Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Building = Creativity

Hands-on projects can be exciting when you recycle and reuse common items. This week in our weekly activity we discussed tall ships. Creating a tall ship, whether from connecting blocks, piling up books, or building with boxes is a creative endeavor that lets young minds see the possibilities in common objects. We have all heard stories about the children who get a new toy and are more interested in the box. This is a creative mind at work!

Encourage all children to look at a pile of items and discover what could be created. Remember that great scene from "Apollo 13" when NASA experts dumped a box of parts on a table as they needed to make a part fit? They worked collaboratively and thought in unique ways. This is the kind of creative thought we need to be celebrating in our homes and classrooms.   

So...have all children find an item in the room. You may want to suggest they find objects that could be considered trash. Put them in a pile and encourage children to CREATE! What will they do? The results are almost always amazing!
Now, take this a step further. What could children create that might float in water? You could provide bubble wrap, Styrofoam, lightweight cardboard, certain egg cartons, pieces of macaroni, etc. What kind of tall ship might be built? 
Then encourage children to test out their creations in water. What happens? As children describe their inventions they are getting important expressive language practice.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.A.11, 2.A.12, 2.D.03, & 2.J.06.
Head Start - III.C., IV.A., & VIII.B.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Musical Books

In the teacher portion of our Maggie's Earth Adventures activities we are currently discussing the various genres. Sign up in the box to the right if you would like to receive these FREE materials! But different genre are not for elementary age children alone. Preschoolers benefit from exploring a wide range of books, too.

With this in mind, collect a variety of books. Try to find books spanning the genres:

Traditional Literature – These are folk tales, tall tales, and fables. Books that highlight the cultural tales of various like The Legend of the Lady Slipper by Lise Lunge-Larsen and Margi Preus help children see a world beyond their own.   

Fantasy – Toys, crayons, and other objects might come to life as in the book Corduroy (Don Freeman) or The Little Engine That Could (Watty Piper). 

Realistic Fiction – These are books based on what really could happen like the Henry and Mudge series (Cynthia Rylant).  

Historical Fiction – Even our youngest children may enjoy reading about people from the past. Families with preschoolers have recently told me their young children benefited from the rich ideas in Lillian's Right to Vote by Jonah Winter and Shane W. Evans.  

Poetry – Poetry helps children learn the beauty and playful aspects of words. Any of the Dr. Suess books give children an opportunity to play with language. Anna Dewdney's Llama, Llama books help children learn to rhyme.    

Nonfiction and Informational – Many preschoolers are fascinated with the physical, biological, or social world. They love to look through How Things Work (David Macaulay) or books about animals newly published by ABC Press. 

Biography - Even our youngest book lovers appreciate the stories of someone's life, often this includes the stories of a famous person's childhood. One book we have found fun for this winter weather is Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.

A Fun Game To Introduce Children to Many Kinds of Books!  
You can give all children a chance to explore various genre by arranging your chairs as if children are going to play Musical Chairs - only there is a chair for everyone and no one has to leave the "game." Put a book on each chair. When the music stops, the children sit in the chairs and look through the book on their chair. Give them a few minutes to turn the pages and interact. Then play the music again. This allows your class to expand their literary horizons! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.E.03 & 2.E.04.
Head Start - VII.A. & VII.D.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Valentine Fun!

Hearts and flowers....use this week to combine Valentine fun and key school readiness skills with art.

Give children half of a paper towel roll or toilet paper roll. 

School Readiness: Discuss its shape. Talk about cylinders. Look at the top and bottom.  Discuss circles. You can ask if the object has any edges. These are important geometry observations that children will be asked to make in school.

Let children paint the roll red, pink, or even white. They can make hearts on it if they wish. 

School Readiness: Discuss the importance of getting small amounts of paint on a brush. Have children wipe off the brush on the edge of the paint container so gobs of paint will not drip onto the table, etc. Future teachers will appreciate your development of this fine motor skill.

Ask families for egg cartons. Cut out pieces from an egg carton as shown above. 

School Readiness: Use science words to describe flowers like blossom, stem, and leaves. This helps children learn to listen for important academic/content area vocabulary words. Encourage children to "turn and talk" to a partner to use these words. The skill of "turn and talk" is necessary for young children to learn.

Give children a green "pipe cleaner" with cut-out leaves to attach to the flower stem.

School Readiness: Ask children what real cut flowers need in a vase. Share ideas like water and plant food. This helps children to think about caring for things in their lives.

Put the flower in the vase. Invite children to write a note to the person who will receive their valentine gift.

School Readiness: No matter where your children are on the writing spectrum, it is helpful for them to learn that ideas can be shared in writing. See the description of the Continuum of Writing in our Glossary for more information on emerging writers.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.C.03., 2.D.04., 2.E.05., 2.F.06., 2.G.08. & 2.J.05
Head Start - I.D., III.C., VII.E., X.C., & XI.B.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Time Passage!

We often use academic language regarding math terms as if we expect our preschoolers to understand. We say things like, "We will finish our art in 5 minutes." Terms like seconds, minutes, and hours often are not meaningful to young children. We help our young learners to develop an understanding of time passage, which is another important school readiness skill. 

A favorite Marilyn Burns' activity is to see how many stars a child can make in a minute. But making stars can often be difficult for preschoolers. Have them draw lines on a piece of paper. The idea is not to see who can draw the most lines, but to give them a sense of how long it takes for a minute to pass. We suggest not even counting the lines to avoid making this a competition, rather talk about how they felt during the minute that it took to draw the lines.

Make a list with the class of other things that might take a minute to do. Some children may say washing their hands, brushing their teeth, walking in a line to the playground. Time different activities throughout the day to check children's understandings. For example, if someone said, "It takes a minute to sing our morning song," time the song to see if this is accurate. This will likely bring in the concept of two or three minutes. 

An hour can seem like an eternity to children. After you have helped them understand a minute, continue with understanding an hour. Set a classroom timer so they feel the passage of time. Does it take an hour for you to do the calendar, sing songs, read a book, and do circle activities? This will help children get a feel for an hour. 

Enlist families in your lesson. Send home a note, put it in your weekly newsletter, or post it on your door:

What takes an hour to do?

Families can make a list, Is it preparing dinner,  eating, and cleaning up? Is it going to the food store? Could it be riding to a relative's house? Families may not understand that young children do not have a feel for time passage.

One fun note: BEFORE you begin this activity, have children draw a picture of something that takes a minute to do and something that takes an hour to do. Label these pictures. It's fun to look back at initial impressions!  

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.F.04 & 2.F.07
Head Start - X.A.