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.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Using Age-Appropriate Comprehensible Input To Engage ELLs

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.


Please let us know if you have any questions.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Communicative Approach: Helpful for ELLs and ALL Students

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.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Crossing the Midline


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 necessary skill.

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.  

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.C.04
Head Start – I.C

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Teaching Strategies For ELLs

This week 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.

Total Physical Response  
Children 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
When we 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.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Comprehensible Input for Preschoolers: A Video

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.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Helping ELLs and ALL Children: Age-Appropriate Comprehensible Input

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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

In Like A Lion - Out Like A Lamb


March: In like a lion – out like a lamb?

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 class.

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 repeated.

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.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2. D. 01 & 07; 2.G.07.
Head Start - VIII. A & B; XI. B1.

In honor of the birthday of Dr. Seuss, take a visit to our Green Eggs and Ham reading. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Affricate Poem

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,
Words with these sounds are an affricate!” 


By Kathy Hart  


Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.E.06
Head Start - VII. B & C.