Talk Topics

 

What Diane talks about

Diane speaks at professional conferences, schools, and to parent and community groups. She gives keynote addresses, interactive workshops and day-long intensive trainings. Her topics range from counteracting sexualization of childhood, media literacy, and the meaning and development of play and war play, to conflict resolution and violence prevention.

Below are some sample talk titles and descriptions. Other topics are possible and talks can be adapted to meet the needs and interests of the sponsoring group.

To inquire about engaging Diane as a speaker, please contact her at dlevin@wheelock.edu or 617-879-2167.

PLAY IS THE WAY: DEVELOPING THE FOUNDATIONS IN THE EARLY YEARS FOR LATER ACADEMIC SUCCESS

High quality play in the early school years helps children develop the solid foundation they need for later school success in academic areas. In play, young children develop the attitudes, values and skills that help them become engaged in a deep and meaningful learning process which is vital for acquiring new academic content and skills as as they get older. This session explores what is high quality play, how it contributes to later academic success and what we can do through play in the early years to ensure the development of a solid foundation for later academic learning.

TEACHERS SPEAK OUT: HOW SCHOOL REFORM MANDATES ARE FAILING YOUNG CHILDREN (ESPECIALLY LOW-INCOME CHILDREN)

Current early childhood academic mandates are placing strong emphasis on the teaching of narrow academic skills at the expense of developmentally appropriate practice. Levin shares data she collected during her sabbatical on how highly trained and experienced early childhood teachers think the mandates are affecting their ability to promote young children’s optimal learning and development through quality play, with special focus on the challenges they face meeting the learning needs of children from low-income homes. Based on her findings, she will also make recommendations for action.

THE PLAY-LEARNING CONNECTION: WHY IT’S MORE IMPORTANT NOW THAN EVER

Play is vital for optimal social, emotional, physical and intellectual development in the early years. It lays the foundations for more formal academic learning in later years. However, there are numerous factors at work today that can undermine the full developmental benefits of play for children. From the increasing pressures on many early childhood programs to bring the teaching of basic academic skills and testing into their schedules, to young children’s increasing dependency on screens and technology rather than play, many children arrive at classrooms with reduced abilities to engage in and learn through quality play. There is much early childhood professionals can do to counteract the forces in children’s lives that have reduced the role and valuing of play and optimize their learning through play—from helping children become deeply engaged in quality play and learning experiences, to advocating for such play with school administrators, families and beyond. This session explores the many forces at work today that are leading to a loss of creative play in classrooms, how this situation can undermine children’s development and learning, and most importantly, what are key strategies for promoting optimal learning through play in early childhood programs in these times.

ENDANGERED PLAY, ENDANGERED DEVELOPMENT:WHAT RESEARCH SAYS ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAY IN THE 21ST CENTURY

Play is vital to optimal social, emotional, physical and cognitive development in the early years. Yet there are many factors at work today that are robbing children of the full benefits of play—such as the time children spend in front of a screen instead of playing, the many electronic and highly structured toys linked to the media that take control of play away from children, and the pressure in schools from the youngest ages to focus on early teaching of basic skills and test scores rather than on establishing a healthy foundation for learning through play. This session explores the many forces at work in today’s society that are endangering play, how endangering children’s play can undermine their optimal social, emotional and intellectual learning and development, and what we can do to promote healthy play in these times.

BEYOND REMOTE-CONTROLLED TEACHING AND LEARNING: THE SPECIAL CHALLENGES OF PROMOTING OPTIMAL LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT IN TODAY’S MEDIA SATURATED WORLD

Today’s children are growing up in an environment saturated with media and technology that affects how they learn and what they learn. Many teaching practices from the past as well as the new mandates being imposed on early childhood practice do not adequately take the realities of today’s learners into account. This session will look at how today’s children learn and how can we adapt our teaching optimize their learning.
Participants in this session will learn about:
1. How key environmental factors in which today’s young children are growing up, especially the media, technology, and commercial culture, are affecting how children learn, and thereby making teaching and learning in school more difficult;
2. How these environmental factors are undermining creative play and learning through play, and the very foundation children need for later successful academic learning in school;
3. How the increasing pressure by state and federal policy makers to teach basic academic skills and use formal assessment methods at younger ages is exactly the opposite response that today’s media-influenced children need.
4. What we can do in and out of the classroom to counteract remote-controlled teaching and learning, and promote optimal development and learning at home, school and in the wider society.

SO SEXY, SO SOON: THE NEW SEXUALIZED CHILDHOOD & WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT

Today’s children are growing up in an environment saturated with images of sexual appearance and behavior that they cannot fully understand. It can influence how they think about being male and female, their bodies, and what they want to be, do, and wear. It can confuse children about the nature of adult relationships and promote precocious sexuality. Based on her new book, So Sexy So Soon, Dr. Levin explores the current situation, how it is affecting children, and what we can do to promote healthy development in these times.

WHEN THE WORLD IS A DANGEROUS PLACE: BUILDING PEACEABLE CLASSROOMS IN VIOLENT TIMES

Children are growing up in a world permeated by violence—in their immediate lives and in media and toys. It affects what they learn about the world and how people treat each other. Too often we feel inadequately prepared for helping children deal with or learn alternatives to the violence they see. Using stories from teachers and parents about children’s responses to violence collected for her book, Teaching Young Children in Violent Times, Dr. Levin examines how young children are affected by entertainment, news and real world violence and the challenges this creates for us in our work with them. It also outlines positive, developmentally sound strategies for building peaceful classrooms that counteract the harmful effects of violence.

THE WAR PLAY DILEMMA: WHAT THE PROBLEM & WHAT PARENTS & TEACHERS CAN DO ABOUT IT

Play that focuses on violent themes and behavior seems to have a special appeal to many children, especially boys. Adults often worry about the impact this play has on children’s developing behavior and ideas about violence. Based Dr. Levin’s work for her books, The War Play Dilemma, Teaching Young Children in Violent Times and Beyond Remote-Controlled Childhood, this session looks at why the play is so appealing to children and how the barrage of violence in contemporary media and the real world affects play with violence. It provides parents and teachers with strategies for meeting children’s needs and influencing the lessons children learn about violence and conflict resolution. It helps participants work on connecting the content of the session to their own experiences with children’s war play.

PROBLEM SOLVING DEFICIT DISORDER: HOW CHILDREN GET IT AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

Problem solving is a cumulative skill that gives children a sense of inner power. Knowing how to find and solve interesting problems is central to all aspects of learning. Many factors in the lives of children growing up today—such as media, commercialism, highly structured toys, the decline of play and a growing emphasis on prescribed academic skill based curriculum in schools—can undermine creative problem solving ability. As a result, many children are developing what Diane Levin calls “Problem Solving Deficit Disorder” (PSDD). Metaphorically speaking, PSDD can lead to many symptoms in children, including frequent boredom, a lack of creativity, imagination and open-ended play, and difficulty working cooperatively with others or resolving conflicts without aggression. It can lead to more stress for everyone at home and at school. Learn more about the causes of PSDD and the many powerful ways you can counteract it at home and school and in the wider society. And learn why doing so will lead to smarter, happier children.

ANTI-BIAS EDUCATION: HELPING CHILDREN UNDERSTAND AND VALUE DIVERSITY

How do children’s ideas about similarities and differences among people develop? Using examples from children, teachers, and the wider community, we will explore: How does what children see and hear at home, in the media and popular culture, and in the wider community affect what they learn about gender, race, class, ethnic groups, and religion? How does it affect their attitudes and behavior and how they deal with differences among people? How does what they learn contribute to violence or non-violence? What can families and schools do to promote an appreciation of diversity? How can our work on these issues promote a more peaceful and just world? We will look at specific strategies for counteracting stereotypes and infusing anti-bias education in the home and school.

TOY STORY: A PARENT and Teacher GUIDE TO MAKING GOOD TOY AND PLAY CHOICES FOR THEIR YOUNG CHILDREN

Quality play is important in the early years. The toy choices we make can have a big impact on their children’s play, development, and learning. And it gets harder and harder for parents to sort through the onslaught of new toys and seductive advertising that assail them and their children. This presentation looks at why play is important and how toys influence play. It will help parents and teachers choose toys that promote constructive play and match their children’s interests and development. It will also provide suggestions about how to resist the commercial pressure while keeping peace in the home and school. Attendees will receive materials from Diane’s organization, Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Entertainment (TRUCE; www.truceteachers.org).