Monday, May 28, 2018

Colorful Words

We like to encourage the use of interesting (colorful) words. This helps children expand their vocabulary. Research tells us that most students (not just young children!) learn more new words from reading books or having books read to them than through explicit vocabulary instruction. In fact, reading helps grow vocabulary more than 6 times as much as direct instruction. This is powerful and shows us that we need to read books to our classes and encourage families to share books at home. Of course, this should be done in any language. Unfortunately some families are hesitant to read to their offspring in their home language. We should advocate for this to take place as there are many benefits to hearing the language of literature and informational text. 

But there are fun activities we can do to heighten awareness of words and encourage word play, especially in homes over the summer. We like to use paint chips and talk about the progression from light to bright colors. This can seen below.

We then find what we call a dull word. Examples include walk, said, good, mad, etc. The list can go on and on. We suggest doing the first paint chip activity as a modeling activity (see our post here) and then encourage children to keep a paint chip or two taped to a wall. They can add to the words on this paint chip as they listen to books or conversation around them. This encourages children to be good listeners and on the look-out for interesting additions to their age-appropriate thesauruses. 

Tell children they do not need to have all spaces filled in one day. Paint chip collections should be a part of a summer of oral language and word play. 

At the end of vacation, families can read the words together and choose their favorites. You can also encourage children to use the more colorful words in daily conversation. This is vocabulary development at its best! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.04, 2.D. 06, 2.G.07.
Head Start - IV.A., VIII.A., VIII.B.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

BIG Numbers!

Have you noticed that children love counting? They especially love large numbers. Talking in terms of hundreds of something is a normal part of a young child's speech. You can help children better understand the meaning of one hundred and the progression (sequence) of numbers when you create a hundreds chart with them. This is something you can do as a group in your classroom and then suggest to families as a home activity. Children love recreating a school activity at home!

As you write the numbers, be sure to use different colors to depict odd and even numbers. Keep the numbers in lines so that children can see those with 0 in the one's place, 5 in the one's place, etc. This can help them count in different ways, including skip counting (for example, counting by 2s). 

A simple homemade hundreds chart, like this one, is more meaningful to children than store-bought charts. You can involve children in creating charts. This makes memories!

You can make several charts and cut apart the columns so children can see 5, 15, 25, 35, etc. Children can then put the hundreds chart back together again like a puzzle. This can then be done, using an additional chart, and cutting the rows apart. When children work to place these pieces back together again, it gives them a greater understanding of the way numbers work.  

For further understanding, use unifix cubes to make the numbers. We find children love to snap together the cubes to make long number "trains." These can then be matched with the numerals on your hundreds chart. 

Depending on the age and readiness of your children, you may want to discuss odd and even numbers. We hope you will use unifx cubes to illustrate the idea that even numbers can be evenly divided while odd numbers cannot be divided into "trains" of equal length. If your children are not ready for this concept, just using different colored markers for the odd and even numerals on the hundreds chart will develop some background knowledge and help them to become school ready!

Standards Alignment:

NAEYC – 2.C.03, 2.F.02, 2.F.04.

Head Start – I.D, X.A, X.B.

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.