Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Dr. Seuss Books to Learn With

It's hard to choose a favorite Dr. Seuss book! There are so many and they each have a different lesson to teach ... and, they're so fun to read!

"Hop on Pop" is a great first read-along for your little ones - there are lots of Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (CVC) words involved, and many are rhyming words, which makes them easier to figure out. That feeling of success when kiddos first realize that they recognize a group of letters can propel them into being lifelong readers :)

Play a little game with some letter tiles or index cards ... look for a word that you can work with to change out a letter and make a new word. Show the word first in the book, and then build it with your props - sound out each letter and then ... SWITCH! Change out the first letter, like HOP and POP and watch your child get excited about what they could do with this!

There is nothing better than a little one bringing you a book, with THAT SMILE on their face, and saying "I can READ this!" I see that smile most often with a Dr. Seuss book attached!

"Green Eggs and Ham" is another early favorite! It's silliness and rhymes again make it easier and more fun to read - and the repetitive, lengthening list is a challenge that is still fun for them! The use of positional words is embedded in the text, and can give your student a boost in this math skill.

Pull out a favorite toy or stuffed animal and play a positional word SIMON SAYS game: Simon Says put the Teddy under the chair ... Simon Says put the Teddy in the cabinet, etc.

"Ten Apples Up On Top" is a favorite of many, and can really be enjoyed as a loud, dramatic read aloud, when it gets more and more exciting, as the numbers rise! Counting is of course a focus here, but not the only thing happening. You can discuss feelings and facial expressions, to look for social clues in the illustrations. There are different arrays of apples, up and down and stacked in groups ... not as easy as counting in a straight line!

Look for lessons all around while you are enjoying your Dr. Seuss books ... or any books!

Have fun!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Learning with Lois Ehlert

When you start to plan some garden activities, make sure that you gather up Lois Ehlert books to help your little ones understand what the garden is for! The illustrations and vivid colors are so attractive, and the messages are clear.

Start with "Planting a Rainbow" to illustrate the planning and planting process. Colors are the highlight here, as the flowers in the flower garden all represent the colors of the rainbow. The process of growing from seeds and bulbs is also shown.

"Growing Vegetable Soup" is a great book to show the growth of vegetables from start to finish. Little ones are not always sure where their food is coming from, and may need the visuals to make connections between what they eat and how it come to be. Combine this with a trip to a local farm or farmer's market to get your child's brain thinking outside the supermarket.

"Eating the Alphabet" is another great book for seeing what different foods people eat, including some your child may not be familiar with. It relates each food to alphabet letters, both upper and lower-case, for authentic learning. When children can see and experience things that they read, it becomes more real and stays with them longer. Learning the alphabet this way will give them reference points - visuals - to connect to.

Lois Ehlert is the author of so many great learning books - "Color Zoo" teaches shapes and animal names, as well as giving children a view into how pictures can be broken down into shapes, for easier drawing :) Die-cut pages and surprise flipsides give every reader something to look forward to, as the pages turn.

In the fall, "Leaf Man" and "Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf" are wonderful tools for learning all about the changing of the leaves and the process that deciduous trees go through each cycle. The author' s creative use of natural materials to make pictures in "Leaf Man" will have you and your child seeing leaves in a whole new way! Try to make your own leaf creations when you're done :)

"Snowballs" is a crowd favorite for wintertime - something for every season! The use of natural, found items in her pictures is one of her style choices that delight young readers, as they find things on the page that are familiar.

Lois collaborated with other authors as well, illustrating the "Chicka Chicka" books, among others, so it's easy to see why her style is so familiar and attractive to little ones - and everyone!

Have fun reading!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Learning with Collections!

There are so many things your children can do with a collection of objects! It could be coins, shells, rocks, buttons! I can remember, as a child, being fascinated with a jar of multi-colored buttons that sat on a shelf at my grandmother's house. We would pick some, or pour some out, and  play with them, making up all sorts of games.

There are many simple things your children may choose to do ... many of them math and science related! Let them play with collections, and make decisions about what to do with them. Their ideas might surprise you! They may first choose to just examine up close and begin to notice differences between groups - colors, sizes, shapes ...  noticing is the first step to classifying and sorting!

Counting collections is another great next step, while they are doing some examining :) You can add in some math vocabulary such as more, greater, less, fewer and they will have concrete examples right in front of them.

Then, patterns! Your kiddos may choose to make a pattern, or, if not ready for that, to continue one laid out for them - red, white, red, white ... what comes next? Ours asked for pipe cleaners to thread buttons on - in patterns! Simple patterns can evolve into more complex - instead of red,white red, white (ABABAB), they may try ABBABB or ABCABC patterns, using more colors or sizes.

Sorting mats have proven to be LOTS of fun for my kiddos - and a great focusing tool. Simply take large paper, draw a grid and laminate them to hold up through multiple uses.

My kiddos have pulled them out to examine all sorts of things ... shells, coins, rocks ....

They even took the plastic animals and sorted them by habitat - ocean, farm, polar, etc. Have them choose an attribute to sort by - color, size, shape, shiny, flat, bumpy, etc. -  and then figure out what goes where. They may have to make subgroups and it could generate great discussion :)

Attention to detail is something my friends are really getting involved in - they want to examine with a magnifying glass and do some sketching to really try to be scientists :) We talk all the time about how scientists observe, sketch and write about what they see ... collections are a great way to put this into play!

Have fun!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Seasons Felt Play

When learning about a topic, it's always fun to see where the children lead you ... they have great ideas and think out of the box!

To study the seasons, trees are a great focus. Start off learning all about trees ... talking, observing, looking all around your neighborhood, and then talking some more. Then, take out some felt and start cutting.

Make a felt background and hang it somewhere, at kiddo level, with velcro dots ... we used the back of a rolling organizer. Then, make a tree - or two! Discuss shapes and even make some sketches of what it might look like - great for conversation and problem solving. Trace the shapes on some brown felt pieces - even scraps would work - and begin to cut and form your trees. Cutting through felt offers a little more resistance than paper, so little friends may benefit from the cutting practice to strengthen those muscles.

Then, have children observe some branches and see that they are many different shapes. Start picking through the scraps that are left to find "branches." They come in all shapes and sizes! Pretty soon, your  friends will be asking about leaves ... one thing always leads to another!

As you cut, have the children take turns sticking the felt pieces up on the background, and get ready to be amazed at all the different ways the trees can be formed. Your kiddos will make lots of scientific observations and start to wonder about other trees - maybe the Christmas tree variety ... so you'll have to make those, too!

Let your children direct the action in a project like this! It gives them the power to ask questions, make suggestions, and there is no wrong way to do it! It's exciting for the littlest of friends, who cannot always make their drawings look like they want to - with this, they can make a representation of something that looks more accurate and real :)

We talked about all the seasons and they had ideas for each. As we go on, we will add to our felt set and revisit it for each turn in the weather - learning as we go!

Have fun!