Tuesday 17 December 2013

Parents preparing preschoolers for literacy learning at school

It was a joy in late November to co-present a seminar for parents of preschoolers in Kogarah Library, Sydney.  Sonia Bestulic from Talking Head Speech Pathology and myself gathered together a group of excited and interested mums and dads to find out how to prepare children for school literacy learning.

We looked at what school literacy lessons look like.  

Guided reading was described and we compared guided reading books to children's picture books. Sonia detailed the importance of children having strong language skills, both receptive and expressive language.  There were many practical strategies, games and ideas suggested for helping children develop a solid language base.

Reading aloud quality children's picture books AND talking and listening before, during and after, is the simplest,most efficient and best of all, most enjoyable way of preparing children for school reading, writing and spelling.

Here is the summary slide for parents which, I think, says it all.

You, as parents, can start your child on the road to quality literacy learning by:
žReading aloud to them using carefully chosen beautiful children’s picture books.
žTalking about letters, words, sentences and language.
žIncreasing their vocabulary by talking to them about what they are learning, listening to and watching.

žCueing your child into the sounds, rhythms and rhymes of language in books.

It was such a wonderful night of sharing and learning and such a privilege to work with Sonia.
Can't wait to see all our beautiful shiny new Kindy students at the beginning of the school year in 2014.

Boy Smiling First Day Back to School, Child with Backpack Royalty Free Stock Photo

Friday 13 September 2013

Are you all ears? How do you listen to music?

Ah, music.  It is the stuff of life.

Take this little survey.....

As an adult, ask yourself how do you listen to your favourite music?

Are you someone who goes with the rhythm and beats?
Are you someone that loves the melody and tune?
Are you someone who really hears the lyrics, remembers them, relates to them and listens to the story of the song?

Personally, I love words so the lyrics and the story of the song are really interesting to me.  Cat Stevens (I'm showing my age, I know) Simon and Garfunkel, John Mayer and even the crazy lyrics of Crowded House all fascinate me.  I sing along and enjoy the imagery that the words allow me to visualise.

Music is magic, especially to children.  As adults when we let ourselves go and find our inner child listening to music brings us such joy, energy and inspiration.  Movin' and a groovin' is not only for the young.

Children need to be surrounded by music.  They connect with the rhythms and beats, the melodies and most importantly, I believe, the words.  Listening to words in songs will help make them great listeners in general.  They will be able to transfer their finely tuned listening skills to the schoolroom. Remembering the words to songs will help their working memory, which they need in the classroom.  A win, win all around.

We all take listening for granted. So let's take a minute to think about how we are as listeners.

As teachers, we require students to be attentive, active listeners throughout the day.  Quite an ask really.

So ask your friends to take a survey.  Who is a melody/tune listener or who is a lyrics lover?  Food for thought.

Some Lyrics from "Bigger Than My Body"

Yes, I'm grounded
Got my wings clipped
I'm surrounded (by) 
All this pavement
Guess I'll circle 
While I'm waiting 
For my fuse to dry

Someday I'll fly
Someday I'll soar
Someday I'll be so damn much more
Cause I'm bigger than my body gives me credit for


Friday 23 August 2013

Kindy kids love doing phonemic awareness activities

Image result for free photos of sydney in winter
In Australia it is Winter and the second half of the academic year is under way.  Not like North American schools who are starting back after their long Summer break.  Here, our Kindergarten children have just completed their first semester of school.

At my school, after half a year of excellent literacy teaching, the teachers 'refer' any students who have not picked up the appropriate phonic skills or who just need to be 'checked', to our Learning Support Team.
We, as a team, assess each child's phonemic awareness skills and then form targeted groups for intensive instruction.

The Kindy kids love coming to these sessions.  We have 38 students from 6 1/2 classes who need some revision or remediation in this area.

The kids have fun clapping out the syllables in their names.  They love listening to rhyming stories and clapping when they hear a rhyming word.
Traditional rhymes are taught and learnt and recited with vigour and vim.
Pictures of objects are labelled orally and sorted into matching starting sounds.
Big books are read and the language of literacy is discussed; What is a word? What is a sentence? What are the capital letters and full stops for?  What are the gaps between words for?
Books with different language features are read aloud to focus on rhyming, alliteration or onomatopoeia.
Boy, do we have fun with the noisy books!

At the end of this term we re-test each child and graduate the ones that have acquired the necessary skills. We keep going with the students who just need more time to learn these important skills and target the areas that they have not quite achieved.

It is a wonderful thing to witness how they blossom with some specific, strategic, explicit teaching in small groups catering to their individual needs while having F...U...N!

Image result for free photos of kindergarten kids

Monday 24 June 2013

How to read aloud to children


Mem Fox is one of Australia's most beloved children's book authors.  She is an advocate for reading aloud to children before they go to school.  In fact, Mem says "If kids are not read to between the ages of 0 to 5, they will not be able to learn to read quickly and happily. Every parent ought to show their children how much they love them by spending at least 10 minutes a day reading to them—which is three picture books, or the same book three times."
She is passionate about continuing to read aloud to children even after they can read for themselves because you can introduce them to higher level books and initiate quality talking and listening to grow and develop your child's vocabulary and as an added bonus, their imagination!
Her 10 commandments of reading aloud are simple and brilliant and, I believe, so true.

Ten read-aloud commandments

Mem Fox’s Ten Read Aloud Commandments
1. Spend at least ten wildly happy minutes every single day reading aloud.

2. Read at least three stories a day: it may be the same story three times. Children need to hear a thousand stories before they can begin to learn to read.

3. Read aloud with animation. Listen to your own voice and don’t be dull, or flat, or boring. Hang loose and be loud, have fun and laugh a lot.

4. Read with joy and enjoyment: real enjoyment for yourself and great joy for the listeners.

5. Read the stories that the kids love, over and over and over again, and always read in the same ‘tune’ for each book: i.e. with the same intonations on each page, each time.

6. Let children hear lots of language by talking to them constantly about the pictures, or anything else connected to the book; or sing any old song that you can remember; or say nursery rhymes in a bouncy way; or be noisy together doing clapping games.

7. Look for rhyme, rhythm or repetition in books for young children, and make sure the books are really short.

8. Play games with the things that you and the child can see on the page, such as letting kids finish rhymes, and finding the letters that start the child’s name and yours, remembering that it’s never work, it’s always a fabulous game.

9. Never ever teach reading, or get tense around books.

10. Please read aloud every day, mums and dads, because you just love being with your child, not because it’s the right thing to do.

Saturday 1 June 2013

Hear Carlos the Caterpillar read aloud

Reading aloud to young children is just so important for many, many different reasons.

My favourite reason, is because you love the book that you are sharing with your precious ones.

Here is a link to PuggleFM online radio station for parents of young children.

It is me reading one of my books which I have to say I loved doing.
Stay tuned for more.....


Wednesday 8 May 2013

What is the right age to teach children to read?

Parents are very keen to help their children learn to 'read' before they go to school.

So what is the right age to start teaching them to read?  When should parents start teaching their children the skills of reading?

There was an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about  a new product, called 'Your Baby Can Read', endorsed by model Miranda Kerr, of all people, .

It claims that babies as young as 3 months old can learn to read if you buy their program for $200.
Guess what! You can do this for your children for free!!  Reading to your babies, toddlers, preschoolers and big schoolers is an easy, enjoyable and effective way of helping your children learn to read.

In Finland children don't get taught to read until they are 7 years of age after 1 year of compulsory prep school where developmental play is provided.  Finland has one of the highest literacy levels in the world.

So from one extreme, 3 months old or to 7 years old, which is the correct age??

Basically, in NSW schools, children as young as 4 and 6 months and up to 5 and 6 months start school and begin to learn to read, write and spell all at once.

My advice to you as parents is that you do not need to teach your preschooler to read.  You need to get them ready to read.

There are many good sites and apps which can help you do this without drilling, pressuring and training children to 'read'.  Teaching them to love words, sounds, letters and books and stories will enable your children to get to school and rocket in their literacy learning.  It is all linked: talking, listening, reading, writing and spelling.

Phonological Awareness and vocabulary development are the 2 most important and key areas of learning that children need to get ready to read.

I wrote my website gettingreadytoread.com   and book series Carlos the Caterpillar and Friends to help you all in a fun and relaxed way to get your children ready for school literacy learning.
So jump on in and start enjoying stories, rhymes, poems, plays and craft all the while accompanied by quality talking and listening.
Easy as ABC! :)

Monday 29 April 2013

Clapping and whole body movement songs for preschoolers

Kids love to clap.....in fact they love to make noise!!
Clapping songs and rhymes are just wonderful to incorporate learning words, rhythms, songs and movements.

A simple rhyme to clap along to and learn off by heart is "Pat-a-Cake".  It has a lovely, simple beat and is easy to remember.  Don't forget to bake a cake as well!

Here is a link to Sparkle Box, a UK website with loads of free resources for nursery rhymes, songs and stories.

The song "If you're happy and you know it" starts off with clapping actions and then gets more complicated but fun.

This is a cute YouTube animated version

I have to admit to Aussie loyalty here but the Wiggles are FAB!
Here is their version of the action song "Head, shoulders, knees and toes".
A great ones for teaching body parts and getting active.

Come on you guys, you already know these songs, so get out there with the kids and pets and start clapping, singing and moving to words!!  All great learning activities for preschoolers.