Sitio en español

IEL Quarterly News

IEL Quarterly News
2013, October-December

Welcome to the latest issue of the IEL Quarterly News! Each quarterly newsletter will contain information about early care and education for parents, caregivers, or teachers of young children not only from the IEL Web site but at the state and/or national level as well.

Using Tip Sheets as Resources for Parents

tipsheetIn early December for the past four years, IEL has had a table of resources at the annual Conference for Teachers Serving Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Students, otherwise known as “the bilingual conference.” IEL staff members hand out a number of resources throughout that busy four-day conference; the most popular have always been the English/Spanish IEL Tip Sheets.

This year, the staff learned that some educators consider Tip Sheets to be basic components of their parent resource collections.

  • One of the conference presenters said that she had spent a lot of time on the IEL website while preparing for her session on creating parent resource centers and that the Tip Sheets are “the first thing I send people to when they want resources.” She planned to show the Tip Sheets to her workshop participants and recommend them as the foundation of their parent resource centers.
  • A multicultural coordinator who visited the IEL table later commented that the Tip Sheets “are great for starting a parent library” and suggested putting copies of each Tip Sheet into a hanging file so parents could easily find topics of interest to them.
  • Several Pre-K teachers confirmed that they, too, planned to use IEL Tip Sheets in their classroom parent resource collections.

Printed copies of all 177 IEL Tip Sheets (English on one side, Spanish on the other) can be ordered online.

All Tip Sheets can be found online in both PDF and HTML formats and can be downloaded and printed free of charge.

Polish versions of all the Tip Sheets are available online, as are versions of selected Tip Sheets in Chinese, Korean, Russian, and Arabic.

Thoughts from the 2013 Bilingual Conference

The Illinois Annual Conference for Teachers of Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Students is a great place to hear about issues that concern educators. An IEL colleague and I recently spent several days at the 2013 conference and had the privilege of hearing a number of teachers share their concerns about the young children they work with.

Jean Mendoza shares these concerns...

Thoughts from the 2013 Bilingual Conference
By Jean Mendoza

The Illinois Annual Conference for Teachers of Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Students is a great place to hear about issues that concern educators. An IEL colleague and I recently spent several days at the 2013 conference and had the privilege of hearing a number of teachers share their concerns about the young children they work with. We noticed that several people who came to our IEL table were picking up the Tip Sheets “Young Children Need to Play” and “Eating Right = Healthy Children.” We asked them about their interest in these topics, and this is what we learned.

Many of the families these educators serve struggle financially, and many are at the poverty level. Parents may work multiple jobs or have shifts that keep them away from home after school and before bedtime, but they cannot afford to pay an adult to supervise their children after school and into the evening. As a result, children are home alone for many hours. Sometimes, older siblings may be in charge of younger ones. The “latch-key kid” phenomenon is now a couple of generations old, but some of the teachers identified some contemporary twists that concern them.

A multicultural coordinator told us about a mobile home community where some working families had designated one adult neighbor as the person children could contact if a problem came up while parents were at work. Parents told their children not to play outdoors but to stay in the relative safety of their homes. (There was no indoor space large enough for all of the children to be supervised at once.) But this arrangement was not legal and, according to the coordinator, eventually the families involved were forced to find an alternative.

The wish to have children stay indoors rather than playing outside while home alone is also not new, nor is the need for them to avoid disturbing the neighbors in the next apartment. I heard about this dilemma many times as a child abuse and neglect worker in Chicago in the early 1980s. But something has changed. Several teachers and a multicultural coordinator told us that the children (even preschoolers) often do stay quiet because they are occupied with electronics—video games, videos, television, etc.—until bedtime or until a parent gets home. In fact, electronic games may have overtaken viewing as children’s main home-alone pastime in some families. The coordinator pointed out that while watching TV and videos have long played a part in helping immigrant children pick up English vocabulary and syntax, the same cannot be said of most electronic games.

The educators we spoke with also talked about another relatively new trend. One bilingual teacher estimated that more than 50% of children in her elementary school class are overweight. Another described watching a boy go from normal weight in kindergarten to obese by fourth grade. Both of them connected this trend to unsupervised time outside of school in two ways. Not only are the children sedentary; they are also eating a lot of the wrong kinds of food while their parents aren’t home. Struggles over what children eat while parents aren’t watching may be as old as the institution of the family, but “junk foods” and other unhealthy options are now more numerous and more aggressively marketed than ever, and many children are apparently burning fewer calories.

As the comments heard at the bilingual conference indicate, the roots and the results of children’s increased physical inactivity are complex, and problems can begin quite early in life. The challenges to promoting active play are not minor, and it’s no wonder parents and professionals puzzle over what can be done to promote healthy active play.

The purpose of this new quarterly blog is to explore issues related to play in the lives of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. What sorts of active play are possible when a situation demands that children stay indoors? What can parents do to encourage young children to be physically active and reduce their attachment to electronic devices? What low-cost or free playthings can parents make to engage children mentally and physically? Should half day “at-risk” programs replace play with instruction in literacy and math for preschoolers so they can catch up with middle-class peers and assume that the children will play enough at home?

We invite you to comment on the blog, suggest topics for future blogs, or ask questions by emailing

Finding Quality Books for Young Children

imageAre you looking for recommendations for high-quality children’s books but don’t know whom to ask? The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books is a wonderful resource for teachers, librarians, and parents who are looking for good books for children. The Bulletin is edited by staff in the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

The staff of the Center for Children’s Books produce a yearly Guide Book to Gift Books: An Annotated List of Books for Youth. The guide is a list of recommended books and includes the author, title, publisher, cost, age/grade range, and a brief summary of the story. Each book in the guide has been reviewed by professionals. This free resource is helpful when searching for high-quality books for young children.

Four-day Institute Explores the Project Approach

The Summer Institute on the Project Approach will be held July 29 to August 1 at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. The institute is for educators who are new to the Project Approach or who would like to deepen their understanding of it. Participants will go over fundamentals of project work, explore challenges such as topic selection and documentation, and work together on a project from phase 1 through culmination. Participants also will tour a school that uses the Project Approach and will receive a Projects in Practice binder.

The all-inclusive cost for the institute is $725 for those sharing a double room and $745 for those with a single room in an air-conditioned campus dormitory. Registration will open on January 13, 2014. Acceptance will be on a first-come basis. For more information, please contact Sallee Beneke at or Debra Brownson at To register online email Ryan Singleton

ILPIP Project Guides Revised for 2013 Benchmarks

The Illinois Projects in Practice (ILPIP) website has revised its five project guides (in English and Spanish) to align them with the 2013 Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards (IELDS). The guides include a table listing benchmarks that are addressed by project activities—showing how specific activities address those benchmarks.

Early Learning Benchmark Videos

The IEL Project staff have aligned the 2013 Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards (IELDS) with the Early Learning Benchmark Videos. Several videos, such as Counting Crackers, Sara Measures, and Counting Chickens, provide evidence for addressing the IELDS mathematics benchmarks. Viewers can see examples of how the 2013 mathematics benchmarks are addressed in meaningful, developmentally appropriate activities for young children. IEL also has several Tip Sheets on mathematics, some of which mention benchmarks that have been aligned with the 2013 IELDS. Please let us know if you have specific benchmarks you would like us to address through videos and/or Tip Sheets.

imageKatz-echisms: Thoughts from Lilian Katz

“Remember that adults know more about almost everything than a small child does—except what it feels like to be that child, and how the world makes sense to him or her. Those things are the children’s expertise from which a teacher must learn—to be able to reach and teach them.”

Join Us on Facebook, Follow Us on Twitter, or Call Us

  • Visit us on the IEL Facebook page where we feature items of interest and periodic questions or requests for your feedback.
  • Also, follow us on Twitter at @ielproject.
  • Call us: IEL Project Toll Free Phone Number: (877) 275-3227

Upcoming Conferences

  • Chicago Metro Opening Minds Conference 2014 (Jan. 29-Feb. 1, 2014), Hyatt Regency, McCormick Place, Chicago, IL (IEL Project exhibit booth)
  • ILASCD Pre-Kindergarten & Kindergarten Conference (March 5-7, 2014) Renaissance Convention Center, Schaumberg, IL (IEL Project presentation and exhibit booth)

See Also:
Quarterly News Archive


The opinions, resources, and referrals provided on the IEL Web site are intended for informational purposes only and are not intended to take the place of medical or legal advice, or of other appropriate services. We encourage you to seek direct local assistance from a qualified professional if necessary before taking action.

The content of the IEL Web site does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Illinois Early Learning Project, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, or the Illinois State Board of Education; nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the Illinois Early Learning Project, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, or the Illinois State Board of Education.