Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Family Time With Preschoolers: Thanksgiving

We know many families may look for fun and meaningful activities to keep young children busy while allowing them to feel an important part of the holiday celebrations. Below are just three of our favorite activities.

Collect pine cones and have children use a paper plate, torn scraps of paper, and a pre-cut turkey head to make the centerpiece for the Thanksgiving dinner table. See for yourself how festive this looks. And won't your child be thrilled with his/her contribution!

Find engaging books like 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey for a different view on the holiday celebrations. This book has the added benefit of being all in rhyme (much like 'Twas the Night Before Christmas) so it encourages pre-reading skills. Families can give their children the task of making a disguise for a turkey, too. Trace your child's hand to make the traditional turkey. Cut it out, and give it to your child. Let them use scraps of material to make the turkey look like something else so it can hide. Will they dress it like their pet, a football player, or even an object like a chair? Let them "hide" their turkey.

Finally, while family members are busy cooking, tell children to decide on their favorite Thanksgiving dish. Have them draw pictures of how to make this yummy food. This supports an understanding of sequence, but it may also produce a lot of laughs as you might see your child thinks 15 cups of sugar go into a pumpkin pie!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Your friends at Maggie's Big Home

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Oral Reading Expands Vocabulary!

We all know that the more words a young child can understand and use, the more successful they will be in school. What's the best way to increase any child's vocabulary? 

Read - Read - Read!

When children listen to any book, they are hearing language and begin to see how context and picture clues can help them learn new words. In the short video clip above, the child hears words with tangible meaning like crew and rocket. But there are also opportunities to see how words like instead are used in the language.

It is important that our preschoolers enter school not only with large vocabularies, but also with the background of being able to determine word meaning by the other words, phrases, and pictures around an unknown word (context). When children have the freedom to listen and experiment with words, they are more likely to take chances and rely on context when they begin school.  

This is important as research shows that children learn 300 to 500 new words each year through direct vocabulary instruction. This may sound like a lot, but researchers have also concluded that children learn about 2250 words per year simply by reading. What a big difference! It tells us that children who read and are read to are expanding their vocabulary while those who struggle with reading and are not being read to at home, are getting left further and further behind. The gulf widens. This is why we must continue to encourage all families to read. This includes speakers of any language. If families in your area feel more comfortable reading to their child in the language of the home, this helps children learn and should be encouraged. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.02, 2.E.04.
Head Start - VII.A.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Eager Learners? Offer Sight Words in an Age-Appropriate Fashion

Many children begin to show an interest in those "mysterious" things called words that they find in books or on labels in your classroom. When they do, you can help these eager learners to identify the basic sight words, the Dolch words, which are 220 of the most common words in the English language. All of our children should be familiar with their use in oral language and eventually be able to quickly identify them in text. While we don't necessarily advocate teaching these words in preschool, some teachers have asked for ideas on how to enrich their learning time for children who show an interest in learning these words. 

We tend to stay away from flashcards, but do encourage children to look at Dolch words and help them to move individual words into meaningful sentences. This age-appropriate technique helps children understand that words can be combined to say something meaningful.

You can use other age appropriate activities to satisfy a preschooler's thirst for knowledge. We like to integrate fine motor skills and give children slips of paper with Dolch words on them. They can link these papers into a sight word chain by gluing and holding the paper. This develops the all-important pincer grasp. Try this with letters of the alphabet, too! 

What child doesn't love bubble wrap? Use the kind often found in shipping boxes to write Dolch words on. Children can say the words and pop the bubbles. This is a favorite activity of ours for learning letters, too. 

Finally, head on over to your local library. Many still stock some of our favorite books for learning Dolch words in context. Former teacher, Margaret Hillert, wrote over 80 little books using Dolch words in thousands of ways. Read her books to children with great enthusiasm and expression. You'll be sure to have a class full of children who have at least heard the Dolch words used in speech. And that's important for all learners!

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.C.03, 2.E.04, 2.E.07, 2.E.09.
Head Start - I.D, VII.C, VII.D.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Apple Math!

Continue the theme of apples by extending the idea into a math lesson. Cut different types of apples into slices and invite children to taste the slices. Tell them that they will be deciding which kind of apple they like best. We suggest using Granny Smith (green), Golden Delicious (yellow), and some type of red apple, like McIntosh. This will make the creation of the chart easier.

After children make a decision as to their favorite apple, ask them what color paper they need to represent their apple (yellow, green, or red). Often teachers precut apples, but why not turn this into a cutting exercise, too? Outline a simple apple shape on a square of paper. By making the outline basic and by putting it on a manageable piece of paper, small hands can handle cutting out their own apples. Sometimes large sheets of paper are difficult for children to turn, as turning paper is often the way they cut in the beginning. By putting the shapes on smaller paper, the task is more age-appropriate.
Simple shapes on appropriately sized paper make for valuable cutting practice.
Remind children who might be perfectionists that apples come in all different shapes and no apple is perfectly formed. This gives children “permission” to make cutting mistakes.   
Apples come in all shapes and sizes so a perfectly cut apple is not necessary.
Make a chart on large paper with the apple categories. Do this with the children so they can see how to make their own chart. We usually turn the apples over before gluing so that the black outline is not visible on the chart paper. This avoids cutting comparisons. 
Use the chart to ask questions about math. Invite children to ask their own questions based on the chart.
When the chart is complete, use it during your opening to ask valuable math questions like:

  • How many children like Golden Delicious apples?
  • How many more children like Granny Smith apples than like Golden Delicious apples?
  • How many children like Granny Smith AND McIntosh apples?

The best part is when children begin asking their own math questions!

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.C.03, 2.F.02, 2.F.04.
Head Start – I.D, X.A, X.B.