Wednesday, March 20, 2013

5 Simple Ways To Encourage Reading and Writing in Your Home

We all know there are countless ways to encourage our young children to read and write. Today I'd like to share 5 of the many simple ways we inspire our children to engage in reading and writing in our home. These also can easily be adapted to work in an early childhood classroom as well.

1. Clipboards- Kids LOVE clipboards! I have several placed strategically around the house for the girls to use during play. I attached a string and pen/pencil and add clean paper to it when needed. This allows for easy use- how inviting for a child to see clean blank paper with a pen already attached. It practically screams "Pick me up and use me!" I usually rotate them every so often but we currently have one in our art area and on the train table where we store many our building/blocks toys. Placing near an area where they build things is also a great way to encourage them to draw what they built!

2. Cozy Reading Area- We have a reading area down in our playroom and of course there's an entire bookcase filled with books in the girls bedrooms but we also set up a cozy inviting reading area in our main living area. We have a child sized rocking chair and basket filled with books right next to it. I rotate the books every so often to keep it interesting. Setting aside a space for only kids to read really does send the message that reading is valued and fun for everyone!

3. Basket of Themed/Season Books- Along with a bookshelf in the girls bedrooms I also have a basket of books that go with the season/holiday that is occurring. Back in January/February we had Winter/Snow books and currently we have Spring/Easter books in the basket. I rotate them out every season or holiday to keep interest. Often the girls are excited about whatever holiday is coming up or interested in the current season. Having the books all in one place really helps with bridging their natural interests and excitement with literature. They love to see a fresh "new" set of books in there all celebrating the current season every few months.

*Tip- I have quite a collection of season/holiday books from my years of being a preschool teacher but I also take advantage of my daughter's Scholastic School Book Fair Monthly Flyers. You can find great deals that way.

4. Little Notebooks- This is similar to the clipboard idea. I found these great mini notebooks and ordered them in bulk at Discount School Supply. They are great for role-playing and placing in the kid's kitchen area. In this particular instance my girls were using it to play "restaurant". I also have some by my office area with pens and while I'm making my "lists" (groceries, errands etc.) I hand one off to the girls and they make "their lists" as well. I highly recommend having a stash of these as they are so versatile and can be used often.

5. Journals- This is an idea taken from when I taught preschool. I used to have the children engage in daily journaling. They each had a notebook and wrote/drew in it daily. They could draw/write whatever they wanted and when they were done I asked them to tell me about their page. I then wrote down their dictations word for word. I have implemented this same concept into our nighttime routine. We don't do it every night but a few times a week the girls "write" in their journals and tell me about their page. They love it! Having them witness you writing their words down is such a great way to demonstrate that words have meaning. It's also a fantastic way to show them that their words matter and their thoughts are valued!

As I said before these are only 5 of the many ways we encourage reading and writing. Do you have any to add to the list?

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Monday, March 11, 2013

6 Open Ended Questions To Ask During Play

Quite awhile ago when I first started this blog I posted about our little playroom makeover here playroom-make-over-part-2.

In that post I talked about open ended questions to ask children during play. Often I fall into the rut of being reactive with my children during play. Which definitely there is a place for but I also want to not only answer their questions but challenge them to think further. These questions serve as a starting point to remind me to help them think outside the box!

I thought I would elaborate a bit more on those questions and share how I used them when I was a preschool teacher and how I use them now with my own children.

1. Why Do You Think....?  Examples of this are: Why do you think the tower fell? Why do you think the color changed? Why do you think the top won't fit? These questions encourage children to not only think further but to come up with their own solutions to problems. Not only do I ask "Why Do You Think" questions after something happens but I also use this a lot when my daughters ask why something happened. I put it on her and say "Why do you think that happened rather than jump in and give her the answer. It's empowering for them to come up with the answer on their own.

2. How Might...? Examples of this are How might you make that house bigger? How might you do that differently? Again, you are helping them to think about their play in a different way. Sometimes my daughter will say "I don't know" when I ask her this and I will give her clues and say something like "Do you think it would get bigger if we added more blocks?" Again, you are giving them the language but still allowing them to make the decisions. You are guiding them not telling them how to do it!

3. What Would Happen If...?  Examples include What would happen if we added yellow to the red? What would happen if I cracked open the egg? These are great to encourage getting children to make predictions. Usually after they give me their answer I say "Let's find out!" Often I use the word prediction and paraphrase their answer "Oh, you predicted the color will turn orange, let's find out if your prediction is correct!"

4. What Would You Do...? Examples include What would you do if that happened to you? I use this a lot while reading stories together. This helps to get them relating story context to real life situations.  Another example would be What would you do if I gave you three tea cups? or What would you do if I put a puzzle piece here? This is also can help reinforce cause and effect concepts.

5. What Did You Do...? Examples include What did you do to put the train tracks together? What did you do to fix your baby's hair? These types of questions help with comprehension and recalling sequence of events. It's also a great way to encourage them to come up with their own words and explanations of how they did something!

6. What Do You Wonder About? I love asking children this question! What a great way to encourage them to talk about their feelings and to let them know their feelings and thoughts are valued! It's also an excellent way to pick up on their interests and use that information as a guide to plan new learning experiences.

Obviously there a  million types of open ended questions to ask during play. These serve as a place to start to get the divergent thinking going!!

 I used to have these displayed in my preschool classroom and now I have them displayed in our playroom at home!!


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