letter work · teaching thoughts · topic · Uncategorized · writing

Penmanship

This week I have been writing about writing. Each day I not only shared a story for you to share with your child, but also talked about what writing looks like in the early childhood years. I mentioned, ok often, that there is a difference between writing and penmanship. I linked you to the phases of writing and explained how to help your child get started. You can see these posts here, here and here.

Ok… I keep telling you that writing is not penmanship, so I guess we need to talk about penmanship. Penmanship is the actual skill of putting letters on paper. It is teaching correct letter formation. Before children can begin to write letters on his/her own, they need to: copy horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, draw a circle, draw horizontal and vertical lines that cross, copy a square and triangle. This on top of being able to hold a pencil correctly are the proper all skill children need to have developed before writing.

Now, does this mean that you don’t show children letters, how to form letters or anything like that before they have mastered these other skills? NOOOOO. We want children to play with letter first. Yes, you read that correctly… play with letters. Provide them magnetic letters, and other letter toys. Make letters with Lego, play dough and other toys. Write letters with markers, pencils, crayons, sidewalk chalk and other writing tools.

One skill that many children struggle with is the fact that letters start at the top. Children are egocentric beings and everything comes from me and goes out. They want the letters to start at the bottom and go away from them. This makes letters very disjointed in their formation. Practice drawing lines on paper, in the air, on the sidewalk and drawing top down.

I could go on and on about the skills a child needs to develop before he/she can master penmanship, but I won’t. Yes, children need to learn to write letters. Yes, if you learn to “properly form letters” they tend to be neater. Yes, it is easier to learn to do something “correctly” the first time and not have to go back and reteach it. Yes, yes, yes… this is why I do teach penmanship in my prek and kindergarten classes. When I teach children letters, letter sounds, etc., we practice how to form the letter. I teach this in conjunction with the skill of letter knowledge not as a separate entity.

This is the letter “a” it say /a/ as in apple, astronaut and alligator. The capital A is written like this “start at the top middle, slant down to the bottom, jump back up to the top, slant the other way down to the bottom, cross in the middle.” The lowercase a is written like this “make a “c”, go up just past the top and then down on the same line”. We do the same for all the letters. I choose to teach the letters in order of writing the lowercase letters. (c, o, a, d, g, q, s, l, i, t, h, b, k, j, p, r, m, n, v, w, y, x, f, e, u, z)

  • c, o, a, d, g, q, s all start in the same place, “start like a c”
  • l, i, t, h, b, k, j, p all start with a straight line down
  • r, m, n all start with a straight line down, but come back up and have a curve
  • v, w, y, x all start with a slant left to right
  • f, e, u, z each have their own path

While many teachers and programs have you teach the upper case letter first, I do not agree with this concept. Gasp! Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, I understand that in a lot of ways capital letters are easier to copy because there are less curved letters, but, if a child is not ready to correctly write curved letters they aren’t ready to correctly write letters. Also, when you read and write text we use a LOT less capital letters. As a kindergarten teacher, my job the first few weeks of school was to typically reteach children how to write their name. Many children come in and say I can write my name and proceed to write “SIMON” and then get upset when you try to teach them to write “Simon”. So… let’s teach it “Simon” to begin with! It might take an extra few steps, days and even weeks of practice, but you don’t have to unlearn something!

So… play with letters. Work on fine motor skills. Talk about how to go from top to bottom. Work on copying letters, shapes, numbers and such. Do not stress… your child will learn to make letters. Put the focus on writing for meaning and the rest will fall into place!

family activity · story · writing

Idea Jar

Do you ever struggle to know what to write about? Do you have too many ideas? Not enough? Typically in the early childhood years, children do not struggle with ideas of what to write about, but they often need encouragement to branch out and choose new things to write about.

Today, read the story Idea Jar by Adam Lehrhaupt. In this book, the class collects story ideas in a jar. The Viking from the the idea jar wants very much to be part of the story. The students learn that stories can be written, drawn or just told aloud. Stories can be about one thing, or many things. The children use the ideas from the idea jar to create a story together.

Today, begin collecting ideas for your own Story Idea Jar. What could you put inside? What topics would be fun to add to a story. Then pull 2, 3 or even 4 ideas out of the jar and create a fantastical story with those fun ideas.

Hmmm lets see I think I’ll pull “penguin”, “chocolate”, “train” and “happy” out of my jar.

Once there was sad, little penguin. He was sad because he was all alone near the edge of the ocean. He wanted friends. As he started to waddle away he heard a noise. What was that? Toot, Toot, he heard. The penguin looked around, he saw a train. Wait that isn’t just a normal train, it is a chocolate train! Yes, the train is pulling cars full of chocolate. The penguin waddled closer to the train. Not only was he happy to see the train, but the sweet smell of chocolate drew him closer and faster. As he drew closer to the train he noticed something that made him smile. More penguins! The passenger cars were filled with penguins. This made the little penguin a very happy penguin riding on a chocolate train.

high frequency words · story · writing

A Word Tree

This week’s post are all about writing. Often times when people think about writing and the primary aged child, they think about penmanship. There is so much more to writing than forming letters correctly. When I talk about writing with your child, I want you think about story telling. Getting your child to see him/herself as an author. Tell me a story. Write me a story. Spelling, letter formation, sentence structure… that will come with time. But the concept of seeing yourself as an author… you can either make or break this for your child. Tell them they are doing it wrong, they won’t want to do it… praise their efforts and attempts… they will thrive!

Today let’s listen to the story Rocket Writes a Story. by Tad Hills. In the story, Rocket, a dog, works with his teacher, a yellow bird, to write a story. He collects words and puts them on his word tree. Then uses those words to make his story more meaningful. This story goes through the process of picking a topic, learning more about it, and writing then rewriting a story. While children at this age don’t necessarily needs to go through all the steps of editing, it is helpful for them to see you can go back and revisit a story to make it better.

Today, begin creating your own word tree. Find a space in your home and help your child collect words. These words can be written in word form or written in picture form. The key is add words. Add words that make your writing easier, such as high frequency words (a, I, the, in, it, go etc) but also add words that make your writing more interesting (colors, sizes, motions, emotions etc). Encourage your child to look around their world, inside and out. Add words you hear in stories. Add words you see in the store. Add words!

story · teaching thoughts · writing

A Squiggly Story

This week we will focus on writing. Listen to the story A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larson. Next, encourage your child to write his/her own story. They can choose to draw a picture and write the story based on the picture or just write the words as the boy does in the story. But, the goal is for your CHILD to do the writing. Just as the sister did not write the words for the boy. Remind your child that he/she is the author and the author decides what the story is about. If they draw the pictures, then they are the author and illustrator! (My example is actually a poem)

I love books. Big books, little books. Long books and short books. I love books

There are many ages and stages of writing. Children begin by imitating what it looks like when adults write (some form of squiggly lines typically). Then as they begin to recognize and learn about letters and numbers, they transition to writing random forms that begin to look more and more like letters. Then move into writing beginning sounds, ending sounds and finally words. Once children are able to form words they will typically transition to writing sentences. (read more on my post about stages of writing here)

Often times adults are the reason children do not write. Adults see children “writing” and are quick to jump in and do the writing for the child. They want children to write like an adult, but the goal is for a child to write like a child. You need to encourage your child to write like a child. Call it prek writing or kindergarten writing or child spelling and “correct spelling” is book spelling. Children will learn and recognize that they will transition from child spelling to book spelling and it is a process.

So, what is the adults job? Ask questions. Can you read to me what you wrote? What is going to happen next? Who is your story about? Why did that happen? Where are they going? How does the story end?

And even more important than asking questions… LISTEN! Children love telling stories. Encourage them to tell them through writing.

teaching thoughts · topic

Why do teachers do that?– introduction

I have decided that I’m going to dedicate my Friday posts to helping you, as parents/caregivers, understand why teachers do certain things in school. Often times it looks like teachers are putting out materials and activities just because they are fun. Don’t get me wrong ALL teachers want children to see learning as fun, but the goal is learning. Teachers don’t often have the time to explain the why behind all the learning… so I’m going to try to do that.

So, dear readers, send me your questions. Ever wonder why teachers use play dough? Ever wonder why teachers have little pencils or crayons in the classroom? Ever wonder why math is taught with manipulatives? Or what is a brain break? Ask… I’ll try my best to explain “Why do you do that?”

So drop me a message here on this post, or any post that makes you ask why. Or email me at mydayinprek@gmail.com

story · topic

Brown is Beautiful

Yesterday I sat down multiple times to type up a post, but I couldn’t formulate figure out an at home activity that matched the story I wanted to share. I couldn’t make it meaningful. I’ve learned as a teacher that if activities aren’t meaningful, approachable and memorable then they won’t be impactful with children. So, sorry I didn’t share an activity, but here is the link to the story I wanted to share: It’s Okay to be Different by Todd Parr.

Onto today’s stories and activity:

Today I am sharing two stories that deal with the same topic, skin color. Often we hear people talk about skin in terms of black and white. But, I challenge children (and adults) to look again. The first story compares these colors to those of the earth. All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka. The Colors of Us by Karen Katz finds a young girl and her mother walking through the neighborhood looking at all the beautiful shades of brown that she sees on her friends and neighbors. She compares theses shades to foods that are familiar.

From the palest of sand to the darkest of chocolates, shades of browns are beautiful. So, today let’s celebrate that. Make a collage of all shades of brown paper. Draw with multicultural crayons. Blend paints to create shades of brown. Whatever meaningful, approachable and memorable activity would help your child see the beauty of browns. For me… I drew a rainbow, Because together we create a beautiful rainbow of colors

story

All are Welcome

This week we will focus on accepting differences. Today’s story is All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold. In this story you will travel through a school day learning that all are welcome and accepted for who they are in the classroom. They learn to treasure differences. My favorite page from the story “We’re part of a community. Our strength is our diversity. A shelter from adversity. All are welcome here.”

This is a great opportunity to talk about acceptance and inclusion. Roll play greeting others as well as asking people to join in. Adults often assume that children know how to join a group, AND that they will naturally ask others in join the fun. But, these are skills that need to be taught. Many children learn from watching others as well as from other people greeting them and asking them to join, but direct instruction of these skills are helpful for many children.

What would you say if you saw a child alone on the playground? How could you help that child feel welcome? How would you feel if you were the one not included?

Let your child ask questions. Take the time to look, listen and learn together.

drawn with “people” crayons… I cheated and drew them from the back (:

Have your child draw a picture of him/herself playing with someone who is different from them. This could be someone you know or a character from this or other stories. Discuss the similarities and difference. This could be physical differences as well as habits. Remember that the goal is to celebrate the differences. “Our strength is our diversity” Helping children see that the things that make you different are the things that make you special will help him/her see and appreciate the differences in others and view these differences as assets!

family activity · story · topic

Elmer is Unique and so are YOU

This week we will look at stories and activities that help children appreciate differences and acceptance of the uniqueness of individuals.

Today listen to the story Elmer by David McKee (read by David McKee). Elmer is a patchwork elephant that lives in a herd of all gray elephants. Elmer’s friends love to laugh at Elmer’s humor, but Elmer worries that they are laughing at his patchwork. He finds a way to change his skin to gray to fit in, but then realizes that the herd isn’t the same without Elmer the Patchwork Elephant’s presence.

Elmer and his friends learn a valuable lesson… the things that make you different are the things that make you special. This is a lesson that educators work to instill in their classes. The look that uniqueness is not a thing to be looked down upon, but instead to be seen as assets.

Chat about the things that make your child special. Look at physical, emotional, behavioral and other differences. Discuss likes and dislikes. How to these attributes make you… you?

At the end of the story, all the elephants have one day a year where they decorate themselves to show their own unique differences too. (Elmer paints himself gray on these days, to still stand out in his own way). Have your child draw an elephant, or print one off the web. Write on the top of the page “I am special because I am ME” Then around the elephant write attributes that make you… you!

Finally decorate your elephant to show off these attributes. What makes you different is what makes you special, celebrate these differences.

This would make a great family project. Have each member of the family create their own unique elephants. Show that there are attributes that are similar across the family, and ones that are special and unique to each individual.

teaching thoughts · topic

How Does My Child Compare…??

When parents meet with teachers, they often say “How does my child’s learning compare to his/her peers?” or “Are other kids in your class doing ______?” or “Is this ….” Doesn’t matter what the topic or question… they want to be assured that their child is fitting in.

Here’s what I want you to know…. that isn’t the way to judge your child’s achievement. In every classroom you will have children who are ahead, on level and behind academically, emotionally, socially, physically, and so on. Each child learns, grows and develops on their own path.

Good teachers look at each child in the class as an individual. They look at that child’s developmental level when they walk in the door and then work towards growth (in all aspects of life). Every child can learn… just not all on the same day and the same way.

So, what is the best way to look at where my child should be? There are developmental milestones for skills and development. Again these are ages and stages. Just as your child might have talked early or walked a bit later than some of their peers, the same is true for learning to read, write and the rest of the learning that happens in school. But, with the support of your child’s teachers, YOU and time.. they will learn to read, write and so on… when they are ready.

We live in a time that wants everything done yesterday. There is a push for things to be done and mastered before they are developmentally appropriate. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a proponent of introducing children to skills that are above and challenging. But, I live in the reality that not everyone will master them now.

So, the next time you are wondering where your child fits in. Stop and ask. How much has my child grown? Are their areas that (s)he is strong in? (maybe your child is really good in math or reading or drawing or sports or tying shoes) What areas are my child struggling in? How can I help lay the groundwork for him/her to move forward in these areas? How can I uses areas of strength to help develop areas of challenge?

Life isn’t equal, but we can make it fair! (my definition of fair… providing each what they need to be successful in the place they are so they can get where they are going)

teaching thoughts · topic

Fine and gross motor development

You often hear educators talk about motor development. Typically at this age, we are talking about fine motor development, but lets dive into both fine and gross motor development.

Gross motor development is the use of large muscle groups to move. Your child begins gross motor development before they are born. You can check out gross motor development skill levels here. Many of these skills need the trunk/core to be strengthened. One other thing to realize… your child needs to master gross motor skills before they can master fine motor skills. So, get your child up and moving. They need to throw, pedal, run, jump, twist, kick and more on a regular basis. (plus the more your child does these things typically the more they are able to sit and attend). Think about this, if your child has not developed good core strength, then just the action of sitting is work, never mind attending to task and listening.

Suggested gross motor activities:

  • Lava Jumping: Put different pieces of paper (different colors or write letters/numbers/words) on the floor. Have your child jump from paper to paper. Start by jumping two feet together, move to long strides, and work up to hopping on one foot and then the other.
  • Paper Skate: give your child paper plates to stand on and skate around the kitchen
  • Balance beams: set up balance beams (can even been tape on the floor or chalk on the driveway)
  • Snowball fight: write words, numbers, colors, letters, etc on pieces of paper and crumple them up. Now have fun throwing snow around. After x number of minutes, have your child pick up balls one at a time and read it to you. They then toss the snowball to you, or into a bin
  • Frisbee: learning to throw a frisbee is a great gross motor skill as you turn your torso in the throwing process!
  • Show me how you move: this always a favorite for indoor recess. Show me how you would move if you were a _______. I always did themes winter (snowflake, penguin, polar bear, on ice skates,…) farm (a horse, picking apples, raking the fields, etc..)
  • Hop, skip, jump, gallop

Fine motor development is the use of small muscle groups, and with education typically focuses on the muscles of your hands. You can check out fine motor development skill levels here. Children need to develop and strengthen their fine motor skills to write, cut, turn pages of book, trace, copy and more. These developmental skills are key in education. But, mastering these skills does not mean you child has to use a pencil all day… there are many fun ways to hone those fine motor skills.

Suggested fine motor activities:

  • Playdough: roll, pull, push, cut and more. give your child a dowel and have him/her place their hand flat on the “rolling pin” and push down while rolling back and forth. give them plastic knives and other tools
  • Bubble wrap: have your child pinch and pop, twist and pop, pound and pop… who doesn’t like bubble wrap?
  • Beads and buttons: string with string, pick up with clothes pins, sort, transfer from one place to another with a spoon, tweezers or pincer grip
  • Lego: small Lego blocks are great for fine motor development (and so many other learning skills
  • Playing with hot wheel cars (set up roads together)
  • Stacking blocks, cups and more
  • Coloring, cutting, tearing, gluing and more