teaching thoughts

# Graphic Organizers

Why do teachers use graphic organizers with young children? Wait, first let’s talk about… what is a graphic organizer?

A graphic organizer is a tool used to collect information in an organized and visual fashion. This learning tool is great for visual learners. It helps children put their thoughts and learning down on paper in an organized visual manner.

Typically in the primary grades you will see teachers use circle maps, bubble maps, double bubble maps, venn diagrams, KWL (know, want to learn, learn) and other organizers on a regular basis. We also use Can, Are, Have/Need charts; beginning, middle, end; main idea, supporting details; and tree charts.

Teachers uses these maps whole group in the primary grades to introduce the concept of collecting information and then using that collected information to write about a given topic. These are also great tools going forward for visual learners to help them study and master new topics.

It is a very visual tool that helps children learn to collect important information, compare and contrast topics, and move between known information and new information.

# Math and Penguins

Today we will listen to the story Penguins Love Colors by Sarah Aspinall. In this story 6 penguins, named after 6 different color plants, work together to paint a colorful picture for their mom.

Today, let’s do some math! I am going to show you a few different adaptations of this activity. Your child will need, 2 dice, a sheet of paper, a pencil, counters (goldfish crackers would work perfect and go with the penguin theme).

On the sheet of paper draw out two ten frames on the top half of the sheet and on the bottom, create three columns.

Now have your child roll the dice. They will use the counters to show the total in the ten frame at the top. If your child struggles to see how to do this, using two different color dice AND counters that match the dice colors often helps to see this process. Remember that they are NOT putting the amount of one dice in the top ten frame and the amount of the second in the bottom. The goal is to see the addition of the two numbers together. In my picture I rolled a 5 and a 6. So I have the top ten frame filled in completely and the bottom only has 1.

Next your child will record the number sentence into the columns at the bottom. Was the total less than 6, exactly 6 or more than 6? You do not need to work on saying 4 plus 1 equals 5. You could have your child state 4 and 1 more makes 5. This way of stating the fact actually matches math thinking more and will help with the understanding of addition.

Ok… so my kid just doesn’t get it… now what? First, you might need to do the steps of this activity with them a few (like 3 or 4) times before they even begin to see the steps. You can break this down and do just the top, or just the bottom. OR, you can start with on die and do the whole thing but change the bottom to less than 3, exactly 3 and more than 3.

Now… let me tell you this is a LOTTTT of math thinking. Your child needs to recognize the number on the dice. They need to transfer this information into filling in the ten frame… oh and do it with two different numbers. Now they need to count and determine the new number made. Ok… THEN they need to figure out if this new number is less than, greater than or the same as the number 6. Oh and don’t forget you then need to record the result. Just a few steps. Just a bit of math thinking and learning.

This is a simple activity that can be adapted easily and played often. The more you play games such as this, the more your child will understand the concept of putting numbers together AND comparing numbers. You can also use dominoes, playing cards or number cards you make on index cards or sheets of paper.

# Penguin Flying?

Today, let’s read a fantasy story about a penguin who wanted to fly. The Penguin Who Wanted to Fly by Catherine Vase. Flip-Flop wants to fly like, but he can’t fly. So, he decide to get creative and try to find other ways to fly.

Create a paper version of Flip-Flop and then problem solve ways that you can help Flip-Flop fly! This is a great challenge project for your child. You can either provide materials such as paper, string, a small paper cup, tape. Challenge your child to find ways to help Flip-Flop fly. They could make a paper airplane, a zip-line, a “hot air balloon”. Maybe they want to put him into a toy plane, build something out of Lego or even make him a parachute. The point is to let your child’s creativity drive the result on how (s)he can help Flip-Flop fly. Also remember that failure is part of the process. In the story, Flip-Flop did not give up when his ideas were a flop, he just came up with another thought and then another. We need encourage children to try again. Look at things a different way, and not give up.

While searching for the story above, I found a different version of this idea. The Penguin Who Wanted to Fly by Rob Spicier This one is made of photographs put together to match the text written by the narrator. Umiak is a penguin who wants to fly like the puffins. He talks to other animals who live near him to find the answer to why he can’t fly. His mother helps him see that penguins do fly, just differently than other birds.

Why did both stories say that penguins can fly in the water? Is this really flying? Why do you think they compared the way that penguins move in the water to flying?

Another activity that these two stories work well with is comparisons. Create a Venn Diagram or Double Bubble Map to compare and contrast the two stories. How are they the same? How are they different?

# More Penguin Fun

Today we will read another penguin story. This story is If You Were a Penguin by Wendell and Florence Minor. This fun story looks at many attributes of penguins and various activities that different penguins do based on where they live. You can use some of these facts to add onto your can/have/are chart from yesterday.

Today we will make a penguin! A paper penguin. There are lots and lots of options on the web, or you can just provide your child with black, white, and yellow/orange construction paper and show him/her pictures of real penguins. This in my opinion is the best way to do these projects. Too often people get wrapped up in making the project perfect. They expect all the projects done in a classroom to look the same, or REALLY really similar, but why? I love seeing the size differences. The perception of what is and what is not the main features when you give children permission to be independent and do things on his/her own! So make a paper penguin… just have fun!

How can I add more learning to this craft? Easiest answer is to write. Have your child write a story about their penguin. This can be more information about the penguin OR it can be a story about the penguin. What is your penguin doing? Where is (s)he going? Think about the five senses. What can it see? Hear? Taste (what is it eating?)? What does it smell around? What can it feel?

You could have your child measure their penguin. You can use a ruler or work on non-standard measurement. How many 2×2 Lego blocks tall is your penguin? How many more cubes tall is it than it is wide? Can you find something that is taller than your penguin? Something shorter? Something the same height?

# Penguins

This week we are going to learn about an Antarctic bird… penguins! Penguins live near the south pole, or in the Antarctic circle. While many penguins live on Antarctica, not all penguins live there, certain types of penguins live in New Zealand, Australia, South America and Africa. They are also found on the islands near Antarctica.

Let’s learn some more about penguins. Here are two stories for you Penguins by Gail Gibbons and Penguins by Jill Esbaum (A National Geographic Kids book). While you listen to these stories, think about the facts the authors share. What can you learn about penguins?

Create your own Can, Are, Have chart and write or draw facts about penguins to remember. Then uses these statements to write sentences, you already have the foundation: Penguins can waddles. Penguins are flightless birds. Penguins have pouches to keep their eggs warm. Look… you already wrote three informational facts about penguins! Now draw a picture to show what you wrote.

# 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.

# 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.

# 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)

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.

# 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.

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!