Friday, July 27, 2012

Reader Question: Is there are right way to introduce letters?

"I was hoping to get your expert advice on working with letters with [my son]. He has really started to recognize some of them and I didn't know if there is a "right" progression of letters that I should work with, like sight words? Thanks so much for your help!" - H.E.

Good question! It doesn't matter in which order you introduce letters to your son, as long as he eventually knows abc order. I would suggest starting with letters that are familiar to him, such as the ones in his name. Then branch out to letters in other familiar words, like mom, dad, and any names of close relatives. If you just randomly start picking letters to work on, he will more than likely miss the connection to why letters even matter. You want to make sure you make that connection for him early on. 

The connection we want little learners to make...
"Letters make up words. Words make up sentences. Sentences and words are what we use to communicate. Being able to communicate gets me what I want!" 

You get the idea? Knowing WHY we are learning something is essential to WANTING to learn it and being able to RETAIN and APPLY our knowledge to real life circumstances. 

Be sure to expose him to both upper case and lower case letters. Also, recognizing that g and g are the same letters is important (as is the different ways to write a lower case a), though he doesn't need to be able to write a scripted a or g. You just don't want him to be confused when he sees these letters in writing. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Storytime Co-op: Week 4

It was unbearably hot outside, so we planned an indoor storytime this week. The boys were stir crazy and a bit wild, but they had fun. That's what matters, right? Momma's sanity comes second to her child's happiness. 

Theme: We didn't have a theme this week. Instead, we just planned some activities that connected to the book we chose.

Book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Learning Concepts: Sequencing of Events; Ordinal Numbers (first, second, third, etc.)

The boys worked together to put the story's events in order. We had index cards with the words first, second, third, etc., and cards with pictures that represented the story's events. This is a great activity that you can use with just about any book. If your child does not remember what happened in which order, have him refer back to the book to help him figure it out. It's not cheating! 

Learning Concept: Vocabulary Development - healthy vs. unhealthy foods 

We talked about what makes a food healthy and what makes a food unhealthy. The boys sorted picture cards with food from the story. All the healthy foods went on the plate. They had to confer with each other to see if their friends agreed with the decisions being made. We discovered that the boys were confusing yummy with unhealthy. We were sure to explain that there are healthy foods that are yummy, too. 

Craft: Making Caterpillars

  • egg cartons - Cut off the lid and then cut the carton in half so each child gets 6 in a row (the body of the caterpillar)
  • paint & paint brushes
  • pipe cleaners
  • eyes
  • glue
Have your child paint the body of the caterpillar. Insert 2 short pipe cleaners in the head of the caterpillar to make the antenna, and glue on 2 eyes. A simple, and fun, craft! 

Lunch: We had a selection of healthy and unhealthy foods. The boys made their own peanut butter sandwich and we guided them in making a balanced meal. They had peanut butter sandwiches, a side of fruit, yogurt and a couple of mini marshmallows and chocolate chips as a sweet treat. 

And this is what the babies were doing...

Sweet things. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Shared Reading

"What are some strategies to use when you are reading with your emergent reader? For example, when he wants to read The Cat in the Hat but is terrible at it." 
                         Patience Is Not My Virtue

Good question. Been there, done that. Have the t-shirt.

It's bedtime. You're tired, but your child is trying anything within his power to delay bedtime. I swear that my child has thought, "I know! I'll insist on reading tonight. Let me find the looooongest book that I own. Mom is a sucker and surely won't discourage me from reading."

Oh, but mom isn't a sucker. She knows just what to do....

1. Read together. Tell him that you are going to read and he has to keep up. Just make sure to read at a slightly slower pace than normal.

2. Tell him that he has to pay attention and follow along. When you stop, he has to start.

3. Leave out a word here or there and see if he notices. If he doesn't notice, read the sentence again and ask, "Does that sound right? What did I do wrong?"

4. If it's a rhyming book, let your child read the rhyming words at the end of each line. Stop to point out  spelling patterns. Are they the same, or different? (here, there vs. sigh, tie)

5. Pick one sentence on each page for him to read by himself. Praise, praise, praise! Even if he makes an error or two, compliment him on being brave and trying.

6. Bargain with him. Tell him that you will read the book that he picks out and he will read whatever book you pick out.

You may be tired, but sieze the opportunity. If he's awake and focused (even if it is just because he is trying to delay the inevitable bedtime), use the most of the teachable moment.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Storytime Co-op: Week 3

Yes, it's mid July and we've only done three story times. Our plan was to meet once a week throughout the summer, but who can make plans when kids are involved? Illnesses, vacations, illnesses, swimming lessons, more illnesses. This is life. 

Theme: Water - We use water for different purposes. 

Books: Five Green and Speckled Frogs by Constanza Basaluzzo
            The Big Wide-Mouthed Frog by Ana Martin Larranaga
            One Rainy Day by Tammi Salzano
            The Big Smelly Bear by Britta Teckentrup

Learning Concept: Some animals live in water. 

First we read and sang Five Green and Speckled Frogs. Then, we went fishing to save all the land animals. We used animal flashcards with paper clips on them and a magnetic fishing pool, which was just made of a wooden dowel, twine and a magnet on the end. (My friend Emily made the fishing pool for L to go along with some felt fish. She is super talented with making handmade gifts. You can check out her shop, Simple October, on Facebook.)

The boys saved the zebra, jaguar, panda, etc., and they left the fish, walrus, duck, alligator, etc. in the pool. 

Learning Concept: People and animals use water to live. We drink water and use it for food. 

We read The Big Wide-Mouthed Frog, and then the moms helped the boys whip up some brownies and Kool-aid. Betty Crocker's Warm Delights are perfect for this activity. The brownies come in individual bowls and the boys had to measure out the water and stir up the batter. Then, they had to squeeze fudge from a packet into the batter before we microwaved the brownies. 

Learning Concept: People and animals use water for playing. 

We read One Rainy Day. Then, it was time to get a little wet and messy! The Kool-aid art was a hit and turned out so cool. Just sprinkle some of the powder mix on white construction paper and squirt with water. This was the perfect activity for this book!

Each of the boys had his own spray bottle, so they played a little spray tag while their art projects were drying in the sun. 

Learning Concept: People and animals use water for cleaning. 

We read The Big Smelly Bear. Such a cute book! The boys had fun washing the animals in the pool. A kiddie pool, plastic animals, and a little baby soap is all you need for this activity. Their hands were pretty stained from the Kool-aid art, so this was a perfect ending to our storytime playdate. The boys got washed up, too! 

Every time we meet, we have so much fun; perhaps more fun than the boys. I can't wait until our next story time. It's going to be a picnic theme...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hands off, Momma!

Today I want you to think about how much you actually do for your pre-schooler. Instead of explaining to him how to do something, do you just do it yourself? We are all guilty of this, because let's face it. It's just easier to do it ourselves. If only our kids could say, "Hands off, Momma!" Oh wait, mine can. Mr. Independence. [sigh]

Whenever we do puzzles together, Big L never lets me touch the pieces. He wants to "do it together," but I'm not allowed to touch anything. It's pretty tricky to help with a puzzle without being able to use my hands. So, whenever he asked for help, I guide him with my words. This builds his vocabulary and his listening skills. (Remember, being literate is more than just being able to read. It's being able to read, write, listen AND speak!)

"Look at the shape of the piece. Is it flat on the side? Then it goes on the edge somewhere."

"Do you think that piece really goes there? Look at the colors. Do they match?"

"That piece looks like it is part of the shark. Where do you think it will go?"

Can this be frustrating for both parent and child? Certainly. But, he has to work through the mild frustration to reach a point of learning. If it was easy, he wouldn't be learning something, now would he?

This 48 piece puzzle took him 45 minutes to complete, but he did it. He was so proud of himself. 

When you just do something for your child instead of teaching him how to do it on his own, you are depriving him of a learning experience. Do you open your child's snack package for him? Do you get him a drink, or does he help you pour the water? Do you help him in the bathroom? Do you do ALL the chores? Do you pick up his toys? 

It's amazing what young children can do if given the chance. Sure, you'll be wiping up spilt milk on the floor until he gets the hang of pouring it for himself, but isn't the mess worth the learning experience? 

Hands off, Momma! 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sight Words

Recently, a couple of moms have asked me about sight words. So here you go... an informational post about sight words.

What are sight words?
Sight words are high frequency words (words that are used more than others in written language) and many cannot be sounded out phonetically. They are words that should be read "by sight," within a second of seeing it. For example, the words come, when, and they are among the first hundred sight words children should be able to read.

Why does a child need to learn sight words in order to learn how to read?
Being able to recognize and read sight words contributes to a reader's fluency (the rate, expression and tone of reading). If a child does not have a solid base of sight words, then reading will be difficult. Can you imagine stumbling over every single word in a sentence? That would be incredibly frustrating. If you knew the commonly used words, though, you could focus on decoding just the unfamiliar words in a sentence, thus making reading more fluent. There is also a connection between fluency and comprehension. If a child is focusing 100% of his attention on decoding every single word he reads, it is nearly impossible for him to think about what he is actually reading. 

Did you know...?

25 words make up approximately 1/3 of all of the words found in publications.
100 words make up approximately 1/2 of all of the words found in publications.
300 words make up approximately 65% of all of the words found in publications.

Dr. Suess's Green Eggs and Ham uses just 50 words. It is one of the first books that children can learn to read independently. 

Which sight words do should be introduced first?
If you search the web for sight words, you will find a variety of lists out there. Currently, most reading specialists and teachers use Fry's list of sight words. You will also find some sight word lists out there by Dolch, Fry's predecessor. Both lists are okay to follow, but Fry's list is the most recent and popular, so that is what I would recommend using. Print out Fry's list of the first 100 sight words and start working on them with your child today!

Introducing Sight Words:
The more your child sees a word, the more likely she will be to memorize it. I would not recommend "drilling" your child with flashcards, especially if she is pre-school aged. In a child's eyes, this task is tedious and there is no meaning found in the learning experience. ("Why am I being asked to read these cards again?!?!") Instead, try to create activities or tasks that are meaningful and, more importantly, a fun experience for your child. 
  • Print out a sight word on computer paper and have your child fill in the letters with stickers, mini pom-poms, paint dots, etc. She'll also be working on her fine motor skills. 
  • Label the toy baskets in your child's playroom. (trucks and cars, toys without a home, etc.). She will have to read these sight words every day when she cleans up her toys. 
  • As your child learns sight words, choose simple books for her to read that contain those words so she can practice reading them in an actual book. Reading A-Z is a good resource for this. There is a yearly subscription fee, but it is totally worth the money, especially if you homeschool your child. 
  • Make and play a sight word memory game. 
  • Post a new sight word on the refrigerator each day. Every time you open the fridge to get something out, ask your child to read the word. 
If you do a google search for sight word activities, you'll find mostly worksheets (blah!) that you can download, or activity ideas for teachers to use in the classroom. Many of these activities can be adapted for just one or two children for home use. This blog has some good ideas that I am looking forward to adapting for Big L and his story time co-op group.  

Have any more questions about sight words? Leave me a comment or send me a message thru Facebook

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Which Doesn't Belong?

More fun with flashcards....

Choose three or more cards and ask your child which doesn't belong with the others. Be sure to ask him to explain why it doesn't belong. You may be surprised by his logic. 

Me: Egg, Owl, Cow. Which doesn't belong? 
L: Egg
Me: Why did you choose egg?
L: Because, it hasn't hatched, yet. 

Interesting. I would've said it was because it wasn't an animal. He realized that it wasn't an animal...yet! 

Me: Boat, Sock, Goat. Which doesn't belong?
L: Goat. It's an animal. 
Me: Yes, that works. I choose sock, though, because boat and goat rhyme. Sock doesn't rhyme with goat and boat. 

We continued to do this with different words. The combinations and reasons are endless. Some of the skills you can work on...
  • word meanings (things that are animals, things that are edible, etc.)
  • initial sounds (cat, cap, coat)
  • ending sounds (hat, pet, goat)
  • rhymes (goat, boat)
  • initial blends & digraphs (bl, fl, gl, br, sh, ph, ck, etc.)
  • number of letters in the words

Finally, L wanted to make some for me to solve. This is such an important step in the learning process. Whenever he wants to become the teacher/quizzer, I get so excited. It means that he has mastered the activity and wants to apply his new skills to creating something on his own. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Building Vocabulary Through Play

L loves his wooden block set from Melissa and Doug. I have to admit, I love it, too. It has provided endless hours of creative play. I especially enjoy building something together with my son. It is the perfect invitation for practicing oral communication. 

What are we going to build? What is it going to look like? Which pieces are we going to use? Can you hand me that block that is shaped like a semi-circle? 

You get the idea. We talk back and forth. Blah, blah, blah. 

When you are playing with your child (or communicating with him at any time), try to introduce some new vocabulary. Children are way more likely to learn and retain new words through authentic forms of communication. You may not necessarily talk to your child in "baby talk" (though, I've met some pretty annoying moms who do), but do you use the same language as you would with an older child, or do you "dumb it down?" Children are WAY smarter than we give them credit for. Use sophisticated words, even if you aren't as classy as us. (Did you notice my kid is neither naked, nor wearing his pajamas in this post? Classy, ay?) 

Words below that are in bold are ones that I worked into our conversation during play. I used them several times and never explained the meaning unless he asked, or looked at me with a confused look. 

On this day, we decided to construct a zoo. The zoo needed high walls to contain the animals. 

Lucas put all the animals that he could fit inside the zoo. It was crowded. We had to be careful not to knock the blocks too hard, or else the walls would collapse

He kept taking the animals out of the zoo through the exit, and putting them back in through the entrance. He noticed that the entrance and exit were the same thing (we only built one), but was using the correct words as he played. "Now the alligator is entering the zoo." 

On this day, we invited a friend over to play. The boys worked together with me to construct a parking garage. The purpose of this activity was to get them to cooperate to make something together. The entire time I was encouraging communication between the two of them. 

We built the parking spaces first, then L came up with the idea to add a ramp to each space. Then, of course, we had to add an entrance

Then the boys worked together on building the walls of the garage, because we decided that the garage had to be enclosed, not open. I then wrote color words on post it notes and the boys had to find cars for each space. 

When E brought over a flying vehicle, we decided we needed an H landing pad for a helicopter. 

What does your child like to play? How can you work in some new words today?