We think of holding a pencil, listening to a book, and pointing to letters and words as important school-readiness skills. But, we also need to remember that our young children need different opportunities to practice important skills. Using whole body expression is an age-appropriate way to encourage preschoolers to have fun while building necessary school abilities. We can use chalk to write letters on cement. Encourage children to jump while naming each letter. This develops alphabetic principle while inviting children to use a whole body response. This is so important for young children. Write letters or numbers on a beach ball and throw it to children. They can run and pick up the ball (catching is not necessary as many young children cannot yet catch a ball). Wherever their hands are on the ball, they say the number or letter they are covering or touching. This is another method to combine gross motor activities with school readiness skills. A third activity we like is to place words on a wall and give children a new flyswatter. If children are working on sight vocabulary, they can swat words as you say them. You might also have them find words with specific letters in them. For example, you could say, "Swat a word with a b in it." This encourages concept of word along with alphabetic principle. The "game" works with names, too. You might put the names of everyone in the class on the wall and individuals learn to recognize their name by hitting at it.
We enjoyed talking with many teachers, directors, and families at the Head Start Conference in Chicago this past weekend. We discussed the importance of intentionally using pictures, videos, gestures, songs, voice tone, props, wordless picture books, etc., to help not just our English language learners, but all children in both Early Head Start and Head Start.
We hope those who attended our session will sign-up to receive our free weekly activities in the box to the right.
You will find the PowerPoint we shared by clicking here along with the Hart Phonemic Awareness assessment that was discussed in the question and answer period.
We also modeled how a teacher might use a book with comprehensible input. You can see a video of Kathy doing this below.
Two weeks ago we discussed a few instructional approaches that benefit our English Language Learners (ELLs) and all children. That is often the beauty of thinking about how best to teach our ELLs as these practices are often the best ones for ALL children. Today we discuss another instructional strategy, the Communicative Approach.
When we give children the opportunity and need to communicate, we are using this approach. It is really quite simple: We need to intentionally plan situations where children need and want to communicate with others. When our young children "work" at play stations or centers, we are providing situations to practice and communicate.
Imagine a post office center where preschoolers have access to envelopes, stickers that look like stamps, ink pads and stamps, pens, pencils, mail collection bins, old mail, etc. They can communicate with one another about the processes of the post office. You can become a partner in this by supplying key words or English-speaking children can give key vocabulary. Other centers like housekeeping, stores, or even a mini-zoo made with stuffed animals are important opportunities for communication. Children can talk and play. Listen for authentic vocabulary during this important time.
We often think about these times of our day as play times, but they offer the best opportunities for the development of oral language. We need to plan these activities, group our children, and interject ourselves and other adults into these "play" times in meaningful ways. As we mentioned, the best practices make appropriate and intentional opportunities for teaching ALL of our students. We imagine that if you look around your classroom, you will see many of these in action.
Please note: It is important to remember that when our ELLs are in the silent period, we should not force speaking. For example, requiring children to say, "Good morning," is even counterproductive to helping children in this stage. We should merely set up activities and let our children play. Who knows, maybe English speakers will learn a few words in another language, too? This is always a benefit!
Standards Alignment: NAEYC - 2.D.01 & 03. Head Start - VIII.A. & B.
Touch your right hand to
your left elbow. Brush your teeth with your opposite hand. What do these two
activities have in common? The answer is a simple, yet important one. They
encourage our young children to cross the midline.
What does crossing the midline
mean? Think of the body as having a line down the middle, right where the
bellybutton is located! Imagine then a right side of this line and a left side
of the line. When a child can easily cross their midline, it means he or she
can reach over from one side to perform a task on the other side of the body.
Here is an example: a child is sitting “criss cross applesauce” on the floor,
doing Legos and reaches with his or her right hand to place a Lego in a place
that is nearer to the left side of the body. This child is able to cross the
midline. A child who cannot do this, might put the Lego in the opposite hand or
could move his or her body to perform the task.
It sounds so simple, right?
But this seemingly easy task can be difficult. It is important because children
who can easily and readily cross the midline are often better readers, have
more writing fluency (can hold a pencil longer and with more efficiency), and
often feel less frustrated. Research tells us that crossing the midline is a
Activities to help children
cross the midline are often a part of our preschool day. We just need to be
intentional and clear in our minds about these activities. We all sing with fun
motions to enhance a song. When these motions involve using a hand or arm and
crossing to the other side of the body, we are developing a child’s ability to
cross the midline. When we give children beads to thread or streamers to swirl,
we are offering valuable age-appropriate activities to develop crossing the
midline. Playing on the sand table
offers important opportunities to scoop sand with one hand and then dump it
into a pail on the other side of the body.
Be sure to share the
reasoning behind your daily activities with families. They need to know that
what you are doing is not just a ‘cute’ activity but is helping to develop an
important skill for future school success.
we continue discussing teaching strategies to help our English Language
Learners. Keep in mind that these strategies are a help to ALL children and are
good ways to assist children who may not have background knowledge and school
skills.These two strategies are
different and may be used depending on your class and the topics you are
presenting. They are Total Physical
Response and The Silent Way.
can learn language when they listen to and follow along with an adult’s speech.
The key is that the adult must use many gestures and facial expressions to talk
with children. Children can merely watch and participate using their bodies,
without any oral responses. This helps children feel less pressure to speak.
They can respond in a physical way, which is so appropriate for preschoolers.
An example of this might be to talk about elephants by using your arm as a
trunk, your hands as ears, making an elephant sound, and showing pictures of
foods elephants eat. Children can then pretend to be elephants, without any
pressure to describe an elephant.
The Silent Way
give children a train of unifix cubes in a pattern, with a tub of cubes to
continue this pattern, we can think of this as being an example of The Silent
Way. Adults should give as little direction as possible and let children
explore and discover new concepts on their own. Adults might use gestures and
gestures, but little language is used. Children can experiment, without the
need to process teacher direction. This helps children develop important
concepts and encourages self-reliance.
Standards Alignment: NAEYC - 2.D.01 & 03. Head Start - VIII.A. & B.
Last week we talked about the benefits of comprehensible input - the idea that you pair known gestures, expressions, and actions with vocabulary to help both English Language Learners and those who may not have the background knowledge to understand a concept or book. As promised, today we share a video of comprehensible input in action. Watch carefully as we also demonstrate our favorite way to avoid b/d reversals!
Standards Alignment: NAEYC - 2.D.01 & 03. Head Start - VIII.A. & B.
How can we help our ELLs and even our young children who may not have the background knowledge to understand the contents of a book we are reading? We can use gestures, pictures, objects, and even videos to help children understand the content of a book or even our directions.
We find that gestures are so important. Here are a few examples of helpful actions:
Want children to listen? Be sure to cup your hand over your ear.
Want children to be quieter? Put your finger over your lips.
Want children to think or wonder about something? Point to your head.
As you can imagine, it is also helpful to include appropriate facial expressions with these gestures. Look puzzled or happy. These facial expressions can align with a book character's feelings, too. They are helpful in so many ways. If you are reading a book about a dog, be sure to show pictures. If you are reading about someone running, you can act this out or even have children do this. Talking about rain? Use a rain stick to get children involved. Want children to look closer at something? Wear BIG glasses! It's fun, too!
Gestures, facial expressions, body language, pictures, objects...all of these are helpful examples of comprehensible input that help all of the children in our class to understand the language of school.
Stay tuned next week for more on comprehensible input. Standards Alignment: NAEYC - 2.D.01 & 03. Head Start - VIII.A. & B.
Your bulletin board might
show these two animals as you welcome spring into your classroom. But you can
use this traditional saying to teach important concepts. Let’s start with
science.How does a lion act?Does a lion hunt? What does a sheep do? How
does a sheep get its food? You can contrast these two animals.
Have a grand conversation
about lions and sheep. Children can help develop background knowledge of others
in the class by acting out what a sheep does and what a lion does. This is helpful
comprehensible input for your ELLs. They can put together what they already
know with what is shown them by their peers. Repeat key vocabulary/phrases like
lion, sheep, grass, other animals, etc.
If the background knowledge
in your class is limited about these animals, look for appropriate videos for
your children. We are not suggesting any, as we know there are many helpful
videos in “Internet World.” But only you know what is just right for your
Next give children two half
sheets of paper. Ask them to draw a picture to answer one of the questions
about the actions and food gathering habits of a lion. Have them use the other
paper to show the characteristics of a sheep. Continue with the conversation as
children show their pictures and use speaking and listening skills as they tell
about their drawings.
Put the lion pictures
together by either tacking them on a bulletin board or gluing them to a large
sheet of paper. Do the same with the sheep pictures. Add the conversation of
these pictures to your calendar time. Talk about how a windy, cold day might be
like a lion or a warm, sunny day makes you feel like a cuddly sheep.This can help your ELLs as you constantly
refer to their drawings throughout the month and they hear key vocabulary
This also connects with a
later language skill – similes. You can guide children who would benefit from
this extension by sharing other examples of similes.
In a previous post, we discussed affricates, a common phonological error made by young children. We have even seen 6th graders make these kinds of mistakes. That's why it is important to correct the confusion that often results from the letters/letter combinations: j, tr, dr, and ch. You can read more about these ideas by clicking Affricate Instruction. As part of any phonics instruction, we like to have children go on word hunts to see if they can find examples of words containing the target letters. Using poetry is always a help in this. Even if children cannot read all of the words, they can identify the letters. This helps with concept of word, developing visual skills, and is the first step in reading high-frequency words. Children can underline, circle, or use our favorite, highlighter tape, to find words containing affricates or other phonics features.
After we posted our original discussion of affricates, several teachers pointed out to us that it was difficult to find poems that contained this feature. So...we decided to write our own silly poem. Read this little ditty to your children several times. Then have them circle the words that start with j, tr, dr, and ch. This heightens awareness of affricates.
Jill's Word Trick!
A silly word game sat on the tray,
“Come on let’s match words,” said the boy, Jay.
A card from the pile you will draw,
Put words together like a jigsaw.
So Jay and his friends, Jack, Jill, and Joy,
Started to play to win a fun toy.
They all picked words to make a train,
The words were alike, to make a looping chain.
Jill drew the word, jeep, and then looked around.
She found the word trip, without the same sound.
That doesn’t work, you must put trip back.
“Play fair or stop with this game,” said Jack.
“Oh Jack,” said the friends, “this is fine, don’t quit,
We love games that help
children practice their math skills along with giving them important
opportunities in speaking and listening skills. This is a game that we have found
holds the attention of everyone, from preschoolers to adults.
Begin by cutting out the
following shapes: large triangles, circles, and squares in 4 different colors.
We have used red, blue, green, and yellow paper as shown below.
Then cut out small
triangles, circles, and squares in the same 4 different colors.
Hide one of the shapes.
Children are to guess this hidden shape by asking yes or no questions. For
example, a child may ask, “Is it red?” You reply with a yes or no.
Keep track of how many
questions are asked by tallying them.
When children think they
know the hidden shape, someone may ask, “Is it a large, red triangle?”
Celebrate when the shape is
We like to divide the class
into two “teams.” Keep track of which team guesses the hidden shape using the
fewest number of questions. This means team members must listen carefully to
You can easily spot all of
the integrated objectives of this game: listening skills, thinking critically
about questions, formulating questions, understanding adjective order, asking
complete questions, recalling responses, understanding and counting tally
marks, identifying shapes, and identifying colors. You can differentiate for
members of your class in many ways by using this simple game.
words, Dolch words, Fry list, sight words…many terms for the words our young
children need to learn to recognize. We have previously explained the five
components of reading here.Under the
reading umbrella, one of these components is vocabulary. When children are
emerging readers and writers, vocabulary means recognizing sight words. Later,
vocabulary focuses on words that students may be able to decode (sound out) but
cannot understand. Then teachers focus on using context clues, Greek and Latin
of young children, we focus on teaching sight vocabulary. We want our children
to recognize words like this:
these words DO follow phonics patterns. The word it is an example.Let’s take a look at the pre-primer list of
Dolch words. Many of these words can be taught using phonics principles. This
is helpful for children who are auditory learners. Below we have listed words from this list that follow the
early short vowel rules and the common long vowel pattern, vCe.We have listed 18 out of the 40 pre-primer
words. Many of the remainder words like play do follow higher-level phonics
rules but because they are further along the phonics continuum, we have not
included them here.
more posts on teaching both visual and auditory learners as you focus on
What better way to celebrate Dental Health Month than with a meaningful art activity! Begin by asking children to examine their mouths while looking in a mirror. Have them describe what they see. Children can practice math concepts by counting teeth.
Give children a small paper plate as shown above. You will see that we like to keep things tidy by doing art projects within the confines of a cookie sheet. This keeps the mess contained and allows children to organize materials.
Children can color or paint the paper plate pink.
Then have them use red to make a tongue.
Let them glue miniature marshmallows in their paper plate mouth to represent the number of teeth they have on that day!
Finally, ask children to fold their plate to make their creation look like a mouth!
Of course, you will want to finish by talking about the kinds of foods that are not healthy for teeth - like marshmallows!
Think about all of the skills you are encouraging: observation, fine motor (coloring, painting, and use of a glue bottle), one-to-one correspondence in math, along with verbal skills as children discuss their teeth.
Many of our youngest children may not follow the different stages of assimilation. They are young children for whom life is an adventure. But, a child may be impacted by his or her family’s reactions to living in a new country. Many of our children are from families who have recently made the United States their home. By understanding the stages of assimilation, we can provide support and understanding to families and better deal with children’s emotions in our classrooms and daycares.
Like many stage theories, people do not always move from one stage to another in a fluid sequence. We present these four stages below merely as a guide to help you understand your families. We use names for these stages that begin with an H, as they seem easier to remember.
When people first arrive in a new country, they go through what we might consider the Honeymoon Period. Everything is new and exciting. Families might explore, delight in the easy access to goods and services. They may enjoy thinking about all that is different and inviting.
After the initial excitement wear down, people move into a period that can be termed the Hostility Period. Newcomers to a country are realizing they can’t enjoy the foods they once did. They may be experiencing frustration with the language. At this point, people may want to surround themselves with people from their former country. They miss their homes along with family and friends they left behind. If families are in this phase, those that work with them can be extra understanding.
As people move into the Humor Period, they begin to negotiate their new culture with their former culture. They see the good in both. Families may make friends with other parents in the classroom. They may be more willing to try out their new language and even laugh at themselves when mistakes are made. This stage can last a long time. Some people never leave this period.
Finally, people move into the Home Period. They have accepted their new country and culture as their own. Families may speak of the new country as home. The new language is spoken fluently and both old and new cultures are valued.
NAEYC – 2.A.04. & 2.D.01.
Head Start – IX. A., B., & C.
This week our activity packet expands on the post from last week (below) about intrinsic motivation. Are you signed up to receive these FREE activities, available in English and Spanish? If not, please take a few seconds to get on our email list. All you have to do is type your email address in the box to the right. It's that easy! This week we want to share some math ideas with you. And that's what the weekly activity is about, too! Continuing on the theme of using children's interests to develop intrinsic motivation, we encourage you to take a close look at what your children play during outdoor time. This is a valuable time to better understand their interests and even to observe their language skills. It's the time and place to develop academic vocabulary in a meaningful way. Let's look at an example. A few children might be kicking a ball around. Everyday these same children race to get a favorite playground ball out of the equipment box. Use this in a math lesson. You can talk compare its size to tennis balls, golf balls, ping pong balls, or even a bowling ball. Then continue by having children order the sizes. You can even order them by weight. Develop verbal math skills by having children discuss how this order is different than ordering them by size. Find other activities you see children engaging in on the playground. If you have a climbing structure, have the class measure the distance between rungs. This helps children see measurement in its real world context. Of course, lots of discussion about terms is helpful, too. Use academic vocabulary like inches, feet, or meters. This will help children develop a frame of reference. Some children like to gather natural materials outside. Help them use acorns, seedpods, etc. as real-life manipulatives to represent addition and subtraction problems. Or just have them line up fallen leaves and count them. Math is all around - we just have to look! What a great lesson to instill in children.
Standards Alignment: NAEYC - 2.F.02 - 2.F.13. Head Start - X. A., B., D., & E.
We know that our English Language Learners make more progress with their language skills when they are intrinsically motivated. This is also true for most children. So...the key is to develop children who want to learn for the joy of learning. Just how can we do this without constantly handing out stickers and other little prizes? Research tells us that three traits need to be encouraged. These are competence, relatedness, and self-determination. Competence is developed when we help children to believe they can accomplish something. We can encourage and support children to develop good relationships with one another. Finally, we should help children initiate and continue activities on their own (self-determination). These are important goals to keep in mind for both preschool and kindergarten teachers along with children's families. How often do we ask children to work or play quietly? This may be counterproductive to developing intrinsic motivation. When children use private speech it shows they are engaged in something interesting. We want this! When children talk, this helps develop the three qualities described above. We can and should set realistic goals and objectives for children. When what we are asking is within a child's developmental abilities, he or she is more likely to succeed. This encourages the development of competence. A child will have the self-determination to complete an activity that has reasonable and age-appropriate expectations. The child will continue the activity and hopefully talk about it because the success gives the child a good feeling. This increases the traits discussed above.
We should avoid giving children rewards for anything and everything. These rewards take the place of the internal pleasure the child feels when he or she is working toward accomplishing a task. The reward becomes the source of pleasure. While rewards can still be given in a preschool or kindergarten classroom, we should avoid giving them for activities that children already like and do well. We want the child to focus on the joy he or she gets from the activity rather than on receiving a sticker! So, consider your use of rewards. How will you decide on handing out stickers? What can you change in your classroom to encourage more talk? Do some objectives need to be changed so that they are more realistic for the age? These are key questions as we assist children in developing intrinsic motivation. Standards Alignment: NAEYC - 2.B.03. & 2.B.04. Head Start - II.B. & C.
This week we complete our description of the five stages of second language acquisition by looking at the fourth stage, intermediate fluency, and the fifth stage, advanced fluency. Please look back to our December 20, 2016 post for the beginning of our language acquisition description. Students are considered to be in the intermediate fluency stage when they have a vocabulary of about 6000 English words. This doesn't mean they have a full grasp of the meaning of all of these words. Just like many preschoolers, young second language learners may not grasp the different homophones and homographs, like bark (the sound of a dog) and bark (of a tree). But, these children are more willing to ask questions. When you listen, you can hear them speaking in more complex sentences but often these sentences contain grammar errors. They may not always understand how to use English syntax (the way English is organized into phrases and sentences). In a preschool classroom, you may not see much difference between your native English speakers and second language young learners as young children do not always know how to use verb tensescorrectly. As preschool or kindergarten teachers, we may not see any of our children (first or second language learners) at the final stage of language acquisition, advanced fluency. In this stage, speakers use complex sentences and have a large vocabulary that is used correctly. You can see that any young child likely needs time to be in this stage of language acquisition. For older second language learners, the only apparent difference may be a hint of an accent and difficulty with idioms (raining cats and dogs). Often native English speakers have difficulty with idioms, too, at a young age. You can help with this by making a game of teaching these commonly used expressions. Use them a part of your calendar/opening instruction. One important idea to remember is that as children acquire a second language, motivation is important. Those who are intrinsically motivated (they have their own desire to succeed) are more likely to make language attempts than those who are rewarded with stickers and little prizes (extrinsic motivation). To help children develop intrinsic motivation, we can design activities that take into account children's special interests. For example, if child is interested in dogs, make these animals part of a lesson. This way, a second language learner will be more motivated to participate. Please stay tuned for more ideas on teaching English Language Learners!