Tuesday, August 23, 2016

It's About Time: Analog and Digital Clocks

Do we teach children to tell time using analog clocks? This is a question many teachers are posing. As preschool and kindergarten teachers, telling time may not be required, but it is helpful to get our youngest learners thinking about clocks and their role in our lives.

So much of our time these days is displayed digitally. We, at Maggie's Big Home, like to have our youngest children compare time pieces. Show an actual analog clock along with a digital clock. Have a 'grand conversation' about the likenesses of each clock. Children may begin by talking about numerals. They may notice how the clocks work. For example, show children the electrical cord or batteries. Encourage children to also explain that clocks help us keep track of time passage. In other words, physical attributes, along with the helpfulness of clocks are important discussion points.

Next have children discuss what is different about these clocks. It is always interesting to hear them talk about the hands on an analog clock. Talk about the sweep of these hands. For children who are ready, we like to show them the word hour and the word minute. Help them understand that the word hour is a shorter word and that the hour hand is shorter on an analog clock. Of course, discuss other differences.

When you are finished bring out chart paper. You can make a Venn diagram to help children understand the concept of compare and contrast. This also helps develop concept of word as terms such as hand, numerals, battery, or even phrases like time passage will be put on your chart.

While actually telling time may not be part of your curriculum, it is helpful to start children thinking about clocks. And this is a wonderful way to engage families, too. Encourage children to find examples of clocks in their homes. Describing these clocks is a valuable expressive language activity, followed by illustrating favorite clocks. 

  • Pair children so they can discuss clocks and explain their experiences with clocks. You may want to pair children who speak the same language so they can share details. 
  • Describing clocks from home gives children a tangible way to share and celebrate a part of their culture with others. 
  • Use the clocks as concrete objects to help our ELLs learn English words and phrases.
Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.F.13.
Head Start - VI.B.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

New Beginnings: Making a Connection

Some of you have been working with children all summer. For others, the new school year will start with fresh faces, excitement, and perhaps a few jitters. To help calm anxious children (and families!), it is helpful to get to know the interests of your children and to use these passions during the first few days of the new year.

If you visit homes prior to the start of school, keep a list of the interests of each child. We realize not everyone makes home visits. It may take time to make phone calls, but you can glean important information to help make those early days smooth for everyone. Even a mailer, with a postage paid return envelope, can help.

Ask questions like:
  • What toys does your child like?
  • What animals are a favorite for your child?
  • What is your child's favorite food?
  • What sports does your child enjoy?
  • What outdoor activities does your child like?
  • What is your child's favorite movie or television show? 

From responses, you can stack your room with appropriate books and pictures. Try to find something for everyone. If a child cries or exhibits signs of nerves, you can lead this child to an appropriate and comfortable spot that contains his or her favorite things.

You will note the importance of being nonjudgmental about television, etc. This is the beginning. There is time for moving away from too much screen time or a sedentary lifestyle. For now, we just want to make connections! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.A.04.
Head Start - II.A.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Setting the Stage For the Day

Many of us start our teaching day with circle time, morning message...it goes by many names. We do the calendar, count the days we have been in school, talk about a letter of the day, and so on. But we can also use this time to help our young learners share more about themselves. This can be an important time to develop verbal skills and to encourage children to care for one another. 

You can begin by asking children to show how they are feeling that day. Have children go around the circle and say their name and then hold up 1 finger if they are feeling good, 2 for feeling okay, and 3 if there is a problem. This will give you a quick idea of what each child is bringing to you that day. Saying names helps children learn to speak in front of their peers. It also is a wonderful way to practice taking turns. You may want to encourage children to help those who are feeling sad, etc. and/or you can speak to those children individually later.

This can be expanded as the days progress. Ask children to share what they had for breakfast, what they read yesterday, or how they got to school. This will not only give you a good opportunity to learn more about your children, but it will give them a chance to talk in front of a group and wait their turn.  

This is a good chance to include all, especially newcomers, in your classroom routine. Some children may begin by repeating what another child shared. That is fine as it gives them a voice. Using hand signals is also a wonderful way to include everyone. You can even ask children to share using their language of comfort. This way you are valuing what everyone brings to the class. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.B. & 2.D.
Head Start - II.A., B., & D., VIII.A. & B. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Phonemic Awareness and Alphabetic Principle: Both Are Important

Many times people confuse the terms phonemic awareness and alphabetic principle. Both of these are important for our young learners. Be sure you know the difference so you can help children be school-ready. 

Phonemic awareness is the ability to manipulate the sounds of the language. This means children should be able to take off the first sound of words like mat, /m/, to say the remaining word is at. Additionally children should be able to say the three sounds (phonemes) in the word, mat - /m/, /a/, /t/. This should also be done in reverse. Can children say the word mat if you say the three phonemes, /m/, /a/, /t/? 

The key is that practice in phonemic awareness is all done orally! There are no letters involved. Sound "play" is key. And the results of a child having strong awareness of language sounds are compelling. The National Reading Panel (2000) cites the link between strong phonemic awareness and later abilities in phonics.

If phonemic awareness is all oral, then what do we call it when letters are involved? This is alphabetic principle. This is often confused with phonemic awareness and the result is that children do not get enough exploration with only sounds. 

When children are taught that this is an m, that is part of alphabetic principle. A child who can point to letters in his or her name, is exhibiting alphabetic principle. When a child points to m and tells you it says /m/, this is alphabetic principle.

Obviously alphabetic principle is important, but we can't forget about phonemic awareness. There is such a strong research-based correlation between phonemic awareness and later reading abilities, that we need to be sure we are allowing for this all oral language "play."  

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.E.06 & 2.E.07.
Head Start - VII. B & C.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Dental Visits: Words Matter!

Words matter! As teachers and families we can say something that we think may be encouragement, but it may have an unintended consequence. Think about the idea of fractions. Math teachers know that many young children have an aversion to fractions. Some attribute this to asking young children, who are still in the egocentric stage of development, to give away half of a cookie or other treat. This sets some children up to dislike fractions. 

Many children have a fear of the dentist. For some we need to coax them to go, amid tears. See our post here about overcoming fear of the dentist and here detailing ideas how to make dental health fun. In addition, we need to consider how we talk to children about visits to the dentist. 

Often families might say something like this, "You better brush your teeth or you will need to go to the dentist." Consider how this can easily be perceived as something to fear by a child. It sounds like a punishment, doesn't it? 

We can help families understand that giving positive directions equals a more positive attitude. Think about how the above sentence could be changed to, "Wow, I can't wait for your next trip to the dentist. She will be so impressed with your big smile." 

Be sure your words are ones that are reassuring and enthusiastic so children will have a more favorable outlook about their dental appointment. 

This child overcame his fear of the dentist and now looks forward to visits.
Please feel free to share our dental health links with families!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Rewarding Rewards

Stickers, little toys, bits of candy? What can we do to motivate our young learners? It IS more than these types of tangible prizes. We believe that teacher and family excitement is the best way to reward and encourage children. 

Let your face light up with happiness when a child asks you to read a special book. Jump for joy when a letter of the alphabet is said. Use tools like a big hand to clap to celebrate something special in the classroom. These all show a child you value his or her successes.  

Fun "tools" like this, available at party stores, make for excitement in the classroom.

Rather than traditional stickers, use the powerful sense of smell. Make a star on a child's hand with invisible chapstick. The sweet odor will remain for several hours and remind your young learner that you valued an accomplishment. 

Allow children a reward and learning experience at the same time. Give "free passes" to watch real animals in their natural habitats on-line. Websites like Explore.org allow children to view puffins, bears, and even bison. I found letting children see pandas was more powerful than a trip to the prize box. And what fantastic learning takes place, too!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Annotating In An Age-Approriate Way

It is important to help our children get in the habit of "having a conversation" with a book. This can be done in an age-appropriate way. Give children sticky notes with question marks and exclamation points on them. Make a game out of finding the parts that should be thought about again or for sections that children may question. This is the beginning of annotating, a valuable life-long skill we are encouraging in our K-12 classrooms. 

We also like gluing fun pictures on craft sticks. Fireworks can represent a part of a book that was very exciting. Have questions or not quite understand a part of a book? Is it muddy in your mind? Give children a picture of a pig covered in mud. This makes it silly. Admitting something is not well understood was never so much fun! 
Examples of developmentally-appropriate annotations.
Then, remember to go back and engage in dialogue about the sections that children marked. The conversation helps with oral language skills. 

For ELLs:
Looking through material more than once gives children processing time with the language. Rich discussions about parts of books that were unclear, exciting, or worth rereading make for valuable oral language practice.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.04 & 2.E.04.
Head Start - VII.a. & VIII.B.