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.