By Terra Tarango
One of the biggest challenges preschool teachers face is trying to balance age-appropriate academic rigor with the need for kids to just be kids. Preschool should be a place where children begin their academic journey. Young minds are capable of grasping advanced concepts, and parents want you to challenge their children and set them up for success in Kindergarten and beyond. Yet preschool should also be a place where kids develop emotionally and socially. They should be free to explore the world in developmentally appropriate ways and to embrace their natural tendencies for fun and games.
Although these concepts can seem at odds, making us feel like we need to choose between learning and play, it doesn’t need to be that way. I’m always looking for a way to have my cake and eat it too (literally, I buy 2 cupcakes each week!). So, rather than separate the concepts of learning and play, I marry them together. When you make a game out of your phonics lesson or incorporate play while counting, you’re teaching something much more valuable than phonics or math. You’re teaching a love of learning that will last a lifetime.
This is the same approach used by my friends at InvestiGator Club too! I love how they expertly weave fun, playful activities into developmentally appropriate academic content.
Take alphabet knowledge, for example. I mean, if you want to start instilling a love of learning, why not start at the literal beginning: the word alphabet is derived from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet (alpha and beta). Here are a few alphabet games that will have your children working hard without even knowing it!
3-4 Year Olds
For this game, you can use any alphabet cards you have (modifying the game as needed to suit your cards). Or to create your own, use unlined index cards and draw one letter per card. Create one set of uppercase cards and one set of lowercase cards for 52 cards total.
Have groups of four to six players seated around a table or desks where they have a surface to place their cards. Give each player 4 uppercase or lowercase alphabet cards to place letter-side up in front of him or her.
Randomly choose a letter and show children both the uppercase and lowercase. Ask children to look at their cards to see if they have a matching letter. If they do, they should turn the card over.
The first player to turn all four cards over has BINGO. Have the player turn each card back to the letter side and name all four letters.
4-5 Year Olds
In advance, create fun labels to display in the classroom that feature letters you are focusing on. For example, if focusing on S and P, display labels such as Pete’s Paint Store and Shells and Swimsuits Sold Here!
Review the focus letters by asking children to say the letter name as you hold up each letter. Have children trace the capital and small letters as they say them. Then have children search for a word with that letter and point to it. Read the words aloud. How many words can they find in 15 seconds? Repeat with the other focus letters.
5-6 Year Olds
|Final Consonant Fun
Tell children that some words end with the /f/ sound. Say: Roof ends with the /f/ sound. So does scarf. Have children repeat the words as they listen for the ending sound /f/.
Gather pictures of objects whose names end with /f/ (such as leaf, hoof, loaf), and some that do not. Identify each picture name. Then give each child a scarf. As you show the pictures one at a time, have children wave a scarf when they see a picture whose name ends with /f/.
Have children work together to make a scarf out of colored paper and tape. Guide them to write or trace the letter f at the end of the scarf.
You can repeat this activity with other final consonant sounds and object names, such as /m/ (raise an arm for drum, ham, swim) and /s/ (hiss like a snake for bus, kiss, moss).
I invite you to try any of these alphabet knowledge activities with your children to seamlessly blend academic content with a healthy dose of fun!
Let us know how it goes!
If you liked this sneak peek and want more activities like this, then check out InvestiGator Club’s samplers and components. You can download the Get Ready for Kindergarten! Summer School Sampler along with other samplers and component lists to learn more about InvestiGator Club’s scaffolded programs.
About The InvestiGator Club®:
The InvestiGator Club family of early childhood resources delivers play-based learning programs for children from birth through transitional kindergarten. Standards-based curricula are approved and adopted in states throughout the U.S., including Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Louisiana, Illinois, Minnesota, South Carolina, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Delaware, and more. The delightful InvestiGator Club characters engage young children in developmentally appropriate experiences that bring joyful learning to classrooms, childcare providers, and families. For more information, email Robert-Leslie Publishing, The Early Childhood Company®, or call 773-935-8358.
About the Author:
Terra Tarango is an accomplished advocate in the education industry with more than 20 years’ experience in educational publishing and services. Terra serves as Director of Van Andel Institute where she oversees innovative student programs, game-changing professional development, and the implementation of Blue Apple projects where teachers inspire students to make the world a better place. She is an expert in instructional climate and culture and has devoted her career to increasing curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking in classrooms.