Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Simplify Preschool: Language

Can your child learn to read and write if you don't sit them down with a stack of worksheets and flashcards and early reader primers? I think so. And chances are, they can learn to enjoy reading too! I think the best way to teach reading is to get a child excited about books. When they love books and want to learn to read, then the task of reading becomes relevant. I know I learn skills much faster and more thoroughly when I am choosing to learn the skill rather than being told it is something I have to learn. I am also more determined and willing to overcome challenges when the decisions are in my hands.

I use this same philosophy when it comes to passing on a love of language to my daughter. I want her to choose to read and write because she sees the purpose and finds joy in these activities, not because she feels it is something she is forced to do. We work with letters and letter sounds and read books as long as she is interested, and we take a break when she's not. If she wants to trace letters and make her own books we do that too; if she doesn't, we don't.

Most of our language activities from the past couple of months can be found on these two recent posts:

I don't want to repeat what I've already posted, so instead, I'll give a list of some times and places  when we integrate language games and activties.

Eating Meals

Food packages are covered with words. It's a great opportunity to look for letters or practice sight vocabulary. M recognizes a lot of words from the font or logo on the packaging.

I have also done some letter themed meals. During our B Week, we ate bear-shaped sandwiches, blueberries, and blue milk for lunch.

Driving in the Car

I usually leave the radio off in the car when we are driving. It's one of my favorite times to have conversations with M. She seems to do some of her best thinking while we're driving. She notices things outside, thinks about where we're going or where we've been, or starts some seemingly random conversation. A lot of our past themes have come about because of conversations we had in the car.

I use these opportunities to answer her questions, build her vocabulary, and talk about her interests. In any downtime, we play I Spy games or sing songs.

At the Playground (or anywhere in nature)

M has been really interested in letters lately. She has started seeing letters everywhere - some real letters, and some things that just look like letters. She found round acorns that looked like the letter "o" and sticks in the shape of a "t" or an "x." We also use sticks to write letters or words (like her name) in the dirt.

In a Store (or anywhere with signs)

M has started recognizing the names of different stores that we visit frequently. She also looks for letters on signs. When we were playing downtown recently, she saw some construction signs and said, "Look! A diamond with letters on it! Read it to me!"

The grocery store is a great place to look for letters and words. I point out signs over the aisles, product names on the shelves, and we work together to find items on my shopping list.

Print Materials

Aside from books, there are tons of materials that contain print. Newspapers, magazines, the brochure from the train museum, the program at the Rudolph play, and junk mail that fills our mailbox daily. I try to show M as much as possible so she can see the importance of being able to read and interpret the written word.

Cooking Dinner

M loves to help me cook. I can't cook without a recipe, so she sees me reading cookbooks all the time. I try to show her the format of recipes so she can see different types of writing. She helps me round up all of the ingredients, and I read the recipes to her so she can help me follow the directions.

We also keep a set of magnetic letters and the LeapFrog word builder on the fridge for her to play with while I cook. She can recognize most of the letters and knows most of their sounds. She asks me to spell words for her so she can "write" them on the fridge.

In the Bathtub

I think most people have foam letters and numbers in their bathtubs. It's another great opportunity to practice letter recognition (where did the "G" go?) or to write words on the walls of the tub. We also have some bath books that M likes to "read" (often to her other bath toys).



M looks forward to reading stories at bedtime every night. Of course it's not the only time we read, but it's a reliable part of our day that she looks forward to. She chooses whatever three (or sometimes four) books she wants to read. She sometimes chooses books that she has heard many times and asks to read to me. I try to have a variety of books available for her to choose from, so we have grown a fairly large collection of children's books in addition to the books we borrow from the library.

Most of M's books are stored on the lower shelves of the bookcase in her room so she can access them herself. As an added bonus, she has started choosing books to look at in the morning when she wakes up, allowing me to sleep in a little later!

Check out the rest of the Simplify Preschool series here!

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