COUNTRY FUN

an early education learning space ~ where play equals learning

January 5, 2017
by countryfun
Comments Off on Listening Is Important and Needs to be Taught

Listening Is Important and Needs to be Taught

We teach our children so many other skills, but do we really think about teaching them to listen?

The art of listening is something children will use throughout their entire lives and while it usually takes a back seat to learning how to talk, walk, ABC’s… it really is just as important a skill. Maybe even more important.

So how does one go about teaching “listening”?

Believe it or not there are many simple and fun ways to teaching listening skills. Think “PLAY”, the natural way children learn. When participating in any of the activities below be sure to comment on “what a good listener” they are. That the connection that draws a child’s attention to listening as a skill that’s a positive in them learning. That’s the teaching.

  1. Play games like, “Simon Says,” or “I Spy”. Play “Clue” games that involve following clues/directions to find a hidden (or in our case lost) object. We also like to play “Who says…….” – make an animal sound and have them label it. If your good make other sounds like a truck backing up, popcorn popping, ….
  2. Sing favorite songs together. Then when singing it again (which we all know children love to do) change up some of the important words. See if they notice and point out your “mistakes.” Do this a few times and you’ll find them always watching for you to “make mistakes” again. They might even start making their own “mistakes” for you to catch.
  3. Talk about sounds. When talking with your child about the ordinary things that are happen during their day be sure to ask them about the things you both are hearing. For example- talk about the sounds you hear as you are outside like birds, airplanes, traffic.
  4. Ask those “predictor” questions. When reading books aloud asking questions about what they think will happen next. At the end of the story, question them about events in the story to see how well they were listening. No “yes” or “no” questions, we want information shared. This activity works better for children as they are getting closer to preschool age. They need some base of language to follow through on clearly answering the questions. Do not let this stop you from asking right from the start. Every engagement is an opportunity to support your child’s learning.

We can teach listening skills through fun or play activities, but it’s just as important that we model good listening when we are with our children.

  1. Be at eye level. We know it’s easier to talk to someone when you are on the same level. Our children deserve that also. Getting down to their level makes that connection and it’s more likely they will focus and listen to you. If it’s hard to kneel down, adapt – pick them up, sit in chairs. What’s most important is that you’re eye to eye, or on a similar level.
  2. Use a normal (volume) voice speaking at a steady pace, in a language your child can understand. Please with toddlers, don’t dumb down your language (baby talk). First they understands more than you realize and second we want them to hear rich expanded language. If they do not hear it how are they to learn it?
  3. Say it once and give them so time to respond by words or action. Saying it over and over means they don’t need to listen the first time, and that is not a behavior pattern we want to set in place or encourage. Try it again using different words, making sure your directions aren’t too wordy, and really are appropriate for the developmental level of the child. If your child continues not to respond after you have adapted, this time repeat the directions and then gently show them the way or how to follow your directions.
  4. Keep your word. If you tell a child that they must eat a good meal or they can’t have dessert, stick to it. Developing a reason to listen is part of one’s listening skills, so it’s important that children know you mean it and will consistently follow through.
  5. Control your yelling. It’s often better to drop your voice tone or whisper to get a child’s attention. When they are ignoring you, it’s tempting to yell to get them to do what you want. However, if you yell too much, they are just learning to tune you out, or just see this speaking as normal. Save your loud voice for times when you really need it, like if you notice your toddler is about to run out into the street.
  6. Listen to your child.  This seems like such common sense, but so often we do not truly listen to them. Remember good role models are needed in developing good listening skills. The other benefit of listening to your child is supporting the development of their personal sense of self-worth.
  7. Repeat what you hear them saying. Take the opportunity to expand by adding a descriptive word. This not only works on listening skills, but increases their vocabulary.

Listening is also more than just “listen” and “follow the directions” or “respond”. Listening is really how we communicate. No matter the age we need to be having real conversations with our children. Talk with them, not at them. Really listen to them and show them that you are, through your responses. These conversations with you, help them learn about the flow of conversations. Even with an infant these conversations, which as usually “silly”, are encouraging listening skill development while making those important personal connections.

 

May 16, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on It’s Rhubarb Time!

It’s Rhubarb Time!

We’re back in the garden! Harvesting from the rhubarb bed has started. That means lots of kitchen time with the children here. We’re using some of our favorite recipes which you can find in postings on Countryfun is Cooking. Just search “rhubarb”.

This morning we made the Rhubarb Muffins to have for our afternoon snack.  A quick, easy and tasty recipe that also freezes well.

I enjoy being in the kitchen with the children. So many learning opportunities and there is usually something unexpected. Let’s start with Reading – idea of written directions in a recipe, names on ingredient containers, alphabet identification

Team work – gathering of materials, positioning to watch and help, working with peers and adult

Language – ingredients, tools, techniques, questions raised and answers provided

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Math, science and social studies –  measuring ingredients and counting. We also compare measuring tools and talk fractions. Smell for vinegar and vanilla. Taste brown sugar.

Where do eggs come from? Love getting the store as an answer:) More discussion on eggs coming from chickens with the farmer bringing to the store. Even better answer of “Ducks!”

More science as oil and milk blend. Then brown sugar dissolving in liquid. Flour going from dry to wet as we mix ingredients together and finally the baking. More math when we set oven temp and time the baking.

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Did you notice we used 3 different sized spoons in today’s baking? One of the children did. Thankfully he commented on the difference size handles, so I could take advantage of the observation for more learning. So of course we had a closer comparison of the 3 spoons for bowl size, handle length and a discussion on why they worked better for the reasons used for today. Largest for mixing. Middle for scooping dough for muffins. Smallest for scraping dough off scooping spoon.

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Last counting for this morning equaled 24. The recipe made 2 dozen muffins loaded with rhubarb – one very healthy and underused early spring vegetable.

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January 28, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on A Snowball Sensory Box

A Snowball Sensory Box

Sensory play is not only fun, but it’s an important learning experience for young children. Today I brought out one of my winter sensory boxes. I think of this one as the “snowball box” because it’s all white and contains mostly round objects. The ribbon lengths add some of the glitter found with new snow.

To take this experience further I added some different tubes to the table. This group enjoys putting items into containers. They like to stack building blocks. They like to count. Knowing this and providing materials to support their interests, as I expected, the play changed.

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To expand the learning I was able to direct the exploration into sizes and textures. We used different descriptive words starting from the concept of opposites. While exploring in this direction the children discovered that different sounds were occurring. They directed their learning at this point.

One simple sensory box =

  • cooperative play
  • fine motor
  • descriptive language
  • expressive language
  • self-esteem
  • math – shape, counting, volume
  • opposites/comparisons
  • sound
  • focus/attention span

One full morning of fun!

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As part of ongoing authentic assessment the videos here and additional ones taken will be used in planning future learning experiences and documented in ePortfolios connecting with the Maine Early Learning Developmental Standards (MELDS).

Here are 10 of the MELDS that were demonstrated this morning:

  1. Communicates math ideas verbally and non-verbally
  2. Recognizes the relationship between numbers and quantities
  3. Transitions from rote counting to 1:1 correspondence
  4. Matches similar shapes
  5. Explores three-dimensional and two-dimensional shapes in the environment
  6. Begins to speak audibly and, with prompting and support, express thoughts, feelings, and idea
  7. Chooses individual activities
  8. Develops increased capacity to share materials or caregiver/teacher’s attention
  9. Uses materials and equipment purposefully, safely and respectfully
  10. Explores objects and materials, and interacts with others in a variety of new settings

April 13, 2015
by countryfun
2 Comments

3rd Booking Across the USA for Us

Booking-Across-the-USA-Trip-3-300x300So glad we got involved in this book project the first year out. It has opened us up to so many interesting books and activities.

This year the 3rd Annual Booking Across the USA hosted by Jodie at Growing Book by Book is about choosing a children’s author or illustrator that was born in, lived in or currently lives in your state. After reading a book of theirs we are to create an activity or craft to compliment it

Our state is Maine and we are so lucky to have connections to many wonderful authors and illustrators of children’s books. Many of these books are enjoyed on a regular basis in our shared reading times.

For this activity I decided to look for an author I had not read with the children as often. Chris Van Dusen caught my attention when I saw the title: The Circus Ship. Last year in our study of Maine and reading about the islands off our coastline there was a story about a circus ship catching fire off an island. I wondered if there might be a connection. There was! In looking farther into his books I found many would also fit nicely into the focus on rhyming books we had in March.  The children really enjoyed the Mr Magee books: Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee and Learning to Ski with Mr. Magee. They were silly and based on experiences many of them are aware of or have done.

Chris Van Dusen was born in Portland, Maine, 3/16/1960. As a child, he would spend hours drawing with his brothers. He loved the work of Dr. Seuss for the rhythm of the words and Robert McCloskey’s (who also lived in Maine) detailed illustrations.

After college Chris started drawing cartoons and illustrations for a magazine for teenagers. He worked as a freelance illustrator for 10 years specializing in art for kids with work appearing in magazines like Nickelodeon, Family Fun and Disney Adventures. His first book, “Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee” was published in 2000 and he has been busy writing and illustrating children’s books since.

Chris lives in a town on the coast of Maine with his wife and two sons. Many of his books are pulled from his experiences in Maine.

Chris has a really nice website with links to his books, bio informaton, and a blog. It is worth checking out especially if you are going to share some of his books with young children. I’ve always found children love learning more about the authors and illustrators of books shared with them. We enjoyed the FAQ sections where we found out the idea for The Circus Ship came from a magazine article he read. The book was inspired by the historic event of the wreckage of The Royal Tar, which sank off the coast of Maine in 1836.

Now for more on The Circus ShipDSC06286

  • 2009 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award Winner
  • 2009 Lupine Award Winner
  • 2009 Minnesota State University Moorhead Comstock Honor Book
  • 2010 Read With ME book

A circus ship on it’s way to Boston for a show runs into some bad weather and runs aground off the coast of Maine. The circus owner (Mr. Paine) and ship’s captain row to safety on the mainland, but the circus animals are left behind. They make their own way to shore on an island. The local islanders were not sure what to make of the circus animals viewing them with suspicion. Somethng happens to change that and the islanders help the animals in return.

When I preread the book I realized this was going to be an interactive book for my current group of puzzle lovers. We do lots of puzzles, mazes and I Spy activities here and there is one section of the book when it is open which works perfectly for an I Spy activity. I had a pile of unifix cubes on hand and when I got to the correct page I asked the children to count out the animals using their fingers as I read the story. I then stopped and we counted out the right number of unifix cubes. Now it was time for the children to find the animals that the island locals had helped to hide on the island when Mr. Paine returned to claim them.

DSC06374 The children placed a cube wherever they found a hidden circus animal. We then got to practice our counting again as we uncovered the animals and put the cubes away. Can you make out the camel in the hay field, bear on the bike and giraffe as a flag pole?

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After finishing the story we talked about what you might see at a circus. Popcorn was mentioned a couple of times and I took that into a rhyming activity for another day.

Using rectangles of read construction paper and gluing on strips of white I made a popcorn box.DSC06353 I added labels that had worked with word families we have been doing other activities around.

DSC06354 Then it was just a matter of using yellow scrap paper for cut out popcorn kernels and writing letters on them that the children could pull from a bowl and make a word with. Once used the kernel was placed with it’s container. At the end we had groups of rhyming words.

I later made more kernels and wrote out words for different word families. This allowed the children to sort out the words to the right popcorn box. For one of my children who is really into words this was a nice extension and had her reading.

The book is back to the library and the popcorn boxes and kernels are into our activity drawers for free play choice.

January 14, 2015
by countryfun
1 Comment

Making Our Own Body Part Game

I’m always on the look out for sites that will support the development of learning materials I can use with the children in my program. I do not purchase a curriculum, but prefer to construct my own around the interests and needed skill set of the children currently in care. My two go to sites are: 1) Pinterest – great resource for free and low cost materials and ideas, and 2) TeachersPayTeachers  where I continue to find free and low cost materials I can use as is.

Google Drive is my on-line depository for most of my curriculum materials – copy, store and print as need. Not only easy to use, but quicker and less physical storage space needed. Also great for sharing with parents and other early childhood educators.

Every now and then I have to do a wider on-line search to find the resources I need to complete an ideas for a lesson. Yesterday, I wanted an active body part game, but didn’t want to hand draw body parts and have no available flash cards. I found a site that let me pull pictures and print out a sheet/picture. I then copied the sheet, cut up the images and made 3″x3″ flipcards. I labeled each image (of course with help). Having the preschooler help with the labeling allowed her to see the connection between letters, words, writing, and language. Laminate the cards and we were ready to play.

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The first way we played was to chose an image on the sheet and then flip a card. You had to try to connect the 2 body parts picked. On the ones that we could not directly connect the children started to find other ways like touching a friend or placing hands on the 2 parts. Lots of  up and down moving, wiggling and laughing.

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The next game try was to just flip 2 cards and try to connect the body parts. School-age involved now so even more movement. Lots of laughs when the younger remembered and solved one set by placing hands on the 2 body parts and standing there staring at the older ones twisting themselves around without success, until they saw her:)

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The new site I just chanced upon in a search for images of body parts to make a game is: LessonPix. I’m exploring with a free trial, before I spend $36 for annual membership. The site was developed by a special ed teacher and her husband with IT background.

  • Create custom materials such as Bingo, picture cards, coloring sheets, etc.
  • Clip art library with 1000’s of pictures
  • Use your own clip art or photos for custom materials
  • Download our clip art for your personal use in Word Documents, PowerPoint, etc.
  • Ideas on how to use LessonPix at home, in the classroom
  • Request pictures not available in picture library.

 

October 9, 2014
by countryfun
Comments Off on Uppercase Lowercase ABC’s

Uppercase Lowercase ABC’s

The booklet we made today was a free printable from Kroger’s Kindergarten which I originally found on Pinterest. It’s pinned in my General Fall theme board.

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The booklet was a super hit, which found us reading it in many different ways. We ended with “R” reading the letters and me coming up with words that worked for the letters like: “noisy nuts, angry alligator”.

March 6, 2014
by countryfun
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Language Basics?

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Having mixed ages in the program means I always have many developmental levels here at any given time. Language/speech is always an area where discussions on development and possible concerns are occurring with parents. I have my training in language development, but am always on the look out for relevant and understandable information to pass along to families.
This blog article from Twodaloo , a speech-language pathologist, clearly defines language, speech and communication.

I love how she starts from the belief point that before one can begin working to support a child’s language development, there needs to be a basic understanding of what language actually is. Makes sense doesn’t it, but how many of us understand the difference between language and speech?

That is what this series on Language Basics is going to support or develop our knowledge about.

I have enjoyed reading all the posting in this series. (Click here for a direct link to all postings.) On the same page you can also link to articles on developing language through sensory play, music and art.

I look forward to discussing any questions or points raised through these readings with you.

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