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What Goes Around Comes Around

“The only difference between teaching 8th graders and preschoolers is the height.  Everything else is about the same.” 

I start out each year with my pre-kindergarten parents with this same line.  My experience in teaching is varied, but most of my public school educational experience is from teaching junior high – 8th grade.  And, with each class I teach in the preschool age, I notice there isn’t THAT much difference.  See if you agree:

1.  LANGUAGE ACQUISITION: If you were to sit in my pre-k classroom and listen to the conversations that happen in a 20 minute time period, you would hear plenty of “original” words, mispronounciations, and horrible sentence structure.  You might even hear a “dirty” word every now and then (immediately redirected by me – at this age, they really don’t know what they’re saying).  That’s how kids learn – by trying out new things.  And, in my junior high class, it was much the same, even if it was more intentional.  The “duhs” and “phats” and incomplete sentences – yep, all part of being 13 and 14 and learning to communicate.

2.  SPEED: Four-year olds know two speeds: fast and crash.  My boys especially were either running around the room or crashing into tables/easels/each other.  It is just how they are.  And, getting into wide open spaces makes it more manageable, but it is still run and crash.  It is much the same at the 7th and 8th grade level – adolescents are constantly running through the halls, running through the cafeteria, and as much as you tell them to SLOW DOWN, they continue to do so until they crash into a locker/door/desk/each other.  And again, it is usually the boys.

3.  THE EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER: One of the hardest parts about teaching 4′s is the girls.  Come February, we start the “you’re not my friend - today” game.  It is one of my least favorite parts of my job.  Girls don’t realize how much it hurts to hear those words, even when they have been said to themselves.  And, in 8th grade, many a girl-fight begins with the same attitude – you’re not my friend and I’m going to show you how I feel about you.

4.  GIMME SOME LOVIN’: The bright side to pre-k kids is the love they show.  Oh, they may act tough, but they flash that smile or color a picture for you.  They pick flowers on the playground and notice when you get your hair cut.  And, 8th graders aren’t much different.  They don’t WANT to like you – you are the teacher.  But, they leave you notes on your desk, wave to you across the cafeteria, or say hi to you at the football game.

What goes around comes around.  Growing up is one big circle.  We just travel it several times as we learn a bit more about what makes the world right.  Teaching junior high all those years did wonders to prepare me for being a preschool teacher – and a parent.  The only difference is the size of the package!

When Does A Child Start To Learn To Read?

Reading is one of those major milestones in a young child’s development.  As a parent, we wait with baited breath for the day to come that we don’t have to read Harold and the Purple Crayon one more time to our child because they can now read it to themselves.  It is with joyful celebration that we acknowledge their accomplishment of the written word.

But when does all this reading begin?  It starts with the first book the parent picks up and shares with the child, at one day, one week, one month or older.  The things we, as parents, do with our children at a very young age prepare them for becoming sucessful independent readers.

There are five skills that specifically enhance a child’s literacy experience from birth that parents should share with their children.  How a parent addresses these skills will depend on the age of the child, and they will change as a child grows based on their ability level.

  1. BUILDING A VOCABULARY:  Children should be exposed to as much verbal language as possible.  Explain to your baby where you are going and what you are doing.  And, when a baby babbles back, stop and listen to their “talk”.  This is how babies learn the art of conversation.  As children grow, you can name objects, talk about feelings, and eventually get them to share their feelings.  Reading aloud from a very early age is extremely vital – they hear the oral sound of words and the flow of a story.
  2. ENCOURAGING A LOVE OF PRINTED WORKS: Make sure your child can see the book you are reading, not just the pictures but the words, too.  And, as a child gets older, let them choose their books to hear and read.  Give them ownership and acknowledge their literary preferences.  Let your child see you reading things that interest you as well – magazines, books, newspapers…let them see that reading is a life skill.
  3. STORYTELLING: Reading a favorite book over and over again is a wonderful way for a child to grasp the concepts of beginning, middle, end, plot, characterization, mood, climax, flow.  So, when you are reading Goodnight Moon for the eightieth time in a day, realize it is a GOOD thing.  Let the child hold the book and help turn the pages.  Play games with the book as the child gets older…if you hold the book upside down, does the child realize it?  And, as they become familiar with a story, can they tell it back?  Many young children like to retell a story and turn the pages, and they are thrilled that they can “read”!  Point to the words so your child will understand how we read.  With older children, ask them questions as you read, such as “What happens next?” or “What do you think is happening in this picture?”
  4. THE LANGUAGE OF LANGUAGE: Play with rhymes and songs, making up actions for the words you say.  Finger plays like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Wheels On The Bus” are great for encouraging language and vocabulary development.  With older children, have them come up with rhymes: what rhymes with ball?  What starts with the same letter or blend like ‘truck’?  As children discover the relationship of words they will develop skills for helping them read unknown words later on.
  5. KNOW YOUR ABC’S:  Talk about shapes with your child (round, square, short, small), point out letters on printed material, like a cereal box or sign down the street.  Read books that focus on the letters of the alphabet.  As a child gets older, encourage a multisensory approach to letters, making them from playdough, playing with magnetic letters, or building different letters from other household items (we like to use cooked spaghetti!).

Keeping these skills in mind will not automatically make your child an early reader, but they will encourage language development and an early awareness of the printed world.  The goal is not to have a child that reads at three years old, but to foster a love of print and stories that will, in turn, encourage reading skills. 

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