Journal Writing ( for pre-writers)

literacy activities for kids Guest Post by Rebekah Patel

One way I build literacy skills with my preschool daughter is to dedicate time to journal writing.  Our journal time is inspired by what I learned when I facilitated Lucy Calkin’s Writing Workshop with my former students.  My daughter is a pre-writer because she writes only a few words and no sentences, but she can develop language skills by composing her thoughts into a writing journal.  Through journal writing, she learns the ideas she  talks about can be put onto paper.

For journal writing, I provide her a journal and colored pencils.  The journal can be handmade or a store bought sketch book.  It is important the pages are unlined because pre-writers will mostly draw in their journal.

We begin journal writing by reviewing what we wrote about the previous day.  Then, I model one simple writing idea in my own journal.  When I first modeled journal writing, I drew a picture and wrote.  I observed that my daughter was very hesitant to write anything in her journal.  Now, I only draw pictures in my journal, and she has become more confident and independent in creating her own ideas in her journal.

Below are some writing ideas that I have used for my daughter, but when you model writing for your child make sure the writing is relevant to your child’s life.

 

 

Writing Ideas

  • How To’s – brush teeth, do laundry, bake cookies
  • People and Pets  - Mama, Papa, grandparents, cats
  • Events – parties, trip to library, holidays
  • Their World – rain, home, school, grocery store
  • Likes – food, clothes, places, television shows
  • Feelings – sad, happy, angry
  • Learning – topics of interest such as planets, wild animals, weather, numbers

After I have modeled writing, my daughter begins to write about her idea.  She is free to write about a topic that interests her, and she doesn’t need to write about the same topic I showed her that day.  During this time, she works independently for about five minutes.  She often writes about a new topic, but I do notice she has other typical behaviors displayed during journal time.

 Writing Behaviors

  • writing name over and over
  • letter writing practice
  • scribbles
  • copying Mama’s work
  • a lot of family and pet pictures

Once she has finished writing, she tells me about her writing.  I transcribe her words on the page.  Sometimes she doesn’t want me to write directly on her page, and I will write her ideas on a sticky note.  I stay positive about the work she shows me even if she has spent the entire time scribbling.  I know she doesn’t end up scribbling every day, and there may be some days she has hard time figuring out what she would like to write in her journal.

literacy activities for kids

 Journal writing builds children’s confidence in their writing ideas.  It allows children to learn to stay focused on writing tasks.  As children develop, they will start writing more words in their journals.

 

Rebekah is a former elementary school teacher who now is a stay at home mom.  In her blog, The Golden Gleam, she shares art, play, and learning ideas to light up kids’ lives.   

Rainbowing – Colorful Handwriting Practice

by Kim

I use this activity to help my kindergartener son practice his spelling words. Because let’s face it, memorizing things isn’t fun for young children. Since my 3 year old daughter thinks she should do everything her big brother does, I adjusted this for her to practice her letters, numbers, and writing practice.

All you will need to do this simple activity are paper and crayons. That’s it.

I drew an upper and lower case A for my daughter and her friend. But we also did a couple of numbers and threw in some shapes, too.

Have your child trace the letter, shape, or number with any color crayon. As they are tracing it have them say it out loud, too. For letters we say the letters and then say the sound they make. For shapes we will say the shape and then say something that is that shape. You get the idea.

Have them trace over the object again with a different color crayon.

Then have them repeat it again with another color, and so on until all seven colors of the rainbow are used.

Our friends had a little trouble getting the idea at first, they wanted to draw another one next to the one I had drawn. But with a little bit of guidance they saw that it would make that one a rainbow and then they were eager to do it.

Now you have a rainbowed letter (or number or shape).

This is a very easy way to get your child to do repetition without making it seem like doing the same thing seven times. It is great for handwriting and pencil grasp practice, along with recognition of letters, shapes, numbers, and colors. It really is a lot of fun and your refrigerator will soon be covered with rainbowed objects. Just a warning.

 

Kim is a contributing writer for No Time For Flash Cards, a mom to a toddler, a preschooler, and a foster parent, too. She juggles her day by trying out fun activities and crafts with the kids. After all, she is just a big kid herself. See what she has been up to over at Mom Tried It.

Alphabet Wall Mural

For about 3 weeks we’ve been writing on our playroom wall, well on paper attached to the wall. Both my kids, friends who have come by and even my husband and I have contributed to this on going mural.  My daughter loves to write on vertical surfaces and she is just starting to point out letters in books and other print so I figures we could fill both those needs and create a cooperative project for my son and her as well.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some painters tape ( don’t buy the cheap stuff, I did and it’s cheap for a reason), butcher block ( aka craft paper), marker and then the materials to decorate  things like crayons, markers, stickers…
  2. Clear a large wall space, part of the magic of a mural is it’s size so to make a simple project like this super make it big. Hang the paper up.
  3. Write out the alphabet . I thought I had it spaced well but poor little z got almost no space.Alphabet wall mural
  4. Add kids.  Sometimes I ask her to find a letter and color, often I just put the crayon jar on the floor and watch.
  5. We added stickers . My son put them on the matching letter, and directed my daughter where to put them too.  Stickers are great little fine motor exercises especially peeling them off their original sheets.
  6. Now every time we are in the playroom ( many times a day) someone adds something. Not sure how long we will leave it up but for now we are having fun with it. Below is the mural today- check out all the stars on the letter S, it’s my daughter’s favorite word these days!

Alphabet Books

Alphabet Under Construction by Denise Fleming is a wonderful example of what an alphabet book should be. Perfect for toddlers and preschoolers learning their first letters, the text is short , the letters are front and center and the illustrations are fun and interesting. My son loves this book, I grabbed it at the library after remembering how much my Pre K class loved it too.Many alphabet books are too long to read entirety at circle time or in one shot with a toddler but this my 19 month old will sit through Z every time. {This review is from when my son was 19 months old in 2008. His love of this book was really a jumping off point for his love of letters in general. I wish I could say I taught him his letters but really reading this one particular book over and over at his request probably did the trick. }
 

Chicka Chicka ABC  by Bill Martin Jr. and Jim Archambault is a fantastic board book with the perfect amount of text for a toddler. The illustrations by Lois Ehlert are so bright and bold that even very young babies will respond to it!  Of all the alphabet books we have at our house this is the one my daughter who is 19 months grabs the most. She loves the way the text leads whoever is reading it to a sing song voice , especially her brother who practically sings it to her. It’s a great first alphabet book for toddlers.

Al Pha’s Bet by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a rare find. An alphabet book that can keep a 5 year old who says alphabet books are for babies, completely engaged. The story follows Al who has bet himself that he can win a contest ordered by the King figure out an order for the brand new 26 letters that were just invented. In a string of adorable events and a little chance the alphabet as we know it is put together. My son thought it was hysterical that P was put in the line up after Al went pee. It’s a cute idea for a book and abstract enough to be a bit of a challenge for preschoolers but just the right level of interest for kids that think they know it all when it comes to the alphabet.

Sandpaper Letter Tracing

by Kim

This was taught to me by a developmental therapist and I used this technique with one of my foster sons that had sensory issues. I never thought to do it for help with recognition for shapes, letters, and numbers. Duh! But I finally made the connection last month when I had the daunting task of coming up with activities for my children during a 6 hour car ride. You will see what I am talking about in a second.

The only things you will need for this activity are sandpaper, crayons (I used oil pastels since they are softer), and yarn. Yep, that’s it.

Draw any shape, letter, number, pretty much anything onto a piece of sandpaper.

This is especially helpful for me because our school system uses D’nealian handwriting techniques and you cannot find that as easily as traditional font activities.

Now give your child a piece of yarn (about 12 inches) and let them “trace” the shape or letter with the yarn.

*Please be careful, long strands of yarn can be dangerous for small children. This activity can easily use two pieces of yarn for a shape if needed. Only you know what your child is ready for.

Even though my son is past letter recognition, he had to join in because my daughter was having too much fun.

A neat benefit to this activity is that the sandpaper grips the yarn. So the yarn will stay in place as your child manipulates it along the paper. This is what makes it so awesome for travel, too. The yarn will stay where you put it. Now if your child waves the paper wildly declaring, “I did it!” the yarn will move a bit. As you can see. ;)

Are you going to use shapes, letters, numbers, or do you have another idea? Please share.

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Kim is a contributing writer for No Time For Flash Cards, a mom to a toddler, a preschooler, and a foster parent, too. She juggles her day by trying out fun activities and crafts with the kids. After all, she is just a big kid herself. See what she has been up to over at Mom Tried It

Counting Around The House – Math Activity

preschool activity

This activity was inspired by my Halloween candy counting over at my other blog . Seeing how resistant my son is to writing tells me one thing, that he needs to practice lots but it needs to be within activities he loves.  This is a math activity with gross motor, and some writing on a vertical surface which is great for beginning writers because it forces the correct wrist position and strengthens the correct muscles in the hand and arm.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some paper ( I get this craft paper in the mailing supply section of Walmart , way cheaper than real butcher paper), markers and something to put the paper on the wall with. I use painter’s tape and I use a lot so my toddler doesn’t pick it off.
  2. Draw a house .
  3. Decide what things you want to count and write them on. I made the windows and doors spots to write the numbers in.
  4. Invite your counter to read the questions on the poster.
  5. Go count !
  6. Come back and fill in the answers.
  7. I wish I had a magic wand for my son to make him believe in his ability to write, to know that he doesn’t have to be perfect and to understand that just because reading is easy doesn’t mean that writing should be or that there is anything wrong because it’s hard. So instead we are doing lots of fun writing… and hoping we turn the corner gently on his terms if possible.  He likes to “split the work” so I made sure we were counting some things with 2 digits, I’d do one or make dots for him and he’d do the other. I don’t think it’s worth it to push to frustration , instead finding ways to make him willing is more my style.
  8. Search your house poster to see which question has the biggest number and which is the smallest.

Counting Books

On the Launch Pad: A Counting Book About Rockets by Michael Dahl was a great find, my son loved counting down from 12-1 with the bright illustrations , simple text and hidden numbers on each page. Something that seems simple but was really awesome was that each page had the number written as a word, shown as a digit and as dots to count. You can take the time to count each dot, read the word or simply recognize the digit!

1, 2, buckle my shoe

1, 2, Buckle My Shoe by Anna Grossnickle Hines is a wonderful first counting book, and a favorite of my daughter. The text is the simple rhyme, the pictures are photos of quilted numbers and buttons.  The buttons correspond to the numbers and are so bright that they practically beg a child to touch and count them. My daughter who is 14 months loves to push the buttons, trace the numbers and laughs at the hen. Very sweet book.

How Much, How Many, How Far, How Heavy, How Long, How Tall Is 1000? by Helen Nolan has been sitting patiently on my shelf waiting for my son to be ready to read it. I used this in a math unit when I was a student teacher and absolutely love this book. The whole concept of this book is to explain the concept of 1000. We often teach our kids to count to 100 but don’t pay the same attention to getting them from 100-1000. This book takes it to the next step and demystifies the huge number 1000. It’s interesting, it uses examples kids can relate too and it gives many scenarios so those cogs turning in your child’s head has lots of chances to catch! I read it to my son for the first time yesterday and I loved being there for those moments when I know he just got it!