Monday, October 27, 2014

Preschoolers and Their Community

As teachers and parents of young children, we often emphasize holidays like Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day, but our children can and should be exposed to other special days such as Veterans Day. For more on this, please sign-up to receive our fee activities. 

Include family and community members in your celebrations. Perhaps a relative or neighbor of a child is a veteran. You can ask the class to create a special letter for this person. 

One way we like to introduce children to the wide-range of services in their communities is to adopt an assisted-living facility or even a Veterans' Center. This is a wonderful reciprocal relationship. Children can draw pictures or write simple class letters that the facility can display in their dining room or recreational era. This brings joy to the residents and children feel a sense of pride in their work. As you deliver the letters or art, ask if you can take photos of the residents enjoying it. This type of display in your own classroom can make children feel a part of something larger then themselves. 

If you have easy access to a bus, you can take children to the facility on special occasions such as Veterans Day to sing a song or recite a poem. This brings great joy to everyone.

Children bring a smile to residents of assisted facilities. 

Standards Alignment:
Standard 2. Building Family and Community Relationships
Head Start:
Knowledge of Families & Communities

Monday, October 20, 2014

Scientific Inquiry All Around!

There are so many ways for children to use inquiry in daily experiences. Looking at the sky and wondering where a bird might be heading, studying a tree to determine what animals call it home, or gazing at the ground to watch a worm's movement are all valuable science opportunities. The best part? This seems like play to children. And IS the business of childhood!

Take a look at this short video I captured while on a playground.

While watching this worm, I was struck by the number of learning opportunities. To help children ask their own valuable questions, I would pose a broad question: "What do you notice about this worm?" Responses might be that it looks like the ground. What a wonderful chance to talk about nature and camouflage. Some children might note its movement. When you get back to the classroom, children can act out the worm's movement on the classroom floor. This gives them a good chance to experience how animals in nature move in different ways. It can lead into a movement learning experience: children role-playing the movement of various animals they see in books.

They may even pose questions for which you have no answer. This is my favorite type of inquiry! It allows adults to say the important phrase, "I don't know but I know how to find out." What a model this is for children. It shows that no one has all the answers but by using references, we can find out.

Additionally, it is a good beginning science activity to have children draw pictures of what they see, such as the worm on the playground. This helps prepare children to document their observations.

For a home-school connection, you can give children something specific to look for on the way home. Ideas include a yellow tree, any kind of water, or a park. Post a sign and/or picture outside of your classroom so families understand what children are to look for outside of school. This helps develop verbal skills as children are encouraged to discuss observations about their surroundings. In our experience, families love to have this opportunity to help children with "school work."

Standards Alignment:
Knowing and using the central concepts, inquiry tools, and structures of content areas or academic disciplines
Head Start:
Expands knowledge of and abilities to observe, describe and discuss the natural world, materials,
living things and natural processes.
Begins to describe and discuss predictions, explanations and generalizations based on past experiences.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Choral Reading: An Important Skill!

Singing, doing finger plays, and reciting poetry are an important part of a preschooler’s day. These are more than just fun activities. They help prepare children to read in unison, an important way children learn sight vocabulary and fluency. Remember to note this with families and share this with them in your newsletters and conferences because singing together, in any language, helps children get a sense of the rhythm of how words and phrases slide together.

You can further develop this in your classrooms by having children chorally read the morning message or text from our free activities (see the samples and sign-up in the box to receive yours!).  I like children to have their own copies of the material, if possible. Have them point to the first word and walk around praising children for having their finger in the correct place. I usually give a signal and read along with the group to model fluency. I move from table to table to be sure children are pointing to each word as we read. The passages should be practiced over and over to help children get the cadence of the language and perhaps even learn a few sight words. They will certainly learn how to follow a line of text!

You can also have children read the morning message together by having one child use a pointer as the class reads. This allows children who may be nervous or unsure to speak in a lower voice. Gradually we want these children to feel confident and proud when reading chorally.

Our downloadable activity for this week focuses on pumpkins. For more on choral reading and child writing using their own pumpkin recipes, take a look at this fun-filled idea:

Standards Alignment:
Standard 4. Using Developmentally Effective Approaches 
Head Start:
Shows progress in recognizing the association between spoken and written words by following print as it is read aloud.
Begins to represent stories and experiences through pictures, dictation, and in play.

Dr. Kathy’s Opinion Corner:
As I visit classrooms, I notice some teachers put on a video and let children sing and dance with it. While that expands children’s exposure to different songs, I also encourage teachers to remember the power of leading singing and even dancing on your own. This encourages an important personal connection between children and teachers. I know my former students still write to me remembering the joy of doing the “Tooty Ta” together!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Weather Watching and Art

Helping children to understand the weather and its impact on daily life is an important part of any preschool or kindergarten program. Our activity this week provides valuable age-appropriate sentences about this topic along with a page to encourage thought about weather. If you are not signed up to receive these free activities, please do so in the box to the right.

While you are likely encouraging children to describe the weather in your classroom by asking them if it is raining, snowing, cloudy, windy, or sunny, take this a step further. Encourage them to also verbalize what types of clothes are appropriate for this weather. You can even include items such as a raincoat, umbrella, winter coat, mittens, or just a t-shirt in the dress-up box. Have children pull out the type of clothing that is appropriate for the day. Ask them to explain why they chose the specific item for the weather.

Additionally, you can develop verbal skills and thinking skills by asking children to describe activities that are appropriate for the day. If it is raining, help them prepare for indoor activities by talking about this during your opening. Ask them to plan what they will do inside. This pre-planning avoids upset children when you can’t be on the playground.

Make the home-school connection by encouraging parents to begin watching the weather at home. Tell parents they can encourage thinking skills along with verbal skills by having children plan what they will wear based on the weather.  This is a wonderful way to partner with families to share age-appropriate activities.

For a fun and meaningful art activity, watch the video below:

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC Alignment:
Using developmental knowledge to create healthy, respectful, supportive, and challenging learning environments for young children.

Head Start Alignment:
Develops growing awareness of ideas and language related to attributes of time and temperature.