Sunday, January 30, 2011

Please, label my children!

The front of the Target ad was just full of labels this week. There was this one:

And this one:

I used this ad with Logan- age 2 1/2. I cut the labels apart and put them out to view. I asked him, "Can you read this?" as I pointed to different ones. He "read" Target, Cheerios, and "soda" (for Diet Coke-- Mommy's drink of choice).

After he read each one, he glued it on to a piece of construction paper to make a collage.
This kind of reading is sometimes refered to as environmental print. According to,
Environmental print is the print of everyday life. It's the name given to the print that appears in signs, labels, and logos. Street signs, candy wrappers, labels on peanut butter and the K in Kmart are other examples of environmental print. For many emergent readers, environmental print helps bridge the connection between letters and first efforts to read.
Reading Rockets suggests using environmental print to: find letters in your name, talk about the sounds letters make, and explore capital and lowercase letters. Read more about these ideas here.

If you don't have the Target ad, you can cut words and symbols off products or download pictures from the internet.
Logan was also able to "read" these logos I printed off the internet:

As we glued each label to the paper, I cheered for Logan's ability to read the word. My goal was to make him think of himself as a reader.

One book that has helped me immensely to guide children (both my own and formerly my students) in developing an identity as a reader is "Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children's Learning" by Peter Johnston. I love what Johnston says in his chapter titled, "Identity".

"Children in our classrooms are becoming literate. They are not simply learning the skills of literacy. They are developing personal and social identities- uniquenesses and affiliations that define the people they see themselves becoming."
Defining themselves as readers? That's one label I hope my children put on themselves. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We play: Community Helpers

Isn't it great when the topics you are reading about spontaneously pop up in your child's play? We've been reading a lot of books about Community Helpers lately.

And this is the kind of play I've been seeing:

Logan likes to help daddy take out the trash. Instead of carrying the trash bags over and setting them by the door, he put them into his "dump truck" and played garbage man.

He also likes to play vet. I gave him a doctor kit and a few stuffed animals. He gave them shots and listened to their heartbeats.

We've been playing grocery store as well. He likes to work the cash register but doesn't like to stock the shelves.

Next week, I'm going to set up a post office for him. Just a simple shoe box mail box, a tote for carrying mail, some boxes for sorting mail, and stickers and paper for writing and stamping mail. We'll be making lot of Valentines this way!

I love that he is building comprehension of what we are reading through play.

Some of the books we used in our community helpers theme were suggested by other bloggers so I have to give a big shout out to Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns (who has a link up of book reviews every week) and to Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile. If you don't follow these blogs yet, you have to check them out!
Do you have a favorite community helper book?

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Peek at our Writer's Workshop

When I was teaching, my favorite part of the day was writer's workshop. The hum of a busy classroom focused on writing is beautiful to me. Writer's workshop in my room was pretty standard fare: students in small groups were looking at mentor texts, students were preparing and choosing what to write and how to write, students were writing (and writing and writing and writing... I usually had the problem of my students wanting to write too much rather than nothing at all), students were sharing with one another- editing and revising, and students were creating and publishing. At the end of writers workshop each day, a student or two would have a chance to share a piece in progress or a finished piece. Sharing seemed to be a theme of writing time.

As I was watching my boys play today with crayons and paper, it reminded me a little of the business of writers workshop. I don't actually do writer's workshop with a 1 year old and 2 year old- nor do I advocate that ww is appropriate for the typically developing toddler/preschool group- but I did make some observations about the futures of my little writers and I thought I'd share. I thought it was interesting that many of my observations lined up with Marie Clay's observations of young writers in a book that I've been reading, Writing Begins at Home. I've included some quotes from her book.
Here are our products from "writer's workshop today".

Sure, this looks like a "craft". So why don't I call this "arts and crafts time". Take a peek in with me and I think you'll understand.

Writer's workshop is about the process. It's about learning skills that will transfer into better writing in the future.

My baby was making scribbles on a page. He is learning that his movements can produce a mark.
Someday he will learn that those marks can convey a meaning.

 My two year old spent his time writing lines and crosses. None of them were actual letters but he carefully dictated his movements to me. His conversations went something like this, "See, momma. I draw the line down and I cross it. And then you make a line over. You know how to do this? I show you."
"Scribble takes many forms. Out of those first explorations come some forms that the child can recognize. Movement and form come together here. Perhaps the child can now anticipate, 'If I do that I will see a circle or a streamer or a line." (Clay, p. 9)

He "wrote some letters." They didn't look like letters to me but he told me, "I wrote a T... for Tyson."

He has been interested in writing his name lately so I put out this sheet with his name written in highlighter as well as the letter "L" written in highlighter. Sometimes he likes to trace these and try to write his name. Today he wasn't interested and that's ok.
"Spontaneous exploring like this should be what 'writing' is about in the preschool years." (Clay, p. 8)

He spent a lot of his time just scribbling or putting stickers on paper but in the midst of that play, he was learning something about real writing.
"Out of scribble there usually emerges a distinction between writing and drawing. The distinction may be hard for adults to explain. Somehow the preschooler discovers the difference." (Clay, p. 12)

What does "Writer's Workshop" look like at your house?
To see other great writing ideas, come check out Writer's World on April's blog: Giggles and Crayons

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tropical Aquarium Pushes Away Snowy Day Blues

Curious George at the AquariumLast week at the library Logan picked out this Curious George book. I am always creating projects for him based on my picks so when he picked out a book all on his own, I really wanted to make sure that I found something fun to do that connect to his book. I think that's a good way to validate your kid's library/book choices.
Since it was his pick, I let him do the "book review" this week. Here is his summary:
"Curious George put his finger in a crab tank. Ouch!"
We've been reading it nearly every night. I've been trying to think of a great activity. So when I saw an aquarium made out of a strawberry container at 3G= Growing Godly Girlz, I knew this would be the perfect activity.

Empty clear berry container
tissue paper
small pictures of fish or fish stickers(?)

We began by tearing the tissue paper and gluing it to the lid of the berry container for water and plants.

Tearing paper is a great way to build those fine motor muscles!

We used small fish pictures from the back of a calendar I picked up in the Target dollar spot. They were a little too large. You could probably print something off the internet or even use stickers to make it a little easier. For older kids, they could get very creative and draw their own ocean animals.

We taped string to our pictures and then taped the string to the top of the container.

That's it! Logan and Tyson love looking in the aquarium.

After we made our craft, we played a matching game with the leftover small pictures from the back of the calendar and the calendar pictures. This could be done with any calendar! (I got this idea from a list of calendar activities at Inspiration Surrounds... Creativity Abounds!)

There are many fish related books you could use to tie in to this project. Here are some of our favorites.

What are your favorite Ocean/Fish books?

I'm linking this up to:


Shibley Smiles

play academy

(By the way, The Play Academy featured my shower curtain playmat from last week. Here's the post. Thank you!!!)
If you are snowed in... or it's just plain COLD like it is here (single digits), you can click on any of the above links and find plenty of activities and projects to keep your little ones busy!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Exploring Text Features in List Writing

A shopping we will go... A shopping we will go...

Wait! We have to make our shopping list first! This week, I let Logan make his own grocery list. We started with flyers from the newspaper. I had picked out some healthy foods (and a few treats) for him to choose from for his grocery list.

We practiced using scissors to cut out the pictures. (When I say, "use scissors", I mean that he snipped the edges of the page and then we ripped the picture out.)
Then we glued them onto a long piece of paper.

The trick here was teaching him that this was going to look a little different than a story or a collage. I showed him my grocery list. I explained that a list looks different than a story, a collage, or a letter. As he  put the glue on the pictures, we would talk about where to place each picture (below the previous picture) in order to create a list.
We put about 5 items on his list and then we took it to the grocery store and he got to purchase those items.
My goals were to have him "write" for an authentic purpose and to be exposed to a new text feature.

Extending the Writing Activity:
  • Have your child try to write the names of the foods next to or under the picture. Use simple prompts like, "Let's write the word hotdogs. Say the word slowly. What letter would you expect to see at the beginning of the word hotdog." - You could also clap the parts of the word, work on specific letters that you know the child can control, or work on whatever skill your child needs. This keeps the activity pretty open ended.
  • Let your child draw the pictures on the list instead of cutting out pictures. Let him label if that is appropriate for him.
  • Writing a list is an important skill for early readers. Often we spend time having first graders write stories or paragaraphs. It's important to expose them to a variety of texts in both reading and writing.
  • Create a shopping book similar to this one. Use words and pictures that relate to your child's interests and abilities.
  • Create a Grocery Store at Home- allow your child to write signs for the store- either by drawing pictures or writing words.

Extending the Theme:
  • Practice math skills by shopping at your home grocery store. We had these mardi gras coins and a laptop cash register.
  • Sort cans and lids by size or color. Then match the lids and the cans.
  • Match coupons to actual products.
  • Sort plastic (or real) food by color or size.
  • Add plastic food containers to playdough basket. Show your child how he can make prints out of food containers in the playdough.
(Some of these ideas came from our curriculum from great FREE website!)

I am linking this up to:

Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Reviews- 140 characters or less

I decided to give myself a challenge this week. As I was thinking of linking up to "What my Child is Reading", I began to wonder, could I write my book reviews in 140 characters or less (the length of a tweet) for each book. It was a lot of fun trying to come up with the perfect words to summarize the book and give an opinion on the book. I decided to break down my thoughts on each book into whether I would recommend buying the book (because it's an A+ in my book), whether I would borrow it from the library (because it's worth "checking out") or whether I would skip it all together. I hope you enjoy my reviews this week!

SnowSnow-Cynthia Rylant reminds us to cherish snowy days; soon they will melt away into memories. Evokes feelings of peace and joy. Buy it.

Snow Happy!Rhyming text describes children playing in the snow- Snow Happy! by P. Hubbell. Cute. Good rhyme. Nothing new in story line. Borrow it.

Little Black Crow (Richard Jackson Books (Atheneum Hardcover))Little Black Crow by Chris Raschka (Caldecott Medalist) A boy. A Crow. 27 ?s Good mentor text. Artwork not stereotypical of genre Borrow it.

OK GoOK Go by Carin Berger Polluting drivers are stopped until they "go green". Great illustrations. Important message in fun way. Buy it on sale

Love Is . . .Love Is.Text from 1 Cor. 13 illustrated by W. Halperin. Odd pics compare/contrast good character traits. Some pics are too graphic. Skip it.

(Ok, I have to give you more than 140 characters on this one. My husband told me to skip writing a review on this one because the picture I took offense at was this. On the page that reads, "Love Hopes all Things." there is a picture of soldiers pointing guns at the heads of women and children." On the next page, the women and children are walking free. To me, that's too graphic for a children's book. Greg told me, "Those people with guns are going to come after you. Don't write that." LOL. I think the author/illustrator had a good heart, it just doesn't work for me. Here is a quote from the illustrator:
"I loved illustrating these words, and if there's one thing I've learned from the experience, it is that how we respond to any person, any object, any situation, is our choice. We can choose to approach these things with envy or arrogance, impatience or selfishness... or we can choose to act with love." )

Curious George at the AquariumCurious George at the Aquarium- L's retelling: "C.G. put his finger in the crab tank! Ouch!" Borrow it.

I'm linking this up:

Check out more book reviews here!

Friday, January 14, 2011

DIY- Create a Playmat from a Shower Curtain

One of Logan's favorite bedtime books is The Fisher-Price The Great Big Word Book. It's an old book that we picked up a yardsale. But it is similar to any word book- similar to a Richard Scarry book. He loves books that have a lot of detail in the pictures. He loves books that use illustration to tell what people are doing. He is so familiar with the "town" in this book that I decided to use it for my inspiration in creating a playmat for him.

I used this page of the book which depicts the town and the surrrounding countryside.

On a plain white shower curtain (new), I drew out a basic sketch of the town. Iam in no way an artist so I just tried to keep mine very simple.
I painted it pretty plain. I wanted him to be able to use this playmat to drive trucks and cars to the town, but I also wanted him to be able to play farm or dinosaur train without the permance of painted on buildings.
I used a lot of different paints because I was trying to use up what we had around the house. I used tempera paints, acrylics, and finger paints. They all seemed to work about the same- they sometimes flake a little bit. The mat has stayed painted but after we finish playing I see little paint flakes on the floor.

I used tape to create roads markings.
I was going to just have him make buildings for the town out of blocks and then The Activity Mom reminded me of these "buildings". This paper bag town activity was in a recent High Five (Highlights) magazine.

Another thing I wanted to add to my road map was a parking lot. The Activity mom had also had an idea a few months ago about creating a parking lot to help your child follow directions. Now, I can tell Logan something like, "Park the green car on the number 2." It's a fun way to practice listening, colors, and numbers through play.

I put this out at our recent Transporation Birthday party. It was a hit with my nephew who is a kindergartner.He just jumped right in- without any direction from the adults.  Logan has gotten more interested in playing with the playmat after a little modeling from mommy!
These fold up really small- they will fit into a large ziploc bag. You can throw a few small cars into the bag and you have a take along activity!

I'm linking this post up:
Kid's Get Crafty
Play Academy

Also, since it's Friday, I'd like to say a BIG hello to new friends from- leave a comment and I'll come follow you back!
Smart and Trendy Moms