Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Math Is All Around!

This week our activity packet expands on the post from last week (below) about intrinsic motivation. Are you signed up to receive these FREE activities, available in English and Spanish? If not, please take a few seconds to get on our email list. All you have to do is type your email address in the box to the right. It's that easy! 

This week we want to share some math ideas with you. And that's what the weekly activity is about, too! Continuing on the theme of using children's interests to develop intrinsic motivation, we encourage you to take a close look at what your children play during outdoor time. This is a valuable time to better understand their interests and even to observe their language skills. It's the time and place to develop academic vocabulary in a meaningful way.

Let's look at an example. A few children might be kicking a ball around. Everyday these same children race to get a favorite playground ball out of the equipment box. Use this in a math lesson. You can talk compare its size to tennis balls, golf balls, ping pong balls, or even a bowling ball. Then continue by having children order the sizes. You can even order them by weight. Develop verbal math skills by having children discuss how this order is different than ordering them by size. 

Find other activities you see children engaging in on the playground. If you have a climbing structure, have the class measure the distance between rungs. This helps children see measurement in its real world context. Of course, lots of discussion about terms is helpful, too. Use academic vocabulary like inches, feet, or meters. This will help children develop a frame of reference. 

Some children like to gather natural materials outside. Help them use acorns, seedpods, etc. as real-life manipulatives to represent addition and subtraction problems. Or just have them line up fallen leaves and count them. 

Math is all around - we just have to look! What a great lesson to instill in children. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.F.02 - 2.F.13.
Head Start -  X. A., B., D., & E.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Helping Children Develop Intrinsic Motivation

We know that our English Language Learners make more progress with their language skills when they are intrinsically motivated. This is also true for most children. So...the key is to develop children who want to learn for the joy of learning. Just how can we do this without constantly handing out stickers and other little prizes?

Research tells us that three traits need to be encouraged. These are competence, relatedness, and self-determination. Competence is developed when we help children to believe they can accomplish something. We can encourage and support children to develop good relationships with one another. Finally, we should help children initiate and continue activities on their own (self-determination). These are important goals to keep in mind for both preschool and kindergarten teachers along with children's families. 

How often do we ask children to work or play quietly? This may be counterproductive to developing intrinsic motivation. When children use private speech it shows they are engaged in something interesting. We want this! When children talk, this helps develop the three qualities described above. 

We can and should set realistic goals and objectives for children. When what we are asking is within a child's developmental abilities, he or she is more likely to succeed. This encourages the development of competence. A child will have the self-determination to complete an activity that has reasonable and age-appropriate expectations. The child will continue the activity and hopefully talk about it because the success gives the child a good feeling. This increases the traits discussed above.

We should avoid giving children rewards for anything and everything. These rewards take the place of the internal pleasure the child feels when he or she is working toward accomplishing a task. The reward becomes the source of pleasure. While rewards can still be given in a preschool or kindergarten classroom, we should avoid giving them for activities that children already like and do well. We want the child to focus on the joy he or she gets from the activity rather than on receiving a sticker!  

So, consider your use of rewards. How will you decide on handing out stickers? What can you change in your classroom to encourage more talk? Do some objectives need to be changed so that they are more realistic for the age? These are key questions as we assist children in developing intrinsic motivation. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.B.03. & 2.B.04.
Head Start - II.B. & C.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Stages of Learning a New Language: Intermediate Fluency and Advanced Fluency

This week we complete our description of the five stages of second language acquisition by looking at the fourth stage, intermediate fluency, and the fifth stage, advanced fluency. Please look back to our December 20, 2016 post for the beginning of our language acquisition description.  

Students are considered to be in the intermediate fluency stage when they have a vocabulary of about 6000 English words. This doesn't mean they have a full grasp of the meaning of all of these words. Just like many preschoolers, young second language learners may not grasp the different homophones and homographs, like bark (the sound of a dog) and bark (of a tree).  But, these children are more willing to ask questions. When you listen, you can hear them speaking in more complex sentences but often these sentences contain grammar errors. They may not always understand how to use English syntax (the way English is organized into phrases and sentences). In a preschool classroom, you may not see much difference between your native English speakers and second language young learners as young children do not always know how to use verb tenses correctly. 

As preschool or kindergarten teachers, we may not see any of our children (first or second language learners) at the final stage of language acquisition, advanced fluency. In this stage, speakers use complex sentences and have a large vocabulary that is used correctly. You can see that any young child likely needs time to be in this stage of language acquisition. For older second language learners, the only apparent difference may be a hint of an accent and difficulty with idioms (raining cats and dogs). Often native English speakers have difficulty with idioms, too, at a young age. You can help with this by making a game of teaching these commonly used expressions. Use them a part of your calendar/opening instruction.

One important idea to remember is that as children acquire a second language, motivation is important. Those who are intrinsically motivated (they have their own desire to succeed) are more likely to make language attempts than those who are rewarded with stickers and little prizes (extrinsic motivation). To help children develop intrinsic motivation, we can design activities that take into account children's special interests. For example, if child is interested in dogs, make these animals part of a lesson. This way, a second language learner will be more motivated to participate. 

Please stay tuned for more ideas on teaching English Language Learners! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.A.04. & 2.D.01.
Head Start – IX. A., B., & C.