story · topic · writing

Earth

Today we will listen to Todd Parr read his book The Earth Book. This book talks about the things that you can do to help the earth… and why! Remember a big part of what we need to do in taking care of the earth is taking care of the natural resources we learned about yesterday. Children look to take care of things. Today use the format of Todd Parr’s book to write about what you do to take care of the earth and why! It is important to talk about the whys with children. We want them to understand the reason we reduce, reuse and recycle. Just learning the words and doing the actions is great, but understanding the need to preserve and protect will motivate your child to continue these actions beyond Earth Day, this week, this month, this year, their childhood…

STEAM · story · writing

Dragonflies

Today we will learn about one type of insect, a dragonfly. Let’s listen to the story Are You a Dragonfly by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries. Then head over to SciShow Kids (Super Strong Dragonfly) to learn some more dragonfly facts. Just for fun, listen to the song D-D-D-Dragonfly by Pinkfong.

Now… let’s draw a picture and write some facts!

Teaching your child to create a can, are, have chart will assist them in collecting facts. This also becomes the start of writing paragraphs about the topic. When learning to write, provide your child the sentence starter and have them complete the fact “Dragonflies are _____. Dragonflies can_____. Dragonflies have____.” As they get better at writing and understanding the format of writing, they will then begin to use this format in their own informative writing process.

STEAM · teaching thoughts · topic · writing

Head, Thorax, Abdomen…

This week we will learn about bugs! First let’s watch SciShow Kid’s Inspect an Insect. Think about bugs you know… are they insects? Remember an insect has an exoskeleton, 3 body parts (head, thorax and abdomen) and six legs. Here is Dr. Jean singing a song about insect body parts.

Now let’s draw and label an insect. Which type will you draw? An ant, a beetle, a walking stick, butterfly, dragonfly?? Make sure it has a head, thorax and abdomen, only six legs and an exoskeleton.

Children love learning about the world around them. Learning about items found in nature and discovering the fascinating facts about these items motivates children to learn more. This lesson taps into a child’s natural curiosity about why things are what they are. What fits into the category of an insect and why? Learning to draw detailed pictures and label them will help with later studies in science. The incorporation of music helps to connect to additional levels of learning, fun and so much more.

math · STEAM · story · topic

What is Growing Inside This Egg?

Today we will continue to learn about eggs! Our story What is Growing Inside This Egg by Mia Posada, uses riddles to learn more about various animals that are hatched out of eggs. At the end of this recording, the teacher provided the directions to an activity for her class, but this can be done by your child at home. Cut out an egg shape. Now glue that egg shape onto a sheet of paper. Use this egg shape to make an adult animal who lays eggs (turtle, bird, frog, octopus, spider etc…). Then have your child write a fact about this animal.

Do you need more facts about oviparous animals? Watch this power point video made by Mattahunt Elementary School about oviparous animals and their eggs.

To extend our learning today, lets do some math! Here are a few ideas.

Draw simple nests on a sheet of paper and have your child roll a die or a pair of dice to find out many eggs to draw in the nest. Do not want to draw nests? That’s fine… not all eggs are in nests! You can draw egg cartons, a line to draw octopus eggs, etc…

Another fun addition or number practice would be to cut out a variety of eggs and write numbers on the eggs. Then provide your child with dominoes. Have your child sort the dominoes so the addition fact matches the number on the egg.

Ready to go beyond that? Practice greater than, less than and equal to with the number eggs you made above. Teach your child that the symbol eats the bigger number. But, make sure you also have your child read the number sentence to you. Many children can set up the fact, but then struggle to state what the number sentence says. 9>3 nine is greater than three. 1<8 one is less than eight.

STEAM · story · teaching thoughts · writing

Robins

On your spring walk yesterday, did you see any birds? I know there are a lot of birds back in my yard. One bird that has come back from their winter migration is the robin. Robins are often considered a sign of spring’s return. Let’s listen to the story Robin, Songbirds of Spring by Mia Posada. Now, lets see some video about robins while we learn a bit more at FreeSchool’s All About Robins.

I hope you learned a little more about robins.

If today is a nice day where you live, go outside and count how many robins you can find. Or watch from a window. Maybe even put out bits of fruits for the robins to eat.

Maybe you want to do a loose parts project and build your own nest? Think about the items that a bird has access to and use those to construct your own nest. Can you manipulate the twigs, grasses and other natural items to form into a fit and sturdy nest?

Later when you go back inside, draw a picture of one of the robin activities you did outside.

Why do we encourage loose parts projects? Loose parts can be any materials that do not have to be used in a specific way. These can include natural items you find outside, building blocks (including Lego), bottle caps, chenille stems, clothes pins, paper clips, paper, and the list goes on and on and on. Ok… but why? Loose part play provides your child with open ended materials and an idea (the idea isn’t necessary) and then encourages them to use their imagination and creativity to manipulate the materials for play, crafts, creations and so much more. It gives the children the freedom to be open and think of items in different ways.

teaching thoughts · writing

Phonetic Spelling

Have you ever seen your child write on their own? Children will write in play without support all the time, but as soon as you sit them down to write something they expect you to write it for them and/or tell them how to spell it. Why? The reason is the adults.

When children write on their own they go through a natural progression from scribble writing and random letters all the way to correct spelling. But, if adults tell children how to spell and/or that they are spelling words wrong then the child is afraid, cautious and concerned about doing it right. So, what can we do?

Teachers have learned that you can guide children through these writing stages without hampering their development. Wait what does that mean? Phonetic spelling, as known as inventive spelling or transitional spelling, is the process of writing words based on the phonetic sounds you hear in the word.

When children begin the process of phonetic spelling, they start by writing only the beginning sound. This is because it the the key sound you hear in a word. The next step is to add on the ending sound and later when they have mastered an understanding of more letter sounds and especially vowel sounds they will add in the medial sounds. For example, let’s pretend your child drew a picture of a house. When they begin the process of writing they may label the picture just with an “h”. As they gain more confidence in their own writing process they will naturally begin to add more sounds. Now they will write “hs” as house. Moving forward they may learn that “ow” says /ow/ and will write “hows”.

While none of these are the correct spelling they are steps towards getting the correct spelling. One concern that adults often bring up is that the child is learning it wrong. Let me dispel this myth, your child is not learning to spell the word, (s)he is learning the process of putting their thought on paper. At this point in the learning development, we are working on the concept of print has meaning and that you can put your thoughts down in words. Later as children learn more phonics skills and begin to see that words are spelled a specific way, they will master the correct spelling of words.

When teachers assist children in progressing through this process, the key is to sound out words slowly and teach children to stretch out words. We have them visualize the words on an elastic band. Pull the band slowly to stretch out the sounds. Write the sounds you hear. The key is to always go back to the whole word before you are finished. Here is another example: candle. Have your child stretch out the word c-an-d-l. When your child starts writing they will probably write “c” or “k”… either works. Then they may add in the “d” as this is a more dominant sound than the “l”. They will then progress to cndl as these are the consonant sounds you hear in the word candle. This is praised as they have progressed. If your child has learned “an” you can stretch it out and say do you hear the “an” sound in the word?

So why? Why do we want children to do through this progression? Well… a few reasons. One, they are writing. They are putting their own thoughts on paper. They are doing it their way and aren’t being told no that’s wrong. They aren’t ready to do it independently and in book spelling and won’t be for a few years. We want children to view themselves as writers and the earlier they write, the stronger this image will be.

Why else? When children make this natural progression of writing they actually develop stronger phonics and phonemic awareness skills. They need to use these skills to write on their own. They are not waiting to memorize and learn a new word or rule before they can write. If children had to memorize all the words they wanted to write before they began writing they would not get beyond sight words and simple cvc words until late in first grade. With transitional writing they can begin writing words as soon as they master their letter sounds.

So… what does this mean for parents. First if your child writes something that you can’t read it is OK! Ask your child to read it to you. “I see you labeled your picture, will you read the words to me?” “I noticed you wrote sentences to go with your illustration, I’d love to hear what you wrote.”

Next, if your child gets stuck on a word help them sound it out. It’s ok if it is not spelling exactly. In the classroom, I always talk about kid spelling (or kindergarten/preK spelling) verses book spelling. I do not expect the children to write in book spelling, but this addresses the fact that there is a correct way to write something, but since they are in K, preK are kids whatever, it’s ok to write it their own way.

Finally, if you are working with your child to sound out a word and they spell it correctly… tell them. Look you wrote that in book spelling. This will begin to solidify the correct spelling and that they can transition from phonetic spelling to book spelling. Just remember to praise their effort to use phonetic spelling too or else they will revert to depending on you for all the book spelling!

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.