Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Children of Nature or of Technology?

As teachers, parents, and members of the community, we stand divided. Shared opinions from both sides of the divide some from all three groups of people, but the question is, who is right? Who knows best? Who knows if technology should be an integral part of early childhood curriculum to best prepare our children for the iPad, cell phone, computer consumed world that is now our reality?

Across numerous ideals and philosophies of early childhood education, it is believed that the young child learns best through natural materials and sensory experiences. And here is where the view of early childhood philosophy begins to crack. Many people now have the perception that without integrating technology into the classrooms of our pre-schoolers, we are not adequatly preparing them for the world that they live in. This view sees natural experience surrounded currriculum to be an approach that gives our children irrelevant experiences.

But is this true? Does an environment in which children are thriving with their literacy and social skills, not give them the skills that will prepare them to learn the technology later? Perhaps putting technology as a core part of early childhood curriculum will force our children to have a scewed understanding of the natural world. It could make them believe that it is impossible to achieve tasks without technology. Is this the type of dependency that we want our children to struggle with?

Here is a clip from YouTube that will show you how one very young child has already lost her ability to understand that natural world and differentiate from reality and technology. We need to be teaching our children how to problem solve in a vafriety of ways, apart from forcing upon them a technology dependency.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Literacy Selection: How "Real" Should Our Choices Be?

Through literature, do we want to be teaching children the way that the world should be, or should we expose them to the sometimes very sad, harsh realities? Linnea Hendrickson, a professor from the University of New Mexico posed this same question in her brief article titled "The World as It Is, or As It Should Be?" Many of us remember growing up with stories of white picket fences and a "perfect" family with two children where the father goes to work and the mother stays home, but is this the perception that we want to give to our children? If a child is in a different home situation, will these literature selections make them feel like something is wrong with them?

I was just recently exposed to a children's picture book titled "Fly Away Home" about a young boy and his father and their caring relationship. Sounds nice right? But the truth is, is that this story, narrated by the son, is about a homeless father and son who live in the airport. The reader experiences the grief that the family has that results from this very difficult life. It can bring up questions and thoughts in the classroom that the children may not be ready for. Or are they ready?

We need to take the time to evaluate the choices that we make for the literature that our children are being exposed to and always have conversation about seemingly perfect stories or ones that portray difficult situations. Conversation is the key about making these stories meaningful.

In the conclusion of Hendrickson's article she says, "I suspect what the best books give us, and what we need, is a little bit of both, even though we do not always agree on'what is' or on 'waht should be.'"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What Can Literature Do for You?

As adults, we all have a memory in which we read a short story, a poem, a simple quote, or any other form of literature that produced an intense emotional reaction that stuck with us. For me, I connect most with poetry and its ability to combine beautiful words to create beautiful sentences. This disposition that I have towards literature is a positive one that has been created through carefully selected literature over the years by my parents and teachers. We want to do this same thing for our children as we create positive dispositions for them and encourage their development of a sense of what literature can do for them.

Literature can send powerful messages, and the selections that children read will determine what message a child gets. Further more, the disposition, or attitude, that a child develops towards literature in general will determine if they will grow and retain a love for reading for the rest of his or her life. Enjoyable experiences with literature will help to develop this positive outlook. The ways to do this are the following;

-Bring stories of all children including special needs, talents, and interests, varieties of family structures and socioeconomic statuses, and multiple races and languages
- Having plots that are socially relevant

- Including a wide variety of topics and genres so that
all children can find appeal.

Among these ways, the most important indicator that children are developing the appropriate dispositions are checking for
listening and understanding. Choose what is important for your child to know and empower them to realize what literature can do!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Making Music to Learn Language : How Songs, Chants, and Rhymes Develop Phonemic Awareness

With young children, nearly everything that they need to know about the world can be learned through various forms of play. One type of play that can teach is singing songs and learning rhymes! To understand how songs can aid a child in acquiring phonemic awareness, we must first understand what this awareness is...

Phonemic awareness is having a grasp on the structure of language. Although an extension of phonemic awareness, this does not mean understanding written language. Phonemeic awareness revolves completly around the sounds that are made and how they are connected to words and one another. The three main achievements that children will make when grasping phonemic awareness are syllable awareness (the ability to separate and identify syllables), onset-rime awareness (the ability to separate syllables into their beginning and ending sounds), and phoneme awareness (the ability to separate syllables into all the separate sounds that are pronounced). As a helpful reminder, just remember that phonemic awarenss can be taught, learned, and practiced in the dark.

Songs that play with sound are a great way to attain these skills without a child even realizing how much they are learning and accomplishing. For example, the song Apples and Bananas, practices using the same vowel sounds at the beginning of most of the words in stanza. Instead of saying "apples and bananas" one would sing "eeples and baneenees" to understand where the vowels come in a word. The song Down by the Bay practices rimes, and this could be a song that also incorporates creativity as children make up their own verses and practices their understanding of rimes. Both of these songs are examples from the musician and children's songwriter Raffi. Here is a collection of his compositions that would be very fun to explore with your child!

Incorporating music into learning lightens the atmosphere and creates a positive connection for the child by correlating learning with fun and enjoyment. The opportunites are endless for word play in music and even daily activities or conversation that just come up. You will often find that children are eager to develop their own rhymes or phrases with phonemic connections; they just need to follow your lead.

So go ahead and get singing, rhyming, and learning!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Art of Storytelling!

After a visit to the local library and witnessing a story hour put on by a small group of librarians, I realized what a thrilling experience storytelling without books can be for children. Although, the ultimate goal is to develop literacy, working on imagination and creativity and developing a thirst for more stories and information happens during bookless story time.

Stories can be absorbed through narration with props like puppets or an easel with a marker or paint.
Stories can be experienced through songs, rhymes, or chants.
Stories can be shared with body language, eye contact, and voice inflection.

All of these things and more were occuring during the library's story time and the leaders were sure that the children were staying engaged through question asking and movement instruction. The idea that these stories came from books, had the children rushing to the stage at the end of the hour to snatch the books on display so they could take them home to read.

Any of these variations of storytelling can be done at home also! Pick a prop from anywhere in your home and transform it into something magical from a story book. Your child will see a popcorn bowl as a bubbling cauldon or a simple couch throw as the cape of a mysterious character when you make storytelling into something more than simply reading a book. This excitement that is created is the key to cultivating lifelong readers.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Intentions to Connect

We all remember hearing the initial coos or the first repetitive sounds of babbling that come from our babies’ mouths. Do you think they were trying to tell you something? Anyone’s answer to this question is yes, and the same thing translates over to children acquiring written language just as they did with oral language.
When children draw pictures or write in scribbles, they have intent to connect and communicate, just as they did with their pre-language sounds. There are five levels that you may find your child in or between as he develops his ability to write meaningfully. These steps are the following;

1. Your child is in the scribbling/drawing stage when he makes uncontrolled drawings that are not recognizable.
2. The pictorial stage is when your child’s drawings become slightly recognizable and she imitates other writing from anywhere that she sees it.
3. At the precommunicative stage, children can often write their own name and a few other known words.
4. Next is the semiphonetic stage in which children can from most letters correctly, understands that writing goes from left to right and top to bottom, and can spell some harder words that they see frequently.
5. The phonetic stage is when your child begins to identify punctuation (including spaces between words) and represents most consonant and some vowel sounds with his spelling interpretations.
6. The final phase in written language attainment is transitional. This is when children mostly use correct capitalization, spacing, and logical phonetic spelling.

A child may spend more time than the next at one level, or may skip a level entirely, but learning to write and spell correctly is a process. We must always keep in mind that when children are working away on their scribbles or writing down incomprehensible words, that they are still intending to communicate. Developing authentic or meaningful ways for children to communicate through writing will help them glide through these steps and become proficient writers!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Learning from the Environment

Hello parents!

One of the ways that we can be the best parents and teachers is to look at what our children really already know. You may be surprised with what you find. An example of this can be found when taking a look at something called environmental print. Environmental print is any sort of symbol, logo, sign, or written words that are find in your child's environment. Anything from street signs to shirt tags are enhancing your child literacy capabilities and recognition every day.

In our classroom, we are going to be building on this seemingly hidden capability by using your child's symbol recognition to connect these symbols with letters. This is importnant for our classroom because one of the first steps in developing literacy is understanding that something on a piece of paper, or sign, cereal box, etc. has a meaning in verbal language. This will then translate that letters and symbols that make sounds.

To furthur encourage this in your home, you can pull out a type of food box that you often prepare for your child and ask them what it is. I bet you they will know! Even if it is just because they recognize the symbol, but not the words. Sharing with me and with each other what your children know and recognize will open doors to furthur encouraging the recognition capabilities making them feel independent and motivated to practice more symbol recognition, and then recognition of letters and words!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Let's Get to Know Each Other

After this first week of interactions with your children and learning what I can from my interactions with them only, I am happy to say how thrilled I am with the diversity and curiosity for learning that each brings. I want you and I to be a team that is constantly collaborating and communicating to help each other help your child reach his or her full potential.

This being said, the more that we share with each other, the more beneficial the moments that your child spends with me will be. Encourage your child to fill me in on what they did at home the previous evening or weekend, and I have high hopes that you will be eager to talk about your child's day at school with them. I want to know what interests your child has and what makes him/her go "wow!" This way, we can together create methods of education that will be most effective and enjoyable in your child's academic journey.

Bringing eveyone's interests and characteristics into the classroom will spark curiosities among the other students and create bonds within them while they share and have conversation about what they like and dislike, know and don't yet know, and have or have not experienced. I can't wait to have more conversations with you about your fascinating children, and am looking forward to exciting and engaging lesson plans that will be developed based on the interests your child gifts the class with.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Importance of Social Play in Literacy Development

As we begin the school year, I would like to emphasize the role of play in our preschool classroom. Play is a facilitator of every type of learning at this young age as it stimulates the mind and the body. In this particular instance, I would like to share how play will have a huge part in your children's literacy development.

  • Play encourages social interaction. In being social, children are able to feed off of each other and share knowledge of written language. By acting out a particular event in which spoken words are used to communicate written words, (ie. playing restaurant and having the server writing down an order for food) children are able to furthur understand that those written markings on paper actually have meaning.

  • Play allows a child to "behave beyond his average age, above his daily behavior; in play it is as though he were a head taller than himself." This quote was made by behavior theorist L. S. Vygotsky. Through my experience, I have found this to be very true as, through play, children take on roles that at their age would not be realisitc. But in acting out these characters, they use language that is also beyond their daily behavior. Through play, their literacy and language horizons are broadened.

I hope that this snippet of information has given you an eager outlook on how we will work together to enhance your children's literacy development and passion for reading!