Friday, May 22, 2020

Early Childhood Literacy Activities at Home | Distance Learning Series #5

Today, I am continuing my series on distance learning. This post, like my last, is directed at supporting parents. (In case you missed it, here is my post on supporting early childhood math concepts at home.)

To many parents, the idea of teaching their child is intimidating, and the idea of teaching them to read is even more so. Reading is such a complex skill that parents often don't know where to begin, beyond teaching them their ABCs. The goal of this post is to help you realize that there are many simple ways you can support literacy development.

Here are six easy activities you can do at home:

1. Rhyming
    Kids love rhyming! One of my favorite rhyming activities with preschool children is called "Willoghby Wallaby". Here's one version by Raffi. Substitute the names of your child, your pets, other family members, friends--kids think it is hilarious! My Pre-K students would often fall to the floor laughing, the idea of an elephant sitting on people was so amusing to them, as was hearing silly rhyming versions of their names.
    You can also say two words and ask your child whether they rhyme or not. Once they have that mastered, say a word and ask them say another word that rhymes. Nonsense words are okay! This is all about developing phonological awareness.

2. Beginning Sounds
    Identifying the beginning sound of words is a vital prereading skill. You can ask your child questions like, "What is the beginning sound of the word car? Can you think of another word that starts with the /k/ sound?"
    I like to use the visual of putting my hand on my opposite shoulder, and then sliding it down my arm as I say a word. Then I return my hand to my shoulder and ask, "What was the beginning sound?" Have your child do this motion with you as you practice listening for sounds in words.

Note: This activity is not asking them to identify the letter. If you use the word "cat", they should respond with the sound /k/. Do not try to teach all of the sound positions at once! When they have mastered identifying the beginning sound, then you can move on to the ending sound, and then to the medial sound.

3. Syllables
    Identifying syllables is another important prereading skill. Clap out syllables in names, in favorite characters from books and movies, names of animals...anything that sparks an interest! Gather up some toys and stuffed animals and sort them by the number of syllables in the name.

4. Fine Motor Activities
    If you're wondering why fine motor activities are included in a list of literacy activities, hear me out.
    Most kids at the preschool age are not developmentally ready to engage in writing letters with a pencil. In early childhood, children should be developing fine motor skills that will lead to the ability to write with a pencil a little later. Tearing construction paper into dime-sized pieces and gluing them to create a mosaic, playing with play dough and rolling it into small pieces, lacing beads on a shoelace, building with small blocks, and so many other activities are wonderful for strengthening the muscles in the fingers and helping them develop a strong pencil grip.

5. Prewriting Activities
    Although many early childhood children may not be developmentally ready to write letters with a pencil, that doesn't mean they shouldn't practice using a pencil or crayon! Let them scribble and color to their hearts' content. However, I must caution here, avoid the temptation of using the chunky crayons advertised for little ones. All of the various occupational therapists I have worked with have encouraged use of regular crayons--even breaking them in smaller pieces to avoid the fisted grasp so commonly seen. Before expecting your child to be able to trace or copy letters, have her first start with drawing vertical lines, horizontal lines, and circles. Then move on to crossing lines, as in a plus sign or an X, and tracing curved or zigzag lines.
    Forming letters can be practiced in many ways without use of a writing utensil. Children can "air write" by pretending to write the letters in the sky with their hands, write letters in a salt tray (a thin layer of salt poured out on a plate works well), write in a layer of shaving cream spread on a table, make letters with finger paint or play dough, etc.

6. Reading
    I saved the most important one for last. Reading to and with your child is the best thing you can do to encourage and develop literacy skills at home. There are so many benefits to reading to your child, so, when possible, take the time to snuggle up with a good book and read. You want your child to learn to read for pleasure, so make it fun! Do the voices for the characters, make predictions about what might happen next, ask questions about how characters might be feeling or what your child would do in a given situation, ask questions after reading about events in the story or what happened first, but above all, READ.

There are, of course, many other ways you can encourage literacy skills. I hope this has given you a good place to start and helped you have confidence in teaching your child.

Keep teaching (and parenting!) with heart and passion!


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