Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Our Take Home Reading Books

This week we started sending home our Take-Home-Reading books.  The first two books in the series are wordless books.

Wordless books are a wonderful way for young children to feel like readers, even if they aren't able to read words yet. 

In class, we model how to tell the story of a wordless book.  We point out to our students that there are no words in the story, so we have to be detectives and look very closely at the illustrations to see what the story is all about.  We look at the details in the illustration and practice "reading" this story. 

The language of picture book with words may come out as your child is reading to you.  Kids might start with, "Once upon a time" or "One day" as they read.  They may say, "the end" as they get to the last page of the story.  This type of reader-like behavior lets your child demonstrate their knowledge of traditional stories.  It shows that they've been listening as you've been reading to them all of these years!

This is a great opportunity for your child to read to you.  It may even be the first time they are able to do this.  It's the start of a new chapter in your child's literacy life.  Please remind your child that even though these first two books have no words, they are still books and your child is still reading!

Over the past few weeks I've been pinning some of my favorite wordless books. Pinterest is an online bulletin board. I have a button on their site for my favorite children's books. You can follow me on Pinterest and see these books by clicking on the button below.

Follow Me on Pinterest

You can also visit my other blog for an additional post on wordless books.


Happy reading!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Homework for Parents

Am I allowed to assign homework to parents?  If I could, I'd assign THIS book for all parents to read.

I read a lot of books on early childhood education.  It's my passion!  As you know, I have kids of my own and 50 kindergarten students who rely on me to have a firm understanding of how they learn.  This is the SINGLE BEST BOOK I've read about early childhood education.

Mariah Bruehl is the author.  I purchased my copy of the book from Amazon.com.

This book is brilliantly written for parents with young children.  Mariah briefly discusses developmental stages in reading, writing, math, science, and social awareness.  She explains what parents will see when they work with their children.  The best part about the book (in my opinion) is the fact that it is all about learning through play and life experiences.  It's not about sitting down with a workbook.  It's about real life.

Mariah also writes a blog and offers online classes for parents and teachers.  I have taken her Playful Learning class online and it was fabulous. My kids took her writing/photography class  over the summer and enjoyed it as well.

Happy reading!

Proper Pencil Grip

Next time your child picks up a crayon, pencil, or marker, check to see how they hold it.  Do they look comfortable as they are writing?  Are they using a proper grip to hold the pencil?  Are you wondering what the proper pencil grip actually looks like?  Here's a great picture of the proper way to hold a pencil.  Notice the way the fingers are positioned and the angle of the pencil. 

You and I don't even think twice about the way we hold our pencils or pens.  We just pick them up and start writing.  A five year old is just starting on this adventure called writing.  We want to help them develop good habits from the start.  I have to admit, when I see a student who looks like they are struggling with their pencil grip, I really have to watch them to figure out what they are doing that causes them challenges.  I'm not an occupational therapist.  To my eye, I'm just noticing that they are struggling.  An occupational therapist could tell exactly which finger leads the pencil,  where the error is in the position of their fingers, and know exactly how to help the child correct their grip. 

Over the years, I've started to figure out more and more ways to help students with their small motor skills.  Playdoh, clay, Leggos, and finger paint are all really fun ways to help build the muscles in our hands.  Kids love it and they don't even notice that it's work.  

One of my favorite discoveries is the Crayola crayon for beginners.
These crayons are triangular shaped, which encourages the proper form for holding a pencil.  Brilliant!

Take a look at the way your child hold a crayon, marker, or pencil.  If it looks uncomfortable, it probably is uncomfortable.  We may not be occupational therapists, but we know when our kids are struggling with something.  Give these crayons a try!  Oh, and don't forget the playdoh and fingerpaint!  Have fun!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

See! Mom Was Right!!!

I have to admit, I love to say, "I told you so."
Recent research (you may have seen this on the news) supports moms and dads who have banned Sponge Bob from their homes.

Sponge Bob has never been allowed in our house.  It started out as a gut feeling.  The show was annoying, felt chaotic, and sometimes inappropriate.  My kids would ask to watch it and I'd just say, "No, mom doesn't really like Sponge Bob."  That would be the end of the discussion.  We'd watch Dora or Bear in the Big Blue House instead.

As my kids got older they started to question my authority.  (I hate it when that happens!)  They wanted to know WHY they couldn't watch Sponge Bob.  I had to get more specific about my reasoning.  I turned it on and sat with them through the agonizing lovely show.  I pointed out each time a character said something innapropriate to another character.  My kids also noticed how the characters treated each other.  We talked about the annoying voices and how the show just felt loud and crazy.  I shared with them my observations about kids and how they love to immitate shows they watch.  Although my kids do not agree with me 100%, they understand.  I still hear about it several times a week.  They try to convice me that shows like Sponge Bob are ok and that it's only for entertainment, that they won't actually call each other names like the characters do.  No luck.  It's still banned from my house.

Imagine my delight, this week, when I heard about a new study about how the fast pace and chaos of shows like Sponge Bob taxes kids' brains.  You can imagine my joy in telling my kids, "I told you so!"  They call it the overstimulation hypothesis.

My kids' pediatrician writes a blog for Children's Hospital.  Today, she posted about this study.  It's VERY interesting.  It makes you think about the quality of tv you let your kids watch.  It's not about shaming parents who let their kids watch tv.  It's about balancing media and paying attention to your kids' choices. 

Click here to head over to Seattle Mama Doc to read all about it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Miss Bindergarten

You just can't call yourself a kindergarten teacher if you don't read Miss Bindergarten to your students during the first week of school.


Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten is destined to be a kindergarten classic! We read this story to our classes this week and we'd like to encourage you to read it to your kids at home too. You're probably wondering why we'd ask you to read a story they've already heard. The reason we'd like to you read it again, is so your child can share their schema. Schema is all of the "stuff" you know about, have experienced, seen on tv, or read in books. It's everything you know about a topic, rolled up and stored in your brain until you need it again. Miss Bindergarten provides the perfect opportunity for kids to share their kindergarten experiences with you.

The pictures in this book really tell the story of what happens in a kindergarten classroom. Kids will be able to picture read with their parents and make connections to their own experiences. If you don't already own this book, I'd encourage you to find it at the public library. I promise, you and your kids will love it!
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First Day of Kindergarten Poem

Just thought I'd share this poem about the first day of kindergarten...

I gave you a little wink and smile as you

Entered my room today.

For I know how hard it is to leave and

Know your child must stay.

You’ve been with him for five years now

And have been a loving guide

But now, alas, the time has come to

Leave him at my side.

Just know that as you drive away and

Tears down your cheeks may flow,

I’ll love him as I would my own and help

Him learn and grow.

For as a parent, I too know how quickly

The years do pass,

And not long ago it was my turn to take

My child to class.

So please put your mind at ease

and cry those tears no more,

For I will love him and take him in

When you leave him at my door.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The First Days of Kindergarten

What is it about kindergarten that makes us feel so many emotions?  My own kids both spent three years in preschool.  But, there was something about that first day of kindergarten that made my heart melt a little.  Maybe it's just that it's a new school or a new teacher.  Maybe it's the longer days away from home that make us realize how much we love having someone to talk to all day long.  Maybe it's just the fact that kindergarten is a new chapter in the lives we are shaping with loving words and experiences.

Whatever the reason, there is something magical about walking a class of 25 children to their new home away from home for the first time. For some, there are smiles and wave.  For others, there are a few tears... but not for long.  There is too much fun happening in kindergarten for tears.

25 new friends look around in wide eyed wonder.  They ask when they'll play and what time they get to go to the park.  We show them around and help them find their way.  (In so many more ways than the literal.)

Kindergarten is filled with exploration, creativity, and joy.

We learn new things every day.

Kindergarten is an emotional time.  It's a time filled with change for our kids and for ourselves.  It's the most magical year of school.  Enjoy it.  Treasure it.  Know that we will care for your children as if they were our own.

Happy first week of school!
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