Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Read Alouds and Storytelling

Read alouds are great experiences for children. Not only do they gain literacy skills, but they participate in a very interactive experience with their peers and teacher. While reading, they share their ideas, wonder about things and convey their emotions.

In the classroom, a good foundation with books is necessary to allow children to understand the role of a writer and their ability to write. To do this, texts should be explored in the classroom, the process to make them, and what exactly it means to be a writer.

There are five key areas to focus on in the classroom:
  • the people who make books: understanding that normal people write and illustrate books and do this as a job. through this knowledge, they will understand that they too can be writers and "play" being a writer in the classroom.
  • what makes a picture book a picture book: students start to understand that a picture book has both writing and illustrations, they change from page to page while still on the same topic, it is about something and the writer decides what it will be, and the book has crafted language in it. The students and teacher can wonder aloud why an author decided to write the story or why the illustrator chose to illustrate a page a certain way.
  • different kinds of books: Students understand the difference between books with stories and books with lists.
  • different purposes for books: A beginning to understanding the difference between fiction and nonfiction. Some books are made for entertainment, while others are made for informing. Other elements of literature are discussed, such as maps in books. This helps to build intentionality when children write their own books. A great way to involve the children is to have them make a book about what they are doing.
  • decisions that writers and illustrators make: This helps children notice how the author and illustrator are using elements of the story to bring it to life. Words that are written a certain way and pages illustrated convey a specific meaning that children can talk about and understand. This will come out in their own writing work.  
Another great tool to use in the classroom is storytelling. Similar to read alouds, it builds a strong connection to story writing with the added play factor. It helps children to feel in control and really helps them to convey their meaning thoroughly.

Some great ideas for lessons are:
  • Stories have settings: Find different settings that stories can take place. After choosing, they may create life size representations of their ideas. 
  • Stories have characters: Stories all have characters with unique characteristics and purposes. Children can brainstorm characters and decide what makes them special to identify them and create their own image. From here, they can illustrate their own character.
  • Stories have a sense of time: All stories use time. Time uniquely places what is happening. Several books can be investigated to see how they use time to do different things. Children can then make their own set of "time-based" stage props to illustrate their ideas.
  • ...and so much more!
Storytelling can really be investigated through many topics. They all are engaging and meaningful ways to get children involved with their work around them. 

Already Ready by Katie Ray
Castle in the Classroom by Ranu Bhattacharyya

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Reflecting on Tweets from the NAEYC Convention

Children's imaginations will wake our own. - Vivian Paley 

I totally agree with this statement. Several times in the class, I am amazed by something the children do that never came to my mind. It is humbling to step back and realize that as the teacher you do not know everything and there are so many opportunities to get inspiration from young children!

Tell me & I'll forget; Show me & I may remember; involve me & I'll Understand by mentormadness

Another great quote that I agree with. Unfortunately, when you enter the elementary grades so much emphasis is put on memorizing with no context or relation to their life. Most of this is forgotten and children struggle with work they consider boring. It is important to involve them in their work and make connections to their lives so that those meaningful experiences will stay with them and really prepare them for school. 

Ability to creatively use what u already know is much more a success predictor than rote memorization by teachermeg

This is so crucial for the future. What we lack in schools now is creativity, which is more closely related to real world experience. There won't always be set answers and we need students prepared to take on that challenge!

Technology: Where Does it Belong?

We can't deny it; technology is everywhere! As technology becomes more and more advanced, students are preparing for things that do not even exist yet. Children are arriving at school for the first time knowing more about technology than their parents did at the same age. Yet, technology at school is usually not embraced in the early childhood classroom.

Children's lives are full of technology, whether it be through TV, the computer, or video games. The question is how to integrate their experiences in the classroom so that their work is relevant. Many people think of integrating technology in the classroom as making tasks too easy, or that it will be detrimental to grades and state standards but this is not necessarily true. Technology can be used in a way that promotes strong literacy skills and social/emotional skills. Technology can be integrated in the classroom in a way that still builds key skills. The only difference is that instead of using traditional materials, more modern technologies are used.

For example:
  • Claymation with Photostory allows children to use digital photographs with toys or clay figures*;
  • Storyboarding and live action media allow children to plan, direct and record their own plays*;
  • Use of digital texts such as wikis, classroom blogs, and podcasts*;
  • Activities using mobile, multifunctional, handheld devices in the classroom*;
  • Bring in technology resources that children are already using at home*

*A is for Avatar: Young Children in Literacy 2.0 Worlds and Literacy 1.0 Schools by Karen Wohlwend

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Play it to Learn it!

It is well known among early childhood educators that play is the key to learning.

So why is play so beneficial? The answer is quite simple once you think about it. A play environment is stress free and without the worries of judgement and failures. Because of this, children feel more confident to explore new topics and make meaning of what they see around them.

For example, Abi may imitate an eye doctor in the classroom after a recent visit. The child has tapped into their background knowledge and confidently practices what she knows. She repeats what she has heard and speaks in a professional tone. She may look into her peers' eyes and ask them to read a letter board that she has created while covering one eye. All of this is important interaction with a new experience in her life!

Sociodramatic play easily ties into literacy due to the print rich environment that we live in. Students notice print and writing all around them such as lists, signs and menus. Naturally, they mimic those same things and interact with form, letters, punctuation etc.

A great way to further learning connected to curriculum in the classroom is to set up sociodramatic play areas in your classroom. These can even be done in the home. They can be as simple or as elaborate as you'd like.

Some examples:
  • Art Gallery: To supplement experiences with an art gallery such as demonstrations of art and visiting museums, rope off a corner of the classroom with plenty of wall space for hanging children's art. In the middle, place a shelf with children's sculptures. Include a stand for patrons to pay for tickets and pick up brochures (either real or made by the children). Nearby, have easels and small tables for artists to do work with plenty of materials. (ex. cash register, money, note cards for naming the artist, gallery maps, etc.)
    • Some questions to explore: Who contributes to the workings of an art gallery? What do exhibit designers/tour guides/patrons/artists/custodians/museum shop workers/cashiers/ticket takers do? What materials and tools do they use to do their jobs? What print materials do they use? How are you using the art gallery to explore the artistic techniques you are learning at other times of the day?
  • Bakery: Supplement a tour of a bakery and cooking activities done in the class with families and teachers with a table for baking. Include a shelf to display baked goods and a cash register stand with money. Include many baking materials such as cookie sheets, pie pans, pots, spoons, rolling pins etc. Some literacy items to include could be recipe books, note cards for recipes, and materials for labeling and pricing objects.
    • Some questions to explore: What kind of jobs are in a bakery? What ingredients, equipment, and tools do bakers/cake decorators/cashiers need to do their work? What literacy materials do they use? What do people bake? How do people learn to bake?

If you would like to see a few videos of sociodramatic play in action, check out these videos here and here.