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.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Indoor Magical Activities for Preschool

Sometimes it feels like we need to start all over again after a vacation. Are your children having trouble following your directions? Are they sniffling a little at leaving their families? It can feel like the beginning of the school year when they return in January. For some of you, freezing temperatures may keep you inside. Liven up what might be difficult January days by making magic in your classroom.  Here are a few ideas:

Don’t just make snowmen from cotton balls; make beautiful snow or snowmen by letting children paint those cotton balls first. This is fun and allows for a different type of painting.

Put any used cookie cutters to work by letting children paint the edges and then use them as stamps to create a collage of paint cookie shapes.

The above two painting ideas are helpful for developing hand muscles and are sure to improve fine motor skills.

Thinking of those fine motor skills, give each child a cup and materials to transform the cup into a snowman. They can use markers, orange paper, glue, etc. Then, when frigid temperatures keep you inside, setup these snowmen like bowling pins. 

Children can roll a ball or even a large marshmallow to see who can knock down the most snowmen. Children can practice counting in a meaningful way by seeing who topples over the most snowmen or they can do a bit of mental subtraction: There were 5 snowmen. James knocked down 2 snowmen. There were 3 snowmen left standing. Remember that fine motor skills can be practiced (along with patience!) by asking children to set the cups up again.

Another indoor winter-related activity is to play “Pin the Nose On the Snowman.” Tape three large white balls to a wall, use a blindfold, and let children try to put a paper, shaped like a carrot, onto the snowman. Leave all the noses on the snowman and encourage children to draw a picture of this spectacle!

Finally – magic happens in January! Gather children and have them put miniature marshmallows on a small tree or tree branches. Tell children that if they do something special (sing a song, follow directions, whatever you need!) – these tiny marshmallows may grow. 

After children leave for the day, make magic by hanging jumbo marshmallows on the tree. Children will be amazed!

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