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.

ELLs-
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. 

ELLs:
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!

Kathy


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!

Kathy

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.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

School Readiness - Close Reading

One of the hot topics in literacy is close reading. As part of helping children to think deeply about a text, we often encourage them to annotate what they read. This helps them learn to interact and react to material. It may seem surprising to use, but many young children need to be taught that this is expected. As reading specialists know, when children process information they are better able to comprehend.  

You can ask preschoolers to begin thinking about annotation in an age-appropriate way. 


First ask children to draw smiling faces, frowning faces, and even a "neutral" face on post-it notes. Even the process of drawing a circle is a school readiness skill as it helps children develop fine motor skills for writing letters. 

As you read to a child, stop at appropriate places. Ask the child to react to the page or part. Then have the child place a post-it that shows his or her feeling about the section. 


Later, go back and look at these reactions with the child. Ask if the child wants to change any of the responses. This is an important school readiness skill as it teaches children to go back and think about both what has been read and to consider their thinking about it. It also helps develop the idea that is is acceptable for children to change their mind. 

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

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Comprehension: Asking Questions Or Explaining Your Thinking?

As we move into the summer months and many of our young children are in a more informal setting, this is likely a good time to discuss ways we read orally to children. One key objective we all share is to help children understand (comprehend) the material we read orally. Unfortunately, too many equate asking questions with helping children to understand books. This is simply not a good way to teach comprehension. All asking questions does is to check (test) that children understood the material.

This means we need to use age-appropriate methods to assist children in understanding what is read. One of the best ways to do this is to explain your own thinking. You need to model HOW to comprehend.  Below are examples of ways you can do this:

Corduroy by Don Freeman
Before Reading Think Aloud-
Look at the cover of the book. Say, "I see a picture of bear. He is bending down to pick up a button. I think this book will be about the bear trying to find his lost button." This shows children how they can use pictures to make predictions, which is an important comprehension skill.

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
During Reading Think Aloud-
"I am looking at the picture of the look on this creature's face. I heard the words, 'I would not, could not, in a car' so this tells me that this creature will not be trying any of the green eggs and ham." 

And a bonus: When you point to your eyes (I am looking at) and then to the picture, your English Language Learners (ELLs) have a context for the vocabulary you are using.

Nights of the Pufflings by Bruce McMillan
After Reading Think Aloud-
Say, "This book told me about how children help save young puffins. I think the idea of this book is that children can make a difference in the world." This is an age-appropriate way to show children how to think about theme or essential questions. 

These examples of thinking can actually TEACH comprehension rather than using questions, which may signal to some children that they cannot comprehend if they do not know the answers to your questions. You are modeling HOW to comprehend!

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

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Can Dolch Words Be Sounded Out?

We often tell children that sight words (the Dolch list is commonly used) cannot be sounded out. While we want children to "read" these words without hesitation, some children are auditory learners and should be shown that many of the Dolch words DO follow phonics patterns. In the video below we look at the Pre-K (pre-primer) list where many of the words do follow common word patterns that occur early in the phonics continuum. For children who are good at "sounding out" words, we can and should show them the patterns in sight words. 




Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.E.06 & 2.E.09.
Head Start - VII.B.3 & VII.C.2,3,&4.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Using SIOP to Teach ELLs and ALL Children


As we think about ways to guide our English Language Learners, we can consider several ways which schools can accomplish this important goal.  One important way is to think about the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP). By knowing what this program model consists of, we can plan meaningful activities to help our ELLs grow, even if we do not use the SIOP.

The SIOP is a program model for ELLs that separates these learners from those students who speak fluent English. Our English learners do use the same content curriculum as all other students. This is key. But English speakers are taught in a different classroom than those who are learning to speak English.

But, when we understand the components of this popular model, we will see that the ideas can be helpful in ANY classroom.

1.   Lessons are accessible and relevant. This means pictures, comprehensible input, and props are used in a meaningful way to support language learning. Teachers create both content and language objectives. A variety of materials and methods are used to motivate students.
2.   Teachers use the background knowledge of students and they build background as needed. They help students make connections between past learning and new material. Vocabulary should be taught and emphasized before each lesson.
3.   Teachers think about the speed of their own language and the time it might take for students to process English. They are careful about pronunciation. They repeat things often and do not use slang or idioms. They use pictures and gestures. There are pauses to allow for student processing and to check for understanding.
4.   Teachers clearly include higher-order thinking skills in lessons.  They do not merely encourage and expect literal understanding. Teachers watch for misunderstanding and go back to where there was a misstep. There is lots of rehearsal for students, and teachers take time to scaffold their instruction.
5.   There is plenty of time for students to talk with the teacher and with their peers. Lots of discussion takes place. This allows students to develop receptive language and allows time to produce language.
6.   Teachers use as many hands-on materials as possible. This helps students practice language and content. There is time for lots of discussion in a supportive environment.
7.   Teachers support language and content objectives throughout lessons. They take into consideration the pace of lessons, often slowing down if necessary. Time for students to verbalize is a key part of every lesson delivery.
8.   Review and assessment are important parts of all lessons. Vocabulary is constantly emphasized. Teachers provide feedback to help all students understand their progress.

As you can see, while these are components of the SIOP Model, these are also “best practices” for any classroom. By keeping these ideas in mind, you are taking important steps to meet the needs of your ELLs and all children in your classroom.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Preschoolers Can Create Art To Show Point Of View

Last week (below) we discussed ways to encourage children to think about point of view. Now we share a fun art activity to further engage children to discuss and consider this important skill.

First have children use a paper bowl or small paper plate and decorate it like a hot air balloon. 


Next prepare the balloon "basket" by cutting small paper cups in half.


Take photos of children, raising their arms. Print each photo and cut it out. 


Children can put these together to make a three dimensional artistic creation to show that they CAN look at the world from different viewpoints. 



Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.03, 2.J.04, 05, & 06.
Head Start - III.C. 1-3.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Preschoolers Can Think About Point Of View

Yes, your preschool-aged children can think about point of view, too! This is an important part of the curriculum in elementary schools, and we can encourage young minds to think about this in an age-appropriate way. This can easily be done by having children use developing oral language skills to describe how they would view the physical world from different vantage points. 

Encourage children to sit on the floor and look at an object. Can they describe it? 

Then have them stand above the object. Help children to see how the way they look at this object is different from this point of view than when they were sitting. 

Just by looking at the photos below, you can see how this would encourage children to consider how "things" look different given your viewpoint. 

After children have discussed the differences (and likenesses) in how objects look depending on your position (in age-appropriate terms - where you stand), take children outside and ask them to consider how a bug on a flower might view the world. Ask questions such as, "How do you think birds see the world?"  

These are important ways to encourage thought about different viewpoints and to get outside. Remember - research tells us that young children should spend at least one quarter of their school day in physical activities. 

Stay tuned next week for more on point of view!

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.03, 2.D.06 & 2.D.07.
Head Start - VIII.A. & B.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Make Art and Photos Come Alive!

We are always on the lookout for new APPs to engage both our children and to help families understand what we are doing in our classrooms.  One of our new favorites comes from ChatterPix Kids, free from the APP store. 

Snap a photo of a child's art work. Then record the child sharing something about this art. 



Or you can make an actual photograph come to life, as with the moving lips of this giraffe. 


We even have included a ChatterPix Kids as part of one of our FREE weekly Maggie activities. Be sure you are signed up to receive these in the box to the right!


You don't need a YouTube account to do this. We have just uploaded our photos and art to YouTube to help you view. It's easy and fun for classrooms and homes!

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.A.10
Head Start - II.A. & III.C.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Using Outdoor Play to Develop School-Readiness

Sunshine! Warm weather! It's time to get our children outside. What perfect days to this as we approach the end of the school year. Before you lead your class outside for the business of childhood- play, think about how you can turn that play into important school-readiness time. We share two fun and meaningful ideas.

Take a look at the photo below. How can this become an important tool? 


We love to give children a paintbrush and pan of water. Let them dip the brush into the water and "paint" large circles or straight lines on the sides of buildings, garage doors, etc. It's only water! These movements help develop the motor skills necessary for printing letters. Those who are already writing letters can practice those. But if children are making shaky letters, it is helpful to go back and have them practice the building blocks of letter printing - the line and circle. Getting away from paper and pencil makes it fun, too.

An interactive outside  math-readiness game involves the annual spring favorite - bubbles!


Make small playground groups. Have children take turns being the person to blow the bubbles. The other children in the group count and slap the bubbles. This action helps tracking and allows practice of cardinal numbers. Not to mention, the act of taking turns is always an important task to practice and celebrate. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.B.03, 2.C.03 & 04, 2.F.02.
Head Start - I. C. & D., II.C., & X.A.



Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Building Background Knowledge and Vocabulary: Make It Fun!

Expressive reading and props can help all children learn new vocabulary, understand story structure, and have a valuable fluent reading model. See the video below for fun examples!



Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.01 & 03.
Head Start - VIII.A. & B.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Remember To Use Gross Motor Expression

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.



Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.C.04, 2.E. 03, 2.E.07, & 2.E.09.
Head Start - I.C., VII.C, & VII.D.