Thursday, 31 July 2014

Teaching Your Monster to Read

I've been thinking a lot about activities that parents can do at home with their children to help support their reading development. 

Firstly the high tech version:
Teach Your Monster to Read is a great free website for children to visit. It works best if you complete it along side your child, at least until they get the hang of it. Teach Your Monter to Read focuses on letter-sound knowledge and sight word recognition. They have just released an app too.

Reading Eggs is another great website, you do need to pay to join but they do have free trials so you can test it out first. Again it works best if you sit alongside your child while they work through the activities and drills. Once they are more knowledgeable they may be able to do more by themselves. They also have several apps available, some of which are free.

The low tech version to help children learn to read can be approached from two angles; sight word recognition and letter-sound knowledge.

Sight words are the most commonly used words in text, often they are words that you can't sound out. Sight word games and activities include using flashcards, playing memory, playing snap, hiding sight words around the room to have a treasure hunt with. Click here for some sight word cards to practise with. Choose 3 or 4 cards to start with and as your child learns them add another 1 or 2 at a time until they know each word. Practise every day for a few minutes a day. Most of the early reading books that I teach children to read have lots of sight words in them, the more sight words they know the easier it is to read the books fluently.

Learning the sound each letter makes can be taught with the same type of games and activities. At Totara Park School we use Jolly Phonics to help children learn to recognise their letters. Jolly Phonics is a phonic programme that gives each letter an action and a picture to help children make  the sound. The picture and action mnemonic help children to remember the sound and written letter. (Click here for a copy of our alphabet card.) Once the children know the letter-sounds using the letter and picture cue, give the written letter only and practise that. Start with letters of your child's name, then S, A, T, P, I, N. Introduce a few new letters a week until you are practising all of the sounds every day. Sparklebox have a lot of worksheets you can print out and work on at home together.

So, if your child is struggling, or you want to give them extra support the best thing you can do is listen to them read each night and practise those sight words and letter-sounds as often as possible.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Friendly Games

 Our 'Friendly Games' Discovery session was busy this morning with lots of Commonwealth Games inspired activities that encouraged the children to practise their friendship skills.
 Here we are completing a mountain biking dot to dot, last night New Zealand came 1st and 2nd in the mens mountain biking!


 The children enjoying taking turns on the fitness circuit.

 And this is my personal favourite - Judo Jaguar!

As the Commonwealth Games are in Scotland this year the children used blue paper triangles to complete the Scottish flag.

The children made these very cool highland terrier dogs - just like the real dogs that escorted the teams at the opening ceremony. 

 Photo from here.

These pipe cleaner people are ready to compete at the games, just use one pipe cleaner to make the head and legs, and bend another to make the arms. 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Winter Wonderland

The day before our Winter Wonderland Discovery session it snowed overnight and when we came to school in the morning the hills around Upper Hutt were covered in a white blanket of snow. Perfect timing for our session and for lots of descriptive winter writing too!

The children had a great time exploring lots of winter themed activities. I particularly loved the snowmen made out of polystyrene cups with a cupcake case hat and sorting some winter clothes into washing baskets.


We have Discovery every Wednesday morning. Each session involves our three new-entrant classrooms meeting together and exploring activities based around a theme. Our pre-school visitors also join us for Discovery and it provides them with a time to visit school with the support of a parent or caregiver. Our visitors are called Mountaineers, they are scaling the heights of learning.

We choose themes based on special events during the term or topics the children have expressed an interest in. There is no shortage of ideas about what we want to discover. Each session is carefully planned to provide the children with a variety of experiences. We plan art and crafts, writing and reading activities, colouring, cutting activities, counting and number activities, sensory experiences, roleplay, cooking and food experiences, and cooperative experiences.  

When the bell goes in the morning we all meet together in one classroom share our class greetings, at Totara Park School we a very lucky that our Junior classrooms are joined by folding glass doors, so on Discovery mornings we fold the doors back and have a large space for the children to explore. After the roll the teachers share some of the activities that are available and talk about the types of behaviour that we are encouraging.

During the session the children can visit any classroom and complete or participate the activities that they are interested in. We are very lucky to have extra parent help and teacher aide time during Discovery and our Mountaineers parents are encouraged to spend some time with their children which help them to feel more comfortable at school. It can be pretty scary during the first visit and having Mum, Dad, or Nana there makes it a lot easier.

After our session we tidy up together and sit back down on the mat to share about what the children have discovered and how they worked together. 

Then .... 

.... it's morning tea time!

Click on the Discovery and Mountaineers labels to find out more about what we do during Discovery, or check out the Starting School and Transition to School Book pages at the top of the blog.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Dinosaur Discovery

Here are a few photos of what we got up to for our last Discovery session of term 2. Dinosaurs provided us with lots of inspiration and is always one of my favourite sessions. 

We dug for fossils in the sand trough, made paper plate dinosaurs (click here for details), cut dinosaur finger puppets, made mini-colouring-in books (thanks Sparklebox), helped our dinosaurs hatch out of eggs, and lots of fun with our plastic dinosaurs.