Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Make Up Your Own Story

Becoming known as an "author" can be a very motivating reason to write. Perhaps that is why so many elementary school teachers have created an "author's chair" in their classroom.

Make your child feel good about writing by:

- helping them talk and write about what interests them
- letting them see that writing is important to you
- praising their attempts to write
- displaying samples of what they write (you can do this on your fridge or by placing their homemade books in your home library).

Shown your child how books often have pictures and words. Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman is a great book that nicely separates the pictures and text (see below).

Encourage your child to write a book just like the way Something from Nothing is formatted (with the pictures above and the words below). You can even design a template for them like the one shown below to give them structure. Not only will this be a fun activity for your child, but it will also help build their awareness of print. By separating the pictures and text, the child is called to take notice to the print below.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

You Can Help Your Child Learn to Write

Children need experience to have something to write about. To learn to write, children need an opportunity to play and to practice the necessary coordination for hand writing. Writing takes physical strength in the dominant writing hand. Sometimes these activities need parent supervision.

You Can Help Your Child by:

- giving them opportunities for painting, drawing, and using play dough
- taking them along on everyday trips which give them other experiences to write about
- providing them with toys such as puzzles, blocks, pegboards, small cars and trucks
- letting them help you with everyday activities such as setting the table and putting things away
- encouraging them to play house and dress-up
- helping them practice buttoning, zipping, and tying

Idea to Increase Hand Strength:

Sorting cotton balls or pom poms with ice cube tongs (from the dollar store!)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

SEEing print

Children also need to see lots of words in print and to watch other people write. You can provide such experience for your children by:

- helping them write their names on their pictures and belongings - "Sandy, you make an 'S' and I'll make the rest of your name"
- reading books to them
- writing messages to them - "Today is your birthday!"
- writing down what your children tell you about their drawings (you can help them make books by writing down a story to go with the pictures they have drawn)
- pointing out letters and words on street signs, food containers, store fronts, etc. - "Let's look for signs that begin with 'S'"
- letting them watch you write letters or shopping lists \

Below are some books where children can see print (aside from the text in the story).

Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells

Chester by Melanie Watt

CLick, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin

More book ideas will follow this week, but be sure to suggest a title if you know of one.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Write on!

The next few posts will be dedicated to writing. Writing is an important literacy skill that develops at the same time as reading. So much of our everyday life is based on print and the written word and it is important for all adults to be able to read and write well.

As children grow and develop they learn to communicate their ideas and experiences. They learn to get along with other children, to take care of themselves, and to use language. Much of their learning in school takes place through reading and writing. Children who have time to make their own discoveries about words are more likely to be successful in school.

How Do Children Learn to Write?

Writing doesn't start in the first grade. Most children experiment with it long before they enter school. Like everything else they do however, children begin to write only when they are ready. While some children are eager to write at an early age, others may not show the slightest interest in writing until they are almost ready to start elementary school.

Children learn writing by:

- seeing words in print
- watching other people write
- using crayons, scissors, play dough, and other things
- trying to write

Are there any questions or specific concerns you would like me to address over the next few days?

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Crafty Crow

The Crafty Crow is a children's craft collective. A friend passed along this website to me. It has really cool craft ideas and most of them are eco-friendly. Doing crafts is a great past time for children. Crafts allow children to be creative (depending on the type of craft - some don't always favour process over product, but that's ok sometimes!), practice fine motor skills, practice listening to and following directions, attention to detail, and so on.

Go to The Crafty Crow and let me know what you think.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

The nights are getting shorter, the malls are packed, and teachers and children everywhere are wondering how it is possoble that the summer is almost over. Soon, it will be time for children to go back to school for another year of learning. You can help prepare your child for the transition by reading "school" books with them.

Will this be your child's first time to school? If so, please see kindergarten books.

Above is a picture of some school books from my personal collection.

If You Take a Mouse to School by Laura Numeroff
A Monster Followed Me to School by Mercer Mayer
Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard
I Want to be a Teacher by Michaela Muntean
Welcome Back to Pokeweed Public School by John Bianchi
Miss Nelson is Back by Harry Allard
My School's a Zoo by Stu Smith
The Berenstain Bears and the Substitute Teacher by Stan and Jan Berenstain
Teach Us, Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
David Goes to School by David Shannon

What book(s) do you read to get your child ready for school?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stop and Go Fun!

I recently used the props above with the song below at a storytime. The preschoolers loved it. The idea is that they pedal their hands like they would pedal their feet on a bike while we sing. When we get to the word "stop", they have to stop right away (which they always get a kick out of). The second verse is fun because when we get to the word "go" the speed up the song and their hand pedals!

I bought a new bicycle, I got it from the shop.
When I see the big red light I know it's time to STOP!

I bought a new bicycle, I ride it to and fro.
When I see the big green light I know it's time to GO...GO...GO...GO...GO...GO...GO...GO...GO!!!

I introduced the song by talking about my favourite summer sport - biking. Most, if not all the children knew what biking is and would have loved to share a personal biking story with me. Then, I asked if anyone knew what the props were. We talked about traffic lights and where we would see them outside. I explained that the colours in the light (red means stop, green means go).

You can also use these props to play "Red Light, Green Light".

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Matching Game

Matching is a very important skill in early literacy. In fact, it is one of the corner stones of letter recognition (learning the names and sounds of the letters). Being able to tell similarities and differences between two items or pictures can help your child learn to discriminate between the different letters of the alphabet.

I made the game above using glue, paper plates and fruit cut outs (made with a die cutter and construction paper). If you don't have access to a die cutter, you can do the same at home using hand cut simple shapes.

This game also provides an opportunity to talk about colours and nutrition.

Can you think of any easy to prepare sorting activities for your child?

Monday, August 16, 2010

More on feelings...

This posting was inspired by this article about colour, happiness and depression: Different Colours Describe Happiness vs Depression

My Many Coloured Days, by Dr. Seuss, is a beautiful book that uses colour to express feelings. By reading and discussing this book with your child, you can help them understand that we all have moods. Our moods can change day to day, and that`s ok.

The book is also a great tool for talking about print awareness. Print awareness is noticing print everywhere.The text is written to reflect the illustrations/moods.

Here are two previous posts I wrote on print awareness.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Point them in the right direction...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Don't throw out the box!!!

What can you do with an old box? Well, it depends on the size really. The idea shown below is for smaller cube-like boxes. Below you'll see an example of a baby toy I made with some young moms.

First, we put some bells inside the boxes with some paper (to keep it from sounding too hollow). Then, we taped up the boxes really well using packing tape to keep the bell from coming out. Next, we chose what to put on the sides of our cube. There was:

- mirror paper (what baby doesn't love admiring their cuteness in a mirror?)
- a picture of baby
- baby's first name initial
- a picture of mommy and daddy
- a nursery rhyme
- a handprint

Once we got all the sides on, we used packing tape to secure all the sides. It also helped to "laminate" the cube, making it easier to clean when baby chews on it. Babies learn through their senses and this toy is a great way to engage almost all of them!

Taste - Mmm...
Touch - you can roll the cube to your baby, they will touch it!
Hear - hear the bell as the toy rolls
Sight - we chose vibrant (primary colours - blue, red, yellow) and contrasting colours (black and white)

For more information on the 5 senses, click here and you'll link to an older posting.

What are some other things you can do with an old box? It can be of any size.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Did you Know???

Current research shows that some children have a receptive (listening) vocabulary as early as 9 months of age and they start producing words around 12 months (Fenson et al., 1994).

Talk to your child as much as you can to help them develop their vocabulary, starting from birth!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Five Fat Peas

What can you make with a green gardening glove, 5 green pom poms, some green felt, hot glue and scissors? An adorable circle time/storytime/playtime prop! If you would like more information on how I made my prop, please contact me.

Here is the rhyme:

Five fat peas in a pea pod pressed.

One grew.

Two grew.

And so did all the rest.
They grew and they grew and the would not stop,
Until one day the pod went POP! (clap your hands together as you say pop)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How to Teach a Rhyme

Rhymes encourage learning the names of things, hearing smaller sounds in words, and telling stories. Teach your child your favourite nursery rhyme (or little diddy) today!

Here's how:

Say the rhyme through, demonstrating the actions with a child. Children love having their faces touched and the eye contact.

Focus on the words - say each line and have your child repeat after you. Make sure to repeat the rhyme lots!

Focus on the actions - actions will help your child remember the rhyme.

Remember, some rhymes will be easy to learn and other will be hard. You will need lots of patience when teaching new rhymes.

Does anyone have a cute rhyme to share with blog readers?

Monday, August 9, 2010

How are you feeling?

This morning I was preparing for a special storytime visit at a local child care centre. When brainstorming what songs I would like to sing I considered the topic of feelings. Feelings are very complex and can be difficult to understand. Even though I am well beyond childhood I sometimes don't have the words I need to describe how I am feeling! With this in mind, I bring the song "If You're Happy and You Know It" into the spotlight.

This song is an excellent springboard for talking about feelings. There are so many feelings that you can bring into this song aside from being happy and sad.

Here is the original song:

If you're happy and you know it clap your hands.
If you're happy and you know it clap your hands.
If you're happy and you know it then your face will surely show it.
If you're happy and you know it clap your hands.

You can also sing:

If you're sad and you know it keep on crying.
If you're mad and you know it give a frown.
If you're sleepy and you know it give a yawn.
If you're sick and you know it cough and sneeze.
If you're surprised and you know it open your mouth.

Fun-loving songs like this can help your child build their vocabulary. Even though it is seems so simple, sometimes it can be difficult for your child to find the words to describe how they feel. You can further develop feelings using children's picture books.

Are there any other suggestions for song verses or picture books?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Choosing Home Library Books

Yesterday I wrote about creating home libraries on a budget. At the end of the posting I suggested that it is important to choose quality books over quantity. Perhaps you're wondering what type of books to look for in a balanced home library? Well, here are some suggestions:

- alphabet books
- number books
- fiction
- non-fiction
- poetry
- nursery rhymes
- books you can sing
- fairy tales
- wordless picture books
- predictable books
- science books

Are there any other suggestions?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pinch pennies and build a home library

With all the new toys and gadgets for kids, books are in tough competition for your child's time. However, books are perhaps THE most important toys you will ever give your child. Starting a home library for your child shows him/her how important books are. Having books of his/her own in a special place boosts the chance that your child will want to read even more. Here's the trouble: having a good collection of children's books can be costly. At $10-$20 per book, with a collection of 30 books (at least!) you're looking at spending $300-$600!!! That adds up quickly. Here are some ideas for creating your own inexpensive home library.

- Borrow books from your local library on a regular basis. In addition, find out what services your local library provides such as children's story time, workshops, and so on. Who didn't enjoy going to the library to listen to stories as a child?

- Teach children to handle books appropriately so books last for years and years (and so books can be responsibly borrowed from the library). When you do buy books, their initial cost will seem a whole lot less if you can use them for a long time rather than having to replace scribbled-in, beat up, or worn books.

- Organize a children's book swap with friends, community groups, or your day care.

- If you're a child care provider, start a tradition. Tell parents that you think that reading to children each day (and having lots of interesting books available for children) is important. Ask parents to bring in one book "each Monday" or "the first day of the month." Make good use of these extra books (for the day, for a week, or whatever you and parents decide).

- If you're a child care provider, start another tradition. Ask parents to donate books their children have "outgrown" to your program. Their children may no longer be reading certain simple books but children in your care now (or at some time in the future) will enjoy them.

- If you're a parent, start a family tradition. Ask friends and relatives to consider giving your children books as gifts for their birthdays and on holidays.

- The price of children's paperbacks is low compared to the retail cost of hard-cover versions of the same book. Buy paperbacks when you can.

- Buy children's books on sale at book fairs (Scholastic).

- Buy some children's books at library sales. Call the library in your county and libraries in surrounding counties to see if they hold annual library fund-raising sales of books. If so, you can support a good cause and pick up some real bargains.

- Buy some books at second-hand bookstores and local yard sales.

One last thing

Remember, it's not quantity, but quality books you are looking for in your library.

Please suggest the name of a quality children's book in the comments.

Watch this video review on the book Tip Tip Dig Dig by Emma Garcia.