Tuesday, May 15, 2018

But My Child JUST Memorized That Book!

So many times we hear family members say that a child is not reading because the child has memorized a book. You may see this in your classroom or center as children pick up a much-loved book again and again. Take a look at the video below. What looks familiar?

You may see young readers mimicking your expression, the way you turn pages, or you pointing at illustrations/words. It is important to remember that these are necessary components of reading. It is our responsibility as educators to not only teach children, but to also help families appreciate the important role they play in literacy development.  

When families read to children, their expressive reading is a vital component of the experience. When children hear text read in different "voices" and with different pacing, this model sets the stage for future success. Not only does it demonstrate one of the five components of reading, fluency, but it also serves as a motivating factor for children. 

Another feature we see in this video is the use of pictures. Too often, we hear a family member expressing concern about a child's "over-reliance" on illustrations. But, we need to see the use of pictures as a valuable strategy. When a child looks at a red bird on a page and says, "red bird," it reinforces the idea that we can and should use context cues, whether these cues are pictures or words. 

Additionally, turning pages, moving from top to bottom, and even identifying the cover of a book are necessary skills that are demonstrated when children memorize a book. Reading and rereading a book can and will make these early literacy skills automatic. 

So - remember that valuable lessons are learned and practiced when children "memorize" a book. This IS reading! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.E.04, 2.E.06, & 2.E.07.
Head Start - VII.A., VII.B. & VII.C.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

How Does Your Garden Grow?

What fun we have in our preschool classrooms this time of year. It is a time when we often plant bean seeds in little cups. It is exciting for children to watch their plants sprout and grow. Many of you have children measure these plants and keep track of how they are growing as they turn toward the sun. This is a wonderful way to connect math, science, and appreciation for the Earth. 

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Always plant a few extra seeds as sometimes a child's plant does not sprout. This can be devastating. All these years later, I still remember that I was the kindergartner whose bean seed never grew. Please keep a few that you can substitute if necessary. 
  • You may want to think about planting a tray of seeds - in fact plant several trays of beans, peas, etc. You can then compare and contrast how these mini-gardens grow. This helps oral language development. It also shows children the importance of working as a class. These class "gardens" encourage togetherness. 
  • If you have the room and appropriate environment, think about planting outdoors. This will help your children observe the natural features of our environment and how these features are necessary for plants: sunshine and rain. This will add more importance to your daily weather report. Children can then discuss and describe how the day's weather will help or hurt their garden.

The extension to this activity is to discuss healthy food. How do the vegetables that you grew help children grow? We know children who have started to eat beans because they grew a bean plant. Families will thank you! 

Additionally, you can talk about how locally grown food is fresher and also helps the environment. Share the idea that we often use trucks to bring in food from far away. When we grow food or buy it from local gardens and farms, this means that the gas from these trucks is not polluting our air. 

All of these points about gardens will lead to important discussions. Remember, that any opportunity to get children sharing and talking is a necessary school-readiness skill. This is also helpful for our English learners as they are exposed to content area and academic vocabulary in a meaningful way. 

Standards Alignment: 
NAEYC - 2.K.01 & 2.K.02.
Head Start - I. A. & B.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Wildflowers = School Readiness Skills

Continuing our encouragement of getting children outside, this week we delve into using the beauty of nature to develop verbal and critical thinking skills. As an example, we share the following photos of wildflowers along with suggested open-ended questions to help you consider how you can use walks, nature, and talk to develop needed school-ready skills. 

Ferns can invoke good discussions. You can have children count fronds on an assigned plant and then compare their numbers. You may want to ask, "How would this feel if you rubbed it against your face?" This invokes a sense of more than a visual appreciation for nature. You might want to have children imagine they are tiny bugs. How would it feel to climb on a fern during a wind or rainstorm? 

This may seem like an uninspiring setting for children. But bend down and examine all that is here. Some children may describe the many colors they see. Others can predict what might be living under the dead leaves. You may even want to do a mini-science lesson about decomposing as children can then develop a sense of wonder about the cycle of life found in natural settings. 

What a treasure trove this plant brings to children. Ask "I wonder" questions such as, "Hmmm....I am wondering what made those holes in this plant?" Let children hypothesize. It's also a good opportunity for children to understand that you do not always know all of the answers. This can lead to a discussion about how to solve the mystery. Let children offer ideas about the scientific process as they can consider how to determine the architect of the holes. Your children will enter school thinking like scientists! 

This is one of my favorite wildflowers. You can ask children to describe this plant (green leaves). Discuss their guesses and then show the group how to gently lift the leaves to reveal small, gentle wildflowers thriving under the leaf. These are mayflowers or arbutus. I love the idea that often we need to consider what may be just below the surface! An important lesson for children, even if they are too young to appreciate the symbolism. They will remember the experience in later years and may use the lesson of arbutus - I did! 

Standards Alignment: NAEYC - 2.G.03. Head Start - XI.B.1.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Let's Run and Jump!

Now that the warm weather is here (finally!) we wanted to highlight important research for you and your children. While these are concepts most of us who are with children everyday know, it is always helpful to be reminded that our understandings are reinforced by research. This research can then be helpful in supporting our beliefs and actions. It's as simple as: Children benefit from exercise! 

Let's examine why this is important. Researchers tell us that frequent exercise is necessary for developing bones. Additionally, aerobic exercise helps the heart muscle. We can't forget that exercise also encourages good mental health. These are all reasons we should integrate large muscle play into our daily activities. 

The research shows that at least one hour of moderate or vigorous activities should be a part of a child's day. This includes climbing on play structures, reaching hand-over-hand on outdoor equipment, or crawling through tunnels. While these ideas assume you have access to a safe and well-constructed playground, there are other activities that can be done without expensive structures. 

You can encourage a rowdy game of tag, set up a simple obstacle course, draw a line in the sand or mulch and have children jump back and forth over the line. These are all fun activities that are made even more entertaining when you participate. I remember playing tag with my students. It had the benefit of encouraging everyone to run and laugh plus it gave me needed exercise, too! We all felt better after playing together. 

Encourage families to participate in exercise, too. Dr. Stephanie Walsh, the medical director of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, notes that not everyone lives in a safe neighborhood.  She suggests that families create obstacle courses in their homes. These allow children to climb, crawl, or even jump. She says that if families take walks together, this may not always "count" as vigorous enough exercise for developing bones and muscles. Why not have children run in place or skip and jump as adults walk? This can make the activity meet the needs of a young child. 

While we are on the subject, we would be remiss if we didn't discuss the unfortunate trend of eliminating or shortening recess time in public schools. Preschool teachers can help educate families about the importance of play time. Everyone can then advocate for outdoor experiences in the school day. When children do not get this "release time" it can lead to many problems. When children do not get a break, it can result in students who have trouble concentrating on "work." It is especially important that recess not be taken away for a child who has not completed his or her assignments. Often these children especially need the time to run, jump, and shout. 

So - let's celebrate recess and play! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.K.01.
Head Start - I. A. & B. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Oral Language: Verb "Rules"

Do you have children who add an extra syllable to words with the ed ending? For example, a child may say, I walked to the lunchroom. Many children will say walk ted. These are children who have generalized the rule” that a second syllable is voiced when the base word ends in a d or t sound. For example, past tense verbs like startstarted or endended, are pronounced as two distinct syllables. But, children may apply this rule to all past tense verbs. How can we help children express themselves in accepted English? Follow the scaffolded steps below to guide your children and share these steps with families, too, so they can offer support at home.

We suggest playing a game like “Mother May I?” to involve children in acting out verbs. Use the following as you say, “Your teacher says walk.”


Then add –ed to the words. Have children listen carefully as you say these words.

Then play again with verbs ending with the d or t sound:


Then have children act out the past tense. This will be fun and creative. It will help develop vocabulary for your English learners, too.

When you play the next day, have children clap the words. Guide them to discover that some of the words have two claps (syllables) while other words have one clap.

We suggest making a mystery from this – saying something like, “Wow, what a mystery! I wonder why some words have two claps. This is something we need to explore!” I usually hold a giant magnifying glass to heighten curiosity.

On a subsequent day, guide children to conclude that words which end in d or t have two syllables. Have a bit of a dance party to celebrate this discovery! When we add this element of fun, we can then gently correct children who do not follow the “rule” when speaking.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.B.01 & 2.D.04
Head Start - VI.A. & IX.A.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Teaching Homonyms: Key For ELLs

This week our weekly activity - (box to the right) focuses on homographs and homophones. These can be especially difficult for English learners. In this post we discuss those words that sound the same and are pronounced the same way but have different meanings. These are homonyms, which are problematic for many preschoolers.

There are words like bark and bark. A dog can bark and a tree has bark on its trunk. 
We can hold a soup can but we can jump and skip.
A fair can be a place to see enjoy rides. We should be fair in how we treat each other.

The first step in helping our early learners pay attention to these confusing words is to heighten our own awareness about them. Sometimes these are so ingrained in our everyday speech that we forget these can be puzzling for children - and as mentioned this is something that needs explicit teaching for English learners. 

After we identify those words that can bewilder children, we can discuss these words as they are encountered in speech and books. We should point out these words and have children act out the differences. These little skits can be a source of laughter, which makes the word differences easily remembered for children. 

You can also show pictures depicting the differences and have children "teach" one another about these differences. When we are responsible for explaining something, the learning is active and memorable. 

Of course, a final step is to have children draw their own pictures. Give each child a large piece of paper, divide it in half, and ask children to draw the two meanings. You can print out the words (like can) and children can glue them to their art. This means families can learn along with children! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.B.01 & 2.D.04
Head Start - VI.A. & IX.A.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Importance of Clean Air and Exercise: A Preschool Lesson

This week we offer ideas to help you show your children the benefits of a clean environment along with the importance of exercise. Below are suggested lesson steps to achieve this objective.

You may want to begin with a play stethoscope. Ask children to explain what a doctor does with a stethoscope. Discuss the importance of a healthy heart and lungs. Lead children to the understanding that clean air and exercise can help our bodies stay healthy.

Show pictures of mountains, forests, lakes, etc. Ask children, “How do these pictures make you feel?” Encourage children to talk about clean air and water along with the idea that these places can help us feel happy and peaceful.

Next show children pictures of smokestacks and other areas that emit dirt into the air. You may even want to share a picture of people smoking. Tell children that when people breathe dirty air, they can get sick. Discuss the importance of clean air.

You can ask children to draw pictures of places with clean air. Have children share these pictures. You may even want to take dictation from them so these pictures have captions.

The next day you can continue your lesson by talking about the importance of getting outdoors to play. Show pictures of parks, playgrounds, hiking trails, etc. Hold a ‘grand conversation’ about the importance of exercise in keeping hearts healthy. Have children put their hands over the hearts to feel their heartbeats. Tell them that their heart is a muscle that needs exercise just like their body. By running, jumping, and walking, the heart muscle will stay strong.

You can finish your class discussion by playing a game based on “Mother May I?” Use the words, “Healthy people…” Say sentences like:

Healthy people run.
Healthy people watch television.
Healthy people jump.
Healthy people walk.
Healthy people play video games.

For each sentence that is true about healthy people, children can act out the activity (run in place, jump, walk around the room). This is a fun and meaningful way for children to demonstrate their understanding of the importance of exercise. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.K.01.
Head Start - I. A. & B. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Fun Ocean Song

The last few weeks we have been talking and doing activities about oceans. Singing is a wonderful way to involve all children, especially English learners, in learning. Enjoy singing this song!

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.G. & 2.K.03 & 04.
Head Start - I.A. & B.,XI.A. & B.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Sense of Wonder: Thinking About Female Scientists

It's always important for our children to learn about good role models. We especially like to share examples of careers that children may not readily see. Last week we talked about our oceans and their essential role to life on Planet Earth. Many children do not always have the chance to think about those who study our oceans and help protect them. This is a topic near and dear to my heart as my husband was an early researcher studying the impacts of plastic pollution in our ocean waters.

Share stories of people like Sylvia Earle who was a pioneer in living underwater in a specially constructed "home." This helped scientists live beneath the surface of the ocean for weeks at a time. Imagine what these scientists could see!

This is exactly what you can invite your children to consider. Show photographs of the ocean. Talk about the darkness in the deep parts of an ocean. Imagine what it might be like to try and learn about fish and plants that stay in these deep waters. We suggest beginning sentences with "I wonder..." to have a grand conversation.

Marie Tharp is another female scientist who contributed to what we know about oceans. She used the mathematical information from naval ships to map the floor of the ocean. It was her work that showed the world that the ocean had hills, valleys, and ridges. She found a large ridge we call the "backbone of the earth." Today her maps hang in the offices of many scientists.

After telling the brief story of Marie Tharp, ask your children to wonder what a map of the ocean floor might look like. Ask them to draw their own maps. You can use this activity to discuss perspective. Do children draw their maps so they are looking down at the floor of the ocean?

Katy Payne* listened carefully to the sounds that whales make. She used special tools to record these underwater sounds. She even made pictures showing what whale songs look like. Then she found out that whales can change their songs and other whales learn the new songs!

Ask your children to wonder what whale songs might sound like. Have children sing possible whale songs to each other. Then play actual whale songs so children can check their guesses. You can hear whale songs from Katy Payne here.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.G.03.
Head Start - XI.B.1.

*Next week, our activity packet will feature Katy Payne. Be sure you are signed up to receive these. Just add your email in the yellow box above.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Learning About Oceans

As we highlight the accomplishments of women in March, we thought it would be fun to take a look at our oceans, where so many female scientists have done amazing work. But before talking about these women*, begin by introducing your children to what an ocean is and how it can be studied.  In this lesson, you can emphasize concepts such as weather, transportation, and special clothing, which are a natural part of the curriculum for young learners.

First show your class a globe. Spin it around and show children that oceans make up a lot of our world. Ask children to point out all the water on the globe. Realizing that the oceans are colored blue helps them to develop an understanding of how to use text features in the future.

Explain to children that today you will be finding out more about oceans, their water, and what lives in them. Show children several pictures of different ocean scenes (easily available on the Internet). These should include: the Arctic as this is a good example of cold water, a warm ocean area near the equator, and a picture of a storm on an ocean. Hold a “grand conversation” about the many differences they can observe about oceans.

Next talk about the type of water that is found in oceans. Show two containers of water and a container of salt. Put the salt into one container and stir it. Explain that ocean water is salty. Ask children to ‘turn and talk’ in response to the question: Can people drink ocean water? Ask children to imagine what this might taste like. Some children who have been swimming in an ocean might share their experiences.

Then talk about people who study oceans. Show pictures of a submarine and boats. Discuss how these can be used as transportation to help scientists reach places in the ocean they need/want to learn more about. Discuss the special equipment a scientist needs to wear when swimming in the ocean. Show pictures of scuba divers.

Finally, have children make their own depiction of a scuba diver. You can pre-cut materials as shown below so children can create a scientist who learns more about the ocean habitat. You can even encourage them to make up a story about what their scientist discovered about an area of the ocean. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.G. & 2.J.05.
Head Start – III.C.1 & 3., XI.B.1.

*Next week we will share some female oceanographers. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Appreciating Trees

Is the air getting warmer? Do you see tiny sprouts peeping from the ground? Help your children to see these early signs of spring. Following is one activity we like young learners to engage in as they not only develop a sense of understanding for seasons, but also encourages them to understand that trees are important.

Begin by showing pictures of trees. Elicit from children the many positive things we get from trees. For example, they might discuss beauty, shade, homes for animals, and places to play, etc.

Put up a picture of a large tree. Have children stand in front of the tree and breathe in and out deeply. Explain to them that the tree helps give them good air to breathe and then takes out the bad air that they breathe out. Have them stand and practice this several times as it will help them remember and appreciate the “work” of trees as they use gross motor skills.

Make the point that trees help us so we should and can help them, too. Have a conversation about what children think trees need. After they have shared ideas, have them participate in a “little play” about a tree.

Hold up a seed from a tree that is local to your area. Tell children to pretend to be this seed. Children should scrunch down on floor.  Explain that the seed needs to land in good soil. This is like the homes they each have – a tree needs a good home, too.

Then dramatically tell the children that rain starts to fall.  You can even play the sound of rain to make this more fun. Explain that seeds need water to sprout.

Encourage children to begin sprouting. You can show them how to begin moving their hands/arms away from their scrunched body.

Explain that besides good soil, trees need the sun. This warmth helps the seed to break its way through the soil. Have children act out breaking through the good soil.

Tell children that over time, through many years, the tree grows. Its roots become strong. Have children stand still carefully in one place like tree roots. Talk about the development of a strong and sturdy trunk and have children stand up straight.  Tell them that more rain comes to help the tree and that the sun lets the tree make food.

Continue with your tree “play” by having children make branches by putting out their arms and wiggling their fingers for leaves.

Share that trees develop their seeds, which fall to the ground or might be carried to other place by animals. New trees grow. If appropriate, have children start their “play” all over again.

To extend this activity, show pictures of different types of soil (sand, mountainside, etc.) Discuss how these might be challenging for a tree’s growth.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.G.02 & 2.J.
Head Start – III.B. & XI.B.2.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Subitizing: Fun and Interactive!

Many educators and mathematicians believe subitizing is an important readiness skill for later math success. This means we should be aware of what this is and how to help children and families.

Subitizing is the ability to “instantly see how many.” In other words, children can immediately see how many objects are in a set.

For more information on subitizing, watch the video below.
You can make subitizing tactile by using puffy balls or other 3 dimensional objects that children can touch and manipulate in various arrangements. See our previous blog post for more ideas http://www.maggiesbighome.com/2013/10/a-predictor-of-later-math-success.html

In addition to the ability to visually tell how many objects are in a set, children can also use auditory skills. Stomp, clap, or ring a bell and ask children to tell you what they heard. Children can even draw dots or lines to represent the number of stomps, etc.

We also encourage you to use nature to provide subitizing opportunities. When walking, point out groups of trees or flowers. Invite children to tell you “how many.” Gather children around and show them how to put fallen leaves in different arrangements and then ask a friend to tell how many leaves they see. Collecting pine cones or acorns? Have children arrange them in different ways and ask others to tell how many are seen. Children can arrange and rearrange them.

This is something you can encourage families to do at home. Soon, you will notice that children are doing this on their own!

Why not give families a definition of subitizing in your newsletter? Or better yet, give them the link to this website!

See our weekly free activity for more information. Sign-up to receive these free printable and age-appropriate activities for classroom or home use by providing your email in the white box. You can see examples by clicking on the Emergent Activities and Spanish tabs.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.F.02 & 04.
Head Start - X.A.1, 4, & 5. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Connecting the Curriculum with Abraham Lincoln!

February is such an exciting month, and especially this year with talk of the Olympics along with those we celebrate as part of Black History Month. For more on this, please sign up for our free weekly activities. This week we feature Ruby Bridges, all grown up and still working for equality in New Orleans. Additionally, February brings us Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day. This week I wanted to share a favorite art activity from our days in the classroom. I often hear from our former students and this is one of the crafts these students remember with affection.

I often read books that featured the presidents, but because this post focuses on Abraham Lincoln, I’ll mention a few of my favorite Lincoln books:

Looking At Lincoln by Maira Kalman
Abe Lincoln’s Hat by Martha Brenner
Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books by Kay Winters
Honest Abe Lincoln by David A. Adler

After reading these books and making a class list about the life of Abraham Lincoln, we study pennies. I hand out a penny to each child and have them discuss ways these coins are alike and ways they are different. Of course, there may be much discussion about the years these pennies were minted. If I really want to get young minds working, I often go through my pennies and use only those coins that were minted in the birth years of my students. That makes the activity more meaningful!

Next we do a bit of science and clean the dirty pennies using a solution of white vinegar and salt. Children love to watch the transformation!

Review the life of Abraham Lincoln, taking special note of his young life in a log cabin. Hand out craft sticks so children can make their own log cabins. 

Then have them use some math to cut out shapes: a square for the window, a rectangle for the door, and a triangle for the roof. 


Finally, have children place their clean Lincoln penny in the log cabin window!

Standards Alignment:

NAEYC – 2.C.03., 2.F.06., 2.J.05., 2.L.11.

Head Start – I.D.4., III.C.1., V.C.3., X.C.1.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

I Appreciate You!

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and we thought this was a good time to remind you to show the love – for your profession! We all know that teachers are not always appreciated. So, take this week to do something nice for yourself and for your colleagues.

One way to build morale is create a “What I Appreciate About You” board or wall. Just put a pad of sticky notes next to an empty space and create smiles by sharing specifics about colleagues. For example, avoid saying a generality like, “You care about the children in your class.” Say something like, “I always hear you complimenting the way your class lines up. This has inspired me to talk in a more positive manner to my children.” When you can be clear about a detail and then share how a person has impacted you, it makes that teacher feel more appreciated. If you choose to share a space like this in a public area, you may find family members joining in, too. This certainly creates a positive atmosphere.

You may want to look around at your colleagues and make a list of little things that might make each one smile. Coffee lover in the group? Find out what goodies she likes to stir into her brew. Give this peer a thank you bag with her favorite sweetener and a few biscuits to enjoy with her morning drink. This let her know that you noticed and care.

Another meaningful expression is to fix up goodie bags with travel-sized necessities for classroom teacher fix-ups – band-aids, hair spray, change for the snack machine, etc. This small gesture lets your colleagues know you care about their daily mental health.

You may want to develop a child care exchange to support those colleagues with young ones at home. For example, set up a few days where the staff rotates taking care of another person’s babysitting needs so teachers can get needed adult time.

Cooking at home? Make double of whatever meal you prepared and bring the extra portion to a colleague who may need a break. What a wonderful way to tell someone that you have noticed how much they do – and this is appreciated!

In our world, where teachers are overworked, underpaid, and too often criticized, we need to take care of one another. Let us know in the Comment section how you are letting your colleagues how much they are appreciated! 

And remember, we at Maggie's Earth Adventures and Maggie's Big Home appreciate YOU!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Preschool Olympic Fun!

Drum roll please! It’s time for the Winter Olympics! You can help your children become excited and engaged for this world event by setting up an array of events in your classroom. Of course, everyone likes to win, but help your class understand that teamwork and relationships are also a key outcome of the Olympic Games.

You can encourage an appreciation for the community of athletes and the many countries they represent by showing photos of the flags of nations. Then make this understanding more developmentally appropriate by dividing your class into small groups. Give each group a large paper to create their own flag. Then have a parade of “nations” within your classroom.

Decide on a number of “events” that will be age-appropriate for your children. Below is a list of some fun activities that are sure to be enjoyed.

  • Toss crumbled paper in a trashcan
  • Count the number of crayons in a basket
  • Stack books
  • Use straws to blow ping-pongs ball into a box
  • Throw a beanbag onto paper plates
  • Have rely races where children walk like penguins
  • Put out buckets of cotton balls and have children use spoons to scoop the cotton into another bucket

When you are finished with the indoor fun, ask children to create medals. How fun to use cereal like Fruit Loops to create the iconic Olympic rings!

Other art activities to celebrate the Olympics include:

  • Make an Olympic torch using red and orange tissue paper stuffed into a rolled up piece of construction paper or in an ice cream cone. You may also cover a paper towel roll with tin foil as the torch base.
  • Create the Olympic rings using the outer rim of paper plates. Have children paint these rings.
  • Use torn pieces of scrap paper to create Olympic medals. Having children tear scrap paper develops hand and finger muscles.
  • Dip the bottom of a toilet paper roll into a tray of paint. Use this as a stamper to make the Olympic rings.

Of course, watch for any Olympic athletes that live near you. Follow their achievements with your class.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.C.03 & 04; 2.J.05.
Head Start - I.C. & D; III.C.1.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Clearing Up Pronoun Confusion

Have you ever noticed that sometimes you get a funny look when you are reading a book with pronouns in it? Often children have difficulty identifying these types of anaphoric relationships. By helping our young children understand these types of references, we can develop thinking about how sentences in a text relate to one another. This helps children to follow the sequence of a story. Understanding pronoun relationships also develops a strong foundation for later reading comprehension skills.

As you will see, when we highlight pronouns, we are providing support for our English Language Learners (ELLs). Often dual language learners are confused, especially if they are past the Silent Phase and are striving to learn how noun phrases relate to names. Let's take a look.

The most common and easily understood pronoun substitution is when a gender-related pronoun replaces a name a shown in this example:

Maggie ran to the store. She wanted to buy an apple.

For some children, you may need to be explicit that Maggie and she refer to the same person.

You can play a receptive language game with this by asking children to give a signal to the question, "Who is she?" You can say, "If she is another word for Dude, raise your hand. If she is another word for Maggie, wiggle your nose." You can scaffold direction like this. As you likely notice, this also helps with following directions and developing vocabulary (key objectives for ELLs). 

The more difficult anaphoric relationship occurs when a noun phrase replaces something other than people. Take a look at this example:

Maggie and Jenny walked to the store on the corner. Jenny walked there, too.

This can be confusing as the substitution is not a simple gender pronoun. Children, especially ELLs, benefit from direct instruction and verbal practice with examples such as this one. You might play a verbal game like the one above to support children as they learn to connect words such as there with the noun phrase that comes before.

You may add this simple "game" to your opening calendar time. You can practice this at snack time or while lining up at the door. A few minutes a day will have positive impacts on children's language skills. 

You may also include authentic reading to help children understand these key relationships. When reading a book where this type of relationship is apparent, stop and ask questions such as, "Who is he in this book?"

Let's look at an example using this topical book about Groundhog Day.

In the following page, you will see that we have circled four instances of the pronoun he or him

In the first two instances, the word he refers to the character Godfrey. The word him also refers to Godfrey. But, the word he in the last sentence (the last he circled), refers to Roland. You can see that with the abundance of pronouns on this page, it may be difficult for both ELLs and native English speakers to follow the sequence of events. This is why practice with pronouns is helpful. 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.01 & 2.D.02
Head Start - VIII.A. & B.
TESOL - Standard 1: English language learners communicate for social, intercultural, and instructional purposes within the school setting.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Let's Stay Healthy!

It's that time of year - and this year is a particularly troublesome one for the flu. Help your young ones to stay healthy by having a conversation about healthy habits in your classroom. While we don't want to scare our children, it is important to teach and reinforce healthy habits. Here are a few ideas for you.

Read appropriate children's books as a jumping off point for a discussion. Healthy Habits has a series of books that are age-appropriate. You may also want to share the Berenstain Bears book, Sick Days or even Llama, Llama Home With Mama by Anna Dewdney, to begin a conversation about ways to stay well. 

After reading a book or two, ask children to share ideas about how they can keep from getting sick. As children offer their ideas, you may want to ask everyone to demonstrate the idea. In upper grades, teachers often make a list of ideas like this for classroom display. You can do this in an age-appropriate way by taking photos of children showing healthy habits and then posting the chart to remind your children of the discussion. Ideas might include:

Eat healthy foods.
Wash your hands frequently. We like to teach our children to sing "Happy Birthday" two times while scrubbing their hands to be sure they have washed well.
Get enough sleep.
Cough or sneeze into your elbow or shirt. 
Keeping your hands away from your face will help you stay healthy.

You will notice that we worded these ideas in a positive manner. It is more meaningful to compliment children for exhibiting healthy habits than to admonish them. For example, when you see a child sneezing into their elbow, stop the class and have everyone clap or cheer! This will really encourage your class to show healthy habits.

Additionally, you can keep yourself healthy by being sure YOU get enough sleep. Try to use different pencils, pens, crayons, etc. than the children in your class. We usually spend the flu season with our own pens handy and use them everywhere...even outside of school to sign credit card receipts. Be sure to wipe down the tables and other surfaces in your classroom frequently, including keyboards. 

Stay well!

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.K.01 & 2.K.02.
Head Start - I. A. & B.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

It's HOW Cold?

Most of you do some kind of weather report with your children every morning. You may talk about sunny, cloudy, rainy, or snowy. But you can add an understanding of temperature to this discussion. Buy or create a large thermometer with a wide elastic that can be easily moved up and down. You may put a few basic numbers like 0, 10, 32, 40, 50, etc.** and then you can help children make a guess as to the outside temperature. This gives them a basis of understanding temperature and helps them to talk about weather. 

You can even ask children to assign vocabulary words to describe the temperature. They can use words like frosty, chilly, freezing, frigid, icy, or nippy. We find children enjoy this kind of word play, especially if you suggest they impress their families by using one of these descriptive words at home. 

If you have English Language Learners in your classroom, this is a good time to add descriptive words from the home languages of your students. What an opportunity to ask for the help of students' families!

Additionally you can download and use our little book, Trees Change. (Click on the title.) 

This reader, with its repetitive sentence structure, can be the basis to talk about the temperatures of different seasons. Read the book out loud to children. Then hand out copies to everyone. Ask the group to read it in unison, with your voice being the loudest. Reread the book several times, gradually lowering your voice, letting the chorus of children take over. 

Once children can read it on their own (and, of course, point to each word), discuss the ways trees look in each season. Then use the background knowledge you developed about temperature to have children share guesses about the temperature of each season.

**These numeric examples assume you are using the Fahrenheit Scale.
Also, sign up for our Emergent Reader activities for more on temperature math.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2. D. & 2. G. 04.
Head Start - VIII.A. & XI. B.