Sunday, April 27, 2014

Concept of Print: Ask or Tell

We discussed helping children understand the difference between an ask (question) and a tell (statement) in our previous post. Now you can take this one step further and add Concept of Print to the fun. You may even want to enjoy the spring weather while you are reinforcing the concept. This adds to a child's enjoyment and helps learning feel like a natural part of life.

Write a large question mark on a paper and a period on another paper. When you and the child (or children) are talking about signs of spring, hold up the question mark to indicate an ask and the period for a tell.

For example, this child described the buds on the bushes. He said, "There are small, small buds on the prickly branches." This was a statement so he was prompted to hold up the period.

He also asked questions such as, "Are there worms crawling under the ground?" He was given the question mark to hold. He learned this was the special sign to use when you ask for an answer.

As the outdoor experience continued, the child did not need as many prompts to hold up a question mark or period. He learned by doing!

Finally, the child sat outside with a book and eagerly discovered the same punctuation marks in print.

We think we may need to teach literacy objectives inside, but outdoor learning, using a child's natural curiosity, can accomplish something as important as understanding punctuation marks!

Monday, April 14, 2014

An Overlooked School Readiness "Skill"

Children can be an endless stream of questions: 

“Why is the sky blue?”
“Why do I sleep at night?”
“How come we need to go shopping?” 

Preschoolers also love to tell tales and may not stop for a breath:

“We went to the park and saw a frog that was making a loud noise and he hopped away.”
“My brother took my puzzle and now one of the pieces is lost and my mother can’t find it so I am not happy.”

Often these questions and tales are told when you are trying to teach your preschoolers. That is why it is helpful to teach children the difference between an “ask” and a “tell.”

I like to tell children that some things are said to let others know what we are thinking. Other things are asked and we need the other person to answer. I give children some easy examples such as:
“Is your shirt red?”

I find out if the child has enough background to identify this as an “ask” or a “tell.” If the child does, I proceed; but if not, I share my thinking and say, “I expect you to answer. So that is an “ask.” What is your answer?” I then give several more examples of an “ask” before stating examples of “tells” like, "I have a yellow crayon."

Next, I would ask the child to provide some “asks” and “tells.” This is something I review constantly with preschoolers. When we have class sharing or a guest in the classroom, the child is then better equipped to understand what he or she can say when raising a hand. Kindergarten and first grade teachers will thank you as often children raise their hands to tell a long story when a question has been expected. This is an often overlooked but important school readiness “skill.”

Monday, April 7, 2014

Math and Fine Motor: A Colorful Combination!

We love when we can integrate a subject area with the development of fine motor skills. This math activity is perfect for doing just this. The bonus? It also helps review colors and it’s fun!

Prepare by creating number cards, about 3”x 3”. Write a target numeral on each along with a meaningful representation such as dots depicting the number as shown below.

You can develop verbal skills by asking children to talk about the dots as you draw them.

As you can see, these cards should then be attached to a pipe cleaner.

It is helpful to laminate the cards, if possible.
 Place a bowl of beads with a number of pipe cleaners next to it.

Be sure your beads have large enough openings for the child to place them on the pipe cleaner.
Children read the numeral on the card, use the dots to count, and then find the same number of beads. They thread the beads onto the pipe cleaner so that the target number is represented.

Children may initially use a variety of ways to push the beads onto the pipe cleaner.
Encourage children to use the pincer grasp. This develops important hand muscles and builds control for a proper pencil grip.

This child learned that using the pincer grasp was the most efficient way to slip the beads onto the pipe cleaner.
You can use this activity at a center, as a whole class hands-on lesson, or you can even send home the materials in a Zip-Loc bag for family practice.

Children like to put their finished work in sequential order - another skill!