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.