Wednesday, June 12, 2013

my preschool recommendations

Last week was epic for me. One of my former students whom I taught when I worked at Charlotte Christian School came to visit us. She was part of the class that I taught two years in row for 7th and 8th grade Language Arts. This entire class holds a special place in my heart, and I was thrilled to have Abby here for a week.

Abby is majoring in Early Childhood Education at Clemson, so her and I teamed-up and ran an Early Literacy Summer Camp mostly for missionary kids in our town (and a Czech family from Cece's preschool whose dad is Scottish). We focused on early reading and writing skills in English because this is a an area that us missionary parents must teach our kids ourselves. Because Cece is in CZ preschool fulltime, it can be challenging for me to keep up with her early literacy skills (in English) at home. Having Abby here for a week was a perfect opportunity to focus on this and to invite some of our friends, so their kids could benefit too.

For those of you who are also shouldering the responsibility of early literacy in English, I wanted to share some of my favorite resources, activities, and ideas with you.

Curriculum and Curriculum Authors:

Literacy Beginnings is my go-to for all things preschool. Half of the book is how to set-up a preschool classroom (methodology) and the other half is full of ideas and activities to do with this age group. Written by two of my favorite curriculum authors Fountas and Pinnell, it includes a list of picture books organized by themes and separated into books for age 3 and books for age 4. It also has a list of poems and songs to use with younger kids in Shared Reading.

Lucy Calkins is my favorite curriculum author. I have read several of her books (cover-to-cover). My favorite being The Art of Teaching Writing. What I love about Lucy (yes I've met her, so I'm calling her Lucy) is her high expectations for kids. Even preschoolers and kindergarteners can write (you have them think, draw, and then "write"). Students at this age learn the art of story telling in their drawing and attempt to label where they are in their story. Lucy also has a brilliant way of talking to students--"Boys and Girls, today, you are going to be authors!" She just published a kindergarten writing curriculum that is fabulous, but expensive. I didn't buy it, but I downloaded every sample I could find online. I could go on and on about Writer's Workshop, but maybe that should be another blog post. Lucy also has a curriculum for grades 3-5 for teaching reading that is fabulous. Here is a sample of a curricular plan for grades K-8 reading workshop, which I highly recommend!

In addition to this curriculum, I wanted to mention some children's books that we used during our Early Literacy Summer Camp, all of which I highly recommend too.

Children's Books: 

We're Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen, is a great book to use in Shared Reading. My boys, especially, love this book. After you read it several times, write a portion of it on chart paper and have your child read it along with you. Also, teach your child that good readers go on adventures when they read. They read as if they are in the story. 

The Lion and the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkey, is a fabulous book to teach children that "the pictures tell the story" and that good readers make predictions as they read. "What do you think is going to happen to the mouse?" (said in a very dramatic voice).

Knuffle Bunny, by Mo Williems, is another great book to use to teach predictions. "Do you think Trixie is going to get her Knuffle Bunny back?" It's also one to use to show that pictures tell the story, and you can go on an adventure with Trixie as she zooms past the school and into the laundromat!

Ira Sleeps Over, by Bernard Waber, is a mentor text (good example) from Lucy Calkins' Narrative Writing Unit. Read it to your child and talk about how good writers tell stories from their own lives; they write about what actually happened to them. 

And finally, I often get things from Teachers Pay Teachers (a website that is true to its title). It's a little daunting to navigate--many great things, but a lot of not so great things, but here are two gems that we used for our Early Literacy Camp last week.

used in Reading Workshop:

used in Writer's Workshop:

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