Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Preschool: Election Day

Dear faithful readers,

My humblest, most appreciative thanks for making my page views climb, even as I take a long break from blogging.  I'm still teaching, still tutoring, and still plugging away at my Child Development Associates.  And I am still photo documenting it all to share with you when I have more spare moments.

But today, I have a time-sensitive post to share.  Today is Election Day, so our class conducted our own presidential vote.  I explained simply that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both want to be president, and so we, the people of The United States, all cast a vote to decide who it will be.  I printed out photos of each candidate, as equally sized as I could find, and gave each student a sticker to cast his or her vote, explaining that you can vote for whomever you like, but you only get to vote once.  I turned the Circle Time easel around for a little voting privacy and assured the class that their selection was between them and their sticker.

Not pictured in this photo is the rest of the class, sitting on the rug just behind this voting machine, waiting their turn to do their civic duty.

I was their elections official, and we even had a little voting machine malfunction when a sticker got stuck to a voter's finger.  All is well, though, her vote was cast and her voice was heard.  Our election was so authentic, the children all got stickers to keep after they voted.  

Before the grown-ups' election results are in, here is my classroom's vote tally:

And here are some relevant Kid Quotes:

We will make our choice and put a sticker on who we are voting for.

Three-year-old, who went along with his parents as they voted: "Not me!  I already vote!"

 . . .

So today, all the grown-ups will vote, and tonight they will count all the votes, and tomorrow when we wake up, we'll find out who the next president will be!

Three-year-old girl: "ME!!"

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Preschool: Wash My Hands (Back and Forth)

Say what you will about this song, but this is just about my favorite music video of all time.

It's the perfect combination of catchy, bright, and adorable, and I love its confident message.

Here's my health lesson remix:

I wash my hands back and forth
I wash my hands back and forth (just wash em)
I wash my hands back and forth
I wash my hands back and forth (wash em real good)
I wash my hands back and forth x4

Hop up out the bed turn my swag on
Pay no attention to the germies
Because we wash em off
And we ain’t doin nothin wrong
So don’t tell me nothin
I’m just trying to have lunch
So keep the pasta coming
So whats up? (yeah)
And now they don't know what to do
We turn the knob and wash our hands (and just)
Shake em off (x4)

Don’t let germies get me all a-grime
Wash my hands, I know I’ll be fine
Keep scrubbin until I get there
When I’m down and I feel like cleaning up

(chorus x3)
I wash my hands back and forth
I wash my hands back and forth (just wash em)
I wash my hands back and forth
I wash my hands back and forth (wash em real good)
I wash my hands back and forth x4

Imma get more shine in a little bit
Soon as I hit the stage
Applause I’m hearing it
Whether it’s soap bars, soap jars, I’m feeling it

But can’t none of them wash em like I do (I)
I get to them mm-yeah go hard
When they see me pull up
I wash em real hard x2
Real hard
I wash em real hard

Don’t let germies get me all a-grime
Wash my hands, I know I’ll be fine
Keep scrubbin until I get there
When I’m down and I feel like cleaning up

(chorus x2)
I wash my hands back and forth
I wash my hands back and forth (just wash em)
I wash my hands back and forth
I wash my hands back and forth (wash em real good)
I wash my hands back and forth x4

All my kiddos if you feel me
Gone and do it, do it
Wash your hands (wash your hands)
Don’t matter if they look clean,
Do it, do it wash your hands
Your hands, your hands!

(chorus x3)
I wash my hands back and forth
I wash my hands back and forth (just wash em)
I wash my hands back and forth
I wash my hands back and forth (wash em real good)
I wash my hands back and forth x4

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer Activites: Self-Education

Here's what I have been up to lately. . . .

I have been fortunate enough to travel a lot this summer.  I visited friends in Spain and a friend in Costa Rica to look at possible Spanish-immersion locations for the future, and even got to spend a week at the beach with my family.  All this travel has really re-sparked my natural curiosity.  I have learned a lot of Spanish, explored rainforest and cloud forest, and spotted several different types of monkeys.  Being out of my element has made me more aware of my surroundings, especially the natural ones.  And of course, I brought back plenty of props and pictures to share at Circle Time and in my tutoring sessions. 

It has really been a summer of self-education.

In particular, I have had time during my vacation to complete my TESOL course.  I am excited to have this certification under my belt, especially since it will allow me to apply for jobs teaching English abroad when I'm ready.  I also view it as a step in the direction of a full-time career in teaching ESOL students, which is the career choice I am leaning toward now.

Next in my self-education this summer is a Child Development Associates.  I am participating in a program at my preschool center to complete my CDA online by the end of this year.  I am really looking forward to getting more standardized knowledge of child development and finding more ways to formalize our preschool classroom and pre-kindergarten program. 

Here's a Kid Quote about a popular summertime activity:

Three-year-old: "I don't want to watch a lot of TV because I will get a mush brain!"

Four-year-old: "I love to watch a lot of TV.  It's my favorite thing to do."

Oh no!  Don't watch too much; you'll get a mush brain!

Four-year-old: "No I didn't."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Happy Summer!

Here's a rainbow of mermaids to brighten your day!

The artist was my seven-year-old tutoring student, who moved back to Korea this summer.  I miss this family, but I'm looking forward to working more regularly with the other clients this family introduced me to.

And here is a summertime Kid Quote:

Four-year-old: "When I was at the beach I found a turtle egg and it was a baby one and I picked it up and it was still in there and I carried it as carefully as I could and then it started to hatch."

Really?  What happened then?  Did you put him in the water?

Four-year-old: "No I put him in a pot of water with my fish."

Oh!  What did you name him?

Four-year-old: "I named him Frances!  I fed him peas.  That's why I named him Frances.  And I gave him some gummy bears and some jellybeans because he ate all his dinner."

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Saying Goodbye

One of the toughest parts of being a teacher is saying goodbye to your students. Naturally, your relationship with every child is different and the way each one contributes to the classroom dynamic is unique, so you miss them in different ways and for different reasons, but you miss them all anyway.

I have said goodbye to a lot of students this year, both at preschool and in my tutoring. Some students moved, and lots of them graduated into more specialized programs or kindergarten. I like to imagine them in their new schools, showing off what they've learned here. I hope it's enough. I hope it's more than enough.

This year at preschool, we've even had to say goodbye to a classroom teacher. One of my beloved co-teachers is moving her family across the country, so for now my other co-teacher and myself will have the classroom to ourselves.

The only comfort as I let go of my little friends is that we will soon have a whole new batch of friends to play with and teach. My remaining co-teacher and I have formulated our curriculum for the following year, including going back through the alphabet with a letter of the week and using a weekly unconventional painting tool to shake up our art program. We're excited to have a solid routine worked out for our new, mainly younger group, and we're playing with the idea of creating a second, parallel Circle Time for our handful of pre-k friends.  As bittersweet as it all is, I'm really looking forward to the new educational year.

Here is a heart-warming Kid Quote that I can certainly relate to:

Four-year-old, eating lunch: "Miss Frances, my heart is full!"

It's full?  Is it full of love?

Four-year-old: "Yeah!  No, actually, it's not full. . . . It's still hungry."

Friday, June 1, 2012

Preschool: In the Office

This week at preschool, I am working in the office. Our director is out of town for the week, so I am assisting our Assistant Director in preparing meals; taking phone calls and calling parents; filing paperwork; and keeping the center in clean, working order. I miss working with my students, but I am happy to be expanding my skill set.

Here is a very relevant Kid Quote:

Three-year-old: "Why you not here?"
I'm in the office this week
Three-year-old: "Why?"
Because Ms. Kathy is on vacation.
Three-year-old: "Why?"
Because she wanted to go on a cruise with her family.
Three-year-old: "Why you in the office?"
Because Ms. Kathy is on vacation!
Three-year-old: "Why?"
Because she wanted to go on a cruise!
Three-year-old: "Why?"
For a vacation!
Three-year-old: ". . . Why you have eyes?"

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I am an avid user of Pinterest: it is in the top tier of websites I check daily, and I often pin useful links for work during my free time.  When I first moved into my preschool classroom, one of the first things I researched and added to my Pinterest board was attention-getters.  I found some extremely useful ones, such as the list on this website.  I chose "Start doing silly exercises with a few children" as the most promising-looking suggestion, and pinned it to my preschool ideas board.  I also found this list, which has some valuable ideas.

Source: teachpreschool.org via Frances on Pinterest
Looking back at these pins, now that I have more experience with this particular group in this unique classroom atmosphere, I have a different perspective.  The suggestions that appeal to me now are not the ones that sounded good then, perhaps because my previous classroom work was Montessori or smaller groups.

I also have a better idea now of what I mean by needing to get my class's attention.  For example, we sing "Everybody Have a Seat" to transition into Circle Time, and the children know exactly what is expected of them when I begin the song: put their books on the shelf and sit on the circle rug by the time the song is through.  But there are also times I need their attention for just a moment, to explain where we are going next or what the next task will be.  For those times, I need a faster attention-getter, such as these.

Source: scribd.com via Frances on Pinterest
We have made use of both "Hocus Pocus"/"Everybody Focus" and "ABC"/"Easy as 123," to various degrees of success.  I prefer "ABC"/"Easy as 123," since it is sung, where as "Hocus Pocus"/"Everybody Focus" can easily be shouted at a volume that causes some friends to cover their ears.  I did recently have to remind the class that singing "ABC"/"Easy as 123" means that they need to then give me their eyes, rather than ignore the prompt or sing "Easy as 123" and continue playing.

And now that I have more experience in this kind of boisterous classroom, I have a suggestion of my own to add to the table: SING EVERYTHING.  We are a musical group, as our classroom is in an music- and arts-based preschool.  And I have found that anything I have to say to the class, if said in song, will be heard.  Whether I sing that "I need a line" to the tune of something we have recently sung together or to a random tune, I always have their ears.

Here is a Kid Quote pertaining to my recent haircut:
Co-teacher: What's different about this lady?
. . .
Four-year-old: Her name is FRANCES!

Tutoring: Early Literacy, Bilingual Edition, and Holding Attention

Working with my preschool class, I can keep their attention in a group or individually as long as I need to in order to accomplish a task.  Some days it's a battle, but I know how to get their attention back when I lose it.  So it was a surprise to me when I began working with my preschool-aged English language tutoring student and could not seem to keep her on task.

Because her English vocabulary is limited, I was not at first opposed to working on conversation as much as literacy, but I have come to feel that we can accomplish more if we are more focused.  Then came the challenge of keeping her on task.  My usual tactic for working on literacy is making frequent trips to the library and keeping a healthy stock of books in the child's area of interest.  However, that tack did not work where we could not keep our attention on the book.

So last week I took a different approach, to successful results.  I took a package of pipe cleaners to our session, and we constructed our own tactile alphabet, à la this pinterest post:

Source: makeandtakes.com via Frances on Pinterest
As we worked through the alphabet, I formed a capital letter and invited my student to do the same.  I then repeated the same with the lower case letter, forming it with a new pipe cleaner and giving her time to follow suit.  We discussed which was the capital and which the lower case, when we use each type (she already knows how to write her name with a capital first, which was helpful), what the letter is called, and what sound it makes.  In a few cases, we had time to imagine words that begin with our letter before her attention wandered, but mostly we moved along at a brisk pace.

I was pleased with this method and plan to continue introducing projects such as this one: incorporating fine motor skills, movement, and review of the alphabet.  Next session, I plan to finish building our alphabet, then work on putting together words, starting with her name.

Here is a Kid Quote, the context for which I wish I had written down:
Six-year-old (whispered): "If it looks like a hat, you should try it."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Preschool: Advanced Early Reading

In our wide range of ages in our classroom, we have some students who have not quite turned three, and at least one who is entering kindergarten this fall.  Lately I have been working with one of our pre-kindergarteners on reading and writing skills, and she is in turn helping me teach the other older students.  It's a method I picked up in Montessori schools: the most effective way to learn something is to teach it.

I started with Dolch sight words for preschool:

Sight words are words that children are encouraged to memorize rather than read phonetically, partly because their phonology is not always immediately apparent in phonetic reading, and partly because of their high frequency. As can be seen in the above chart, most of these words are function words: grammatical words that perform a function rather than contain informational content (in contrast with nouns, verbs, and adjectives, for example).  Function words occur frequently, so the more familiar children are with them, the more fluent their early reading will be.  

I sat down with my student and a few ideas, which we bounced around between, following her attention span.  We began by working on these sight word flashcards:
Source: kidzone.ws via Frances on Pinterest
I am generally not a fan of flashcards because they smack of rote memorization to me.  But to initially familiarize my student with these sight words, it felt like the most efficient way.  After that, we could get into the real fun.

The favorite lesson for both my student and myself was this one:
My student read the words to me as I cut them apart, and she arranged them in order to make sense grammatically, then pasted them to a piece of blank paper.  We liked this lesson so much that we started to make our own sentences.  My student wanted to make silly sentences by arranging the words in nonsensical ways, but I wanted to keep grammatical syntax, so we used the Dolch words in the graph at the top of the post to form our own silly sentences such as "Red can jump."

My linguist's brain did cartwheels when my student demanded to know how to spell "an." Normally, children at this age are not yet aware of this article.  At this point in the language, "an" is a feature of Standard English that is not used by all speakers. Though for many people it is second nature to say "an acorn" rather than "a acorn," it is either taught in school or learned naturally at an age much later than four. So I knew my student's demands to know about "an" were not really about the article; rather, she was asking about "and." When I showed her "and" on the chart and read it aloud, she said "'an' is just without the 'd'" and crossed the 'd' out on the paper. Here is why this made the linguist in me so excited: we often don't pronounce that 'd,' so it was natural that she did not recognize it. I especially loved that she insisted that there was no 'd' in "and." She is confident in what she has heard, and she's not wrong!
Here's a Kid Quote to say thanks for reading:
Four-year-old: "Ms. Frances, did you know dogs are allowed at weddings!"

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tutoring: Teaching Natural Selection

After reading the extremely enjoyable 11 Experiments That Failed,

my ten-year-old English Language tutoring student told me he likes books about science.  Since much of what I do with my tutees is based on reading books together, I was eager to increase the science-themed books in my library bag.  Also eager to increase the difficulty of the books that I bring, I opted for a science-themed chapter book that looked promising, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate.  I started reading the book in my freetime, intrigued in part by this beautiful cover:

I am a fan of young adult literature in general, and I am enjoying this book in particular.  As the title suggests, the book deals with evolution, natural selection, and Darwin.  I chose it for my tutoring because, as a budding naturalist, Calpunia has a fervent interest in science.  Here is the synopsis from Good Reads:  

"Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones. With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger. As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century."

It occurred to me of course that evolution can be a controversial subject, so I checked with the parents before introducing the book.  Though the book may not mesh with their personal beliefs, these parents agreed to evolution being discussed, a philosophy of education I heartily admire.  

I introduced the book last week, and found that my student had a few misconceptions about how the theories of natural selection and adaptation work, so I started a search for an illustration that would help demystify the theories.  I found this website with a good lesson that I intend to modify to my objectives.

Source: wired.com via Frances on Pinterest
In the lesson, the students play the predator and eat the happy-looking Teddy Grahams with their arms up, allowing the sneakier sad-looking bears to survive for more generations.  

I thought it might make more sense to get two colors of bears and two pieces of felt for habitat color, such as chocolate bears and brown felt and vanilla bears and tan felt.  The bears who blend in with either habitat will survive for more generations than the bears who stand out, as we pretend we are both near-sighted bear-eaters.  I will let my student chose which flavor he would rather eat (I anticipate chocolate), and hand him the felt of the contrasting color (tan).  We will spread a handful of both colors of bears on each piece of felt and eat the bears that stand out more.  After repeating for several generations (or several handfuls), we will find we have more bears left who blend in with the environment than bears who stand out.  

I like this variation on the original lesson because it illustrates how the environment has an effect on who survives, a point I tried to make by drawing tall trees, short trees, giraffes, and horses last week but without great success.  I also like this method because it meshes well with Calpurnia Tate: she begins her journey as a naturalist by noticing the yellow and green grasshoppers and their ability (or lack thereof) to blend in with their environment.  

I am a little concerned that my ten-year-old student will think a Teddy Graham illustration beneath him, but I am hoping that the thrill of getting to eat his homework will counteract any "I'm too old for this" feelings.  I am also aware that he may not ever get interested in a book about a girl coming of age in 1899 Texas, but I like the book so much I want to give it a chance.

Here is an original Kid Quote from a recent session:

Six-year-old: "Knock-knock."

Who's there?

Six-year-old: "T-Rex!"

T-Rex who?

Six-year-old: "There's a T-Rex behind your door! . . . You want to know his name?"


Six-year-old: . . . 

What is it?

Six-year-old: "FRANCES!"

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Preschool: Earth Day . . . Try Again Next Year

Kids say hilarious things.  That is one of the reasons they are such a joy to work with: you never know what they're going to say.  We love to ask our children something leading, to see what they come up with, such as this project, found on Facebook:

Or when a former teacher was moving to California and we helped our friends make goodbye cards, which they filled with advice like "Watch out for snakes" and "Take a bunch of tigers in your car." 

For Earth Day, I thought I'd try a prompt like this one:

I made the mistake of asking the class when they were all seated at Circle Time, so misunderstandings spread like wildfire.  We had just discussed keeping streams healthy from this book,

and that played into what they said.  I asked the class what they do to take care of the Earth . . .

"I kiss it."
"I hug it."
"I get a thing and put it in the water and then I catch a fish and my dad eats it."
"When it's dark, [whispers] fish, fish, fish."
"I pick up trash."
"I pick up fish."
"My daddy picks up gumballs."
"Rake stuff and then I pick up stuff with a . . . a . . ."
               "A TRASH FORK?"
               "--a shovel."
"I pick up duckies from the park!"
"Pick up some duckies."

Adorable, but barely understandable out of context.  This was not the only instance in which Earth Day did not really go as planned in our classroom.

We did make a delicious dirt pie that was a hit; the kids especially loved being allowed to smash up the oreos.  We also attempted this cute project, without great success:

Source: buyemergencyfoods.com via Hailey on Pinterest

Getting the jello out of the straws was not easily done, and maintaining the worm shape was impossible, so I passed out the straws at snack time and instructed the class to squeeze or drink the jello out of the straws as they wished.  The best part: no one minded that they didn't have real gummy worms to eat with snack; they were perfectly delighted to have bendy straws and jello.  When you're a kid, what else do you really need?

Here is an Earth Day-related Kid Quote with a little backstory:
Before every meal, the class sings
"The Earth is good to me
and so I thank the Earth
for giving me
the things I need:
the sun and the rain and the appleseed.
The Earth is good to me."

After this song one breakfast, I tried to manage these competing misconceptions:

Three-year-old, pointing to the sky, thus, space: "The Earth is up there!"
Me: We're on the Earth!
Four-year-old: "The Earth is a book!" (Presumably the environmental book above)
Me: The Earth is the planet we live on!
Four-and-a-half-year old: "The Earth is under the ground!"
Me: The Earth is the ground!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Tutoring: TESOL Certification

This is just a quick post about self-education.  I have recently started a TESOL course from Global Leadership College.  TESOL certification, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, should help me in my English language tutoring.  I have a master's in linguistics, so much of the information in my course is not new, but second language learning was not my focus, so I hope to learn something.  This course is primarily geared to teaching English abroad, but I expect the certification to nonetheless come in handy stateside.

I have also been thinking lately about supplementing my English teaching skills with knowledge of Spanish, so TESOL certification could help me spend an extended amount of time in a Spanish-speaking country to reach that goal in a fun and productive way.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Preschool: Number Lessons

Early literacy is my forte, but I have done a few number lessons that have worked out well.  I was inspired by this lesson on Pinterest: 

Here is my version:

In my version, the opposite side of the clothespins has the numeral written in the color that corresponds to the colored dots on the board.  Since my class is pretty good, but not expert, at identifying numerals, I thought a built-in cheat would increase success.

The class loves this lesson, but I often find its clothespins mixed in with the clothespins for this lesson:

In this lesson, the children pin the corresponding number of clothespins (always working on those fine motor muscles!) to each numeral.  They love to shout out to me "zero doesn't get any pins!"

Someday I'd love to switch it out with this lesson I recently discovered on Pinterest:

Source: skellyskindergarten.blogspot.ca via Frances on Pinterest
Here's today's Kid Quote:
Four-year-old: "If my name was Potato, then my nickname would be Pear! . . . And my nickest name would be Apple!"

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Preschool: Planting Truffula Trees

In honor of Spring and Earth Day, we are doing a planting unit in our classroom.  Because I love The Lorax, especially the positive "the seeds are in your hands now" message at the end, I thought the class would get a kick out of growing their own Truffula Trees.

The closest real-world matches I could think of were marigolds and zinnias, so I picked up some seeds on sale at the grocery:

A pretty close match, I think!  I told the class that we were planting Truffula Trees, but in retrospect I wish I had said miniature Truffula Trees; they are probably expecting tree-sized plants.  We did some outdoor exploring recently to discuss trees and their features (wide or narrow, needles or leaves, short or tall, branches, bark, etc.), and luckily we did make a stop at some very short gardenia trees.  When our marigolds and zinnias come up, I plan to explain that they are also called marigolds and zinnias and that they are not really full-sized Truffula Trees.  We can continue the magic though and call them mini Truffulas.

For growing the seeds, I was inspired by this tutorial for sprouting seedings in recycled materials:  

Source: intuitionphysician.com via Frances on Pinterest

I had some cardboard egg cartons on hand, so we put those to use.  

I am hopeful that, when the time comes to put them in the ground, the cardboard will degrade under the seedlings and not impede their growth; I think it would be a good lesson in composting.

We now have some little green shoots coming from our Trees.  Today we read The Lorax again and went outside to inspect our new growth.

I also applied this Pinterest inspiration for watering our plants:

Source: ajourneytoadream.blogspot.com via Frances on Pinterest

The water pitcher I had been using was flooding the soil out of the shallow little egg cartons, so this was a welcome suggestion.  My version, of course, is not as elegant as this one, but that is life in a classroom: done with a pair of scissors on the fly.

Maybe when our Truffula Trees come up, we can make some pompom trees to take home:

Source: blogs.babble.com via Frances on Pinterest

Here is a Kid Quote from the classroom today: 

3-year-old:" I went to see the Titantic and guess what!  It sank!  And it hid behind a bush and the bush made the Titantic sank and one person died."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tutoring: Preposition Simon Says

This week in tutoring I worked on prepositions.  None of my students have learned this part of speech in school yet, but some of them have already learned it with me.  I wanted to introduce the concept and see which prepositions they have in their lexicons anyway.  We played a preposition drawing game that I got from this Pinterest post:

Source: activity-mom.com via Frances on Pinterest
We worked on basic prepositions of place.  I asked my students to draw a house, garden, fence, in front of, beside, beneath, etc.  The only preposition that proved a challenge was 'between.'  There were a few vocabulary words we could talk about too, such as gravel and wreath.

Next time I'd like to use more complex prepositions like the ones on this list, and expand into adjectives.

I'm also really excited to use this Pinboard of adjective prompts to work on that part of speech:

Source: google.com via PediaStaff on Pinterest
Unfortunately I haven't been able to convince myself to lug my laptop to a tutoring session in a while.  It's enough to make a girl buy an iPad!

A Kid Quote from this evening's session:

Six-year-old: "Who wrote this poem?"

Me: Well, do you know what 'Anonymous' means?

Six-year-old: "Oh I thought that was Annoying Mouse."

Preschool: Letter Lessons

Early literacy is one of my favorite things to work on with my little friends.  Since our current class ranges in ages from 2-and-a-half to 4-and-a-half, we have an equally wide range of alphabet comprehension and early reading/writing.  I was inspired to do an alphabet matching wheel by this blog posted on Pinterest:

I love that in this lesson the children identify the picture, sound out the first letter, and match it with the corresponding clothespin.  That was a little ambitious for most of my friends, however, so I modified it a little:
My version is a cardboard scrap with the capital letters on one side and the lower cases on the other.
My friends are generally well-versed in capital letters, so the most basic version of the lesson consists of simply matching the capital letters on the clothespins to the capital letter side of the board.  However, this version can be made more challenging by focusing on the lowercase side of the board or mismatching the upper and lower cases to show how capitals correspond with their lower cases.  

Since the lower case letters do not often appear with their upper case counterparts, I originally made this letter lesson for matching them up:
I was particularly proud of this lesson, as it was the first original lesson I made for this class.  I attached the cards to clothespins to work on fine motor muscle development.  Originally, the cards were pinned to a big cardboard piece, not unlike the smaller scale alphabet lesson above, except that I only put out a few letter pairs at a time since they are index card-sized, which is a little large.  This became unwieldy, and the lesson was too difficult for most of the children to complete on their own, so I'm working on a modification of the lesson presentation.  I'll repost this lesson when I've worked out the modification.  
Inspired by this post on Pinterest, I also made a huge die for letter recognition practice.  We roll the die, identify the letter and its sound, and do another practice such as think of a word that starts with the letter and act out the word, write the letter on the chalkboard, or find something in the room that starts with the letter. 

I love that link, because it allows you to make your own customized die like the sight-words die I made below:

Also pictured is a sensory break cube inspired by this one from (where else?) Pinterest:

Source: littlefamilyfun.blogspot.com via Frances on Pinterest

The sight word die is for working with my older friends; you can see how well loved it is.  We haven't done as much work with this as I'd like; I need to introduce sight words in a format other than the die first and come back to it.  The sensory break cube is a popular one at Circle Time, though it is not directly related to teaching literacy.

We also work on a lot of fine motor muscle development to get our fingers ready for writing, but that's another post for another day!

Here's a nonsensical Kid Quote for you today:
Three-year-old, on her week-long beach trip: "I'm never going to come back but I'm coming back soon!"

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tutoring: Second Session with New Students, and a Guess Who? Update

This week I got to conduct my second session with my new English Language students.  Last time, they were both a little quiet, so this time I got a better idea of their English skills.

We read several library books and played checkers-style games for reading comprehension of the directions and for conversation.  We also played with a picture frame I made:
 I got this idea from this Non Sequitur cartoon strip:
I thought if we had a picture frame, we could focus our attention on something interesting in the environment and work on vocabulary (especially adjectives) that way.  It turned out to be quite successful with both girls; I'll probably repeat the exercise with my other students.

With my four-year-old tutee, I read Press Here, which is an interactive book of colored dots.  It was a great test of her comprehension; I especially appreciated being able to see that she hadn't mastered the difference between "press" and "rub," for example.

I recently brought Guess Who? back to my established tutoring students, to see how they are progressing with their question formation. We also got to review some good vocabulary, such as blond, brunette, bald, and facial hair.  Guess Who? is a little red-head- and male-heavy for my taste (since it's just not terribly representational; I have nothing against either demographic), so I was thrilled to find this set of free printable Guess Who? cards that are more diverse and kid-friendly.

I had planned to bring Guess Who? for my new students, but I left it with my established family to practice with instead.  Maybe next session I can bring the game with some newly-printed cards for us to cut out and play with!

Here's a Kid Quote from this week's session that warmed my heart:
4-year-old: "Thankyoubye!  I love you!  I love you anything!  I love you anywhere!!"

Preschool: Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Holdin' My Body Up!

We recently did a short unit on bones in our preschool classroom.  I printed off this PDF from Pinterest of a child-sized skeleton:

Source: thehometeacher.blogspot.com via Frances on Pinterest 
We took turns choosing pieces to put into place, and then a couple of children got to lie down next to the paper skeleton while we decided if it looked like him or her.  The skeleton puzzle is now laminated and in our Games center in the classroom.  Occasionally someone will call me over to show me that they put it together; hands are often switched with feet, which always makes me smile.  For reference in putting together the puzzle, I included this skeleton from an earlier art project in which we drew skin and clothes on, since (as we discussed) we can't see our bones.

I also found this cool idea on Pinterest:

Instead of one glove with flour and popsicle stick bones and one with just flour, we had an empty glove and one with five pencils.  The effect was not quite the same, but it was a quicker set-up and less potentially-messy.  

We discussed what bones do: they hold our body up, they help us walk, and they make new blood in the marrow.  The last concept was a little confusing for some of my friends; this age can be a little blood- and injury-obsessed.  So we discussed new blood and old blood and how nice it is to always have new blood in your body.  The class really enjoyed acting out what it would be like to not have any bones in your body, reducing themselves to a circle of puddle-children.  

We also sang part of the Dem Bones song.  Though we did not watch the video, this is where I found the words.  I did, however, change the last line of the chorus to "Holdin' my body up!"

I'd like to do more body units, and I've already found some other cool links on Pinterest.  We did a very short heart unit in February, and I think we'd enjoy skin, muscles, and the pulmonary system.  I'd love to do the eye, or ear, but I think it might be a little abstract for right now.

Here's a Kid Quote to leave you with:
Three-year-old: "Dave and Mary Frances's boat got on lava and it sank in the Atlanta Ocean.  It sank in the Atlanta Ocean."

Me: Yeah? In the Atlantic Ocean?

Three-year-old: "Yeah it got on lava and it sank in the Atlanted Ocean."