Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Read-Alouds: Comprehension and Cognates

Read-alouds are more than just fun for our young learners. By clearly and explicitly asking children to engage in meaningful comprehension activities like making predictions, describing characters, and explaining plot, we are teaching this important component of reading (see http://www.maggiesbighome.com/search?q=reading+umbrella). We can have children turn and talk about their "guesses" (predictions) based on the cover of the book and/or a picture walk. Turn the class into actors to show understanding of character traits and behavior. Give children a paper, folded into four parts, to highlight the key parts of a book's plot. These are developmentally-appropriate ways to teach comprehension skills as we read. 

Read-alouds can even provide us an important opportunity to showcase the knowledge we have in our classrooms. We can use the vocabulary in a book to help ALL children understand the power of cognates (words from different languages that are related to each other). This helps speakers of languages that descend from Latin. 

About 40% of English vocabulary can be related to Spanish words. This helps our Spanish speakers but also demonstrates to English speakers that they may be able to make connections with words in other languages. 

As you read books orally to your class, ask Spanish speakers to raise their hands when they hear familiar Spanish words. They may raise their hands when you read family or center as the Spanish words are closely related (familia, centro). 

Talking with your young children about "words that are relatives" is a perfect opportunity to invite Spanish-speaking family members of students into your classroom. They can read books in Spanish and English speakers can then raise THEIR hands when they hear a familiar cognate like familia! Showing learning from all sides is important! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.E.03, 2.E.04, 2.E.06, 2.E.09, 2.E.10.
Head Start - VII. B & C.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Talking Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! This year we are thinking about how language can be developed at home and school. Encourage families to invite children to help as food is prepared. You can give a list of suggested topics to discuss. Here are a few ideas that represent math, literacy, social studies, and science:

  • Discuss how to measure ingredients.
  • As a family member works, they could talk through the sequence of making a certain dish.
  • Discuss the different food groups that are represented on the table.
  • Talk with children about the number of ingredients in a specific dish.
  • Ask children to pick out a favorite part of the meal and tell why they like this.

Encourage families to discuss with children their own cultural traditions as they relate to this holiday. Some people have a tablecloth that is used year after year. Everyone who sits at the table signs the tablecloth. Other people spend a special time, remembering the past year and the many things for which they are thankful. In our home, we are talking about the immigrants in our family tree that came to the United States. Older family members are sharing these stories with younger family members. We are coloring the flags that represent our past immigrant families.

The idea is to talk - and talk - and talk!

For more art-related Thanksgiving ideas see our pages http://www.maggiesbighome.com/2015/11/family-time-with-preschoolers.html and http://www.maggiesbighome.com/2014/11/thanksgiving-preschool-crafts.html.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Making Ten With Falling Leaves

Leaves are falling all around as we prepare to say good-bye to autumn. Use this end of fall symbol to enhance your children’s mathematical skills. Not to mention...this activity can help young learners develop listening and fine motor skills, too.

Give children a tree, like the one below. 

Next give them a 10 frame as shown:

Pre-cut fall leaves of various colors.

Give the direction that children are to choose two colors. They should count enough of each color to make 10. They can check this by placing their fall leaves on the 10-frame. This is the type of direction that is clear and simple yet helps children learn to listen to you and follow your expectations.

Once children have confirmed they have 10 and only 10 leaves, they can glue them on their tree. We like using squeezable glue bottles as this helps strengthen hand muscles – good for developing fine motor control.

Finally ask children to count their leaves and write a number sentence. Share these number sentences and discuss the many ways we can make 10.

We find that not many children choose 0 so you may need to show that 0 + 10 = 10. As a follow-up, ask children to use different materials in the classroom to show this. 

Standards Alignment:

NAEYC –2.F. 11 & 12.

Head Start -X. A. & B.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Benefits of Playing School

Playing school! What fun for many children. And we are finding that both girls and boys benefit from this favorite pastime of childhood. This is an activity that you may want to encourage families to enjoy at home because it is much more than merely play-acting. Family involvement can encourage children, acting as the teacher, to practice many important skills and concepts.

The child as teacher may have a family member sit at a desk or on the floor to practice numbers or sight words, as shown below. 

Good review: Writing numbers and asking a family member to name the numeral.
Pointing to sight words gives children a chance to think clearly about each word as they need to give feedback as to whether a family member reads it correctly!
This is a helpful way for children to verbalize their understandings of school-readiness concepts. It also allows for practice, in a developmentally-appropriate way, of key skills.  Children can use papers, stapled together like books, and write practice activities for their “students.” They may use toys like blocks to demonstrate math concepts. 
The child sets up a "teacher desk" and prepares blocks to demonstrate patterning for his "students."
Children can even set up their own classroom, as shown below, with stuffed animals (and a family member) as students. 

Arranging desks can give you insight into what a child likes about school.
An important benefit of this is that families get a window into the child’s mind. This will help direct them as to what children remember and value about school. What a wonderful way to communicate with families!

One topic we have considered is the benefit male faculty members have on a child’s propensity to play school.  We know the importance of male role models. Does having a male in the classroom mean young boys are more likely to play school? The child in these photos loves to engage in this activity. He is fortunate to have a male kindergarten teacher.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC –  2.A.12, 2.B.01, & 2.B.04.
Head Start -  II.A., II.B.,  & 4.A.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

ELLs and Environmental Print

Many preschool teachers use environmental print to help children learn letters and letter sounds. That big M for McDonald's or the letters in a favorite grocery store, pizza place, or even sports team can help children make gains with their alphabetic awareness. 

But, we often need to be aware that newcomers to the United States may not know the letters, signs, and meaning of this environmental print. It is up to us to be cognizant of this and find other ways to heighten awareness for finding letters in various places.

You can bring in newspapers in different languages. Often families receive these and will be happy to share. Find books in a child's home language and go on letter "hunts" using these. Look on the Internet for types of environmental print that speakers of other languages may be more accustomed to seeing and using. 

There are many ways you can find print that your newcomers are used to seeing. The first step is being aware that we need to do this.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.01., 2.D.02., & 2.E.03.
Head Start - VII.D. & IX.A.