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 - 

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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Read-Alouds: Comprehension and Cognates

Read-alouds are more than just fun for our young learners. By clearly and explicitly asking children to engage in meaningful comprehension activities like making predictions, describing characters, and explaining plot, we are teaching this important component of reading (see We can have children turn and talk about their "guesses" (predictions) based on the cover of the book and/or a picture walk. Turn the class into actors to show understanding of character traits and behavior. Give children a paper, folded into four parts, to highlight the key parts of a book's plot. These are developmentally-appropriate ways to teach comprehension skills as we read. 

Read-alouds can even provide us an important opportunity to showcase the knowledge we have in our classrooms. We can use the vocabulary in a book to help ALL children understand the power of cognates (words from different languages that are related to each other). This helps speakers of languages that descend from Latin. 

About 40% of English vocabulary can be related to Spanish words. This helps our Spanish speakers but also demonstrates to English speakers that they may be able to make connections with words in other languages. 

As you read books orally to your class, ask Spanish speakers to raise their hands when they hear familiar Spanish words. They may raise their hands when you read family or center as the Spanish words are closely related (familia, centro). 

Talking with your young children about "words that are relatives" is a perfect opportunity to invite Spanish-speaking family members of students into your classroom. They can read books in Spanish and English speakers can then raise THEIR hands when they hear a familiar cognate like familia! Showing learning from all sides is important! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.E.03, 2.E.04, 2.E.06, 2.E.09, 2.E.10.
Head Start - VII. B & C.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Talking Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! This year we are thinking about how language can be developed at home and school. Encourage families to invite children to help as food is prepared. You can give a list of suggested topics to discuss. Here are a few ideas that represent math, literacy, social studies, and science:

  • Discuss how to measure ingredients.
  • As a family member works, they could talk through the sequence of making a certain dish.
  • Discuss the different food groups that are represented on the table.
  • Talk with children about the number of ingredients in a specific dish.
  • Ask children to pick out a favorite part of the meal and tell why they like this.

Encourage families to discuss with children their own cultural traditions as they relate to this holiday. Some people have a tablecloth that is used year after year. Everyone who sits at the table signs the tablecloth. Other people spend a special time, remembering the past year and the many things for which they are thankful. In our home, we are talking about the immigrants in our family tree that came to the United States. Older family members are sharing these stories with younger family members. We are coloring the flags that represent our past immigrant families.

The idea is to talk - and talk - and talk!

For more art-related Thanksgiving ideas see our pages and

Monday, November 14, 2016

Making Ten With Falling Leaves

Leaves are falling all around as we prepare to say good-bye to autumn. Use this end of fall symbol to enhance your children’s mathematical skills. Not to mention...this activity can help young learners develop listening and fine motor skills, too.

Give children a tree, like the one below. 

Next give them a 10 frame as shown:

Pre-cut fall leaves of various colors.

Give the direction that children are to choose two colors. They should count enough of each color to make 10. They can check this by placing their fall leaves on the 10-frame. This is the type of direction that is clear and simple yet helps children learn to listen to you and follow your expectations.

Once children have confirmed they have 10 and only 10 leaves, they can glue them on their tree. We like using squeezable glue bottles as this helps strengthen hand muscles – good for developing fine motor control.

Finally ask children to count their leaves and write a number sentence. Share these number sentences and discuss the many ways we can make 10.

We find that not many children choose 0 so you may need to show that 0 + 10 = 10. As a follow-up, ask children to use different materials in the classroom to show this. 

Standards Alignment:

NAEYC –2.F. 11 & 12.

Head Start -X. A. & B.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Benefits of Playing School

Playing school! What fun for many children. And we are finding that both girls and boys benefit from this favorite pastime of childhood. This is an activity that you may want to encourage families to enjoy at home because it is much more than merely play-acting. Family involvement can encourage children, acting as the teacher, to practice many important skills and concepts.

The child as teacher may have a family member sit at a desk or on the floor to practice numbers or sight words, as shown below. 

Good review: Writing numbers and asking a family member to name the numeral.
Pointing to sight words gives children a chance to think clearly about each word as they need to give feedback as to whether a family member reads it correctly!
This is a helpful way for children to verbalize their understandings of school-readiness concepts. It also allows for practice, in a developmentally-appropriate way, of key skills.  Children can use papers, stapled together like books, and write practice activities for their “students.” They may use toys like blocks to demonstrate math concepts. 
The child sets up a "teacher desk" and prepares blocks to demonstrate patterning for his "students."
Children can even set up their own classroom, as shown below, with stuffed animals (and a family member) as students. 

Arranging desks can give you insight into what a child likes about school.
An important benefit of this is that families get a window into the child’s mind. This will help direct them as to what children remember and value about school. What a wonderful way to communicate with families!

One topic we have considered is the benefit male faculty members have on a child’s propensity to play school.  We know the importance of male role models. Does having a male in the classroom mean young boys are more likely to play school? The child in these photos loves to engage in this activity. He is fortunate to have a male kindergarten teacher.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC –  2.A.12, 2.B.01, & 2.B.04.
Head Start -  II.A., II.B.,  & 4.A.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

ELLs and Environmental Print

Many preschool teachers use environmental print to help children learn letters and letter sounds. That big M for McDonald's or the letters in a favorite grocery store, pizza place, or even sports team can help children make gains with their alphabetic awareness. 

But, we often need to be aware that newcomers to the United States may not know the letters, signs, and meaning of this environmental print. It is up to us to be cognizant of this and find other ways to heighten awareness for finding letters in various places.

You can bring in newspapers in different languages. Often families receive these and will be happy to share. Find books in a child's home language and go on letter "hunts" using these. Look on the Internet for types of environmental print that speakers of other languages may be more accustomed to seeing and using. 

There are many ways you can find print that your newcomers are used to seeing. The first step is being aware that we need to do this.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.01., 2.D.02., & 2.E.03.
Head Start - VII.D. & IX.A.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Importance of Those "Little Words"

How can you help your young learners get ready for school? One of the key oral language skills children need is the ability to understand and use words that we often assume children know. These include words like on, that, above, can, where, why, etc. The list goes on. Often termed high-frequency words, these are included on sight word lists for kindergarten and first grade. But, research tells us that children have a difficult time reading these words automatically if they do not understand their meaning or how to use them. In other words, children must be given plenty of opportunities to use these words in context if they are to eventually read them.

This means we need to emphasize questions words like what, who, how, etc. We need to ask children to repeat the questions we ask, and we should encourage them to ask their own questions using these words.

"Little words" like on, over, above, etc. can be said while pointing to objects. You can make a game of lining up by putting hands on heads or arms above heads. This helps children act out the meaning of these words.

Words such as can and was are often the first sight words an emerging reader learns to read and write. Sentences are given like:

________(name of child) can run. 
________(name of child) was happy. 

You can make this process more efficient by making a game of this by saying, "____ (name of child) can go to the line." Later, have children act as the leader to call children to the line. This helps them hear and use these words in context.

For more sight words that your preschoolers will learn when they enter school, see any listing of the Dolch Words on the Internet. This list is a good resource for those "little words" that you should emphasize.

Understanding and using these sight words is especially important for our English Language Learners. Research (Helman & Burns, 2008) tells us that our speakers of other languages have difficulty learning these sight words. Our schools are set up with the assumption that all children know the meaning of these words. But ELLs do not have a working knowledge of the syntax of English. Often we ask young readers if something makes sense. But children who have not heard these words used in context all of their lives cannot answer the question, "Does that sound right?" We need to give them background knowledge to help with this. Rather than always emphasizing nouns or even verbs, we need to remember to highlight words from the Dolch list, too.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.01 & 2.D.03
Head Start - VIII. A. & B.