Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pesky Verbs: Make Them Fun!

Do you have children who say, “runned?’ Do others say, “jump – ted?” These are common verb issues for all children but can be especially difficult for our English Language Learners (ELLs). This week in our Maggie’s Earth Adventures Weekly Pack, we discuss ways you can help your emergent readers identify correct verb tenses. If you aren't receiving these activities, please sign up (FREE!) in the box to the right. 

We know that issues with verb tenses start before reading begins. Two concerns can cause difficulty for preschoolers: irregular verbs and the use of correct syllabication for past tense verbs formed with –ed.

When we are helping our children to understand the use of irregular past tense verbs like ran, came, swam, drove, etc., we can heighten awareness of their use by playing games. For example, ask children to run in place. You can have them chant phrases/sentences like, “We are running; we are running.” When you stop, then you can all say, “We ran; we ran.” 

Be sure they understand they are to watch you carefully, and when you stop the action, they are to stop immediately. This can be played like “Simon Says.” Then have different children take turns at leading the group.

You can add a new irregular verb every few days. Keep track of the verbs that are a part of your “game” so you can return to them for review. This makes a fun and meaningful brain break for your young learners.

If you hear children incorrectly saying a verb you have used in the game, you can gently remind them of your game. Of course, do not hold children accountable for any irregular verbs you have not used as a class.

The other common verb problem for preschoolers, especially for ELLs, is the question of how to add –ed to action words. Words like jump, stop, and walk simply add the –ed and the verb remains as a single syllable word, with the –ed pronounced as /t/ or /d/.  But when we have verbs like act, lift, wait, or shout, the –ed forms a new syllable and is sounded: /ed/.

This can be highlighted by adding verbs like this to the brain break game suggested above. By emphasizing this, the “rule” for base verbs with a t or d becomes a more natural part of speech of everyone.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.
Head Start - IX. A.,B.,& C.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Position Words for Preschoolers

In, over, under, around, through...these are the types of words that can easily confuse preschoolers, especially those children who are learning to speak English. How can we help all of these children learn these key words that can often be confusing?

One of the best ideas is to use high leverage practices to model the meaning of the words for children. When we model, we are clear and concise in our choice of vocabulary. More importantly, we demonstrate the meaning of vocabulary using hand gestures or by moving our bodies. It is important to remember that we should ask children to quietly sit and watch us before having them engage in jumping over a book or walking around a chair. This is because often children get excited when moving around. By asking them to watch you first, this helps children to process the meaning of position words. 

In addition, there are several books that help children not only hear these words used in authentic texts but you can emphasize these as you read.  Two of our favorite books for this purpose are Rosie's Walk by Pat Hutchins and Inside, Outside, Upside Down by Stan Berenstain. Using high leverage practices, modeling, read a book the first time through using hand gestures to demonstrate the meaning of position words. Then read a second time for children to act out the key words. 

As children walk and play outside, encourage them to use this vocabulary in context. 

If your class goes for a walk, have them chant sentences like, "Walking over the bridge."

Intentionally ask children to practice position words. Make it a game by playing, "Teacher Says." This child has responded to, "Teacher says point UP." Either this variation of "Simon Says or a fun version of "Mother May I" are appropriate ways to engage young children with position words. 

Finally, you can assess the ability of children to use and understand position words by giving them a cup and plastic toy.  Have them tell you a story about how the toy is above the cup, under the cup, on the cup, etc. 

ELL Connection:
As you can see, this is a helpful strategy for our English Language Learners. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.B.01 & 2.D.04
Head Start - VI.A. & IX.A.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thanks For Giving

Today is Giving Tuesday, but we know people who work with children do this all of the time - you put the interests of others first! One of the challenges is to help our children internalize the importance of giving.  While they see our model all of the time, it is important to be intentional about teaching our youngest citizens about giving. 

One of the ways we like to integrate this key understanding into our daily classroom life is to create a project-based curriculum for a week. Plan to include families in this event as this helps the community become involved and assists you. Here are our suggestions for this meaningful and fun project:

  • First of all, identify a few organizations in your community that need funds. After you narrow the list to three or four, involve children in choosing the group that will receive the money from your class. This makes the project more meaningful - children are "invested" in the outcome! 
  • Find a recipe that is age-appropriate for students. For our youngest children, we like no-bake goodies like Rice Krispie bars or no-bake cookies.
  • Include children in chorally reading the recipe. Make a shopping list with them.
  • Some of you may be able to take a field trip to a local food store to purchase the ingredients. If this is not possible, ask a few families to help with this. The children in these families can go along and report back to the class about the experience. These young shoppers can even draw pictures or take photos to share with their peers.
  • Include family members and your students in the preparation of the treats. This is why we like to use a no-bake recipe as everything can be made in your classroom. 
  • You can duplicate the day and time along with the organization that will benefit from your sale. Have children cut out the wording and paste onto decorated posters, which they create. This helps them become aware that written language helps people understand about events. 
  • On the day of the sale, have children help at the sale table. While they may be too young to make change and count money, they can at least look at coins and identify them. It is amazing how much can be learned about math when children are involved in an authentic situation! 
  • Once all treats are sold, involve children in delivering the money to the organization which they chose. 

In our experience, children feel proud of their work and reports from doing this for 20 years, tell us that this type of experience is a much-loved and remembered time in classroom life.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thanksgiving Thoughts

We may think we need more creative activities than just asking children to write on a leaf or turkey feather about the things for which they are thankful. But remember - these children have not done this for the past ten years - this activity is new to them. Do it the old-fashioned way 


present these "old" activities with a facelift - include their thoughts using ChatterKids (click here to see this post) or even use Quiver 3D or Aurasma to make the time-held tradition of giving thanks come alive. 

Of course, you can easily create a bulletin board with these ideas, too. We believe it is best if children use invented spelling to share their ideas. This way you can easily see where they are on the phonics/spelling continuum. Drawing a picture can give you information, too. This often means the child does not feel confident enough to use letters. As a reminder, here are the first few stages of this important continuum:

Initial consonants
Final consonants 
Initial digraphs and blends (letter combinations like th, sh, bl, fr, tr.)
Short vowels (remember that short e is the most difficult)
Affricates (j, ch, tr, dr)
Final consonants blends and digraphs

We feel that if preschool children can correctly write the first consonant of a word, we are thrilled! 

And now for just a fun and eye-catching project, we suggest creating a turkey farm. Get some orange paper cups. These become the body of your turkey. Then use various colors of paper (red, brown, yellow) to make the tail feathers. You can pre-cut these tail feathers or have children practice their burgeoning fine motor skills by tracing and cutting a pattern. Have children make heads and perhaps “gobblers.” Fringe the tails and glue them to the mouth of the cup. Glue the head to the bottom of the cup. Then staple your 3D turkeys to a “field” on your bulletin board. It makes a fun display. 


Monday, November 6, 2017

Writing: The Basics for Preschoolers

Writing! Yes, it is important for preschoolers, too. One of the key things we need to remember is that we should encourage good practices. These include: holding writing utensils correctly, forming letters correctly (moving a pencil from top to bottom, etc.), and thinking about the uses and varieties of writing. 

Sometimes we are so anxious to teach children to write their names or the letters of the alphabet that we forget that age-appropriate quality is more important than quickly learning to write names and letters. We need to develop hand muscles and encourage correct muscle memory first. 

We can do this by having children write large lines, going from top to bottom, with water and paintbrushes on white boards.  Once their muscles remember to do this from top to bottom, show children how to correctly form circles, start at the top and circle around to make the lines meet. 

After these key prerequisite skills have been mastered and are a part of muscle memory, encourage the use of crayons or markers to correctly make the first letter of their names. Watch for proper formation and celebrate when this is accomplished. We encourage you to focus on form. 

We also think lined paper is not appropriate for young children. It is our belief that they are not ready for this yet. Encourage proper formation of letters, no matter how large these letters need to be. Lined paper comes later once proper formation is achieved. 

Remember when pencils are put in the hands of your preschoolers, look for the proper holding of pencils. If needed, provide a pencil grip. We cannot overemphasize the importance of giving a proper model for holding a pencil. Left-handed writers can serve as a model for left-handed children. 

Finally, you can provide stations or centers showing the many uses of writing. Have a banking center with stamps, adding machine tape, etc. Encourage a post office with envelopes and mailing stamps. A store station can use credit card receipts, etc. These all help our children learn that writing is a way to communicate - in many forms. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.E.05.
Head Start - VII.E. 1-4.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Food Chains for Preschool

This week we feature leopards in our free weekly activity. In the accompanying Dear Colleague letter, we talk about ways you and your children can discuss the interconnectedness of Planet Earth. In the past we have looped paper strips to create a chain of vegetation and animals to illustrate our dependence on one another.

As you can see, the strips do not always lend themselves to drawing pictures and may be more appropriate for older students.

An age-appropriate activity is to act out a food chain. This can be helpful, especially when you are working with English Language Learners (ELLs). This type of comprehensible input is important for their understanding. As always, using clear nouns and verbs will especially be helpful to newcomers or those in the “Silent Phase.”

There are other visual activities to help all children understand our connected world. For example, if you are changing your school over to Earth-friendly reusable coffee mugs, put the old Styrofoam cups to good use. They can serve as a way to show the food chain in a different manner. Take a look at our visual:

You can ask children to color just one plant or animal and then work with a group to figure out how these all “stack up” in the food chain or one child can make his or her own food chain cups.

We have shown the food chain for a leopard to align with our activity, but here are a few other ideas:


Of course, you will want to ask children for ideas about your local animals and how these creatures fit into a community food chain.

You will see that we always like to integrate fine motor skills into activities. Coloring, cutting, and pasting encourage future writing skills.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC –2.G.02 & 2.G.08.
Head Start -XI.B.1 & 2.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Working With ELLs in the Silent Phase

As we have discussed in the past, there are phases to acquisition of a new language. You can read about the Silent Period by clicking here. This phase can be confusing and frustrating for teachers as we want to see and be a part of learning. When children are reluctant to express themselves, we often think that nothing is happening or even that we are failing as teachers. But this is not true! 

We would benefit from remembering that much is taking place in the minds of new language learners as they immerse themselves in the school environment. They are listening and watching. Children watch you show pictures of nouns and verbs. They listen to you read books. They observe their peers line up, wash their hands, and go to lunch or run outside.  All the while, language is being matched with actions. Vocabulary is being silently attempted in little heads. This is an important time.

To help, the first thing to remember is to avoid forcing any child to speak. This can make the silent period last longer or even be harmful in other ways. Be patient - children will speak! To help children and to assure teachers they can implement strategies that will assist children, think about integrating the following into classrooms:

Always remember that receptive language is being built. Read simple books with pictures that match the text. We think this is simple, but the choice of text for ELLs is important. Many books do not have pictures that adequately match the vocabulary of each page. 

Consider asking yes or no questions, but pair these questions with a hand signal like thumbs up or thumbs down. This way, children can give the hand signal until they are comfortable adding the simple words. 

Pair children with others. You can match them with those who speak their language, but you can also watch for blossoming friendships. Often ELLs will try and speak English words to other children with whom they are comfortable. Watch and listen...but silently! 

We like to plan constructivist activities to engage children. When we move beyond simply writing letters or numbers, children are more engaged and likely to share thoughts. Group children and let them explore. You can see for example, our post on the M & M Experiment.  Activities like this integrate literacy and science, but they also help children learn inquiry skills and cooperate with others. For your ELLs, these types of activities show them that it is acceptable to take chances! And in the fun, they are more inclined to take chances with their new language.

Sing songs that have repeating verses and rhythmic language. These are easy to follow, especially if you pair gross motor movements with the words. This makes the language especially fun and age-appropriate. 

It is also important to establish the idea that mistakes are acceptable and made by everyone. We like to be vocal about our mistakes and show all children that these are ways to further learning. We can be heard saying, "Oh I made a mistake but I can learn from it," several times a day. 

Of course, if you can speak a few words in the child's home language, this will almost certainly bring a smile to faces. Look for books that have a few words in different languages. And, of course, if you have Spanish speakers, be sure to sign up for our Emergent Reader weekly activities in English and Spanish. Even sending home the Dear Colleague letter will help families who are fluent in Spanish. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.
Head Start - IX. A.,B.,& C.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Making Subtraction Fun

Before young children even see the minus sign or hear the words "take away" or "subtraction," we can help them to understand the meaning of this mathematical operation. Children easily see and appreciate the concept of addition - it means more, something that developmentally is appealing to children. But when we talk about take away, that isn't always as appreciated. No young child likes things taken away. Here are two age-appropriate and fun ways to help preschoolers understand the concept. 

Counting Backwards: 

First, counting backwards encourages subtraction readiness. We suggest making a game out of this. For example, you can easily add this as part of classroom management. As children line up, count backwards from any number to zero. Make this fun by letting children pick a number from a bowl (you can put in numbers you want children to learn. For example, you might write numbers 4, 5, 6, 7). When the child chooses a number, he or she can read it, and then you tell children you are going to countdown from that number to zero. You can count slowly, in a squeaky voice, or a low voice, etc. to make it fun and different each time. This helps children hear the numbers as one is taken away as you countdown. 

Additionally, engage children in counting down, too. Have them do this while they are on the playground, cleaning up, or even as they do the calendar. Count backwards from the current date to the first day of the month as you point at the numbers. 

How Many Are Hidden:

Take a certain number of small objects like pennies or blocks. If you have 5 objects,  show those objects to children. Have them count the objects and reinforce the number with them. Next hide a certain number, like 3, behind your back. Show children the remaining 2 objects. Ask them to figure out how many you are hiding. Continue to do this with different combinations. Then play the game with other numbers. 

We suggest sending this fun and easy math game home for families to play with children. It is a valuable activity to encourage mathematical thought about subtraction. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.F.02 - 2.F.13.  
Head Start -  X. A., B., D., & E.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Respecting Teacher Voices!

We have taken time-out from our activity-based blog to discuss testing both last week and this week. We feel it is essential that teachers use their powerful voices to not only educate children and families, but to speak up when certain tests are not helpful. Some tests, in our opinion, may be a waste of time. It is appropriate that we discuss the need to respect and honor teacher voices this month, as October is Head Start Awareness Month. What a better time to encourage all teachers to speak up!

We often hear from teachers that certain tests are not helpful in classrooms. We have been in areas where teachers brought their concerns to school boards and were successful in changing required tests. To help you speak up about any unfair testing, we offer you the following list of what to consider as you plan to voice your concerns:

  • What are the credentials of the test developers? One popular test was not designed by educators.
  • Who benefits financially when the test is administered? You would be surprised at the institutions, etc. who collect money!
  • How are the test results used? If they are not used to plan instruction, then the test is often worthless.
  • How much class time is devoted to giving the test? Too much test time takes away from instruction. For example, if you use three weeks to individually assess children, think about the time this takes away from class time, especially if you do this at the beginning of the year when you need to establish routines and a positive atmosphere for children.
  • Does the test actually test what it says it does? One popular test claims to assess children's knowledge of letters, but in reality, it tests how fast a child can speak. Think about how this hurts our ELLs.
  • What does the research say about the test? You can look this up on the Internet. But, be aware - sometimes test developers conduct research and get it published in journals. Look for name or institutional matches.
  • Does the test use only quantitative data? This means numbers - we are reminded of researchers who claimed teachers called on male students more than on female students. They believed this helped male students academically. The findings were later disputed when qualitative researchers visited classrooms and noted that when teachers called on male students they were doing this to correct behavior. This anecdote shows we need both those who do statistics and those who look at the reasons things occur.
  • How do young children react to being tested? We believe that especially in preschool, kindergarten, and early elementary school, we need to look at how children react in testing situations. Consider a child who returned from "taking" one popular test. That child did not answer or speak to the test administrator because she was a stranger. The child was proud because she had followed the rules. Of course, the quantitative data showed the child failed the assessment.
Good luck speaking out!
Please let us know if you have questions or successes.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Assessing ELL Children

Many of us have English Language Learners (ELL) in our classrooms, day cares, etc. We often assess all children but wonder, "How can I learn more about my ELL children?" The answer to this question must first be considered by addressing your purpose for assessments.  Best practices tell us that assessments are ideal when they are used to drive instruction. So, if you want to discover how to help children make progress, then that is a good reason to assess. Sometimes, formal assessments like DIBELS, do very little to help us plan lessons and, in fact, it is my belief that formal tests like this can end up harming instruction for children. More on that next week! 

Let's consider our early ELLs. Many times when these children first come to school they are still in the Silent Period or the Early Production Period (for more on this please see our posts, "The Silent Period" and "Early Production"). We need to know how much English each child can understand. There are wonderful assessments that are perfect for listening and speaking such as the SOLOM (Student Oral Language Observation Matrix). Assessments like this provide helpful data and give you a range as to where each ELL is on the Language Acquisition Continuum.

But, you likely have specific needs in your classroom. A simple listening comprehension assessment is helpful in getting to know individual children. You likely want to know if a child can understand basic English words, especially basic school vocabulary. You can create your own assessment by using any background knowledge you have about the child and using these interests to discover more about his or her listening language. For example, if the child likes soccer, put out three different color balls. Ask the child to give you the red ball, etc. You can observe the child to see if the gives you a blue ball or if the red ball is merely picked up. Responses can tell you if the verb is not understood or if the color word is not understood. These kinds of qualitative determinations are important for classroom success. And, when you use the child's interests, you are likely to get a better picture of the child's abilities.

As you create basic listening skills assessments, we encourage you to consider the necessary language for your classroom. Is "raise your hand" an important phrase that you want a child to understand? Is "sit on the carpet?" a command you need for all to understand? Finding out if children can understand YOUR classroom language is helpful for you and the children. So, make your assessments work for your classroom! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.01 & 02.
Head Start - VIII.A. & IX. A 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Preschoolers Need Pictures!

Yes, pictures are important. Too often families do not understand the key role illustrations and photos play in supporting growing literacy skills.  Rather than asking, "What letter does this word begin with?" or saying, "Sound out the word," we should point to a picture and say, "Look at the picture. That picture is giving you a clue about the words on the page." These kinds of prompts help children predict words and draw attention to a key reading strategy - use of text features. 

Let's first consider how to use pictures on a page. We like to have children look at pictures. Encourage them to talk about the illustration. Ask what the page might be about by using the pictures. This helps children make predictions, a skill that will be important as they grow as readers. For now, talking about the text features and using the possible words on the page is an age-appropriate way for children to learn the vocabulary of the book. Point out to children that this helps them think about the words the author is going to use.

As you read the page to children, stop to point out the many times correct predictions were made. Of course, you don't want to do this all of the time as it interrupts the flow of the story (See below for further discussion of this). But it is important to help children see the power of using pictures to make predictions. 

We also suggest using a "secret signal" to help listeners interact with the text. Ask children to give you a thumbs up if they hear you say a word that they thought would be on the page. We like this strategy as it encourages active thought about a text. 

Above, we mention the importance of not interrupting the flow of the story. As children grow as readers, they will be engaging in close reading skills. This means they will be reading portions of a text multiple times. Using pictures to make predictions can help children become "close readers." 

For a first read, slowly turn pages and ask children what words they think will be on each page. For a second read, ask children to give you a thumbs up if they hear the predicted words on select pages. Finally, ask children to listen and enjoy the entire story. This helps them to think about books in a complete way. Of course, you will not do this with every book, but using this age-appropriate close reading strategy few times a week, is a key school readiness skill.

Using comprehensible input, especially pictures, is a necessary strategy to assist your English-language learners. Show pictures while carefully verbalizing the nouns and verbs the pictures depict. This component of comprehensible input helps grow English vocabulary.

Family Connection - 
Be sure to communicate the importance of pictures to families. Unfortunately, we have heard parents tell children to avoid looking at illustrations. It is up to you to help families understand the importance of these text features. 

Weekly Activities-
For more on text features, sign up for our weekly activities in the box to the right. 

Standards Alignment - 
NAEYC - 2.E.
Head Start - VII.A.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What Interests Your Preschoolers?

Giving children choices is an important way to draw them into a love of literacy. Having a wide variety of books available and encouraging children to choose something that is appealing to them is an essential part of literacy. This is also a key 'best practice' in teaching our English learners. By providing dual language students with books that are meaningful and aligned with their interests, encourages them to interact with English literacy to a greater degree. 

One way to learn about the interests of your children is to have them create "About Me" bags. You can demonstrate how to put together the contents of these bags by creating one of your own. Put objects that relate to your interests in a bag. As you take out each item, explain in simple sentences, the meaning of each object. For example, if you have a dog, you can include a stuffed dog or small statue of a dog. When you participate too, it excites the class and encourages children to participate. 

After learning about interests, you can use the library to find books that will motivate children who may not have chosen to visit the "book corner." Remember, research tells us that the more access a child has to books, the better reader and writer that child is likely to become.

After you discover interests, it is also important to learn more about children's attitudes toward literacy. We looked at several attitude surveys and found few that are appropriate for our emerging readers. So...we created our own. Click Hart Emergent Reader Literacy Survey to access it. 

We suggest you sit down with each child and read the sentences orally. You can see that this will likely take less than a minute per child. Allow children to circle their response. By watching their pencil control, you can learn about fine motor skills, too! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2. E. 04 & 05.
Head Start - VII. A. & E.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Age-Appropriate Comprehsnsion Strategies for the Preschool Set

Helping children to develop comprehension skills can be done using age-appropriate strategies for preschoolers. Here are a few of our favorite ideas for the younger set. 

We love to use hula hoops (or any large circular shapes) as a tangible Venn Diagram. After reading a book like The First Thanksgiving, have children draw pictures. Some children may draw a picture showing what food was eaten at that first celebration. Others may draw depictions of food they enjoy on the holiday. Put out the hula hoops. Those who have illustrations of food eaten long ago put their drawings in one hula hoop. The others put their drawings in the second hula hoop. 

Then discuss that some food may be put in both hula hoops. Move them so they intersect and put the pictures that pertain to both time periods in the overlapping area. This helps children compare and contrast using an age-appropriate method.

We also encourage you to invite children to act out or participate by physically showing details from a book. For example, pop bubble wrap for raindrops. Clap hands for thunder. Have children pretend to sleep, etc. These kinds of interaction with specific details, encourage children to listen for these important components of books. And the best part? They are fun!

In addition to the ideas in this post, we encourage you to sign up for our free activities in the box to the right. 

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

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Helping Children Stay Calm

As we begin a new school year, our children are likely hearing about natural disasters as we recover from Hurricane Harvey and Irma is spinning in the Atlantic. It is a good time to pause for a reminder that adult attitudes can be instrumental in keeping children calm. We need to project a sense of comfort as much as possible in the wake of uncertain times.

There are several steps we can take. First, try to keep children’s schedules as uniform as possible. If this is not possible, be sure to tell children what to expect for the day or week. When children have a sense of expectation, they feel calmer.

Another good step to take is to invite children to share how they are feeling. This can be done with puppets or stuffed animals. You can begin by having a stuffed animal say, “There is water in my street. I was scared. Has this ever happened to you?” Invite children to “talk” to the animal.

Children can draw pictures of what might be happening in their neighborhoods. Use these illustrations as a place to begin a conversation. Allow children to express their feelings.

Finally, be sure to stay in close communication with families and mental health professionals. When all of the adults in a child’s life work together, everyone benefits, especially as the entire family likely needs support.

On another note, to assist YOU, we encourage you to sign up for our free activities each week. They are designed to support you in all you are doing for our children. Just add your email in the box to the right.  

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

We all love free - right? That's just what Maggie's Big Home and our companion program for elementary-age students offers you - free printable activities, weekly teaching suggestions, and even educational but fun on-line learning activities. This week our sister program, Maggie's Earth Adventures found at www.missmaggie.org goes back to school with a printable activity designed to help teachers, students, and families become familiar with this exciting site. To help your preschoolers and kindergartners join in the fun, we are highlighting some of the interactive games that can help the younger set. 

First, when you arrive at our home page, it will look like this:

After clicking on the big red button, just click on Games

Take a look at all of these offerings:

Math games such Dude's Dilemma, Around the World in 80 Seconds, and Join the Dots are appropriate, engaging, and educational for many preschoolers. Here they can rescue the dog, Dude, from a rooftop by adding one digit numbers.

It's also intriguing for children to "test their memories" by playing games like Mega Memory

We hope you will try these out in your classrooms and encourage families to take a look at all www.missmaggie.org has to offer. 

And while you're at it, please sign up to receive our free activities for the younger set. The bonus? We offer them in Spanish, too, all for the low price of FREE!

You will see this box right here on this page to the upper right. Your email address (we NEVER share these!) is all you need to provide to take advantage of these best practices offerings. 

See you next week to officially begin Maggie's Earth Adventures 18th year of providing sound educational material to teachers, students, and families.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

School Routines and School Vocabulary: Think Explicitly!

As we enter a new school year, it is helpful to remember that we often take our use of vocabulary for granted. We may not always realize that school words such as row or whisper may not have meanings for our children. This is why it is essential we use comprehensible input to be sure our children understand school vocabulary. Have children practice whispering before you ask them to whisper. Be sure children act out words like row or column before using these words in directions.

While we know this is essential for our English Language Learners (ELLs), we can't assume English speakers have a context for these words. Remember, school is a new experience for our preschoolers!

As we think about ELLs and children new to the school experience, we should consciously use motions, drama, and pictures to be sure all children understand what we say and the directions we give. Make a game of asking children to sit in a row. Have them practice what it means to listen carefully. Ask them to line up several times without leaving the classroom. Give a big round of applause when these school experiences are done to your satisfaction. Establishing routines like this, in an age-appropriate way, in the beginning of the school year will make the school experience more successful for everyone.

It is also helpful to let families know what you are doing. Either send home a daily explanation (in the languages spoken by your families) detailing how you are establishing school routines or post a sign outside of your classroom. Ask families to support you by reviewing the new vocabulary at home or by explaining to parents how they listen during story time, etc. This helps the learning to go smoothly and it shows families you value their support. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.01
Head Start - II.A.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Child-Made Spinners!

The fidget spinner craze might just about be over, but there's still time to get children excited about creating and learning from their own spinner. Depending on the age of children, you can either cut out or have children cut their own shapes that look like the following: 

Children can decorate their spinners in any way that suits them. This is also a good opportunity to practice school-readiness skills and remind children to put their name or initials on their work. Give each child a paperclip to position on the spinner as shown in the photo.

Next have children "launch" their spinners by holding them up high, paperclip down and watching them "twirl" to the ground. Encourage talk about what was observed.

Then have children ask "what if" questions. For example, you might explore what would happen if more paperclips were used on each spinner. You could also launch spinners from various heights. How do spinners travel when you stand on a table? Does it spin differently when you are seated? You could make additional spinners of different types of paper. 

We encourage children to ask questions, make predictions, test their ideas, and then adjust thinking. As you know, this is good science, but it also sets the stage for helpful comprehension strategies when children begin reading. 

Remember that hands-on activities such as this are helpful in encouraging those in the "Silent Period" to begin trying new language skills with peers. This is one of the best ways to move children along the language learning continuum. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.G. & 2.K.03 & 04.
Head Start - I.A. & B.,XI.A. & B.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Act Out the Solar Eclipse

Here it comes!  The solar eclipse will be visible on August 21, 2017!  To help children learn how this works and to prepare for the darkness, explain how our solar system works in a child-friendly way. Involve children by acting out the process. We realize there are several helpful videos, which you can use to supplement this physical activity, but we believe that child participation is best for helping knowledge to grow at this age. 

We suggest creating large signs with images of the sun in yellow, the Earth in blue and green, and the moon in manilla (off-white). You may want to give the "Sun" a flashlight to hold. Of course, as fans of sight word development you can also label the signs. Three children can hold the signs and create the "Solar Eclipse Play." 

Position the child with the sun and flashlight in front of the child with the Earth sign. Discuss how this is normally the way the sun and Earth appear. Talk about the light of the sun that shines on Planet Earth. Then ask the child with the sign, Moon, to spin in between the Earth and Sun. Ask children to discuss what happens to the light from the sun. Encourage a grand conversation about science and astronomy! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.G. & 2.K.03 & 04.
Head Start - I.A. & B.,XI.A. & B.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

More Sun Fun

As we approach the solar eclipse, we thought this is the perfect time to help your children discover more about the sun. Here are a few favorites to allow for inquiry, critical thought, along with receptive and expressive language.

Set up a large pole next to pavement. Ask children to trace the shadow. As the day progresses, have children trace the changing shadow. Ask why this shadow changes. Encourage sharing of thoughts.

Put out a piece of dark construction paper. Children can choose an object to place on the paper. Leave the paper with the object in the sun. Later, remove the objects. Encourage children to describe what has happened. Invite discussion about why the object’s shape can be seen on the paper.

Show children red grapes. Ask what might happen if you leave these grapes in the sun. Make a list of children’s responses. Then leave the grapes outside for about three days (of course, you will need sunny days). Each day have children observe the grapes and ask if anyone wants to change their prediction. We like this part as it shows children that scientists do change their ideas based on data. After three days, the red grapes will look (and be!) raisins. Of course, do not eat them as they have been outside and bugs, etc. will have made them unsafe to consume. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.G. & 2.K.03 & 04.
Head Start - I.A. & B.,XI.A. & B.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sun Safety!

Wow! A solar eclipse is coming to the United States on August 21st. What a great learning opportunity for children. Over the next few weeks, we will be suggesting a few activities that are meaningful and will guide children as they understand this unique occurrence. 

But before we learn more about the sun and its importance to life on Earth, a few safety rules are necessary. Let’s start with those. 
Begin by asking children to observe (safely) the sky. Remind them that they should never look directly at the sun. This is one of those direct instruction types of safety rules. In other words, be clear! Show pictures of people wearing sunglasses and then ask children to verbalize for themselves why sunglasses are important along with the idea that looking directly at the sun is never a good idea. They could create a paper plate depiction of themselves, wearing sunglasses as a reminder of this safety rule. 

You can help children understand (and see for themselves!) the importance of sunscreen by engaging them in a simple experiment. After this, you may never have those squirmy children who balk when the sunblock appears. Use a black piece of construction paper. Take a small amount of sunscreen and gently rub it on one side of the paper. I like to have children do this. Then leave the paper in the sun for a few hours. When you return, ask children to explain what happened to the side that did not have the sunblock (it faded!) while the side with the sunblock did not. Ask children to draw conclusions about another sun safety rule! 

Stay tuned for more as we approach the solar eclipse! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.G. & 2.K.03 & 04.
Head Start - I.A. & B.,XI.A. & B.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

PowerPoint for Looking at the Dolch Words with a New Lens

I had a great time at the ILA Conference -so much to learn and think about for our children. I will be sharing many new ideas in the coming weeks and months. For now, I wanted to post my PowerPoint. At the link below you will also find the lists of Dolch words that are confusing as to sequence. Let me know your thoughts as you consider ways to reorganize the way in which we present these sight words.

You can see Kathy's PowerPoint from the ILA Conference by clicking below.

Click here for PowerPoint!

I had mentioned affricates at the session. For more information, take a look at this blog entry by clicking here - AFFRICATES

Then browse the blog for more information on teaching ELLs and other ways to present sight vocabulary.

I will have more suggestions soon so please check back.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Looking At The Dolch Word List with a New Lens

We have discussed sight word lists and ways to help our children learn these words in other posts. We constantly question the way in which these lists are leveled. For example, there are 40 words on the preschool (pre-primer) list, ranging from the simple words (easily decodable) and or can to more difficult words such as where. This preschool list even contains two-syllable words like little or yellow.  Another color word, green, is not "taught" until second grade.

The number word, one, is a pre-primer word. This word bears little resemblance to the sound/symbol relationships children need to learn. While the easily decodable number word, ten, appears in the third grade list. This does not make sense.

In my session at the International Literacy Association, I will discuss reasons such as these to envision (finally!) a new sequence for teaching these sight words. My belief is that when we pair auditory and visual skills, we help children to understand connections.

In preparation for the session, I am sharing my lists to demonstrate some of these "disconnects."

Click here to see our lists that show some issues with the leveled Dolch Word Lists.

I hope to see you in Orlando!


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

ILA Conference!

Happy 4th of July. Hope everyone is enjoying a special day with family and friends.

I am getting ready to attend the International Literacy Association Conference in Orlando. I hope you can join me at my session as I discuss phonics and sight words. I'll be presenting on Saturday, July 15th at 11:00 in W106. Hope to see you there!


Monday, June 26, 2017

Everything Old Is New Again: The Power of Board Games

Bored children this summer? The answer is simple - try a board game! That's right - adults may remember the tired but true games of Operation, Candy Land, or Chutes and Ladders, but these are all new to children. And the best part? These games not only encourage family time, lessons about taking turns, and gracefully winning or losing, but they also help with important school readiness skills. 

Think about Candy Land - children match the colors on cards to squares on the board. Sometimes children see that pulling a specific color will help them along. This encourages critical thinking. 

Chutes and Ladders, Trouble, or Sorry can support this, too. Matching one-to-one correspondence between spaces on a board and a game piece is important. Of course, you can help children stay calm when they have to "chute" backwards. Knowing how to accept a setback and even possibly see that despite a possible loss, odds can be overcome. 

Operation can be a silly game but wow - the fine motor skills it encourages are helpful! Think about pinching the tweezers and removing, ever so carefully, small game pieces. This helps with the pincer grasp and with eye-hand coordination. 

Good ol' Checkers helps children learn rules, take turns, and keep a game board organized. Teachers appreciate when children come to school with these skills.

And remember card games, too. Go Fish helps with expressive language and proper sentence structure. This would be a wonderful game if you are working with English Language Learners.

Anytime a child can roll the dice is helpful as the dots can first be counted and then recognized by pattern without the need to count each dot. This is subitizing in an authentic way. So, games with dice are always beneficial. I have even seen preschoolers who are Monopoly masters! 

With the 4th of July upon us, engage family members in playing these games with children. What a fantastic way to spent a rainy afternoon with grandparents...making memories.