Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Five: 5 Purposeful Turns of Phrase

"I suggest you sit down and listen, missy!"
This week's Friday Five focuses on 5 purposeful ways to use language when speaking with children. I'm a big believer in speaking to children thoughtfully, with regard for the larger ramifications of our words. It's a very easy thing to do, and I think it can yield very positive results. Here are some of my favorite examples.

1. Instead of saying "O.K.?" to solicit an affirmation for directions, say, "Understand?" Example: "Get your homework done as soon as we get home, so we won't be late for soccer practice. Understand?" You'd be surprised how often that "O.K." slips out of an adult's mouth. Using the alternative gets you the affirmation you want (yes, the child heard you and understands the instructions) without sounding like you're seeking the child's approval, or asking if the child wants to comply.

2. Don't ask a child "Do you want to...?" if there is no choice. Example: "Do you want to go to Grandma's this weekend?" What if the child says no? It's unfair to ask whether a child wants to do something if you're going to be doing it either way.

3. When you want to recognize something positive a child has done, consider saying "You did it!" rather than "That's great," or "I like how you..." Notice how "You did it" focuses on what the child has accomplished, while the other two phrases focus more on your feelings about what the child did. I learned this from Conscious Discipline (which my school uses). I'm still getting used to it, and my "That's great" addiction has been hard to break, but I'm practicing!

4. This is something our whole family has learned to do, and I found it very helpful in the classroom as well. When it's time for someone to apologize, instead of just saying, "I'm sorry," try saying "I'm sorry for ___. Will you forgive me?" Then wait for the other person to answer. Notice that "I'm sorry" by itself focuses on me, the one who did something wrong, rather than on the other person who was wronged. You can say "I'm sorry" in a snotty way (as any parent or teacher can attest) or add a silent postscript in your mind of "Yeah, I'm sorry you're a jerk." Asking for forgiveness is a different matter. It makes you vulnerable to the other person. It acknowledges the wrong you did and your need for forgiveness in a way that a "sorry" doesn't do. It provides an opening for the other person to speak about the wrong that was done to them. We also think that "I forgive you" is more powerful than the usual response of "It's okay." It may not be okay, but we can still forgive. In our household the adults practice this as well. This is great for anyone (there's that word great again), but as Christians, we especially find this use of language in line with what we want our children to understand about the way we view the world.

5. It's tempting when I'm reaching the end of my proverbial rope to sarcastically say, "I suggest that you ___ right now!" Don't suggest. Just tell the child what you are expecting. It's a stronger statement, less wishy-washy, and less inviting of the child's defiance. This isn't to say the child won't defy you; I find when the sarcasm's welling up in me, my daughter or son is also escalating the behavior that's got me tweaked. Still, the false "suggestion" doesn't help to de-escalate the situation, and we certainly shouldn't be modeling sarcasm. That could come back to bite us!
What are your favorite phrases or most helpful ways to modify your language when speaking to children?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Web 2.0 Wednesday: Got Milk?

Can nutrition be cool? Could you possibly get a fourth grader excited about the health benefits of drinking milk? Check out Get the Glass and see what you think! Get the Glass is a free web-based game with great graphics and ambience that teaches about the health benefits of dairy. Think A Series of Unfortunate Events meets your health teacher.

Pros: The graphics and feel of the game are immersive and very cool while also being fun. There are lots of facts about the nutritional benefits of drinking milk embedded in the game.

Cons: Commercialization: They’re definitely trying to sell milk.

Monday, September 26, 2011

This Month in the Preschool Computer Lab: Farms and Autumn

It's the last week of September! Hooray! I am tired of teaching the 5 Senses, so this week I'm jumping ahead to our themes for October: farms and autumn. It's also Fire Safety Month, and Grandparents' Day and Halloween both fall this month. The problem is, I'm having trouble deciding which activities to have our students work on. Luckily I have an all-day training today, so that gives me an extra day to decide. Here are some activities I'm considering using this month. I have a great pumpkin carving website to share too, but I'll post about that later in the month.
What interactive activities do you use for a farm or autumn theme, or for October?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

This Week in the Preschool Computer Lab: My 5 Senses

My 5 Senses

Make It! Complete a graphic organizer showing what you can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.
Share It! Bring home printed copies of your creations to share with parents.
Solve It! Is this something I can see? smell? hear? taste? touch? Can I use more than one sense with this item?
Use It! Double-click to open the file; drag and drop to use “stickers”; click to use stamps; use the text tool and keyboard to type your name with help.

Once again this week we begin our lesson on the carpet with a review of computer lab rules and the parts of the computer. Students participate in an interactive whiteboard activity where they identify pictures of various printers among a group of computer parts and drag the printers into a separate section. This is a bit harder than our previous sorts of display and mouse pictures, since the pictures of printers look less similar to each other. I then model the activity for the students before dismissing them to their computers.

At the computers, we are using Kid Pix with a template I created to make a graphic organizer about the 5 senses. Students use the sticker tool and the rubber stamp tool to find pictures of items that they can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. Stickers require drag-and-drop while stamps just require a click to select the design and then a click to place it on the page. I encourage students to find items for each section and to think about whether an item can be placed in more than one category. At the end, adults help students to type their names using the text tool, and to print in color.

  • Because I am using the image as a background, students can color over or “blow up” (erase) the background, obliterating the graphic organizer altogether. If time permits, we re-open the file and begin again when this occurs.
  • For some reason the names sometimes do not show up when printed. I’m not sure why, but it’s frustrating!
Three-year-olds, self-contained, and other students who need an organizer with fewer distractions will complete a similar graphic organizer with just 3 senses shown to simplify the activity. Teachers could repeat this activity with the remaining 2 senses in the classroom. Students with severe/profound intellectual disabilities could use capability switches and/or microphones to participate in cause-effect activities with color and sound. Adults may prompt the students to respond to what they see and hear. Examples: Balloon Bang! and Bouncy Balls.

What are you doing in the lab this week? How do you use technology to help teach the 5 senses?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Web 2.0 Wednesday:

I am so excited to share with you the new website we are using in the computer lab this week:! A teacher at my school brought this site to my attention, and after only a few days, I already love it! Finally, there's a polished, well-executed, content-rich website aimed at preschoolers, with an inviting interface. If you're familiar with Education City, Study Island, and SuccessMaker, you will recognize ABCmouse as a similar tool, but exclusively designed for toddlers, preschoolers, pre-k, and kindergarten. The main area of the site is the classroom, with games, eBooks, puzzles, coloring pages, and songs. There is also a zoo area, a farm area, and an aquarium.

Pros: The activities are fun and age appropriate. There's lots of variety and a huge amount of content to keep kids interested for the long-term. You can easily individualize lessons for students and track their progress. Students login using an avatar rather than a name, and all text is read aloud, so it's easy for non-readers. There are many options to make the activities easier or more challenging, so you can easily adapt it to your students' needs and skills. It includes activities for science and social studies, which are focus areas in our school and harder to find for preschoolers. Adults can record their own voices reading one of the books. The help section has helpful videos that walk you through setting up the site for your students. There are themed printables available to accompany the online activities. It's FREE for public schools.

Cons: There is a LOT going on in this website, and students have access to all of it. I have only used it with a few classes, but from what I can see, there is no way to keep them on the designated activities that you want them to do. They can easily "wander" off into another area of the site to play something else. It's not easy for students to switch between logins. When you go to a section of the site that shows a choice of activities, for instance, the screen that shows all of the games, the default options are to have the preschool choices showing and not the pre-k or toddler choices. I didn't see a place I could configure this for different logins so that my pre-k students will see the pre-k games first. I don't think there's a way for students to play at home using a teacher's account (and the individualized lessons she's configured), although parents can purchase a separate membership.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Five: 5 Free File Folder Games!

Who doesn't love getting something great for FREE??? Our school is developing a literacy lab where classes can go with their teachers to have a literacy special. I searched around for some great file folder games for our preschool population and found some great ones! I'm also throwing in a couple great games for upper elementary!

4. The Sentence Bowl Subject/Predicate (3-5) FREE for a limited time!

Full Disclosure: The Sentence Bowl is my own creation. It normally sells for $3.00 but is FREE for a limited time! Get it while you can!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Web 2.0 Wednesday: Another PowerPoint? Just Shoot Me.

Remember when a PowerPoint was the height of classroom innovation? These days, introducing a lesson with a PowerPoint is more likely to elicit a yawn than a gasp of wonder and delight. Ready to mix things up a bit? Try Prezi!

Prezi does presentations a bit differently than PowerPoint. Rather than a linear series of slides, Prezi allows you to size and arrange the pieces of your presentation--text, images, video, and documents--on one large canvas, panning, zooming, and rotating to show different parts in an order that you set. Because the whole presentation is on one large canvas, you can easily show your audience the “big picture” of the topic, how ideas relate, and hierarchical structure. Plus, since it’s still relatively new and provides opportunities for surprise elements, it keeps the audience more engaged.

Here are some ways that you as an educator might use Prezi, along with sample presentations for each.

There are even Prezis about how to make a Prezi! Go ahead and check it out! Search for a Prezi about a topic that you teach. What are your ideas for using Prezis in education?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Five: 5 Interactive Websites for Preschoolers

My criteria for evaluating websites for use in the computer lab are these:
  • minimal / no ads
  • educational value
  • basic mouse or keyboard skills practice
  • highly engaging
Here are five of my favorites.
  1. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Build a Neighborhood: Students have 4 options for neighborhood settings: residential, construction, farm, and make-believe. Basic Skills: Drag-and-Drop; Themes: Farms, Animals, Neighborhoods, All About Me, Real/Make-Believe
  2. Highlights Games of the Month Archive: They feature a new interactive game each month, and keep the past games available as well. Our kids especially enjoy the "Build-a-" activities like the snowman, gingergread house, cake, scarecrow, and turkey. Basic Skills: Click, Drag-and-Drop, X to Close, Bucket Fill. Themes: Seasons, Holidays, Art/Creativity, Food, Fire Safety, Faces.
  3. Tumble Books: "E-Books for E-Kids." Just what it sounds like: digital versions of wonderful picture books with audio and animation. Highlights text as it is read. You can also turn off narration for independent readers. You can set up a playlist to play a selection of books on a theme. I use these sometimes for my vision impaired students, and have a playlist of books that do not require visual support to understand the story. Some books also have quizzes and lesson plans. They have a paid subscription, but check to see if your public library provides it for free--ours does! Basic Skills: Click, Audio/Video Controls (Play / Pause / Fast Forward / Rewind / Mute). Themes: Literacy, Back to School, Library, Art, Animals, Real/Make-Believe, Black History, Spanish Language
  4. Starfall: If you work with preschoolers, you probably already know about Starfall. Lots of free, easy-to-navigate interactive activities, all designed with building literacy in mind. They now offer a second section of the site, More Starfall, which is a paid subscription. Basic Skills: Arrow to Go, X to Close, Click, Drag-and-Drop. Themes: All About Me, Holidays, Seasons, 100th Day, Calendar, Literacy.
  5. Fungooms: My counterparts at another school introduced me to this site just last week. I haven't had much time to explore, but I think it will be great for my 3-year-olds and my self-contained classes. Basic Skills: Click, Click-and-Drag. Themes: Animals, Insects, Music, Art, Day/Night, Fossils/Dinosaurs
What are your favorite websites for the computer lab, or for preschoolers, or both?
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