Tuesday, August 14, 2018

School Readiness Skills: Answering Questions


We all know how important it is to read orally to young children. When we share books, in any language, we are modeling fluent reading, including expressive ‘voices,’ proper phrasing, and an appropriate pace. Oral reading supports vocabulary development as children begin to understand that clues to understanding new words can be found in the context of a paragraph and in text features, such as pictures. All of these are necessary components of a child’s future reading success.

But beyond that, we can use the pictures to help give children the idea that we need to use a book (text) to answer questions. This helps children understand the importance of using facts to support our answers. In school, children will be required to answer text-dependent questions. We can help develop this school-ready skill, not to mention that using facts as the basis for responding to questions and forming opinions, helps develop an educated society. 

Here is an example of how you can do this for preschoolers.

From Llama Llama Mad At Mama by Anna Dewdney.
You can easily use the pictures in age-appropriate books to help children respond to questions. In the example picture above, you can ask literal questions like, “What colors are in Llama’s shirt?” After a child answers, you should ask the child to point to the part of the picture that shows the answer is correct. Of course, the child should point to Llama’s shirt.  Literal questions and answers like this are easy to turn into text dependent questions. But, we can and should go beyond the literal level of comprehension.

Ask deeper questions about characters, which are still part of preschoolers' abilities. For example, you might ask, “How is Llama feeling?” This is not a literal question, but it is still possible to use facts from the picture to support a child’s claim. Most children would respond that Llama feels mad. Then ask, “What makes you think that?” Children need to use details from the picture like the look in Llama’s eyes, the shape of Llama’s mouth, or his tongue being out as facts that resulted in them say, “mad.”

Asking all children to support their responses with details from a text is important as it helps everyone develop a sense that facts matter! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.E.
Head Start - VII.A.


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Yes, Really - Children LOVE Interesting Words!

This was an unusual sight - 



While walking on a dirt road through a forest, we saw a kaleidoscope of butterflies. Yes - a group of butterflies is a kaleidoscope, rabble, or swarm. We used the word, kaleidoscope, as it seemed to give a clear picture of the meaning of the word. When talking with children about this, they became excited about the ever-changing picture of a kaleidoscope and its apt description of the way butterflies can have ever-changing colors as they move. 

Other interesting group names can be shared as children look at photos of various animals. You can elicit engaging conversation and creative thought when you show a group of giraffes. Have children discuss what they might call several giraffes together. Amazingly, some might even come up with the actual word - tower - which is a fun description for these towering animals. 

Here is a brief list of some fascinating animal group names: 

Hedgehogs - Prickle
Ants - Army
Cockroaches - Intrusion
Gulls - Screech
Hyenas - Cackle
Leopards - Leap
Tigers - Ambush

These are just some of the fun and unusual words you can lead children to understand and use. Think of how impressed families will be when children come home with this knowledge! 

But back to our initial photo. Did you notice that this kaleidoscope seemed to be focused on a dead frog? Wow! 

This brings up more scientific vocabulary. Words like carnivore and herbivore can be used when describing photos like this. We often tell children when they use Level 3 (content-area) vocabulary like this, they sound like scientists. We also like to stop the class and applaud or give a finger clap when this type of vocabulary is heard in conversation. You know this will encourage more "big word" use by your children!  

Standards Alignment:

NAEYC - 2.D.04, 2.D. 06, 2.G.07.

Head Start - IV.A., VIII.A., VIII.B.