Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Apples: Alike and Different

Fall often means apple picking time and the many wonderful activities that come with apples. We like to use apples to encourage our preschoolers’ observation skills and to give them practice with verbal skills. This is a fantastic way to celebrate the season!

Be sure to let each child hold all of the apples. This way you can encourage use of senses other than sight.
Line up different types of apples. Ask children to tell how they are alike and how they are different. You can do this in a ‘variety’ of ways. These are suggested below with the outcomes for your class.

·      Children can turn and talk to a partner. (Using verbal skills)
·      You can make a class list on the board using the same number of columns as variety of apples.  (Improving Concept of Print)
·      Individual children draw on coloring paper (Independent thinking)
·      Discuss as a class, making sure each child shares a different fact (Listening to one another)

Remember to encourage children to talk about more than the color of the apple skin. They can discuss shape, size, feel of the apple, stem, smell, etc.

Add to the likenesses and differences chart by cutting the apples in half as shown below.  Delight children with the seed star in the apples.
This often encourages children to go home and ask to see an apple star. You may want to send a note home or post an announcement so families know what children are asking.
Then offer children a slice of each apple variety. They can add to their comparison chart or discussion by talking about the taste of the apples.

Finally, have children discuss or draw favorite foods that are made using apples! 
You may even want to use this opportunity to talk about healthy food choices. Caramel apples, while delicious, may not be the most healthy way to use apples!
Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.D.04, 2.D.07, 2.E.03, 2.G.03
Head Start – IV.A, VII.D., VIII.B., XI.A.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Alphabet Knowledge Art

In our October 6 post (see below), we discussed the order in which letters should be taught. It’s always important to integrate as many skills into our lessons as possible. The idea below combines letter knowledge and identification, fine motor skills, and even gives you the opportunity to talk about the reuse of materials.

Give children a paper with the outline of the letter of the week or the first letter in their name. One day you can give a capital letter and another day children can practice the lowercase letter.

Let children rummage through your classroom scrap box. Have them use their thumb and forefinger to tear tiny squares of paper. This is good pincer grasp practice (fine motor).

Children should use a glue bottle to glue each square in the lines of the letter.  Squeezing a glue bottle helps strengthen hand muscles (fine motor). This is also a good opportunity to talk about using one drop of glue rather than putting globs of glue onto paper. We find this is direct instruction that often needs to be repeated.

As children work, encourage talk about the letter, its sound, and words that begin with the letter.
When children are finished and the art is dry, have children take these home. You can encourage parents to save these letters so children can practice identifying them with their families.

Remember – the use of the scrap box is a wonderful opportunity to talk with children about reusing materials rather than throwing everything away.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.C.03., 2.E.07., 2.J.05., 2.L.08.
Head Start – I.D.,  III.C., V.B., VII.C.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Living Things

This week in our weekly activity, we provided a short text about bears. We hope you are signed up to receive these free activities. If so, be sure to read these bear facts to your class.

You can use this as the basis for a discussion (or grand conversation) about living things. You could also show children a photo like the one below:

Ask if zebras and bears are living. You will likely get a chorus of “YES!” Then ask children to share ideas about why this is living. Children might suggest ideas like the following:

It eats.
It has a face.
It has a home.
It moves.

You can ask leading questions about other living things. For example, “Are you living?” After children agree. Ask them what size they were as a baby. This likely will prompt responses such as “Living things can grow.”

Then comes the difficult part – having children cross ideas off of the “Living Things” list. We feel this is important as it helps children understand that it is necessary to revisit and often change their original ideas.

You can show a picture of a tree.

You can ask if the tree is living. Explain that it grows, it takes in air to help make food, and it moves in the breeze along with growing. Additionally, trees produce seeds like pinecones so they make more. This should help children cross off statements like “It has a face.” They can add other statements including “It makes more.”

Then have children go on a picture “hunt” in your classroom library or on the playground to find other examples of living things.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.G.02 & 2.G.06
Head Start - XI.1 & 2

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

In What Order Should We Teach Letters?

A, B, C, D, E, F, G…..most of our young learners have heard and may know how to sing the alphabet song. Some can identify the letter that begins their name. But when we are doing a more formal teaching of letters and their sounds, in what order should they be taught?

It is our belief that we should not start with A and move sequentially through the alphabet to Z. Why? This means we start with the often confusing letter A. Think of the different sounds this letter has – short a as in apple, long a as in ape, the schwa sound as in about (makes the sound uh), or even the r-controlled sound as in car.

As you can see the many sounds of letters like a can be confusing to children who are just learning. Examples of other letters that make multiple sounds include all the other vowels (e, i ,o, u),  and consonants such as c and g.  Keep in mind that letters like a and g can appear differently depending on the font:

a, a, g, g

This can be confusing for young learners, too. Additionally, we avoid b and d because of the confusion that often occurs.

We suggest beginning with letters that have consistent sounds and usually appear the same way in print material.  Letters such as the following are good places to start:


Stay tuned for more ideas on teaching letters and sounds!

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.E.07
Head Start – VII.C.