Putting life into books

Exposure to non-fiction books is just as important as fiction. The glory of non-fiction is that often you have a real world objects to which they can make a connection. We pulled together our discovery of earthworms and a reference book.  It is a wonderful way for children to compare and contrast reality with photos.  This experience also brought in a fun element of pre-math as they measured various worms to the photo....and don't forget the countless giggles and squeals!

Story Line

I first saw an interactive story line on http://creativestarlearning.co.uk/.../story-lines-outside/.   What a great tool for children to learn the sequencing, structure and time lines.  Each sheet tells a part of the story. The children can take down the pages and retell the story, then retell the story as they place the cards on the line (don't miss the fine motor workout I am sneaking in there).  Additionally, I use it for number recognition and numerical order when using poems and rhymes with number sequences.  In this case, I put up an original rhyme called "Fill Up the Trucks" sung to the tune of "Five Little Pumpkins."

Fill Up The Trucks

(c) Small Kids Big Ideas 2014

5 Big trucks, waiting for gas,

1 filled up and drove away.

4 Big trucks, waiting for gas.

1 filled up and drove away.

3 Big trucks, waiting for gas.

1 filled up and drove away.

2 Big trucks, waiting for gas.

1 filled up and drove away.

1 Big truck, waiting for gas.

1 filled up and drove away.




Harry The Dirty Dog By Gene Zion

(The gross dogs in a hot tub)

"Harry the Dirty Dog" is a favorite for pet crazed preschoolers.  After reading, we always love getting our "dogs" dirty.  Try marble painting with brown paint.



"I love the story about the gross dogs in a hot tub!" (well, we almost got it!)

Letter Recognition in a Play-Based Environment

...Say What?!


In my class, I set up the environment so that it allows for lots of uninterrupted play that is led by the passion and interests of my 3 year olds.  In turn, I have never had a 3 year old to ask me for a worksheet.  Nor have I seen one searching for flashcards so that we can drill and drill those letters.  What I do have is print rich environment that leads to letters and words being connected to real things that are important to a preschooler.  We have their names with photos (honestly, what preschooler does not love seeing their name?), toys labelled, words and letters around the room, and books, books and books to name a few things.  It is always fun to watch the realization when they recognize the first letter of their name, then their friends' names, then how they share some letters.  It's like watching a treasure hunt of the mind.


Does this mean I don't talk about letters at this level? No, in the constant dialogue of our class (we are all big talkers in our room), letters are often searched for, questions are asked and formation attempted and eventually accomplished.  I've seen letters painted on tabletops while making Christmas Ornaments, in shaving cream during sensory play and built out of wood in the block area.  That is no less an accomplishment than sitting down with a pencil and paper.  In fact, fine motor development requires the large muscle development use over a large space prior to sitting down in a desk.

How do I know they are absorbing letter recognition if I don't sit down and drill them? Because I know them. I observe them. I see their development in their play.  For instance, last week I had thrown some magnetic letters out along with some cookie sheets. Did I make a big deal or give instructions? Nope.  But before I knew it, one of the children had "baked" up some alphabet cookies for the others.  They all waited patiently as the "Baker" asked them their choice of cookie, they responded with the letter they recognized, she in turned recognized the letter and passed it out.  Creativity, letter recognition, social awareness and self regulation all on the floor of the room, no where near a worksheet.  It was a good day.




Literacy...Be The Book

Bring the Book Alive

I’m smiling but inside I want to scream, “BE THE LION!!!!!!!!!!!!” 


Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate it when our class has a guest reader, but reading the words in a book and “reading” the book are two different things.   I can usually spot a sleeper reader within the first few minutes of a story.  They come in, sit down, talk in a soft sing-song voice, and start methodically reading while maintaining the same voice and speed with each page turn.  Occasionally they may bring some inflection into their voice, but there’s no rhythm, no flow, no entertaining.   It feels forced and the bottom line is it’s BORING.   Granted there have been times when I’ve gone a little too far the other way.  My big bad wolf voice a bit too scary or my frightened bunny a bit too real.  Yes, I have had to coax a child back into the room because my angry dad voice was slightly too loud, but I was anything but boring.  How do I know?  Because the children are engaged in the story.  Hanging on each word and sitting in anticipation for the next page turn, unless of course they have fled the room!  The difference between reading words and reading the book is when you are truly reading, you are bringing the child into the book, into the characters, into the setting and into the moment.

Use your environment when you read.   If there is a knock at the door, knock on the wall, bookshelf, floor, whatever, while you are reading “knock, knock, knock”.  Pay attention to the knock.  If it’s a pig trying to quickly get into his brother’s house then knock and speak rapidly.  If it’s a knock on the door of the little old lady who wasn’t afraid of anything’s house, knock slow and deliberately.   Use your body when reading.  If the wind is blowing use a free hand to show movement of wind; a giant is thundering through the village walk about with large exaggerated steps while reading; be the butterfly emerging from a cocoon by holding one arm limp as if wet and then slowly unravel the arm to show how it gets larger as it dries.  Have the kids be part of the story as you are reading.  It’s raining – have them pat their thighs like rain; a noisy barn – make animal sounds; a hot summer day with insects buzzing- with hands flat together rub them back and forth; etc.  Bring them into the book, into the story, into the excitement of reading.   If your story brings you to the grasslands of African let it all out.  Roar a mighty roar.   Be the lion and leave the boar for the classroom across the hall.


Names - Making a Connection


The letter of the week has been around for ages, but ask any kid and what is one of the first letters they truly recognize?  The first letter of their name.  In making that print rich environment, have their names all around.  Let them manipulate those letters in ways other than a pencil.  Play dough, paints, wikki stixs. 


Reinforce letters through art while working those little finger muscles at the same time.  Draw the first letter of the child's name or the letter of the week on a piece of construction paper.  Have the child go over the letter with a line of glue.  Then have them pinch and scrunch small squares of colorful tissue paper.  Add one tissue at a time to the glue untll the letter is covered. 


Have Fun With the



Have the children create an alphabet book as they learn about each letter.  The kids will have fun as they try to guess what they can use to decorate each letter.  Make it fun!  Paint with your toes for "T", glue newspaper strips for "N", thumprints for apple "A", paint with Jello for "J" how about bubble wrap with blue paint for "B", or drip paint for icicle "I".  


Have the kids come up with their own ideas!  Bind the book so each has their own personal alphabet book to read and share.