”document-pdf-text” url=”http://drisbell.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/DrIsbell_BookScan_ScienceCenter.pdf” blank=”true” size=”middle”]Download the Science Center Resource[/button_icon]


Reference for Science Center is:  The Complete Book of Learning Centers, revised.  Published by Gryphon House and authored by Dr. Isbell.  It can be purchased in my bookstore.

Presented by CSX


Date: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Time: 5:30 – 8:30 pm
Place: 8505 San Jose Boulevard, Jacksonville, Florida
Fee: $35 per person, $45 per person after Oct 10th (includes dinner)


Featuring a stimulating keynote address The Dynamic Power of Play: Nurturing Learning in so Many Ways! by internationally recognized early childhood expert and author, Dr. Rebecca Isbell

Exciting workshops to choose from:

  • Creating an Amazing Environment that Inspires Learning
  • Superhero Play: Friend and Foe?
  • Hands on Introduction to Clay for the Classroom
  • Play Throughout the Day

A Delicious dinner
Vendors, displays, and more
In service hours
CEUs available for an addition fee

[button_icon icon=”document-pdf-text” url=”http://drisbell.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/ECE-Symposium-Flyer.pdf” blank=”true” size=”middle”]Download the Flyer[/button_icon]      [button_icon icon=”information” url=”http://www.jcajax.org/index.php?src=events&srctype=detail&category=Early%20Childhood&refno=5628″ blank=”true” size=”middle”]Visit the JCA Website[/button_icon]



Bethel, Alaska

It has been a busy fall traveling around the country from Bowling Green, KY to Jonesboro, AR and El Paso, TX.  In each place, I’ve had the opportunity to work with wonderful early childhood teachers who share my passion for creating the best possible environments for young children.

I have just returned from an amazing trip to Bethel, Alaska which is 400 miles west of Anchorage. In this frozen tundra, there are people who have devised a variety of creative ways not only to survive but to thrive.  In this region, there are Yupik villages where young children have the opportunity to be in early childhood programs led by dedicated teachers. These teachers understand their culture and way of learning. They are motivated by an outstanding project director and early childhood specialist.  As educational leaders, they travel to the villages by air and sometimes by dog sled in weather that can be 50 degrees below zero.  Truly a sign of a dedicated early childhood professional!


Playing Dress-up in handmade Parka

Playing Dress-up in handmade Parka


During my time here, we concentrated on ways to nurture language development in young children.  The teachers were delightful as they sang, listened to stories, and participated in the language enriching activities.  As with many cultures, they have a strong connection to storytelling which was the focus of our last session together.  Storytelling is tied to our heritage, and is a powerful tool as it extends our understanding for language enrichment.

It is reassuring to see what wonderful work these early childhood teachers are doing! I am so blessed to have been able to visit this very special place, and be inspired by their work with young children. Thank you!


Teachers in Bethel, Alaska

Director and teachers who work in Lower Kuskokwim District, AK


Learning Centers

Over the last few weeks, I have read with dismay headlines that claim “Pre-K is a waste of money.” These unfounded remarks should inspire us to call to action.

This upcoming year, a chapter that I have written for a book called “Innovative Practices in Early Childhood Education” will be published by Springer.  My article is entitled “Climbing the Mountain: Tennessee Journey to Quality Prekindergarten.” In it, I wrote the background of the Pre-K movement across the United States, and the massive support for the initiative. Next, I zeroed in on Tennessee’s focus on providing a quality program for young children.

The Tennessee Pre-K program was designed using extensive research and identified what a quality program looks like: trained certified teachers, small classrooms, active and appropriate curriculum, and strong components related to cognition, language & literacy, and social-emotional development.

Unfortunately,  young children in Tennessee have become a political obstacle for those who oppose expanding Pre-K programs.  Many focus on short-term gains, without the knowledge and understanding of the abundance of research that demonstrates the effects that quality early childhood programs have on young children such as: less retention, fewer referrals to special education, more success in kindergarten and first grade, and improved language and math abilities.  They are also unaware of additional research, including the Perry/Weikard study which covered fifty years, and found long-term benefits that follow these children into adulthood.  It was found that those participants stayed in school longer, were more likely to graduate, and as adults were working more and receiving less federal assistance.

Today I took action. I sent the attached article to newspaper editors across the state.  I also sent Governor Haslam a similar letter along with the chapter I wrote on Tennessee Quality Pre-K… no response.

Now I ask you to take action too! Let your governor and legislators know how crucial quality early childhood education is for children who live in poverty as well as many others who will gain from this program.  Explain how it impacts both children and their families in positive ways.   Inform them that our community, state, and nation need educated children to have a great start and find the value of staying in school.

Please use any part of this blog or my attached article to help others understand what you and I know.  Early childhood education is our best investment for the future!

[button_icon icon=”document-word” url=”http://drisbell.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Long-Term-Benefits-from-Quality-Pre-K.doc” blank=”true” size=”middle”]Download Long-Term Benefits from Quality Pre-K[/button_icon]



Everyone Has A Story To Tell

Well, if you read my last blog you know I suggested that you might do some “Spring Cleaning”. You probably know the old adage, “Don’t ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself”. After much soul searching, I decided I needed to do some cleaning and organizing in my warehouse where I keep many copies of my books for the orders I receive online.
During the thinking process – and some incubation – I had a great idea. What if I gave a free copy of my children’s book Everyone has a Story to Tell to each person who buys a copy of one of my other books using PayPal. This would give you a special “treat” and encourage you to take a closer look at your learning environment.
A free children’s book when you order a resource book that will provide you with many wonderful ideas. Bet you can’t beat that offer!


Free Children's Book

In many parts of our country, spring is popping.  Traditionally, this has signaled a time for spring cleaning, but today I want us to think about spring cleaning your classroom.

Spring Cleaning Your Classroom

Look around the space where you and your children spend a major portion of your day.  Can your children visually recognize where things take place: large group time, specific centers, and find the tools they need to be responsible members of the community?  Is it easy to find and return materials after they are used?

If your children are having difficulty with any of these, perhaps it is time to de-clutter your space so areas are more clearly defined.  If you just can’t bear to discard any of your belongings, perhaps you might feel better by giving these items to another teacher or program.  Keep in mind that some things need to be discarded.  This may be difficult, but it is spring cleaning.

Spring Cleaning Your ThinkingSpring Classroom

It is also time to spring clean our thinking, plans, and activities.  Have we lost sight of what is real learning for young children?  They are active participants who need experiences that are meaningful to them.

Young children need opportunities to work together, cooperate, and solve real issues.  They need to play with ideas, materials, and other children in creative ways.  This spring, let’s renew our understanding of how children learn, and provide the opportunities for them to participate in experiences that will enrich their thinking.

Spring cleaning begins today in our classroom. Both you and your children will find the joy in seeing learning bloom!

As 2013 begins we make many resolutions, sometimes the same ones we made last year. Some of mine include: lose weight, exercise more, and eat more chocolate. But this year, let’s make some resolutions that relate to making our classroom a marvelous place for you to live with your children. I have identified 13 ideas, some you may already be doing, others might be new possibilities for you to implement.

13 ideas for my 2013 classroom:

1. Add a new book with a tape or compact disc of you reading the story to the library area.

2. Make photos of each of your children and display them in a prominent place for everyone to enjoy. This builds a sense of community and belonging to the group.

3. Include a new learning center that you have never used before. A camping center, a restaurant, or garage sale/flea market may match the experiences and interest of your children.

4. Tell a story to your class. This can be a personal story about your childhood or a story that you have always loved. Nothing builds relationships like hearing a story told by a special person.

5. Each day provide a supportive comment to a child or children who are working together or sharing a material. Catch them being cooperative.

6. Ask a parent or grandparent to come to your classroom as a special guest. They can share a story, song, or recipe. Your children will appreciate their contributions and build relationships with others.

7. Try an art project that you have never done with the children. This will challenge both you and your children’s creativity.

8. Add an unusual item to the sand/water table for the children to discover and explore. Some examples: a clear plastic bottle with a small hole in the bottom, an egg beater, expanding sponges, or smooth glass stones used in flower arrangements.

9. Encourage girls to participate in the block area more. Both boys and girls benefit from building, problem solving, collaborating, and appreciating the work of others.

10. Bring a mystery item to circle/community time, preferably something the children may not have seen or experienced. Ask open-ended questions that will inspire thinking. For example, “Can you think of a way to use this?” “What if it was bigger or smaller?” “What would you name it?” Conclude with, “One use and name the inventor came up with was _____.”

11. Find a new writing tool for the writing/author center. Some interesting suggestions might be: a small sponge painting brush, a hole puncher, charcoal, or plastic gloves (using the finger as the tool).

12. Dramatize a familiar story like “Three Billy Goats Gruff” or the “Enormous Turnip.” Children can choose the role they want to play and some can be in the audience. Do it again and let others participate. Learning to speak and react with others is a skill we all need to develop.

13. I saved the hardest for last: declutter an area in the classroom. Start small, perhaps home living, the art area, or a storage space. You will be amazed at the things you find, and the things that you can give away.

Share with me some of the resolutions you are making about your classroom environment. You have such great ideas; I am looking forward to hearing about them!