Word Wall & Classroom Library updated

 I have updated the pictures on the Word Wall and Classroom Library pages.  My new classroom theme is “Growing Readers” and is done entirely in a garden motif.  I transformed my classroom library into a garden, I was inspired by an idea in Debbie Diller’s latest book, Spaces & Places: Designing Classrooms for Literacy.   You can read all about the items pictured below and ideas on how to implement both areas on the Word Wall or Classroom Library pages.  The large banner above the word wall that says “We’re Growing Readers in Pre-K” is from Vista Print.

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Two great books your students will LOVE!

If I were a lion

I was at Barnes & Noble recently browsing the shelves for good read alouds for preschoolers.  One of the first books I saw when I entered the children’s section was If I Were a Lion
by Sarah Weeks.  If you teach preschool or kindergarten or you have a child between the ages of 2-6 they will adore this book!   If I Were a Lion ranks right up there with the ultra-popular No David! series by David Shannon.  I always wished there was a female version of David because it is so stereotypical that the naughty child is male, well my wish has come true because the main character in If I Were a Lion is female.   The story is about a little girl who misbehaves and is sent to time out.  It has all the elements of a great read aloud for young children; the text is written in rhyme, the illustrations are very well done, and the story is told in first person by a little girl who uses her imagination to tell the reader who she really is.  When I read this book aloud to a group of preschoolers in my model classroom they were enthralled by the wild antics of the naughty little girl.  They made spontaneous parallels  between the main character in If I Were a Lion and the main character in the No David! series.    If I Were a Lion is a must have for every preschool teacher and parent.  

themarveloustoy_400

Another book that caught my eye in B&N was The Marvelous Toy by Tom Paxton.  The illustrations are spectacular and grab the reader from across the room.   This book is actually based on a song written by Tom Paxton which I had never heard before.  I was looking for a book that would fall into the memoir genre to read aloud to my students.   After reading  The Marvelous Toy it definitely qualifies as a memoir, the story is about a young boy who receives a very interesting toy from his father.   The toy does many interesting things but you never know what it is, this was fantastic because it led to lots of great discussion with the students about what they thought the toy might be.  The end is also very touching, I won’t give it away but it leads to even more great discussion.   The book comes with a CD so you can listen to the song and play it for your students.   I have included a video of Peter, Paul, and Mary singing  The Marvelous Toy, apparently John Denver also covered it. 

I Love Letters!

I Love Letters! by Dr. Jean Feldman

I Love Letters! by Dr. Jean Feldman

I just read a new book titled I Love Letters!: More Than 200 Quick & Easy Activities to Introduce Young Children to Letters and Literacy by Dr. Jean Feldman.    I Love Letters!is a literacy goldmine for pre-k and kindergarten teachers!   It’s chock-full of  fun, simple ideas to teach literacy that you can implement in your classroom quickly and easily.  I wouldn’t let the title fool you though, this book address many different aspects of literacy, not just letters.   The topics covered are:

  • Print Knowledge
  • Oral Language
  • Letters
  • Student Names
  • Songs to learn letters and sounds
  • Multi-Sensory
  • Games That Teach
  • Pre-Writing
  • Family Involvement

 Some of my favorite ideas that appear in the book are pictured below:

Mystery Letters  I usually do this activity very early in the year to introduce students to their names.  They look great on display in the classroom and the kids enjoy making them.

Image from Pre-K Pages

Image from Pre-K Pages

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Tree  I made this tree several years ago using two tin cans and wood grain contact paper.   This is always a HUGE hit with the kids at the beginning of the year after we read the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.
 
Image from Pre-K Pages

Image from Pre-K Pages

Bang Games  I use these games for every theme, the kids love them and never get tired of it since you change the icon and sound each time.   You can add a recording sheet for added hands-on engagement.
Image from Pre-K Pages

Image from Pre-K Pages

If you’re looking for ways to increase student engagement and make learning fun and meaningful then I Love Letters!: More Than 200 Quick & Easy Activities to Introduce Young Children to Letters and Literacy is the book for you!   Your students will learn more and have fun doing it when you use these great ideas!

What are your favorite fun ideas for teaching literacy skills?

Review: HeidiSongs Singable Songs for Letters and Sounds

SingSongs-Combo_1I have used many different methods of teaching letters and letter sounds over the years, some approaches have been more effective than others.   Our pre-k program didn’t begin teaching letter sounds until 2002 and the state of TX didn’t even address teaching letter sounds in pre-k until just last year.    When we were first told we would be teaching letter sounds in pre-k panic took hold as we tried to figure out how to do that.  Gradually, over the next few years most of us found a method of teaching letter sounds that we were comfortable with, but there was no continuity.  We were told we had to teach letter sounds but we were never told how.   Then, we transitioned to full-day from half-day pre-k and the pressure was on, no longer was it o.k. to just introduce the students to letter sounds and if they got it, fine and if not then hope they got it in kinder. 

Last year, when Heidi’s Singable Songs for Letters and Sounds first came out I was very excited because I was already using her Sing & Spell series to teach sight words and had found it highly effective.  At the time, I was using the Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD and CD to “hook” my kids on letters, but I was concerned because the learning was passive.  I noticed that all my students loved the LeapFrog songs but not all of them were “getting it”, especially those low, low babies;  I knew that something was missing but I wasn’t sure what it was.   As soon as I watched Singable Songs for Letters and Sounds for the very first time I realized what that missing piece was, movement!   My students were getting the auditory and visual aspects from LeapFrog, but the missing piece of the puzzle was movement.   Singable Songs for Letters and Sounds uses a multisensory approach, incorporating music AND movement to engage young learners.  There is a unique song for every letter of the alphabet.  Each song includes the sound of the letter, a picture of the letter, a movement or “dance” to go with the song, and an animation of the letter formation.   You can see for yourself in the video below.

I introduced Singable Songs for Letters and Sounds to the pre-k teachers in my district and several campuses purchased the DVD for every pre-k classroom.  I witnessed class after class of four year olds who were able to fluently identify the alphabet, both upper and lowercase, as well as all letter sounds.   The movements for each song help the students not only identify the letters, but write them as well because it is imprinted in their “muscle memory”.   Another benefit of Singable Songs for Letters and Sounds is that it accelerates the process of learning to identify letters and sounds.  Instead of taking half the school year, or heaven forbid, the whole school year to learn these concepts, students were learning to identify their letters and sounds in only a few short weeks!   This isn’t just a claim I am making up, we have the test scores to prove it! 

I do not work for Heidi Songs, but I did have the pleasure of seeing Heidi present at the 2008 NAEYC conference in Dallas.   In addition to being a talented teacher Heidi also presents her music and ideas at various conferences around the U.S., you can see her next at the I Teach K! conference in Las Vegas on July 13th.

Books, Books, Books!

bookboxes1

 

 

 

I started my summer “to-do” list yesterday- don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about!  All teachers have a list of “school stuff” they want to accomplish during the summer.  One of the items on my list was to update some info on my classroom library page.   One of the reasons this topic is on my mind is because I *may* be getting my own classroom next year to use as a model and if I do, I want to create a top notch classroom library in it.   I already have plenty of  books, I just need to create an inviting space.  I have been pouring over the pages of  Spaces & Places: Designing Classrooms for Literacy by Debbie Diller all year and I’m anxious to build a white picket fence around my library like Debbie did in her book. 

One of the ideas I added to the library page was in the “Where do you get books for your classroom library?” section.   I highly recommendebay and Craig’s Listif you’re looking to build a classroom library.  I have found incredible deals on books  from teachers who were retiring or changing grades and have listed their books on Craig’s List.   Ebay ranks a close runner up for book deals too, but be careful on the shipping costs.   If you’re interested in building your classroom library summer is the right time to do it; all the teachers are out of school and they have time to hold their sales.  Hurry- don’t miss out on the deals! 

I also added info about Library Thing to the classroom library page.   I love Library Thing, it has really helped me stay organized.  I used it this year even though I didn’t have a classroom.   When teacher’s would ask for book recommendations for certain themes or topics I would just give them a link to my Library Thing and they could look up the info there.    A few librarians wanted to stock their campus libraries with more pre-k friendly titles so I gave them links to my Library Thing as well.   If I needed a book for a model lesson but I wasn’t sure if I owned it or not I could easily and quickly look it up on Library Thing.  There’s a widget here on the blog that will also take you to my Library Thing.  For those of you who don’t know what Library Thing is it’s an on-line database where you can list all of your books, but that description doesn’t really do it justice, it’s so much more than that so check it out and see for yourself.

Any other tips or recommendations for building classroom libraries?  Good deals on books?  I would love to hear from you!

Announcing Pre-K Pages Conference for Early Childhood Educators, July 15th, Plano, TX.   Earn 6 hours of CPEcredit.  Attend a full-day workshop with Pre-K Pages and rekindle your passion for teaching!  See you there 🙂

No Limits to Literacy Book Review

booksI stumbled across this fantastic book recently: No Limits to Literacy for Preschool English Learners by Theresa A. Roberts.  I have always been passionate about two things, teaching young children and working with English language learners so this book really jumped out at me.  I thought I would share some of the highlights with you here.  You can also read the first 46 pages on-line for free at Google Books

I was most interested in chapters 3-5, the meaty literacy parts, so those are the ones I will be reviewing here.   The third chapter was the one I was looking forward to the most because I would like to increase vocabulary in our pre-k students.  The author’s main ideas in this chapter were:

  • Create situations in your classroom that will help your English language learners take risks with oral language such as choral responses, repetition activities, talking in pairs, and small groups.
  • Be a good speaking role model for your students.  Get rid of the twangy accents and slang expressions! 
  • Embed language throughout your day in areas like blocks, science, dramatic play, library etc. 
  • Provide opportunities for children to say the words they are learning out loud many times.
  • Explicitly teach vocabulary EVERY DAY.
  • Identify and teach 12-15 new words per week.
  • Use pictures, hand motions, and concrete realia when teaching words.
  • Carefully select words that benefit children’s basic language and words related to storybooks, classroom themes, and centers. 
  • Reread books

In chapter four, Befriending the Alphabet: Why and How, the author addresses the age old argument of how to teach the alphabet to young children.  Her points on this issue were:

  • Use strategies and activities designed to help children make the connection between letter shapes and their names/sounds.
  • Make sure your lessons are engaging and meaningful
  • Use student names as a context for helping children learn aobut individual letters. 
  • Use environmental print to connect to letters in a meaningful way
  • Provide writing opportunities where children are encouraged to to apply their alphabet knowledge.
  • Create a purposeful print rich classroom and embed print in learning centers and play activities.

Chapter five addresses phonological awareness which is often the “missing link” in many pre-k classrooms.  The important points about phonological awareness were:

  • Begin with the easier tasks like whole words and syllables before onset-rime and rhyming.
  • Focus on the sounds at the beginning of the word before teaching the sounds at the end of the word.
  • Select short words for phonological awareness activities (CVC words) with the exception of syllabication activities that require longer words.
  • Provide pictures that show how sounds are made with the lips, tongue, teeth, throat etc and mirrors to use during phonological awareness activities. 
  • Teach beginning sounds before rhyming – rhyming can be difficult in pre-k.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this book or the author’s points above.

New Writing Page Added

I did it, I finally did it!  I added the new writing page to the website this weekend.  I took down the old journals page last summer and I’ve been receiving inquiries about when the new page will be up ever since 🙂  So without further ado here is the new Pre-K Pages Writing Page!  

The three books I read that changed my thinking were:
Engaging Young Writers, Preschool-Grade 1
Already Ready: Nurturing Writers in Preschool and Kindergarten
About the Authors: Writing Workshop with Our Youngest Writers

I will warn you that I still need to add a Writing Workshop page, but that is a whole other can of worms!