Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Math Is All Around!

This week our activity packet expands on the post from last week (below) about intrinsic motivation. Are you signed up to receive these FREE activities, available in English and Spanish? If not, please take a few seconds to get on our email list. All you have to do is type your email address in the box to the right. It's that easy! 

This week we want to share some math ideas with you. And that's what the weekly activity is about, too! Continuing on the theme of using children's interests to develop intrinsic motivation, we encourage you to take a close look at what your children play during outdoor time. This is a valuable time to better understand their interests and even to observe their language skills. It's the time and place to develop academic vocabulary in a meaningful way.

Let's look at an example. A few children might be kicking a ball around. Everyday these same children race to get a favorite playground ball out of the equipment box. Use this in a math lesson. You can talk compare its size to tennis balls, golf balls, ping pong balls, or even a bowling ball. Then continue by having children order the sizes. You can even order them by weight. Develop verbal math skills by having children discuss how this order is different than ordering them by size. 

Find other activities you see children engaging in on the playground. If you have a climbing structure, have the class measure the distance between rungs. This helps children see measurement in its real world context. Of course, lots of discussion about terms is helpful, too. Use academic vocabulary like inches, feet, or meters. This will help children develop a frame of reference. 

Some children like to gather natural materials outside. Help them use acorns, seedpods, etc. as real-life manipulatives to represent addition and subtraction problems. Or just have them line up fallen leaves and count them. 

Math is all around - we just have to look! What a great lesson to instill in children. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.F.02 - 2.F.13.
Head Start -  X. A., B., D., & E.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Helping Children Develop Intrinsic Motivation

We know that our English Language Learners make more progress with their language skills when they are intrinsically motivated. This is also true for most children. So...the key is to develop children who want to learn for the joy of learning. Just how can we do this without constantly handing out stickers and other little prizes?

Research tells us that three traits need to be encouraged. These are competence, relatedness, and self-determination. Competence is developed when we help children to believe they can accomplish something. We can encourage and support children to develop good relationships with one another. Finally, we should help children initiate and continue activities on their own (self-determination). These are important goals to keep in mind for both preschool and kindergarten teachers along with children's families. 

How often do we ask children to work or play quietly? This may be counterproductive to developing intrinsic motivation. When children use private speech it shows they are engaged in something interesting. We want this! When children talk, this helps develop the three qualities described above. 

We can and should set realistic goals and objectives for children. When what we are asking is within a child's developmental abilities, he or she is more likely to succeed. This encourages the development of competence. A child will have the self-determination to complete an activity that has reasonable and age-appropriate expectations. The child will continue the activity and hopefully talk about it because the success gives the child a good feeling. This increases the traits discussed above.

We should avoid giving children rewards for anything and everything. These rewards take the place of the internal pleasure the child feels when he or she is working toward accomplishing a task. The reward becomes the source of pleasure. While rewards can still be given in a preschool or kindergarten classroom, we should avoid giving them for activities that children already like and do well. We want the child to focus on the joy he or she gets from the activity rather than on receiving a sticker!  

So, consider your use of rewards. How will you decide on handing out stickers? What can you change in your classroom to encourage more talk? Do some objectives need to be changed so that they are more realistic for the age? These are key questions as we assist children in developing intrinsic motivation. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.B.03. & 2.B.04.
Head Start - II.B. & C.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Stages of Learning a New Language: Intermediate Fluency and Advanced Fluency

This week we complete our description of the five stages of second language acquisition by looking at the fourth stage, intermediate fluency, and the fifth stage, advanced fluency. Please look back to our December 20, 2016 post for the beginning of our language acquisition description.  

Students are considered to be in the intermediate fluency stage when they have a vocabulary of about 6000 English words. This doesn't mean they have a full grasp of the meaning of all of these words. Just like many preschoolers, young second language learners may not grasp the different homophones and homographs, like bark (the sound of a dog) and bark (of a tree).  But, these children are more willing to ask questions. When you listen, you can hear them speaking in more complex sentences but often these sentences contain grammar errors. They may not always understand how to use English syntax (the way English is organized into phrases and sentences). In a preschool classroom, you may not see much difference between your native English speakers and second language young learners as young children do not always know how to use verb tenses correctly. 

As preschool or kindergarten teachers, we may not see any of our children (first or second language learners) at the final stage of language acquisition, advanced fluency. In this stage, speakers use complex sentences and have a large vocabulary that is used correctly. You can see that any young child likely needs time to be in this stage of language acquisition. For older second language learners, the only apparent difference may be a hint of an accent and difficulty with idioms (raining cats and dogs). Often native English speakers have difficulty with idioms, too, at a young age. You can help with this by making a game of teaching these commonly used expressions. Use them a part of your calendar/opening instruction.

One important idea to remember is that as children acquire a second language, motivation is important. Those who are intrinsically motivated (they have their own desire to succeed) are more likely to make language attempts than those who are rewarded with stickers and little prizes (extrinsic motivation). To help children develop intrinsic motivation, we can design activities that take into account children's special interests. For example, if child is interested in dogs, make these animals part of a lesson. This way, a second language learner will be more motivated to participate. 

Please stay tuned for more ideas on teaching English Language Learners! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.A.04. & 2.D.01.
Head Start – IX. A., B., & C.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Stages of Learning a New Language: The Early Production and Speech Emergence Stages

Last week we described the first and very important stage of language acquisition, the silent period. This week we move forward to tell you about the next two stages of the five-step process. We also offer ideas teachers can use in their classrooms to help children as they acquire a second or even third language.

The second phase is called the early production stage. During this time, children are likely to understand and use about 1000 words. These are usually single words (nouns and verbs) along with simple phrases.

Children in the early production stage benefit from singing, playing musical games, participating in rhyming activities along with engaging in word plays. They can often respond to simple questions but do not always engage in conversations with native speakers. .

The third stage of language acquisition is the speech emergence stage. While not always grammatically correct, children try to chunk phrases into sentences. They often have a vocabulary of about 3000 words and are more likely to talk with native speakers.

In the classroom, it is more beneficial to give children in the speech emergence stage a good model of correct usage rather than correcting their attempts at speaking the new language. Children are able to understand basic texts when they have illustrations to support the content. As with the first two stages, pictures and comprehensible input are valuable teaching tools.

Stay tuned – next week we discuss the final stages of language acquisition. You will have knowledge to assist your ELLs in the New Year! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.A.04. & 2.D.01.
Head Start – IX. A., B., & C.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Stages of Learning a New Language: The Silent Period

Many of us work with English Language Learners (ELLs) and their families. To help us better understand how to help these children, Maggie’s Big Home will discuss the stages of second language acquisition over the next 3 weeks. We will describe the stages and offer suggestions as to how you can support ELLs in your classroom.

Most people (children and adults) who are immersed in a new language go through a Silent Period. This first stage of language acquisition is very important. Although it appears nothing is happening, key connections are being made. A silent period will vary in length. It can last from a few weeks to over a year.

There are several factors that can influence how long a silent period lasts. A child’s personality can play a big role, as some children are more outgoing than others. They feel comfortable in different situations and are not easily intimidated. Other children are naturally shy. We need to take into consideration individual personalities. Culture also plays a role. In some cultures, females may be expected to be quieter. This may influence how long a silent period lasts, too.

An important role for teachers is to realize that the silent period is a natural part of second language acquisition. Children are listening and processing. They are likely striving to understand what is being said to them. As teachers, we need to be sure children have the time they need. We should not force anyone to speak until they are ready. When we give children opportunities to take part in small group activities with peers, they are likely to feel more comfortable in trying out their new language.

Next week we will discuss the Early Production Stage and the Speech Emergence Stage.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.A.04. & 2.D.01.
Head Start – IX. A., B., & C.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Common Phonological Error: Affricates

Take a look at these pictures. They represent sounds that are often difficult for our emerging readers.



The initial sounds in these words, j, tr, dr, and ch are called affricates. Many teachers have never heard of this term, despite the fact that these letter combinations are often confusing for young children. It may seem perplexing to us, but these sounds are made in a certain location in the mouth, which leads to them being easily confused. 

Look at your students’ authentic writing. You may see words such as chrip for trip, jran for train, or even jiv for drive. We can understand the vowel changes in these words but we may wonder why the consonant substitutions are occurring. When teachers (and families) know about affricates, these types of errors are easily fixed. 

We suggest placing little toys around the room, as our pictures indicate. Children will wonder what you are up to! You can hand out jellybeans as treats, as further incentive to talk about affricates.
You can have children sort pictures according to their initial sound. For example, include pictures of a dress, dragon, drum, train, tray, truck, chimney, chain, chin, jar, jet, and jump. Children place these in columns according to the sound they hear. For children who make many errors with affricates, begin by having them compare pictures of only two letter/letter combinations, such as j with tr. I add the other letters as children progress.
In our experience up to a third of emerging readers confuse these sounds. If affricates are not understood, teachers and families are easily confused as to why these substitutions are occurring. If we can’t identify the cause, we can’t fix the errors. 

For more, see our activity this week. Be sure you are signed up here to receive these free offerings.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.E.06
Head Start - VII. B & C.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Child Friendly Presentations: I Do, We Do, You Do

How can we help our young learners understand new knowledge, strategies, and ways of approaching learning? If we think about the words in the title of this article, we have a good roadmap of how we can guide children through learning. 

We often begin by showing children how to do something new. Let's think about tying shoes. We don't just tell a child to tie his or her shoes. We show them how to do this. Often we talk about a process as we are showing a new skill. For example, in the case of tying shoes we might say, "Let's make two bunny ears from the shoelaces." Then we do this for the child. This is the "I Do" stage of teaching. As adults, we are doing something and the child is watching. We have talked about this in depth in our post about modeling - http://www.maggiesbighome.com/2016/10/teaching-skills-to-children-use-modeling.html 

The next part of teaching is the "We Do" phase. This often takes the longest as we are partners with children and try out a new skill or strategy together. That is key. We are still right there, guiding children, as they attempt the new learning. In the case of tying shoes, we sit with a child and orally review the steps in securing shoes as the child ties laces. We may repeat directions, give children parts of a new skill to do while we do other parts, or guide small groups of children as they work together. The key is to allow plenty of time for practice under the guidance of the adult.

Finally, we invite children to continue to practice the new learning on their own. Aptly titled, the "You Do" phase of learning, we say, "Now it's your turn. You do it!" Children have opportunities to independently practice doing something like tying their shoes. 

When we follow these three sequential components of teaching and learning, children receive the adult guidance that is necessary for learning something new. We have found it beneficial to share these concepts with families and to advise them that the "We Do" phase often takes a lot of time as it is expected that practice makes permanent. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.A.10 & 2.A.11
Head Start - IV.A., B., & C.