Recently, I was asked to be a featured blogger for ABC and 123 A Learning Cooperative and I have to say that I was flattered. Now, for those of you that do this all the time, it’s probably not that big of a deal to you, but for me…I was super excited! I was asked to share about reading, which is right up my path of teaching.
I love working with books in a preschool classroom. When I was an actual teacher in a preschool classroom, I used a book-of-the-month method and it just worked beautifully. My children learned all about the books I featured, the attributes of the books (front, back, title, author, illustrator, etc), and I want to believe they learned to have a love of books through this process.
One fall, I decided to do our book of the month featuring Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman. This is one of my favorite books of all time to read preschool children. There are so many learning opportunities in the book and as the series grew, so did my ideas.
First the book is a rhyming book and we know that phonological awareness and onset and rime is vital to the success of a child reading. If they can begin to put the symbols together to form words, decode and then change the rime to make more words, they will read.
“In a cave in the woods,
in his deep, dark lair,
through the long, cold winter,
sleeps a great brown bear.”
I have always thought that I have a knack for making something out of nothing or something small. I challenge you to think about this paragraph and how it can be expanded into greater literacy knowledge.
Emergent Literacy Standards (Florida Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Standards)
first thing we notice is that it rhymes: demonstrates beginning phonological awareness
the lair isn’t just a lair, it’s a deep, dark lair: uses descriptive words
the use of a synonym: cave is the same as lair
These are just a few of the literacy skills that can be implemented by using the book. As an early childhood teacher (any teacher for that matter) you should never just look at book and read it page by page without really picking the words of the page apart. You should always be thinking, “How can I use the words and pictures on this page to extend the learning potential?”.
Page after page the repetitive nature of the book suggests that the bear snores on…this use enables the children to predict text and begin to coral read as a group. Pretty soon they can read the book in its entirety. The key is repetition. And the key to great repetition is creativity. So on to the fun stuff we go.
As I read this book time and time again in my class of three-year-olds, we started exploring the different elements happening. We figured out by the pages in the book that it was winter time. And from there it became a question of what type of animals sleep (hibernate) in the winter? How long do they hibernate? What are all of his friends doing up partying? Why is the rabbit called a hare?
These are inquisitive questions that little minds need to know. So you teach them and you explore with them and you ask their thoughts and opinions.
We worked hard through the week painting our cave or lair (a very expensive box) and we prepared for our bears to enter their deep sleep (I rhymed!).
As the week came to an end we had to put our bears asleep for the winter. Each of the children brought in a bear from home, we labeled them with their names (because all bears have names), we snapped a photo of a moment in time and we carefully put them down to sleep.
Three months later (no kidding), the bears came out of hibernation in the middle of night and they made a mess in our classroom (I can’t believe that I didn’t capture this moment with film, but I didn’t!) with paint, play dough, blocks, there was even one sitting in the rocking chair doing circle time! The oohs and awes on their faces were too much to BEAR.
When you think about reading a book, don’t just read the page, read the story that the page tells. Go beyond the words and bring the story to life as we did. Children learn by doing; their learning is three-dimensional. Don’t bore them with flat words, flat pictures, and flat tone. Deep, dark lair should be DEEP, DARK LAIR. “Mouse squeaks, “Too damp, too dank, too dark.””, should be “too damp, too dank, too dark” (itty, bitty voice).
Overall the book shares about friendship, consideration, and problem-solving. Bear goes from mad to sad to happy. Emotions are a big part of early childhood, use this to talk about feelings and how we can deal with those feelings even at a young age.
In the end, bear is awake and as spring roles around Bear Wants More. So off I go to plan another Bear adventure…