Amazingly, G is learning to read at lightning speed. I have tried to tell him that the whole language approach is out of fashion, that phonics is where it’s at, but so far he is not listening. The other day he wanted to play a children’s Bible trivia game, but I was unsure whether or not we could play just the two of us. Who would read ME the questions? G didn’t seem to think it a problem. He immediately picked up the first card, and READ the question. Word by word he read the question to where I understood it.
After the game I made a big deal about how he read those questions ALL BY HIMSELF. Obviously proud of himself and hiding a grin, he feigned a nonchalant gesture, “Yeah, I can read, ’cause I’m three.”
Ok, G, let’s practice some prepositions. This was a very spontaneous activity. Basically, I was trying to occupy him while the big brothers were finishing up some more demanding grammar and math. I told him we would need to enlist the help of some of his “buddies.” I had written a few directional prepositions on slips of paper, asked him to read the word(s), and place the stuffed animal friend where indicated. Here they are:
Lewis is ON the bed.
Bubby is IN FRONT OF the bed.
Bubby-Crab is UNDER the bed.
Hooey is NEXT TO the bed.
My favorite is how he figured out what to do with the teddy bear.
My little G has presented me with new opportunities to focus on early literacy. There is a wide enough gap between S and G that I was nearly out of practice. And to be honest, I am not sure I had much practice to begin with. If my memory serves me correctly, A came out of the womb half-literate. By the time he was four he was trying to write the name of Central Asian countries, and at four and a half he could spell “micropachycephalosaurus.” Remember, this is the aspie we are talking about here, the one who must know everything dealing with his chosen subject. That last word, by the way, is a type of dinosaur, and please don’t look it up, because I may have spelled it incorrectly. Perhaps it is because I have simply forgotten, or perhaps, sadly, because S is a middle child, but I have few memories of him really learning to read. Somewhere between four and six, he did learn. So, now, here I am with G reading book after book, revelling in environmental print, finding ways to incorporate words and letters into our play dough or painting or bathtime.
Here is what we have done the last couple of days.
I know that this is not an original idea, particularly. I have seen preschools and websites galore allowing children to explore the large forms of letters. We decided to make this on our kitchen floor with blue painters tape. Creating the curve of the letter ‘C’ with straight tape was more difficult than I imagined, but G recognized it immediately. That is mostly what I cared about.
‘C’ is for cowboy. Here he is lining up his Papo and Lego cowboy figures in formation.
‘C’ is also for car. He showed a bit more enthusiasm for driving his car along the ‘C’ than I expected. Generally, he is not a car enthusiast. Completely the opposite from how A was at this age!
Next, letter is !!!!!
And yet, I am not sure how much he is really getting out of this. He spends the vast amount of his time actually looking at his books and focusing on word recognition: cat, farmer, happy……oh, and consequences, of all things! Regardless of which of my boys I am talking about, I am fairly confident that the literacy activity which is 100% effective is, of course, reading, reading, reading and more reading. Who doesn’t love a good story? Or sharing it with someone they love?
Soups and stews. Pumpkin pie and muffins. Cardigans and scarves. It’s autumn in the Midwest. How does this translate into preschool literature? Farm stories! For the last couple of weeks G and I have been reading a collection of Golden Books all with farm themes – “A Day on the Farm,” “The Little Red Hen” and “Two Little Gardeners,” by Margaret Wise Brown but mostly we have delved into Richard Scarry’s “The Animals of Farmer Jones.”
This sweet story introduces preschoolers to typical animals on the farm and the various grains they might eat. The animals patiently wait for Farmer Jones to leave his tractor at the end of the day to provide them with their dinner. G enjoyed all the supplemental activities that we created for this story, but I don’t think there was enough substance to the tale for the multiple readings we did as with “Lentil” and others. Nevertheless, our weather vane still adorns the kitchen table.
Science – Every barn has a weather vane. We stuck to creating one with the traditional rooster. G already knows his compass points, so he helped me label them, and we stuck them on the lid to an empty plastic fruit container. We placed rocks in the bottom to weight it down and poked a hole in the lid large enough to set a straw through, which was stabilized by the rocks. We placed another straw in the first and secured them with tape.
While G was coloring a print out template of a rooster, I cut out an arrow from cardstock and fastened it with a paperclip in the middle of the straw. G taped the rooster to the top of the straw, and we were ready to observe the wind. G learned that meteorologists observe and study the weather.
Crafts – Our craft project was having fun with scarecrows. Every farm story incorporated the scarecrow at some point, even if he was silently taking his place in the background. For this craft we used a paper plate, felt bits, construction paper, origami and tissue papers, glue and crayons. Basically, it was whatever materials I had on hand. I got this great idea from notimeforflashcards. Allison McDonald always seems to be full of preschool craft ideas – an area where I seriously struggle.
Telling Time – G has had a little green clock in his room ever since he was born, so I often show him what time it is, namely at bedtime. We noticed Farmer Jones fed the animals at six o’clock, so we played with the hands on our clock as we talked about what we did at seven o’clock, twelve o’clock or eight o’clock.
G knows the minute hand and the hour hand, so we learned how to change the time for the hour and the half hour.
Farm Sensory Bin – These homemade bins seem to be our go to activity regardless what we are learning. I usually have two or three different themes going at one time, and am finally starting to store extras in large ziploc bags. This saves on having to purchase many different plastic containers.
This one was created with a combination of rice, beans and popcorn I had leftover from another bin. We added a few plastic scoops, craft leaves leftover from a church luncheon and, of course, the Fisher Price farm figures. Sensory bins are really the most fun when the play is child-led. We don’t have a particular agenda when playing with these. I mostly liked burying my hands in all of it and sifting the popcorn through my fingers. G has spent most of his time so far throwing the leaves in the air and quoting, “The leaves are turning red and brown. The leaves are falling to the ground.”
Word Cards– From such a young age G has been focused on text in his books. He follows along with his finger as we read, so at three he already has quite a few sight words in his repertoire. I wanted to boost his confidence with his familiarity with some of these words. G helped me look through the illustrations and text as he chose which words to create into word cards. He spelled them aloud for me as I wrote. Pig, cow, horse, farmer, thank you were a few. I think we made 10-12 altogether.
First I scrambled them up while he read them to me. Perfect. The next day I gave him dot paints and called out a word while he put a dot on the correct card. This was fun for him for a few minutes, and he was proud of himself for being able to “read.” A couple of days later we got out the play dough and wooden letters. G used his word cards to spell the words by pressing the wooden letter into the play dough. Not only did this reinforce his knowledge of the sight words, but it was good fine motor practice for his little fingers.
Field trips – I always like to give G a field trip opportunity with the stories we read. The most obvious choices were a trip to our very local organic dairy farm, which of course, meant milkshakes afterward, and a visit to the pumpkin festival.
Picking a pumpkin, pony rides, the corn maze, and eating apple donuts are all a highlight of our fall season.