I’ve always loved words. My earliest memory of this relationship can be traced back to a specific summer day. In rural Louisiana, the front porch was the hub of family activity. We would gather round my mother’s feet while she read from the Natchitoches Times. “Yall, listen to this word, Antidisestablishmentarianism.” Honestly, I think we (including my mom) repeated that word the entire summer. My grandmother would read aloud from the Farmer’s Almanac (Do people read from the almanac, anymore? Do people even know what a Farmer’s Almanac is?) I digress. There, she found her daily bible verse and that too became a read aloud session for us kids.
As the oldest child, I entertained my younger siblings by reading to them. I’d sit on our green, paisley chair and my siblings sat crossed leg on the shag while I read, The Raven, by Edgar Allen Poe. It was one of our favorites. We did not understand many of the words. Yet, we were affected by the mood of the poem. There was a sorrow being shared. Of what, we did not know. Not at first. Some time back, our Tante’ Lula had warned us about ravens. "They were a sign." Being from the rural south, signs or superstitions are taken seriously. Tante’ called them isms: “Quote the Raven, Nevermore!” Nevermore! So that was the sorrow being shared__Death. This ism took on a whole new meaning for us and we read that poem quite often. Holding up our cassette player to the television, we once taped the music of the soap opera, The Dark Shadows. The music from our cassette player lent itself perfectly. Now, we were a very musical group. So of course we even made up a song that we sang before reading. We couldn't go outside while our parents were at work, so we had a lot of time on our hands, yall:
It was a cold dark night when the black bird came
He was very very still on our picture frame.
We said go away bird, go away from my door.
And the bird said back Nevermore, Nevermore.
The bird just said back nevermore.
Hey, we were in elementary school! Crude but effective__ for us (smile).
Cut to me thirty years later. I still sit in front of a group of eager listeners, who all sit criss cross apple sauce. I still look for music that will aid in expanding conscious thinking in my early learners. I still make up songs and even use background music to enhance a story. Just as it did for my siblings and I that special summer, music seems to fine tune the absorption of abstract concepts. For example, I used the music from A Winter Solstice as background for the reading of, The Tree in the Ancient Forest. It lent a sense of mystery to the reading. The children at Legacy Academy at Camp Creek in Atlanta, Ga., LOVED it! I love to hear stories from the teachers about parents asking about this book and the music Ms. Pam plays with it. Their children are demanding that their parents read the story with Ms. Pam's music. I love it! This book proved to be a great home/school connection tool. Additionally, Christopher Canyon's beautiful illustrations allowed students to apply newly introduced vocabulary (predator, prey, ancient, and although not specifically mentioned in the book, dependent) in their discussions during our literacy & music session. Enhancing expressive language through music and literacy is easily achieved. The use of complex, low frequency words become second nature to early learner if presented in a manner that engages effectively. Well written and illustrated picture books allows for just such an engagement. Audrey and Dan Wood allowed us to examine synonyms in, The Napping House. The repetitive and lyrical lines in this book, allowed for the students' recall of descriptive words used for the characters. This book's wording and brilliant illustrations blend seamlessly. This story was a great tool for sequencing as well. My students had no idea they were learning about synonyms and adjectives. There are many language activities that can be extracted from this story. All of these examples show that picture books are amazing tools.
For World Read Aloud Day , The children at Legacy Academy explored various habitats that allowed creatures to hide from predators and prey and "become part of what we see" in Phyllis Tildes', Animals in
Camouflage. To expand our learning, McMillan's Sing and Learn, "Animals that Camouflage" was a perfect partner for our dramatic play activity. The children would peek out from their hiding and whisper "I'm hiding, I'm hiding, you can't see me, you can't see me." I use McMillan Sing and Learn as my go to music library. There's a song for every theme. Again, vocabulary and expressive language development were at the forefront of planning. The dramatic play activity encouraged active conversation as we learned the meaning of: Camouflage, habitat, arctic, grassland, and rainforest. We revisited the terms predator and prey in this session as well.
“Quote the Raven, Nevermore!” These four words from my childhood became part of a series of events that set me on my current path to create MyLMNOP__the building blocks of Literacy. The building blocks used in my program are: Literature - Music - Naming - Oral Language - Phonemic Awareness and Picture Imaging. These building blocks are used to assess what the students already know and knowledge gained during the literacy session. Promoting skills of comprehension with early learners increases vocabulary, a sense of self-regard, and confidence. Children that begin the session shy and withdrawn become fully engaged. Their enthusiasm and excitement gives them an "I Can" sensibility. I've seen it time and time again. Good books opens up more than a world of wonder. Good books build a foundation for strong language skills that is empowering. That is why I love what I do.
I've only recently created my blog and am still learning the process. However, my intent is to use this blog as a teacher's lounge for early childhood educators. Here, I'll share my literacy lesson plans accompanied by photos, videos, suggested and reading material. The feedback from my early learners continue to motivate and inspire me to bring them the best in children's literature and I am having a ball!
I'd like to thank Terry Doherty of Share A Story/ Shape A Future for allowing me to share my story on this year's literacy blog tour. I've learned so much and the posts have been a tremendous resource. Thank you very much.