Friday, August 14, 2009

Setting Up Your Centers

All of you are working hard getting ready for school(or a few of you may have already started). Think outside the box with a few ideas for incorporating literacy in every one of them.

1) Think incorporation/integration - not "lessons". Blackmasters and worksheets will come soon enough in elementary school. In the blocks center, for instance, enlarge copies of floor plans from real estate magazines, have copies of Architectural Digest or other construction/building magazines and model for your children how to search those for building and construction ideas. Include a hard hat and clip board so they can draw their own designs.

2) Don't forget writing. Instead of having a designated writing center, why not make a portable one that can move with the children. A shower caddy, metal paint bucket or peach basket (for those of us in the South) all work well. Stock it with writing utensils, letter stamps and patterns, plenty of paper (ask your families to contribute note cards they get as samples in the mail or those address labels from charities). Keep it in a prominent place and remind your children that it's available. Deliver it to centers at first to increase usage.

Be sure to join children from time to time in their writing attempts. Allow them to dictate captions for their art work, notes to Mom and Dad or a "I need to talk aloud to solve this problem" notes. All of these solidify in young children's minds the various authentic purposes for writing.

3) Think of the center where the least literacy is present. Ask yourself how you can infuse reading, writing, listening, communicating and viewing into that center. Feel free to share your ideas!

TLA, Inc. has a newly revised workshop on Literacy In Every Center. You can visit us at or email for details.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Happy New School Year! Dedicate This One to Literacy, Life and Love

I don't know about you but I'm excited to see the new school year begin. Fresh new faces replace those we already miss and with those children come new challenges. Here are three tips to get you through the first days (to discover my secret about threes, read beyond these three tips to the end of this post):

1) Do everything you can (with the help of director, other teachers and other staff) to connect positively to every family associated with the children in your class. That will be easy for some - they'll introduce themselves. Others may come from a different place (physically, intellectually, socioeconomically or emotionally) than you and those will be more challenging. Start with a kind word, a complement about their child. Those are sure to get attention. When you talk with that parent, listen carefully to their language, find out a little about their family. That will help you when it comes to literacy in the classroom.

2) Commit that this year, no matter how tired you are when it comes to read aloud time, that you'll take a deep breath, draw on the little bit of energy left in your big toe, and mesmerize your children with that story. You are the commercial for reading; be sure it is a positive, affirmative one.

3) Do a short inventory of your read aloud books. Flag those that have rhyming language in them and make sure that you read at least one of them a day. Whether poems, words to rhyming songs, or traditional story books, keeping that rhythm in your children's ears will open the door for phonological awareness. If you aren't sure about that term, check out TLA's workshops for preschool teachers at to find "What in the Heck is Phonological Awareness". TLA has a program for out of town clients where you can earn discounts for your own presentation/training by recommending additional organizations, schools, parent groups, libraries, etc. in your area who might want to book at the same time. Restrictions apply so be sure to call for details.

Now for my story about threes. My dear mom (now gone two years) is the inspiration for what I do now and she was a woman of threes herself. She was the third or three girls, married a third child, had three children herself, two of which were born on the 3rd of the month, one that was three days late. I find that hanging my ideas on a tripod always makes me feel like Momma is sitting right there on my shoulder.

Create your own lists of three and celebrate literacy every day with your children (do you know that literacy is now considered reading, writing, listening, communicating AND viewing/observing?)