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!

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

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

math · teaching thoughts · topic

Math Monday

This week I am going to write a series for you the parents! I’m giving you my two cents on many learning topics. This is my opinion as a educator as well as a parent. So much of the impact we have on our children’s learning has to do more with how we think than what we do!

Math is NOT scary! read it again Math is NOT scary!

Sadly we still live in a world were people are afraid of math. Math is a set of steps. Math is black and white… right or wrong… for the most part. But there is more than one way to solve a problem. There is more than one way to see how to get to the end result.

A large issue with adults and math is they were forced to memorize facts. You learned that 2+2=4 and that 5*8=40, but you didn’t learn the why. You just learned the fact. When you start to think math, not just memorize it… you will find that it makes more sense.

In schools, we use a lot of manipulatives and manipulation of visuals to help see math. New math is mental math on paper…. or with manipulatives. Take for instance the concept of “Make a 10”. This is teaching children to see the addition fact 6+7 and break it down to 7+3+3… why? Why can’t they just memorize that 6+7 =13? Make a ten is an easy mental math step… I know that 7+3 is 10 and then 10+3 is 13. Seems like more steps, but then do it in your head… hey wait. If those numbers were 17+16 what then? 10+10+7+3+3. This is THINKING math.

I could go on and give more examples, but I won’t.

My thought for you today is play with math. Provide white boards and have your child illustrate problems. Provide counters (Lego, cereal, goldfish, crayons,… anything). Make learning of math fun. Help your child to think math… not memorize it!

Remember this is just my two cents.

story · teaching thoughts · topic

Books!

Often times I have parents ask me “What are the best books for me to read to my child?” or “What books should my child be reading?”…. Ok I’m going to give an answer that might shock a lot of teachers… Any book your child is interested in reading is worth reading to/with them! Often times teachers poopoo the reading of stories based on tv shows or movies and such. I say… if your child wants to read it… read it!

Also many teachers have children read “just right books”.

While having your child read books that are really hard is often frustrating for children, if your child wants to read the book and is willing to put in the effort because they like the story/topic/whatever… why would you stop them?

Some people do not want children to read books that are too easy. But, this builds fluency. There is a need to increase both oral fluency as well as silent reading fluency and endurance.

I say… let your child pick books they are interested in reading/having read to them. If they like the book/topic they are more engaged and more interested in listening.

That being said…. I do encourage parents to read aloud even after your child learns to read independently. You should be reading books 2-4 levels above your child’s reading ability. I always encourage kindergarten families to start reading chapter books to your child. When they listen to chapter books they learn to envision the story in their mind. They also learn to hold the story between sittings which will help when they begin reading chapter books on their own.

I leave you one last thought on reading….

STEAM · story · topic

Mooseltoe

Today let’s read a fun holiday story: Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini. Moose wants everything to be “Perfectly perfect” for Christmas, but will he remember EVERYTHING?

Moose forgot the tree! Oh no… what would you do if you forgot to get a Christmas tree? Well you aren’t a moose, so you can’t decorate yourself. Today’s challenge…. create a tree for Moose!

You can use some of the same materials we had yesterday for the Christmas engineering projects or let your child get creative on his/her own. Encourage them to mix materials and think outside the box.

Some ideas: pipe cleaners, construction paper, Lego, popsicle sticks/tongue depressors, a pile of socks?, garland, toys… food…. your imagination is the limit!

Want to add more academics to this fun project? Pick a challenge to add to the creation. Here are some examples: Can you make a tree that stands without support? Can you make a tree that is taller than 10″? Can you make a tree that will hold ornaments? Can you make a symmetrical tree?

Also, have your child plan ahead. What do they think it will look like? What materials do they plan to use? Why?

Encourage multiple attempts, failure is part of the learning process… if that didn’t work, what else could you try?

Then at the end, if not totally exhausted from the process… have your child draw and write about the end result. Write a letter to Moose to go with the tree.

STEAM · teaching thoughts · topic

Christmas Engineering

Today let’s do some engineering! (Engineering at this age means problem solving through design and exploration of an open ended quest) Provide your child with any of the materials listed below and then let them work. When we work on these projects at school, we typically start by letting the children explore their materials. After learning how the materials work together, then provide a challenge. Make the tallest Christmas tree. Make a gift box. Make a candy cane. Make a sleigh. Make an ornament for the tree. Whatever you want your child to create/engineer.

Pick any of these combinations:

  • jingle bells with pipe cleaners
  • jingle bells with playdough
  • gum drops (or other gummy candy) with toothpicks
  • beads and pipe cleaners or string
  • playdough and beads
  • marshmallows with toothpicks
  • toothpicks, straws, tape, string,
  • playdough and candy canes (this can be tough since candy canes aren’t as strong as you’d think)

Ok… here’s a different way to engineer

Build an ornament holder (that suspends an ornament up) using straws, tape, pipe cleaners, ornament holders

Design a new sleigh for Santa use paper, tape, glue, popsicle sticks, egg cartons, Lego blocks or whatever creative items your child wants to use

Are You Teaching Kids Responsibility? 50 Simple Challenges to Get You  Started - A Fine Parent

Remember! There is no right or wrong way to work on these STEM projects. Your roll is to ask questions. If you want to participate…. do your own version beside your child. Children often figure out how to do things by struggling through the steps of what not do it… failure is always an option, it is the first step on the way to success.