teaching thoughts · writing

Name Practice

If your child is going into pre-K or kindergarten, one thing that will help before they enter is working on their name. First they need to know their given name. Many children have only heard their nickname and are confused when adults use their given name. Most teachers will call children their nickname, if they are asked to by the child/family. But, there is still a need for your child to know their given name. Kindergarteners should know their first and last name.

Next start working on recognizing their name in print. Most teachers use names to label items in the classroom. Being able to recognize their name in print will help him/her find their spaces in the classroom. Practice picking out their name from others that start with the same letter. Often children learn to recognize the first letter and then get confused when there are multiple with the same letter.

Kindergarteners will need to know how to write their first name and will quickly move onto writing their last names. Names should be written with only the first letter capitalized, unless their are multiple capital letters in their name. Lori not LORI or McKenna not MCKENNA. When your child is doing art, have them write their name on their art. Use various medium to practice writing their name.

More information on name activities, check out this post of from last year.

STEAM · story · topic · writing

Sandcastles

Who doesn’t love to build sandcastles? Here are some great sandcastle books

Super Sandcastle Saturday by Stuart J. Murphy (read by Stuart J. Murphy) -this story works on measurement

How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk -this story talks about taking a problem and breaking it down into specific steps

Now let’s watch SciShow Kids explain how to build a perfect sandcastle.

Now, if you live near a place that has sand, go build your own sandcastle.

Don’t have sand nearby? No problem!! Build a castle out of blocks, rocks, Lego blocks, or other items you have at home.

When you finish your castle, measure your castle. You can use standard and/or non-standard forms of measurement. The draw a picture of your castle and include the measurements in your drawing. After, write a story about what is happening in your castle. Who lives there? What adventures occur inside?

STEAM · story · topic · writing

Mushrooms

This morning I went to go check on my garden and there were sooo many mushrooms. There are mushrooms in the grass too. As you can guess we’ve had both rain and heat lately. I decided that it would be a good day for you to get out with your kiddo and learn a bit about mushrooms.

Let’s start with some science about these fun-guys… Fungi: Why Mushrooms are Awesome from SciShow Kids

Here is a fun story, similar to Jan Brett’s the Mitten, Mushroom in the Rain adapted from the Russian of V. Suteyev by Mirra Ginsburg. How many animals can take shelter under the mushroom?

Did you find any mushrooms in your yard? Can you count all of them? How many different types did you find?

Now create a picture. You can create a picture of one of the mushrooms you spied in the yard or the one from the story. What do you think would fit under the mushroom. Be realistic or creative in your answer.

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.

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!

family activity · STEAM · story · teaching thoughts · writing

Cookies!

Who doesn’t love cookies? I love cookies. I love to eat cookies. I love to bake cookies and I love to share cookies. Here are two “stories” from the same author about cookies, sort of? These books are more of a dictionary of sorts… each page defines a word such as considerate, cooperate and other life lesson words. The author ties these words to enjoying cookies.

Sugar Cookies, Sweet Little Lessons on Love and Cookies, Bite Size Life Lessons by Amy Krause Rosenthal

I love to introduce children to cooking and baking. My own sons were in the kitchen helping starting around age 2. Check out this post from BBC goodfood on kitchen skills by age. Remember as always, age suggestions are just suggestions, you know your child best and there may be things they are ready for before the age suggestion or maybe they aren’t ready yet. But it gives you ideas of what kiddos can do in the kitchen.

Here is a link to a cookie recipe on my other blog. It is very simple and young children can help with almost every step. Cake Mix cookies Have your child help you choose the cake mix flavor, think about mix-ins and frostings to go with your cookie flavor. Then let them help. The can easily pour the mix into the bowl, pour the eggs and oil out of a measuring cup (I crack the eggs into my liquid measuring cup to make it easy for children to pour them in) and stir. Older children (5 and up) can also often help scooping the dough to form the balls. Younger children (and up) can help flatten the dough before baking.

While the cookies are baking, have your children write our recipe cards. Talk through the steps of making the cookies. Don’t worry if they don’t get all the steps. The key is to get things in the right order. You can’t put the frosting on before you bake the cookies. You can’t bake them before you mix them.

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!