Preschool—Learning Math

SnipBlog108aPreschoolers enjoy learning to count and some children can count quite well.  But many get a bit confused when they get to the teens, happily counting, “…thirteen – fourteen – seventeen – twenty-teen!” I always enjoy hearing them practice and learn. Most preschoolers are quite capable of learning some very basic math concepts—not in a formal setting—but a little bit here and there.

One way to help them learn and have fun at the same time is to use objects when counting so that the numbers are not just abstract—but concrete—real.

We use blocks from a Jenga game.  We have 20 blocks in a little basket, but right now we are only using 10 blocks most of the time with a 4-½ year-old.  We first used the blocks just for counting. Now she is getting familiar with the most simple concepts and vocabulary of math.

We randomly start with any number of blocks, say 5, and then add 2 (or any number that will add up to ten or less).  Since she does not know what five plus two is, she then counts them all and tells me how many there are.  Then we might add 3 more to make 10.  Then I will ask her to take away 1 and count them, take away 3 more and count them, etc.  She is getting used to the idea of adding up to 10 and taking away (subtraction) all the way down to zero.  This activity never lasts more than a few minutes, and then we put the blocks away and save them for another day.

On paper, we have begun doing a math activity with dots. I make up a worksheet using color markers. A problem (or math sentence) looks like this:

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I make ten or twelve problem on the page and she fills in the blanks.  Eventually, we will move from the concrete to the abstract and do the math using only the symbols, since she has already learned that a symbol like“7” represents seven objects. But that will come later, sometime after she turns five.  We don’t need to rush it at this age, and right now we are just having fun with math.

Academic Achievement For All—When Are Children Ready to Learn?

SnipBlog107aWow!  You’ve come a long way, baby! In the 1980s and 1990s, educators and policy-makers were jumping on the bandwagon to provide free kindergarten programs in all public schools. The reasoning then was that after a year of kindergarten, every child would finally enter first grade ready to learn.

Fast-forward to 2015. Now policy makers are clamoring for academic preschool programs so that every child will enter kindergarten ready to learn.

The president proposed that we should provide full day preschool programs for all kids, even though it is well documented that current preschool programs like Head-Start have limited success.

“Head Start has an impact on 4-year-olds’ language and literacy skills while they are in Head Start, but these early gains are not sustained as the children develop and move into the early school years. Furthermore, there is no evidence of impacts on children’s math ability, pre-writing skills, or teacher assessments at the end of Head Start, at the end of kindergarten, or at the end of 1st grade. In other words, the children in the Head Start group ended their Head Start year with moderately higher skills than their counterparts in the control group, but this advantage did not lead to longer term gains when they were in school. At the end of 1st grade, they end up at the same point as the children who were not given access to the program…The Head Start group scores are not statistically different from the control group scores in kindergarten and 1st grade.”  (1)

Not many years ago kids were expected to start learning the ABC’s at age six when they entered first grade. Now it is no longer acceptable for students to enter kindergarten expecting to be taught everything they need to know to move on to first grade. If they don’t know at least some letters and sounds, they are already behind. In a decade or two from now, will we be saying that kids still don’t know enough, therefore we need to provide a full school day for three-year-olds so they will enter preschool ready to learn?

Administrators in my district say they want to “focus more effort on connecting with early learning and child care providers to ensure that they are equipped to help children prepare for kindergarten.” (2)

Maybe we should stop and think about this!  If putting kids in school a year earlier didn’t achieve the desired results back then (since our test scores have remained flat), what makes us think putting children in school yet another year earlier will work now?  A number of studies demonstrate that starting children in school at age four can actually be detrimental to their achievement.

Do we really think that all four-year-old children should be in school for a full day? Not everyone does. Education Corner writes, “Even though children in daycare programs can develop intellectually, children benefit most when parents stay at home with their children and educate them.” (3)

If they are not going to go to school, what should preschoolers be doing? Playing, of course! Play gives children the opportunity to learn to be self-directed, to persevere, focus attention, imagine, experiment, discover, problem-solve and create. Too much formal education at a tender age may detract from this very important part of child development.

Young children learn things informally, from parents and siblings. During parent or caregiver interactions, children learn that something is big or little, sweet or sour, smooth or rough, loud or soft, light or dark, red or blue. Parents naturally teach their preschoolers basic concepts like colors, shapes, counting, sorting, etc.

Children are listening and talking and expanding their vocabulary. We know that exposure to adult conversation with rich vocabulary usage will increase young children’s use and understanding of complex vocabulary words. Parents should be reading books aloud to young children which also helps develop vocabulary. A large vocabulary is linked to better reading comprehension and more successful decoding. Learning to read is critical for school success.

Some children are ready to learn to read as young as age four. I know a few of them. But most children at this age need to be physically active in play, and will not thrive in a formal academic setting. Play helps young children’s brains develop. A number of studies show that play-based preschool learning is good for kids. (4)

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Some will argue that preschool helps children become better socialized, learning to take turns and share. That’s what parents used to teach kids along with their brothers and sisters and friends before formal schooling began! Unfortunately, far too many children are not taught considerate behavior prior to entering school and teachers are now expected to fill in the gaps. This steals time away from formal learning for these children and for those around them who are affected by their lack of self-control.

It seems that the argument for preschool socialization actually isn’t a very good one. “A study by researchers at Stanford University and the University of California showed negative social­ization in the areas of externalizing behaviors, inter­personal skills, and self-control as a result of even short periods of time spent in preschool centers.” (5)

Some states already have a proven track record with preschool programs. Academic gains favoring children who have attended preschool are quickly lost. “More than a decade after offering students uni­versal preschool, neither Oklahoma nor Georgia has shown impressive progress in students’ academic achievement, as measured by the National Assess­ment of Educational Progress. In fact, in Oklahoma, fourth-grade reading test scores have declined since 1998 when the state first implemented universal preschool. Furthermore, the report notes, ‘by the end of first grade, children who did not attend preschool had skills similar to those of Georgia’s preschoolers.’”  (6)

Years ago, parents kept children home until around age six when they entered first grade, and then they learned the alphabet and how to add and subtract. So why did we start sending children to school at younger ages?

“The kindergarten movement was propelled by the industrial revolution and the introduction of women into the factory labor force…Kindergarten, once a half-day affair required by only 40 percent of US states, has become largely a full-day affair required nationwide. Academics, including math and reading curricula, testing and grades, are now the norm in many schools. Programs for younger children have expanded as well…Having your child cared for outside of the home, once looked down upon as an abrogation of a mother’s maternal instinct, is now a socially accepted practice. Indeed, those parents who choose not to put their children in out-of-home settings are the ones perceived as insufficiently concerned with their child’s welfare.”  (7)

The big question is when do we decide that enough is enough?  When are children too young for schooling? When do we stop requiring more academic achievement from children at ever younger ages?  We have seen little gain in test scores in the years since we began providing kindergarten for all children and I strongly suspect it won’t happen when we provide full day preschool for all children either. Let’s let kids be kids a bit longer and let them imagine and build and learn through play until they are really ready to learn.

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References:

1- http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/hs_impact_study_final.pdf  (Chapter 4, page 15)

For more information on Head Start, see this:  http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/strengthenheadstart03/report.htm

And this:  http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2009/05/Does-Universal-Preschool-Improve-Learning-Lessons-from-Georgia-and-Oklahoma

2- http://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/education/2015/01/14/salem-keizer-kindergarteners-room-grow/21737253/

3 – http://www.educationcorner.com/importance-of-early-childhood-education.html

4- http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22029435.000-too-much-too-young-should-schooling-start-at-age-7.html#.VLbhiivF_dY

5- http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2009/05/Does-Universal-Preschool-Improve-Learning-Lessons-from-Georgia-and-Oklahoma

6- http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2009/05/Does-Universal-Preschool-Improve-Learning-Lessons-from-Georgia-and-Oklahoma

7- http://www.communityplaythings.com/resources/articles/2010/history-of-early-childhood-education

Information on Early Literacy: http://nieer.org/resources/policybriefs/10.pdf

 

 

Thanksgiving Turkey Art

SnipBlog106cHere’s a really easy Thanksgiving project for your kids of all ages! Cut out the shapes ahead of time for your preschoolers if necessary. Draw the shapes onto construction paper or any type of colored paper. Let kindergarteners use safety scissors to cut them out themselves. The pieces do not need to be perfectly shaped to create this project. If you want the finished project to fit on an 8 ½ by 11 sheet of paper, the feathers can be about 3-4 inches long, and the body about 4 inches across.

Draw a small circle in the very center of a plain piece of paper and let your child use a glue stick to glue the feathers part way around the circle. Glue on the body shape next, overlapping the wings just a bit, then glue on the head, wing, legs, etc.

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Have a very thankful Thanksgiving!

Preschool—Learning ABC’s

When you are ready to teach letter names and sounds to your preschool/kinder students, it is nice if you can post large size letters on the wall so your child can look at them frequently.  Just as when teaching colors and shapes, to make it easier for your child, you should post and teach only one letter-name and letter-sound at a time.  It is very important that you teach the sound of the letter as well as the letter name. This will be very useful when you begin to teach your child to read a bit later on.

SnipBlog105bOne or two letters a week is about the right amount for this age group.  Do not post a new letter until your child knows the previous one, even if it takes more time.  If a young child is not able to learn one letter a week, he is probably not ready for this task.file contains black outline letters that you can print onto colored paper or colored cardstock if you so desire.  To alternate colors, print page one on red, page two on orange, page three on yellow, page four on green, page five on blue; then repeat for the next five pages—and so forth. Cut out the letters so the shape of each one is distinct when placed on a white background.

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Have fun teaching the alphabet and the letter-sounds, and take it nice and slow with your preschoolers!

You can get your FREE printable large size black outline ABC’s here.

Beginning Preschool—Learning Numbers

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This week I have a FREE chart for you to help you teach number-symbols 1-10.  You should start with the chart for numbers 1-5 first, and add the chart for numbers 6-10 when your child knows the first five numbers very well. Your child can begin to learn to match number symbols to the correct number of objects.

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A page is included with just the number symbol and a blank space for your child to enter the correct number of objects.  You can copy the same blank page many times and use it in various ways.  If you have a do-a-dot marker, your child can use it to put the correct number of dots beside the number symbol.

We are loving using stickers right now, so we used those colored round spot stickers that are often used as price stickers. You could also use smiley stickers or stars or whatever you have around the house. Your child could also draw the correct number of circles, triangles, or squares in the open space.

Get your FREE Numbers chart right here.

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Beginning Preschool—Learning Shapes

You may want to teach some basic shapes to your younger preschoolers as well as teaching them color names. As I mentioned in the previous blog, it is better to teach one at a time than all of them at once, to avoid confusion. You might like to post them on the refrigerator. Ask your child several times a day to tell you what the name of the shape is.  If she cannot remember it, just tell her what it is and ask her to repeat the word after you. Keep your teaching informal and just do it for fun.

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Don’t miss out on these FREE Learning Shapes Flashcards! You can get them here.

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If you missed the previous offer for the FREE Learning Colors Flashcards, you can get it here.

Beginning Preschool—Learning Colors

SnipBlog102cIf you have preschool students, you are probably teaching them some basic things they need to learn before kindergarten.  If your young student does not know names of colors yet, we are providing a free printable set of flashcards to teach colors.

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Some young children mix up the names of colors when they are learning them.  You can minimize the difficulty they have by teaching only one color at a time. When the child remembers the name of one color, teach another one. You can teach colors in any order. Start with your child’s favorite color.

Print the cards onto heavy cardstock.  You may want to “laminate” the cards so they will last longer.  You can this inexpensively by covering them with slightly overlapping strips of heavy duty packaging tape, front and back, before you cut the cards apart.

Get your FREE Color Name Flashcards here.

Back to School – Make Your Own ABC Book!

It’s nearly fall and children are going back to school.  Whether you homeschool or your children attend public or private school, you may enjoy doing this activity with your preschool or kindergarten student.

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At ages 4 and 5, children should still be playing a lot of the time, so learning should be casual and informal. If your child shows an interest in learning the alphabet, you can teach the letters in many different ways. You might post a large letter on the wall or refrigerator (one at a time) and talk about its name and sound at random times during the day. You can read ABC books together.  You can point out words for objects that begin with a specific letter.

Your child might also enjoy making his/her own ABC book. This is a fun activity for your preschool or kindergarten students that can help them begin to recognize letters and learn letter names. Teach just one letter at a time.  It really does not matter at this age whether you teach a letter every couple of days or one a week. Let your child’s interest be your guide.

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Your child will need to be able to cut reasonably straight lines with scissors first.  Then he/she will be able to do this activity with just a little guidance from you. Use plain white cardstock or typing paper for each page and bind it when you complete the project—or purchase an inexpensive spiral notebook to paste the letters and pictures into. Give your child the pictures for just one letter.  Ask her to cut out each picture for the letter she is learning. Show her how to paste the letters and pictures onto the paper. It doesn’t need to look perfect. Use a glue stick rather than liquid glue. Young children may find it easier to use a glue stick that looks purple when applied, but dries clear, so they can see where they have put the glue.

Here’s where you can get your FREE Cut & Paste ABC Book from Sound Bytes Reading:

ABC Cut & Paste Book – part 1 & part 2

 

Teaching Children to Share

CheetahsRecently I watched some younger parents teaching their young children to share their toys and cooperate in activities.  Threes and fours sometimes find it a little bit difficult to share because they now know the difference between what is “mine” and what is “yours.”  They even may be a little concerned that sharing something means losing it.

It is easier to share when there are two of something and you can have one and I can have one. It is a little harder when we have to share one of something. Most of us can remember having to divide a cookie or other treat and wanting to be sure the dividing was fair so our sibling wouldn’t get the bigger piece.

Sharing does not mean that one child always gives up something for the other child. It means that both children get something in turn. “First, you can play with this; then I can play with it.  Next time, I can play with it first, and then you can have it after me.”

My sister and I used to “play house” when we were little and she was always the mom (she was older so she made the rules) and I had to be the dad.  Eventually I wanted to be the mom, but she did not want to be the dad.  So we both pretended to be moms and the dads were gone to work.  We both got what we wanted. Win—win.

The children I was observing needed a little pep talk because there was only one toy that they both wanted to play with.  It was a simple puzzle and might have been constructed together except that one child had not had much practice with putting puzzles together.  They were encouraged to share by letting one child put the puzzle together, then take it apart, and let the other child take a turn putting it together. Eventually one child helped the other child begin to learn how to match up and connect the pieces. Win—win.

Why is it important to teach children to share?  What difference does it make if they learn to share or not?

Not only does learning to share benefit young children immediately by building happy and cooperative relationships with their peers, it will also benefit them for the rest of their lives. In order to share, you have to put the other person first at least half of the time.  You have to understand that their desire to have or play with something you want is very much like yours.

Friends holding hands

A child who does not learn to share becomes selfish and will not make a good mate in the future.  The negotiating and communication skills that children learn from their parents and the give and take that enables them to share their toys as children, will help them listen to and strive to understand another person as an adult.

Sharing is a very important skill to teach our children when we look at the long term benefit. Learning to negotiate and share during play helps children overcome their initial self-centered thinking, so that their relationships as adults can have the goal of “I win and you win,” rather than “I win and you lose.”  Teach your children to share. It’s a win—win.

Winter Art and Descriptive Writing

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Here’s a great way to inspire your kids to write—connect a creative art project to a descriptive writing assignment! Students will enjoy creating a work of art and then writing a little bit about it. 

Make the picture first. For the picture, start with an 8 x 10 piece of cardstock.  Use color pencils to wash the paper in shades of blue and green or even purple and pink.  Then take a piece of plain white paper and use scissors to cut out some tree branches.  Children can try to cut a tree shape in a single piece—or they can cut lots of long and short pieces.  

Next, use a glue stick to glue the pieces onto your colored paper to make a tree and its branches.  Imperfect shapes will work best, just as tree branches are not uniformly shaped. If you want mounds of snow, cut mounded shapes out of your white paper and add them to the picture.

This is a project that kids of all ages can do.  You will need to do the paper cutting for 3-4 year-olds, but they can learn to use a glue stick at this age with some help.  Most children at this age will not be able to write yet, so the younger set may only be creating the picture. Some might be able to copy the letter “S” onto their paper.

Next is the writing assignment. Some preschoolers with good small motor skills might be able to copy the word “SNOW” to label their picture.  5-6 year-olds may be able to write a sentence or two if they are beginning to read and write, and you can help them by writing out the sentence they dictate and then letting them copy the words onto their own paper. Older students may write an entire paragraph or more without help.

A few weeks ago I wrote about learning to describe what you hear, see, smell, taste, or touch—and writing about each of the senses in a separate assignment. That exercise will help your students learn how to describe things in writing. You can print out the graphic organizer from the blog that follows that one here:  Helping Students Think About Descriptive Writing.

Time to do a fun winter art project and write about it!