Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The ABC's of Beginning Literacy - Teacher Rebekah

Literacy is a hot topic these days. In Teacher Jean’s recent blog she discussed the many ways literacy is addressed in the Kindergarten class at Small Friends. But how is it addressed in the Younger Class?

Preschool years help to build the foundation needed for all of the incredible learning that will take place in Kindergarten. Everywhere you look in the classrooms you will see literacy appropriate activities. Storybooks in our bookshelf help provide a chance for the kids to grab a book on their own, see letters and recognize that those letters make up words that adults use to tell a story to them. Eventually those letters become more interesting to the kids and their natural curiosity will lead them towards learning the names of the letters. Many of the kids can tell you what letters are in their names when asked.

The classroom has an abundance of paper, markers, stamps and pencils. We have begun to notice many of the kids in our younger class writing their names or attempting to write their names. Some may have the correct sequence of letters, others may place the letters in what seem to be scattered to an adult. Either way, it is important that the kids feel proud of their accomplishment. Learning to write letters to make their name is a big and exciting step for kids!


More kids have also started to ask the adults in the room to help them write a letter or small note at the writing center. It is exciting to see their language develop and translate into dictation. This aspect of literacy began with the listening comprehension used during group time. It seems like an easy task as an adult, but for our little ones, learning how to listen to a story is another big literacy stepping stone.

Keep encouraging your kids at home. Read to them each day and if they seem interested, talk about letters you may see in a book. Provide a space for them to doodle or write. The more confident they feel, the more likely they will be to try a literacy activity at home.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Literacy in Kindergarten: Part 1 - Teacher Jean

Literacy permeates the kindergarten program at Small Friends, and it shows in the amazing progress that our students have made this year.

Here are some examples of how we foster each child’s growth in literacy:

Name Games
We started out with a focus on names in September, not only because children are naturally interested in reading their own names, but also because it’s a way to foster our classroom community. Each child wrote his or her name in jewels and we displayed them in the room. We clapped the syllables in each person’s name, used rhythm sticks to reflect the syllables, and played games to help everyone learn to recognize their classmates’ names.


Lettercise and Music
Each day we chant along with a CD, saying the names and sounds of the letters while using cross-body movements. It not only gets the children up and moving, but also “wakes up” the brain.

Here’s another movement song designed to help them learn vowel sounds: “Shake your hand a a a a a a…”

We also have a big book of songs; one for each letter of the alphabet. Each is sung to a familiar tune, and the children look forward to learning them each week.

Book Tubs are always an option for when children finish the assignment of the day before our word work time is up. Each child has one containing the following:

1. An “I Can Read” notebook filled with all the songs we’ve learned though the year.  Reading songs that they have already memorized by singing them during group times is a wonderful way for students to experience success and start to identify themselves as readers.

2. An assortment of books at his or her current reading level.

3. A “whisper phone,” that allows each child to hear his or her own voice while reading quietly.

4. The library book that they have checked out for the week.

Letter of the Week
Each week we focus on one letter, which becomes our handwriting practice (both upper and lower case), and there is a craft project to go with each one as well.

Whole Group Reading and Writing Practice
Whole group times (calendar, story, transitions) are a good opportunity to use the pocket chart for some choral reading or to play games.

They also provide opportunities to review sight words or practice stretching out words to identify the beginning, middle and ending sounds. 

Later in the year, we practice editing a message adding capitalization and punctuation, then read it together with expression.

Journal Writing and Sharing
We start journal writing early on, and continue weekly throughout the school year. The children draw a picture and write about it, using the sounds that they hear in the words. At the beginning of the year, they may write only the first letter, or even need to dictate their words to a teacher and then copy them in their own writing, but we encourage them to say the words aloud, stretching them out and listening for more sounds. If needed, we will write their words in conventional spelling near their own writing so that parents or others reading their journals will know what they have written.
My clown and I are at the circus. (Dictated to a teacher and then copied)
I rode a pony.
As the year progresses, their writing becomes smaller and more conventional, using lower case letters, putting spaces between words, and using punctuation.

Our class has caterpillars that will turn into butterflies. I hope that I will catch a butterfly some day.
"I love those caterpillars."
I have baseball practice today. I will catch...

I went swimming. I like swimming a lot. Do you see me? I am camouflaged! very well and my friend is, too.

I am panning for gold. I didn't go in a river. Mom panned and I put it into the container. I got a lot of pyrite and copper and 1 garnet.

When everyone has finished writing, we sit in a circle and take turns sharing with the group. This is an important part of journal writing, because it gives students practice reading aloud in front of an audience.

Sometimes we have step-by-step drawing lessons to help the children feel confident drawing a specific item and give them an idea to start with before journal time.


(To be continued: Part 2 will address word work games, "finished early" folders, reading groups, story time, and how reading and writing are integrated with our thematic units and math activities.)


Thursday, April 17, 2014

"Shaping Up" - Teacher Sue

We are often asked “How do we teach concepts like shapes, colors, letters and numbers in our classroom without making the process a structured sit and listen lesson?” The opportunity to explore these basic concepts can be integrated into everyday playful and creative experiences.

Having a giant geo-board up invites the children to create all sorts of shapes using rubber bands and stretching them around screws. While the children play and create we use opportunities to ask them the names of the shapes they are making.

We read the story Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh and then gave the children a variety of shapes to create animals, houses, or anything at all. Part of the objective was to reinforce the recognition of some basic shapes but this activity is also great for spacial awareness as well as building imagination.

While learning about our families and homes we invite our younger children to create houses using some very basic shapes. It is always fun to watch their spacial awareness develop.

By playing the “Shapes” song by Greg and Steve the children need to listen for the name of their shape to be called and then follow the directions to either sit or stand. This requires focus, concentration, and the ability to follow simple directions. It becomes more challenging when all the basic shapes are involved.

These are just a few examples of how the children are being taught so many basic important concepts through their play each day in our classroom.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Inside or Outside Today? Teacher Marah

We have a large motor time each day at school. Because of our weather, we are either outside on our fun playground or if it's raining  we have what we call the "gym room" where we can get our energy out. We try really hard to go out whenever we can, but either way, we have a lot of fun. In our older class we ask the children if they can tell what we will be doing each day. We ask them for clues. Usually they tell us if it's raining, but the real clue is if the teacher who is going outside puts her coat on, they know right away.

There are a lot of great things to do on our play ground. One of the favorites are the rides we have.

Another favorite are the swings. We have individual swings and also a tire swing.

Some times we are in the mood to use our imaginations. This day some friends were making roads and the other friends were piling up branches for a camp fire.

We also have a play structure that gets a lot of attention. Ready, set, go!

There are games on the structure and it's fun to try new things.

Some times the neighbor dog visits us at the fence and "talks to us" in his funny way. We are very careful to keep our fingers away from the fence.

When it's raining, we go to the gym room. In our class the first thing we do is sit by the polka dot curtain to go over the rules.

After the rules, we have fun driving from the couch or going down the slide.

We also use our muscles and coordination on the climbing structure and the mat.

Whether inside or out, it's another fun part of our day at Small Friends.