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.

Here is a link to Mem reading aloud some of her classic books. Enjoy :)


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.

This is just crazy.
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.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Clapping and skipping games for kids. Let's get happy clappy and hippy skippy :)

Believe it or not, the beats of language are so important for children's literacy learning.

Children's hand clapping and skipping games are a fantastic way of combining knowledge of words, learning rhythm and rhyme, moving in time to beats, memorising songs and lyrics and motor co-ordination.  All these skills in one happy event.

Here is a YouTube example of a cute and simple clapping game called "Tic, Tac Toe".  It also incorporates the game of scissors, paper , rock which kids love all over the world.


Skipping games have been around forever, all over the world.

I remember playing a skipping game where you were in the middle of the long rope by yourself while people turned it for you.  You jumped and acted out this little poem/song "Teddy Bear"
"Teddy bear, teddy bear go upstairs,
Teddy bear, teddy bear say your prayers,
Teddy bear, teddy bear switch off the light,
Teddy bear, teddy bear say good night
"Good Night"
exit the rope

You do actions to each line......you can invent your own :)

There was another one where you lined up while 2 people turned the big rope and you all chanted:

"Up the Mississippi, if you miss a loop you're out"

You each, in turn, had to run in, do 1 jump, then run out.
Great fun!

Chanting, singing, clapping and moving all at the one time is just so good for young minds and bodies.  It stimulates memory and cues children into words and rhyme.  Motor memory is also great for the brain.

Enjoy being a kid again and teach your children games that they will love and learn from.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Syllables are sensational! The rhythm of life!

Sweet Charity (Soundtrack from the Musical), New Broadway Cast

I was recalling the words from a wonderful song from the musical Sweet Charity called "The Rhythm of Life"
It is an up tempo song with a catchy beat......to quote from the chorus:

"And The Rhythm Of Life is a powerful beat,
Puts a tingle in your fingers and a tingle in your feet,
Rhythm in your bedroom,
Rhythm in the street, 
Yes, The Rhythm Of Life is a powerful beat"

Syllables mean the same to me :)

Words have beats and patterns and children especially love to hear spoken and sung words with rhythm and beats.
Even when they recite the alphabet, they sing it as a song or say the whole alphabet with a set pattern.
Sesame Street has cute versions of the alphabet.  Here is one with Elmo :)


Showing your children how language and words work by 'beating out' the syllables is so important.  Let the wannabe drummer in you loose and go crazy banging and hitting your pots and pans to beat out words.  If you don't have equipment use your body by tapping, clapping, stomping, jumping, clicking .  Start with your family names.  They are always fun to do and kids relate to people's and pet's names.

Syllables ROCK!!

A cute baby girl drumming on pots and pans with a wooden spoon.  Spoon with some motion blur. - stock photo

Monday, 18 March 2013

Nursery rhymes have stood the test of time and are so important to preschoolers. Let's continue the tradition of passing them on!

Remember reciting nursery rhymes when you were a child?  It really is a misnomer to call them 'nursery rhymes' because they pop up everywhere in our lives, not just in the 'nursery'.  References to characters and events from Nursery Rhymes are found all through literature, art, drama and the media.

Recently I was visiting a regional art gallery viewing an exhibition of high school graduates' major art works from NSW schools.  It is always a feast for the eyes, food for thought and fascinating to see what young adults, emerging from 13 years of schooling, can create and produce in the visual arts field.

Two works particularly caught my eye because they referenced Nursery Rhymes and the alphabet.

One work was called "All the King's Horses and all the King's Men, couldn't fix the cancer again...".  It was a very poignant work about the early death of this young student's mother. The beautiful black and white drawings depicted family scenes and childhood memories.  Nursery Rhymes are so evocative of home and comfort and familiarity.  So much so that this student named her work with a quote from Humpty Dumpty.

Your children deserve to be taught these rhymes because they pass on family traditions and stories.  The rhythm and patterns help young children to learn about words and language.  They are easy to remember and recite and kids all over the world love to chant them or sing them out loud.  It is also a good memory task.

The other work was so clever using the alphabet in an imaginative and unique way.  You wouldn't believe that the ABC could be depicted in a new way but this student did it superbly.  Her work, once again drawing in black and white, was called "Inanimalia".  It was beautifully drawn with each letter fusing together an everyday object, starting with that letter, with an animal starting with that letter.  Hence an animate and an inanimate object/creature made into one new object/being.
For example:
Vulture and vacuum cleaner
Dragonfly and dart
Pig and peg
Butterfly and boat

Wonderful,wonderful stuff.

Sooooo........enjoy reviving the old rhymes of your childhood, they will stand the stead of time in your children's lives too.
Here is a site for you and your children to start choosing your favourites.  Enjoy!


Thursday, 28 February 2013

Songs for literacy learning for littlies

"It's raining, it's pouring
The old man is snoring
Bumped his head and he went to bed
And he couldn't get up in the morning.
Rain, rain, go away, 
Come again another day".

Check out this YouTube of Peter, Paul and Mary singing this old favourite

Singing songs about the weather that is actually happening is a wonderful way of teaching preschoolers that songs, poems, rhymes are linked to our everyday lives.

You can then create a theme or a link to other songs related to the weather that is happening.

In Sydney, today, it is the first day of Autumn and it is so, so rainy.  Usually it is warm and sunny and mild at night; a gorgeous time of the year.

The weather today is a lovely day for ducks or frogs as they say.

Here are my rainy day frog songs to sing and learn with your child.

"Mr Frog jumped out of his pond one day
and found himself in the rain.
Said he "I'll get wet and I might catch a cold".


So he jumped in the pond again.

If you don't know the tune, just recite it and act out the little story.

My friend's pot plant also reminded me of another frog song.

Da glunk went the little green frog last night (Hand actions: hands up to side of eyes and blink fingers once)

Da glunk went the little green frog 
Da glunk went the little green frog last night
And his eyes went Glunk, Glunk, Glunk (Hand actions: hands up to side of eyes and blink fingers three times)


We all know frogs go
La-de-da-de-dah (both hands 'wave' to the side, for the la-de-da-de-dah)
'Clap' La-de-da-de-dah
'Clap' La-de-da-de-dah

We all know frogs go
'Clap' La-de-da-de-dah
'Clap' La-de-da-de-dah
'Clap' La-de-da-de-dah
They don't go 
Glunk, Glunk, Glunk (Hand actions: hands up to side of eyes and blink fingers three times)

Do you remember the song "A Frog went a courting and he did go ahhah"?
It's an oldie but a goodie and has some humour in it like these other songs.

Get out in the rain in your wet weather gear and splash about singing and acting out songs.  What better way to pass a rainy day with the kids.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Young Children Need to Hear Alliteration. Remember Rhymes?

Alliteration is everywhere.  Adults use it all the time.  Somehow it seems soothing and comfortable in its patterns and rhythms.  
Sayings like busy as a bee, bite the bullet, cream of the crop, dead as a doornail, the more the merrier etc. etc. are common.
I'm sure it's because it reminds us of nursery rhymes from our childhood.

Remember 'Wee, Willie Winkie'?

Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town,
Upstairs and downstairs in his nightgown,
Rapping at the window, crying through the lock,
"Are all the children in bed, for now it's eight o'clock?"

These rhymes are short and sweet, easy to remember and easy to recite.  Children love them!

Parents and grandparents should teach their little ones to say their favourite rhymes together with them.  Show them the same nursery rhyme in a book so that the children begin to see the link between spoken and written language.  So important and fun!

Getting back to adults.....I even heard Nigella use alliteration on her cooking show on TV the other night.
To quote "The sound of sizzling starts me salivating".
Saucy, sassy stuff :)

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Book characters comes to 'life'. Meet Andrea the Ant and friend.

Meet Andrea the Ant from the Carlos the Caterpillar and Friends book series for preschoolers.

How to make ants like Andrea
You need:
2 black plastic spoons

3 black (or blue) pipe cleaners

1 purple pipe cleaner & 2 googly eyes

No 1:

Place the 2 spoons end to end ( one is overlapping the other)

No 2:
Tightly wrap around the 3 black pipe cleaners for legs ( and to hold the spoons together

No 3:
Wrap the purple pipe cleaner around the spoons just below the spoon head and bend into feelers.

No 4:
Glue on 2 googly eyes (or if you want to cheat like I did, use blu tack)  
PVA or craft glue is good to use.

Now that you have made some ants quickly and easily, make up your own ant story for saying aloud to your children.  Get them to make up their own story and record it for them to listen to and watch later.  Take photos of your ants in lots of different places and make a family album giving them all names.

How about singing the song from my previous post "The ants go marching 1 by 1".  The words are on that post for you.  You can also see the YouTube of the song with animations.

So many activities with such a little bit of craft!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Storytelling help for parents to 'bust kids boredom'

As I am relatively new to blogging, I'm not sure of the etiquette around it.....but....can I blog about someone else's blog?? Is that plagarism??
Anyway, here goes!
I love this Blog from Maggie van Galen, found on a USA site


Such great advice.

Previously I have shown how to make a toy caterpillar to look like Carlos the Caterpillar from one of my 5 books for preschoolers to get ready to read.

Wait for it but instructions are coming soon for Andrea the Ant craft.  You can then have fun making up your own stories with your children in all their favourite places!  Until then....

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Reading aloud to children. Remember Dr Seuss?

Summer in Sydney is all about the sun, surf and Sydney festival.  Events at the Sydney Opera House are such a treat for all ages.
One of the wonderful children's shows presented is "The Cat in the Hat" live version of the Dr Seuss classic book, originally by the National Theatre, Britain now being performed by an all Australian cast.

Dr Seuss, Theodor Seuss Geisel, was born in 1904.  He recalled that his mother used to "soothe her children to sleep by chanting rhymes".  Ted, as he was known to his family, credits his mother for his later "ability and desire to create rhymes".  He started out as a cartoonist in his working life.  After 27 rejections of his first book 'And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street', it was finally published in 1937.

Dr Seuss, as he became known, was commissioned to write 'The Cat in the Hat' using only 225 "new-reader" vocabulary words.  'The Cat in the Hat' has become a classic children's picture book, still enjoyed by families all over the world.  This book is even more special because it was written to help improve the literacy skills of children across the USA.  It was written to be read aloud and for young readers to learn to read.

Reading aloud rhyming, rhythmic books is so important for children's literacy preparation.  It makes them pay attention to the words, patterns and improves their listening skills.  Hearing and saying rhymes and word patterns is an essential pre-reading skill.  How wonderful it is to have fantastic books to read aloud and have fun with words.  It is a delight to share with your kids and helps prepare them for school literacy learning.

Check out my series of read aloud books, specifically written, with rhyme, alliteration and rhythmic patterns to help preschoolers get ready to read.  I hope you have a joyous time reading them to your kids with expression, rhythm and emphasis on the rhymes. :)  Enjoy Carlos the Caterpillar and friends!

Check out the YouTube vision of a trailer of the live show and see the rapture on the children's faces.


Saturday, 5 January 2013

Make your own stories for your children

Making up stories for your children using family members and pets is exciting and stimulating for children.  Children love to hear about themselves and their lives.  They begin to use their imaginations and learn the structure of stories.  All this helps prepare children for reading stories and reflecting on what they have read.
Here is my example using my very own sock Carlos the Caterpillar and my very own cat :)  Puss-E-Cat is a character in my published book 'Izzy the Lizard'.

Summertime Fun with Puss-E-Cat and Carlos

Puss–E-Cat  whiled away the hours, thinking “Ah Summer!  Don’t you just love a good nap in the sun?”

“Come to think of it…..It is quite dry and scratchy here.  I might just go and find a new lush, green place to soak up the sun.” 

 All of a sudden, Puss–E-Cat wondered “What is that funny feeling on my tail?”  Carlos the Caterpillar contemplated “What is this furry lump I’m crawling over?”

Carlos was surprised.  He realised that this creature was moving.  “Be careful,” he murmured.  “This furry lump is alive!”

Carlos was a clever caterpillar though and thought,  “If I’m quiet I might just be able to climb over the top and get away from this creature.”

“Oh No!  I’m being chewed!  Just stay still and play dead,”  the clever caterpillar thought.

“At last …….released……freedom!”

“Phew!  That’s a relief.   I’ll have a little drink.  I hope these lovely birds don’t mind,” Carlos pondered.

“Aaah!  That’s better.  Those birds are very quiet, though.  Where has that furry creature gone?”

“Time for a sleep,” Carlos yawned.  “I think I’ll be a copy cat and soak up the sun on my back.”


Meanwhile, Puss–E-Cat had found a lovely, lush, lazy spot in the garden, soaking up the sun.

Carlos woke up and went to find a juicy green leaf to eat.   Puss–E–Cat was lurking in the leaves!  Clever Carlos decided to leave.  He went to find leaves in other, safer, greener places.

Puss-E-Cat decided to find another nice place to doze, where it was nice and quiet and no pesky pests to bother her.  So she did.


Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Caterpillar craft for the holidays

Create a Carlos the Caterpillar character
You need:
1 soft green sock

(Ok, I know they come in pairs, so make a friend for Carlos)

Wadding, stuffing or padding

9 purple pipe cleaners

(These are what I used from the $2 shop)

Googly eyes

End Product

View from underneath

No 1:
Stuff sock so that is nice and fat and full.
No 2:
Sew up the end of the sock tightly.
No 3:
Sew on 2 googly eyes at one end.
No 4:
Wrap around 2 pipe cleaners in each segment spot (4 segment spots).  Twist into place and spread to look like legs.
No 5:
Wrap 1 last pipe cleaner around the segment nearest his head.  Twist to make his 'horn'.

Easy, peasy lemon squeezy :)

Take Carlos out into the garden or park and have some caterpillar adventures.  Don't forget the camera!
Put Carlos in different places and make a story or movie of his adventures.

Please post any of your lovely escapades ;)

Mine is coming soon!