Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Encourage Oral Language Development with a Plumbing Phone!

What in the world do plumbing pieces have to do with a preschool program? Guesses?

Our experience tells us these little components, easily purchased at any hardware store, can encourage language skills. Just put the pieces together, as shown below, and you have a listening "phone." 

Show children how to hold one part of the phone to their ear and the other part to their mouth. Children can easily hear only themselves as they whisper. And - they need to whisper as their voice will be too loud in the ear if they don't (that's a bonus!) 

Children love using their personal phones to talk about pictures in books, say the names and sounds of letters, count, or even read beginning sight words. They receive instant positive reinforcement in their own ear for their efforts. 

You can use these personal phones to have all children participate in observations outside. Just have them "dictate" what they see in the environment into their phone. Children love this! 

For our ELLs this provides a stress-free way to practice the English language. Only they can hear their efforts. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.03 & 04.
Head Start - VIII.B.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Books All Summer!

As our Emergent Reader Activity highlights this week, libraries of all kinds are wonderful places to involve children in reading. Research shows that the more books a child has access to, the greater chance he or she has of becoming a successful reader. So, encourage your families to visit the library often.

Please click on the above link for a sample of our free weekly emergent reader activities.
We love libraries and all they have to offer our young set, from story times to computers to coloring sheets. Just feeling positive about library activities goes a long way to encouraging literacy. Children's librarians are masters of motivation!

There is something else to consider when thinking about summer reading. Research shows that children who own books consider these personal treasures to be favorites. And better yet, children who choose their books often read and reread them. For our preschoolers this means developing Concept of Print/Word and even learning a few sight words.  

Many times series books are helpful such as the Llama, Llama books by Anna Dewdney. Series books allow children to meet familiar characters along with a known writing style. This means children can focus on vocabulary and fluency. This is especially important for our ELLs. 

Some communities offer programs to give books away. You can also suggest families take children to garage sales where children's books are often offered. Remind adults that children should choose their own books from the boxes that are often available. 

For ELLs:
Encourage families to read to children in their home language. Research shows that reading to children in any language is important for literacy development. Often families need to be encouraged to do this. Your local librarian is usually more than happy to help find books in other languages. Just ask!  

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.E.04
Head Start - VII.A.1-5. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Animal Observations: Herbivores and Carnivores

As children approach summer, encourage observational skills that will keep them engaged and thinking during vacation time. One way to do this is to tap into their natural curiosity about animals. 

Show pictures, videos, or better yet observe birds, squirrels, etc. near your school. Ask children what the birds might be eating. Talk about how some birds eat seeds and berries while other birds pull up worms or snap up an insect for a meal. Use pictures of birds in your area for children to sort showing the types of food the birds prefer. 

Then look at other animals in your community. What do deer eat? See a fox? What might this mammal eat? Children can begin to see that some animals eat plant life while others depend on other types of animals to eat. Children love to hear and repeat "million dollar words." We encourage you to use the terms herbivores (plant eaters) and carnivores (meat eaters) in your discussion. We like to remind children of these words right before they walk out the door so that they have a ready answer for families when asked, "What did you learn at school today?"

Look at pictures of animals such as pandas and elephants. Children will likely be surprised these big animals survive on "vegetables." (Is this a sneaky way to say that vegetables make you big and strong?)

Encourage children to color the pictures of these animals and then add their plant food.  
Feel free to copy and hand out our cute panda and elephant pictures. Click here for pictures. 

You can even make a classroom menu for different animals. We often use this type of activity in our weekly emergent reader offerings. See a sample below:

Encourage children to be on the lookout for animals during the summer months and observe what they eat. This is likely a good time to remind children of an important safety rule: Stay far away from animals in the wild.    

We know many of you have English Language Learners in your classroom. In weeks that lend themselves to ideas for these young learners, we will highlight how you can engage these children, using the information in the post.

Verbalize the sentence frame, "__________ like to eat ____________."

Show pictures of two or more elephants, pandas, robins, cardinals, eagles, puffins, etc. Model for children that these words need an s as they mean more than one. Have children point to the animals and repeat the sentence frame. This will help ELLs with syntax and vocabulary.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.03, 2.D.04, 2.G.06, & 2.G.08.
Head Start - VIII. A., VIII.B., & XI.B.1.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

School Readiness: Affricate Sort

Affricates - what are they? Here are objects with the four affricate sounds.

Jet, chick, truck, and dragon. 

These objects begin with the commonly confused letters j, ch, tr, and dr. As adults, we easily hear the difference between the sounds of these letters/letter combinations. But, for many children just beginning to write, these sounds are easily confused. Children have difficulty hearing the difference between (for example) the j sound and the dr sound, etc. This is often an issue for one-fourth to one-third of a kindergarten or first grade class. How can preschool teachers help?

We can provide easy object sorts for our young learners. For example, have children contrast the beginning sound of j using objects such as jam, jellybean, juice, jar, and jet with objects beginning with tr such as train, tractor, truck, triangle, etc. By asking children to separate (sort) these objects while saying their names, helps children to learn to say the sounds correctly and to begin to distinguish the difference in these phonemes. This is especially important for English Language Learners.    

Continue by comparing the known sound of j with the other affricates: dr and ch. Ideas for those objects include:

dr - 

ch - 

After contrasting j with dr and j with ch, then have children compare objects with the tr and ch sound. Continue on, adding 3 categories and finally all four until children can hear and correctly sort all of the objects. Many children easily hear the difference, some hear the sound differences after this type of practice, while other children will need more instruction using pictures of other j, tr, dr, and ch words.  

This may seem like a minor sound difference but it can cause big problems in school. So...help children hear the sound difference now.  

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC -  2.E.06 & 2.E.10.
Head Start -  VII.B. 1 & 3.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hide and Seek Letters

An important school readiness skill is the ability for children to identify the letters in their name. The first letter of a name is often the first letter a child learns. This is usually in the uppercase or capital form. But we often forget that the other letters should be lowercase. 

Write a child's name in big letters, using a capital letter followed by lowercase letters. Be sure to underline each letter. Have children point to the letters and say their names. 

Then cut this into small pieces of paper. This is why it was important to underline the letters! Children will know the line goes at the bottom. Encourage them to play with the letters and follow an example to put the letters together to form their name. 

Make letters even more fun by dyeing rice. Use a bit of food coloring and set the rice to dry. 

Finally put the rice and letters in a recycled bottle. What fun it is for children to shake the bottle and see the letters of their name! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.E.03 & 2.E.06.
Head Start - VII. C & D.