Thursday, December 20, 2007

Learning to Write!

I remember when Sunshyne was learning to write. She would go through entire note books and draw just a few scribbles on each page. It was cute at first until I realized that every thing that I needed note book paper for would have her signature on it. Nevertheless, it's worth having patients for. Nothing describes the feeling of getting your first little letter from your child that says "I love you mommy!" There is a process to the writing madness of a preschooler. There's a lot involved with learning to write. Your preschooler must understand which direction the letters go on paper, that letters are important and symbolize something which has meaning, and eventually re-create letters to form their very own words. The process of writing goes something like this: 1. Scribbling: Which helps your toddler/preschooler realize that they can make a mark with the object and control what is drawn. This basically gives your preschooler the introduction to handling writing utensils and making something happen. 2. Constructive scribbling: which is the prelude to understanding that there is an order to the writing experience. This is where you will notice that the scribbles are going from left to right on the paper. 3. Understanding differences in written expression: This is evident when your child understands the difference between pictures and letters/words. 4. Actual Letters: Your toddler or preschooler may actually make shapes that look like letters and represent words. Don't be surprised if there very first, and favorite letter is the first letter of their name. It's called ego centrism, but we will talk about that at another time:) 5. Letter Trains: Now your preschooler understands that the symbols have meaning, that they are letters that form words, and that they go in a certain direction on the paper. It is now time for them to practice the letters and you may notice them practicing by making letter trains. This is a long string of letters that represent an idea or story. Have a little fun and ask your preschooler to read what she has written. 6. Actual Words: This is when your preschooler understands that the words are individual letters that make up a thought or statement. This is when you will begin to see spaces between the words on paper. 7. Spelling Sounds: Now your preschooler may be showing an interest in letter sound play and may be writing different beginning word sounds on paper. 8. Copying: Your preschooler will now be writing different words that she sees or may ask you to spell some words for her to write. 9. Actual Writing: Now you preschooler is organizing print and understanding how to write letters and words. Provide your child with lined paper and an array of writing utensils such as crayons, markers, pencils, pens, and even chalk (watch for allergies on this one). This will allow your preschooler to explore the world of writing in a number of venues and help you to understand where your preschooler is developmentally with writing. Allow your preschooler to make his "mark" on birthday cards and other important written correspondence to encourage learning. Happy writting!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Classifying, Matching, and Sorting...Oh My!

Sometimes as parents, we don't necessarily think of math outside of equations and formulas. However, there are some important precursors to the more complicated math. These may be known as early stages of math, which include classifying, matching, and sorting. Are you shocked to know that classifying, matching, and sorting all have to do with math? It is true, they are the building blocks to a solid foundation for mathematical concepts. Lets talk about each one briefly. Matching is the process of grouping two similiar objects together based on one or more characteristics. For example, your toddler or preschooler may have a red cup and a red hat and say that they match using the characteristic of color. This may be done using a variety of other characteristics such as shapes, size, sound, or texture. Sorting is similiar to matching except your preschooler will group together more than two objects by using similiar characteristics. This is great for laundry activities and other chores around the house. Most preschoolers seem to sort naturally and they love it! Classifying is somewhat a more advanced form of sorting. Your child may be close to 5 years old before they actually master this skill. Classifying involves a preschooler being able to group objects into categories without actually seeing the characteristics up close and personal. For example, four legged animals, water creatures, insects, etc. Now that we have a rough definition of the matching, sorting, and classifying lets talk activity! Build-A-Collection Collecting fun and interesting things is a wonderful activity for preschoolers. They will love being able to search and collect items for there new treasure box! 1. Seasonal items from nature like seashells, rocks, and leaves. 2. Small toys, like animal figures, insects, and cars. 3. Food items, like interesting pasta shapes, beans, and nuts. 4. Household items, like bottle tops, straws, and magnets. 5. Classroom supplies, like stickers, pencils, and game pons. 6. Misc. items, like thread spools, buttons, and beads. Treasure Box Matching Activity What you will need: 1. An old shoe box with a lid 2. Wraping paper or tissue paper 3. Stickers, markers, and other decorative items 4. Ziploc bag 5. Collected matching items (two item with the same characteristic) 6. Scissors 7. Tape Create Your Treasure Box Wrap the shoe box and lid with wrapping paper or tissue paper as your would a gift. Cut a hole into the lid large enough for your preschooler to put her hand through. Next, Let your preschooler decorate the treasure box anyway she likes. Now you are ready to put the collected items into the treasure box. How To Play Place one of each matching item into the treasure box. Next, spread the remaining matching items out on the floor or table. Have your preschooler close his eyes and put his hand into the treasure box and pick up one item. While his eyes are closed ask him to describe the item he has in his hand. This is a great opportunity for him to use some descriptive words. Next, ask him to pull out the object and match it with another object that has the same characteristic located on the floor or table. I think your preschooler will enjoy this learning activity. One of the best things about teaching preschoolers is that learning happens through play. So I encourage you to continue to play with your preschooler in a purposeful way and visit again for more math activities!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Learning Letters and Making Words Activity

Preschoolers learn new words through constant exposure. Normally, as parents we are exposing them to many different words when we are asking them to do something. We use plenty of directive words (expecially around age 2:). There are other kinds of words that are beneficial for our preschoolers to be exposed to when learning letters and words. These words are called descriptive words. Teaching your child more letters and words is as simple as engaging him/her in conversations that uses plenty of descriptive words! The following is an activity for learning letters and making words: What you will need:
  • Markers
  • An assortment of preschooler friendly "stuff" like, stickers, scraps of foam and material, yarn, cotton balls, dried beans, pipe cleaners, ribbon, lace, etc.
  • Yarn or ribbon (small enough to go through the punched holes on poster board)
  • Squares of poster board 8" x 8" with two holes punched down one side

Okay, now that you have all of your items for this activity it's time to teach your child some descriptive words!

1. Ask your child to join you in a little game.

2. Scatter all of your "preschooler friendly stuff " around on a table or floor.

3. You begin the game by describing the item that either you or your preschooler pick up first. (describe the item in detail using words describing the color, texture, element used to create it (wood, plastic, etc.).

4. Next, allow your preschooler to try and do the same thing as, your preschooler begins to describe an item use your maker to write down the descriptive words your preschooler has come up with on the poster board.

5. Once all of the items have been described and the words are written out ask your preschooler to find other items in the house that may fit some of the description words used.

6. Also, randomly ask your preschooler to identify any of the letters in the words that you have created together.

6. Use the yarn to create a small descriptive word book to use for future word games. Your preschooler may want to decorate the new book with stickers, foamies, or drawings. (This part could be great for an art activity:)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Learning Letters

One of the things I found fascinating about teaching Montessori years ago was teaching children about letter sounds. Instead of teaching just the letter recognition, we taught the letter sound at the same time. This has helped me to teach my little Sunshyne how to string sounds together and read. This was done by simply pointing to a letter and pronouncing the sound that it makes instead of saying it's "name." So instead of saying "B" you would say "buh" while pointing at the letter. This simple strategy will have your child stringing sounds together and reading in no time!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Early Literacy Ages 3&4

Singing the Alphabet song without missing any letters was probably one of the first major accomplishments that I can remember when I was a child. I would venture to guess that you remember that proud moment as well. Learning the Alphabet song is a proud American tradition that continues to be past on to each generation, and has been thought to be the beginning of early literacy for many. Actually, there are some other things that happen before the Alphabet song that shows you that you have a brilliant budding young reader. You may notice that your preschooler is asking to be read too, holding the book in an upright position and turning the pages one at a time. Your preschooler may also be requesting particular books and following along as you read from left to right. Look for an interest in books and environmental print, such as the words and letters in their everyday life. One of the first letters that you may notice your Preschooler having a particular interest in is the first letter in his/her name. Play games that allow your preschooler to locate that letter and then to practice making the sound! Have you taught your preschooler any new words, letters or sounds?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Learning Through Play

Have you ever just stood in a nearby room and listened while your child is playing? All the wonderful things that they say and imagine can bring a warm smile to the face of an adoring parent. I was just sitting here at my computer listening to my daughter in the next room saying "prepare to be amazed!" I immediately felt excited as if something grand was going to happen. Something grand did happen, she began to play and become engrossed in her imaginative play! I then felt that warm smile come across my face. This brings a question to mind. Have you ever thought about how important play is to your child? Well, let me first say that there are many different kinds of play. If your child is in their first year of life, you are probably noticing that they reach and grab things much of the time. Perhaps they are already dropping things and banging them on a hard surface or two toys together? This type of play is extremely important for young children and is an exploring type of play. Another type of play is known as relational play. This is when toys just don't hold the child's attention and they want your stuff, the "real" stuff. I just loved this stage when I could never find my cell phone or car keys, especially when I was running late for work:) After this stage comes symbolic play. This is when your child is able to remember past events and use their thinking abilities to do things that are real world related. They use more words and imitate things going on around them. At about age two, they are able to engage in constructive play. This is when it is important to have plenty of construction paper, blocks, play dough and paints around. Don't expect them to build the Empire State building just yet though. Many of their creations may not look very creative at first. I'm sure you have heard this before, but it's important so I'll say it again. It's not the product that is important, it's the process. Interwoven in their play beginning at the age of 18 months and onward, you will notice the onset of pretend play. This is one of the most exciting play stages because it can take you to all of the wondrous places of your child's mind. You can actually see what they are thinking! Sunshyne is now 6 years old and I still love watching her engage in pretend play. She loves to pretend to be a pirate or dinosaur. Her latest fascination is pretending to be a jaguar, crawling around on the floor making the cutest sound. I'm sure it's not the sound of a real jaguar, but it's the sound of my little jaguar. So how does playing effect your child's learning. First and formost, playing is fun and that makes it easy for them to learn about the world around them. Children are able to problem solve, build language skills, and learn how to cooperate with another person. As parents we can use play to teach math skills, reading and just about any other subject. Play will also help develop their self-esteem by allowing them to do things own their own and express their own ideas in a safe way. Some other benefits of play is eye-hand coordination, strength building and motor skill development, self-direction and values, curiosity and exploration. Now that is a list worthy of saying "let's play!" Well, that's it for me today. Feel free to share your comments on your little ones favorite ways to play!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ready to Share and Learn!

Just a little about me to kick off this new blog. I've been homeschooling my daughter for about 3 years officially and 6 years naturally (as a friend of mine puts it). I work full-time as a Parent Educator assisting other moms with the exhausting yet unimaginably rewarding job of being a parent. I'm assisted in the joyous task of homeschooling by my wonderful husband. We tag-team and I think it works out for our family. My husband thinks more along the lines of school-at-home and homeschools that way. I use more of an eclectic-relaxed approach that incorporates much of my Montessori training from years ago. We have a classroom set up in our spare room but if you are homeschooling, you already know that it does not stay there. We use the kitchen, dining room and formal living areas extensively. The family room and my office areas are Sunshyne's indoor playground.
Speaking of Sunshyne, she is energetic, funny, caring and compassionate, charismatic, all with a hint of spice. Now doesn't that sound like a handful?