Early Writing Skills

Writing with felts2

Learn Together – Grow Together is one of our family literacy programs for parents and caregivers and their children ages 3-5 years old. The program encompasses a variety of activities that range from sharing stories and rhymes, to gym time, free play, crafts and games. Parents learn ways to help their children in the early stages of reading and writing.

During one of our parent-time sessions, we discuss the beginning stages of writing. Children are not born knowing how to hold a pencil or even what to do with it. This is a skill that must be taught and modelled by parents. From an early age, children are eager to use their hands to grab things. Allow your little ones to use crayons or markers, for example, to scribble on a piece of paper. The scribbles may not mean much to you, but they are the beginnings of letter and word formation, as well as fine motor skill practice.

Often I hear from parents that their children don’t want to sit down and work on their writing skills. So at Learn Together – Grow Together, I always have examples of new and fun ways to practice writing. Here are a few:

  • use sidewalk chalk
  • use just your finger and write in the sand or snow
  • cut up numbers and letters made of sandpaper, and use your finger to trace them
  • in the bathtub or outside, write with shaving cream, or write on a big glob of it
  • put acrylic paint in a Ziploc bag and tape the top, then practice writing on the bag with just your finger
  • tape a long piece of ribbon to a pencil or stick and practice making letters in the air by waving your wand
  • paint letters and numbers on large blank sheets of plain paper

Can you think of more fun ideas to add to the list?

It is also important for your children to see you modelling your writing skills. For example, if you are making a grocery list, or printing an address onto a piece of mail, ask your children to take part in the activity. Or let them watch you fill out forms and documents. As you show your children these skills, they will begin to understand that written print has meaning and that it is an important skill to have.

One of the tip sheets available for free download on the Centre for Family Literacy website is titled “Signs of Reading and Writing Development in Young Children.” It is on side 2 of the “Tips for Sharing Books” pdf. Here is the link to the webpage.

www.famlit.ca/resources/resources_p.shtml

If you are interested in the fall session of Learn Together – Grow Together in Edmonton, please give us a call at 780-421-7323 for more information. Have fun learning and growing together with your children!

Drawing on Strengths

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One of the guiding principles of family literacy programs is that every family comes with their own strengths, no matter what culture or socio-economic background they are from.

Learn Together – Grow Together is one of our family literacy programs for parents and caregivers and their children ages 3-5 years old. The program encompasses a variety of activities that range from sharing stories and rhymes, to gym time, free play, crafts and games. Parents learn ways to help their children in the early stages of reading and writing.

I’ve been involved in the program for several years and have worked with many different families. The beauty of having the families attend for a minimum of one 10-week session is that it gives me the opportunity to observe the strengths of each parent. Some love singing, while others enjoy making crafts. Some parents are great at running and roughhousing with their children during gym time, while others excel at calming their children when they are upset. Some parents enjoy sitting with their children to share a book, while others like helping their children build with blocks or put a puzzle together.

Parents may not be aware of the variety of strengths they already possess. Although they shouldn’t be afraid to learn and try new things, parents should  be proud of what they are able to accomplish with their children already.

I’ve seen many parents open up and share their own parenting stories and experiences with the other parents, encouraging each other on their parenting journey. A local program like Learn Together – Grow Together is a good way to connect with other parents. You never know what new strengths you may develop, or how you may be able to encourage another parent!

For more about the Learn Together Grow Together program, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website at ww.famlit.ca

 

Letting Your Child Lead

iStock_LTGT

At Learn Together Grow Together, we have been talking about learning through play. It is amazing to observe any child as they play! Everything is new and exciting and they want to soak up every experience they can. A lot of skills are being developed as your child plays: physical, fine motor, cognitive, language, and social skills.

As a parent, it is important that you take the time to play and interact with your child, to help them develop these skills. As your child continues to grow, you will find they develop their own likes and dislikes. Recognizing the interests of your child can be of great benefit to you both.

For example, you may notice that your child would rather pick the dandelions in the grass than kick a ball around. Or maybe your child wants to just play with their blocks, while you are trying to do a craft with them. Perhaps your child would rather read a cartoon strip in the newspaper than read a storybook.

In any of these situations, there is an opportunity to learn something new. As a parent, it may not be what you would like to do, but it is important to follow your child’s lead and recognize what they are interested in doing.

As a parent you know that you have your own likes and dislikes; there are activities you enjoy more than others. So guaranteed it will be the same for your child! Take the time to observe what your child’s interests are and engage with them in those activities. Have fun with them! By doing so, you will be creating positive learning experiences for your child. We all learn more when we are interested; build on the strengths you see in your child everyday and I’m sure their love of learning will continue for years to come.

Check the Centre for Family Literacy website for more about Learn Together – Grow Together

 

Why Pre-Read New Books for Young Children?

iStock_read2During our Learn Together, Grow Together program, the parents have a 20-minute  session separate from their children.

Last week I began the parent session by talking about different types of books and the different ways to use them. Eventually the conversation evolved into a discussion about the age appropriateness of books.

Children’s books often have a recommended age for use (for example ages 1-3, or 4-8, etc.). However, the parents in our discussion seem to disagree with these age recommendations from time to time.

One mom shared that she had read a book to her three year old son where the main character was throwing objects into a tree—objects like a cat, a boat, and a truck. After the story, the mom said her son was determined to throw large objects into the tree in their yard. The mom said she realized that maybe her child wasn’t ready for this book, as he still didn’t understand the difference between real and make-believe.

Another mom shared that she had read a book, that she thought was age appropriate, to her four year old daughter. However the story actually scared her daughter so much that she had a tough time sleeping that night. The mom said she learned from that experience: spend time previewing children’s books before reading them with her daughter.

Occasionally I have been surprised to find words such as “stupid” or “shut up” in books recommended for younger children, and I certainly wouldn’t want my child to be exposed to those words at an early age.

Just as a parent might want to preview, or research, a movie’s appropriateness for their child, it is also a good idea to preview children’s books. Just because the book has been deemed age appropriate by the publisher doesn’t mean that it is appropriate for your child.

You know your child best; you know what concepts and language they can understand and what they are ready for. You know best what is age appropriate for your child, no matter what age they are in years. There are so many wonderful children’s books available  to share with your child, that it is OK to be picky when choosing them!

More about Learn Together – Grow Together

Visual Schedules for Your Kids

In our Learn Together – Grow Together program, one of the topics we discuss with the parents is learning styles. We talk about the different learning styles we recognize in ourselves as adults (auditory, visual, and/or kinesthetic), and also the learning styles we  recognize in our children.

If one or more of your children are visual learners, an easy way to help keep them  organized is to provide schedules with pictures. A visual schedule helps children make their way through the routines of the day. It helps to provide structure and predictability for the activities that need to be completed.

It may be something as simple as creating a schedule of their morning routine before they have to go to daycare or school. Try placing the visual schedule on the bathroom mirror or in the children’s bedroom.

Visual Shedule1

Or maybe it’s a schedule for getting dressed for the winter weather—to display by the coat closet of your home—that would be useful to you and your children.

Visual Schedule2

You may want to add stickers or checkmarks to reward your children for completing their schedule. This may not only help to motivate them so the routines of the day go by with more ease, but can also help your children to feel independent as well.

Has anyone used a visual schedule with their children before? Did having something visual help them to predict the order of their day?

By taking the time to recognize the learning styles of your children, you can tap into activities, such as this, to help get things done at home and even out in the community.

More about Learn Together – Grow Together or to register for the program

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Extending Stories

The MittenHow often do we read through a children’s book and just put it down and leave it? In Learn Together Grow Together, we recently shared Jan Brett’s book The Mitten. In this winter tale, a little boy dropped his mitten in the snow and it became a space to crawl into for many forest creatures.

In order to take the story further, the program facilitators decided to add activities for the parents and children based on the story.

Find the Mittens:

We had a number of different coloured mittens hidden around the classroom. The parents worked together with their children to find all of the mittens.

Rhymes and Songs:

We sang some rhymes and songs about winter and mittens.

I’m a Little Snowman (to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot”)

I’m a little snowman, short and fat 
Here are my buttons, here is my hat 
When the sun comes out, I cannot stay 
Cause I just slowly melt away!

Pet Snowball Song (to the tune of “I have a little bicycle”)
I made myself a snowball 
Just as perfect as could be. 
I thought I’d keep it as a pet 
And take it home with me. 
I gave it some pajamas 
And a pillow for its head. 
Then, last night it ran away, 
But first . . . . it wet the bed!

Snowey Pokey (to the tune of “Hokey Pokey”)
You put your right mitten in, you take your right mitten out, 
You put your right mitten in and you shake it all about. 
You do the Snowey pokey and you turn yourself around. 
That’s what it’s all about. 
Continue with additional verses:
You put your left mitten in 
You put your scarf in
You put your right boot in 
You put your left boot in
You put your hat in 
You put your snowself in
etc.

Gym Activities:

We had newspaper crunched up into balls and wrapped in packing tape. We pretended that the crunched up newspaper and tape were snowballs. The families practiced throwing their snowballs into baskets and played with them on a parachute.

For the Parents:

On 10-15 strips of paper, the parents wrote out and summarized the events of the story. We had parents whose first language is not English, so they wrote out their story summaries in other languages! By completing this activity, the parents were encouraged to use recall and comprehension skills (which is an activity the parents can do with their children with any story).

For the Parents and Children:

The children coloured in pictures of all the animals in The Mitten, and the parents helped their little ones cut out the pictures. There was also a paper cut-out of a mitten into which DSCN1033-cls-weball of the animals could go – just like in the story! The children were able to reenact the story, or make up a new one, with the animals.

These are just a few, simple ways in which a story was “extended,” and I’m sure there are many more ways to extend The Mitten. Next time you share a story with your children, try to find an activity or two to build on it. There are so many fun and interactive ways to bring a story to life!

If you have tried extending a story before, what activities did you use? We would love to hear what they were!

More about Learn Together – Grow Together or to register for the program

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Fall Family Fun!

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As summer winds down and families get back into their regular routine, it may be easy to forget to take advantage of opportunities to learn together as a family. Fall is a beautiful time of year when the leaves start changing colour and begin to fall off the trees. Leaves provide many learning opportunities for you and your child – so simple and fun!

Here are some leaf activities to try with your child during this fall season:

Create a Leaf Scavenger Hunt!

  • Work with your child to create a list of items to look for on your scavenger hunt. For example:
    • Find 2 orange leaves
    • Find 3 red leaves
    • Find 1 leaf with smooth edges
    • Find 1 big leaf
    • Find 4 small leaves

Go for a walk outside!

  • Talk about the different colours of the leaves.
  • Ask your child questions like, “Is this leaf bigger or smaller than this leaf?” “Does the leaf have smooth or sharpe edges?”

 Practice Counting

  • Have your child gather up a bunch of leaves and practice counting how many they collected.

 Learn Textures

  • Collect different types of leaves and feel the different textures with your hands. Ask your child, “Does this leaf feel soft?” “Does this leaf feel rough?”

 Leaf Artwork

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  • Collect some leaves and use them to make some fun artwork. Using the leaves, a thin sheet of paper and some crayons, you can make “leaf rubbings.”
    • First, place the leaves under a thin sheet of paper. You will want to place the leaves bottom side facing up.
    • Second, rub the crayon(s) on the paper and watch the leaf print come through.

Just Have Fun!

  • If you have access, rake together a pile of leaves for you and your child. Have fun jumping into the pile!

We hope that you are able to enjoy this fall season, learning and growing together with your child. Have fun with the leaves and the nature that surrounds you!

More about the Learn Together – Grow Together program starting again January 2016 in Edmonton.

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Learn, Grow, and Play Together – as a Family

Spring is finally here! At Learn Together – Grow Together we have been focusing on ways in which we can “grow” as families.

Our activities have been showcasing ways in which parents are able to spend quality learning time with their children while having fun. Now that the weather is beautiful again, we encourage all families to spend time outdoors – growing together!

Below are some of the ways that we practiced growing together this session:

  • using cardboard boxes, plastic containers, and other recyclable materials, we made our own robots
  • using construction paper, ribbons, tape, and string, we made our own kites and flew them in the wind
  • using paint and pre-made wooden structures from a dollarstore, we decorated birdhouses for the birds that come to visit
  • using paper and markers, we created our very own scavenger hunt to do outside
  • using a Styrofoam cup (which we decorated with a face), potting soil, and grass seeds, we made our own grassheads by having the grass grow out of the top

Kite1     Kite2

We hope you can take the time to try one or more of these activities. As you are interacting and playing together, you will be growing together as a family too. Enjoy learning as you spend time together!

More about the Learn Together – Grow Together program

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Learn Together, Grow Together

LTGT-webLast week was the start to our latest 10-week session of Learn Together, Grow Together. The program is for parents and caregivers and their children ages 3 to 6 years old. While the adults learn about their children’s early learning, and how to support literacy development and success in school, it is also a good opportunity for the parents to brush up on their own literacy skills and connect with other parents of preschool children.

We begin each session with stories and singing, followed by gym time. Afterwards, we split the children and parents into separate learning groups, and finally, we bring them back together for fun parent-child learning activities.

During parent time for the next few weeks, we will explore “emergent literacy.” Emergent literacy is “the knowledge children have about reading and writing before they can actually read and write.”(http://www.kidsability.ca/en/LiteracyHandouts) We will encourage parents in their role as emergent literacy teachers for their own children.

How does a child gain this knowledge about reading and writing? What are some strategies parents can use to foster emergent literacy in their child?

Here are a few ideas to try together with your family:

  • Talk with your child. Your child will learn so much from positive language interactions with you.
    • Talk about what you see in a picture book, while at the grocery store, at the park, etc.
    • Explain to your child what you are doing, while you are doing it. For example, if you make cookies, talk about the different ingredients and what steps you have to take, or if you are paying bills, use the time to talk to your child about money and numbers.
    • Play card and board games together. Turn off the electronic devices and have fun playing a game where there is opportunity to speak with each other.
  • Sing and rhyme with your child. Sing songs and rhymes together as they provide opportunities to bond with your child as well as expand their vocabulary. You can always make up your own songs and rhymes too – your child will enjoy hearing your voice either way.
  • Visit your local library and take advantage of their book lending services.
  • Follow you child’s lead in their interests. For example, if they have an interest in animals, share books about animals, sing songs and rhymes about animals, and play games about animals. If you can, take a trip to a pet store, a farm, or a zoo; take the time to talk about everything you see and experience together.
  • Model positive literacy behaviours to your child. If your child sees your enjoyment of reading the newspaper, writing a shopping list, talking about the road signs you see, etc., they will think of these literacy activities as positive experiences.

Parents have such an important role in cultivating the knowledge of reading and writing in their child, even before they are actually about to read and write. There are so many opportunities to promote emergent literacy in a small child, simply by intentionally interacting with them and involving them in what you are already doing!

 

More about the Learn Together – Grow Together program

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Beat the Cold! Bring the Outdoors In with Learn Together – Grow Together!

This last month has been a snowy, blowy and cold one. However the team at Learn Together – Grow Together has found a way to beat the cold! When it is too cold for our families to go outdoors, we simply bring the outdoors in!

 

Books that we read:

  • 10 on a Sled by Kim Norman
  • All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle
  • Snowballs by Lois Ehlert
  • The Mitten by Jan Brett

 

Activities we did:

  • After reading the storybook The Mitten, each family spent the afternoon creating their own storysack. Each storysack contained the characters from the story as well as a large white mitten. These storysacks provided families with a fun, unique and memorable way to read and share the story at home.
  • Using recycled newspaper and packing tape, we made a big basket full of “snowballs”. We then headed to the gymnasium for a variety of snowball throw and toss games, ending with a big group snowball fight!
  • After reading All You Need for a Snowman, we brought in a huge plastic bin of snow from outside. Then, wearing mittens, the children and their families spent the afternoon creating their own snowmen and snow castles!
  • Using plastic containers of varying sizes we froze “treasures” in water. Once frozen, we took the ice blocks out of the containers and the children spent the afternoon exploring methods to melt and chip the treasures from the ice. The children used a variety of methods including: warm water, hand held tools, salt etc. to extract their treasures. In order to keep this activity literacy based, our treasures included letters from the alphabet that corresponded with other items in the ice block. For instance, when a child extracted a letter “Y” from the ice, they would then begin to look for the items in the ice that corresponded with that letter, such as a yellow yo yo.

 

Snacks we shared:

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Banana Snowmen
Ingredients: bananas, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and pretzels.

 

bear-pretzel

Pretzel Polar Bears
Ingredients: pretzel sticks, peanut butter, coconut and black icing.

 

Songs and Rhymes we shared:

I’m a Little Snowman (to the tune of I’m a Little Tea Pot)
I’m a little snowman, short and fat.
Here are my buttons and here is my hat.
When the sun comes out, I cannot play.
I just slowly melt away.

Five Little Snowmen
Five little snowmen all made of snow,
five little snowmen standing in a row.
Out came the sun and stayed all day,
and one little snowman melted away.

(count down to 0)

Zero little snowmen all made of snow,
zero little snowmen standing in a row.
Down came the snow that fell all day,
and five little snowmen came back to play.

To go along with these rhymes, our families constructed five popsicle stick snowmen and one popsicle stick sun to use while they recited the rhyme. These props were a fun activity for the families and they really brought the rhyme to life!!

With a little creativity and our families’ eager participation, Learn Together – Grow Together has succeeded in bringing the outdoors in and now you can too!!

More about the Learn Together – Grow Together program

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