Monday, April 29, 2013

Name Writing

Writing names has to begin with identifying your name and knowing the letters in your name. Many first year students come into class without this knowledge. In the mornings when the children come in I have them sign in, just like their parents, to practice writing their names. First I have the name printed next to their picture, laminated, and a magnet stuck onto the back to use at the feelings chart or the question of the day.  Children move their name to the place that answers the question. I also keep laminated names at the play dough table to students can use play dough to “write” their name. We also write our names in sand trays, shaving cream, sandpaper, oblick, and other sensory activities for a multi-sensory experience.

When I see that the children have learned to identify their name, I bring out a laminated “sign in” sheet with 2 to 4 names for the children to find their name (still with their picture next to it) and sign in with a dry erase marker, tracing over the name. This then progresses to a written sign in sheet without their pictures or the tracing, as well as having them write their own names on their papers. *For children who still needed help with their names I kept a key ring of all the names at the writing table, the art easel, and other places they might write their name, this helps build independence.

Very quickly these students are writing their names, knowing the alphabet and numbers, even adding. This usually happens by January, and I know about it because the kids that really know how to write their names very well will begin writing their name very dramatically and using much of the space. At this time I begin having them “sign in” in ways that are much more about learning other things while still getting the practice to write their names: for example the question of the day, signing up for the computer or bikes, and other activities.

By respecting the children’s ability and interest children will learn to write their name much better. Giving meaning to using your name is also important. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Daily Question??

 As a Head Start teacher I saw the amazing transformation that children could make. My students would come in to class in August with very little writing experience, not knowing how to recognize their name—let alone write it, and typically with about 95% not speaking much English. The children would be shy and quiet; it would be another year of teaching the routines, teaching letters and numbers, learning how to write names, and most importantly learning how to work together. 

In the mornings when the children come in I have them sign in, just like their parents, to practice writing their names. First I have children find their name and put it on the feelings chart to check in every day. Within a couple of weeks I begin to do the question of the day. Something simple to start, for example: “I like dogs or cats” or “What is your favorite… then give 2 to 3 choices of food, colors, animals, books…” the ideas are really endless. I also begin asking questions about our curriculum, for example: “Are dolphins mammals?” or “What eats plankton?” 

The question of the day is a way for the children to sign in and still practice writing their name without having to “sign in” all year round. It gives the students lots of practice in other things as well. I can use it to assess what they know about a subject that we are studying, what they understand about questions, what they like to start conversations, what book they would like to read, and many other assessments and knowledge can be taught and gained from this simple technique of asking.