Monday, September 29, 2014

Environmental Print

Environmental print is everywhere and can help children develop a sense of both Alphabetic Principle (identification of letters) and understand that those “mysterious marks” on a page, sign, or on a box have meaning.

For more on environmental print and alphabetic principle activities watch the video below.

You likely have objects labeled in your classroom to help children develop this understanding. But are these signs at child eye level? Crouch down to the height of the children in your class. Make sure your labels are at the eye-level of the children. 

This label is too high for a child. Sometimes we tend to automatically put objects at our eye-level.
This label is "just right." Children should not be looking up to read.
Suggesting to families that they label items in their homes is a good way to make the home-school connection.  Use your newsletter to ask families to label three items in whatever language is spoken in the home.  Children can draw a picture or take a photo of a labeled object and explain it in the classroom.

This also makes a wonderful and meaningful car game. As children are riding to school, to the store, or going along on errands, families can encourage them to look at businesses or signs along the roadways and streets. See if they can spot letters from their names.

Please feel free to copy our family suggestions in your newsletters or suggest our website.

Do you want more free activities and ideas? Just sign up and they will be delivered to your “in box.” 

Standards Alignment

NAEYC Alignment:
Knowing about and understanding diverse family and community characteristics

Supporting and engaging families and communities through respectful, reciprocal relationships

Involving families and communities in young children’s development and learning

Head Start Alignment:
Identifies at least 10 letters of the alphabet, especially those in their own name
Develops growing understanding of the different functions of forms of print such as signs, letters, newspapers, lists, messages, and menus

Monday, September 22, 2014

Make Subitizing Fun and Interactive!

Many educators and mathematicians believe subitizing is an important readiness skill for later math success. This means we should be aware of what this is and how to help children and families.

Subitizing is the ability to “instantly see how many.” In other words, children can immediately see how many objects are in a set.

For more information on subitizing, watch the video below.

You can make subitizing tactile by using puffy balls or other 3 dimensional objects that children can touch and manipulate in various arrangements. See our previous blog post for more ideas

In addition to the ability to visually tell how many objects are in a set, children can also use auditory skills. Stomp, clap, or ring a bell and ask children to tell you what they heard. Children can even draw dots or lines to represent the number of stomps, etc.

We also encourage you to use nature to provide subitizing opportunities. When walking, point out groups of trees or flowers. Invite children to tell you “how many.” Gather children around and show them how to put fallen leaves in different arrangements and then ask a friend to tell how many leaves they see. Visiting the pumpkin patch? Have children arrange pumpkins in different ways and ask others to tell how many are seen. Children can arrange and rearrange them.

This is something you can encourage families to do at home. Soon, you will notice that children are doing this on their own!

Why not give families a definition of subitizing in your newsletter? Or better yet, give them the link to this website!

See our weekly free activity for more information. Sign-up to receive these free printable and age-appropriate activities for classroom or home use by providing your email in the white box. You can see examples by clicking on the Emergent Activities and Spanish tabs.

Standards Alignment:

NAEYC Alignment:
Understanding content knowledge and resources in academic disciplines; language and literacy; the arts – music, creative movement, dance, drama, visual arts; mathematics, science, physical activity, physical education, health and safety; and social studies
Knowing and using the central concepts, inquiry tools, and structures of content areas or academic disciplines
Using own knowledge, appropriate early learning standards, and other resources to design, implement, and evaluate developmentally meaningful and challenging curriculum for each child

Head Start Alignment:
Demonstrates increasing interest and awareness of numbers and counting as a means for solving problems and determining quantity.
Develops increased abilities to combine, separate and name “how many” concrete objects.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Help Children's Eyes Move in the Direction of Print!

We know how important it is to read to children every day. This is something that you can stress with your families. It doesn’t matter what language is spoken in the home.  Spanish speakers can read in Spanish, Thai speakers in Thai, and English speakers in English. We have found that often families think they need to read in English, but helping children discover the joy in the written word is important in any language! For those Spanish speakers in your classroom, why not send home our Emergent activity celebrating Hispanic Month? Just sign up in the box to the right.

In your classroom, you can help children develop important Concept of Print skills. These are explained in more detail in our sample activities. One skill is the idea of return sweep. This means that children know when they get to the end of one line, they should sweep their finger from the right side of the line to the first word on the left side of the line below. You can show this in your class as you are reading the morning message or sharing a big book. Talk about how we move from the end of the line to the next line.

Children can practice this using alphabet letters as the child does in the photo below. He is moving from the end of the first row to the left side of the row below. Notice that we started with a few letters so he could grasp the idea.

This child is physically moving from one line to the next. This helps him understand the idea of return sweep.
You can help children practice this in both English and Spanish by with our free activities. This week we make practicing return sweep easy by placing one sentence on each line so children can see to move from the period on the right to the beginning of the line on the left.

Here’s a special tip from Dr. Kathy:

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC Alignment: Knowing and using the central concepts, inquiry tools, and structures of content areas or academic disciplines
Head Start Alignment: Demonstrates increasing awareness of concepts of print, such as that reading in English moves from top to bottom and from left to right, that speech can be written down, and that print conveys a message.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Preschoolers Need to Sing!

Do you have a "clean-up" song that your class sings together? I am guessing for most of you the answer is "yes!" It's fun and helps motivate children to work together to tidy up after an activity. But songs do more than this in our classroom and homes. That's why we should celebrate our use of music.

Songs help children to express emotion and to appreciate music. Playing classical music may help soothe children. Lively songs can be played as children create art projects, and quiet melodies can be played as children transition from one activity to the next. Think about what you are trying to achieve in your classroom and play appropriate music. Your local library is sure to have recordings that you can borrow.

As teachers, we can be an important part of how children feel about music. It is important that we are enthusiastic with children when class songs are shared. On a personal note, I know teachers are busy and it is convenient to simply turn on a video to let children sing with it. But, when we sing (and dance) with our children, it helps us to develop a relationship and shows our enthusiasm.

Our involvement in music is important because songs help children develop key pre-reading skills. Lyrics as in "Down By the Bay" help children learn to rhyme, which is necessary for phonemic awareness. Words to patriotic songs help children learn new vocabulary. Music allows children to enjoy word play. For more on this please see our activity in either English or Spanish. Just click on the tabs above.

Three more music ideas:
Why not invite families to share their favorite songs with the class? This may give you an opportunity to celebrate the many cultures in your classroom.
Record your class singing a favorite song. Let children listen to themselves either as a group or at the listening center!
Remember to use your newsletter to explain to parents why music is important - feel free to provide our link! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC Alignment:
Children have opportunities in various academic disciplines; language and literacy; the arts – music, creative movement, dance, drama, visual arts; mathematics, science, physical activity, physical education, health and safety; and social studies.

Head Start Goal Alignment:
Language Development:  Demonstrates an increasing ability to attend to and understand conversations, stories, songs, and poems.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Make Oral Reading Come Alive!

If you haven’t had a chance, watch my read of Green Eggs and Ham (below). It shows how important reading aloud is to developing an interest in reading.

When we read using different “voices,” using different speeds, including dramatic pauses, it draws children in to books. We become good models for how they should read when they are in elementary school, and more importantly, it shows them how books can come alive!

Think about how important this is – families and teachers are competing with television and on-line videos. We have to show children that books can be exciting, too!

And when we read with expression, it helps children picture the story, characters, and setting in their heads. This is an essential school-readiness skill, as children have to visualize the words on a page in their minds. I once asked a young child if she did that and her reply was, “I didn’t know I was allowed to do that.”  So, read with expression and invite children to picture what is happening as they listen.

Click here for more on fluency.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC: Standard 4: Using Developmentally Effective Approaches
Head Start: Language and Literacy: Children will engage with literature in developmentally appropriate ways.