## Wednesday, June 19, 2013

### Early Numeracy: Big & Little

The concepts of greater than and less than are very important within the field of mathematics.  Surprisingly, children almost instinctively understand these ideas from early on.  Kids see that one group of things is bigger than another.  They easily recognize that having two cookies is better than having one cookie (unless, of course, the one cookie is the world’s largest cookie).

But sometimes we need to stop and count or measure things to figure out exactly which is bigger.  When we follow through by counting or measuring, we are verifying what we may have only guessed.  This is how the scientific method works!  See how math and science work together?  When we help kids by modeling this behavior and talking with them about the math ideas, we are helping them grow a bigger understanding of how things work.

Here’s a fun little family activity for building an understanding of greater than and less than:
1. Gather everybody in your home and measure heights along a wall by putting up a piece of masking tape for each person.  (you can measure pets or stuffed animals, too)
2. Write each person's name and age on the tape using a marker.
3. Work together to figure out:

a. Who is the tallest person?

b. Are any people the same height?

c. Is the oldest person the tallest?

d. Is the youngest person the shortest?
Here are some fun ways to figure out the answers to the last two questions: First, rearrange the pieces of tape in order from shortest to tallest and then have each person stand in front of their name.  Then, rearrange the pieces of tape in order from youngest to oldest and then have each person stand in front of their name.  Did the order change when you sorted by size or by age?

There are so many opportunities for introducing the concepts of greater than and less than during daily conversations.  Next time you are at the dinner table, try counting the pieces of food on each plate and figure out who has the most pieces.  Or, try counting the number of pockets on you and your child’s clothes to determine who has the fewest.  When kids play around with measurement and amount ideas, they are able to make meaningful connections that will help them master harder math concepts once they are in school.

### Here is a short list of some of my favorite books dealing with size and quantity:

Title: Bear Wants More
Author: Karma Wilson
Illustrator: Jane Chapman

Bear wakes up after his long hibernation and he is hungry!  He keeps eating more and more, but he is still hungry.  The idea of more is one of the first math ideas kids grasp.  Here's a great followup question for this book: Who ate more, Bear or his friends?
Title: Big, Bigger, Biggest!
Author: Nancy Coffelt

This is a fantastic introduction to greater than and less than!  A series of animals help describe all sorts of measurement ideas like "big" and "small," "fast" and "slow."
Title: Biggest, Strongest, Fastest
Author: Steve Jenkins

Superlatives like "fastest" and "strongest" are detailed along with really cool little charts that show how the animals stack up in comparison with humans.

Title: Guess How Much I Love You
Author: Sam McBratney
Illustrator: Anita Jeram
Find this book at your library

"I wish I had a million dollars!" ... "Oh yeah... I wish I had a billion dollars!" ... "Well, I wish I had a billion plus one!"  This adorable book wrote the story on one-upping!
Title: Higher! Higher!
Author: Leslie Patricelli
Find this book at your library

A little girl swings higher and higher, exploring many different heights until she flies right out of this world!!
Title: I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean
Author: Kevin Sherry
Find this book at your library

A giant squid shows off all of the things that he is bigger than before declaring himself the biggest thing in the ocean.  Unfortunately, he hasn't met the whale yet!
Title: Just a Little Bit
Author: Ann Tompert
Illustrator: Lynn Munsinger
Find this book at your library

Elephant wants to try out the seesaw, but nothing seems to happen when his friend Mouse sits on the other side.  A whole zooful of animals help out until Elephant finally rises.  A great introduction to the idea that one can be greater than many (in this case, Elephant weighs more than lots of his friends together).
Title: More
Author: I. C. Springman
Illustrator: Brian Lies
Find this book at your library

A magpie keeps filling his nest(s) with more and more junk!  His friends finally help him learn when enough is enough.
Title: Stuck in the Mud
Author: Jane Clarke
Illustrator: Garry Parsons
Find this book at your library

A farmyard tries to pull a little chick out of the mud.  But just how many animals does it take to get him free?
Title: Tall
Author: Jez Alborough
Find this book at your library

A small chimp gets a little help from his friends in order to become tall.  This is a terribly fun introduction to ideas of relativity.

photo by Ellen Levy Finch

## Friday, June 14, 2013

### Fingerplay Fun Friday!

Here is a silly little song about a bossy duck: Six Little Ducks

Six Little Ducks

Six little ducks
That I once knew
Fat ones, skinny ones,
Fair ones, too
But the one little duck
With the feather on his back
He ruled the others
With a quack, quack, quack

Quack, quack, quack,
Quack, quack, quack
He ruled the others
With a quack, quack, quack

Down to the river
They would go
Wibble, wobble, wibble, wobble
To and fro
But the one little duck
With the feather on his back
He ruled the others
With a quack, quack, quack

Quack, quack, quack,
Quack, quack, quack
He ruled the others
With a quack, quack, quack

Back from the river
They would come
Wibble, wobble, wibble, wobble
Ho, hum, hum
But the one little duck
With the feather on his back
He ruled the others
With a quack, quack, quack

Quack, quack, quack,
Quack, quack, quack
He ruled the others
With a quack, quack, quack

This rhyme is really quite goofy.  It has a nice bouncy cadence and is super-fun to sing.  The idea of one little duck leading (or ruling) the others is interesting, as well.  This is a great conversation-starter.  "Why do all of the other ducks follow the little one with the feather on his back?"

There is an awful lot of strange content in nursery rhymes.  Having a conversation with kids about what is happening in rhymes (and books) is a great way to help them make connections between what they hear and/or read and what they know from their own life.  Having the ability to look at things with a critical eye and make sense out of what they read will benefit kids greatly after they have mastered the decoding side of reading.  Comprehension is a major component of all future reading and education success!

## Monday, June 10, 2013

### Early Numeracy: Count Me In!!

STEM” has been a huge education buzz-word in recent years.  S.T.E.M. is short for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  These concepts have been driving an awful lot of national education policy lately.  And they are steadily trickling down into the world of early childhood education.

Public libraries have been sharing information and tips on early literacy and what you can do to help get your kids ready to read for years.  We are now stepping up our game in other important areas, like sharing information about early numeracy!

Early numeracy is a child’s early knowledge of mathematical reasoning.  It includes concepts like numbers and patterns, measurements and shapes.  Children’s books are packed with opportunities for kids to practice math concepts in fun and meaningful ways, so it’s natural that libraries are standing up and sharing.

In the coming weeks, we will explore some of the major early numeracy concepts.  We will start with counting!

Counting is one of the earliest math concepts kids are introduced to.  There are countless nursery rhymes that encourage kids to count on their fingers (and toes).  Here is the Beehive and Five Green and Speckled Frogs are a couple of my favorites.  As kids count up and down with these fun little games, they are making a meaningful connection between abstract numbers and real-life amounts.  They are also learning the idea of sequence, that number one comes before number two, etc.

Counting is such a natural game that can be incorporated into any daily activity.  Whenever you have the chance, stop and ask your child to help you count something.  “How many cups are on the table?  Let’s count them!”  Kids love to count things!

### Here is a huge collection of some of my favorite counting books:

Title: Counting Crocodiles
Author: Judy Sierra
Illustrator: Will Hillenbrand
Find this book at your library

A clever little monkey tricks her way across the Sillabobble Sea by offering to count the crocodiles that infest its waters!  Lots of fun counting up and down.
Title: Dinner for Eight
Author: Roger De Muth
Find this book at your library

A super-cool lift-the-flap book showing the delicious dinners octopus has cooked up for his friends.  It is fun to help kids count the guests and discover that octopus is one of the eight being served!
Title: Doggies
Author: Sandra Boynton
Find this book at your library

Ten dogs sound off (each with a voice different from the others) in this hilariously fun counting book.
Title: Let's Count
Author: Tana Hoban
Find this book at your library

Beautiful photographs invite the reader to pick out objects and count from 1 to 100.
Title: Let's Count Goats!
Author: Mem Fox
Illustrator: Jan Thomas
Find this book at your library

There are all kinds of silly goats to be counted in this wonderfully bright book that simply begs to be read aloud!
Title: Minnie's Diner: A Multiplying Menu
Author: Dayle Ann Dodds
Illustrator: John Manders
Find this book at your library

The boys on the McFay farm are hungry and Minnie's Diner smells awful good.  Each older brother is exactly twice the size of his younger brother and each meal order is twice as big.  From 1 soup to 2 soups to 4 soups and on and on.  This is crazy fun with counting and an awesome introduction to the concept of multiplication.
Title: Mother Goose Numbers On the Loose
Author: Leo & Diane Dillon
Find this book at your library

A great collection of Mother Goose rhymes featuring numbers from "Baa Baa Black Sheep" to "1, 2 Buckle My Shoe"
Title: My Little Sister Ate One Hare
Author: Bill Grossman
Illustrator: Kevin Hawkes
Find this book at your library

Quite possibly the grossest (and funniest) counting books ever written!  Little sister eats everything imaginable, exhibiting a stomach of iron... until she swallows a pea.
Title: One Is a Drummer
Author: Roseanne Thong
Illustrator: Grace Lin
Find this book at your library

A young girl identifies the many numbers that surround her each and every day.
Title: One Little Chicken: A Counting Book
Author: David Elliott
Illustrator: Ethan Long
Find this book at your library

Counting dancing chickens doesn't get any better than this!
Title: One Ted Falls Out of Bed
Author: Julia Donaldson
Illustrator: Anna Currey
Find this book at your library

One teddy bear falls out of bed and has an adventure through the numbers, finally working his way back into bed.  Numbers and counting weave through this story in such a beautiful, seamless way.
Title: 1, 2, Buckle My Shoe
Author: Anna Grossnickle Hines
Find this book at your library

Quilted panels helps show the familiar nursery rhyme as the reader counts buttons.  A very simple and fun introduction to the art of counting!
Title: One, Two, Three!
Author: Sandra Boynton
Find this book at your library

Bouncy and rhythmic text makes counting from 1 to 10 tons and tons of fun!
Title: Seven Hungry Babies
Author: Candace Fleming
Illustrator: Eugene Yelchin
Find this book at your library

A mama bird is run ragged trying to feed her seven hungry babies.  This is a great and meaningful chance for kids to practice counting down from seven to one.
Title: Ten Apples Up On Top!
Author: Dr. Seuss
Illustrator: Roy McKie
Find this book at your library

A classic tale of one-upmanship!  Three animals keep adding more and more apples up on top until they are all balancing ten.
Title: Ten Black Dots
Author: Donald Crews
Find this book at your library

Black dots can make lots of things.  From 1 to 10, black dots help complete all sorts of pictures.  Cut your own black dots out of construction paper and imagine all of the many things black dots can be!
Title: 20 Hungry Piggies
Author: Trudy Harris
Illustrator: Andrew N. Harris
Find this book at your library

This funny book captures the adventures of twenty piggies from trips to the market and roast beef sandwiches to a hungry wolf who wants to eat all twenty piggies at his picnic.  But, where is the 20th piggie?
Title: Two at the Zoo
Author: Danna Smith
Illustrator: Valeria Petrone
Find this book at your library

A little boy and his grandfather take a trip to the zoo and count all kind of animals in this adorable counting book!

picture by: Onderwijsgek

## Friday, June 7, 2013

### Fingerplay Fun Friday!

Happy Friday!  Here's a fun little movement game to get you ready for the weekend ahead: Looby Loo

Looby Loo

Here we go looby loo,
Here we go looby light,
Here we go looby loo,
All on a Saturday night.

You put your right hand in.
You give your right hand a shake, shake, shake,

(continue with left hand, right foot, left foot, then end with whole self)

This rhyme will likely remind folks of the remarkably similar "Hokey Pokey."  The history of these game songs is really quite fascinating.  You may be surprised to learn that Sony/ATV Music Publishing currently holds a copyright to "The Hokey Pokey."  Our rhyme, "Looby Loo," is quite a bit older.  It may be found in print as early as Halliwell's 1886 edition of The Nursery Rhymes of England

What I like best about this rhyme is that it gives kids lots of opportunities for moving around and engaging in big body play.  At the same time, there are repeated chances for practicing the concepts of left and right.  As I have previously mentioned, concepts like left and right are part of the early literacy skill we call print awareness.  Print awareness is a child's understanding of how the printed word works.  For example, the fact that in English we typically read words from left to right and top to bottom.  When kids have a strong understanding of these spatial references, they are better equipped to learn how to both read and write!

This rhyme can work equally well as a baby lap bounce.  Simply bounce your child on your lap and gently grab the appropriate body part and give it a little shake, shake, shake!

## Friday, May 31, 2013

### Fingerplay Fun Friday!

This week's rhyme is filled to the brim with opportunities for play-acting: Miss Polly Had a Dolly

Miss Polly had a dolly who was sick, sick, sick
So she phoned for the doctor to be quick, quick, quick
In came the doctor with his bag and hat
And knocked on the door with a rat-tat-tat

He looked at the dolly and he shook his head
He told Miss Polly to put her straight to bed
He wrote a prescription for a pill, pill, pill
"I'll be back in the morning with my bill, bill, bill"

I like this rhyme because it tells a very practical story.  What do we typically do when someone is feeling under the weather?  We seek professional advice.  Kids love pretending to be adults and taking care of a doll is a familiar exercise for many kids.  I especially love the presence of the word "prescription."  It is a word that gets used quite a lot in life.  When kids are exposed to words like this, they are building their vocabularies.  And while "prescription" isn't a word that shows up in most beginning readers, it is a word that kids will eventually encounter.  If they already know and understand the word, it will be so much easier for them to make sense of the word once they finally do come to it in its written form.

## Friday, May 24, 2013

### Fingerplay Fun Friday!

Here is an upbeat cumulative song all about musical instruments: The Music Man

The Music Man

I am the Music Man
I come from down your way
And I can play
What can you play?
I play the piano

Pia -- pia - piano.
Piano, piano
Pia -- pia -- piano
Pia -- piano.

I am the Music Man
I come from down your way
And I can play
What can you play?
I play the saxophone

Saxo -- saxo -- saxophone
Saxophone, saxophone
Saxo -- saxo -- saxophone
Saxo -- saxophone.

Pia -- pia - piano.
Piano, piano
Pia -- pia -- piano
Pia -- piano.

(keep building with Big Bass Drum and Triangle)

This is such a fun way to introduce kids to the names of musical instruments!

I have followed the most common version of this old folk tune.  In particular, I like how the instrument names are broken down into their syllable components.  The structure might be a little complicated for very young children.  To make the rhyme a little more kid friendly, I would recommend changing the rhyme to:

I am the Music Man
I come from down your way
And I can play
What can you play?
I play the saxophone

Saxo -- saxo -- saxophone

Saxo -- saxo -- saxophone
Saxo -- saxo -- saxophone

Pia -- pia -- piano

Pia -- pia -- piano
Pia -- pia -- piano.

When we slow down our pronunciation by breaking words into to their syllable parts, we are helping kids to understand that words are made up of smaller sounds.  We call this phonological awareness.  It is an extremely important skill that kids need to master in order to become successful readers.

For another fun way to share this rhyme, simply replace the instrument's name with an onomatopoeic sound... like this:

I am the Music Man
I come from down your way
And I can play
What can you play?
I play the piano

When you extend and build on this rhyme by introducing multiple instruments and then recalling their order in reverse, you are helping kids to practice their memories.  And we all know how beneficial a strong memory is!

## Tuesday, May 21, 2013

For kids to become successful readers, they first need to be motivated to read.  It is absolutely critical that they see a personal benefit to reading.  That means they need to have access to books that interest and excite them personally.

Beginning readers have always been a little tricky.  It can be far too easy to find books for new readers that read more like old-fashioned primers... "the cat is on the mat."  Without a fun and interesting story, motivation flies out the window.

Thankfully, there are tons of cool beginning readers out there.  Here is a list of some new brand new beginning readers that I have been enjoying:

Title: A Big Guy Took My Ball!
Author: Mo Willems
Find this book at your library

This new Elephant and Piggie title adds another great story to an already great series.  Kids will immediately sympathize with the strong emotions felt by Elephant and Piggie. The gestures they use compliment the story perfectly and make it easier for the reader to comprehend what is happening.
Title: The Loopy Coop Hens: Letting Go
Author: Janet Morgan Stoeke
Find this book at your library

Three hens discover Newton's Law of Gravity first-hand while sitting beneath an apple tree.  The stories in the Loopy Coop Hens series include chapter titles, which is a great early introduction for kids.  I particularly like how the author has stressed the scientific method.  When the hens wonder who is throwing apples at them, rather than assume it's a FOX they get a ladder and climb up to discover the truth!
Title: Penny and Her Marble
Author: Kevin Henkes
Find this book at your library

When Penny discovers a marble in Mrs. Goodwin's yard, she fears that she has stolen someone's property.  Her imagination and strong emotions will ring true with kids who are still mastering the ideas of ownership.  Told in four chapters and 48 pages, this is a great first step for kids who want to move into the big world of chapter books.
Title: A Pet Named Sneaker
Author: Joan Heilbroner
Illustrator: Pascal Lemaitre
Find this book at your library

A brand new title in the Dr. Seuss I Can Read It All By Myself series all about a heroic pet snake.  Amazing that it has been over 50 years since author Joan Heilbroner wrote her last beginning reader, Robert the Rose Horse.  This is sure to appeal to kids who love Danny and the Dinosaur and Go, Dog. Go!  What kid doesn't dream about bringing his pet to school?
Title: Pug & Doug
Author: Steven Breen
Find this book at your library

Pug and Doug are best friends... until Doug discovers that Pug might not like him all that much.  This is a classic tale of mistaken information.  The artwork is absolutely incredible, including a step-by-step visual description of how to do Pug and Doug's secret pawshake.  This is easily one of my favorite books of the year (so far).

Photo by: Hgilbert