I visit many area preschools, sometimes doing therapy within a child’s school setting, just observing or giving in-service training to teachers and staff.
Last week I went to a preschool that was new to me. I was impressed with two things I wanted to share with you.
As I walked in the entry way, I was met with an inviting display of books, organized by author and then grouped by theme–holidays, seasons, events etc. A teacher could grab a section on Halloween or autumn, or get a good read-aloud from the selection. Kids could check out books to bring home. Does your child’s school have a lending library? If not, why not start one? Get the kids involved, donating books or finding families that have passed the preschool age and would be willing to donate gently used ones when they clean out.
When I got the classroom, I saw a parent seated with a child, writing in what I found out was his “journal.” Each 3 year-old had his own journal, a three ring binder, that collected his artwork, and pictures of him participating in various activities in the classroom. Parents volunteer to come in and annotate the journal, writing down the child’s description of their masterpieces and the photos that illustrate their day. What a great language builder–not only when the child provides the commentary, but also when an adult asks them to describe and tell about the photographs. The kids are building memory as well as language skills, reviewing what they did.
Let me know any other terrific ideas that are being done in your child’s preschool and I will share them here. Just post a comment and I will share it.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Delaying Kindergarten
There has been a growing trend over the last 20-30 years for parents to hold their children out of kindergarten until they’re older, many starting their children later than 5 years of age.
New research by Darren Dubotsky, PhD, and T. Elder, in the Journal of Human Resources, challenges that trend, suggesting that older children entering kindergarten have a short-lived advantage due to an extra year to learn skills. Once they enter school, all the students no matter what the age, learn at the same pace. At entry, older students scored better on tests than their younger peers but that gap narrows to less than 4 percent by eighth grade. The researchers say that if students that are older at entry to kindergarten learned at a faster pace, this would be reflected as they progress through the grades, which is contrary to what they found.
There are both positive and negative effects of having children in class that vary in age. Younger students tend to score higher on tests when they have older children in their class but the younger students tend to be compared to their older peers and may be more readily identified with learning problems.
As a parent, deciding on whether to send your child to kindergarten or hold him back a year is a daunting question. I always advise parents to listen to their child’s preschool teacher’s input since they know if your child has some of the social skills needed to be available to learn—sitting still, listening, waiting his turn, sharing, taking turns, paying attention and so on. Most kindergarten teachers I have talked to say that if these social skills are in place, they can teach children what they need to know.
There is so much going on in the field of neuroimaging research and the brain. In the August 11, 2008 issue of “Advance for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists,” they cite research by Karin Harmin James, PhD, at Indiana University. “We are interested in how children’s neural activity changes as they learn to recognize letters and read,” according to Dr. James. They have shown that when children look at letters, their brain activity looks similar to that of literate adults, but only after they had practice printing letters.
One group of preschoolers practiced recognizing letters through visual practice while the other group practiced printing the letters. According to this article, “Only the group that practiced printing letters showed changes in brain a activity while viewing letters as a result of their experience.” Dr. James’ research shows the benefits of motor training as well as visual learning.
So have fun practicing printing letters with your preschooler. Identify letters in her environment that she sees regularly—maybe the brand on the refrigerator, or a letter on the title of a magazine, or in her name. Have paper, pencils, crayons and markers (with supervision) available so she can initiate that activity on her own.
I just talked to a group of new moms and dads at Greenwich Hospital. I love it when dads come and we actually had three! Here were some of their questions:
- My husband and I are speaking different languages to our baby. He speaks Spanish and I speak English. How about when we talk to each other when the baby is around? Obviously you have to speak in the language that you both share which is English in this case. Your baby will be able to separate the two languages and understand that when you two talk it will be English. Just keep the languages separate by person and place. Mom only speaks English to her baby and Dad only speaks Spanish. Grandma’s house might be a place where only Spanish is spoken.
- When I read to my baby, she doesn’t look at the book but looks at my face. That is fine. I demonstrated reading a book to two 3 month-old babies. One watched my face exclusively and the other looked at the book the whole time. Your baby is receiving lots of information and language through both methods.
- What should I do when I am reading to my baby and she gets fussy? You should stop.Always have reading with your child be a positive, enjoyable experience. Put down the book and start up the reading at another time when she is more rested, well-fed and interested.
- My baby doesn’t pay attention to a book, but then I realized he will listen when he is on his changing table so sometimes I spend an hour reading to him there. Hooray for this mom! She has discovered where her baby is relaxed and attentive and she is taking advantage of that incurring a warm and inviting reading time. One mom found that when her baby was in his bouncy seat he was the most responsive to books so she would read to him there.
- My baby isn’t awake much. How do I play and read with her? This mom’s baby is 6 weeks old. Her baby is going to start staying awake longer so Mom and baby will get into a little rhythm of feeding, changing, and reading, talking and play. These little play times will extend as your baby gets older and you will enjoy holding up a toy and talking about it or reading to your baby.
I always encourage new moms and dads to find a group to share their questions, joys and challenges. It is fun to listen to the moms and dads problem-solve about feeding, sleeping, reading and playing with their babies.
Here’s a simple, sweet Halloween story, Queen of Halloween by Mary Engelbreit, that can be used for the younger set to prepare them for that exciting but potentially scary night of trick or treating. Parents of children with special needs can select this book as a social story about a night out on the dark streets filled with costumed kids and adults might be like.
This simple but poignant story is of a fairy venturing out on Halloween night with her friend, the pirate at her side. Lots of relevant lessons like “Don’t be scared, it’s just pretend,” “grownups come along trick or treating” and “try to be brave” are illustrated through the story. The Engelbreit’s vintage inspired drawings give a warmth to a first outing among goblins and ghosts.
Use this book as a social story about a first Halloween experience. Walk you child through what happens and prepare them for the fun and fears of Halloween. Review what friends are going to dress up as and talk through the routine of ringing neighbors’ doorbells and saying “Trick or treat” as well as “thank you.” Talk about feelings. Why is Ann Estelle, the Queen, scared? What should she do? When do you get scared?
Predict the story’s outcomes. Pause at appropriate places and enjoy predicting with your child. You model a prediction first and make this an enjoyable activity. “I think Ann Estelle is going to go back to her dad and not stay at the dark house’s door. What do you think? Always praise any predictions. “Great prediction, let’s see what happens.” There is no right answer, the important thing is to be thinking ahead and proposing new endings to situations. This helps kids eventually create options in their own stories that they write.
An additional perk to this book is that you get an Ann Estelle paper doll at the end of the book so your child can re-enact the story or make up new adventures for her character.
If you are a fan of Mary Engelbreit, look for her latest book coming out mid-October called Mary Englelbreit’s Nursery Tales.
Admittedly, this website might be even more entertaining to parents than kids but check out bemboszoo.com. Click on any letter of the alphabet, see an animal beginning with that letter spelled out and then watch the letters morph into a picture of an antelope, elephant, or monkey. Each picture is accompanied by lively sound effects from the zoo. Graphic designer, Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich creatively transforms letters into the menagerie at the zoo.
For a fun alphabet book experience take a look at ABC NYC by Joanne Dugan. This unique alphabet book finds the letters throughout New York City. “M” is for manhole and “T” is for taxi. Dugan’s black and white photos excite the reader as if you are walking down Broadway, searching for letters!
With the current financial crisis going on, everyone is talking about how to save money. I was watching a Target commercial the other night, and they were advertising hair clippers to do your own kids’ haircuts etc. I wanted to share my own tip for saving money and getting great educational toys for your kids.
Okay, I guess I have to admit I am a a bit of a scavenger! My girlfriends (and now their daughters) and I love to hunt for bargains at tag sales on Saturday mornings. Each of use has something we are hunting–18 year-old Alex made off with an elegant vintage bathrobe that she could wear to a party, Renee got a wooden ram for who knows where and I of course am hunting for toys for the grandchildren. Last week I got this royal puppet theater where you can part the fringed curtains and even set the time for the show to start. The theater plus the monkey puppet for only $2! You can take advantage of the fact that young families want to “clean out” when they have finished a stage, especially the baby equipment stage, and you can pick up used children’s items for a fraction or their original cost.
Books are a great buy at about 50 cents or a dollar. You can never have enough books for your child. Fill her library and let her choose or share them with friends. Be informed about what things cost when new so you can bargain your way down to a good price!
I love the kids I work with and am privileged to be able to deliver my services in their homes. Since I work in their environment, they are relaxed, and I can see what they like from their books and toys. Mom or Dad are getting trained as therapists to carry on what I am teaching their child too.
I always give “homework” for practice whether it’s practicing words or sentences with sounds in them or playing with toys or games to elicit certain language structures. I can tell when kids practice between our sessions.
Yesterday I had an unexpected delight when I went to Sam’s house. Sam is full of surprises–a bright inquisitive little guy, he keeps me hopping, playing his games of charades or Clue as we practice his sounds. Each time I see eight year-old Sam, he has made more progress in my absence. At the end of our session he produced a large chart that was entitled, “R words that Sherry forgot!” and he listed many “r” words that weren’t on my practice list for him. He knew his own list by heart. This is a therapist’s dream–a child who is motivated to practice and improve.
Teaching a child to make a sound the correct way takes time and practice. Never correct your child but encourage him by saying the sound correctly in your own speech, emphasizing the sound. Use great books to reinforce the sounds that they are working on. Ruby the Copycat is filled with “r” sounds and The Great Fuzz Frenzy has more “f” sounds than you can imagine. Read The Pout-Pout Fish for a lively time with “p.” As you read, emphasize the sound that your child is learning. Pause and give them time to chime in for practice.
Try to find fun ways to motivate your child so she see her progress too.
I just had to share my buddy, Oreo, with you. He’s not my dog but I grew up with Boston Terriers so he just makes me laugh. He’s a really good sport and half human so a Halloween costume is no big deal to him!
Here’s another book to share related to Halloween about bats.
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon is the endearing story of a baby bat, separated from her mother after an owl attack, landing in a nest of birds. As their friendship grew, each tried to be like the other—Stellaluna, eating bugs from mama bird and the baby birds trying to hang by their feet. Finally, discovered by her bat friends, Stellaluna learned of her differences—her ability to see and fly in the darkness, eat a mango or hang by her feet. Anxious to share these abilities with her friends, she soon discovers the differences but realizes that being so different is okay because really they are so much alike!
This book gives you the opportunity to talk about differences. Differences between animals or people or things. Do comparisons, pick two animals or objects and list the similarities or differences back and forth with your child. This builds language skills as your child analyzes differences in looks, form and function. Talk about how friends are different. Quinn is a fast runner, Brooke is a good drawer, Ryan is fun or Will is patient. Talk about how each friend has special qualities to appreciate.
I am going to write a few blogs about some fun new Halloween books. I will warn you that I am not into the scary, creepy kind. I was actually half way through a pretty good book when the adorable, lively witch and her buddies encountered dragons and monsters. I closed it up and chose another book. I think kids are exposed to enough violence without connecting it to a fun holiday. So here is one of my picks:
Bats at the Library, written and illustrated by Brian Lies. These playful bats have discovered that the librarian left the window open at night so they declare a “Bat Night at the Library!” Their nocturnal capers include swimming in the water fountain, forming fun shadows on the walls, creating their own story time, and making copies of themselves on the duplicating machine. Lies’ luminescent drawings set the tone for the lively romp through the library at night.
Emphasize the rhyming words at the end of sentences and then repeat the two words—“All this sameness leaves us blue and makes us ache for something new. Blue-new. Talk about rhyming words, brainstorming more words that rhyme with “new” or add a rhyming line to the page that relates to the story and picture. An understanding of rhyme is a precursor to reading. Talk about the fact that the author and illustrator are the same person. Read about the author on the book jacket or look him up on the Internet. It sounds like he had a librarian friend who found a bat who had come for a visit at night. Did this spark his story? He must have a sense of humor because his picture on the back book jacket is upside down–just like his winged friends.
Point out the rich vocabulary the author uses in lines like “We’ve feasted, fluttered, swooped and soared and yet…we’re still a little bored.” Who feasts? Who flutters? Who swoops? Who soars? Use the new words to describe other animals, people or things.
If you like this one, you may want to take a look at Bats at the Beach by the same author.