Put away the workbooks and pre-printed flash cards. Stop spending money on materials that do not engage your child’s creativity. Children learn best when they are actively building their own knowledge. Preschoolers can be a part of their own learning process. It is so much fun to watch them create and to be witness to their discoveries. You can make early literacy learning an adventure.
Make your own alphabet chart. How many times a day do children walk right by the pre-printed charts that you find in stores? They may stop to notice it on occasion but it doesn’t have the appeal that something they created would provide. The chart that you see at the left was created in my school by children ages 2-5 years old. All you need are markers and large index cards. The children can either pick a letter and name a word that begins with the letter or name a word and find the correct letter. I wrote the letters and words. The words came from the students. I did not supply the words or even make any suggestions. After I wrote the word, the students drew what they said. Note how a couple of the words are children’s names. They were excited to draw self-portraits. Others said the things that matter to them – mommy, daddy. My favorite drawing may be the zebra. It is just lines but everyone can see the zebra.
Take dictation so that your child becomes the author. Children can be authors and illustrators. I do not expect them to take pen to paper and write a book. They certainly can, however, tell you what they want to write and illustrate. Here are the hard parts for adults – the story does not have to make sense to us. It does not have to follow any plot that we can follow. The illustration can look like a scribble to you and me. You should not prompt, poke or prod. It merely needs to be their thoughts first expressed verbally and now on paper. The goal of taking dictation is to show children that the spoken word is the same as the written word. In my school, we take dictation when children journal, when children contribute to an observation book about a project or experiment and whenever the children draw and tell us what it is. The children know that we will write whatever they say at any time. After you write what your child says, read it back while pointing to each word. They will love to hear their own words read back to them while they intrinsically observe that letters make words, words are separated by spaces and most words are written in lower case letters. You can purchase the template that I created for dictation and early writing activities by clicking on this link: Template for Dictation and Early Writing Skills. You can create books very inexpensively by putting the completed template in sheet protectors in a binder. This $2.00 template investment is less expensive and a better use of money & time than workbooks.
Be an active and creative storyteller. Children learn that stories have a beginning, middle and end when they hear you tell stories. It is great fun to depart from oral reading of someone else’s story and start storytelling together. Many parents and educators tell stories – what happened today, stories from the past, fantasy and fairy tale. Don’t just tell them. Make them more tangible. Create costumes so you can be in the story together. Use props. Don’t just talk about an activity. Stretch your creative muscles with your child to be enveloped in the story.
Engage the senses. More and more children are learning the alphabet from activities on tablets and similar technology. Children remember best when multiple senses are engaged. Instead of tracing letter on your tablet, put some salt in a tray and trace them. Sand, salt, shaving cream, pudding, rice, finger paint – they all have a particular texture. Some have a distinctive smell. Children who are feeling, smelling (and yes – sometimes tasting) will be active learners. The letters you show them will be remembered with less boring repetition.
Do you have other creative, active early literacy activities that you enjoy with the children in your life? I invite you to post them in the comment section of my blog.
For more information about early literacy, click on these titles: "Before They Can Read and Write...", "Unlearning - A Process You Can Help Children Avoid" and "Shopping for a Preschool"
Read this blog for more articles. Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators on my website - www.helpingkidsachieve.com
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