Category Archives: language activity

Three Little Pigs

The next time you share the story of the Three Little Pigs, don’t just tell it, have the children be a part of it!  These masks are inexpensive and easy to make.  And the kiddos have a blast as they step into the story!

Start out with some simple supplies: a toilet paper tube, felt, scissors, glue, a Sharpie, and yarn or elastic string. (Oh, and the hole puncher and pencil were sluffing class when the picture was taken, but they’ll come in handy too.)

For a pig snout, cut the tube so that it’s not quite in half.  I would use the piece on the right for the snout.  Then trim down the other to match and you’ve got two snouts from one tube.  (It works out to about a half-inch strip cut out of the center of the tube.)

Punch holes in each side of the tube to aid in stringing it later.  Use your pencil to mark how wide your tube snout is and then roll the tube along to measure how long it is.  You’ll end up with one long rectangle to cut out and then glue around the snout, covering the sides (and the holes – don’t worry, we’ll get to those later).

Set the snout down on the felt again and trace around the outside.  That extra little bit from the pencil will push the outline out a bit and create a circle that is slightly larger, which is exactly what you want.  Cut out the circle and draw on those cute piggie nostrils with your Sharpie.  Then glue the circle to the top of your snout.  (Be sure to align your nostrils with the holes you punched for your string.) 

If you’re using yarn, snip the felt over the holes and thread the yard through, knotting at the holes.  So you’ll end up with two yarn strings that can be tied together.  If you’re using elastic thread, thread it through a needle and feed it right through the fabric and the hole and knot it at each side, creating a band to be stretched around your child’s head.  For the wolf, follow the same directions, but use a full tube.

Enjoy acting out the story with the children you love and teach.  After acting out the basics of the story, let them continue the story or create new stories in their dramatic play.   Not only is storyacting more engaging, but it builds comprehension and fosters language and literacy skills for our budding readers.

Now that’s one fierce wolf!
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Dr. Seuss’ Birthday is on the Way!

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Dr. Seuss.  Not only is his writing creative, humorous, poetic, and lovably quirky, but as an educator I’ve found it to be the perfect vehicle for promoting phonological awareness, a critical skill for building readers.  With his birthday looming just around the corner (March 2), this is a popular time of year for all things Seuss!

Last year I wrote about some of my favorite Dr. Seuss activities in these three posts:

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Five Favorites…To Start

A Triple Scoop of Seuss

This year, I went looking around the blogosphere for some new ideas and found some I can’t wait to try! 

  • An entire Dr. Seuss unit from Chalk Talk, with 40 pages including patterns and printables!
  • Make a hat like the Cat in the Hat using an oatmeal canister with these pointers from Frugal Family Fun Blog.
  • Amy lists some irresistible ideas at Serving Pink Lemonade (Thanks for including mine by the way!)

Do you celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday?  What are some of your favorite activities?  (Feel free to add your links!)

Top photo by EvelynGiggles.
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Author Study: Robert Munsch

Robert Munsch grew up in Pennsylvania, in a big family with nine kids.  Well, to be more accurate, Munsch specifies that he lived in Pennsylvania when he was young, and that he never really did grow up at all.  The prolific author struggled through most of his schooling, but always had a passion for writing.  He particularly enjoyed writing poetry, both the serious and silly varieties.  But writing was his past time, not something he, or anyone else, really valued at the time.

Fast forward a few decades, and you find Robert Munsch working in day cares and preschools, captivating children with his storytelling.   On his official website, Munsch recalls,For ten years I did this without thinking I had any special skill. After all, while I made the best stories in the daycare centre, most of the other teachers made better play doh. I eventually got a long list of stories I told, but I never wrote them down.”

Eventually, Munsch found himself working in the lab preschool at the University of Guelph  in Ontario, Canada, his boss (with some prompting from his wife, a children’s librarian) gave Munsch two months off to write down some of his stories and send them off to ten publishers.  One accepted his manuscript and an author was born.

Robert Munsch enjoys connecting with kids and often draws his stories out of experiences and conversations with some of his smallest fans.  It’s this connection that makes his stories so authentic and appealing to kids of all ages.  His child-like imagination and sense of humor combined with his storytelling style make his books some of the best on the bookshelf.

With over 25 books to choose from, picking the best titles by Robert Munsch is not an easy task.  Between my own children and those I’ve worked with, I think I’ve narrowed it down to my three picks.

The Paper Bag Princess (Classic Munsch)

The Paper Bag Princess.  Who doesn’t love a good story about a princess who saves herself and calls the superficial prince a “bum”?  At least that’s what I like about it.  My boys just love the dragon and the way he gets tricked into using all his fire and all his energy, causing him to be anything but fierce.  It’s a unique story and a clever plot.

Mmm, Cookies!

Mmm, Cookies!  This story really lends itself to Munsch’s storytelling style.  It includes sound effects (which I always add actions to) and it’s an easy one to get the kids to join in.  You can read a full summary and story activity for this book here.

Alligator Baby

Alligator Baby.  Kids love this book!  It’s a silly story (of course) about Kristen’s parents who accidentally go to the zoo instead of the hospital to have their baby.  Exhausted, they make several trips between their home and the zoo, trying to bring home the right baby.  By the end, their home is full of baby animals, and Kristen saves the day by retrieving her baby brother from the zoo.  The story is hilarious and the pattern in the text keeps kids engaged.

What’s your favorite book by Robert Munsch?
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Five Ways to Make Literacy Learning Meaningful

I was just re-reading this old article  from a 2005 issue NAEYC’s Young Child magazine, written by Susan Neuman and Kathleen Roskos, leading researchers in the field of early literacy.  The emphasis of the article was on the importance of creating meaningful experiences through which children can truly engage in the process of acquiring early literacy skills.  In reference to the 1998 joint position statement created by NAEYC and the International Reading Association outlining developmentally appropriate practice in literacy instruction, the authors write: 

“The research-based statement stresses that for children to become skilled readers, they need to develop a rich language and conceptual knowledge base, a broad and deep vocabulary, and verbal reasoning abilities to understand messages conveyed through print.  At the same time, it recognizes that children also must develop code-related skills” (phonological awareness, the alphabetic principle, etc.).  “But to attain a high level of skill, young children need many opportunities to develop these strands interactively, not in isolation.  Meaning, not sounds or letters, drives children’s earliest experiences with print. Therefore, the position statement points out that although specific skills like alphabet knowledge are important to literacy development, children must acquire these skills in coordination and interaction with meaningful experiences (Neuman, Bredekamp, & Copple 2000).”

How do you promote a culture of literacy, ensuring that children are learning elements of literacy within the context of meaningful experiences?  Here are some ideas I had.  I’d like to hear about yours in the comments as well.

  • Read, read, read.  Read books together, taking time to talk about what the words mean, how the characters feel, and what might happen next.  Point out words or letters that are particularly meaningful.  (“Can you find a ‘W’ like the one at the beginning of your name?”  “It says ‘stop’ four times on this page!  Here’s one.  Can you find another?”)
  • Play with words.  Incorporate words — spoken and written — into play.  Have print-rich props (menus, phone books, signs) and encourage writing with paper, pencils, typewriters, chalk boards, and clipboards.  In addition to incorporating literacy into your dramatic play, try playing games with the sounds in the words you use as well.  For example, stretch out the sounds in words (phonemes) and see if your children can put the words back together to discover the mystery word.  (“Put your hand on your h-ea-d.”)
  • Find it all around.  Find letters on your cereal boxes, words on signs, and rhymes that fall into place in a a book or in your regular conversations.  Involve children in the many ways we interact with words each day.  Cut words or letters from packaging and create a word wall or letter file.
  • Write it down.  Let children see you writing words.  Dictate their stories, label your room, send them notes, create lists, write out recipes, and post the words to songs.  Even if you think your children don’t read, they are building connections between what they see, hear, and experience.
  • Talk, talk, talk.  A child’s vocabulary is the key to finding meaning in their experiences with words.  Invite genuine conversations with your children.  Use new words and talk about their meanings or illustrate their meanings within your conversation by using synonyms.  Talk with children instead of at them.  Develop ideas and explore new possibilities.  Quality conversations mean you speak up instead of talking down to kids.

How do you create meaningful experiences while building literacy in the children you love and teach?

You may also enjoy reading the series: Why Don’t You Teach Reading: A Look at Emergent Literacy

Top photo by Aline Dassel.

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Bibliomaniacs Beware!

I feel I need to confess my addiction.  I am a bibliomaniac.  In spite of the fact that I have a library card, which gives me access to plenty of wonderful books, and which I enjoy using regularly, I still find the need to OWN them.  I just love books!  It doesn’t help that my husband feels the same way.  Who’s going to put on the brakes? 

In our home library we have one side of shelves filled with children’s picture books (largely my doing), and another side filled with a mixture of leather-bound literary greats, biographies of historical figures, and Tom Clancy-type novels (all my husband’s forte).  Of course between those two collections there is also a smattering of how-to’s, neighborhood book club favorites, and of course a bit of Calvin and Hobbes.  We just love books around here!  I feel like it’s a justifiable guilty pleasure.

So with all that said, I hope you appreciate the hazard of what I’m about to do.  A friend of mine asked if I could find a list of the 100 books you should read to your preschooler and post it here.  I agreed to do it, but I hope you know that because of that, I’ve discovered about 20 fantastic books that I don’t own, and now feel the compulsive need to find them!  (So while you’re perusing the list, I’ll probably be over at half.com!)

I found my favorite 100s list at Children’s Book Guide, complete with cover shots, summaries, and individual links to amazon.

Reading Rockets also has several other lists, including Caldecott and Newberry winners and the most notable books for the years 2010 and 2009.  (I’m afraid to even look at them!)

What do you think?  Was there a book on the top 100 list that brought back memories of sitting “criss-cross-applesauce” on the reading rug of your first-grade classroom?  What book did you not find on the list that you would definitely have in your personal top 100?  Go ahead.  I already want 20 more books.  What’s another 10?

Top photo by Horton Group.

 
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Book Activity: Max’s Words

Max's Words

It’s no secret: I love to discover a great new children’s book.  While Max’s Words by Katie Banks is not actually a “new” book (it was published in 2006), it is “new to me” and I’m so glad I found it!

In this story, Max’s brothers have huge, wonderful collections of coins and stamps, from which they certainly aren’t willing to share with Max.  So, Max decides to start his own collection.  He struggles with what he should collect before finally deciding he will collect words!  Max cuts words out of magazines and writes them on slips of paper.  The illustrations are just great in this book, with the words coming to life and taking shape to show their meanings.  “Hungry” has a bite taken out of it, and “Park” is surrounded by trees.

Max’s brothers slowly become curious, particularly when Max begins to use his words to create stories.  Eventually, the brothers realize how cool Max’s word collection is and agree to trade a stamp and a coin for a pile of words.

I love this story for the way it calls children’s attention to the power of words, and the way these individual groups of letters on a page carry so much meaning.  It’s done effectively and naturally within a fantastic story!

As just one more endearing point of note, both the author and the illustrator each have a son named Max, to whom the book is dedicated (“To my Max- KB”  “No, to MY Max- BK”).  In fact, the two have another, more recent Max book called Max’s Dragon, which I think I may have to track down as well!

After the story, join your children in searching for words and letters in magazines.  Cut the words out together and create your own word collection like Max.  You may want to create stories together or simply glue the words onto another piece of paper.  Your children may want to cut out pictures of objects they like as well, and that’s OK too!  Point out any words on the picture, find the word describing the picture on the page to cut out as well, or simply write the word on a slip of paper like Max did.

This type of activity not only gets children excited about words, but makes them more aware of environmental print and helps to reinforce print awareness– the understanding that print carries meaning, that words are constructed from letters and arranged and read in particular ways.  But perhaps most importantly, this is just a fun read that your children will enjoy sharing with you!  And that alone will go a long way in building young readers!
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The Best Books are Ageless

About seven years ago, as a first grade teacher, I attended a workshop featuring Dr. Jean Feldman.  There were many things she shared that influenced me as a teacher, but there was one thing she said that I have thought back on many times:

“We are often so eager to give children all the things we didn’t have, that we forget to give them the things we did have.”

She was referring to the importance of Nursery Rhymes in building phonological awareness, and the tendency of many teachers and parents to neglect these classics in favor of the newest, coolest, and latest gadgets, gizmos, and doo-dads.  While nursery rhymes originate as far back as the 16th or 17th century, they are still one of the most effective tools for teaching children.

Lately, I’ve thought back on this quote again, as I’ve noticed some of my boys’ favorite stories were some of my favorites as a child as well.  As I pull some of our very favorite stories from the shelves and page through to the copyright, I’m often surprised to see how long some of these fantastic books have been around! 

And so, in spite of the fact that there are some truly fabulous new books out, I wanted to focus today on some of the classics that every child should get the chance to enjoy!

Caps for Sale Big Book (Reading Rainbow Book)

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina was first published in 1940, but its charming patterned story will always be one of my favorites!  Even though it was written before their grandpa was born, my boys love it too!

Goodnight Moon

What parent doesn’t have the words to Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown forever memorized?  I would love to see a counter displaying how many times this story simple story, first published in 1947, has sent children off to slumber.

 Image of Theodor Geisel - Dr. Seuss

All Things Seuss!  While the works of Dr. Seuss have been around since the late 50s, I’m often surprised to find children who have never actually heard the stories of a persistent boy named Sam-I-Am, one mischievous cat, or the Sneetches on beaches.  (Familiarity through cinema doesn’t quite countNo offense, Jim Carrey.  You make a great Horton, but as with most based-on-the-book movies, you just have to read the book!

(Find Seuss activities here.)

Very Hungry Caterpillar

  The Very Hungry Caterpillar , written by Eric Carle and published in1969, is another book that has aged incredibly well.  Despite the fact that this op-ed writer finds the text lacking in “narrative creativity” and “devoid of surprise” those who love and teach young children know that the repetition and pattern of text is instrumental in building new readers.  Besides that, kids love it!

 The Monster at the End of this Book (Sesame Street) (Big Little Golden Book)

As a shout-out to the children of the 70s, I have to add The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone.  It was one of my very favorites growing up!  I thought it was just a trendy book, lost in the past, until one of my first grade students brought it to school on the day the children were asked to bring one favorite book.  Soon after that, I bought a new copy for my own library while pregnant with my first son.  Six years later it is still getting good miles around our house!

I could go on and on….but I want to hear what you have to say!

What are some of the ageless books at the top of your “favorites” list?

Top photo by Horton Group.
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