Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thanks For Giving

Today is Giving Tuesday, but we know people who work with children do this all of the time - you put the interests of others first! One of the challenges is to help our children internalize the importance of giving.  While they see our model all of the time, it is important to be intentional about teaching our youngest citizens about giving. 

One of the ways we like to integrate this key understanding into our daily classroom life is to create a project-based curriculum for a week. Plan to include families in this event as this helps the community become involved and assists you. Here are our suggestions for this meaningful and fun project:

  • First of all, identify a few organizations in your community that need funds. After you narrow the list to three or four, involve children in choosing the group that will receive the money from your class. This makes the project more meaningful - children are "invested" in the outcome! 
  • Find a recipe that is age-appropriate for students. For our youngest children, we like no-bake goodies like Rice Krispie bars or no-bake cookies.
  • Include children in chorally reading the recipe. Make a shopping list with them.
  • Some of you may be able to take a field trip to a local food store to purchase the ingredients. If this is not possible, ask a few families to help with this. The children in these families can go along and report back to the class about the experience. These young shoppers can even draw pictures or take photos to share with their peers.
  • Include family members and your students in the preparation of the treats. This is why we like to use a no-bake recipe as everything can be made in your classroom. 
  • You can duplicate the day and time along with the organization that will benefit from your sale. Have children cut out the wording and paste onto decorated posters, which they create. This helps them become aware that written language helps people understand about events. 
  • On the day of the sale, have children help at the sale table. While they may be too young to make change and count money, they can at least look at coins and identify them. It is amazing how much can be learned about math when children are involved in an authentic situation! 
  • Once all treats are sold, involve children in delivering the money to the organization which they chose. 

In our experience, children feel proud of their work and reports from doing this for 20 years, tell us that this type of experience is a much-loved and remembered time in classroom life.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thanksgiving Thoughts

We may think we need more creative activities than just asking children to write on a leaf or turkey feather about the things for which they are thankful. But remember - these children have not done this for the past ten years - this activity is new to them. Do it the old-fashioned way 


present these "old" activities with a facelift - include their thoughts using ChatterKids (click here to see this post) or even use Quiver 3D or Aurasma to make the time-held tradition of giving thanks come alive. 

Of course, you can easily create a bulletin board with these ideas, too. We believe it is best if children use invented spelling to share their ideas. This way you can easily see where they are on the phonics/spelling continuum. Drawing a picture can give you information, too. This often means the child does not feel confident enough to use letters. As a reminder, here are the first few stages of this important continuum:

Initial consonants
Final consonants 
Initial digraphs and blends (letter combinations like th, sh, bl, fr, tr.)
Short vowels (remember that short e is the most difficult)
Affricates (j, ch, tr, dr)
Final consonants blends and digraphs

We feel that if preschool children can correctly write the first consonant of a word, we are thrilled! 

And now for just a fun and eye-catching project, we suggest creating a turkey farm. Get some orange paper cups. These become the body of your turkey. Then use various colors of paper (red, brown, yellow) to make the tail feathers. You can pre-cut these tail feathers or have children practice their burgeoning fine motor skills by tracing and cutting a pattern. Have children make heads and perhaps “gobblers.” Fringe the tails and glue them to the mouth of the cup. Glue the head to the bottom of the cup. Then staple your 3D turkeys to a “field” on your bulletin board. It makes a fun display. 


Monday, November 6, 2017

Writing: The Basics for Preschoolers

Writing! Yes, it is important for preschoolers, too. One of the key things we need to remember is that we should encourage good practices. These include: holding writing utensils correctly, forming letters correctly (moving a pencil from top to bottom, etc.), and thinking about the uses and varieties of writing. 

Sometimes we are so anxious to teach children to write their names or the letters of the alphabet that we forget that age-appropriate quality is more important than quickly learning to write names and letters. We need to develop hand muscles and encourage correct muscle memory first. 

We can do this by having children write large lines, going from top to bottom, with water and paintbrushes on white boards.  Once their muscles remember to do this from top to bottom, show children how to correctly form circles, start at the top and circle around to make the lines meet. 

After these key prerequisite skills have been mastered and are a part of muscle memory, encourage the use of crayons or markers to correctly make the first letter of their names. Watch for proper formation and celebrate when this is accomplished. We encourage you to focus on form. 

We also think lined paper is not appropriate for young children. It is our belief that they are not ready for this yet. Encourage proper formation of letters, no matter how large these letters need to be. Lined paper comes later once proper formation is achieved. 

Remember when pencils are put in the hands of your preschoolers, look for the proper holding of pencils. If needed, provide a pencil grip. We cannot overemphasize the importance of giving a proper model for holding a pencil. Left-handed writers can serve as a model for left-handed children. 

Finally, you can provide stations or centers showing the many uses of writing. Have a banking center with stamps, adding machine tape, etc. Encourage a post office with envelopes and mailing stamps. A store station can use credit card receipts, etc. These all help our children learn that writing is a way to communicate - in many forms. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.E.05.
Head Start - VII.E. 1-4.