Sunday, September 1, 2013

B is For Button and Also CORE

      As you can see, early learners do practice following instructions and manipulating materials by large degrees of difference. On the far left, this student is just beginning to learn how to hold a small tool; dipping a Q-tip into glue and pasting down the tiny buttons presented a real challenge to him. The middle student filled his entire paper with the tiny buttons with both the confidence and delight of child with advanced motor skills. The student on the far right, however, is completing the project by the most advanced literacy means. 
      It is clear that she understood her teacher's vocabulary and directions because the students were asked to glue the buttons inside the shape of the letter only. This direction was not given in order to establish an aesthetic interpretation of art, but to determine if the young students understood the concept of "inside" a letter shape versus the "outside" of a letter's shape. Establishing the visual boundaries of the alphabet is one of the primary literacy skills taught to early learners. 
      Often parents and some teachers mistake the agenda of art activities in preschool.  They believe that their child is being judged by standards of personal taste, when in fact they are not being assessed by cultural aesthetic preferences at all. Art serves a wide variety of purpose in schools and should never be interpreted by agenda that is superimposed by outside observation. Parents can learn so much about "how" their child is learning concepts just by asking the teacher a few key questions:
  • Is it important that my child colors in the lines? If so, why? 
  • Is this exercise teaching more than motor skill?
  • How is art used to teach my child literacy?
      It is also important for parents to know that at the early stages of development, there are no absolute wrongs in the manipulation of art activities. The students are just beginning to explore and learn with the materials. They are also spending much of their time learning how to listen to language and how to follow directions and what words mean. This takes time and patience on the part of adults. Do not openly judge your child's work with phrases like, "Oh look her work is so much better than his" or "I guess little Johnny just isn't as good as Alex in art." Your child can hear you make these kinds of judgements and develop an idea about his own competency far too early in his own life experiences. Try to involve yourself in his explorations with an open mind to possible discovery. Wait to verbalize any opinions. Sometimes just describing the activity is enough with phrases like: "Wow, you smeared a lot of blue paint!" or "It must be fun to glue pasta onto paper, I thought is was only for eating!"
       Our students range from ages 3 to 5 in the early learning center. At this stage of their development, they are learning preliteracy skills. There are literally hundreds of methods and means to use when teaching preliteracy skills to very young students. I will share as many of these in my ABC Daily journal as I am able to note during my teaching experiences at the school. A few of these activities are precursors to CORE standards adopted by my home state of Missouri. The CORE standards begin at Kindergarten, not preschool. However, preschool curriculum can be designed to compliment CORE initiatives. I have listed below the few kindergarten standards addressed by the activity we completed with the letter B last week.

Reading: Foundational Skills - Print Concepts:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.1d Recognize and name all upper- and lowercase letters of the alphabet.

Speaking & Listening - Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.4 Describe familiar people, places, things, and events and, with prompting and support, provide additional detail.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.5 Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions as desired to provide additional detail.

Below are the agenda covered by the lead teacher during this simple preliteracy lesson:
  • The teacher introduced the letter B to her students.
  • Students repeated the sound of the letter after hearing their teacher make the sound herself.
  • The teacher discussed the shape of B with the students.
  • The teacher then asked the students what familiar things started with the letter B.
  • The word button was introduced as beginning with the sound and the literal letter B.
  • The teacher then showed her students a printed sheet with a capital letter B
  • Students were instructed to glue buttons inside the letter B using a Q-tip, white school glue and a wide variety of colored plastic buttons.
Common Core State Standards listed above © Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.”

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