Spring into Learning!

Spring has arrived! It is a pleasure to get outside now that the snow is melting and the air is warmer. Outside, there are many things to learn in spring. Children are like little sponges ready to soak up new information. It doesn’t take extra time to give your children the chance to learn; family literacy can occur naturally during daily routines. It helps adults and children get things done.

Ways to use literacy in your activities this spring:

  • talk to your children as they put on their spring gear. Ask why they no longer need to wear winter boots, coats, etc.
  • dressed in rubber boots and raincoats, let them experience the tactile joy of crunching ice and splashing in puddles. Talk about how it feels as they squish through mud and try to pull their feet out. Ask them to make the sounds of squishing mud and splashing and running water.
  • look at snow and ice melting where the sun shines and talk about where the snow goes. Wonder why water sometimes gathers in a puddle and sometimes runs down the drain. Discuss why it rains in warmer weather instead of snowing. How does this helps things grow?
  • encourage your children to use their senses to experience spring. 
Talk about what they see, smell, feel and hear. Look for the first flowers and buds on trees. Notice if it’s lighter at bedtime. Search for bugs. Ask if the air smells different and feels warmer. Hear the different bird sounds.

The C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) bus is ready for spring. When you visit the bus, you will be treated to a couple of our favourite stories:

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers is a favourite of children and parents alike; it is laugh-out-loud funny. In the story, a boy loses his kite in a tree and tries to knock it down by throwing everything he can find into the tree. On the bus, children delight in “throwing” felt pieces into the tree on the story board, bringing the tale to life.

And there are monsters on the bus—tickle monsters! We’ll read two books about tickle monsters; one where children make a neighbourhood scene out of the monster body parts, and the other involves a lot of tickling and singing!

Here is a springtime song we will be singing on the bus and you can also enjoy it at home. Try acting it out!

Rain is Falling
(tune: “Skip to My Lou”)

Rain is falling, what shall I do (X 3)
What shall I do my darling?

Put on a raincoat, (rain boots, rain pants, rain coat) that’s what I’ll do (X 3)
That’s what I’ll do my darling.

Grab an umbrella, (jump in some puddles) that’s what I’ll do (X 3)
That’s what I’ll do my darling.

Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out where and when the C.O.W. bus will be parked near you!

 

Play-Based Learning

We, at the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. bus, like play.  We like to see parents (or Grandparents, or any other significant adult in a child’s life) come on the bus and spend time playing with their child. Interestingly, the Council of Ministers of Education Canada has recently released a statement recognizing the value of play-based learning.  You can read the whole statement here:

http://www.cmec.ca/Publications/Lists/Publications/Attachments/282/play-based-learning_statement_EN.pdf

Even though we really like and encourage play, and we have all sorts of interesting and fun things to play with on the bus, there are just some things that don’t work well on a bus…like playdough.

Making playdough with your kids and then spending time playing with it can provide a rich learning experience and hours of entertainment.

So here is one of my favourite recipes for playdough:

Kool-aid playdough

Ingredients:

• 1 – 11/4 cup flour

• 1/4 cup salt

• 1 pkg powdered unsweetened kool-aid (or other equivalent powdered drink mix)

• 1 cup boiling water

• 1 1/2 -2Tbsp vegetable oil

Directions:

1.  In a bowl, mix 1 cup flour, salt and kool-aid (the brighter colours work best)

2.  Stir in water and oil

3.  Knead with hands.  Gradually add more flour and oil if needed.

Continue kneading for about 5 minutes.

4.  Play!

5.  Store in sealed bag in the fridge for up to 2 months.

Favorite Books to Read Aloud: “Where Is the Green Sheep”

Sometimes on the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. bus we have Kindergarten and Grade one classes or daycares that come to visit us.  When this happens we like to read the kids a story before letting them play with the rest of the activities on the bus.  It’s always great to see how engaged children can be when they are being read a good book.
One of my favourite books to read to the under five crowd is “Where is the Green Sheep?” by Mem Fox. Mem Fox has written dozens of books for children and certainly knows what appeals to her audience.  The story is light-hearted, we see at all sorts of different kinds of sheep, wave sheep, scared sheep and brave sheep, as we look for the green sheep, and the text is full of rhyme, rhythm and repetition, which help develops a child’s “ear” for language.
When we read it on the bus we often have the whole group of kids chiming in “where is the green sheep?”.  Children also enjoy the cartoon-like drawings by Judy Horacek as they look for the missing green sheep. It’s really a fun, playful book to share with the kids in your life.

A Story All Your Own

Working as a facilitator on the Alberta Prairie Classroom on Wheels Bus (the C.O.W. Bus) I often hear questions about the different types of books and how to get children interested in reading.  There are a lot of different responses that I can give to this question.

There are interactive books that are great for catching and keeping the interest of a child (see Kim’s previous post on Press Here by Hervé Tullet), “touch and feel” books that provide a multitude of textures that entertain kids, especially young kids, and “seek and find” books like I-Spy and Where’s Waldo that can hold a child’s interest for hours while they try to find all the different items listed and as well as the other items unlisted.  Truth be told, they still entertain me for hours.

However, my favorite response is to make the books personal.  Create a story featuring your child.  You can use photos of your child as the illustrations and create a story around the pictures.  It can be as simple as linking colors to outfits (insert photo) or as complex as a novel.  Creating a personal story can also be a great way to spend time, and to interact with your children.  Involve them in the process – have them pick out the pictures they want to use or have them create the story and you write it down.  Small photo albums work perfectly for holding the photos as well as cue cards to write the story on.

One mom shared a great idea she uses for personalizing a story.  She used her children’s photos and pasted them over the existing faces in the book.  Her children instantly became part of their favorite stories and will have fantastic keepsakes for when they grow up.  She found that board books worked better due to their durability.