A Concentration Game for Learning Beginning Sounds

A simple concentration game was made with cards and stickers. A pack of plain cards were divided in half. Half the cards were made with a letter on each one and the other half with a picture of something, usually cut out of a beginning sounds workbook, which would begin with one of the letters. Two different stickers were found that went together, such as Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. Then Mickey Mouse was on the back of each letter card and Minnie Mouse on the back of each picture card. Then all cards were placed down with Minnie and Mickey facing up. A child would pick up a Minnie and a Mickey card to see if they matched. If so, she kept the cards and if not, replaced them. Another way cards were made was to use the same sticker on every card but the letter cards were a different color than the picture cards. So a child would pick up two cards, each a different color. The winner, of course, when all cards were gone, was the one with the most cards.

Read more about the reading programs along with games and activities in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com

Choice Time for First and Second Grade

In my combined first and second grade, Choice Time for children’s  self-initiated learning was an important part of each day, a time to participate and explore in the learning centers – a time to learn on their own. There were math, science, art, writing, and book centers. Each of five centers provided appropriate activities and materials to invite and nurture a child’s joy in discovery and excitement about learning. Concrete experiences serve as a background for new insights and understandings in the world around them. These, in turn, not only kept their minds active but provided an extra basis for abstract thought that would be a benefit throughout all academic areas. The materials in each center were enough to capture the interest of the very brightest students and yet still be appealing to slower or younger children.

Few materials were offered at first in each center increasing as their growth in responsibility progressed. Vital to the smooth functioning of the class, the amount of freedom or choices that children were allowed to have were coexistent and contingent upon the amount of responsibility they were able to assume. Then there was great harmony. Of course, sometimes a child was disruptive or interfering with others and had to be dealt with but the ability to handle numerous choices must be apparent with most of the class. We had very few rules – no fooling around or wasting time and everyone should be busy.

Children were involved for the first thirty to forty minutes each day (while individual students were met for writing and math) followed by an afternoon evaluation time. Projects that could be saved were put on my desk to show and explore with the whole class after lunch and recess. Those that couldn’t be saved, such as constructions in the math center, were shared and discussed just before clean-up time. During the evaluation time, a whole range of ideas were explored with positive comments, constructive suggestions offered, problems discussed and solved, new ideas and concepts introduced, and books read about the displays. In this way, the whole class was involved with others’ projects leading to more understanding for the next day’s investigations.

Important aspects concerning concept development during Choice Time included opportunities for increasing each child’s cognitive development; that concepts developed in the math, science, and art centers overlap one another providing opportunities for cognitive development while participating in any of the three; and the concepts formed in these three centers are the very tools required for successful achievement in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. And there’s no limit to young children’s vast enthusiasm for learning.

Choice Time is a time to further develop abilities necessary for good to excellent achievement in all academic areas. And opportunities in a school program are unlikely to allow such advances in concept attainment as there are in a Choice Time with learning centers.

See my two entries about further cognitive growth: http://peggybroadbent.com/blog/index.php?s=Opportunities+for+Cognitive+Growth+During+Choice+Time



A complete description with materials and activities of all five learning centers are in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com

Children’s Participations with Teacher Initiated Art

In my combined first and second grade classes, teacher initiated art provided experiences for children to participate in the art center during Choice Time.

Activities provided: various types of collages; string painting; ink blots; clay; finger painting; rubbings; mixing colors, sometimes with medicine droppers; potato printing; object printing; tissue paper art; sponge painting; straw blowing; and large and small brush painting.

Some techniques would be explained for using the materials, but never how to make a finished product. For instance, if beans, peas, seeds, and rice were on the table with cardboards for making collages, they would be shown how to use the glue, and because the materials were heavy, if it were immediately picked up at an angle, all would fall off until it had time to dry. If introducing clay, they would be shown how to make a ball, roll it, and by using different utensils are able to make a variety of designs, but it was up to them to create.

In using the materials, children were developing their small muscles. An excellent addition to making bean collages is giving them tweezers to use. Some first graders may still have difficulty using scissors. It’s not wise to force this or teach them how. They will accomplish cutting with confidence if they have enough time to develop the necessary small muscles. If an issue is made, they may become self conscious and resist even more. Children who can’t cut, every so often will pick up a pair of scissors and try it out. If it doesn’t work they put them down and choose something else to do. But one day, when they try it, it works!!! So they may spend the rest of the time cutting over and over again. And, as with everything else, when they’ve had enough time to cut in a haphazard manner, enough time to experiment with this new tool, they will begin to use them very purposely for their projects.

Some things were not offered very often. For instance, paper maché is not in the above list. It took too much time to finish – just ages before the whole class finished. Clay was expensive, so it wasn’t readily offered even though it was an excellent medium for them to use. They had an art class once or twice a week which included clay more often than in our class. For potato printing, since the potatoes didn’t last long, it was an occasional activity to make patterns on large paper to use as wrapping paper for parents’ presents.

It was important to begin offering materials a little at a time to see how the class handled all that was involved – to see how they used the materials and how much responsibility they had in caring for all. This determined how much variety could be offered. The rules that we had were only enough so that children could function comfortably. Accidents of course happened, and it was only important that they were willing and able to clean up the messes.

These concrete experiences added to their joy in creating and provided opportunities for increasing their cognitive development.

Read more about Choice Time and programs in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com

Children’s Creations of Islamic Designs

In my combined first and second grade, Arabic repeating mosaic designs that children made on graph paper were very popular. The whole class was first introduced to the process, and after that it was a popular Choice Time activity.

We began with ½” graph paper. In a block of four squares, a child would make a design with markers. Then, skipping one or more squares next to that, they would repeat the same square and design and continue across the page and making identical additional rows until the whole page was covered. When they felt the squares were complete, they would make some lines or designs in the blank squares connecting the decorated ones. Again, these lines and designs were identical. Sometimes a child might outline the four squares and repeat that square with the spaces across the page and continue the rows until the page was covered. Then they would go back and put one design in every square, returning to add additional identical designs in every square, and then connecting all the squares.

After being first introduced to the whole class, the youngest children had some difficulty carrying out their repetitive pattern but didn’t realize it. They just didn’t choose to make any more after that first one in the fall but were apt to design some later in the year. I’ve often thought how amazing children are when they choose to do the things they are capable of and just neglect to participate if it’s beyond them with no apparent discomfort. They just get involved in something else.

Graph paper was always available for future designs, and as time went on designs became more and more complex. Some would use 1” graph paper or ¼” graph paper, began their design with six squares or a rectangle, or just became far more elaborate with each additional design created. It was a very popular activity  because each child could participate at her own level.

The designs involved the concepts of patterning, symmetry, transformations, and geometric shapes.

See an illustration of the Islamic Designs and read about the math program in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com

Create a “Model Town” to Teach Reading Skills

In my combined first and second grade classes, creating a town or a city provided the experiential learning and motivation for attaining the required reading skills. This began in January for the second half of the year. Each program was designed for children to participate at their own ability level. It was appropriate for gifted students, many of whom were in this class, and yet younger or less able students were able to participate with enthusiasm, while learning and progressing as well. There was a starting point for everyone but no limit or ceiling for achievement.

The study began with a field trip exploring the city of Syracuse, which was next to our town. Back in the classroom, after completing a list of Syracuse public buildings, city neighborhoods, parks, and ponds, children were ready to build their city.

After deciding upon a building, alone or with one or more partners, they searched through a collection of  boxes brought in, to design the structure of their building. A house was a ½ pint milk carton, and city buildings often started with a ½ gallon milk carton. If their choice was a house, a child had that alone, but if it was a city building, there could be two or three to one building. There wasn’t room for 25 buildings on the desktops that we used – a total of six desks, two sets of three forming an L-shape covered with linoleum. It was important for children to identify strongly with their buildings, so some important city buildings might not be there, such as a fire station, city hall, etc. They knew that their city was just one section of the whole city. There was always a downtown area, a residential neighborhood, and a park sometimes with a pond.

A request went home to parents asking all who could to come in and help create the buildings. This was not an art project. It was to create a realistic city, with lots of imagination at times, but an easily recognizable one. Each child or group of children knew what they wanted their building to look like but lacked the dexterity to finish it, cutting and covering the box structures. There were smaller boxes and oak tag for additions and fadeless colored papers in all colors to choose from. Parents were told that it was okay to make suggestions but the final decision was to be a child’s own. As each building was completed, it was placed on the desktops. Then streets were added, with stop signs, and a collection of bushes, trees, and flowers, etc. allowed all to landscape their lot.

Creating the program for each child, “ Facts and  Events About our City”, included choices from three lists – 1) city events, 2) types of writing and, 3) required reading skills. Each activity contained one city event, a type of writing, and one or more skills. The skills list was by far the longest, and all could not be incorporated in city activities that would finish by June. So, the first section of the program, was “Tools for Writing”, including some pages for instruction plus pages to be completed after a skill has been taught. For instance, teaching the page of Rules for Base Words might take many days, off and on, before the practice pages would be completed.

A child’s program contained three sections: Activity, Expectations, and Procedure. The Activity described what was occurring in the city with some explanation about the event, Expectations told what skills should be included, and the Procedure explained how to do it. Occasionally, when a new skill needed to be applied, following instruction there was a page to complete before beginning that event.

“Facts and Events About our City” might include different assignments. For instance, in alphabetizing the telephone directory, many children could manage a long list, but if that was too much for others, they could request or be offered to alphabetize a smaller amount. A young child with a house might just alphabetize the residential neighborhood and if paragraphs were expected, some would write many and others just one or two.

Each child received their program in an oak tag cover fastened together with three brass fasteners, ready to receive their second draft papers. The first two pages were blank and lined. Each child wrote Table of Contents at the top, ready to receive each new event upon completion. The first session was spent designing their covers along with Minicity, or whatever name had been voted upon, written at the top and their name at the bottom.

The first event was, “Who Lives in My Building?”

Their directions:

Who Lives in My Building?

Activity: Write a short report naming each person and pet that lives in your house/building. For each person, use a few      descriptive words telling about jobs or their ages. For instance:  Robert Grainer, the father, is a professor. Nicky, our dog, is the most active one in our family; or Maxi, the  daughter, is ten-years-old.

Expectations: Your sentence about each person will use commas of apposition.   (see page 12)

Procedure: 1)  Write a first draft.    2)  Revise.    3) Write your second draft.

Some children learned all individually, two children of equal ability might work together, others had adult help, and perhaps a few were assisted by an adult who explained each step while the child filled in the answers or one might dictate their piece. But all children participated with as much as they were capable of. Many children mastered the curriculum, while those who hadn’t reached that level were on a path towards the goal, while being exposed to all. And it didn’t matter that much was repeated from the previous year. The events were in a different place, a town one year and a city the next, and children were a year older. From their previous exposure the year before, their learning progressed with new ideas and more advanced ability.

All were engaged in discussion while continually exposed to various points of view – more opportunities for overcoming egocentrism. Children wrote the assigned writing independently, sometimes with a partner, assisted by an adult when needed, or with a few dictating their first drafts; however, all second drafts contained each child’s own ideas, and second drafts were kept in her own booklet. Finally when all was completed, on one afternoon each child read hers to the class.

Read about the complete procedure and program of Kiddiecity  in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where the programs can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com

Poems for Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day cards

For Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day cards, my combined first and second grade classes wrote poems to be inserted in a decorated card. First we talked a great deal about using special words and phrases to show feelings and warmth and lots of care. Then we brainstormed for words to be written on the blackboard. Children were free to use any of those words or none at all, but most important was to say loving and caring things to their parents. This was not a time to write unkind thoughts. It was true that sometimes they felt angry, but this is not the time to express it, only a time for warm and sunny thoughts.

After each wrote their poem in a narrative form, using their exact words I rewrote each one in a poetical form, except for a few who could do it themselves. My rewritten one placed their sentences in short lines which they then copied as their final draft. They decorated the front of a folded 9” x 12” oak tag cover. With the undecorated side flat, the poem was stapled on the left side. When folded, the top piece was the front of the decorated card and when opened, displayed the poem as written.

Some poems were short and others very long. The following is a Thanksgiving poem expressing thoughts gleaned from many and typical of most:

Dear Mom and Dad,

I’m thankful for:

All the hugs and kisses,

For buying me things like

My new bike and toys

And all my clothes and food

And taking me to the movies.

I’m thankful for:

You taking care of me

When I am sick

And when you cheer me up.

Thank you for giving me

Warm fuzzies

When I have cold pricklies.

And thank you for your love.

I love you lots.


Read more about a writing program and writing poems in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com

Young Children’s Cogitive Gains Through Art

Art for young children entails an exploration of materials, a way of learning further about their world. When children are engaged with paper-cutting, gluing, constructing, coloring, designing, collaging or whatever, they should be able to participate at their own maturity level. Piaget believed that children need activities that they can relate to in their own past experiences and from there, will seek novelty. It’s this novelty that fosters a child’s growing intellect. Therefore, it’s important to offer as many different materials as possible to stimulate interest and provide opportunities for new and interesting creations. As they interact with old and new materials, to paste or construct or paint, each child is able to thrive and grow. It is the process of art that should be emphasized. When participating in art using their own ideas, children are learning a tremendous amount. They have opportunities to develop the very same cognitive traits necessary to succeed in academic areas.

In many art activities, there are possibilities for understanding transformations and reversibility. A child who doesn’t understand these characteristics while cleaning tables with sponges will squeeze the water out all over the table. Then he will saturate the sponge with that same water squeezing it out on the table and this is repeated over and over again – until finally realizing that the saturated sponge must be squeezed out in the sink. So, he has watched the water from a small sponge spread out over the table, a liquid being transformed, and then is able to soak up the same water into the sponge again, and see that same liquid reversed. Transformations are evident in all kinds of painting – brush painting, finger painting, ink blots, and string painting. Paper folding after cutting out designs for snowflakes shows transformations, and then reversibility is evident if after the paper is unfolded, it is re-folded to show the original state.

There are opportunities to become aware of similarities and differences by discovering objects that will print and not print, can be pasted or not pasted, can be taped or not taped and the possibilities of recognizing things that are larger or smaller, smoother or rougher, darker or lighter.

Similarities and differences plus transformations and reversibility are pre-requisites to understanding classification. This requires a recognition of the relationships between the parts to the whole – using separate paints to make one whole painting; the whole to the parts – a piece of paper cut into separate parts; and the parts to the parts – whenever engaged in making symmetrical designs.

There are numerous opportunities to aid in understanding conservation – the ability to recognize that different substances are the same amount no matter what types of transformations take place. This occurs when realizing, with that sponge full of water when it  spread all over the table, that the same amount of water can be contained within the sponge again, and understanding that one ball of clay or play dough made into many different shapes is the same amount when put back together again into one ball.

Overcoming egocentrism, the ability to understand other viewpoints than what is first observed, occurs when constructing with paper or boxes, or working with clay, or making mobiles. A child is looking at all sides and angles – offering the ability to see all aspects.

And through social interaction with others while listening to various viewpoints, there are chances for good logical thinking, and problem solving.

So, art activities for young  children keep their minds active in numerous ways and should always be an important part of the classroom.

Read more about Choice Time and the Art Center in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com

Children’s Explorations in an Art Center

In my combined first and second grade classes, children freely participated in the art center during Choice Time.

Readily available materials bought with school supply money included: all types of paper; scissors, pencils, crayons, and felt pens; masking tape and scotch tape; staplers; craft sticks; string and yarn; wallpaper books; paint; rulers; and plasticine. Then parents supplied a huge variety of junk materials.

It has been long understood that when children are participating in art, they are in a process that includes nourishing expression, an acuteness of the senses, experimentation and risk-taking, developing imagination, and creative development. However, in addition to these assets, it’s also another way of communicating.

Much of art for the young child involves exploring a wide range of materials. It should include the process that is emphasized. When children were given directions for making a product, like making a present for their parents, I didn’t consider it art. It may have been following directions and the product important, and it may have been very attractive and artistic and a valuable activity in itself – but it wasn’t art for young children. It wasn’t using materials creatively. One’s own creations allow a child to thrive and grow emotionally and cognitively.

Young children’s initial art experience is pure investigation, but as they grow older and have more involvement, the maturity of their art unfolds. With various materials, there were three stages while making collages, working with clay, and with different types of painting. At first there’s pure exploration with sometimes smearing and dabbling. Sometime in the middle of messing around, an idea begins to take place. This stage is finally replaced with attempts to replicate a preconceived idea.

When participating in art activities using their own ideas, children are learning a tremendous amount. Using many materials, they are learning about similarities and differences, transformations and reversibility, and opportunities for overcoming egocentricity during any type of construction, constantly seeing all sides of a structure. So, they have opportunities to develop the very same cognitive traits necessary to succeed in academic areas.

Read more about Choice Time and programs in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com

   Teaching Young Children © Peggy Broadbent 2011 - All Rights Reserved