Tuesday, September 13, 2011


WARNING:  This post is a bit long, but hang in there with me until the end and you will for sure be rewarded!

     Welcome back to this week's installment of "Explore to Learn: Early Literacy Fun."  If you have watched the video attached, then you know that this week is all about the letter A.  If you have not watched the video, YOU SHOULD!  My trusty sidekick Sam the Toucan would have his heartbroken if he knew you hadn't watched his interview.
     Anyways, back to the letter A.  The Mooresville Public Library is putting a new spin our traditional Story Times.  Instead of having month long themes, like we used to do, we are going to place more of a focus on a particular letter of the alphabet.  The thought behind this decision came from the new standards for children entering Kindergarten in the state of Indiana.  For those of you who don't know the new standards, or for those of you who don't have time to eat, sleep, or breathe, let alone read 35+ pages of information written in "teacher talk," I will do a brief synopsis.  Kindergarten children used to have the ENTIRE YEAR to learn the alphabet, upper case and lower case.  They were expected not only to be able to identify the letter in both forms, but write it as well.  So what changed?  Well, what use to take a whole year, is now expected to be taught and learned by the end of the first semester!  That's a HUGE change if you ask me.  So, I decided to ease the fears of some of my Story Time parents, as well as the load of our Kindergarten teachers, and focus each week on one particular letter.  So, without further ado, the LETTER Aa!
     When you think of the letter Aa you may think of angels, apples, ants, aliens, or axes.  However, I went with a different route- Alligators and Airplanes!  Our library has a ton of great read-aloud books about alligators.  Airplanes, well, that’s a different story.  But before I get started on what I found, I should probably explain a bit about how I use the materials I find. 
     The Mooresville Public Library offers three types of classes, Baby Time, 2’s and 3s Time, and Story Time.  Baby Time at our library is very basic.  I continued with the traditional Baby Time we used to offer.  Babies who come to the library do an action song about body awareness, a song with puppets, a song with instruments, they read a board book with their parent, as well as do an alphabet song and a number song, all based around a central theme.  The last five to ten minutes is always used for play.  This class is geared more toward helping parents learn the types of songs, rhymes, and actions they should be doing with their child at home in order to develop necessary early literacy skills.  You would be amazed how many people have forgotten basic nursery rhymes, but I digress. 
     2s and 3s Time is exactly what it sounds like, a class for two and three year olds.  I often refer to this as the crazy part of my day.  No matter how much I prepare, I ALWAYS have to change the plan and go with the flow.  This class shares many qualities with Baby Time; however it is with this class that I have decided to focus on the Letter of the Week.  This class meets for forty-five minutes and involves songs for the alphabets, numbers, and body awareness.  I always read aloud one full picture book to this class; at least I try to anyway.  Some days, the kids just ARE NOT INTERSETED.  And you know what… that’s ok.  Get through as much as you can, and move on!  You know that?  That should totally be my motto!  After my story, we always do a theme-related craft.  And that, my friends is where the Letter of the Week makes it appearance.  (I will get into Story Time in a bit!)
     I always try to find books and songs that have something to do with my craft.  This week the craft was A is for Alligator!  I found the most amazing book!  Ever heard of a gem called Snip! Snap! What’s That? by Mara Berman?  It is a fantastic book about an alligator trying to break into an apartment to get the children.  The best part of this book… it is intense!  I always try to do my very best to interpret the book the way I would want it read to me. With this book, you can without a doubt build the suspense and startle the children in your group. 

     The songs I chose to use for the letter Aa included “Alligator Stomp” by Anna Moo and “There’s an Alligator in the Elevator” by Peter Pan Kids.  I tend to use my songs to play with instruments and the parachute.  The kids ALWAYS think its fun to put a doll or stuffed animal in the middle of the parachute and fling it into the air.  If your doll matches your theme, EVEN BETTER!
     The last thing I like to finish with before we play with toys is a craft.  I used to make crafts that went with a theme, but like I mentioned before, we are going different route this year.  Instead of making a craft that the child will take home and hang on their wall for a week or two then throw away, this year we are focusing on making a flash card with the letter in the shape of an animal or object.  On the backside of the card, we write the capital and lowercase letter in dash marks. I also always like to add a little something special so that the children just aren’t coloring a picture every week.  This week it may be googly eyes while next week it could be pipe cleaner antenna or sticker polka dots.  The thought behind these cards is that not only is this a craft for the child, but parents can use these cards each and every week to work on letters of the alphabet. So for the letter Aa, it looked like this.

Materials: Alligator "A" drawn on an index card, crayons, googly eyes, and a binder ring

Back of the flash card

1) Color the letter "A" to look like an alligator.

2) Add googly eyes and teeth.

3) Have child trace the capital and lower case "Aa" on the back.

     The last thing I have the parents do is attach the flash card to the provided binder ring.  Each week they come back they will attach the next flash card.  I will have a picture for this next week when we add the letter Bb.

     As for Story Time, well I said I would get into that later and the time has come.  Story Time at the Mooresville Public Library is for 4 to 6 year olds.  Just like 2s and 3s Time, I switched things up a bit for this class.  This year, we will be doing similar things as 2s and 3s, however, I am going to add a second craft and story based on a different word that starts with the same letter.  For example, for the letter Aa I chose AIRPLANE!  Thus, not only did the 4 to 6 year olds get to make the Alligator flash card this week, I also had each child make a paper airplane.
     Warning: folding paper for 4 to 6 year olds can be hard!  I thought my kids would have no problem with this, boy was I wrong.  I definitely should have written down instruction and not relied solely on the "show them how" method.  Ultimately, each kid made a paper airplane that could fly.  After folding the airplane, I read the kids A Plane Goes Ka-Zoom! by Jonathon London.  This is a great book not only about airplanes but about opposites and colors as well.

     After reading this book, I took all the kids outside, lined them up, and let them throw their airplanes!  It was so much fun to see all those colors flying through the air!  Some flew greats, others, well, not so much, but it didn't even matter.  Each kid had a great time making their card and airplane.  4 to 6 years old really is a great age to mix fun with educational.
     Well, that's it for the letter Aa.  Sorry it was long and drawn out.  I promise next week to be short, quick, and to the point!  Just like last time, if you ever have any questions, just let me know!  Stay tuned next week for the letter Bb.

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