Monday, October 26, 2009

Super Easy, Fast, and Fun

Try this one once your child has begun to feel comfortable pretend reading with a book he or she has memorized. This activity encourages developing the concept of word.

Take one sentence from the book (very short, simple, memorable) and write it down in plain text on a piece of paper. The best sentences are those in which each word starts with a different letter. Read the sentence to your child, pointing at each word.

Next, have your child "read" the sentence back to you. Practice it a couple of times.

Cut the words apart, but leave them in order. Slide each word up or down on the table as you read it aloud, but leave the words in sentence order. Have you child try this activity.

If things are going well, it's time to try mixing the words up. Go slowly and let your child lead here. Then, go back to the beloved book and find the sentence in place.

You can try a similar activity with the letters in your child's name. Other words are probably too difficult at this point though. Believe it or not, it is easier to sequence a sentence than it is to identify all the internal sounds in a word.

Monday, October 12, 2009

HL Meeting

I'm live blogging the meeting on October 12, 2009

Please use your real name to submit any comments questions or they will not appear.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Don't forget to include books you love too!

It's important to teach your child to comprehend complex stories while you're working on building pre-reading and early reading skills. The Biscuit books, while wonderful, aren't exactly rich literature. The vocabulary is kept intentionally simple for early readers. Therefore, it is important that you read books to your child that s/he is clearly not ready to read alone yet.

Why is this type of reading important? For several reasons. One of the most important aspects of preschool development is building a large database of words. Vocabulary development depends on exposure to a rich diversity of words in a child's life. Books are an important resource in surrounding a child with language. Gorgeous illustrations, such as those in The Wild Swans (really, any of Susan Jeffers books) can help teach the meanings of the words in the story in a more natural way than having to stop and "teach" the new words. Don't forget that children absorb words over time, so one reading doesn't necessarily do it.

Another reason for reading more complex books is for the story structure. In Goodnight Moon, all that happens is a little bunny going to bed. In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs though, the sky is literally falling, along with pancakes, drifts of mashed potatoes, and all kinds of crazy fun. You'll have the chance to discuss much more with your child after reading this type of book.

Books can also help you teach your child about history or science. When you child sees you look up when to plant okra in your gardening book, s/he realizes that books are for more than stories. Share non-fiction with your child, looking for books with connected text, such as One Tiny Turtle as well as those that contain mostly illustrations with captions.

The final reason to read more complex text to your children is that it is more fun for you! I'm currently about halfway through Charlotte's Web with my daughters. I know they aren't getting it all, but they are thoroughly engaged. I read just one or two chapters a day and it's idyllic--we read all snuggled up together in my bed. These are the moments moms, frugal or not, live for!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sequencing with Nursery Rhymes

Does your little one know that stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end? Are you sure? It might seem obvious, but learning about sequencing is an important part of learning to read with comprehension. So, the next time you read a story to your child, ask him or her to re-tell you the story.

There's a really fun way to practice sequencing involving nursery rhymes. This British website has free printables of favorite nursery rhymes. You can download these and cut the sequencing pictures apart with your child (fine motor skills!). Now, read the rhyme together, then put the pictures you cut out in a line (not a box) in order from beginning to end. Have your child re-tell the story while pointing at the pictures to use as guides. Don't worry about memorizing the nursery rhyme, but don't be surprised if it happens either!


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Messy (and clean) fun

Sometimes, holding a pencil is just too much for a little one. Crayons and markers are nice alternatives, but if a child is just not there yet with fine motor development, then you may need to think more creatively.

Children can learn to "draw" in many ways that bypass the fine motor requirements of grasping a writing instrument. On a hot day, they can "paint" with water and sponges on a concrete driveway or sidewalk. The letters don't last long, allowing for repeated fun in the same place. Or try this alternative--shaving cream on a place mat. In this case, I formed the letter in the shaving cream first, my daughter traced it a couple of times, then "erased" my letter and formed the letter on her own. We had a blast!

We've done the same thing with shapes as well. I like it because it gets the placemats nice and clean. You could easily do the same thing on the walls in the bathroom during bath time. What else might be fun? Whipped cream? Pudding? I'd love to hear more suggestions for ways to "write" without writing. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Game Time

Children often learn the alphabet song pretty easily without clearly realizing the letters are all actually being said by name. Elemenopee? Here's a simple game that can help solidify letter identification for children and teach alphabetic order as well. This is best played with one adult or older child and two younger children. All the materials you need are a set of alphabet cards that includes lower and uppercase letters. Deal out a manageable number of cards to each player, keeping them face down in a stack. With my two four year olds, that's five cards.

Each player turns up the top card of their stack. The person with the card that comes first in the alphabet gets to take all the cards. At first, kids will have trouble identifying which letter comes first unless there's a A or B in the group. So, start singing the alphabet song with them, and point to the letter that "wins" when you get to it.

Of course, there are many variations possible with this game. Change the winning letter to the last one. Make it trickier. If the person with the card doesn't hold up her hand when it is sung, she doesn't win.

The whole goal is just to have fun, practice letter identification, turn taking and sportsmanship. Enjoy!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Big kid, little kid

I received a suggestion from a friend asking that I describe an activity that would foster both reading and relationships among siblings. Well, not in so many words, but that's the direction I'm going with it.

Let's suppose you have a pre-reader (we'll call her Frannie) and an early reader (we'll call him Will) in your home. There are several activities your children can do together that will introduce reading and phonemic awareness concepts to little Frannie while cementing those same concepts for big Will.

Nursery rhymes make great read alouds for siblings to share. Since Will probably has many of the rhymes nearly completely memorized, the reading task will not be too challenging or intimidating for him. Reading the same rhymes over and over to Frannie will help Will build his reading skills and speed while delighting his sister.

In turn, Frannie will be learning about the sounds that join together to make words. Nursery rhymes are a delightful way to learn how to identify the first sound in words "Wee Willy Winky" or listen for rhymes "Hickory, Dickory, Dock." Making up hand motions to go with the rhymes can add to the general fun and silliness all around.

Another activity for Will and Frannie involves scissors again. Use your computer and a basic word processing program to make a table of letters in different fonts. Here's an example, you'll want to make yours with more or fewer letters depending on your children, their level of patience, and your tolerance for messy paper clippings all over. Make sure that you include multiple forms of letters (check out the various lower case a's in the example screen shot).

Leave enough room between the letters for little hands to cut the letters apart. Then teach your children how to mix the letters up, then sort them. You'll need to do this activity with them the first time or two. After some practice with you, your children should be able to work together while you relax and catch up on Facebook. Ha! JK! You'll be making dinner while simultaneously doing a load of laundry and searching for something (I'm always searching for something).

First they can just sort the letters into A's, B's, C's, etc. Then you can have them separate lower case from upper case. My children like to find the "baby" for the "mommy" letter and match them up in pairs. When one set is mastered, you can move on to new letters, make the fonts trickier, or more letters to the mix.

I hope this is helpful, and I'd love to get any suggestions or questions you may have for a future post!