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Monday, September 30, 2013

The Magic of Three

I was recently getting some tips from a Speech and Language Pathologist that I admire.  I was looking for ways to support my son's oral development.  I had some concerns that my son's speech was not progressing as it should.  While there are no outstanding red flags I am a huge believer is collecting ideas and trying them.  Why not support things where I can?!  Anyhow, Antonella Scofield ( provided loads of helpful low-stress tips.  One of them was to work on sounds with my son.  She reminded me that sounds are just as much progress in speech as are actual words.  I immediately connected to Old McDonald's Farm, I couldn't believe that I had forgotten to teach this song to my child! HOW COULD I???!!!!! After a few seconds of beating myself up I took a breath and extracted myself from that hook that we parents often put ourselves on by ourselves.  After all, I am *trying* to raise my son bilingual and it means that sometimes I trade some English classics for Spanish ones.  Instead of focusing on what I hadn't done I decided to think about what I could do.  Now teaching your child animal sounds is by no means an Earth shattering new idea.  It is practically its own chapter in the mommy handbook right? Right after you must make choo choo sounds with the spoon while feeding...oh you forgot that one too? Right there with you! All excited about my new adventure I started thinking about how we teach our kids new things and I remembered the magic of three.  You know all the sayings right- "third time's the charm", "three cheers for", "three strikes you're..." oh wait that last one is a bad example.  But you get it.  
Antonella's suggestion that I nurture sounds reminded me that animal sounds were a great way to bridge some language skills for my child's bilingual world.  After all, my cow and "vaca" both say moo no matter what Google translation may think.  I decided to attack this new learning in at least 3 ways.  Not only did I (finally) remember to teach Old McDonald to my son which support his learning through song, I also found a book (The Very Busy Spider's Favorite Words) that supported the visual of the animal when we made the sound.  Thirdly, we would be sure to make the sound as we played with his animal puzzle where he got to hold the various animals.  I couldn't believe how quickly this helped my son feel comfortable making these sounds.  He feels so proud- as do we.  This, along with Antonella's other suggestions are already helping my son's speech grow each day.  

The power of 3 though is a thread that can be applied in many ways as we look to nurture our children's development.  As a teacher I am always looking to approach learning from a multi-sensory lens.  Having this fresh reminder of three is so useful at the beginning of the year.  As I am working with my Kinders on letters and sounds I shared the idea of learning something new in 3 ways with them.  They were so excited to practice our alphabet poster with a song (accessing sound), a motion (physical), and words in a book (visual).  Now having this type of multi-sensory approach is a foundational skill in teaching.  Many teachers apply it in their work, however, it is a great reminder to carry for any new learning.  I like the idea of 3 because if you try to hit every lesson using every type of sensory approach you will probably feel frustrated and overwhelmed but 3 approaches is manageable.  This is something we can do for our kids and ourselves.  When we want to lose weight for example aren't nutrition, exercise, and sleep the magic formula? Yeah you're right another bad example!

Raise the FLF: I used this approach to teach a concrete skill like animal sounds but you could do this with any learning as a family.  For example, if you have a child that is struggling with perfectionism (I have had several students with this issue even in the youngest grades) you can help you child by supporting them in three ways: let them tell you about their experience (verbally express themselves), share a book from the library or guidance counselor (hear the stories of others), and explicitly show them examples AS you make your own mistakes (modeling).  "See how I tried to have everything ready for breakfast today but I forgot half the things on my shopping list? I feel so frustrated by that but I'm going to have to figure out how to make it work because we have to get going on our day."  Any new learning or concepts you want to bring in the family can be better supported by attacking it from three angles.  Can you imagine any ways this might work for you?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Making Books

As a teacher I love the beginning of a new school year.  I always feel like I could get lost for hours shopping for new school supplies.  Deciding on just the right new pen that will be the key to a great new year.  As a new mom I am just learning how to balance my natural instinct to bury myself in work while also being present for my son.  I'll let you know if I ever figure out that mystery! In the meantime I am just doing the best I can.  

I was reminded of this balance recently when a parent of one of my kinders asked what she could do to encourage her reluctant reader to read.  We went through several suggestions but there was one in particular that I wanted to share because I think it represents some of the kinds of family learning activities I truly believe instill life long learning while also strengthening family bonds.  I talked to this parent about making very short books together.  I told her that one way to turn her young child into an enthusiastic reader is to make her an author.  One way to do this was to create simple books.  There are many ways to do this.  For example, if you are not sure where to begin you can go shopping for a simple inexpensive sticker sheet that has one of your child's favorite character's... Disney Princesses, Thomas the Train, Mickey Mouse, even something generic.  Stick one sticker per page and let them dictate a simple sentence.... "Thomas is on the track.", "Thomas is with Percy.", "Thomas says choo-choo."  After a few simple pages your child can add a color background to each.  Staple the pages and you have a new treasured book for your child to read! Depending on their age level you can make this simple or complex.  The point is that your child will have a book with predictable text that they will love reading.  They may even want to go to the library to look for other train books for inspiration.  Hopefully their appetite for reading will begin to grow!

Raise the FLF: You can really turn the notch up for this activity by involving the whole family.  This summer I tried this with the kids I was watching plus my own son.  I was trying to develop literacy activities for children that ranged from 15 months to 9 years old.  Towards the end of the summer I knew it was time to turn up the interest dial.  I printed out some pictures from some of our park outings and we decided to make a book together.  They had so much fun sorting through the pictures (about 10 of them) and choosing which should go on their page.  To keep this realistic I only let each child do 3 pages, any more and it would stop being fun (mainly for me)!

Once each child chose 1 picture I asked them to add text that made sense for their age.  For the 4 year old, he dictated a simple sentence and I had him trace the one word I wanted him to focus on.  I also made a word box where he copied this word.  The 5 year old, dictated a sentence.  I wrote what she said but I left a blank for the 2 words I thought she could handle writing herself (for Katie it was her name and the word can), for the 9 year old, I asked him to write a paragraph.  I explained that his page would be the introduction to the book so we talked about main idea.  This sounds complicated but it took me about 5 minutes to set up and about 15 minutes of quiet working for each page...ahh quiet working an Auntie and Teacher's dream! I posted the pictures below:

Yes, even my son got in on the action... he loved "working" while his older cousins worked.  He practiced scribbling with his washable crayons and holding the leftover pictures in his hands. We practiced naming our favorite places in the pictures.   If interested, I can scan and upload our finished product.  We just slipped them into a dollar store presentation book.  Try this with your family after a family trip to the zoo or even with a regular's day worth of pictures.  You'll get your kid(s) reading AND have a great family memory book!