Monthly Archives: June 2010

Easy Ways to Make Writing Fun!

My child really doesn’t like writing.  What are some ways to make it more fun for him?

Sometimes children do find writing difficult or unappealing.  Typically this results because your child is still fine tuning his fine motor skills or he’s being pushed to work in a writing stage that he isn’t ready for right now.   If you think it might be because his fine motor skills are still developing, many of the suggestions below help provide fun ways to encourage writing and simultaneously develop fine motor skills.  If he’s being pushed to work in a writing stage that isn’t at his developmental level yet, remember to make writing fun.  Balance free writing time that doesn’t foucs on sounding out words (remember depending on his writing stage this could just be pictures) with time when you work together to stretch out the sounds in words.  Encouraging your child to move to the next writing stage is good but remember to take it slowly!  Before you know it your child will be writing stories and sounding out words on his own. 

Now that I know, what can I do?

Writing Center–  Make a dedicated area of your home the writing center.  Almost all Kindergarten classrooms have it and a home should have one too!  Gather old stationery, envelopes, post-its, notebook paper and any other fun piece of paper you can find.  Also gather pencils, pens, markers and crayons.  Then let your child have fun writing letters, stories, lists and more. 

Blank Books– Take a few sheets of paper and staple them together to make a blank book.   Add these to the writing center if you like or encourage your child to write a story.  Depending on the stage of writing they are in, have them draw pictures and then either write about the picture or dictate a story to you.   

Chalk, bath crayons, glitter pens, etc.-  We’ve mentioned them before, but these fun writing utensils really can make writing fun for your child.  They’re worth the investment!

Make lists together-  Have your child help you write lists.  Whether you’re going shopping or making a list of people to invite to your Fourth of July party, lists are a form of writing often undervalued.  Give your child a small notebook or a stack of post-its and you’ll start seeing a ton of lists and as a result, writing!

Stamps-  Rubber stamps are a great way to encourage writing in a number of different forms.  You can have your child make a Rebus story by writing some words and then stamping pictures in the sentences where appropriate.   You can also have your child create a picture using stamps and then go back and label different parts of the picture.  If you have alphabet stamps, have your child use these to narrate a story or picture. 

Hair gel-  Yes, hair gel.  Take colorful hair gel or bath gel and put it in a ziploc bag.  Double bagging is probably a good idea.  Then have your child use his finger to write on top of the ziploc bag.  The hair gel will push away and his writing will be visible.  When he’s done, have him spread the hair gel to erase it and start again!  If you like, you can also spread shaving cream in the bathtub or on the kitchen counter.  Kids love to use their fingers to write in this too.

Role-Playing–  Think up role-playing situations that involve writing.  Find an apron and a waitress pad.  Then have your child play restaurant and write down people’s orders.  They could also be a letter carrier, writing letters and then delivering them or a doctor writing in a patient’s medical file.  The possiblities are endless for characters that need to write!

Be creative!  Writing shouldn’t be limited to a piece of paper and a pencil.  Just have fun!

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Filed under 3 Year Olds, 4 Year Olds, 5 Year Olds, Questions

TEKS

What are TEKS?

You may have heard your child’s teacher refer to TEKS and wondered what it means.  TEKS (most commonly pronounced with a long e) are the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, a fancy way of saying the curriculum standards for the state of Texas. Visit the Texas Education Agency for Texas curriculm information. Not from Texas? While the curriculum will likely be very similar, visit your state’s education agency’s website and you’re sure to find the curriculum specific to your region.

Curriculum standards are in place so teachers know what material they must cover and can align their teaching with other grade levels. Ultimately this is the material that will be used to assess the educational progress of your child. For this reason, it is critical that parents become familiar with these standards. Don’t worry about the number/letter code that is assigned to each curriculum standard. Just familiarize yourself with the content, as this is what your child will be working on all year. You may want to make a mental note of areas that you think your child will need help with so you can begin to provide extra support for this at home now. If there is a standard that confuses you or you aren’t sure how you can help your child in that area, talk to your child’s teacher. They’ll be so impressed at what you know!

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The Stages of Writing

What should my child’s writing look like as they enter Kindergarten?

Whatever your child’s writing looks like when she arrives on the first day is perfectly fine! Whether your child is just drawing pictures or is writing words or sentences, she is using writing to share something. Kindergarten will bring about a wonderful transition in your child’s drawings and writings. It will be an exciting year to see the growth in this area. With daily opportunities to write, Kindergarten students move through various stages of writing. In class students work on making connections between the illustration and the text. The teacher models for the class appropriate writing habits and then encourages the students to incorporate those techniques when working in their journals. Below are examples of the stages your child may go through this year as she develops into an independent writer!

Drawings and Pictures–  Children in this stage tell a story with pictures rather than letters or words.

Scribbling–  Children demostrate that they understand the written word can tell a story by imitating writing in the form of scribbles.  

Random Letters–  Children in this stage of writing string random letters together.  They are again imitating writing but go a step beyond scribbles.  In this stage you will often see the letters of your child’s name or letters they are very familiar with repeated throughout their writing.

Semi-Phonetic–  Children have now connected that letters make sounds and words, words make sentences and sentences tell a story.  Often in this stage they will only identify the beginning sound of a word.

Phonetic- Children now are more actively using letter sounds to help them write.  They are likely writing the beginning and the ending sounds of words and probably including sight words

Transitional Spelling–  Children are now writing the word the way they hear it.  Their writing will likely have spaces and punctuation which may or may not be used correctly.  With a little work and imagination you should be able to read their writing at this stage. 

Conventional Spelling–  Common words and short words are spelled correctly.  Long or unfamiliar words may still be spelled phonetically.  Punctuation and spacing are used correctly.

For pictures and more detail, visit Linda’s Learning Links.

Now That I Know, What Can I Do?

Encourage your child where she is. If she is drawing pictures only or is using strings of letters, then have her “read” her writing to you and ask if you can add the words below her writing or on a post-it. As she begins writing the sounds she hears, help her stretch out the words slowly to record each letter. Don’t be upset if she isn’t hearing every sound in the beginning. It takes time and practice. Through the year, your child will continue to develop in her writing. Celebrate each stage of your child’s ability!

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Filed under 5 Year Olds, Questions

Words to know by sight!

What are sight words and how do they help my child learn to read?

Sight words are common words that your child should be able to identify by sight, making reading easier. These are also known as Dolch words. These words are usually divided into Kindergarten words and 1st grade words. Each school district typically adopts the ones they feel a Kindergartener should know before entering First Grade.  While the lists may not be exactly the same, they usually have a lot of overlap from district to district. Just a few examples include: is, and, do, we, of, the, a, I, you, the, to, an, can and will.

When your child is in Kindergarten you may hear them refer to them as word wall words. Almost all Kindergarten classrooms have an area of the room devoted to the Word Wall. The word wall has sight words and student names posted under the appropriate letter of the alphabet. Your child’s Kindergarten teacher will use the Word Wall as a reference throughout the year when the children read and write. There are also lots of fun games and center activities that your child will do with these words. Your child’s teacher will likely send home a list of sight words that your child will be working on during the year. If you don’t receive this, ask for a list so you can help her work on them throughout the year.

Now that I know, what should I do?

Play I Spy. When reading with your child, play “I Spy” to find sight words on the page. It is okay to find words within words, but first start with the word by itself. For example, the sight word “a” and “an” are inside “can.” Finding words inside words is definitely higher level thinking. Start slow and work up to this point.

Starfall.com or Jan Brett’s site. Use http://www.starfall.com/n/matching/sight-words/play.htm?f to play a sight word matching game. (By the way, this website is great for all sorts of fun learning to read activities.) You can also find sight words at http://www.janbrett.com/games/jan_brett_dolch_word_list_main.htm

Flashcards. Yes, the trusty flashcards work in this instance but try to make their use fun. Make two sets and play Memory/Concentration or hide them around the house and have a scavenger hunt.

Dr. Seuss. Good ol’ Dr. Seuss used many of these words in his beginner reading books. Kids love Dr. Seuss’ rhymes and rhythm and won’t even realizing they’re learning sight words as they read these books or have them read to them.

Alphabet Magnets. Each morning when your child comes to breakfast have a few sight words spelled on the refrigerator. See if they can identify them. You can also have your child spell different sight words. Going to be in the car for a long day of shopping or vacation? Bring along a cookie sheet and have your child play with the magnets on it. You could even look for sight words on billboards, store signs or road signs.

Sidewalk chalk, bath crayons, paintbrushes and more. Give your child any opportunity to make sight words fun. Use sidewalk chalk or bath crayons. You can even use a paintbrush and water to “paint” the words on the sidewalk. Make a hopscotch court with sight words instead of numbers. Whatever you do, just make it fun!!

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Filed under 4 Year Olds, 5 Year Olds, Questions