Sunday, April 6, 2014

Writing is all about the context.

When I was a kid I wrote a lot, stories mostly.  I wrote more when it was on my terms; when I felt like it, and where I was the most comfortable.  Usually it was in a cozy spot in my room, or a quiet place outside.  The context of my surroundings was important to me.  Today it's more about finding the right time to do it while caring for two children.  A comfortable and inspiring place doesn't always make its way into the picture, but I make do.

My family's home has been arranged in a way so that my boys will be able to find their best surroundings.  At such young ages, portraying writing in an enjoyable, valuable, and beneficial light can make a lasting impression.

I keep a small table in my kitchen for various playing and creating opportunities.  The table has been used for invitations to "cook" lately.  I change the supplies every couple of weeks, but always leave some sort of writing tool available.  I have found in the past few months that our pretend food and dish supplies get played with more often if they are in the kitchen.  Both of my boys, six and two years old, even use it while I'm cooking myself sometimes.

Many pretend play scenarios can involve writing;
-Taking note of symptoms at a doctor's office.
-Writing down an order at an ice cream shop.
-Making signs for a garden.
-Creating a list for grocery shopping.
-Writing measurements for a building, etc. etc.

Recently, we've taken advantage of writing opportunities by taking pizza orders, and creating menus.  A recipe book is a great model for copying words related to cooking.  My two year old has access as well.  He mimics what his brother does and scribbles his own lines on the pages.

There's more going on when children write during play.  During the 1950s, a Russian study was done by psychological researchers that followed Lev Vygotsky's work.  Children were asked to stand still as long as they could.  You can only imagine how well that went, they lasted about two minutes.  A second group of children were asked to pretend they were soldiers guarding a post.  This group was able to stand still for eleven minutes!

Now imagine if I just asked my six year old to write as much as he could for me.  Do you think he would write more, or less than he did while playing pizza maker?  Children practice more self-regulation at whatever the task may be during their play.  Writing practice is no exception.  Give a child a playful task and they will write away with it, because play is the most comfortable and inspiring surroundings you can give a child.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Rhyming Race

I know Dr. Seuss is either a love or hate relationship for teachers and parents.  All of that endless rhyming, and sometimes made up words, just to create a rhyme.  But children love a good rhyme, and will repeat it over and over.  Personally, I don't mind the rhyming, it's catchy, like a song with a great beat.  So we have our share of Dr. Seuss books; they are great for word play and vocabulary building.

Rhyming games are great fun as well, especially for times when waiting is required of us.  A friend of mine and I came up with a rhyming movement game that I like to call...

Depending on where you are, draw or tape out shapes of your choice as marking places in two or more rows.  The number of rows depend on how many are participating in the race.  Have one child stand in front of each row of shapes, and call out a word that can be rhymed multiple times; can, sat, and stop are great starter examples.

Each child will take a turn calling out a word that rhymes with your starter word.  If they do say a word that rhymes, they move a space forward by stepping, hopping, skipping, or what ever suits them.  Whom ever gets to the end of their line first wins!  The winner gets to come up with the next new starter word to race for!

This game is most appropriate for preschool aged children, but can be modified for younger and older ones.  A twister mat works great if you are in a place where you can't mark the floors.  You can also make it a true race by letting children move a space if they are the first to call out a rhyming word, but it's up to you and your kids to come up with the right pace!

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Guidebook

I was running errands the other day, and on my way from point A to point B, I drove past a church sign that caught my eye with the following message on it...

Parent's lives are a child's guidebook.

It hung in the back of my mind for the rest of the day.  It's funny to think that as adults we are guidebooks, when we look for physical ones to navigate us through parenthood and teaching.  It made me think of the old joke, "Where's the manual for this kid?"  When the manual seems to be us; children are a reflection of us.

I reflect on my behavior around my children every day, good and bad.  My life is made up of my actions and reactions, and my children repeat those actions accordingly, "trying them on" to see how they fit their lives.  I have seen it in classrooms as well.  Calmness reflecting calmness and chaos reflecting chaos.

Life is an echo. What you send out, comes back. What you sow, you reap. What you give, you get. What you see in others, exists in you.  -Zig Ziglar

If we are the guidebooks, then maybe we hold the answers to our own questions about our children and our students....
  • Their willingness to try
  • The way they treat others
  • How they try to communicate
What examples are they seeing from the most influential adults in their day to day lives?  If it's not direct communication and actions with them, they are still getting messages from our direct communication and actions with others.

Don't overlook "the guidebook" you carry every day, it's an important source to consider for the impact it may make on children.

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