Talk, Sing, Read, Write, and Play!

If you do a quick search on this blog of “talk, sing, read, write, play” you’ll find multiple articles I’ve written on the subject. I’ve referenced it many times, but I’ve never dedicated a post to truly defining what it is and what they mean. They are pretty self-explanatory, but let’s really break it down. 

Why do I use these terms together? These are the basic fundamentals for early readers. Reading begins long before preschool or kindergarten, and it’s through our interactions with them that these building blocks are put in place. 

“The power of literacy lies not just in the ability to read and write, but rather in a person’s capacity to apply these skills to effectively connect,  interpret and discern the intricacies of the world in which they live.’

-3P Learning

Talk– Talking with children builds vocabulary, tone awareness, and teaches them how to create and use sentences, and more. Talking, discussing, pointing out, and having conversations with kids teaches them all of these important skills. 

Sing- Singing words in songs can drag out sounds, making it more clear to younger ears to how the sounds work and are pronounced. The rhythms are catchy and easy to remember, and rhyming helps kids see word relations and sounds. 

Read- Obviously reading begets reading. It’s important for them to see words on the page and how they flow and work together. Read road signs, food labels, menus at the restaurants. Words are everywhere! Spending positive interactions reading with children creates a love of books and reading at a young age. 

Write- Writing doesn’t mean write out words and sentences. It means scribble, draw, and create art. These scribbles eventually become circles, squares, and lines, which then turn into letters, words, and sentences. 

“A child’s scribbles are precursors to adult calligraphy.’

– Briana at Carnegie Library of Pittsburg 

Play- Play is a child’s work. Play is where kids learn, grow, and develop. It is the most important task they can do as a child. Whether it’s for reading, writing, speaking, math, social skills, science, history, or more, PLAY is where they work. Read more about play-based learning here. 

Next time you’re overwhelmed by teaching your child letters or words or want them to have better literacy skills, please remember and go back to the basics. 

Talk. Sing. Read. Write. Play. 

Other Activities To Do Instead Of Explicitly Teach Letters

I’ve written a lot lately about teaching my daughter preschool. 

Read about my initial thoughts here. 

Read about the curriculum I’m using here. 

Read about a few things I’ve learned in the process here. 

While it’s easy to focus on learning letters during this age of a child’s life, it’s not the end goal. Here’s what I wrote: 

“Learning letters and numbers isn’t the goal of preschool. Playing is the purpose of preschool, and throwing in the letters and numbers is just an added bonus. I was reminding myself often that just because my daughter still didn’t know that R says rrrrrr by the end of two weeks, it doesn’t mean the two weeks was a fail. We played, we sang, recited poems and painted. So much paint! The purpose of the R unit wasn’t to engrain the letter or sound into her mind, it was to expose her to a new letter, maybe recognize it, and most important- to play.”

Today I wanted to make a list of activities to do with your kids beside teach letters (that can still promote letter awareness and learning). 

Paint. We are BIG advocates for paint over here at our house! Super washable Crayola paint is our go-to. Paint on paper, paint on windows, paint in the bathtub, paint outside. PAINT! Paint flowers, letters, silly faces, rainbows, animals, numbers, and more. 

Other artistic outlets such as coloring, cutting and gluing, paper folding, etc. 

Sensory bin activities with different fillers. I’d list them all out for you, but I’ve already made a post for that!

Play outside. Discover the world, and talk about it. Talk about the green grass, the blue sky. Wonder why dandelions grow in your yard but not the neighbors? (This was an actual conversation I had with my daughter. Maybe a sign that we need a little more weed killer??) 

Build with blocks, build forts, build with safe items from the pantry. Talk about bigger and smaller towers and the letters on the packaging or the colors you are using. 

The blocks featured are sumblocks

Go on a walk. Discover new places, see new people, and have different experiences outside of your home. 

Keep letters around your home to be involved in play.

I’ve said it multiple times in multiple posts, but never forget the fundamentals: 

  • Talk
  • Sing
  • Read
  • Write 
  • Play 

These five incredibly important points create readers. And not just a child that can read, but a child that loves to read. Let’s stop the pressure of children learning letters at a young age, and start creating reading lovers. 

A few more resources: 

Reading Before Kindergarten- Is It Really Necessary?

Tips On Activities With Young Learners

What Is Play-Based Learning?

“The whole world opened up to me when I learned to read”

Mary McCleod Bethune

Books We’ve Recently Added To Our Home Library

I recently added new books to our little home library and wanted to share some with you.

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai. I wrote about Malala months ago and what an impact she had on opening my eyes to new cultures. When I found a children’s book I could read to my kids, I knew I needed it!

Fly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman was also top priority on my list. My daughter is an avid Doc McStuffins watcher and in one episode they feature Bessie Colman and her accomplishments. I knew it would be fun to dive a little deeper into her history!

Who Was Jackie Robinson? A good old “who was” book! Are you catching on that we are trying to learn about people here? A chapter book is hard for my almost 3 year old to take in right now, but it has great information that I can pull from and teach her about Jackie Robinson.

The Hike was recommended to me by a dear friend. It ties in great science by labeling plants and animals subtly throughout the book, and shows great diversity, which is always important!

Addy A Heart Full Of Hope is an American Girl story about Addy, a girl growing up in Philadelphia during the Civil War. I tried reading bits and pieces of this to my almost 3 year old, but she lost interest and did not understand well enough what was going on. It’ll be a fun, quick read for me, and one that will sit patiently on our shelves until she’s ready to pick it up.

This Is How We Do It is a book so well loved by many! I hear this book recommended more by friends than most any other book. I have been wanting to buy it for quite some time, so once I decided to expand our library this week, I knew this one was on the list! We are currently on back order for it and anxiously awaiting it’s arrival!

Young, Gifted, and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes From Past and Present was recommended to us again by a good friend. This one has by FAR been our favorite! The illustrations are ravishing and the information is incredible. This book again featured Bessie Colman, already a hero of my daughter’s, and Michelle Obama, who too was featured on Doc McStuffins. Simone Biles, Stevie Wonder, Rosa Parks, and Zadie Smith are just a few of the others you get to meet along the way.

I love the history, science, and diversity each of these books bring to our little library.

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Harry S. Truman

Reading Before Kindergarten- Is It Really Necessary?

Reading before Kindergarten- is it necessary? Is it beneficial? Is it something parents and educators should be spending their precious minutes with the children on? As time goes on, more and more pressure is put on parents to have high academically achieving children and preschools across the nation are meeting this “need” by giving kids an academic-based preschool in exchange for a play-based preschool.  

I’ve been hearing an ad for a local preschool in my area that boasts “We will have your kids reading before kindergarten!” and every time I hear the ad it makes me angry that they are adding to the social pressure put on parents for having a reading four or five year old! No parent should ever have to feel inadequate because their child isn’t an early reader. It goes without saying that this is not a preschool I can support.

Reading to her horses, even though she can’t read! What great pretend play that will eventually lead to reading.

Did you know that if your kid is reading before kindergarten, studies have shown that by 2nd grade they don’t have much advantage over kids who learned to read in kindergarten? Did you know that teaching your child to read before they are ready can actually drive them away from reading and make them a worse reader in the long run? It may be exciting at your mom group to brag about how academically advanced your child is, it’s exciting to celebrate your kid’s accomplishments! But that shouldn’t be shadowing out what they truly need. 

I have even felt the pressure myself and my daughter is not even 3 years old yet. I see friends with kids similar ages who can name letters and sounds so easy, yet my daughter is just barely showing a small interest in letters and not even close to knowing what they are or what they say. This is discouraging because I have read to her every day and she has been exposed to letter for years now!! But she will pick it up in her own time. Until then, she is establishing her love of reading, and that is more important than letter names right now.

Reading before kindergarten is not bad by any means! If your child is genuinely showing an interest in letters and words and stringing them together to read sentences, by all means, let them fly!! When it comes to teaching kids to read, let them lead. 

There are so many other things we can and should be doing with our kids instead of pushing reading on them. First, back to the basics that create lifelong readers, and some of my favorite things to do!

Talk 

Sing 

Read 

Write 

Play 

These fundamental skills build the learning basics of reading. Talking and singing with them will do more in the long run than pushing letter learning on them. Giving them genuine time to play, build, and make-believe will do wonders. Play is a child’s work! It’s how they learn and grow. 

Choosing an academic-based preschool and even kindergarten robs them of their most needed resource- PLAY! Let the kids play, really play! Mary also wrote out 5 lessons her kids taught her about play that is also helpful in this situation! I also loved her perspective of Kindergarten readiness from a teacher AND a parent standpoint when her daughter was almost kinder age! She has amazing resources and tips for us. 

Other things you can focus on with your child that promote kindergarten readiness instead of reading: 

Sensory activities

Writing, drawing, coloring, and painting 

Puzzles and problem solving 

How to maintain and hold a conversation 

Establishing a love for books and being read to 

Build positive relationships with books- from the beginning!

Let’s take the pressure of reading off kids! Let’s play and sing and let the kids lead! Choose a play-based preschool, give them books, point out letters in your daily life, and when they are interested, let them read! 

What are your thoughts on reading before kindergarten? Do you as a parent feel the social pressure of early reading? 

A Review On Vooks- Virtual Books

After a week or so of social distancing, we were losing our minds being so stuck at home! Anyone else? One of my solutions was to sign up for Vooks- Storybooks brought to life. They have a first month free trial for parents- Or first year free for educators! I’m not an active educator right now, so I did the first month free and wanted to share my findings with you. Please note that blog posts from Honors Grad U are never sponsored or endorsed. These are my honest, true thoughts and feelings on our experience. 

A quick rundown of Vooks. Basically a “virtual book” of sorts. Imagine those YouTube read alouds that others so generously post for us, but with small animation of the pictures and the words lighting up when read. Here is one quick example of this cute book by Zack Bush.

Some of the pros:  

Good selection for browsing if you aren’t looking for a specific book. 

Great way to introduce audiobooks, can be a scaffolding method into them. 

Downloadable- Don’t need data or wifi to use the app. Great for parents! Also useful for teachers for the days when technology or the wifi is not on your side. 

No ads!! 

They hear various accents and voices that I’m not capable of doing. 

It’s a good change of pace and a novelty way to read a book.

It can be empowering for a struggling reader to still be able to read books without the pressure of having to know every word. 

Cons: 

It can be hard when you need specific books 

They weren’t used in our house often- However, I could see that changing in a classroom. I know I’ve had multiple times in my teaching experience that I needed two minutes to find the missing papers, or set up something I forgot for a lesson, and a quick Vooks would have done the trick to give me the time needed. 

It isn’t a great replacement for a book, it’s just a more “book version” of a movie by using the same text, lighting it up, and using slightly less animation. 

My 2.5-year-old didn’t find them engaging, so I ended our membership when the free trial was over. Please don’t take this as an end-all for every kid! She may like it again in 6 months. She’s 2, she doesn’t really know what she likes. 

They weren’t quite as engaging as a movie because it was less animation, and not quite as engaging as a book because I found the animation often took out the deductive reasoning books usually offer and didn’t have the book “feel” to it, more a movie feel.

Overall, they were fun when it was free! And if I were teaching I would definitely be taking advantage of the first year free to give it a try. However, I did not feel like it was useful enough to pay the monthly subscription fee. Please remember I am one human with one opinion, I strongly suggest you take advantage of the free trial as well and decide for yourself how you feel about it. 

I wonder how these pros and cons will change as my kids are older, and if they were used in a classroom setting instead of in my home. Have you used Vooks in your classroom? If you have, please tell us your experience in the comments below! 

Featured photo from Vooks.com

Feature Friday: Keisha Wilson

Today’s Feature Friday is highlighting Keisha Wilson, she is a special education teacher in Utah. Her students range from 1st-5th grade and are considered medically fragile. She covers all subjects, reading, writing, math, science, social studies, art, music, social skills, as well as life skills. 

What is your favorite thing about teaching this age/subject?

“I love teaching students with special needs. There can be challenges that are unique to our setting and the challenge I enjoy. These children can learn and grow just like their typical peers and having a belief in them makes my job possible. I love helping these students discover that they can do things is a wonderful thing. They grow in their beliefs in themselves and they are so excited to learn and be treated as a normal student and that is what I strive for. The other thing that is so amazing about these students is helping them learn how to communicate. They are so excited to be understood and communicate their wants and needs.”

What made you want to go into teaching? 

“I have always had a love of children and working with children with special needs. I have had many small experiences that pushed me towards special education. I had this job fall into my lap and it has driven many of my decisions since. Teaching is a passion of mine and it has been something that found me, not I found it.”

What is one of your favorite ways to utilize technology in the classroom? 

“We use alternative communication technology which is the most utilized and best technology in my classroom. Things like switches, eye gaze computers, scanning computers, and Ipads. All of these things give my students a voice because they are unable to use their physical voice.” 

If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be and why? 

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie. There are so many simple principles and elements that can be taught from that story.” 

What is a big challenge you face often in teaching, and how do you overcome it?

“Because of the severity of the disabilities that our children have there are daily obstacles that we have to overcome. I think that the biggest that we do is that my students are non-verbal. We use alternate communication methods to talk to our students. They have eye gaze computers, scanning switches, and vision boards for the kiddos to talk.” 

What do you wish someone would have told you in your first year teaching? 

“I wish I would have known that teachers are basically always behind. That being caught up in paperwork and grading is probably not going to happen and that is okay. It is also something that I love because it means that I will never be bored at work.” 

Mrs. Wilson is such a patient teacher and her co-workers have raved about how great she is with her students. She sees their needs and meets them where they need it. There is so much from her interview we can all learn from. 

Feature Friday: Mariah Woodford

Today’s Feature Friday is spotlighting a friend of mine teaching in Phoenix, Arizona. Mariah Woodford teaches first grade in an SEI mixed classroom. This means half of her students have to take the AZELLA test, and half do not. The AZELLA test is a standardized test given to students whose home language is primarily Spanish. Mariah loves teaching first grade because she loves the kind-hearted spirits and that at this age they don’t hold grudges, so the end of the day is always followed with a hug. She also loves crafting and using glitter any chance she has! 

What made you want to go into teaching?

“This question makes me laugh a little just because since deciding to get my degree in education I have been asked this question too many times to count. Long story short, I grew up in a family of six, so I was always around other kids. All of my jobs dealt with kids, (gymnastics coach, track coach, camp counselor, bus aid) and when thinking about my future I knew I wanted a career that would allow me to be a mom and a career that I could continue to do as my future kids got older.” 

How have you integrated the arts into your core curriculum? 

“Our school has a partnership with the Phoenix Symphony and they have created a program called “Mind Over Music” M.O.M for short. What happens is each grade is assigned a musician and together the musician and the teachers create lessons that mesh music into the student’s everyday learning.” 

If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be and why?

“I can’t think of any in specific but you can’t go wrong with Dr. Suess. These books are extremely engaging and silly. These books are a great tool to use when teaching about rhymes and how to rhyme. They are also great “repeat after me” books. This can help them gain comprehension skills as they are more likely to remember what happened in the story with all of the repetition.” 

What do you wish someone would have told you in your first year teaching?

“During your own schooling, you start to think about your teaching philosophy and everything you really want to do and things you tell yourself you will NEVER do. Once I got my own classroom I realized everything I said in school wasn’t based on any real experience and a lot of my beliefs about my own teaching had changed. This, however, was a really hard pill to swallow because I was so committed to try and do everything I told myself I would do as a teacher. This truly is just not possible, especially in your first year. There were times that I honestly was so lost in all of the day-to-day tasks and learning the new curriculums that I had no idea if my kids were even learning anything. So to all new teachers- teaching is honestly the hardest thing you may ever do. I’m saying possibly harder than giving birth and taking care of a newborn. I have the experience to back that up.  Don’t think you can do everything. You just can’t. Even if you think your kids aren’t learning, you were trained in this field and just simply being in class and putting on your best teaching face is all they really need.”  

What is a big challenge you face often in teaching, and how do you overcome it?

“The biggest challenge I face in teaching is behavior. Just when I think I have got my classroom under control and I feel they know and understand the rules and procedures, the next day it’s as if they have never heard of them before. I don’t believe I have overcome this, but I have learned some tools in helping keep the whole situation at a calm level. If you are heated and angry, there is no chance you can then de-escalate the also angry and heated child. It’s 100% okay to allow yourself to take a breather, leave the situation and collect your thoughts, before returning to the situation. I have to remind myself of this every day. Truly this I feel is what can make or break a teacher. The verdict is still out on what it will do to me.”

What has been your favorite experience from this school year so far?

“I am not sure if this fits into my favorite experience but I do have my all-time favorite comment. Background, my students were on the carpet free drawing on their personal whiteboards. I was getting the technology ready. This is what I heard/ saw:
Student A points to student B’s whiteboard and in all seriousness and full sass says “Yaaaassss Queen!!” I lost it and couldn’t help but laugh out loud.” 

What are the Negative impacts you have felt as a teacher with schools shutting down due to coronavirus? 

“I never in a million years thought that the end of my school year was just going to be ripped away from me, without even a chance to say goodbye to my students. Before all the schools shut down, we had left for spring break. I had left my kids telling them that when we get back they will have popsicles waiting for them, as we had just won the door decorating competition. Even though that is such a small thing, I find myself thinking about it a lot. It reminds me of all the other things we won’t get to do now as a class. Here are just a few: Easter activities and crafts, canceled. Field day, canceled. Big end of the year science project, canceled. Mothers day fun, canceled. Last week of school fun until the end, canceled. Giving them their last hug before summer, canceled. “

“I did not go to school to be trained on how to be an online teacher. I was trained to be in the classroom with human contact. Because of this virus, we were thrown a whole new situation and were asked to come up with a plan in a matter of days. Making video lessons with no students responding and just hoping that they have access to even watch them, honestly sucks.”

What are the positive impacts you have seen come from it? 

“A lot of teachers in my district would agree that this whole year we have been asked to implement all types of technology into the classroom in many different learning opportunities. We, however, felt there wasn’t ever enough time for us as teachers to really learn the technology ourselves to then correctly implement it for the students. WELL, now implementing technology is literally the ONLY thing we can do, and now have basically been forced to learn it, and learn it all. I feel I know so much more now about technology and implementing it into children’s learning.”

“I feel this has made my students realize how much they actually do like school and like learning. It was a good reset for us all. My students have been asking for more and more work. The one face-to-face meeting I have had with the few students that got on has been so heartwarming. All of their faces lit up when they saw one another and were just so happy to see their classmate’s faces.”

“I have a toddler myself who usually goes to daycare all day while I am at work. This has been a little blessing in disguise as now I have been given a lot more time to focus on my daughter. We have played all of the games of hide-and-seek and tag as you could possibly imagine!”

How has this affected your students? 

“Unfortunately, this has affected my students greatly. I work in a title one district. Switching to online school is not an easy switch. Most of my students don’t have a device and/or even internet access for the online learning that I have tirelessly been working on. My students are all bilingual, with Spanish being their first language. Because of that, learning how to read/ write is even harder than it already is. It is so crucial that my students go to school every day to learn all of the skills that they can so that they don’t fall even more behind. “

“As of right now, I have seen 8 of my 24 students doing the online assignments. That means 16 of them are most likely not doing any type of schooling at home. This is devastating as a teacher. My number one job is to teach my students how to read and have the foundational skills they need for the upper grades. For 16 of my students, this is not happening. And for my other 8 students, their learning is limited.  Teaching kids to read through a computer screen is not the easiest of tasks.” 

If you could give another teacher some advice on this situation, what would you tell them? 

“The only advice I feel there is to give is to take a deep breath and realize this is such a crazy situation that we have been put in, and we can’t fix it all. Every household in the whole world is having to change plans, and figure out how to live in this pandemic. I think it’s okay to take a step back and to only do what’s most important. In my eyes, that’s to simply be with your family, (or whoever you live with) and enjoy the time you have together that normally is not there. Things will work out, maybe just not how we expected them to.”

Mariah is a fantastic first great teacher with great insight into teaching. She has plenty of trial and error experience in her first few years of being an educator as well as her personal experience navigating COVID-19 school shutdowns, and I feel like it’s important information that all of us can learn from. Thanks for the interview, Mariah!