Forest Fours Journals

Today, we introduced the students to a new chapter of Forest Fours by implementing a writing component to our day. Each child received a special journal that travels with us while on the trails. The students are allowed to draw pictures of the games that they are playing, the structures they build, or the specimens they see while out in nature (fungus, birds, rocks, deer, etc.). They also are allowed to collect things like leaves or small pieces of moss and tape them into their journals for safe keeping.

In addition to the journals, we borrowed four Polaroid cameras from Mrs. Weber so that the students can take pictures of items that would be too big to fit in their journals. The pictures are then taped onto a page and the students write about what they observed. The journals will travel with us each time we venture into the woods and the children are allowed to fill their journals to their heart’s content whenever they deem it necessary.

Since it’s inception, our class has used Forest Four days to play in an unstructured setting so that they could explore and create at their will. The addition of the forest journals allows students to extend their learning by giving them the opportunity to write, even while outdoors. Through this activity, the students are practicing skills such as fine motor development, phonemic awareness, self-regulation, observation, categorization, identification, and much more. We look forward to sharing our journal entries with you in the future!

Pre-K Writers

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At the beginning of every school year, we have a handful of students that feel very strongly that they cannot write, so Marie and I make it our mission to prove them otherwise! Usually their main concern is that when they write, it doesn’t look “perfect”. It doesn’t look like an adult’s writing. To this we ask, “Are you an adult? Do you have a job? Do you have to pay taxes?” and the students all laugh and say “No!”. Our main mission is to show the students that as long as they are doing the best they can, then they are writing.

We see many different stages of writing in our class as the students’ fine motor development and knowledge about phonemic awareness increases. All of the following examples of writing are acceptable in our classroom.

The Scribble Stage

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Students who are in the scribble stage are moving their marker around the paper in no particular order or design because it feels good to make marks on paper. They typically use their whole arm to move the marker across the paper.

Representational Pictures

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In this stage, the child will draw a picture to convey meaning. Students often draw “bubble heads” to represent people. Although this is not traditionally referred to as writing, it does exactly what we expect writing to do; convey meaning.

Scribble-writing with Left to Right Progression

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Children who are in this stage have started to notice that we write starting on the left side of the paper and continually move towards the right as we put our ideas on paper. Although there are no letters present, the child is starting to have a better awareness of the structure for writing.

Letter-like Symbols

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Students who make “letter-like symbols” are no longer just making stray marks on the paper. Each symbol has a distinct shape and is starting to mimic the shapes that our real letters and numbers take.

Letter Strings

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In this stage, children have a good knowledge about how to draw the correct shape of the letters however the sounds do not match the words the child is trying to convey. Children may write their favorite letters or some of the letters that exist within their names.

Beginning Sounds

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Students that use beginning sounds in their writing are starting to make the connection that our words are made up of sounds. Students will write the letters that match the first sounds of each word in their message.

Beginning and Ending Sounds

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In this stage students continue to build on their knowledge of sounds by adding in ending sounds. Students continue to write the sounds that they hear, which is likely to differ from the actual spelling of words (i.e. “MI” instead of “MY”). It is also likely that the student will clump all of their letters together without any space between their words.

Beginning, Middle, and Ending Sounds

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When children reach this stage, they have a clear understanding of phonemic awareness (our language is made up of sounds) and are now starting to organize their thoughts by using spaces between their words and have started including the sounds they hear at the beginning, middle, and end of each word.

Sight Words

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In this stage, students have started  moving towards writing sight words based on their actual spelling. They will continue to utilize phonemic spelling for unknown words.

 

Children in our Pre-K class typically exhibit stages ranging from the “representational pictures” to “beginning, middle, and ending sounds”. More conventional, “adult writing” is not expected until 3rd grade. We work with each child on their individual needs based on their own development stage. We strive to create an environment where children are excited and comfortable to express their ideas through writing.

The Cat Sat on a Mat with a Rat

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One of the many skills we are currently working on this time of year is rhyming. During the school year, we spend a lot of time talking about the sounds we hear in words. Students practice these skills as they start to sound out words for what we like to call “kid writing”. As we move through the school year, we begin focusing on the sounds we hear at the end of a word and how some words share the same ending sounds. Sometimes, this can be tricky as many students still focus on words that share the same sound at the beginning of a word such as “ball” and “bat”. The more we practice and show examples of rhyming words, the more the students are able to grasp the concept.

This week, we have been playing a rhyming game that asks the students to find three concrete items that will rhyme with the picture they are given. The students delight in finding rhyming words and placing the toy on their picture card. As teachers, we like this game because it provides the student with an opportunity to physically pick up an object, say the two words out loud, and decided whether or not they rhyme. Having a concrete item to touch, makes the task more meaningful and therefore makes for a stronger connection in the child’s brain.

Another fun way to practice rhyming, on the go, is to give your child a word and see if they can come up with a rhyming word to match it. It could be a real word rhyme such as “cat” and “bat” or it could be a silly rhyme such as “Forst” and “morst”. This game can be played at the grocery market, the car, or while waiting for the doctor. If your child is having trouble coming up with a rhyme, start by giving them an example or using concrete objects such as toys or commonly found objects. What’s most important is that the game should be fun! There is nothing more powerful than a child who learns through play and therefore loves to learn!

 

Beginning Sounds

The Morning Message this morning asked the children to “write a word that starts with the same sound as Tyrannosaurus.”  Observing each child as they approached this task provided me with a wonderful example of how well they have learned the association between letters symbols and the sound they make.  All of the children, when asked, stated that the beginning sound in the word Tyrannosaurus was “T” (the letter, not the actual /t/ sound).  Although they were all correct, it wasn’t exactly the answer I was aiming for.  Thus, I realized that we’ve done a great job of working with the phonics portion of letter knowledge. [ The letter “T” is identified and represents a /t/ sound.]  Now, I need to spend more time on the phonemic awareness portion of our language. [Our language is made of words that can be broken down into sounds that can be isolated and identified using our hearing.]

During our Morning Meeting we practiced isolating the beginning sounds in words.  After only a few examples, the class understood exactly what I was asking them to do.  At home and at school we can use the phrase “what is the beginning sound in ______?”   We can expect our children to answer with an isolated sound.  On the other hand, if we ask “what letter is at the beginning of ______?” we can expect them to answer with a letter symbol name.

It is very important for their reading and writing [phonics skills] that they gain experience isolating beginning sounds (and later ending, middle, and syllable sounds) using only their ears and their brains.  When writing or reading an unknown word, a learner will attempt the parts they do know.  This might be the beginning sounds that they represent in print, or using  the first letter of a word along with many other clues to decipher a word.  Yet, both of these begin with understanding that our language is made of sounds that can be manipulated.