Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Let's Stay Healthy!

It's that time of year - and this year is a particularly troublesome one for the flu. Help your young ones to stay healthy by having a conversation about healthy habits in your classroom. While we don't want to scare our children, it is important to teach and reinforce healthy habits. Here are a few ideas for you.

Read appropriate children's books as a jumping off point for a discussion. Healthy Habits has a series of books that are age-appropriate. You may also want to share the Berenstain Bears book, Sick Days or even Llama, Llama Home With Mama by Anna Dewdney, to begin a conversation about ways to stay well. 

After reading a book or two, ask children to share ideas about how they can keep from getting sick. As children offer their ideas, you may want to ask everyone to demonstrate the idea. In upper grades, teachers often make a list of ideas like this for classroom display. You can do this in an age-appropriate way by taking photos of children showing healthy habits and then posting the chart to remind your children of the discussion. Ideas might include:

Eat healthy foods.
Wash your hands frequently. We like to teach our children to sing "Happy Birthday" two times while scrubbing their hands to be sure they have washed well.
Get enough sleep.
Cough or sneeze into your elbow or shirt. 
Keeping your hands away from your face will help you stay healthy.

You will notice that we worded these ideas in a positive manner. It is more meaningful to compliment children for exhibiting healthy habits than to admonish them. For example, when you see a child sneezing into their elbow, stop the class and have everyone clap or cheer! This will really encourage your class to show healthy habits.

Additionally, you can keep yourself healthy by being sure YOU get enough sleep. Try to use different pencils, pens, crayons, etc. than the children in your class. We usually spend the flu season with our own pens handy and use them everywhere...even outside of school to sign credit card receipts. Be sure to wipe down the tables and other surfaces in your classroom frequently, including keyboards. 

Stay well!

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.K.01 & 2.K.02.
Head Start - I. A. & B.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

It's HOW Cold?

Most of you do some kind of weather report with your children every morning. You may talk about sunny, cloudy, rainy, or snowy. But you can add an understanding of temperature to this discussion. Buy or create a large thermometer with a wide elastic that can be easily moved up and down. You may put a few basic numbers like 0, 10, 32, 40, 50, etc.** and then you can help children make a guess as to the outside temperature. This gives them a basis of understanding temperature and helps them to talk about weather. 

You can even ask children to assign vocabulary words to describe the temperature. They can use words like frosty, chilly, freezing, frigid, icy, or nippy. We find children enjoy this kind of word play, especially if you suggest they impress their families by using one of these descriptive words at home. 

If you have English Language Learners in your classroom, this is a good time to add descriptive words from the home languages of your students. What an opportunity to ask for the help of students' families!

Additionally you can download and use our little book, Trees Change. (Click on the title.) 

This reader, with its repetitive sentence structure, can be the basis to talk about the temperatures of different seasons. Read the book out loud to children. Then hand out copies to everyone. Ask the group to read it in unison, with your voice being the loudest. Reread the book several times, gradually lowering your voice, letting the chorus of children take over. 

Once children can read it on their own (and, of course, point to each word), discuss the ways trees look in each season. Then use the background knowledge you developed about temperature to have children share guesses about the temperature of each season.

**These numeric examples assume you are using the Fahrenheit Scale.
Also, sign up for our Emergent Reader activities for more on temperature math.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2. D. & 2. G. 04.
Head Start - VIII.A. & XI. B.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Indoor Magical Activities for Preschool

Sometimes it feels like we need to start all over again after a vacation. Are your children having trouble following your directions? Are they sniffling a little at leaving their families? It can feel like the beginning of the school year when they return in January. For some of you, freezing temperatures may keep you inside. Liven up what might be difficult January days by making magic in your classroom.  Here are a few ideas:

Don’t just make snowmen from cotton balls; make beautiful snow or snowmen by letting children paint those cotton balls first. This is fun and allows for a different type of painting.

Put any used cookie cutters to work by letting children paint the edges and then use them as stamps to create a collage of paint cookie shapes.

The above two painting ideas are helpful for developing hand muscles and are sure to improve fine motor skills.

Thinking of those fine motor skills, give each child a cup and materials to transform the cup into a snowman. They can use markers, orange paper, glue, etc. Then, when frigid temperatures keep you inside, setup these snowmen like bowling pins. 

Children can roll a ball or even a large marshmallow to see who can knock down the most snowmen. Children can practice counting in a meaningful way by seeing who topples over the most snowmen or they can do a bit of mental subtraction: There were 5 snowmen. James knocked down 2 snowmen. There were 3 snowmen left standing. Remember that fine motor skills can be practiced (along with patience!) by asking children to set the cups up again.

Another indoor winter-related activity is to play “Pin the Nose On the Snowman.” Tape three large white balls to a wall, use a blindfold, and let children try to put a paper, shaped like a carrot, onto the snowman. Leave all the noses on the snowman and encourage children to draw a picture of this spectacle!

Finally – magic happens in January! Gather children and have them put miniature marshmallows on a small tree or tree branches. Tell children that if they do something special (sing a song, follow directions, whatever you need!) – these tiny marshmallows may grow. 

After children leave for the day, make magic by hanging jumbo marshmallows on the tree. Children will be amazed!

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.C.03 & 2. J.05.
Head Start – I.D. & III.C.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pesky Verbs: Make Them Fun!

Do you have children who say, “runned?’ Do others say, “jump – ted?” These are common verb issues for all children but can be especially difficult for our English Language Learners (ELLs). This week in our Maggie’s Earth Adventures Weekly Pack, we discuss ways you can help your emergent readers identify correct verb tenses. If you aren't receiving these activities, please sign up (FREE!) in the box to the right. 

We know that issues with verb tenses start before reading begins. Two concerns can cause difficulty for preschoolers: irregular verbs and the use of correct syllabication for past tense verbs formed with –ed.

When we are helping our children to understand the use of irregular past tense verbs like ran, came, swam, drove, etc., we can heighten awareness of their use by playing games. For example, ask children to run in place. You can have them chant phrases/sentences like, “We are running; we are running.” When you stop, then you can all say, “We ran; we ran.” 

Be sure they understand they are to watch you carefully, and when you stop the action, they are to stop immediately. This can be played like “Simon Says.” Then have different children take turns at leading the group.

You can add a new irregular verb every few days. Keep track of the verbs that are a part of your “game” so you can return to them for review. This makes a fun and meaningful brain break for your young learners.

If you hear children incorrectly saying a verb you have used in the game, you can gently remind them of your game. Of course, do not hold children accountable for any irregular verbs you have not used as a class.

The other common verb problem for preschoolers, especially for ELLs, is the question of how to add –ed to action words. Words like jump, stop, and walk simply add the –ed and the verb remains as a single syllable word, with the –ed pronounced as /t/ or /d/.  But when we have verbs like act, lift, wait, or shout, the –ed forms a new syllable and is sounded: /ed/.

This can be highlighted by adding verbs like this to the brain break game suggested above. By emphasizing this, the “rule” for base verbs with a t or d becomes a more natural part of speech of everyone.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.
Head Start - IX. A.,B.,& C.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Position Words for Preschoolers

In, over, under, around, through...these are the types of words that can easily confuse preschoolers, especially those children who are learning to speak English. How can we help all of these children learn these key words that can often be confusing?

One of the best ideas is to use high leverage practices to model the meaning of the words for children. When we model, we are clear and concise in our choice of vocabulary. More importantly, we demonstrate the meaning of vocabulary using hand gestures or by moving our bodies. It is important to remember that we should ask children to quietly sit and watch us before having them engage in jumping over a book or walking around a chair. This is because often children get excited when moving around. By asking them to watch you first, this helps children to process the meaning of position words. 

In addition, there are several books that help children not only hear these words used in authentic texts but you can emphasize these as you read.  Two of our favorite books for this purpose are Rosie's Walk by Pat Hutchins and Inside, Outside, Upside Down by Stan Berenstain. Using high leverage practices, modeling, read a book the first time through using hand gestures to demonstrate the meaning of position words. Then read a second time for children to act out the key words. 

As children walk and play outside, encourage them to use this vocabulary in context. 

If your class goes for a walk, have them chant sentences like, "Walking over the bridge."

Intentionally ask children to practice position words. Make it a game by playing, "Teacher Says." This child has responded to, "Teacher says point UP." Either this variation of "Simon Says or a fun version of "Mother May I" are appropriate ways to engage young children with position words. 

Finally, you can assess the ability of children to use and understand position words by giving them a cup and plastic toy.  Have them tell you a story about how the toy is above the cup, under the cup, on the cup, etc. 

ELL Connection:
As you can see, this is a helpful strategy for our English Language Learners. 

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thanks For Giving

Today is Giving Tuesday, but we know people who work with children do this all of the time - you put the interests of others first! One of the challenges is to help our children internalize the importance of giving.  While they see our model all of the time, it is important to be intentional about teaching our youngest citizens about giving. 

One of the ways we like to integrate this key understanding into our daily classroom life is to create a project-based curriculum for a week. Plan to include families in this event as this helps the community become involved and assists you. Here are our suggestions for this meaningful and fun project:

  • First of all, identify a few organizations in your community that need funds. After you narrow the list to three or four, involve children in choosing the group that will receive the money from your class. This makes the project more meaningful - children are "invested" in the outcome! 
  • Find a recipe that is age-appropriate for students. For our youngest children, we like no-bake goodies like Rice Krispie bars or no-bake cookies.
  • Include children in chorally reading the recipe. Make a shopping list with them.
  • Some of you may be able to take a field trip to a local food store to purchase the ingredients. If this is not possible, ask a few families to help with this. The children in these families can go along and report back to the class about the experience. These young shoppers can even draw pictures or take photos to share with their peers.
  • Include family members and your students in the preparation of the treats. This is why we like to use a no-bake recipe as everything can be made in your classroom. 
  • You can duplicate the day and time along with the organization that will benefit from your sale. Have children cut out the wording and paste onto decorated posters, which they create. This helps them become aware that written language helps people understand about events. 
  • On the day of the sale, have children help at the sale table. While they may be too young to make change and count money, they can at least look at coins and identify them. It is amazing how much can be learned about math when children are involved in an authentic situation! 
  • Once all treats are sold, involve children in delivering the money to the organization which they chose. 

In our experience, children feel proud of their work and reports from doing this for 20 years, tell us that this type of experience is a much-loved and remembered time in classroom life.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thanksgiving Thoughts

We may think we need more creative activities than just asking children to write on a leaf or turkey feather about the things for which they are thankful. But remember - these children have not done this for the past ten years - this activity is new to them. Do it the old-fashioned way 


present these "old" activities with a facelift - include their thoughts using ChatterKids (click here to see this post) or even use Quiver 3D or Aurasma to make the time-held tradition of giving thanks come alive. 

Of course, you can easily create a bulletin board with these ideas, too. We believe it is best if children use invented spelling to share their ideas. This way you can easily see where they are on the phonics/spelling continuum. Drawing a picture can give you information, too. This often means the child does not feel confident enough to use letters. As a reminder, here are the first few stages of this important continuum:

Initial consonants
Final consonants 
Initial digraphs and blends (letter combinations like th, sh, bl, fr, tr.)
Short vowels (remember that short e is the most difficult)
Affricates (j, ch, tr, dr)
Final consonants blends and digraphs

We feel that if preschool children can correctly write the first consonant of a word, we are thrilled! 

And now for just a fun and eye-catching project, we suggest creating a turkey farm. Get some orange paper cups. These become the body of your turkey. Then use various colors of paper (red, brown, yellow) to make the tail feathers. You can pre-cut these tail feathers or have children practice their burgeoning fine motor skills by tracing and cutting a pattern. Have children make heads and perhaps “gobblers.” Fringe the tails and glue them to the mouth of the cup. Glue the head to the bottom of the cup. Then staple your 3D turkeys to a “field” on your bulletin board. It makes a fun display.