Archive | March, 2013

Let’s pretend!

22 Mar

Does your child rush to the dramatic play area in preschool (and beyond)?

Do you ever think, “That’s great, but s/he never does that at home”? Well, try this idea to freshen up the play that happens at home–courtesy of one of my favorite blogs: http://imaginationsoup.net/2013/03/25-diy-pretend-play-kits/

I love these ideas for so many reasons. As I have mentioned in previous posts, play is key to children’s developing minds. It is how they make sense of the world around them. It is how they explore concepts and emotions, and how they understand roles they see in the world around them (parents, teachers, doctors, siblings, and even animals).

In creating these kits, kids are active participants in their own play. They are able to call upon their emerging literacy and math skills as they create. And above all, they are using their imagination. Depending on their ages, you may be able to just drop the idea and run. I plan to try to suggest the idea and leave my 8,6,3 year olds to their own devices. They will love it more when they have complete ownership.

Years ago, my oldest daughter was learning about flowers in preschool. Her teachers created a flower shop–complete with seeds, cash register, and fake flowers. My kids came home and recreated and extended the shop with what they could find at home. They filled envelopes with rice (called them seeds), made a cash register out of a cereal box, and wrote signs all by themselves. The creation took 3 days’ worth of play. The play: a whopping 12 minutes. At the time I remember thinking: “Can’t they just play???” But now, thinking back, I realize they did incredible “work” and the process was what mattered to them.

Dramatic play is how our children come to understand the world around them.

Dramatic play is how our children come to understand the world around them.

A friend recently shared with me something that Mr. Rogers said:

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

So, if you are home with your kids this week or next, consider creating a DIY Kit with your kids and then just let them play. If all goes well, you can go make yourself a cup of tea and reach for a good book.

I CAN read!!!

18 Mar

Image

Now that you have read my tips for preparing your child for kindergarten and beyond, here come the blog entries where I spew ideas at you. I want to show you that you can do all of those things in only minutes a day, minimal planning, with resources you already have. Above all, I want you to see how fun it can be and how rewarding it feels to know that you have given your child knowledge, skills, and confidence.

I am going to show you examples from my own day-to-day life. To be clear, I am not sitting at home planning curriculum for my children or sitting teaching my preschooler new skills for longer than a few minutes. We play a lot together, read together, chat, sing, play princess, house, and color pictures. Whatever skills I do teach her, arise organically. There is little planning involved in her intellectual experiences. It is true; much of what I do with her and with my others, I did do as a teacher. That by no means makes you unable to do this yourself at home.

In this blog entry, I will show you how I taught Sophie to read in 10 minutes. OK. That was just to see if you were paying attention. Of course I didn’t teach Sophie to read in 10 minutes, but I made her believe she is a reader. And that, my friends, is how a reader is born.

A few weeks ago, I decided to pull out a book that Sophie could learn to read herself. She has begun to be very interested in letter sounds as we work to complete alphabet puzzles, letter card games, and sing the ABC’s. I knew this was the next logical step in Sophie’s journey to become a reader.

I chose the book No No Yes Yes by Leslie Patricelli.  It is an adorable board book with only the words no and yes. Each page has a “no” (something kids should NOT do) or a “yes” (something appropriate). The pictures are so clear that kids can easily discern which is which.

Though I did not write a lesson plan for this bedtime read, I will confess I had objectives when I chose it off the shelf. I wanted Sophie to feel a surge of confidence as a reader, and I figured it would be an added bonus if she was able to recognize the words “no” and “yes” at the end of this experience. To explain what I did next, I will list the steps so you can try it at home with your child.

  1. I showed the cover of the book to Sophie and explained I was going to show her a book. I would read it to her first and then let her try reading it. “I can’t read! I am only 3!” My reply: “Hmmm. Let’s see if you say that when we are done with this book in a few minutes.”
  2. “This book is called No No Yes Yes. Let’s look at the pictures. It has stuff you are not supposed to do on the NO pages, and stuff you should do on the yes pages.” We then did a picture walk, which is a fancy way of saying we just looked at the pictures to preview the story.
  3. As I read the book to Sophie, we discussed the pictures. I pointed to the words as I read them one by one. (For more on the importance of pointing, see previous entry.) I made sure she saw I was pointing. A few times I said, “Look! This word must say “no” since it starts with an N.”

After a read through, I said “Do you think you can read it now?” Sophie picked up that book so eagerly and began to read.

Already, I saw Sophie demonstrating three or more “good reader” skills.

  1.  Sophie was already pointing to each word as she read it
  2.  Sophie was looking at the pictures to determine if it was a yes or a no page
  3.  Sophie was able to self-correct!

If she began to say yes, and she looked at the picture or  the word and saw an N and a picture of a baby doing something not okay, she self-corrected! When kids are able to develop this skill early on, they never lose it. In my opinion, a reader who learns how to self-correct early is a good reader for life. 

When Sophie was done reading, the smile on her face said it all. But in case the rest of the neighborhood or I missed it, she shouted: “I CAN READ!” She called her sisters in to celebrate, and the party hasn’t stopped.

Give this a try with your child.  Sophie is not unusual. Any child can do this given your attention for a few minutes and a good book. If you would like ideas for more wonderful books, or if you have your own, let me know! In my next blog I will tell you how Sophie and I took this book a few steps further.

%d bloggers like this: