Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer Reading Update: Book 1

So after my last post I was determined to stay true to my goal of reading a book a week. The first book I chose was a 472 page monster by Fountas and Pinnell, Literacy Beginnings: A Pre-Kindergarten Handbook. Things were going along well until all the wedding craziness hit surrounding my sister's wedding. As the maid of honour, I hosted a rehearsal party, party after the wedding, and numerous house guests. So needless to say I didn't get a lot of reading accomplished, and the wedding week was an absolute blast with my family and friends!
Photo credit: Carleigh Babiak Photography (and she's one of my fabulous kindergarten moms)

I got back on track this week, and finished Fountas and Pinnell yesterday. I also cranked out a second book while tanning on the deck. Here's my thoughts so far...

Literacy Beginnings: A Pre-Kindergarten Handbook by Fountas and Pinnell
-nice design--yellow tabs separate each section which makes it easy to flip to what you're looking for
-not as overwhelming as it sounds to read as over 200 pages of the book is dedicated to appendices
-this book was easy to understand and made a lot of sense. I'd recommend it for Canadian kindergarten teachers as well as pre-kindergarten/junior kindergarten educators.
-pages of full colour photographs of classrooms, play areas, etc

-I thought the authors presented a balanced approach--it's not about taking away playtime and social training, but instead infusing it with literacy. That made a lot of sense to me.
-Fountas and Pinnell also addressed the "readiness" view that many educators still believe. Children CAN and will benefit from exposure to rich literacy experiences regardless of  their developmental stage and how many letters they can recognize or print.
-letter knowledge is necessary to learn to read, but it alone is not enough for a child to become a reader and writer.
-addressed the severe limitations of "letter of the week" practices in kindergarten
-they advocate inquiry-based learning (I already do a lot of project-based learning) as this approach enables young children to learn how to learn.
-cited research that states the number of books available to children in a classroom should be five times the number of children in the class (20 kids x 5=100 books available)
-schedules are included for 3 hour and 6 hour days in pre-kindergarten 

-Fountas and Pinnell shared tips for managing play areas. I've tried many approaches over the past few years, but this reminded me of what my friend Connie Lowe does in her classroom. She has her children create a written play plan, stating whom they will play with, where they will play, and what they will do. If they want to change areas, they must make a new plan plan. 

-they reminded readers to look for what most children can nearly do, then create lessons based on that information
-a lot of emphasis on children creating their own books. Teachers should demonstrate bookmaking in a number of lessons, then include it as an activity during choice time.
-teach kids to "turn and talk" when given a signal during story time
-pretend reading is called "reading reenactment"
-a lot of teaching through interactive and shared reading about what readers do (thinking within the text, thinking about the text, and thinking beyond the text)
-helping children expand their thinking about texts through teacher modelling, think-alouds, questioning, and prompting
-difference between shared (teacher uses the pen) and interactive writing (students write parts of the message)
-tips to expand the learning once a piece of writing has been completed, such as "Find the word ____" or "Find a word that begins like your name".
-using mentor texts from storytime to encourage children's own drawing and writing
-lots of suggestions for using children's names as tool to become literate. Great suggestions on p. 195.
-Fountas and Pinnell reminded us that even if children know just a few letters, that's great. It tells us that they know how to recognize letters. 
-shared the PreK literacy continuum for planning, tracking, and assessment

-the appendices were my favourite part. They included nursery rhymes, poems, and songs, recommended text sets, literacy and language lessons (35 of them), inquiry projects (12 to try in your classroom), and some useful blackline masters.
-I plan on using the literacy and language lessons as an important resource in my junior kindergarten ELA program

Ideas to Remember
-go around the circle and ask children to name an item in a category (such as food, part of the body, etc) to build oral language and create community.
-add rugs, pillows, tables, chairs, and lamps to your classroom
-shoe store dramatic play area
-explicitly demonstrate sorting magnetic letters by features
-use a bucket of magnetic letters to play alphabet soup. Stir the letters in the bucket, scoop out one letter, and find the letter on an alphabet chart
-match magnetic letters with cards or alphabet books
-do more poetry, tongue twisters, and action songs/poems
-use pictures to sort for beginning/ending sounds, rhyming, and number of syllables
-great games/activities to develop phonemic awareness on p. 94
-use wordless books that require the reader to tell their own story from the pictures
-environmental print word wall, organized alphabetically (loved this idea)
-make charts or books about children in the class. Substitute their names in stories and nursery rhymes.
-make name puzzles, p. 199
-circle games to teach letters, p. 201

A great quote to remember
"The fastest way to teach a child to read is to teach him to write." -Mem Fox


  1. Would you suggest it would be worthwhile for me to pick up Devon? What would be your top recommendations for "teacher" books for kinder?

  2. Hi Cheryl,
    I totally recommend it! I think it will really add to my JK/SK ELA program.