The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows. ~Sydney J. Harris
The months in your four year-old’s life (and yours) are flying by…..
Your baby is becoming a young child and will SOON be entering KINDERGARTEN!!!!!
A classroom environment in a school is very different than your home school environment ~ VERY different.
The first noticeable difference, even if your child will be attending a “free-thinking school” where the rules are more relaxed, is the amount of other children included in the environment. Think 15-400!
Then, there are a plethora of rules, routines & procedures…..oh my….
Finally, there are the academic expectations for your young one. The Literacy skills you have been building with her/him will encourage success in this new and exciting setting.
Regardless of “where” your Pre-Schooler’s education will be continued, learning how to teach her/him is one of the most important gifts you can share with your child and yourself.
Pre~Schooling Your Pre~Kindergartener
When several of my sisters and I were growing up, Kindergarten was not the first year of organized schooling.
As children growing up in the 50s & 60s, our parents, being our first teachers, “home~schooled” us (from birth, really) during the pre~school & kindergarten years.
Upon entering First grade, we knew our colors, basic shapes & sizes, alphabet, & numbers 1-maybe 20. We could write our names (and each others’ names), our numbers to 10, and draw ourselves with arms, legs & a torso.
Whether sitting at the kitchen table, driving in the car, playing in the park, digging in the backyard, building in the living room, shopping at the stores, or daydreaming on vacation, we were always talking, listening & sharing about anything and everything.
Oh, AND we graduated from State Universities….. some of us with High Honors & Graduate degrees.
Current Kindergarten expectations have children reading by the end of the first semester, writing & editing complete sentences, and solving word problems with calculated precision.
BUT….don’t get me started on THAT!
Before talking about your actual Learning Environment, here is an easy-to-use Pre~School tool I’ve created for you in my BLB Shop so you & your four-year-old can monitor her/his Pre~Schooler’s Kindergarten Prep-Skills Progress.
My “I Am Ready for Kindergarten” Workbook: A Pre~School Checklist
Click on the link below for the downloadable & print PDF.
What Does A Successful Learning Environment Look Like?
If s/he is beginning to understand and use symbols – think letters & numbers, your Family Literacy Circle is progressing nicely.
If s/he is struggling with and/or not interested in the beginning Literacy skills, including these key elements suggested by Dr. Michael Gurian, a brain scientist & author of Nurture the Nature in your “Home Day School” may help encourage your child’s interest:
- Learning must engage a child’s entire body & include the 5 senses by doing, moving, experiencing.
- Learning happens uniquely for each child according to his/her own time, pace, interests, and thought patterns.
- Learning happens indoors & outdoors.
- Learning needs focus & meaning on a specific task or a set of related tasks thru story, action & individual responsibility.
- Learning, however, can take place when your child’s mind wanders, doodles, etc.
- Learning should have challenges with successes & failures addressed without shaming or hovering.
- Learning can occur by rote and/or by relationships to your child’s world, objects & manipulatives.
Need some Materials & Activities Ideas for Your Home~Learning Experience?
Click, download & print from the PDF link below:
Some Developmental Guidelines
Jenae, a former First Grade teacher & parent, created a great website to assist parents with educating their children.
She provides some guidelines in a variety of your child’s developmental areas and suggests playing with learning 15-20 minutes a day to encourage growth.
- Social/Emotional: board games, play dates, clean up, task persistence
- Language: 1 & 2-step directions, read together, free drawing, uppercase & lowercase letters with their sounds
- Cognitive: object sort (color, size, shape), patterns, count aloud to 20, count objects, shape hunt, positional & directional concepts, opposites
- Physical (Gross & Fine Motor): run, jump, climb, skip, catch, stack blocks, cut with scissors, string beads, puzzle play, play dough, write name
- Creative: pretend play, color recognition, paint, draw, explore
Click on the link below to visit her website:
Reading Everything About Anything
Reading is important, because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything. ~ Tomie dePaola
In all my years of meeting and teaching thousands of young children, I have never met a child who didn’t like/love to be told and/or read a story.
Your Pre-Schooler enjoys stories about being “big & strong”. S/he wants to hear about dancers, firefighters, animal caretakers, doctors, and other “new” characters that can be used in pretend play.
S/he can follow & understand the sequence of a story as well as talk about its characters & events. Re-reading favorites strengthens these vocabulary and comprehension skills.
Include these activities for a change of pace when rereading certain stories:
- make up different endings with your child
- play with the words-rhyming, re-using, silly sentences
- have your child retell the story
- act out the story, using simple props & costumes
Some young children, however, struggle with sitting still long enough to hear a story. Even at bedtime, they are either too tired or too interested in other things to focus on listening to a story. They want to…..it’s just difficult. Interactive stories, poems & rhymes with lots of movement are for them. Your comprehension questions will be answered verbally & physically!
Actually, almost all children love them!
For some squirmy children, the reading of words is boring and limited. These movers are usually talkers & doers, wanting to be “in” the story.
Enter….Wordless Picture Books!
“Reading” Stories Without Words
I am a part of everything I have read. ~ Theodore Roosevelt
You can, also, try “reading” books without words as a great interactive, Literacy book tool.
One of the wonderful things about this type of book is there are no right or wrong ways to read it!
A new story can be created each time the book is held by you and/or your child. Some children even like to read these valuable stories in reverse, beginning at the end of the story!
Here are some tips from Reading Rockets for sharing wordless picture books with your child to encourage pre-reading skills:
- Model proper book handling & page turning behaviors.
- Read the title & (author) illustrator.
- If it’s a first read, ask for a prediction of the story.
- Take a picture walk through the book pages.
- Talk about the characters’ expressions, the setting & colors to reinforce the idea the story & pictures can be connected (and your words, too).
- Go back to the beginning of the book & begin telling the story.
- encourage your child to read the story with you by asking the “W” questions: who, what, when, where, why.
- Add descriptive words to persons, places, objects & actions.
- Finish the story by asking: Which pictures helped us tell the story? What was your favorite part of the story? Have you ever been in a story like this?
Need a few book suggestions? BLBs Resource Library can help. Just click on the link below.
PLUS~ Vanessa Levin @pre-kpages (a great pre-school resource website) suggests these additional “Wordless Picture Books for PreSchoolers”:
- PANCAKES FOR BREAKFAST ~ Tomie dePaola
- THE RED BOOK ~ Barbara Lehman
- THE LION AND THE MOUSE ~ Jerry Pinkney
- WHERE’S WALRUS ? ~ Stephen Savage
- CHALK ~ Bill Thomson
- DEEP IN THE FOREST ~ Brinton Turkle
Bonus Literacy Tool of Wordless Picture Books
As a teacher of Reluctant Readers, my students eagerly looked forward to learning how to read stories they had created. Writing down simple sentences from your wordless picture book read is definitely a way to start the Emergent Reader process with a few other skills woven in, of course.
Remember to ask/ include “Who? Did what? When? Where? & Why or How?” when writing down the story sentences from your storyteller. These are key comprehension elements ~ Main Idea.
Reading the Language of Literacy in 26 Letters
TV. If kids are entertained by two letters, imagine the fun they’ll have with twenty-six. Open your child’s imagination. Open a book. ~ Anonymous
Print Awareness, Letter Recognition, and Letter Sounds are 3 important pre-reading skills necessary for your Pre-Schooler to master before s/he begins to read words with accuracy.
What Is Print Awareness ?
If your Family Literacy Circle Circle includes many shared reading experiences with your four year old, s/he probably knows each boldly written word you’ve been pointing to as you read, represents a spoken word, and has meaning.
S/he understands: books are read from front to back, print is read from top to bottom, and sentences are read from left to right.
You and others are using Environmental Print, such as product boxes, road signs, store marquees & logos, flyers, posters & billboards, labels, recipes, the mail & commercial ads to help your child understand words carry a variety of messages, not just storybook words.
S/he is recognizing individual letters, especially in his/her name and realizes uppercase & lowercase differences. Exploring, discovering & saying some of the sounds the letters make is beginning to make an impact in your child’s Literacy World. S/he sings the Alphabet song as a daily activity with growing accuracy and independence.
How To Teach Those 26 Letters of Literacy
Strong suggestion~ when teaching the Alphabet ~ do NOT teach the letters in ABC order. Rote memorization of the alphabet in order will only help your child in Third grade whens/he is practicing dictionary skills.
Check BLB’s Resource Library for several different ways to present the alphabet to your PreSchooler. Just click on the link below.
Here are a few ideas to help your Pre-Schooler learn the alphabet:
- Go to the library. Lay out a collection of Alphabet books. Have your child select some to check out.
- purchase magnetic, foam, puzzle, and/or block alphabet pieces.
- Prepare meals/snacks with alphabet pasta. cereal, cookies & crackers.
- Talk about letters that begin family members, pets & friends’ names.
- Make sure to emphasize the sounds with letters.
- Make letters from play dough, stickers, shaving cream, pipe cleaners.
- Draw letters in sand, dirt, mud & on the driveway with chalk.
- Make a game out of all these activities.
Need a few more ideas?
Check out BLB’s Resource Library for a list of 15 ABC Activities Websites to help you engage your Pre-Schooler’s interest in the Alphabet. Just click on the link below.
Need some alphabet game ideas?
I created some alphabet games & activities with uppercase & lowercase letter cards, real-life images as well as beginning vocabulary cards.
Let’s Play Some Alphabet Games : 8 Literacy Activities
Click on the link below to discover this tool.
Phonology, Phonemes & Phonics ~ Oh My !?!
Understanding and speaking are the building blocks of a strong base for oral language. Oral language is an important key to understanding and acquiring pre-reading skills.
Phonological Awareness, Phonemic Awareness & Phonics are the skills built from a strong foundation in oral language. They are necessary tools when learning to read.
Phonological Awareness skills are the beginning steps directly related to a person’s ability to read. They include:
- recognizing when words rhyme
- noticing similar beginning sounds in words
- understanding the separate sounds in a word
- combining separate sounds to make a word
- separating parts of a word into segments, or syllables
- hearing the beginning & ending sounds of words
- understanding letters & sounds create a word
Phonemic Awareness skills are one’s ability to recognize, blend, take apart, and use individual sounds (a phoneme is one sound) in words. There are 41 phonemes in the English language to combine into syllables & words. These skills include:
- putting sound together to make a spoken word
- taking a word apart into sections, or syllables
- using a different sound to make a new word in a word family (bat, cat, mat, sat)
Phonics is the teaching of letters with their sounds to help learn the patterns in spelling words and use decoding to read unknown words. Phonemic awareness as well as knowing letter symbols with their sounds are necessary for learning this skill.
How To Promote Phonology & Phonemes Skills
There are lots of oral language activities you can do with your child throughout the day to encourage awareness and mastery of these pre-reading stepping stone skills:
- read rhyming books
- play rhyming games
- sing rhyming songs
- make up rhyming words
- break up & say words in syllables/ clap each part & count
- talk about words with the same beginning sound
- talk about words with the same ending sound
- break up & say simple words with their individual sounds
Reading to Write and/or Writing to Read ?
Reading to Write & Writing to Read are basic principles in the Literacy Skills World.
Your child will guide you into the direction s/he needs to take in order to achieve success in both arenas.
Some children are very partial to reading, not writing. Some youngsters prefer writing to reading. Some enjoy both challenges interchangeably.
Some children, bright as they can be, want nothing to do with either one! These young children are rare, but if you have this child, there are websites to help you & your child solve this struggle.
Here’s a great one to explore, created by Becky Spence, an experienced classroom teacher, reading tutor & parent.
Just click on the link below:
Writing Activities & The Brain
Liz, an Early Childhood educator, created the infographic: “the importance of Developing Pre-Writing Skills in Early Childhood” on her website, Liz’s Early Learning Spot. It includes brain information from Dinehart & Manfra’s multi-year research with 3000 pre-schoolers published in the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy. (“Handwriting in Early Childhood Education” 2015)
- Writing stimulates attention, impulse control & working memory.
- Writing (NOT tracing or typing) letters activates the reading circuit in 4 & 5 year olds.
- When the basic skills of writing are automatic, the brain can concentrate on creating written expression.
A print-rich environment is a very important arc in your Family Literacy Circle. Modeling and teaching your child the value of writing will boost her/his abilities to read and create expression.
Your guidance in helping to develop your Pre-Schooler’s fine motor skills will promote his/her ability to write & read words/sentences as well as create & express thoughts.
This sequential process, which began at birth, is easier for some to “grasp” and harder for others. Here are some helpful fine motor skills activities I listed in the “Fine Motor Skills Mastery” section of Discovering the Family Literacy Circle with Your Post Toddler. Click on the link below:
Hopefully, your Pre-Schooler wants to learn how to write his/her name. YAY!
I’ve, also, added a Fine Motor Skills Sites: Activities & Exercises page to BLB’s Resource Library. Here’s the link:
For more great ideas, tips & how-to’s, visit “The Building Blocks for Writing Readiness” article on Liz’s Early Learning Spot. Her website is FULL of helpful activities. Just click on the link below.
Pardon My Wordiness
If you are here, still reading ~bless your heart~ thank you! (Perk to follow)
I hope I have given you some meaningful & helpful information for this critical age (yes, another one) in your growing child’s development.
How your child enters Kindergarten is unbelievably important!
As an Elementary & Special educator, as well as a parent,~believe me~your role as your child’s First Teacher is the most significant part of her/his future education. Continuing an active Family Literacy Circle will play an incredible role in your child’s success. WAY TO GO!!!!
The Perk is a download & print General School Readiness List. Just click on the link below.
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