teaching thoughts · topic

Transitions

Ever feel like you are hearding cats just trying to get one or two children to go from playing to eating dinner? Did you ever wonder how your child’s teacher gets 18-25 children to move from one activity to another? Let me tell you a secret… it’s all about consistent transitions!

What is a transition? A transition is the movement from one place or activity to another. So in school that might mean going from circle time to learning centers. Or moving from the classroom to the playground or cafeteria. This is not some type of magical powers that good teachers have, it is all about laying a foundation of expectation, practice, review and independence.

Cueing children is the first step. Children, and adults, have a hard time dropping something without warning. Yes, they need to learn to do this for emergencies, but for the most part you know a bit ahead of time that they are going to need to stop. So, let them know. A five minute and then a 2 or 3 minute warning is more than enough to let them know a change is coming. When you start this process you need to state clearly… “In 5 minutes you will need to stop playing with your puzzle and come to table for dinner.” As you move into the independence phase you can shorten this to just 5 minutes until dinner as they know the expected behavior at that time.

The first few times you do this, you will want to help the process. What do you expect them to do in this transition time? Should everything be cleaned up and put away? If you are leaving the house in 5 min, do you expect them to already have their shoes and jacket on?

Another key factor is establishing independent and shared tasks. The more you can have your child do on his/her own the smoother things will go down the line. But… and this is key… if you want them to do it on their own, you have to teach them to do it on their own. ANDDDD you need to let them do it. In the beginning it will take longer, but if you do it for them it will not be an independent task.

This is a process. Teachers take the first month of school to teach transitions. Take the time. Walk through the steps. Do not get discouraged it your child forgets steps or melts down. This is all part of the learning process. Once you and your child see that these transition plans help smooth out life… it will all be worth it!

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

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!

game · teaching thoughts

In the Car

I often get asked for suggestions on how to work on letter recognition, colors, counting etc… Driving in the car is a great time to work on these skills. Play games and make it fun!

Choose a specific topic to work on and stick with it.

Search for letters. Go through the alphabet A-Z or focus on one or two letters. Work together or make it a contest. Who can find the letters on signs, license plates, car names etc…

Play I-Spy. Take turns giving clues based on an item in view of the car. I-spy something that starts with the sound /c/ or I-spy something blue.

Count cars based on type. How many red cars can we find? How many trucks? How many out of state cars?

Keep books in your car. Books on CD play a book on youtube that you have the book of so your child can follow along in their own book.

There are many ways to engage in learning in the car. You and your child will be interacting and learning.

teaching thoughts

Almost August

Can you believe that July is almost over? What does this mean… back to school. While some schools do not go back until Sept, many schools open back up in August. So for most teachers the end of July feels like the end of summer.

What does it mean for parents? Back to school shopping. Time to pick up new clothes, backpacks, lunchboxes and everything off your child’s supply list.

Here is my thought as a parent and teacher about supply lists.

First make sure to get the items on the list. You might not realize it, but the teachers have little to no budget to set up their classrooms. So, if they are asking for items that seem strange or excessive, it is for a reason. Most teachers ask for all the materials they will need for the school year at this time because they are on sale. So when you get asked for dozens of pencils, crayons and erasers, understand this means you won’t be asked to supply more later.

Only label the items your teacher asks you to label. Teachers ask for specific brands for two reasons… one they will ask for the best quality so they last longer and in the case of crayons/markers/colored pencils the color looks better with some brands. Another reason is that they put all the materials in one space and will give out new ones to al the children without having to search through for the ones labeled with a child’s name. (In the past, there was also the chance the items would become community supplies).

If the teacher asks for certain colors, follow those steps too. Teachers will assign certain colors to different subject red-reading, yellow- writing, blue- math etc… This makes it easier for the children to find the specific materials they need.

Remember your child will be using these materials!

My brands of choice:

  • pencils- Ticonderoga
  • crayons- Crayola
  • colored pencils- Crayola
  • Markers- Crayola or Mr. Sketch
  • scissors- Fiskars
  • glue/glue stick- Elmers
  • Dry Erase Markers- Expo
story · teaching thoughts

End of the Day and Social Emotional Learning

As we move into summer, the sun stays longer. It gets harder and harder to settle in each night. So much excitement and fun to remember. This story takes settling for bedtime and turns it into a lullaby based on the memories of the day. A Lullaby of Summer Things by Natalie Ziarnik.

Often times summer means less structure and routines. Children thrive off routines and this is especially evident at bedtime. But, now they stay up a bit later and have a harder time settling down. Instead of throwing routines out the window. Take a bit of time to revamp the bedtime routines.

Think about ways to add in items such as reflecting up on the fun of the day. What fun things did you do that you want to do again? What is something you learned today? What is something that made you smile? What is something you struggled to accomplish? How will you work on that skill tomorrow? What are you looking forward to doing tomorrow?

Taking the time to reflect on the emotions of the day will help your child settle down as well as work on those social emotional skills that are so important to develop. We want children to see growth and progress. Discussing things that went well, things that didn’t go so well and the next steps for both are key.

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.

Children are growing in all areas of life. One critical area of development is social emotional. As adults we need to guild children in developing healthy social emotional skills. It is the interactions we have with the children as well as the interactions your child views between yourself and other adults that is the guiding light of social emotional growth. Children need positive yet constructive words. They need you to talk about what they are doing that is going well. “I noticed that you worked really hard on your art project today. What did you think about the final result?” Notice I praised the effort and then allowed the child to reflect on the result. Often times adults praise the result and not the effort. And this can backfire if they child was not proud of the the end product, but that is what made their adult happy.

“You have really worked hard this week on learning to swim across the pool. What is your next swimming challenge?” Again the focus is on the work and effort. This allows the child to feel pride in accomplishing a goal and challenges them to set another goal.

“I noticed you were upset when you were trying to pump the swing. It’s ok to get frustrated, I was proud to see you keep trying. What can we do tomorrow to work on this skill?” Again you are focused on the skill, you acknowledged and accepted the emotions and then moved onto what can we do next? The last statement allows the child to ask for help, or not. They may need you to watch and give suggestions. The key is the child is determining the next step.

Remember that empty threats, empty promises and empty praise is not constructive. Children need to be guided to discover the best way to grow. They need to hear what they can do to move forward in their learning. Children learn what they see, they are watching and listening. Children need to see your pride, but they also need to see that they have room to grow in all things. Praise effort. Praise persistence. Offer alternatives. Discuss ideas. LISTEN to what they have to say.

phonemic awareness · teaching thoughts

Why Can’t my Child Rhyme?

Rhyming is such an important step in phonemic awareness. What is phonemic awareness you ask? Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate letter sounds in spoken words. It is the hearing part of reading! When children are able to hear, manipulate and isolate letter sounds, they are able to utilize this skill in decoding and encoding words for reading and writing.

So why rhyming? Rhyming is the ability to switch out the beginning sound of a word to make a new word. That it! Ok so why is it so hard for some children?

Did you know there are actually 5 stages of learning to rhyme! Say What???? You read that correctly. Your child needs to develop through five levels before they are proficient at rhyming independently.

Step 1- rhyme exposure— this is the understanding of the word rhyme. Children need to be exposed to words that rhyme and be taught the context behind the word rhyme. So when you read books, sing songs and recite nursery rhymes with your child, state things such as “hey wall and ball rhyme” “/w/- all and /b/- all rhyme because they both end in -all”

Step 2- rhyme recognition– this is being able to determine if two words rhyme. Children need to listen to two words and be able to tell you if they rhyme or not. Provide pair of words tree/key, car/bike, blue/glue, man/money etc… Have your child give a thumbs up if they rhyme and a thumbs down if they don’t. Often times children will struggle when the two words begin with the same beginning sound, point out the ends of the words are different and that is where we focus on rhymes.

Step 3- rhyme judgement– in this step you will provide your child with 3 words and have your child pick out the pair that rhymes. This works on recall as well. Stating night/moon/light your child would need to say night and light rhyme. In class I encourage children to say night and light rhyme because they both end in -ight. This shows they understand the focus on the rime of the word.

Step 4- rhyme completion– in this step your child will complete a sentence or line from a poem or song with the correct ending rhyme. Begin with using familiar song and stories and then move onto unfamiliar materials. I want to go out and play, because it is a sunny ____. DAY play and day rhyme. Check out this activity I shared called rhyme away for another fun activity on this step.

Step 5- rhyme production– this is the step of independence! this is your child producing sets of rhyming words on their own. I often go back to step 2 and have the child be the one in charge. Have your child give you sets of words and you determine if they rhyme or not. Then move on and have your child tell you a list of three words with a pair of rhymes. Finally have him/her give you rhyme completion sentences (this step is hard and not needed to master rhyming)

Yay! Your child has now mastered rhyming. Time to move onto the next skill… but do not forget to come back and practice rhyming. When you stop working and reviewing skills it makes it harder for your child to remember the skill when needed.

phonemic awareness · story · teaching thoughts

Over in the Meadow

This week we will look at how learning songs is important in literacy development. We will take one song format and listen to a different version of that song. For centuries and in all cultures, songs have been past down as teaching tools. We need to continue this tradition, and recognize the importance of using songs and music as teaching tools.

Today we will look at the song Over in the Meadow. This is considered an “Old counting rhyme”. It has been transformed over and over to focus on other ecosystems. But, we will start with the original. Over in the Meadow, illustrated by Jill McDonald.

Now, let’s listen to Over in the Jungle, Over in the Ocean and Over in the Artic.

The use of this song/story is much more than just enjoying the music, while this is important also. The use of this song works on counting, vocabulary development, rhyming and much more. When children learn to sing songs they are building language skills. When they learn songs that are easily manipulated they learn to play with language. Working on oral language development and listening skills are key pieces to reading and writing development.

Where do we go from here?

  • Have your child pick their favorite version and illustrate an animal from that ecosystem.
  • Pick a different ecosystem and see if there is a version of that song, or better yet, write your own.
  • Re-write the song using items and animals you see in your backyard, your playground, your city block, or wherever your child has the opportunity to explore.

family activity · positive steps therapy · teaching thoughts · topic

Gross Motor Development with Positive Steps

Positive Steps Therapy

Positive Steps Therapy and I are teaming up to bring you informative posts based on the therapies they provide. Today’s post is all about gross motor development across the ages. Check out the fun engaging activities to do with your child!

Take it away Positive Steps….

We’ve finally made it to spring! Now that the weather will be warming up, there will be increased opportunities for play outdoors. There are so many fun ways to use items lying around the house to improve gross motor skills. In the current times that we are living in, there has been a large decline in opportunities for children to improve their gross motor skills through organized sports or group play. Here are some great ideas to incorporate into your child’s day to help them improve these skills that are so important for their gross motor development. 

2-3 year olds: 

  • Practice stair transitions using fun game ideas 
    • Feed the frogs – Cut out frogs or other animals or use stuffed animals and place them at the bottom of the stairs. Place pom poms (food for animals) on the first few steps. Tell your child to walk up a certain number of stairs and collect the food to bring them to the frogs. Encourage your child to alternate feet on the stairs. 
  • Perform animal walks to encourage gross motor development and overall strengthening. Use your imagination and practice being different animals such as bear, frog, horse, or kangaroo. 
  • Balance activities: 
    • Use tape lines on the ground in various patterns (straight line, zig zag, etc) and have them walk along the line on flat feet and on tiptoes 
    • Play Flaming hoops game by using a hula hoop with streamers taped to the top of the hoop. Challenge your child to step through a hula hoop without touching any part of the “flaming” hoop. Change up the game by having them crawl through or lead using various body parts such as their arm or head. 

3-4 year olds: 

  • Ride a tricycle 
  • Perform animal walks to encourage gross motor development and overall strengthening. Use your imagination and practice being different animals such as bear, frog, kangaroo, flamingo, horse, and crab. 
  • Practice throwing small balls into laundry baskets using an overhand throw. ○ Start with very close distance to work on accuracy increasing distance to up to 5 feet away. 
  • Balance activities: 
    • Trial many different creative episodes of Cosmic Yoga 
    • Stepping over hurdles to encourage practicing single leg balance 
      • Hurdles can be created by using any objects around the house such as tying string around two objects or building hurdles out of large blocks. 
      • They can also be created using pool noodles in the yard outdoors. 

4-5 year olds:

  • Be creative and construct your own outdoor obstacle course using various objects around the house 
    • Use string/jump rope to walk on in order to encourage improving balance skills or use string/jump rope to tie around chairs or table legs to create hurdles 
    • Encourage balancing on one foot for 5 seconds or longer 
    • Practice jumping with two feet progressing to one foot by using hula hoops as place markers 
    • Encourage climbing up/down slides or across playsets 
  • Play simon says with activities such as skipping, galloping, balancing on one leg
  • Complete pool noodle sit-ups to work on core strengthening. Lie flat on your back and hold a pool noodle in both hands above your head. Perform a sit up and touch the noodle to your knees, feet, or toes. Call out different body parts for your child to touch the noodle to. 
  • Have a balloon toss competition by keeping a balloon up in the air or try catching it with a funnel to improve balance and upper extremity coordination 

5-6 year olds: 

  • Play Hopscotch using chalk outdoors or play indoors by using tape to make blocks on the floor. 
    • Encourage hopping on one foot and alternating jumping patterns. 
    • You can also challenge child by adding letters to each block in order to help with letter recognition. 
    • Higher level coordination activities: 
    • Jumping Jack Dance Workout 
  • Be creative and construct your own outdoor obstacle course using various objects around the house 
    • Use string/jump rope to walk on in order to encourage improving balance skills or use string/jump rope to tie around chairs or table legs to create hurdles 
    • Encourage balancing on one foot for 10 seconds or longer 
    • Practice jumping on one foot by using hula hoops as place markers 
    • Encourage skipping to various stations
positive steps therapy · teaching thoughts

Partnership

Positive Steps Therapy

Over the last few months, I have been working on developing a partnership with Positive Steps Therapy . Positive Steps reached out to me after hearing about this blog and my goal of supporting you, the families of children in Pre-K, K and beyond.

I will be posting information on my blog from Positive Steps Therapy that will share activities and/or information that will help you help your child develop and learn.

Positive Steps Therapy has been providing quality physical, occupational, speech and feeding therapy to children from birth to age 21 in the Pittsburgh region since 2004. We employ passionate and dedicated therapists who specialize in areas related to the pediatric population, including concussion, feeding, sensory integration, and orthopedic conditions. Our clinicians focus on play and functional based activities to maximize a child’s potential.

http://www.positivestepstherapy.com/

I am excited about this partnership and what together we can provide you.. the readers… the families. Because we all know…. it’s about the children

(first collaborative post coming soon!)