A celebration with parents and children this past Saturday marked the conclusion of a 5-month pilot program at Mano en Mano called Comienza en Casa (“It Starts at Home”), a family literacy project supporting preschool and Kindergarten children’s early learning and integrating the use of an iPad in the home. Developed by our Migrant Education Coordinator Ana Blagojevic in partnership with early childhood education consultant Bonnie Blagojevic, the program started in February 2012 with four Migrant Education students.
The idea to use appropriate and educational iPad apps came from the desire to promote literacy skills in the child’s home language (Spanish) and to develop English skills, for the preschool and Kindergarten students. Several learning modules were created that offered young children the opportunity to read, play, and create using the iPad to explore a particular topic. Each module also included more traditional activities that didn’t use technology, as well as a “family focus” discussion topic related to early learning.
Ana visited with each family individually. After orienting them to the new activities for the coming weeks, she would also receive feedback on the children’s experiences and comments from parents about their child’s engagement and interest.
At the beginning, the goal of the program was to get the students and family members comfortable using the iPad. This quickly grew to include Kindergarten readiness skills, such as exposure to colors, letters, and numbers, all of which were integrated with learning about and practicing literacy skills, such as phonological awareness and vocabulary development. Some of the monthly themes used were “Color Explorers,” “Friends and Family,” and “Growing Things.”
Ana also included several outings into the program, leading a fieldtrip to a small local farm in Milbridge. Questions gathered prior to the trip were answered during the farm exploration, and children used the iPads to create stories about what they discovered on the trip as part of their “Growing Things” study. Ana also took a family to the Milbridge library to learn more about the resources there.
The last unit of the program was co-developed by Ana and the parents. The “read, play, create” framework was used and each parent helped develop the module based on their child’s interests and an early learning goal for their child identified by parents and Ana. Most of the activities did not use the iPad, an important shift as the iPads are not available during the summer. One family planned a farm visit around the child’s interest in vegetables and worms and created a planting chart to practice counting; and another family created a family tree. Children and family members used the iPad to take photos and video to document progress during their projects.
“I’m really excited to share the materials we have developed and lessons learned from the project with others, and plan to share more details on our website,” says Ana. “We would like to expand our collaborations with others in our community such as the school and library to enrich the program.”
The program has been very successful, and Ana appreciated feedback from parents. Several parents commented that the most valuable thing about the project was that there was more communication between parent and child. Parents said they are paying more attention to the language they use when doing activities together and many felt their child’s vocabulary had increased. Another parent told me her child’s interest in books increased, after looking together at stories selected on his topic of interest.
Another big success was a response from families about more positive sibling interactions. Younger students enjoyed sharing what they were working on with their siblings, and enjoyed working with their older siblings to do some of the projects. Apps had varying levels of difficulty, so there were apps that younger children could do with the help of older siblings. In addition, the play aspect of some of the apps led to more sibling and family interaction in general, because children were excited to show their parents what they had created!
We couldn’t be more pleased with the pilot run of Comienza en Casa and are looking forward to continuing this project in the fall. We also look forward to releasing our program materials and more information about this project later on this summer.
The Maine Migrant Education Program was established by the State Department of Education in 1969.The aim of this project is to identify and recruit migrant children (birth through age 21) throughout the state for educational and support service programs offered by the Maine Migrant Education Program. Migrant children may receive supplementary basic skills instruction, supportive health services, and social service referrals, etc. The Maine Migrant Education Program works closely with other state migrant programs in an effort to provide migrant students with the best possible education and increase the number of migrant students graduating from high school. Mano en Mano works closely with ESCORT, the Maine Migrant Education Program, local educational agencies, and other partners to deliver an innovative array of services to migrant students in Washington County.