Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What Interests Your Preschoolers?

Giving children choices is an important way to draw them into a love of literacy. Having a wide variety of books available and encouraging children to choose something that is appealing to them is an essential part of literacy. This is also a key 'best practice' in teaching our English learners. By providing dual language students with books that are meaningful and aligned with their interests, encourages them to interact with English literacy to a greater degree. 

One way to learn about the interests of your children is to have them create "About Me" bags. You can demonstrate how to put together the contents of these bags by creating one of your own. Put objects that relate to your interests in a bag. As you take out each item, explain in simple sentences, the meaning of each object. For example, if you have a dog, you can include a stuffed dog or small statue of a dog. When you participate too, it excites the class and encourages children to participate. 

After learning about interests, you can use the library to find books that will motivate children who may not have chosen to visit the "book corner." Remember, research tells us that the more access a child has to books, the better reader and writer that child is likely to become.

After you discover interests, it is also important to learn more about children's attitudes toward literacy. We looked at several attitude surveys and found few that are appropriate for our emerging readers. So...we created our own. Click Hart Emergent Reader Literacy Survey to access it. 

We suggest you sit down with each child and read the sentences orally. You can see that this will likely take less than a minute per child. Allow children to circle their response. By watching their pencil control, you can learn about fine motor skills, too! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2. E. 04 & 05.
Head Start - VII. A. & E.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Age-Appropriate Comprehsnsion Strategies for the Preschool Set

Helping children to develop comprehension skills can be done using age-appropriate strategies for preschoolers. Here are a few of our favorite ideas for the younger set. 

We love to use hula hoops (or any large circular shapes) as a tangible Venn Diagram. After reading a book like The First Thanksgiving, have children draw pictures. Some children may draw a picture showing what food was eaten at that first celebration. Others may draw depictions of food they enjoy on the holiday. Put out the hula hoops. Those who have illustrations of food eaten long ago put their drawings in one hula hoop. The others put their drawings in the second hula hoop. 

Then discuss that some food may be put in both hula hoops. Move them so they intersect and put the pictures that pertain to both time periods in the overlapping area. This helps children compare and contrast using an age-appropriate method.

We also encourage you to invite children to act out or participate by physically showing details from a book. For example, pop bubble wrap for raindrops. Clap hands for thunder. Have children pretend to sleep, etc. These kinds of interaction with specific details, encourage children to listen for these important components of books. And the best part? They are fun!

In addition to the ideas in this post, we encourage you to sign up for our free activities in the box to the right. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.E.04
Head Start - VII.A.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Helping Children Stay Calm

As we begin a new school year, our children are likely hearing about natural disasters as we recover from Hurricane Harvey and Irma is spinning in the Atlantic. It is a good time to pause for a reminder that adult attitudes can be instrumental in keeping children calm. We need to project a sense of comfort as much as possible in the wake of uncertain times.

There are several steps we can take. First, try to keep children’s schedules as uniform as possible. If this is not possible, be sure to tell children what to expect for the day or week. When children have a sense of expectation, they feel calmer.

Another good step to take is to invite children to share how they are feeling. This can be done with puppets or stuffed animals. You can begin by having a stuffed animal say, “There is water in my street. I was scared. Has this ever happened to you?” Invite children to “talk” to the animal.

Children can draw pictures of what might be happening in their neighborhoods. Use these illustrations as a place to begin a conversation. Allow children to express their feelings.

Finally, be sure to stay in close communication with families and mental health professionals. When all of the adults in a child’s life work together, everyone benefits, especially as the entire family likely needs support.

On another note, to assist YOU, we encourage you to sign up for our free activities each week. They are designed to support you in all you are doing for our children. Just add your email in the box to the right.  

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

We all love free - right? That's just what Maggie's Big Home and our companion program for elementary-age students offers you - free printable activities, weekly teaching suggestions, and even educational but fun on-line learning activities. This week our sister program, Maggie's Earth Adventures found at www.missmaggie.org goes back to school with a printable activity designed to help teachers, students, and families become familiar with this exciting site. To help your preschoolers and kindergartners join in the fun, we are highlighting some of the interactive games that can help the younger set. 

First, when you arrive at our home page, it will look like this:

After clicking on the big red button, just click on Games

Take a look at all of these offerings:

Math games such Dude's Dilemma, Around the World in 80 Seconds, and Join the Dots are appropriate, engaging, and educational for many preschoolers. Here they can rescue the dog, Dude, from a rooftop by adding one digit numbers.

It's also intriguing for children to "test their memories" by playing games like Mega Memory

We hope you will try these out in your classrooms and encourage families to take a look at all www.missmaggie.org has to offer. 

And while you're at it, please sign up to receive our free activities for the younger set. The bonus? We offer them in Spanish, too, all for the low price of FREE!

You will see this box right here on this page to the upper right. Your email address (we NEVER share these!) is all you need to provide to take advantage of these best practices offerings. 

See you next week to officially begin Maggie's Earth Adventures 18th year of providing sound educational material to teachers, students, and families.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

School Routines and School Vocabulary: Think Explicitly!

As we enter a new school year, it is helpful to remember that we often take our use of vocabulary for granted. We may not always realize that school words such as row or whisper may not have meanings for our children. This is why it is essential we use comprehensible input to be sure our children understand school vocabulary. Have children practice whispering before you ask them to whisper. Be sure children act out words like row or column before using these words in directions.

While we know this is essential for our English Language Learners (ELLs), we can't assume English speakers have a context for these words. Remember, school is a new experience for our preschoolers!

As we think about ELLs and children new to the school experience, we should consciously use motions, drama, and pictures to be sure all children understand what we say and the directions we give. Make a game of asking children to sit in a row. Have them practice what it means to listen carefully. Ask them to line up several times without leaving the classroom. Give a big round of applause when these school experiences are done to your satisfaction. Establishing routines like this, in an age-appropriate way, in the beginning of the school year will make the school experience more successful for everyone.

It is also helpful to let families know what you are doing. Either send home a daily explanation (in the languages spoken by your families) detailing how you are establishing school routines or post a sign outside of your classroom. Ask families to support you by reviewing the new vocabulary at home or by explaining to parents how they listen during story time, etc. This helps the learning to go smoothly and it shows families you value their support. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.01
Head Start - II.A.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Child-Made Spinners!

The fidget spinner craze might just about be over, but there's still time to get children excited about creating and learning from their own spinner. Depending on the age of children, you can either cut out or have children cut their own shapes that look like the following: 

Children can decorate their spinners in any way that suits them. This is also a good opportunity to practice school-readiness skills and remind children to put their name or initials on their work. Give each child a paperclip to position on the spinner as shown in the photo.

Next have children "launch" their spinners by holding them up high, paperclip down and watching them "twirl" to the ground. Encourage talk about what was observed.

Then have children ask "what if" questions. For example, you might explore what would happen if more paperclips were used on each spinner. You could also launch spinners from various heights. How do spinners travel when you stand on a table? Does it spin differently when you are seated? You could make additional spinners of different types of paper. 

We encourage children to ask questions, make predictions, test their ideas, and then adjust thinking. As you know, this is good science, but it also sets the stage for helpful comprehension strategies when children begin reading. 

Remember that hands-on activities such as this are helpful in encouraging those in the "Silent Period" to begin trying new language skills with peers. This is one of the best ways to move children along the language learning continuum. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.G. & 2.K.03 & 04.
Head Start - I.A. & B.,XI.A. & B.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Act Out the Solar Eclipse

Here it comes!  The solar eclipse will be visible on August 21, 2017!  To help children learn how this works and to prepare for the darkness, explain how our solar system works in a child-friendly way. Involve children by acting out the process. We realize there are several helpful videos, which you can use to supplement this physical activity, but we believe that child participation is best for helping knowledge to grow at this age. 

We suggest creating large signs with images of the sun in yellow, the Earth in blue and green, and the moon in manilla (off-white). You may want to give the "Sun" a flashlight to hold. Of course, as fans of sight word development you can also label the signs. Three children can hold the signs and create the "Solar Eclipse Play." 

Position the child with the sun and flashlight in front of the child with the Earth sign. Discuss how this is normally the way the sun and Earth appear. Talk about the light of the sun that shines on Planet Earth. Then ask the child with the sign, Moon, to spin in between the Earth and Sun. Ask children to discuss what happens to the light from the sun. Encourage a grand conversation about science and astronomy! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.G. & 2.K.03 & 04.
Head Start - I.A. & B.,XI.A. & B.