Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Children, Books, and Focus

   When I was in the first grade I wrote my first picture book. It was called The Squirrel that Tried to Blow Up the World. I still really like my book . However reading a chapter in Are You Ready: Nurturing Writers in Preschool and Kindergarten, by Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover I started to think about the process I was using while writing the book, and certain opportunities I wish I would have known back then. 
   My teacher's instructions for writing our books was to think of a story, write it, and give it illustrations. This is not by any means bad instruction, but I think I would have liked it to be elaborated more. To get the most out of creating a book, the teacher should encourage the students to go through a similar process that real writers do. There should be a brainstorming phase where a child thinks about different and important ideas for the story. This could help those ideas stay focused. Also by having some time to brainstorm, the students might choose exactly what they want to writ about. For example, I really like the story that I came up with, however that thought came by at the spur of the moment and I wrote the book fast. If I had more time, even at 7 years old, I think I could have done more to the story.
   Also words and illustrations should change from page to page but stay focused. Looking back at my book, it was funny to see my main character change appearance page by page. These aren’t bad mistakes for a 7 year old, but if the importance of it was stressed earlier, I might have done better on continuity.
   Lastly I do remember my teacher letting our ideas come solely from us. While we told our story, the teachers typed down our story word for word. Sometimes teachers feel like they need to interject their opinions into their children’s work. While teachers should give important instruction before they allow their students write, the material should come from the students because this will help them build comprehension when it comes to writing and children do come up with very good ideas. In Negotiating Critical Literacies with Young Children, by Vivian Vasquez, a class thought hard and came up with a good idea. They wanted change so they first thought a survey was a good idea. After thinking a little more, they decided to do a petition. While a teacher could have easily suggested a petition up front, by coming up with this idea themselves the children got a sense of pride and comprehending experience.
   These two articles have helped me realize that teachers are here to give children opportunities and resources that their minds can use to come up with great ideas.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Out of the Minds of Babes

As a future teacher who wants to expand my student’s minds and have them and provide opportunities for understanding, I am constantly looking for unique activities. I believe the best activities are those that can keep the interest of a child and also be remembered. In the article “A is for Avatar: Young Children is Literacy 2.0 Worlds and Literacy 1.0 Schools”, by Karen Wohlwend, there is an anecdote about two children who made and played a video game on paper. They had rules and characters and much more. With this activity or in the children’s eyes “game”, they improved their collaborative skills, problems solving skills, creative skills, social/emotional skills and more.
This activity came from two young individuals. They improved different developmental and foundational areas without realizing it. Along with this they created a work of art.

Before reading this section, I saw the picture I thought I wonder what the person who drew was thinking and this looks pretty cool.
The point I want to make is for teachers to keep their eyes open. I learned an unique activity that I can add on and incorporate into my future classroom that came from the minds of two young individuals.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

We Create Literacy

   I heard recently someone say that literacy is all around us. I have heard this statement before and I have said it a few times. For some reason I started to think is it really. What if a person is in a box without pictures or colors? Is there literacy? What if a person is blind and can not use braille? Is there literacy? The answer is yes.
   We create literacy, sometimes out of nothing. Sometimes writers who have no prior ideas to stories, can look at a white piece of paper and have a story come alive. Some illustrators can look a barren walls and see a story come alive. People even create stories in their dreams. The visuals that sometimes do not seem to make any sense create vivid pictures that spark ideas and initiate starting points for stories. Individuals who were not born with sight can still dream. Their dreams contain audio representations  and these representations can convey emotion and intrigue just like any word can. (Dreams are an interesting and I encourage people to look more into dreams including this website.)  
   Literacy is all around us and I encourage everyone to take advantage in not only looking for it but creating it as well. Look a piece of paper and see a landscape. Close your eyes and see a monkey laughing hysterically. It is there.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Activities for Books Without Words

There is more to literacy than reading words on a page, especially when it comes to a children's book. In these books the pictures are as important as the words. The pictures allow the children to not only see the words but visualize the images and put meaning to those images. Children first start comprehending literature before they can read.
With this in mind I have a couple of activities that teachers and even guardians can do with wordless books.

Kaleidoscope Journey- Meanings and feelings arise from certain colors and their placements. Have the children draw a character then give them papers with a variety of colors on them. Have them place their character on a page and then have them state what is going on, how the background makes the character feel, and how does the background make the children feel.

Write for a Picture- In this activity have the children get a wordless book, such as Do You Want to be My Friend? by Eric Carle. Then have them write a dialogue for each page. Be sure to have them include the names of the characters, and where the events are happening.

A Picture is Worth a Lot of Words- Write different words such as happy, hurt, skipping, ect... and put them in a bag. What ever word they pick out have them develop at least three pictures that have to deal with the word they chosen.

Create a Picture Book

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Reading Workshop Day

Hello everyone. It is a good day for a teacher when she or he is able to implement an activity that is engaging, useful, and fun. Very soon my students and I will partake in something I like to call the "Five Stops in the Three Little Pigs Workshop." What this entails is during class there will be five stations involving the classic story that builds on the students comprehension, reading skills, and creativity. The students will be divided into small groups of five and be at each area for 10-15 minutes. These stations are:

In Their Own Words with a TWIST- This station has each student tell the story of the Three Little Pigs. However there will be a number of variables that the students have to pick out of a bag and interject into their story. The variables may be having the wolf be a pirate, or have the pig's mother join the story in some way. This activity introduces improvisation, and build comprehension. Since the story is in their own words there will be no wrong way to tell it. An actual version of this story will be read the previous day to have this story fresh in the student's memory.

Interview with a Character- This station will call upon each student to "step in the shoes" of each pig and the wolf. They will be asked a series of question and have to answer them in the way they would think that character would answer them. Example question to the second pig- Why would you pick sticks instead of straw and bricks?

Video discussion- At this station they will watch a version of the Three Little Pigs and discuss it. They will be able to say if they liked this version, why/why not, if the chimney the best way to get into the third house. This will be a starting point for the students to think critically.  Reference- Kid's Story Corner at www.education.com

Different Versions- The students in their groups and the helper will take turns reading The True Story of 
the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas. This is the station were the students practice their reading skills and experience two retellings of a classic story.  Reference- www.amazon.com

Illustrating- Here the students will have to draw and illustrate the story of the Three Little Pigs. There will be paper, markers, stamps, stickers, pipe cleaners, glue, and more to use.

This activity came to mind because I wanted to teach reading and comprehension in a different way and I could not choose just one activity. I think doing activities like this every now and then will hopefully keep the students invested and attain knowledge in memorable ways.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Unique Choices and Responses in Early Childhood

Hello everyone.

I would like to start with a couple of questions. How many times have you loved one story but found out that your friend did not care for it? How many times have you thought a certain story had a happy ending but your sister disagreed? Whether it be in books, movies, or television individual people take away their own unique conclusion. This statement also holds true for young children as well. People do not grow into their personalities or always acquire their likes/dislikes through experiences. Individuals, even in the state of infancy, have their own personalities and preferences. Maybe as a child you wanted The Three Little Pigs to be read every night while your brother preferred The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig because all four of them lived happily ever after. Through literature teachers and parents alike can gain insight into a child mind's and get to know the individual a little better.

At a local preschool I brought in the books One Little Monkey by Ruth Martin and Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley. I got very different reactions from each student that I read to. Some children got into the books by asking questions repeatedly, while some sat contently taking in the story. I also got comments that I found intriguing. For example, One Little Monkey is about a monkey trying to find friends in the jungle while meeting different animals. According to the boy, every animal was nice except for the snake. The snake did nothing wrong in the book but the child "knew" that this snake was bad. When I asked why he said quite frankly "because snakes are bad". One other thing that I found interesting was discovering the reason why one little girl did not like Go Away, Big Green Monster. She said that she did not like the monster being told to "go away" because he was nice. 

Not only are we as teachers and guardians connecting and gaining insight to children through using books, we are doing much more. By asking opinions and listening to a child, that child hopefully realizes that what they say matters. Not only this but by being able to express themselves we are also helping them gain an interest into reading and confidence to speak out. I encourage you all to encourage your children to choose books that interest them and respond to what they think is important.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Taking Advantages of Resources

Hello everyone. I will always stress how important reading is, especially to students building their literary skills. In my mind the true beauty of reading has to do with finding a book or something in a book to open your mind to the material. Books that are right for an individual can build curiosity, answer questions, allow the reader to examine different points of view, or strictly be entertaining. A great place to find books like these is at our local library. I understand that you all know that libraries have books, but I have been asking around and I found out that this fantastic resource has not been taken advantage of enough. I am also to blame for not going very much but last week I went to our library with a few friends and became aware of the vast number of resources it has. Here are some resources that will not only be beneficial to students but anyone who would like to use them.

  1. There are a plethora of books that encompass all ages, styles,  types, and topics. Just a couple of days ago I found a novel, pop-up book, wordless picture book, and [poetry book that will be very helpful tools for my classroom. I can not wait to use them.
  2. I was not aware until just last week but our library has toys for checkout. They range for toys made to challenge your mind, to games that provide exercise.
  3. While I was there I caught a group reading time that the staff members put together. They did a very good job keeping the children's interest, making the atmosphere fun, having fun while doing this. I believe that if the person in charge, whether it be a librarian or a teacher, is not having fun the children are less likely too. 
  4. I was also pleasantly surprised by how knowledgeable and helpful the staff was. They helped me find books that I wanted, gave suggestions on helpful/entertaining books/activities, offered collaboration between myself and them, talked about times when their staff is available to read, among other things.
  5. They provide much more services as well.
As a teacher and a fan of what great things books and our library has to offer, I encourage you and your family to take full advantage of these resources.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bonding, Connecting, and Developing Through Text and Shows

    Thank you guardians. You have probably already gotten a thank you note from your child. (If you have not I implore that you ask you child about it before you continue reading this message.)
    The reason why I am thankful started when we were about to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory during circle time. I simply asked if anyone knew of this book and one student stood up and said that not only had he read the book, he and his father had adopted the book and original movie as their book/movie. He talked about how the both of them had watched and read “Charlie” ever since my student could remember. The both of them “play Willy Wonka” a lot. In fact we also found out that my student’s first memory of writing was of him writing and sending a letter to Willy Wonka asking if he and his dad could go to the factory. I can’t tell you parents how proud I was to hear that and I asked if there were any other students who had a family movie or had written a letter before. The answers and stories I got were amazing.
    These accounts have helped my students more than most can imagine. First of all by having a family book, movie, TV show, ect..  from early on, children learn how to make a connection and communicate before they even know the meaning of the words. They make a connection with people (ex. father and son having a commonality  due to a book).They also communicate by having a common interest as well. Connecting and communicating are an integral part of developing literacy. The reader has to connect with the characters and understand the communication going on in the story. The family interactions with books and media give children a head start into understanding literacy. Hearing about writing letters at an early age is just as beneficial. By having the guardians allow their young children to attempt to write, the children have a advantage in developing literacy, an excitement to practice writing any way they can, and the will to try/fail when it comes to forming words. My advice to guardians is to allow your children (who are trying to write) to mess up. Try to not correct them early on when writing unless they ask you for help. Mistakes are all right at this age. In fact I do not correct the spelling in my students journals because the point of journals is to experiment with expressing themselves on paper. They will learn how to spell correctly through time. Also encourage free writing at home  as early as possible.
    Lastly I want to encourage the guardians to keeping bonding and encouraging their children to read/write.  Thank You.

References: - i already know how to read by Prisca Martens (This is a very good book that includes an unfortunate example of what can happen if teachers do not encourage and appreciate free writing in chapter 5.)
- Children’s Language by Judith Wells Lindfors (This is very good as well.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Recognizable Print

    I have got a question for parents. What dose the McDonald's double arches, the leprechaun from Lucky Charms, a Wii controller, and a stop light have in common? They were not only recognized by the students, but they were also elaborated upon. This afternoon in class I sat with my students in small groups, held up pictures of these items, and asked what they were. What I got were great descriptions ranging from "That M stands for hamburgers and Ronald McDonald" to "That guy that has cereal with a bunch of marshmallows in it and if you catch him you get a lot of that stuff" to more.
    Some of you might be wondering not only why I did this activity, but also why I was so glad to hear their responses. The reason is that by explaining what these things are I can see that the students are forming connections and gaining recognition with these symbols. These two tools are an instrumental part of literacy. I want them to form connections and recognize what they need. Seeing symbols or environmental print like these prepare them for using these tools with literature.
    In four days we will have an Environmental Print Day where we set up stations that will be used for recognition and explanation. What I would like the parents to do (I will be sending reminders home as well) is to:

  1. have you and your child practice pointing out these symbols throughout the day (I sent home a sheet with a description and examples of environmental print)
  2. bring in two examples of environmental print (one food related only) and
  3. have the child pick out his or her favorite environmental print design.
As always please feel free to contact me whenever you want.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pop Culture and Media Can be Beneficial

            Hello parents and students. I was in a daycare recently talking to a friend of mine when I noticed something. One of her 3 year olds was drawing himself as a super hero. The thing that caught my eye was above his drawing were the words "Super [child's names]". I couldn't help but ask my friend about the child knowing how to spell that word. She told me that he always watches a show with "super" in the title. She went on to say that although this boy is relatively shy and quiet, he will usually open up to talk about this show.
            This got me thinking about how instrumental the media can be. Before I go on I do have to say that I do not feel everything in the media is suited for students. That being said there are many benefits. Not only did the young boy add meaning to a word that he probably can not sound out yet, but he also gained the confidence to express himself through this medium because of this show. Expression is important in my class and I find that a lot of students are able to express thoughts about games or TV easier than other things. I use this to get my students to start thinking critically. For example, I might ask them to pick a character and jot down why, how, and what it is about them that they like. The answers might be short, however the students will still have to think critically to get the answers.
            I have also found this medium to be useful to teach my kids about different cultures. A few students in my class speak other languages. As an example I will sometimes play a song (ex. “Old McDonald”) in English, then play that same song in a different language. I feel that this will help them gain understanding of different types of cultures in the world.
            There is a lot of opportunity to use pop culture for a student’s benefit. There are educational TV shows, environmental print (such as Mcdonald’sã old slogan “We love to see you smile”) and more for children to gather knowledge. From expression, to understanding, to even recognizing/remembering words from a TV show; I feel that certain things in the media could be useful for education.

            As always please feel free to ask me any questions whenever you would like.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Students and Reading Before It Starts

            Hello parents and students. This is Mr. L and I just want to state that getting to meet my future students and their parents yesterday has already got me excited for this school year. I am sure it is going to be great.
            One thing I’d like to discuss before classes start is a concern I had from a few parents yesterday. There was some worry as to whether or not some of your children have practiced reading enough to be ready for the 1st grade. I would like to assure the parents that after talking with the students yesterday, I am very pleased to say that I truly think so.  One question that I made sure to ask everyone in my class was what were some things that they read this summer. Some answers that I heard were “I helped my mommy read”, to “I read all my birthday cards” to “I read the words [so and so] was saying on my video-game.” The opportunity to read is everywhere and I am glad to here that my students are taking advantage of it.
            To go more in depth with what I mean I’d like to quote Russian psychologist Vygotsky: “learning begins long before school.” This is indeed true. Becoming literate occurs at home and even out in public. Children not only experience reading through daily activities but also begin to understand literature as well.  When children are read to often, they not only begin to pick up learning how to read but also associate it with good things. Because of good experiences like this students tend to already enjoy and want to read before school even starts. This is all apart of the Transactional Theory, which is something that I hope you look up or ask me about. There is an article entitled “Remembering Critical Lessons in Early Literacy Research: A Transaction Perspective” which says, “children need to be value and be valued fro who they are…” What I believe this to mean is that story time at home, complex pretends play with friends, even storied invented by the child should be valued and condoned. From what I have seen and heard I am glad to say that I believe we are doing just fine already. We will continue to value reading the entire school year.
            Lastly, I’d like to say again that I encourage questions whenever there are some. I will always do my best to give good answers.