Welcome back from Spring Break! We hope everyone had a chance to rest and to enjoy some fun in the sun before our rains returned. It's hard to believe that we only have 11 weeks of school left. We have a lot still to accomplish, but here is a look at what we have been doing over the past month:
Math: We spent a lot of time preparing for our 100th Day of School, especially focusing on counting to 100 by groups of ten. We used this time to work more with our gold bead materials to further supplement place value concepts. We had a great party, with treats, counting activities and games. Check out the new photos in the photo gallery!
Literacy: Reading, reading, reading! There is so much independent reading happening now in the classroom for our older students, and the younger ones are eagerly enjoying stories and songs to further their pre-reading and language skills. The children are continually surprising us with all they are learning!
Science: As we (anxiously) await changes in our tadpoles, we are leaving amphibians and reptiles behind and moving on to a study of fish. As luck would have it, we will also be receiving a couple of new platies from the Wong family to introduce to the classroom fish tank. We are also now well into our study of the solar system, working on learning the order of the planets (in spite of my mistakes) along with plenty of new vocabulary. The Kindergarten children are now beginning a unit on magnets, rocks and minerals, including a trip on April 28th to the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals. This is always a favorite!
Social Studies: This month we will be studying communities and community helpers, as well as children and communities around the world. We will use stories, songs, puzzles and crafts to celebrate these topics, ending with Hat Day on April 30th. Children are invited to wear hats to school that represent different cultures/communities...or just silly hats to wear for fun!
Read Aloud Time Shouldn’t Stop
For many of us, when our children arrived in this world, we diligently began reading to them. Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Harold and The Purple Crayon…we eagerly read both the classics and the newcomers to our little ones. After all, the long-term research is clear and persuasive: reading to young children has enormous benefits as we prepare them for school.
But what happens as our children get older and, hopefully, become proficient readers on their own? What happens when they have homework and required reading? Is it time to stop reading out loud to our kids? In a word, no. Although it may not remain a daily part of your routine, don’t let this carefully established habit fall completely by the wayside. Jim Trelease, author of the Read-Aloud Handbook, has discussed numerous benefits of reading aloud to older children. Reading aloud to your children will help them become better…
…speakers. You can choose books that are up to two grade levels above your child’s independent reading level, exposing him or her to a vast amount of new vocabulary. The more they hear, the more they can incorporate into their own daily use.
…readers. Listening to someone read out loud is, as Trelease puts it, like hearing an advertisement for books. Research shows that by about 6th grade, many children stop reading for pleasure; it is strictly utilitarian to get through required assignments. Reading out loud to children can “advertise” the enjoyment they can get from books.
…writers. Our spoken conversations typically consist of short sentences, often without a great deal of elevated vocabulary. Reading out loud to children exposes them to proper grammar and syntax and allows them to hear longer, more complicated sentence structures. This, in turn, allows them to develop their own more sophisticated writing.
…learners. Research is clear that students with bigger vocabularies do better in school. Most instruction, especially up to third grade, is verbal, so having a vast vocabulary helps children to understand and follow teacher directions, right from the very beginning of Kindergarten. Reading aloud to your children, regardless of their age, benefits their total learning experience.
As our kids get older, and other activities seem to fill up all available hours, reading aloud to them can get trickier, but it is worth the time to make it happen, even if it is just once a week. Maybe evenings don’t work as well for your family anymore, but a Saturday morning is available. Maybe you can’t find 20 solid minutes to read together, but you can keep a book in the car to read for five minutes while you wait for swim lessons to start. If your children are restless while you read to them because the books no longer have as many pictures, perhaps they can color or doodle or work on a puzzle while you read. Here are a few great titles to consider:
*Toys Go Out, by Emily Jenkins: This is a funny, energetic book about the adventures of friends…who happen to be toys. Follow it up with her other books, Toy Dance Party and Toys Come Home. Good read-aloud books for ages 5-10.
*The Poppy series by Avi: Avi’s rich vocabulary in these books gives young listeners excellent examples of how to use interesting and precise language in their own writing. Good read-aloud books for ages 7-14
*Roald Dahl’s James and The Giant Peach, Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden are all good choices to read and then enjoy the movie version.
Admittedly, keeping up the read-aloud habit is an investment of time and energy, but the benefits are worth every minute!