Monday, June 27, 2016

Setting the Stage for Writing

Our young children will soon be readers and writers. In the Common Core era, we are asking even kindergartners to share their thoughts and opinions. Our current writing standards ask children to write argumentative essays along with narratives and informational text. How can we get our preschoolers ready for what seems like a difficult task? 

One of the best ways is to have children draw pictures to show their thoughts about something. They can illustrate the idea that more trees should be planted. They can draw a picture to show the importance of eating healthy food. There are so many valuable "social stands" that young children can take from caring about the environment to sharing ideas for a healthy lifestyle. This is the start of learning to write an argumentative essay.

Once these pictures have been drawn, children should find (or be assigned a partner). Model for children how to ask questions to encourage greater detail. For example, "I really like your little tree on the hill. Did someone plant the tree? I think your picture is great, but it would be even better if you added a person planting the tree." This gets children ready for peer editing and helps them learn to add detail, even in pictures.

When our young children are finished, have them record the story of their picture using Vocaroo.  Then click the QR code generator. Print and tape or glue the QR code to their art. Family members can scan this code with their phone and hear children sharing their story! 

For ELLs:
Encourage newcomers to tell their story in their first language. This will make for valuable discussion at home.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.02, 2.D.06, & 2.D.07.
Head Start - VIII.B. 1, 2, 6, & 7.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Field Trip Tips

Summer can mean that those of you with children in your classrooms take them on more field trips than during the school year. Visits to places ranging from museums and aquariums to firehouses or even to a local farm make for fascinating summer learning opportunities. Here are a few tips to make these experiences even more meaningful (and safe!).

Families love to help. Send a family member as a "scout" to visit the locale in advance. You have likely checked it out, but it always helps to get a family member's eye on the spot. A mom, dad, or grandparent will often see things we do not. Ask your advance team to take photos of spots and sights that are not to be missed. These photos can be displayed in your classroom to get children ready and thinking about their field trip. On the day of the trip, they will have a better idea of special things to look for.

Two helpful safety practices can help your field trip run smoothly. One is to make name tags with the school name, your name, and cell phone number on them. Fasten these name tags on the INSIDE of shirts. Many suggest that children avoid wearing name tags where their names are displayed. It is easy for someone to take advantage of this. I always had my students wear hidden name tags.

Along these lines, I never assign a small touring group to myself. I divide my class among the family helpers. This means I can easily step in and help if an adult leader is having difficulty with a group member. I explain this to all the volunteers, who are given my cell phone number. I found that when they know I am ready and able to easily step in, they tend to call before a problem gets out of hand.

Finally, gather brochures, photos, etc. during your field trip. Later, make an interesting display in your classroom and encourage children to "walk down memory lane" by talking about their experiences. What a great expressive language opportunity! You may even want to enlarge a few photos, laminate them, and cut them apart to create puzzles. Children love this!

ELL  Connection:
This is a wonderful opportunity to engage newcomer families in your classroom. Let them know that their language skills are valued and needed. Having this type of support for children who are just learning English makes for a more meaningful and safer field trip. And everyone feels involved!

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

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Cleaning Up and School Readiness!

School readiness - it's on the mind of many of us as we get ready to send children off to kindergarten. Many times we can use common preschool activities to help our children become school ready. This week we offer two easy and meaningful ideas that have the added benefit of involving children in keeping your shared space tip top!

Idea 1:

Most of us have centers in our room with names like housekeeping, store, post office, library, etc. When it's time to move on to other activities, we usually ask children to clean up. Make this easier by taking a picture of the center as it should look "all cleaned up." Post the photo in each center. Then when it is time to straighten up, children can refer to the photo to make sure they have put everything back in its place.

This helps with school readiness as children learn to refer to material to assist them. Pictures in books have become more and more important in the Common Core era. Children are directed to use these text features to guide them in comprehending material. Your students will have a head start in using text features in a developmentally-appropriate and meaningful way.

Idea 2:

Tables messy after a snack, lunch, or messy art project? Let children help by wiping the tables. Fill spray bottles with plain water (that's usually enough to clean and we don't want children using cleaning agents). When they spray water on the table, their little hands are building important hand muscles involved in holding writing instruments. 

Many children experience writing fatigue in school. This is often because they have not developed the proper muscles in their hands. Simple actions like using a spray bottle helps develop hand strength.  

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.C.03 & 2.E.04.
Head Start - I.D. & II.C.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Tattling or Telling?

We all know that tattling can be a problem among the younger set. But how can we help children to know when adults need to be informed about an issue? We live in a time when this is a difficult "dance" as we do need to know about bullying, hitting, and hurt feelings. Using role play can help children understand when an adult's help is needed. 

We like to have children act out various scenarios. The following ideas can be used in your classroom to start a discussion about tattling versus telling:

Alexis did not like that Danny was calling her names. She threw sand at him. Should you tell the teacher? Discuss why.

Ryan was playing tag and accidentally bumped into Sarah. She did not fall down. Should you tell the teacher? Discuss why.

Hank was sitting in the library center. He was ripping pages in books.  Should you tell the teacher? Discuss why.

Amanda took a book out of Scott's backpack and put it in her back pack.  Should you tell the teacher? Discuss why.

Lisa spilled a little of her milk on the table. She got a paper towel and cleaned it up. Should you tell the teacher? Discuss why.

After role playing and discussing children's thinking on the scenarios, create a classroom chart with pictures to guide children as they consider whether an incident should be shared with an adult or if it is tattling. Some ideas include:

  • Telling is done when you want to keep someone safe.
  • You should tell if someone does something harmful on purpose.
  • If you need help from an adult, you should tell. 

  • Tattling is done when you just want to get a friend in trouble.
  • If something happens that is an accident and your friend is not hurt, then you likely do not need to tattle. 
  • If what happens is harmless, then you do not need to share it. 

This is something that will likely be an ongoing conversation in your classroom. But, children should know that when in doubt, let an adult know! You can then help individual children who tend to tattle, understand the thinking behind telling and tattling. 

Fun Idea:
Once children understand the nuance of tattling versus telling, there will still be tattlers in the room - it's inevitable! You can post a picture of someone/something famous. Encourage those children who need to tell you EVERYTHING to go and tell it to Mary Poppins or a Minion.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.B.02, 03, & 06.
Head Start - II.A, B, & C.