Monday, September 14, 2009

Writing in the Preschool Classroom

When we think of writing, we think of letters and numbers that we can read and that make sense, otherwise why would you read it.

Writing in a preschool classroom is much different from our everyday writing. It seems to only make sense-at times-to the writer, can only be read by the writer, and can-at times-only be seen by the writer. What kind of writing is this, you ask? It is the writings of a preschool child. Their imaginations have taken over and their words begin to make sense when they can apply it to paper.

Here’s the catch...Have you ever seen a child come out of the womb writing letters and symbols that are aesthetically correct? If so, you have witnessed a miracle. The fact remains like any other developmental milestone, writing is a developmental progression that takes years to master. And this is why writing-rich classrooms are so important.

Writing Centers are specific areas within the classroom that encourage writing by providing interesting writing materials and appropriate models. Tracing letters are not appropriate. Focus on free-form writing.

Class Books allow each child to contribute an individual page to a group book. Sometimes the basic text is predictable but allow children to make small changes.

Pocket Stories encourage children to explore word boundaries and the relationship between spoken and written language. Children dictate a sentence to go with a picture they create. Duplicate words can be matched to the words in their sentence and stored in the pocket at the bottom of the page.

Journal Writing is common in many kindergartens. Journals allow teachers and children to trace writing progress over an extended period.

Sentence Fill-Ins allow children to experiment with writing by adding a word or phrase to a predictable text. Children can observe how their writing alters the meaning of the original text.

Writing on Interactive Charts enables children to experiment with the way writing conveys meaning. Children can write a word or phrase to add to the interactive part of the chart.

Literacy Suitcases extend the literacy curriculum from school to home. Literacy suitcases are take-home version of classroom writing materials.

It is extremely important at the preschool level for children to interact with print. This means that your classroom should be a print-rich environment. Children should be allowed to explore books and printed materials on their own and as a group. There should ALWAYS be printed materials on their physical and developmental level in the classroom. They should ALWAYS have access to writing materials at a specific place in the room. Use an old table or even a corner of the room with a basket of materials, a clipboard and a chair or bean bag. Even if we don’t have the luxury of space and new furniture, there is always something that can be used for this purpose. Materials could include: pencils, crayons, markers, paper of any kind, magnetic boards, magnetic letters or laminated letters that they can stick to Velcro on the wall to form words. Anything in your classroom can and should be used to enhance the reading and writing experience.

To further the writing experience, materials should be present in each center in your classroom. Examples could be notepads for order taking in the home living center, pads for drawing buildings in the construction/block area, or paper to write hypothesis and experimental thinking in the science center.

Take this new year to begin thinking about how you can incorporate a developmentally, fantastic writing center into your classroom. Enhancing the writing experience will make a dramatic difference in your children’s ability to begin recognition of letters, phonemic awareness, and of course writing.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Organized Chaos in the Preschool Classroom

Well, we are actually in our first week of school, so pre planning didn't get blogged. That tells you just how busy I have been. It has been a whirlwind during the past two weeks and I am tired to say the least.

During the week of pre planning I had a lot to go through, organize and get rid of. I took over a site, so I basically had to start from scratch. When our classrooms are cluttered, it creates a chaos that can not be described. Much like our homes, when we remove the clutter from our lives they seem to simplify themselves.

As an early childhood teacher, you have to be organized. The preschool classroom is not a place for scattered thoughts. When children arrive in the morning, you have to be ready, when you go out onto the playground, you have to be ready, when they wake up from their naps, you have to be ready; do you get what I'm saying?

When you begin your lesson plans, think in units or themes. Have those items prepared ahead of time down to the outdoor activities that will accompany you. I like to use 2-gallon zip lock bags for outdoor activities. I place a label on the bag and it will go with me in line with the children. Organize your sand table and water table themed objects and activities in those bags, you will see a big difference in your transitions.

Again with the lesson plans, think in themes. Have things organized into bins or large bags labeled with your theme for that week or month. Do lesson plans two weeks in advance at least, so that items can be purchased and prepared in advance with time to spare if something comes up. We know that our days never go as planned, so being organized is key.

Now onto setting up your classroom. The environment for a child is essential in the learning process. There should be at least these learning centers in your classroom: writing, math/science, home living, art, blocks/transportation, library, and circle time learning area. Some to add are: wood working, computers, and listening. You should have sensory tables or bins in your setting daily. These sensory tubs and micro play activities are key in behavior modification and personal space recognition. If you have any questions about sensory play or micro play, please post them and I will get back to you as soon as possible. I will be writing a blog about micro play in the near future.

Until the next time we meet, remember that little lives are depending on you...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Recycled Materials for Preschool

As the days are drawing nearer to August 24th, I am very much anticipating little faces-some with smiles and some with tears. Of course, I will be blogging about it on PB&J Preschool Blog.

My office right now is filled with recycled materials for preschool and activities that are ready to go to the new school. Mainly things such as milk cartons, meat trays, brushes, coffee cans, water bottles disused as paint bottles and so on and so on. As you can probably tell, I am big into recycling when it comes to the preschool classroom. It does not take much to make these little guys happy; just give them some paint, shaving cream and something to dig with and they are content.

With these things though, you have to make sure that are developmentally appropriate, that they are playing with them for a purpose and that you are using best practices to demonstrate these things.

Preschool teachers and parents at home can begin to save these things in order to do age-appropriate play at school and home.

Get outside of your box and begin to look at things from a different perspective.

I will soon be posting photos of different preschool materials that are from recycled materials to this blog. Be looking for some great photos.

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