Monday, October 17, 2016

Teaching Skills to Children: Use Modeling

We can help our young children learn when we show them what we are thinking. Modeling is an important teacher skill and even one you can help families learn. When we model we talk about all that is going on in our heads. Essentially, we invite children into our brains! We find they like this concept!

A few tips about modeling:
  • Be sure you do not talk longer than the age of your children. So, for 4 year olds, only model for four minutes.
  • Be sure you use hand signals to show children when you are thinking. Point to your head.
  • Change your voice tone when you are thinking and when you are reading.  This is a signal to children.
  • We like to change our body position to show when we go back into our brains. You can see this on the video below.
These tips will help you to model more effectively for young children.

Watch the video below. It shows these tips in action! 

For ELLs:
The comprehensible input of hand signals, body movement, and voice tone helps our English Language Learners to better follow your modeling. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.B.01 & 2.D.04
Head Start - VI.A. & IX.A.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Apple Opinions: Teaching Children to Support Their Choices

It’s fall – that time of year when treats abound. Our classrooms and homes are awash in pumpkins, scarecrows, and all kinds of yummy apple products. Apples are perfect for many learning objectives.

One important goal for children is to give an opinion and be able to support this opinion with reasons. Using apples to accomplish this objective is an age-appropriate way to engage children in this type of discourse.

Bring apples as a healthy treat for children. Be sure to share different varieties and cut them into slices. Let children sample the apples. 
Then give children a paper that looks like this:
The boxes allow children to draw pictures or make attempts at writing words.
After sampling the apples, children can complete the paper by drawing pictures or writing a few words. Remember, inventive spelling can be a window into a child’s emerging literacy abilities. Click here for more information on the Continuum of Writing.

You may want to engage in a conversation emphasizing that children need to think for themselves. A reason such as “my friend says she likes this apple best” is not a good reason.

Have children share their finished work. Praise children who supported their reason for preferring a certain apple. These might include:
  • I like the taste best.
  • It is crunchy.
  • It is easy to chew.
  • It tastes sweet and I like sweet.
  • It tastes sour. I like that. 
As you can see, the support for an opinion will vary. The important component is that children are learning to support their opinions with connected details. 

By providing a hands-on activity such as sampling different apples along with a choice of drawing or writing, speakers of other languages can easily participate.  

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.B.03 & 2.D.06.
Head Start – II.A. & IV.A.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Using Your Students’ Backgrounds: Funds of Knowledge

Have you ever heard the term, funds of knowledge?  When we learn about the funds of knowledge that children have, we are learning about the background knowledge and the culture of our students. This allows them to function in their homes and neighborhoods. The idea behind this key phrase is that our students bring a rich background of knowledge and cultural awareness to our classrooms. When we understand this, we can make connections and learning will be more efficient and richer.

Head Start personnel conduct home visits, as do many other teachers. As these home visits are held, we can and should let go of the deficit lens that we often use. Teachers naturally want to “fix” things so we look at what is missing rather than what is there. We have to shed this tendency to determine the funds of knowledge our students bring us. Is the home bilingual or multilingual? This is helpful for brain development. If the family speaks one language, how can the vocabulary be used to enrich lessons? How does the food of the family contribute to your curriculum? What folktales and other stories does the child know? How can these be used in the classroom? Once we look at what a child brings to us, we can build on these positives.    

We want to encourage the home language of the child. In order to do that, we can provide literacy materials for the family. This link will take you to two books, one in English and the other in Spanish. They are complete with suggestions for the family. We hope you will share these as you gather more information about each child’s funds of knowledge.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.D.01
Head Start – II.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Using Wordless Picture Books!

Have you discovered the joys of wordless picture books? Books such as Chalk by Bill Thomson and The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney are just two examples from this wonderful world that is just right for encouraging oral language, understanding of story structure, and the development of critical/creative thinking.  And a big benefit in our eyes is the way these books can draw in our ELLs. Studies show that families, who speak a language other than English, are engaged and have valuable interaction in their home language when given wordless picture books.

For emerging readers, show them the cover and ask if they can predict what the book will be about based on the illustration. Then open the book. Remember this act alone is modeling for children the way to hold books and turn pages. Encourage the child to turn the pages, taking in the illustrations. Let the child’s imagination soar!

Then go back through the book a second time. An adult can begin by telling a story in his or her best expressive voice to match the illustration on the page. This model will likely encourage the child (children) to use an expressive voice, too and will show that the sky is the limit for storytelling!

When finished, have the child share his or her favorite parts of the story you told together and/or point out a favorite picture.

Be sure to take out the book again, a few days later. Set the stage by starting your story with different words or from a different viewpoint. This gives children “permission” to tell the story a different way.

Be sure to invite families to be a part of the wordless picture book experience, in any language. This would make a helpful Family Night Demonstration.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.D.02; 2.D.04; & 2.E.04.
Head Start – VII. A. & VIII.B.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Two Easy Games To Develop Phonemic Awareness

It is up to us to help families understand the importance of pre-reading skills. Blending and segmenting the individual SOUNDS of language (called phonemes) are essential precursors to reading.  It is important to note that neither of these skills involves looking at letters or words. It’s all about playing with sound. And the research is clear: If children can play with sounds, they will likely become better readers.  So, how can we do this?  “Games” like the following can help.

To blend, tell children that you are going to play a game called “Guess My Word.”  Slowly say each sound in a word, like  d  ŏ  g.   Children should be able to blend these sounds together and say, “dog.”  Remember to say the correct sound of the vowel.

Blending -
You say  s   ē. The child says see. 
You say c   ă   p. The child says cap.
You say m  ī   n. The child says mine.
You say   ch  ŏ  p.  The child says chop.  (The ch is said as one sound.)
You say  f   ĭ   sh.  The child says fish. (The sh is said as one sound.)

Segmenting –
Turn this game around and tell the child that he or she is going to be the teacher! You say a word and ask the child to carefully say all the individual sounds in the word. For example, you say pot. The child should say  p    ŏ    t.  Other words include:

You say nap. The child says  n    ă    p.
You say sun.  The child says  s  ŭ  n.
You say me.  The child says  m   ē.
You say rock.  The child says  r   ŏ   k.
You say ship.  The child says  sh   ĭ   p.

Please feel free to share this post with families so they can play sound games with their children! 

For a more comprehensive assessment for Phonological/Phonemic Awareness, see our Assessment here. Please send us any feedback as it is still in development. Thanks! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.E.06
Head Start – VII.B.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Critical Thinking Game: Pirate's Treasure!

Critical thinking skills can and should be encouraged in even our youngest learners. Contrary to the beliefs of some, this does not mean encouraging children to climb the ladder of skills, like having 4 year olds memorize sight words or sitting with children until they can add or subtract. These are skills that will be developed, especially if we have provided a firm foundation. That firm foundation means reading to children. It means having a rich verbal interaction with children. It means explaining our thinking about many facets of our life; for example, why are we having broccoli for dinner instead of cotton candy! Over the years, we have seen many children pushed to read, write, and calculate at a young age.

What can we do to help develop critical thinking skills, which in our analogy means giving that ladder a wider base so when a child does start to climb in, the footings are secure?

Here is one game that all families can play.  Children can think about strategy while learning the concept of number. This can be played with buttons, coins, counters, etc.

We call it Pirate’s Treasure, as we like to make it fun and play with “gold coins.”

Put out 13 gold coins (red counters or objects of one color) and 1 silver coin (yellow counter or object of a different color).

Two people play. Begin with an adult and child. Take turns. Each player will decide to take one, two, or three coins/counters when it is his or her turn. The player who is left with the silver coin or yellow counter has lost.

There is a strategy to this game. Encourage children to think:

Should they take the first turn or the second turn?
Should the amount they take change based on what the other person took?
What happens if you change the number of coins/counters?

There can be a rich verbal discussion about strategy as children play this game along with oral language using mathematical concepts (“I took 2 away. How many are left?”)

These kinds of games help to build a strong base for later learning.

For ELLs:
Children can learn to play this game no matter what language is spoken in the home. Discussion about playing it can help develop English vocabulary in a natural setting.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.B.04, 2.D.06, & 2.F.04.
Head Start – IV.A., VI.A., & X.A.

Monday, September 5, 2016

FREE Activities - All School Year Long!

We know many of you are kindergarten teachers - or preschool teachers who are encouraging emerging readers. We hope you will sign up to receive our free - yes, free activities in English and Spanish. Each week you will receive a link, via your email, to a standards-based activity, just right for your young learners.

What topics do we offer? Just about anything you can think of, from elephants to healthy eating to gardening, the list goes on. Speaking of the list, click here to see the wealth of information we have covered in the past.

You will see that this wealth of material reflects literacy, math, social studies, and science. We try to integrate subject areas as much as possible because that is how children learn.

As part of the activity, you receive a Dear Colleague letter, offering you more thoughts on how to use the activity in your classroom, complete with extension ideas. These letters also contain many of our teacher-tested suggestions for classroom management.

Spanish speakers and their families love receiving these weekly activities. You may want to copy and send them home. We know that reading to children always encourages literacy skills. The new Spanish text that is provided each week is a valuable way to get everyone involved!

And we never share your email - we promise! So sign up in the white box to your right.