Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Halloween Pretend Play

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Oct 13, 2016 3:44:00 PM

Halloween is only 18 days away! Children love this spooky holiday for its Jack-O’-Lantern carving and candy-filled surprises. However, arguably the most exciting aspect of Halloween is dressing up in costumes. Are your students already buzzing about which costume they’ll be wearing on Halloween? 

Holidays provide ample opportunity to tie seasonal events into literacy lessons. For emergent readers, however, incorporating seasonal books can pose a challenge—“Jack-O’-Lantern,” “werewolf,” and even “Halloween” will stump early readers. Pretending from the My World Series solves this problem by discussing the fun of dressing up in language that all your students can access!

 Although leveled at Guided Reading Level E, Pretending maintains an identical sentence structure throughout most of the book: “We can ____.” The repetitive structure will help your emergent reader gain confidence with each page. In a shared reading setting, encourage your students to help you read “We can” on each page. Real-world photographs also accompany each sentence in the book, allowing students to use pictorial clues to understand the text (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.K.7).

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The sentence structure only breaks on the last page where the text asks two questions. With the confidence that your students have built in the first eleven pages, they will be ready and willing to tackle this new sentence structure. 

During the lesson, ask your students the following questions:

Before reading:

  • Has anyone already decided on a costume for Halloween? Start a list on the board of costumes of your students’ costumes.
  • What does "pretending" mean? How do you pretend? How is dressing up on Halloween a type of pretending?

During reading:

  • Add the different pretending ideas presented in the book to your list (cooks, shoppers, dancers, etc.)

After reading:

  • What other dress-up ideas can we add to this list? Many children may have already decided on their costume, but this list may provide inspiration for those who haven’t chosen their costume yet.

 

When discussing Halloween costumes, make sure to stay mindful that not all students’ families can afford to purchase a costume. Simple dress-up ideas such as a farmer, a teacher, or a cat can easily be put together with clothing at home. If you have any economically-friendly costume ideas for students and teachers alike, share them in the comments below!

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Learn more about Pretending at this product page--it's not too late to order now and receive your books before Halloween! Click the image below to download a informational sheet about the My World Series, which includes the book featured in this article. 

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Topics: Early Childhood, Leveled Readers, My World, Halloween

Encouraging Parental Involvement in Children's Reading and Writing Growth

Posted by Geraldine Haggard on May 28, 2015 4:08:22 PM

GHaggardbiopicThis is a guest blog post by Dr. Geraldine Haggard, who is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. She spent 37 years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, teaches in her church, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children.

Home involvement can facilitate a child's growth in reading and writing. The purpose of this blog post is to help teachers encourage this involvement. This post will present ideas for beginning of the school year, during the year, and the end of the school year.

EARLY IN THE YEAR

mother_child_reading_6079652_Monkey_Business_Images-250Many schools have open houses the first week of the year. This can give you, the teacher, an opportunity to meet the parents and help them understand that you are friendly and available. If there is a formal presentation of the year and some questioning time, you can assure the parents that some early screening will be done and that you can share the results at the first formal conference. This is not the time to conduct private conversations.

Your positive attitude can assure those who are new to the school or come with concerns about the child's strengths or needs. You can introduce the parents to your class library with books on various levels visibly present. You can also share and explain the role of the school library. Encourage parents to continue reading to their children. Explain the integration of reading, writing, and the content area and make parents aware of the emphasis on this. The fact that you use reading and writing in the content areas can assure the parents who feel each area should have a special time block.

DURING THE YEAR

If your school schedules individual conferences with parents, here are some reminders of some the important characteristics of successful conferences:

  • father_son_reading_15608314_Barbara_Reddoch-250Provide your personal summary of the child's strengths and explain special positive goals for the child as he or she progresses. Emphasize the child's strengths and explain how the child can use them. Share with the parents the next goal(s) in reading and writing that you have set for your involvement with the child. Share only one or two major goals. Explain why each goal is important, how you plan to help the child achieve it, and how the parents can help you.
  • Look at the parents as you speak to them in a friendly, positive way. You want them to leave knowing that you care and value the contacts that you have with their child and them.
  • Explain your plan for the child to read and write at home. Explain how books are selected for home reading, the importance of rereading some books, and the purpose of the independent reading levels. The instructional level is for school use. Share the fact that some of the books in the take-home bag have been used in guided reading but need to be reread.
  • story_mother_child_15159721_Monkey_Business_Images-250-1The family modeling of reading and writing at home can help the child see that what they are receiving at school is also important to the parents. One way to do this is to have a special time each day when everyone in the family reads. The boys need to see a man reading and enjoying the newspaper, or a book.

AN EXAMPLE OF ONE SCHOOL'S PARENT WORKSHOP

I helped one principal of a Title I school and her teachers share ideas with parents. They invited parents to be at school at dismissal time and to bring a snack for their children. While the children ate their snacks, a teacher used a student as an example and spent fifteen minutes demonstrating how to help a child as they read their take-home book.

Session topics included how to introduce the book, emphasis on not giving child an unknown word without modeling how to approach the unknown word, the importance of fluency and how to encourage fluency, introducing an unknown vocabulary word, how to help child develop a core of sight words that he can read quickly, and how to use known parts of a word to unlock an unknown word. Each session was based on one of these topics. Teachers floated and helped parents who needed help as they worked with their child. This was another fifteen-minute block of time.

Your school librarian might have a thirty-minute open house in the library. She and teachers can take small groups of parents and children and demonstrate how to decide if a library book is appropriate for the child to read. The parents can be encouraged to read to the child above the child's independent reading level.

Reading Recovery teachers with whom I worked recorded the child reading orally several times during the year. The date of the reading was shared before the child read. The parents got to hear the growth over a period of time and the changed instructional levels and in fluency.

PARENTAL GUIDANCE AT THE END OF THE SCHOOL YEAR

family_laughing_reading_52550302_Marina_Dyakonova-250A letter thanking parents for sharing their child with you can also include ideas for helping the child to continue to read and write during the summer. The following ideas could be included:

  • Children who do not read and write during summer can lose up to three months of their growth during the school year.
  • Many public libraries have summer programs for children. The participating child may be asked to keep a record of the books read during the summer. The parents can continue to read to their children.
  • Summer provides opportunities for the child to write thank-you notes, diaries of a trip, letters to school friends that they may not see during the summer, and to keep summer memories in a scrapbook with pictures, maps, and other items from trips or other activities.
  • Parents can make books available while the family is traveling by car or flying.
  • Thank parents for their support during the school year. Work samples from the year can become treasured family history.

Parents can become partners in the task of helping every child become a good reader and writer. Share your special ideas with your principal and consider special guidelines for parental support in your district.

~~~

Geraldine Haggard is the author of several books from our Kaleidoscope Collection Series. For more information about the Kaleidoscope Collection Series click HERE to return to our website or click the series highlight page below.  

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Topics: Early Childhood, Kaleidoscope Collection, Family Literacy, Parental Involvement, Geraldine Haggard

Building Blocks of Literacy: Helping Infants and Toddlers Develop Language Skills

Posted by Geraldine Haggard on May 14, 2015 4:30:00 PM

GHaggardbiopicThis is a guest blog post by Dr. Geraldine Haggard, who is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. She spent 37 years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, teaches in her church, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children.

There are joys that come with the presence of a tiny child in the home. There are also important responsibilities placed on the caregivers. One of these is modeling beginning language skills that serve as the foundation of learning to read.

How can caregivers communicate with an infant? That very small person's first attempt to communicate is crying, telling someone that he has a need. Listening parents learn to identify reasons for the crying. An adult can respond, meet the need, and speak in sentences of three words. "Are you wet?" etc.

Even before the age of six months, the baby begins to babble using vowels and consonant sounds that compose his home language. From birth on, singing and listening to nursery rhymes provide modeling for the sounds and words we want the child to produce.

mother_child_reading_14089697_OtnaydurHolding the baby and sharing books for a short period of time is recommended. The infant may not listen to a complete story, but names of pictures and actions can be modeled. The baby may want to pat or play with the book. Read the same book many times. As the child begins to say simple words, repeat words from the story.

Make books available with his toys. My great-granddaughters go to a low shelf in their room and select a book they want to hear before bed each night. Some of their first spoken words were from these stories. 

The ability to repeat nursery rhymes and sing simple songs is recognized as a great predictor of later success in reading. An infant needs to hear the rhymes many times. Essential skills for early reading success come from the child's exposure to books, rhymes, and songs.  He learns to listen and to respond. The ability to hear words and sounds within words is beginning to develop.  The child's ability to predict language and story happenings are facilitated.

The young child, who has had heard many stories read, develops two vocabularies. One is the receptive vocabulary that contains words that he hears, but that are not yet in his speech.  The second vocabulary is the expressive vocabulary, which includes words that he uses in speech. The many books the child has heard read and the complete sentences used by the older family members around him help the young child use correct sentence structure.

child_reading_books_14715389_Otnaydur-300At about the age of two, a child begins to string two words together.  A favorite is "What's that?' The answers given to him or her, in short sentences, will help that child enlarge his or her speaking vocabulary. Between 12 and 24 months of age the infant triples the number of words in his speaking vocabulary. The adults in the infant's world may not understand all of these words. Speaking is like walking. The first attempts are not always successful. The one who is listening can keep modeling the new words and let the novice speaker know that he is pleasing an important person in his life.

Four pages of ideas for encouraging language and benchmarks for various ages can be found on Iowa State University website, in the article Understanding Children: Language Development.

A parent who is concerned that a pre-school child is not developing the language skills for his age can contact the Special Education Department of the local school district and ask for a language screening by a certified speech pathologist. There are several reasons why language development might be difficult for the child. The child may have an acuity problem. He may have difficulty discriminating between sounds. The child with articulation problems may need help with this last auditory skill. Frequent earaches and/or the placement of tubes in the ear may result in these discrimination problems. Other learning problems can be identified.

Enjoy your small one and communicate with him or her. 

~~~

Geraldine Haggard is the author of several books from our Kaleidoscope Collection Series. For more information about the Kaleidoscope Collection Series click HERE to return to our website or click the series highlight page below.  

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Topics: Early Childhood, Kaleidoscope Collection, Geraldine Haggard

The Power of the Cut-Up Sentence

Posted by Paula Dugger on Feb 10, 2015 8:00:00 AM

describe the imageThis is a guest blog post. It's authored by special guest blogger Paula Dugger, who is an educational consultant with a rich-literacy background that includes serving as a Reading Recovery Teacher/Teacher Leader, first grade teacher, Title I and high school reading teacher, as well as a Reading Coordinator. Hameray is thrilled to be able to share with you Paula's classroom-tested ideas and experience in helping young learners achieve their early literacy goals.

As a Reading Recovery teacher, I was always amazed at the interest by regular classroom teachers concerning the cut-up sentence activity seen in a Reading Recovery lesson.  Whenever an opportunity permitted, classroom teachers would be invited to observe their Reading Recovery student(s) during a lesson.  After each lesson, I would ask the teachers if they noticed any behaviors the student was exhibiting in the lesson but not in their classroom.  I would also ask if there was anything in the lesson they would like more information on or like to incorporate within their class or small groups. 

Almost without exception, the cut-up sentence was always brought up. The sequencing of words to create a meaningful thought along with searching for visual information is powerful for such a simple activity.  I also used the cut-up to work on phrasing and fluency.  Many teachers found this to be a great way to explicitly teach phrasing and fluent reading.

 

So how does this activity work?

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During the writing portion of the Reading Recovery lesson, the child is asked to compose a story (one or two sentences).  The teacher will assist the child as needed.

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 The teacher then writes the sentence on a piece of tag board while child watches.

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Next, the teacher would cut the sentence up(usually word by word) while the child watches.

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After the teacher scrambles the words, the child reassembles the sentence.  

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The sentence is then placed in an envelope with the sentence written (by the teacher) on the outside.

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The student can then take the sentence home to reassemble the sentence for practice and to rewrite in order to accumulate more words into their writing vocabulary.  The envelope with the sentence written on the outside serves as a way for the child or parent to check after the sentence has been reassembled.

 The cut-up sentence allows the teacher an opportunity to teach and the child to practice:

  • one-to-one correspondence between the printed and spoken word
  • thinking about the sounds in words
  • sequencing words using structure so that they make a meaningful sentence
  • searching and checking for information by rereading
  • using capitalization, punctuation, and spacing
  • phrasing and fluent reading
  • physically manipulating words
  • self--correcting

 

As the child moves up into more complex reading levels, the sentences will also become more complex.   The teacher can also prompt the student to reassemble the sentence into phrases to explicitly teach how to read phrased and fluently.

In a small group setting the teacher and students can compose a sentence together.  Instead of sending the sentence home, the sentences be saved in a place for the group to use over and over by the students.

It is important that the teacher carefully model the assignment and guide the student.  Once the child has demonstrated an understanding of the task, putting the sentence back together can easily be an independent activity in the classroom as well as a shared activity with parents at home.

 

~~~

Paula Dugger has a B.S., M.Ed., and Reading Specialist Certification from The University of Texas at Austin and Reading Recovery training through Texas Woman’s University. Paula does educational consulting and training through Dugger Educational Consulting, LLC and can be contacted at np.dugger@att.net

Paula and her husband Neil are parents to two wonderful daughters, Alicean and Ashley, two sons-in-law Kevin and Patrick, and grandparents Carter and Blake. She also raises registered Texas Longhorns on the weekends. The longhorn cattle are featured in her first book published by Hameray Publishing Group, titled Longhorns.

 

For more blogs by Paula click HERE.

 

 

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Topics: Early Childhood, Paula Dugger, Guest Blog

Using Formulas To Give Powerful Book Introductions

Posted by Paula Dugger on Jan 22, 2015 8:00:00 AM

describe the imageThis is a guest blog post. It's authored by special guest blogger Paula Dugger, who is an educational consultant with a rich-literacy background that includes serving as a Reading Recovery Teacher/Teacher Leader, first grade teacher, Title I and high school reading teacher, as well as a Reading Coordinator. Hameray is thrilled to be able to share with you Paula's classroom-tested ideas and experience in helping young learners achieve their early literacy goals.

A well-planned book introduction that considers the strengths and weaknesses of the reader(s) will help ensure a good first reading of a new text by the reader(s). However, no one-book introduction “fits all” and the teacher should plan each introduction carefully to meet the needs of the reader(s).

 
I use the simple formula of M(eaning) S(tructure) V(isual) to help design a book introduction for each group of students or individual student I am working with.

Using meaning, structure and visual information in the introduction of an appropriately leveled and selected text will help ensure a good first reading by the child.

 

  • M-meaning (give an overview of the story). The reader needs to know what the story is about before reading. Adults only choose books after recommendations or reading a review of the book.
  • S-structure (review any difficult or predicted trouble spot with the student).  The beginning and emergent reader does not have command of all the various sentence structures in their oral language and will need help in developing various language structures. This element of the book introduction is also vital in helping second language learners.
  • V-visual (have the student locate 1 or 2 known or unknown words prior to reading) Helping a reader locate an unknown word throughout a new text as an anchor often helps in confidence building in tackling a new text.  The same is true when asking the reader to locate a new word based on visual information.

Below is a sample book introduction using Joy Cowley’s

Wishy-Washy Garden 

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“Today we are going to read Wishy-Washy Garden by Joy Cowley.  In this story, the animals want to help Mrs. Wishy-Washy, so they clean her garden.”

 

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Texts with patterned phrases can be addressed through structure.  To highlight or plant a specific phrase structure into the child’s mind, the teacher might say while pointing to the pictures, “Let’s look at the pictures to see who will help. The (cow) will help. The (pig) will help, etc.

 

 

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The predicable text pattern changes on the last page. The teacher might say, “Mrs. Wishy-Washy cried, ‘Where is my garden?’  Can you say ‘Where is my garden?’  Say it again like you think she would say that.”

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To help students use visual information on a potential unknown word, the teacher could say, “On page 2 it says the cow ‘will help clean the garden’. What do you think clean would start with?  Can you find a word that starts with that letter (or letters) on this page and frame it so that I can see that you found it?”

“Now can you find the word clean on page 6?  On page 7? When you read the story you will now be able to read the word clean because it begins with the and makes sense in the story.”

 

 

 

After the book introduction using MSV have the reader(s) attempt a first reading on their own with the teacher silent. If needed the teacher can read with the students in a choral reading for a second reading.

 

Hameray books often have a brief introduction on the back of the book.

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The inside back cover also contains ideas for before, during and after reading.

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Paula Dugger has a B.S., M.Ed., and Reading Specialist Certification from The University of Texas at Austin and Reading Recovery training through Texas Woman’s University. Paula does educational consulting and training through Dugger Educational Consulting, LLC and can be contacted at np.dugger@att.net

Paula and her husband Neil are parents to two wonderful daughters, Alicean and Ashley, two sons-in-law Kevin and Patrick, and grandparents to Carter. She also raises registered Texas Longhorns on the weekends. The longhorn cattle are featured in her first book published by Hameray Publishing Group, titled Longhorns.

 

For more information on Joy Cowley Early Birds books cick the image below

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Topics: Joy Cowley Early Birds, Early Childhood, Paula Dugger, Guest Blog

Classic Post: Using Wordless Informational Texts to Support Early Writing

Posted by Susan Bennett-Armistead on Jul 31, 2014 12:00:36 PM

describe the imageThis guest post by Susan Bennett-Armistead, author of our My World informational texts, is part of an ongoing series in which she discusses informational text and its benefits and uses. It was originally published in October of 2013. Click here to read her other posts.

Working with Wordless: Using Wordless Informational Text to Support Early Writing

I confess. I love using wordless picture books with children. I love to hear them make up stories from the information provided in illustrations. I love hearing them use storybook language when they structure their unique telling of the story. I love how they let me in on their thinking, their vocabulary, and their creativity, as they make something out of nothing. There are so many marvelous wordless storybooks available that it’s easy to unleash their storytelling creativity.

What I love even more, though, is challenging children with a wordess informational text and inviting them to “tell me all about __________.” Children who have been exposed to informational/explanatory text are able to quickly adjust from the “Once upon a time” structure of stories to the general informative style of an informational text, “Some insects are big. Some insects live in a tree. Some insects live in the ground,” simply by looking at the photo provided and sharing something the photo is conveying about the topic.

In addition to inviting your children to tell you stories, you can assist them in becoming skillful in telling/writing informational text by trying the following ideas:

1. Include informational text in your read aloud before introducing the wordless books. Children who have been exposed to the structures and format of informational text have a leg up in being able to produce it. Talk about the features as you read the text so children know what you’re noticing about the text. Compare the structure with stories that are structured differently.

 

2. Include wordless informational text in your library. This is tricky because there aren’t a lot of these on the market. In addition to books in Hameray’s My World, you might also include Ermanno Cristini’s out of print but still available books, In the Woods, In the Pond, and In My Garden.

 

3. When using wordless books with children, invite them to “read” the book to you as if it were telling you all about the topic. Try using prompts such as, “I know you know a lot about animals that live in the woods. Read me this book all about animals that live in the woods.” Take dictation from the child as she reads the book to you so you can read her informational text back to her. Ask her if there’s anything she’d like to add or change.

 

4. Make your own informational wordless books. Invite your children to look through magazines and find pictures all about a topic of their choice. After gathering the pictures, have them glue the pictures to a piece of construction paper (one picture per page). Slip the pictures into page protectors in a binder and have the child read you the book as if it were a published text. Again, take dictation to capture the child’s text.

 

5. Create a class book on a topic. A dear friend used an “alphabet letter of the week” approach in her kindergarten classroom. She had the children brainstorm all the words they could think of that started with the focal letter. Each small group then selected one word to create a wordless book about. One group, during F week, selected “fire,” another chose “fall,” and still another selected “friends”. After creating pictures that depicted their focal word, the teacher invited each child in the group to tell about their picture:

- "Friends don’t be mean to each other."

- "Friends play together."

- "Don’t hit or push or bite."

- "Friends share stuff."

- "Me and Heather swing together."

The children then read their previously wordless book to the class.

 

Common Core State Standards bring growing attention to informational and explanatory text. By offering wordless books in the preprimary setting, we’re setting children up to be familiar with the features of that type of text. Additionally, wordless books are marvelous to use with children, since they’re so open-ended that they encourage children to take risks. There are no words to get wrong, and looking at pictures for ideas is what children do all the time when viewing text. With just a little support from us, they can stretch this risk-taking into increasingly rich and detailed writing—something every child needs!

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Susan Bennett-Armistead, PhD, is an associate professor of literacy education, the Correll Professor of Early Literacy, and the coordinator of literacy doctoral study at the University of Maine. Prior to doctoral study, Dr. Bennett-Armistead was a preschool teacher and administrator for 14 years in a variety of settings, including a brief but delightful stint in the Alaskan bush.

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For more information on the My World series by this author, you can click here to visit the series page on our website or click the left image below to download an information sheet.

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To see some other wordless books available from Hameray, see Zoozoo Into the Wild (flip through a sample below!) which combines realistic photos with illustration to tell a story, and Oral Language Development series, which features children in everyday settings and can be used as a writing prompt as well as to assess oral language.

 


 

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Topics: Informational Text, Early Childhood, Susan Bennett-Armistead, Preschool

What Goes On in a Content-Rich Preschool Classroom? Find Out!

Posted by Susan Bennett-Armistead on Nov 15, 2013 8:00:00 AM

susan bennett-armisteadThis guest post by Susan Bennett-Armistead, author of our My World informational texts, is part of an ongoing series in which she discusses informational text and its benefits and uses, and gives tips on teaching in a preschool and early elementary setting. Check back regularly to catch her next post—you can also read her earlier work here!


A Day in the Life of a Content-Rich Preschool Classroom

In recent posts I’ve talked about how to incorporate information and informational texts into your early childhood classroom. Some readers have asked me to talk about what that might look like in a daily lesson format. Here is a one day plan with a focus on learning about Plants.

Focal Terms

Plant

Leaf

Stem

Grow

FROM SEEDS 1Seed

Soil

Concepts of the Day

Some plants grow from seeds.

Each seed produces a different kind of plant.

Plants need soil, light, and water to grow.

Some plants are used for food.

Plants are composed of parts that include a stem and leaves. Some plants also have flowers.

Entry Activities (table activities as children come in)

Exploration of plant material such as bark, corn stalks, and flowers using magnifying glasses.

Book basket including books on plants.

Puzzles and table games.

Large-Group Activity - Language Experience

Brainstorming Plants: Make a list of plants that children know about. You’ll need to give them a definition of a plant and some examples to get the ball rolling. Feel free to add to the list throughout the day and the week. Post this list in the writing area.

Plants coverChoice-Time Choices

Sensory Table: Field corn on the cob, loose corn, balance scale, scoops, the book Corn.

Book Corner: variety of books about plants.

Block Area: Blocks, blocks made from slices of trees, trucks, books on building houses and homes.

Art Area: Fruit and vegetable stamping—using cross sections of apples, potatoes, celery, oranges, green pepper, and onion, have the children dip the vegetables in thin paint to create prints of the vegetables. Talk about the parts of the vegetables and fruits you are working with: seeds, skin, veins, stalk, stem, etc. Talk about how the children made that print they made: “Which vegetable made this print? How about this one?”

Dress-up Area: Campout—tent, pretend fire, sleeping bags, backpacks, cooking pans, maps, posters of plants of your state, plant guidebooks, clipboard for documenting plants they find, pretend cameras, binoculars.

Science Corner: Have a display of various plants and seeds for the children to explore, magnifying glasses, and information books on plants and plant structures.

Thinking Area: Use puzzles, games, and a seed-sorting activity: a variety of seeds to be sorted from smallest to largest—make sure you have a coconut!

Writing Center: With paper, markers, pencils made from tree twigs, and booklets in the shape of trees, prompt children to write something about what they know about trees; take dictation as necessary)

Small-Group Work (small groups are called to work with the teacher during choice time)

Each group will read Lois Ehlert’s Growing Vegetable Soup. We’ll talk about what the seeds needed to grow and what we would need to do to create our own gardens.

We’ll then plant our own seeds using a procedural text spread out by stations at a table: 1) Get a cup. Write your name on it. 2) Put dirt in the cup. 3) Choose a seed to plant. [There will be a variety of seeds to choose from, each having been mentioned in our book.] 4) Water your seed. 5) Place your seed on the window sill.

Large Group Activity II

Song: Everything Grows by Raffi—chart it out for children to follow along.

K-W-L on plants: What do we think we know about plants? What do we wonder about plants? Save the "what have we learned" section for after you’ve studied about plants. Use the children’s wonderings to help plan the rest of the unit. Make sure you select texts that answer their questions.                  

Snack Time

Snack will be cucumber slices, crackers, and juice. We’ll talk about how some of our items came from plants and what parts of the plants were used.

—transition to outside time—

children climb playground 13982185 Felix MizioznikovOutside Time

Book Basket: We bring out a book basket on the theme for outside reading each day. (If you live in a snowy climate, plastic bath books or the new “Indestructables” series work well for this.)

Nature Spot: Each child is given a string to create a circle around an area of the playground that they can stake out to observe what is going on in that spot across the year. With clipboards, children will document what is going on in their spots today and label the spot with their names. With today’s focus on plants, talk about what plants they can see in their nature spot.

Access to Climbers: Children may choose to play with outside equipment.

—dismiss from outside—

Make sure to post the focal words and concepts around the room so that adults incorporate the words and concepts into play with the children throughout the day. The richness of the language and interaction with text will assist children in making the concepts their own. You can extend the classroom experience by including information about the topic in your newsletter so your families can talk about the same concepts at home. Sending home book bags with books on plants will let families use read aloud to build concepts as well. Ultimately, wrapping your children in content will build their knowledge and their confidence in themselves as learners.

~~~

Susan Bennett-Armistead, PhD, is an associate professor of literacy education, the Correll Professor of Early Literacy, and the coordinator of literacy doctoral study at the University of Maine. Prior to doctoral study, Dr. Bennett-Armistead was a preschool teacher and administrator for 14 years in a variety of settings, including a brief but delightful stint in the Alaskan bush.

~~~

For more information on the My World series by this author, you can click here to visit the series page on our website or click the left image below to download an information sheet.

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Topics: Informational Text, Early Childhood, Susan Bennett-Armistead, Preschool

Using Wordless Informational Texts to Support Early Writing

Posted by Susan Bennett-Armistead on Oct 23, 2013 8:00:00 AM

describe the imageThis guest post by Susan Bennett-Armistead, author of our My World informational texts, is part of an ongoing series in which she discusses informational text and its benefits and uses. Check back regularly to catch her next post!

Working with Wordless: Using Wordless Informational Text to Support Early Writing

I confess. I love using wordless picture books with children. I love to hear them make up stories from the information provided in illustrations. I love hearing them use storybook language when they structure their unique telling of the story. I love how they let me in on their thinking, their vocabulary, and their creativity, as they make something out of nothing. There are so many marvelous wordless storybooks available that it’s easy to unleash their storytelling creativity.

What I love even more, though, is challenging children with a wordess informational text and inviting them to “tell me all about __________.” Children who have been exposed to informational/explanatory text are able to quickly adjust from the “Once upon a time” structure of stories to the general informative style of an informational text, “Some insects are big. Some insects live in a tree. Some insects live in the ground,” simply by looking at the photo provided and sharing something the photo is conveying about the topic.

In addition to inviting your children to tell you stories, you can assist them in becoming skillful in telling/writing informational text by trying the following ideas:

1. Include informational text in your read aloud before introducing the wordless books. Children who have been exposed to the structures and format of informational text have a leg up in being able to produce it. Talk about the features as you read the text so children know what you’re noticing about the text. Compare the structure with stories that are structured differently.

 

2. Include wordless informational text in your library. This is tricky because there aren’t a lot of these on the market. In addition to books in Hameray’s My World, you might also include Ermanno Cristini’s out of print but still available books, In the Woods, In the Pond, and In My Garden.


3. When using wordless books with children, invite them to “read” the book to you as if it were telling you all about the topic. Try using prompts such as, “I know you know a lot about animals that live in the woods. Read me this book all about animals that live in the woods.” Take dictation from the child as she reads the book to you so you can read her informational text back to her. Ask her if there’s anything she’d like to add or change.

 

4. Make your own informational wordless books. Invite your children to look through magazines and find pictures all about a topic of their choice. After gathering the pictures, have them glue the pictures to a piece of construction paper (one picture per page). Slip the pictures into page protectors in a binder and have the child read you the book as if it were a published text. Again, take dictation to capture the child’s text.

 

5. Create a class book on a topic. A dear friend used an “alphabet letter of the week” approach in her kindergarten classroom. She had the children brainstorm all the words they could think of that started with the focal letter. Each small group then selected one word to create a wordless book about. One group, during F week, selected “fire,” another chose “fall,” and still another selected “friends”. After creating pictures that depicted their focal word, the teacher invited each child in the group to tell about their picture:

- "Friends don’t be mean to each other."

- "Friends play together."

- "Don’t hit or push or bite."

- "Friends share stuff."

- "Me and Heather swing together."

The children then read their previously wordless book to the class.

 

Common Core State Standards bring growing attention to informational and explanatory text. By offering wordless books in the preprimary setting, we’re setting children up to be familiar with the features of that type of text. Additionally, wordless books are marvelous to use with children, since they’re so open-ended that they encourage children to take risks. There are no words to get wrong, and looking at pictures for ideas is what children do all the time when viewing text. With just a little support from us, they can stretch this risk-taking into increasingly rich and detailed writing—something every child needs!

~~~

Susan Bennett-Armistead, PhD, is an associate professor of literacy education, the Correll Professor of Early Literacy, and the coordinator of literacy doctoral study at the University of Maine. Prior to doctoral study, Dr. Bennett-Armistead was a preschool teacher and administrator for 14 years in a variety of settings, including a brief but delightful stint in the Alaskan bush.

~~~

For more information on the My World series by this author, you can click here to visit the series page on our website or click the left image below to download an information sheet.

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To see some other wordless books available from Hameray, see Zoozoo Into the Wild (flip through a sample below!) which combines realistic photos with illustration to tell a story, and Oral Language Development series, which features children in everyday settings and can be used as a writing prompt as well as to assess oral language.

 


 

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Topics: Informational Text, Early Childhood, Susan Bennett-Armistead, Preschool

A Kindergarten Literacy Routine from Greg Smedley!

Posted by Greg Smedley on Oct 14, 2013 8:00:00 AM

Greg SmedleyToday, we bring you another guest blog post from Greg Smedley. For more from Greg, be sure to check out his blog!

A Kindergarten Literacy Routine!

Today I want to share part of my literacy block routine. I have used this routine for three years without much tweaking, and I credit this routine for a big part of my success in teaching students to read. This is one of the questions I get most often: what do you do to help your kids read so well? So, here's part of the answer!

Our day starts at 7:45 with arrival. Arrival lasts until 8:00. Announcements last until 8:05. Morning Meeting lasts from 8:05 until 8:20 (give or take!). After morning meeting, we sing four songs. As soon as we finish our songs, we begin our literacy block. Our literacy block lasts from 8:20–10:10 and then 11:10–12:10 is literacy with a writing focus. Today I want to share our literacy kick-off routine!

Our letter and sound routine goes like this:

I point to a picture. They say the letter, the picture, and the sound. Remember the Alphardy song (Dr. Jean, btw!)? That is where our letter and sound chart comes from. For example: "A apple /a/, B bounce /b/," and so on. Early in the year, we do them in order. After we get good at the routine, I switch it up and we do them in random order. I also switch between whole group and individual turns. This is key to our strong foundations in reading. They are exposed to every letter and every sound every day!

literacy routine 1 500

After letters and sounds, we move to sight words. We talk about sights being everywhere, and if we want to be good readers, we must learn our sight words. We are using a new sight-word routine this year, and already, I have seen a huge difference in sight-word recognition. I will do a much more detailed post on sight words later, but it looks like this: read the word, spell the word, decode the word (if possible), and use it in a sentence. Tuesday and Wednesday's focus is on reading the word and using the word in a sentence. On Thursday, I present a grid that we read and color. The grid goes home to practice. Friday's task is a game or graphing activity.

literacy routine 2 200

After sight words, we read our poem. Each week we have a poem that is tied to our theme or letter. I find poems online and use those—I do not re-invent the wheel. This week we are reading a short "five senses" poem. Last week the poem was about a pig who wouldn't let me watch television. I try to find poems that are easy to read and poems that are funny! Monday we do echo reading. Tuesday we do a mix of echo reading and choral reading. Wednesday we do choral reading, and on Thursday and Friday they are reading the poem by themselves (unless it's a more difficult poem). I give this part of our literacy block big props for helping my student develop better fluency! They get to hear fluent reading daily, and they practice fluent reading daily. Sometimes we even incorporate different voices into our reading!

After our poem, we read an emergent reader (you can find various emergent-leveled readers here and here). The emergent readers are generally sight-word based, and tie into our theme and topic. I am trying to incorporate more science and social studies into our emergent readers! We follow the same routine as with the poem. Thursday night the emergent reader goes home for homework, and Friday is when I ask for volunteers to read the book to the class! This is a perfect time for some very short mini-lessons on using sounds to help us read the words, on concepts of print, and on using pictures to help us understand what we're reading.

literacy routine 3 200

Following the emergent reader, we focus on our sound of the week and our language focus of the week. For example, today we brainstormed /t/ words. We also counted syllables in words and identified rhyming words. This changes weekly or bi-weekly depending on the language skills we're focusing on. The sound changes weekly.

And now we are ready for our story and comprehension.

That is a lot. But guess what? It's rapid fire and quick. This all takes about fifteen to twenty minutes (except the story and comprehension). It's just quick, well-practiced routines. Monday  usually takes a bit longer, because it's a new poem and emergent reader. But generally, fifteen to twenty minutes is a good time frame for foundation building that reaps major rewards.

So that is what the first twenty minutes of my literacy block look like. I hope that gives you some ideas for your own classroom and answers some questions you may have had!

~~~

My name is Greg Smedley-Warren and yes, I am a bit of a rockstar! I am a male kindergarten teacher! It’s true! We are a rare species, but we do exist! I have been teaching for eight years and I have taught 5th grade, 2nd grade and kindergarten. My heart is Kindergarten! I believe that every student can succeed and that it’s my job to give them the tools they need. My classroom is full of energy and fun. We are always singing, dancing, moving, and learning. If you were to appear at my classroom door you would see chaos. But it’s really organized chaos. I am famous for my love of all things glitter, all things mustaches, and silly hats! I also write a teaching blog, Smedley’s Smorgasbord of Kindergarten, which is a peek into my silly and chaotic life as a teacher!

I live in Nashville, TN (Music City USA) with my husband and our Golden Doodle, Butters!

~~~

Want some fun, colorful emergent-leveled readers to use in your own literacy routine? We've got great literature and informational text series! Click the images below to explore key features!

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How Do You Decide What to Teach? Choosing Units of Study in Preschool

Posted by Susan Bennett-Armistead on Oct 11, 2013 8:00:00 AM

describe the imageThis guest post by Susan Bennett-Armistead, author of our My World informational texts, is part of an ongoing series in which she discusses informational text and its benefits and uses. Check back regularly to catch her next post!

“How do you decide what to teach?”

Because I have the privilege of visiting many programs around the country and the opportunity to meet with many skilled teachers, I get asked that question a lot. One of the wonderful things about teaching in preprimary classrooms is we often have more freedom to select our topics of study than our friends in K–12 education do. At the same time, that can be a bit daunting. Coming up with units of study, whether you’re following the children’s lead with a Reggio Emilia approach or working from a theme-based perspective, means that you need to think carefully about several important things:

1) Know your learners.

This may seem obvious, but you need to be very aware of what your children know and can do as well as knowing what gaps they may have in knowledge. The whole idea of assessment-led instruction has often been misunderstood to mean that we have to formally assess children’s knowledge before we can instruct them. As you know, many schools spend entire weeks assessing children’s knowledge. That’s not the only, or even the best, way to gain an understanding about what children know. Through informal assessments such as visiting with children, observing their play, and investigating their interests, you can gain a great deal of information about what children know. Simply playing games such as Candyland with them can tell you who knows the names of the colors and who does not. Developing a record keeping system, such as an anecdotal record log that you peruse from time to time can help you decide what content you should be building on.

6068 Pg01 ultralight plane 13375863 Artur Mercik2) Move from the known to the new.

Children (and adults) learn best when information is repeated, relevant to them, and real. One of the best ways to make learning relevant to children is to link it to something they already know about. For example, I used to teach in the Alaskan bush for a couple of years. The way most of us got around was by small planes. There were no children in my group who had not been on an airplane. If I was doing a unit on transportation and decided to set up a vehicle in my dress up area, it would have to be a plane or a boat since that’s what the children were most familiar with. I now live in rural Maine. Very few children here have flown in planes. A unit on transportation here would not start off with an airplane in the dress-up area; it might have a school bus instead. I could eventually turn my school bus into an airplane, but I’d need to bridge it for my children to help them understand that planes and buses have some similarities, as well as important differences.

3) Start with the child.

When I was teaching preschool, like many teachers, I started with the same themes each year. Using the principle above, I moved from what the children knew best—themselves—and gradually expanded their world. Here are some examples of my themes, in chronological order:

- Marvelous Me

- My Family

- Friends at School (about making friends and the community of school)

- My Neighborhood

- Community Heroes

- Healthy Humans

- Sensing the World Around Us (a two-week unit on senses)

- Trees (living in the north, we needed to talk about changes in the trees)

- Feelings (usually timed for Halloween so we could talk about things that scare us)

MAMMALSBy this point in the year, I knew children’s interests and issues well so I could start building themes built on their content knowledge and passions. Additional themes have included:

- Under the Sea

- Dinosaurs

- Animals in Winter

- Rocks and Minerals

- Mammals

- Amphibians

- Insects

- Birds All Around Us

- Everything Grows

- Art and Artists

- Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

- Once Upon a Time (genre study of fairytales)

- Friends Forever (focusing on promoting social problem-solving)

- Life in the Forest

- Life in the Desert

- Space

- Change (addressing the changes expected with the end of school and children's moving on)

By approaching my year in this way, I started with the child and ended as far from the child as possible (in space!), which helped their world and their knowledge to grow over time.

4) Designing the Content-rich Classroom.

You may have noticed that none of my themes were the letter or color of the week, nor is there anything on this list about teddy bears. Theme selection has to be rich enough that the children can learn about something for a week or more; I generally did units for about 2 weeks. There have to be facts to learn, literature to link the facts to, and enough age-appropriate content for children to sink their teeth into. Science- or social-studies–focused themes tend to offer more depth to talk about than doing a unit on, say, The Gingerbread Man. To plan this way, you have to first decide:

a.     What are the facts I want children to know about this topic?

b.     What do children already know about this topic?

c.     What vocabulary should children gain to master this topic?

d.     What experiences can I provide for children to gain this knowledge?

My World Teacher%27s Guide Final highres 1The My World series is theme-based, and the teacher’s guide, available here, offers some examples of theme planning for the five themes in the series. Additional resources you might try are Teaching Young Children Using Themes and Themes Teachers Use, both by Kostelnik et al.

After generating the answers to the questions, planning for all areas of development falls into place using whatever planning format you’ve been using. The trick though, is that as the teacher, you have to ask the most important questions of all: What do I need to know about this topic to effectively teach it? What resources do I need to investigate to make sure my content knowledge is accurate?

My greatest fear is teaching misinformation out of my own ignorance! I once sat in on a class where the teacher told the children that the moon was the closest planet to the earth. To make sure I don’t do something like that, I often read up on a topic using informational children’s books to make sure my content knowledge is accurate and up to date, as well as framed in a way that young children can understand it.

As mentioned in previous posts, building children’s knowledge of their world benefits them now, as they’re developing their own understandings of the world around them, but also later when they’re trying to make sense of material they’re reading about. Planning your classroom and your year around building that knowledge can enrich them with a lifetime of curiosity and learning.

~~~

Susan Bennett-Armistead, PhD, is an associate professor of literacy education, the Correll Professor of Early Literacy, and the coordinator of literacy doctoral study at the University of Maine. Prior to doctoral study, Dr. Bennett-Armistead was a preschool teacher and administrator for 14 years in a variety of settings, including a brief but delightful stint in the Alaskan bush.

~~~

For more information on the My World series by this author, you can click here to visit the series page on our website or click the image below to download an information sheet.

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Topics: Informational Text, Early Childhood, Susan Bennett-Armistead, Preschool

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