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.

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!

art · story · topic

What else do you need for winter?

I could not let this unit go by without sharing the story Fredrick by Leo Leonni. Fredrick is a mouse who should be helping his family gather items for the long winter. But, Fredrick is a dreamer and doesn’t want to gather nuts or other items for winter. Eventually the other mice come to realize that Fredrick did gather something for winter… he gathered memories.

I enjoy this story as it shows children that it isn’t always what you see and touch that is important to “gather”, but there is value in the colors, the textures, the sounds of life.

A fun activity to do with this is to draw to music. Put on instrumental music and have your child draw what he/she feels. What colors do you think of with the music? Do you feel flowing or more choppy? Does the picture maintain a constant feel or does it change as the music changes? This concept of drawing to music often takes a few attempts before children get good at just relaxing and drawing what you feel. It is the visualization of feelings. Some children will draw specific items, and other will draw more abstract. There is no right or wrong… there just is.

phonemic awareness

Key to the Code– phoneme blending

Today for Words Wednesday we are going to work on some phonemic awareness, the understanding of how sounds (phonemes) work in words.

The Scarecrow by Beth Ferry– this is the story of a very unique friendship. A baby crow finds itself cold and lost until a kindly scarecrow helps.

Lets use some of the images in this story to work the Key to the Code game. Provide your child with 5-10 keys, real or ones made of paper.

Tell your child that you are going to tell him/her a word in secret code! The key to unlock the code is to blend the sounds together. For example you would say /b/ /ir/ /d/ and your child will say bird. If your child gets the word correctly with little to no support, they get to take a key. When all the keys are collect, switch roles.

Few tips!

Start by play I-spy style… you can use images from the story– bird (/b/ /ir/ /d/), hat (/h/ /a/ /t/), crow (/c/ /r/ /ow/), hay, (/h/ /ay/). The key to this format is having the visual for your child to refer back … so if you do not want to use the pictures from the story, then pick items around you book, apple, etc…

Choose words with two or three phonemes to begin with, then move onto longer words.

Say the sounds with a distinct break to start. They do not get the word, then say the sounds a bit faster to see if they are able to make the connections.

If your child is doing awesome with this skill… then move onto longer words! You can also transition to having your child write the word as they sound it out to make the phonics connection as well! (remember at this age the goal is to get all the sounds but they might miss some and not know the correct phonics skill yet– they may write cro for crow or brd for bird…. this is fine)

phonemic awareness · story · topic

The Forever Tree

As we continue to learn about trees, I wanted to find a story that talked about how what we can give trees and what trees can give us. I could have shared The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, but I figured I did not need to share this as it is such a traditional and well loved story.

Instead, I decided to share The Forever Tree by Donna Lucas and Teressa Surratt. In this story, humans and animals love the tree. A grandpa hung a swing on the tree for his granddaughter and the people and the animals used the the tree in harmony. In the spring the tree did not come back, it was ill. The animals worked with the humans to fix the tree. They created a treehouse for all to use and see. The tree was not the same, but it still was filled with love. — this story is based on a true story that took place in Wisconsin, USA

Take some time to today to appreciate the trees around you. What can you do to help the trees?

Today lets work on a phonemic awareness activity. Phonemic awareness is the understanding of how sounds work in words. It is done without looking at the letters, but focusing on the auditory composition of words.

Today you can teach your child the game “Oddball Out” (or pick a different name if you don’t like that one…) With this game, you will say three words that have something in common.

Start with focusing on beginning sounds such as:

  • clock, man, kite
  • fish, phone, mouse
  • drink, lunch, lady

Once that is mastered, moved onto rimes

  • cat, hat, man
  • book, read, look
  • bill, tap, clap

You then could try out ending sounds:

  • pen, fan, tag
  • rap, rug, tip
  • drum, tank, black

Do not feel like you have to master any or all of these skills in one try. Listening to and recognizing the phonemic differences is a developmental skill. Children who have stronger phonemic awareness become stronger readers… start working with your child on his/her oral understanding of how letter and sounds work… it will pay off!

math · teachers pay teacher · topic

Apple Pie Tree

This week we will talk about all things APPLES! Who doesn’t love this tasty fall fruit?

This week’s story is The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall. Two sisters discuss the life cycle of the apples on the tree in their backyard. The story takes you through the four seasons from the bare tree of winter to picking apples to make apple pie.

After reading this story, lets do some apple tree math! I am going to share two simple math activities that you can easily do at home, and your child will enjoy!

Roll and Draw

  • paper
  • crayons/markers
  • dice

Have your child draw 4-6 apple trees (without apples). Roll the die and write the numeral on the trunk. Draw that many apples on the tree. If your child is ready, you can add in a second die. I would suggest using two different color dice if you have them and then have your child draw two different color apples.

Add and Draw

  • paper
  • markers/crayons
  • number cards (either create your own or use a deck of cards)

Again have your child draw apple trees without apples, I would draw less trees this time because they need more space, or use both sides of the paper. Have your child choose two cards, one card for each addend. They will write the number fact on the trunk and draw the apples on the tree. Again use two different colors for each addend.

In the picture, I show three ways to add to count. The first picture shows the base skill counting each apple from one to seven. The second tree illustrates counting on, I circled the six red apples and started counting up from there 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. The final tree is more of a first grade skill, but one worth looking at or showing your child. It is the concept of making know facts. In this case I made a doubles fact that I know. I found a group of five, and another group of five then added on the 1. I already know that 5+5 is 10 so I can count on from there. (This is also a make a 10… these are math strategies that are taught typically in first grade)

Apple Tree Ten Frames

Looking for more apple math activities? In my Teachers Pay Teachers store, you will find:

Apple Tree Ten Frames: practice using ten frames to practice number sense and addition.

Apples Abound: includes a variety of apple activities for both math and literacy (graphing, patterning, apple parts, Johnny Appleseed extension and more)