Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Make a Cherry Tree Friendship Grove

Spring means trees clothed in white, pink, and purple blossoms and splashes of color from flowering plants. Our free activity this week focuses on the famous Japanese cherry trees in Washington, D. C. Sign up to get this delivered to your inbox and share the story of these special friendship trees with your class. Then make a grove of your own trees.

First use an old paper bag. Simply cut the edges as shown below. 
Then twist the bottom to make a tree trunk. Are you noticing how helpful this project is for developing fine motor skills? Have children twist each "branch" of the tree. This further adds to school readiness by developing fine motor muscles and by encouraging children to persevere with a project. 

Once each child's tree is ready, stand it up to admire. Ask children what this spring tree might be missing. 
The tree is not blossoming yet! Give each child a few Q-Tips. Let them paint the blooms using this unique tool. It will give them another way to exercise those fine motor muscles. 
This takes determination, too. What a good attitude to encourage for school-readiness! Finally, the tree is resplendent with flowers on every branch! Put the trees together to make a friendship grove of cherry trees.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.C.03, 2.J.01 & 2.J.06.
Head Start - I.D. 1,2, & 4, III.C. 1, 2, & 3.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Load of Leprechaun Liveliness!

There are so many fun ways to engage your children as we celebrate St. Patrick's Day.  From overturning chairs and books before children enter your room (those mischievous leprechauns!) to leaving green footprints on washable surfaces such as counters and bathroom floors to hiding chocolate "gold coins" for children to discover, hilarity can ensue! This day can make memories for years to come, for even our youngest children.

But you don't have to spend a lot of time to make greenery the theme of the day. Encourage children to raid your scrap box and create leprechaun traps. Children can then demonstrate verbal skills by explaining what they made and how that little leprechaun can be caught. The child who created the trap below talked about the leprechaun being tickled when caught in the feathers!

Pinching leprechauns? Children can simply make a leprechaun from green clay. Show them how to roll the clay into a ball and pinch parts of it to create the head, arms, and legs. Put them together and take a photo of the leprechaun line.

Take advantage of looking for the end of the rainbow by making rainbows from strips of paper as shown below. Children can see the colors of the rainbow. They can use glue to put everything together, including adding a fluffily cotton ball to the display. This develops fine motor skills.

Finally, simply encourage children to enjoy the out-of-doors and have them scan the ground for a four leaf clover. It doesn't matter if any are found. The important aspect is looking carefully at a small habitat and possible seeing the tiniest creatures that call this small space home.

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, March 8, 2016

Tips to Develop School Readiness

If you are a preschool teacher, you know the importance of establishing routines in your classroom. Children appreciate knowing what to expect. They feel comfortable knowing that you are going to act and react in an expected way. How can you be sure your routines are helping to develop school-readiness? Let's take a look at some ideas. 

One important concept is to be sure you are developing age-appropriate attention skills. When we read short texts and have children sit for no more than 10 minutes on a carpet, this helps develop good listening skills. Much longer than this and you are sure to see children rocking back and forth, crouching into other children's spaces, and even children talking and playing with one another. We may think that asking our children to sit for extended periods of time is getting them ready for school, but look around. If you are talking over children or constantly correcting them, they are learning that school means sitting and being corrected. They may believe their behavior is acceptable. Plan your routines with short, meaningful activities so children learn to sit, listen, and participate in a time frame that is consistent with their developmental level. 

Help children learn to listen to your directions before beginning a project. For example, you may need to demonstrate an art activity. Do this before the children have any supplies in front of them. This means there is nothing to distract young minds. Asking children to repeat back instructions shows them the importance of listening carefully to the teacher. If you routinely do this, you are developing the school-readiness skill of listening carefully

Encourage your children to congratulate one another on a job well done. Saying, "Let's all congratulate Ellie on the wonderful way she wrote her name," models that you value kindness. When you hear children say something nice about a classmate, stop and tell the class. Your positive feedback goes a long way in creating kind classmates.

Tattling an issue? Ask children to stop and think before telling you about a perceived problem. Ask if they or another child has been hurt on their body or in their heart. (We always want to stop emotional hurts, too.) Inviting children to think about who has been hurt before telling you, will often slow them down enough to consider their words. Sometimes the "tattler" needs other questions such as, "Is there a way you could have acted to make this stop? Asking questions may slowly change the behavior of constant tattling. 

Stay tuned for more school-readiness ideas in coming weeks!
Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.B.01-07.
Head Start - II.A, B, C, & D.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Dr. Seuss Style Onsets and Rimes

Yes, we LOVE Green Eggs and Ham - and not just because eggs and ham are yummy, but we mean the book you are likely reading to your young children as Dr. Seuss' birthday is celebrated across the country this week. We are big fans of Dr. Seuss. His words are silly and draw our children into the world of all sorts of imaginary creatures, encouraging young and old to bring creativity to life. As literacy teachers, we also like Dr. Seuss books because they help our children develop rhyming skills, the ability to play with words, and are valuable as children learn about Concept of Print.

Let's delve into word play as this is an often overlooked school readiness skill. Words in Green Eggs and Ham provide a starting point for adding initial consonants to words like am (called the rime). Children can say and point to the words am, Sam, ham. They can cover up the initial consonants (onsets) in Sam and ham to see the little word (rime) am in these words. 

Other words like Pam, yam, tam, jam, and ram can be made.* Print these on foldable tagboard so you can have children fold the onset in and out to say the words. See the photo below. 
Encourage children to fold these sections back and forth, saying the words, am, Sam and am, ham.
Invite young learners to "think like Dr. Seuss" and make up silly words like fam.  They can even draw their own cartoons to illustrate the meaning of their new words, in Dr. Seuss style! 

Of course, the best part of a Dr. Seuss celebration is reading his books with lots of expression. This sets the stage for fluency...and love of reading!

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.E.04, 2.E.06, & 2.E.07.
Head Start - VII.A., VII.B. & VII.C.

*Some children may say, dam, with a sly smile. We suggest simply accepting the word and saying, "Oh yes, beavers can make a dam in a river." Case closed as long as you do not overreact!