Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Preschoolers Need Pictures!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What Interests Your Preschoolers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Age-Appropriate Comprehsnsion Strategies for the Preschool Set

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Helping Children Stay Calm

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

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

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

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

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

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