art · teaching thoughts

What is that??

Often times our children draw pictures that are not recognizable. This is a stage in the development, but adults you have a role to play in this… think about the wording of what you say to your child. Instead of asking what is that? Which implies you can’t tell what they are drawing instead state “Can you tell me about your art work?” This way your child can explain what they made in their own terms.

Often times when children are working on art, they are working through the process of art and not working to create a product. This is totally normal, acceptable and important! Children enjoy the process of art. They enjoy combining colors, working with textures, and the process of putting the materials together. While some children will always create something specific, it is important to understand that it is not always the reason they are creating.

When adults put on the child the need to have something specific they are creating or designing then the child may loose the process in creating an adult determined product. Now do not get me wrong, there are times when you want a child to create a product or specific image and that is ok too. But, when given the freedom to create anything they want, do not assume that it is something specific.

So.. to avoid the ummm what did they make problem… ask them about their process. Can you describe what you are creating? I love that you combined these two colors together, what are you going to try next? I see that you are collaging papers together in your project can I get you any other materials? Can you tell me about your project?

teaching thoughts

First day

It’s time to get ready to go back to school. This is such a fun and exciting time. Everything is new… new clothes, new backpack, new school supplies. Some children get over excited about all this new and change. But, remember that not all children deal with change well. There are some children who will struggle with this change. They need extra reassurance about what is to come.

Families need to support their child through this change. One big way is for the adults to keep their own emotions level. As an early childhood teacher, and mother of 2 boys, I can tell you that children will adjust to going to school. They will be ok after you drop them off. How you as a parent deal with your own emotions of that first day will impact your child.

So, what do we need to do? Talk! Talk about what your child will do the first day. How will they get to school? What will they do next? Help them learn the name of their teacher(s). Practice greetings. Practice asking for help. Practice sitting and waiting. Practice raising their hand. Practice walking in a line.

And as a parent, practice saying good-bye. Practice keeping in the tears. Practice being the cheerleader and saying it is going to be fun and you will be ok. Then be ready to let go. Walk outside, get in your car and then you can have your emotional moment. It’s ok to feel sad, to see your little one growing up before your eyes. To feel nervous for your child. To wonder if they will find a friend. Will the teacher “get” my child? Will they remember to eat lunch and use their manners? This is all part of growing up. It’s part of seeing your child grow into the independent individual that will shape their future. It is one more step… and it is ok.

I promise you… your child will be ok. The teacher will help your child adjust. The teacher will calm the fears and dry the tears. Your child will be ok.

teaching thoughts

Where to start

Is your little one getting ready for preK or kindergarten? Maybe they are heading off to first grade? Oftentimes I get asked, what do I need to do to get my child ready for school. There is so much to that question. Are you asking about academically, socially or just in general? Here are some thoughts for you about getting ready to go to school/back to school.

Starting a few weeks before, switch their bedtime and wake up time to the hours you need for school. It will take some adjusting to get off the summer schedule and if you start ahead of time, you will thank yourself for it the first few weeks of school. Sleep is key to a productive school day and year. Children ages 5-12 need 9-12 hours of sleep. Determine what time your child needs to go to bed based on what time they need to get up in the morning.

Practice self-help skills that your child will need to perform during the school day. This includes buttoning and zipping pants, opening and closing zip lock bags, opening juice boxes etc. Before the weather gets cooler, begin practicing putting on and zipping jackets. Children in kindergarten and first grade should be working on mastering shoe tying as well. The more your child can do independently the more successful he/she will feel during the school day.

Begin working on school related skills: using scissors, squeezing glue bottles to use just a dot (dot, dot not a lot), opening markers/glue sticks/glue bottles and putting papers into folders. Also begin working on using writing tools such as pencils, crayons and markers.

As adults, we often do things for our children because it is faster and we can “do it correctly”. But, when we slow down and give children the gift of time, we allow them to develop independence. When getting ready to leave, take a few extra moments and have your child put on their own shoes, jackets and other items. Encourage your child to help pack their lunch and snacks. Take the time to demonstrate and talk through zippers, shoe tying and other skills. While some children are not ready for these fine motor skills, most can master them with a bit of support and patience!

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.

teaching thoughts

Why is my child struggling to learn?

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masks in the making

I have not forgot about the letter of the day activities. Today I spend the day making new masks for my family. I made masks in March with things I had on hand and today I ventured out to the fabric store and purchased materials to make masks. I am making each of us 3 masks. I know I’ll need more if we have to wear masks to work/school in the fall, but it is a start. I am making my masks with ties, I can never get the ear pieces to sit on my head right, and again if we have to wear them at school for certain parts of the day, the tied masks we can wear around our necks. (I just foresee one of my sons taking it off and forgetting where he put it down.

Teacher Resources

Ok… so here is my real post for today… I often have conversations with concerned parents about “Why is my child struggling to learn ____?” Since most of my students are 4/5, my main answer is they aren’t ready… ok I don’t put it exactly that way, but it is the truth… they aren’t ready.

Just as children do not learn to sit, crawl, walk and talk at the same exact rate and time, they do not learn academic skills at the same rate either. Also, let me break down for you a bit what it takes for a child to truly master a learning skill. You might be shocked!

OK, let’s pick something easy… learning colors. This is a skill that should be mastered by 4 and is one of the red flags that concerns teachers for possible learning issues, BUT there are many levels to learning… so here we go

  • First, a child needs to distinguish that there is a difference between the colors. This is why we focus on assessing the basic colors (red, blue, yellow, green, orange, purple, pink, black, white, brown)
  • Then, they need to understand that the word color means the color of the object…. yes that sounds strange, but think about it.
  • Next, they need to understand that each of these colors has a different name associated with it.
  • Once they understand that each color has a different name, they begin making the connection between the color and the color word.
  • At this time, most children can point out items that are a certain color, “Show me the red ball.” “Point to the yellow duck” This skill only required understanding of the color word connection.
  • Then they need to be able to recall the word on their own. What color is this? (pointing at a green crayon). This skill is harder because your child needs to connect memory to the word color, the color itself AND then find the color word in his/her memory bank and be able to produce the word with confidence.

Yep… that is a lot. And yes, they can do it. Some just take a bit longer (and that is only if your child is not color blind, but that wasn’t the point of this explanation). Understanding, retaining, and expressing information takes a lot of work. A lot of processing. It is a lot. Some children come to these skill easily, others take a bit more time. They will get there.

a child is like a butterfly | Children, Butterfly, Greatful
art · story · writing

First Day of Spring!

Happy spring! It is a gray drizzling day here today, but signs of spring are still popping up all around. I thought today would be a good day to give you a few reading connections and how you can stretch a story.

You can pick a spring story you have at home, search one up on youtube or watch the one I have linked here for you. When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes. This fun and colorful story show how the world changes as spring takes over the environment. It also plays into a fun writing project. In the world of pre-K children’s writing ability can be all over the map. Some children will need to draw the illustrations and then dictate to you what they want to write. Others will use one of the many stages of writing.

Stages of writing:

  • Squiggle lines to represent words
  • Random letters that have no connection the word they are writing (JmtIop=flower)
  • Writing just the beginning sound (f=flower)
  • Moving into hearing more sounds in words – teach your child to slowly stretch out the word to hear all the sounds (flr=flower)
  • Moving more into conventional spelling (flwer= flower)
  • conventional spelling (flower=flower)

Each of these steps is an important part of learning to write. I promise you… your child will not memorize flr as the spelling of the word flower, but giving them the freedom to write phonetically WILL give them the confidence to write. When children are dependent on adults to spell all the words they are afraid to write and won’t write. When they are given the freedom to write on their level, they will want to write!

Here is a writing activity based on the wording in the story, When Spring Comes, but can easily be used with any spring changes story.

writing prompt

Have your child brainstorm changes they see in the spring (snow melting, trees growing buds, flowers starting to bloom, animals coming out of hibernation and more). Have your child complete the illustrations first and then work on the writing. Providing the sentence starter allows your child to form a sentence without the work of sounding out all the words. If your child is ready to write a sentence on his/her own… just give him/her a blank paper and have them fold it in half and do the work on top and bottom leaving space for their words.

example of finished product

I decided to also share another fun and great learning activity that will go with spring… direct drawings. This is a great activity for so many reasons. It helps children see the drawing process, but there is so much more going on. This works on focus, listening to and watching the steps and directions. Following along and while being creative, following step by step. Everyone can put their own little spins on the art, but for the most part they are true to form. Art Hub for kids is a great youtube channel for these direct drawings. Here is a link to a direct drawing of a tulip in a pot.

I always have my students complete the drawing in pencil. Then the go over their pencil lines with a black maker to make the “coloring book” lines. Then they can color the picture. This would make a fun family project. It is crazy to see how different ages and personality interpret the drawings.

I had my sons help me show this process. You can see the step by step work on my i/g account

Share what you did on the first day of spring. What is your weather? What story did you read? Did you complete the writing or tulip drawing? Let me know in comments.