Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Take-Home Literature Packets

What is one of the most influencial, beneficial, and special, yet simple, activities that a parent can facilitate with a child?


Allowing for a child to extend their curriculum into the home, and continuing the exposure to literacy is wonderful. Children crave interactions with literacy, and love spending this quality time with their parents. Teachers across the country would probably all say they want their parents to read more often with their children. Well, instead of making the suggestion, teachers can make it happen. A Literature Packet is a bag created by the teacher, or perhaps in collaboration with the children and parents. Inside this bag contains:
- 2 books
- A list of 7 related activities
- The materials to complete the activities
- A journal to write about the experience
A teacher can create as many bags as necessary/possible, but each should be unique and present a specific concept or subject. Some examples include: Counting and Numbers, Days, Family, I Can!, etc. Teachers can choose to integrate the current curriculum focuses into the packets, which can really hook the attention and interest of the children.
The creation of these literature bags can be a cooperative effort. Call for a meeting with the children and parents, and open a conversation about what types of subjects they want to receive in the bags. After a nice list has been made, offer the opportunity for parents to bring in (inexpensive) materials for the activities. When the bags are completed a rotation chart needs to be compiled, and the children can begin "checking out" the bags for a week.
During the week that a child has a bag, the parents should read the two books with their child, and complete at least two of the activities. In order for this project to allow for healthy communication between parents and teachers, a journal is provided. The journal can be used for parents to write about the experience, and especially for the children. Both the student and parent comments are useful for a teacher to gain insight into the literacy experience provided in the home. Teachers can even send the journals back for the next week with encouraging comments and remarks about the past journal entries. It can be used a communication tool from both ends!
Take-Home Literature Packets are a great way to bridge the gap between school-life and home-life. Children benefit from the literacy exposure and quality time. Teachers and parents begin to establish a closer relationship through the collaboration and journal entries. This type of home activity will allow for parents to know exactly what they can do to participate in the education of their child. Every parent wants the best for his/her child, and these literature packs provide the tools for them to achieve that.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Recipe Books

Literacy is all around us, and I love watching children explore new facets of their interests. A great suggestion to encourage children to read familiar texts is integrating recipe books into your class library. Teachers can read and model the books to the children, taking time out to point out the types of foods, and ask the children if they recognize any. Recipe books with pictures can be great for picture to text association. An additional activity can be created if the children's interest is sparked through the recipe books. A project that I recently heard a past teacher speaking out really excited me: a family recipe book. Have the children tell you what their favorite at home meal is, possibly one that mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, or auntie cook. After they tell you this, send home a request for a recipe of their dish. When all the recipes are collected, ask each child to read the recipe to you. The younger the child, the more adorable the story. Children will go on and on about their favorite foods, and while they are talking, write down what they are saying. It will go by quickly, but saving these thoughts makes a beautiful ending product. Children can really relate to a favorite food. It has a history, a story that they would love to share and tell the class about. Having them relate the text of their parents writing to a recipe that they probably know pretty well, can be great for their written literacy development. At the end of the process, put together the family recipes, children's version of the recipes, and a drawn picture of each. Send this book home with all the families, and it will be cherished. Ideas like this can build community while tuning early literacy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Authencity in Literacture

As adults, we read what interests us. Literature has to give us some type of enjoyment for us to choose to read it. Many times, in our early childhood classrooms, teachers have predetermined the literature for children to "enjoy." Instead of allowing children the opportunity to pick and decide what they want to read, we rob them of this! An important thought to keep about the types of literature we expose our children to is authenticity. Children want to read interesting, authentic, relevant, thought-provoking, and understandable material. Books that are written with the purpose to be enjoyed, laughed at, informative, and interesting capture our children's attention. Children read these to be impressed upon, and they are! They are longing for a reason to keep reading. So many books fulfill this requirement for children, but others miss the boat completely. Books that are written for a purpose to work on a specific skill with a child (ie decoding, rhyming, etc) are not interesting to a child. They see through the intentions and become easily bored in the text. So, instead of increasing the child's reading skills, they have detracted from the literacy experience altogether. The books that aim to be aesthetically pleasing to a child have so much more of a meaningful impact on a child. As teachers, we should be mindful of this when collecting books for our classroom libraries. Try to choose books that spike the interest of the child. These types of books include: fairy tales, realistic stories, playful stories, thought-provoking stories, poetic stories, and even folktales. The genres are nearly limitless, and the children will marvel in the authenticity of these stories. Children want to be engaged in the text, and through this they can experience the most rich of literacy skills.

Apprenticeships and Our Children

Children learn through observation and performance. They will watch adults and peers closely to gain knowledge about how people do certain things. Then, when they can gain the confidence, which can be fostered by a safe, supportive, and risk-taking encouraged environment, they will try it for themselves! Specifically when looking at a child's development through literacy, we see children imitating writing styles and spelling words from memory. For example, a student in first grade recently heard his teacher read a book about a mean, awful teacher. The children laughed at this book, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Later in the day, Kenny decided to write his own version of this type of story-line. He wrote a story containing 45 words. Included in his story are 19 words that he spelled conventionally, we call this conventional spelling. The other 26 words were words that he spelled to the best of his ability. We can call these words "inventive spelling," or "temporary spelling." Kenny did a great job correctly spelling 19 words, but more valuable than these words are the 26 inventive words. Here, we can learn about Kenny's though process through literacy. We know that he has some background knowledge about words, possibly memorization. Instead of demonstrating strict "sounding out," Kenny spelled "was" w-u-s. This means that he knew the word contained and "s," instead of placing the right sound, a "z," at the end of the word. Inventive spelling is a great way to dig into a child's brain and understand their concepts of literacy. Without this freedom to spell things "incorrectly," children would miss out on this opportunity for creative, real, and interesting literacy experiences. Although names for this type of spelling differ, I have come to appreciate "inventive spelling," "temporary spelling," and the "developmental form of spelling." I prefer using these terms instead of wrong spelling because it is important to realize that this is a phase for children: an important phase. Children will move out of this developmental stage, but it should not be forced. Teachers can use inventive spelling to further understand and appreciate the children in their classrooms. What an amazingly beautiful picture of a child's pure thoughts and ideas!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Meaning-Orientation and Code-Orientation

As we think about the innocence of a child, an infant even, it seems impossible to think we could ever purposely corrupt such a fragile being. From protecting children from bullies at school, to inappropriate words on the television, we are always trying to keep our children true to themselves... In almost all facets of their life, but literacy. As teachers, we pressure our students into "getting it right!" We correct poor grammar, and endorse only functionally correct sentence structure. We are forgetting to protect their beings. Children grow up with meaning-oriented purposes. They grunt, move, sign, and cry for something: a bottle, more food, Mommy, or a sore belly. Children have this innate concept of speaking for a purpose, to come to a desired goal or ending. As children mature, and begin to speak in formal language terms, they use this same concept. Little girls might point and say, "dolly," meaning, give her the doll. As a parent usually does, the response might be, "can you say, 'can I have my doll please?'" Instead of accepting and appreciating the child's pure and true attempt to communicate a need and want, we correct them. The message we are sending to our children is that their form of communication, though authentic, is incorrect. Thus, as children enter Kindergarten, they are conditioned to be careful with their words. Children carefully construct sentences with the absolute more correct diction. They lose their risk-taking nature, which destroyed their ability for creativity and new ideas and words. At this point, children become code-oriented thinkers, instead of meaning-oriented. This means, as elementary school learners are reading a book, they are reading to dissect the words, get the pronunciation right, and impress their teachers/parents with their "A+" reading skills. While the child is struggling to correctly pronounce the sentences, he is losing comprehension. Instead of reading the passages for content and interest, he reads to "decode." I can think of nothing less interesting than decoding a page, or more, of foreign text, word by word. It is no wonder to me why so many children become uninterested or put-off by literature. If reading because a forceful and painful process of right and wrong, no one can appreciate the rich content within the words. The words on the page are only a gateway into the reason for the book; children should read for excitement, new ideas, enjoyment, experiences, and knowledge. We should always be mindful of the message we give our children as we correct their speech, or mispronounced word in a story. Keep in mind that children are malleable, and making the right impression could make or break their attitudes towards literacy for life.