Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Skills Block

Skills Block in these early weeks of kindergarten include two parts. One part is the phonemic awareness that we teach through Nursery Rhymes. The other is a program that we call "Star Names." The idea of using the children's names to review and in some cases introduce the letters and sounds is not an original idea. Patricia Cunningham talks about beginning the kindergarten year with the children's names in Month-by-Month Reading and Writing for Kindergarten, but we actually brought the idea back from a Lucy Calkins' Summer Workshop at Teachers' College at Columbia University in NYC. Names are something that children are intimately familiar with and something that they are get excited about.
In our "Star Names" program we spotlight one child each day. The teachers show the children how to write each letter in the child's name and then cut the name apart encouraging individual children to put it back together. Later, these name letters will be put in a pocket chart at a center for the children to match to pictures. Next most classes chant the letters or sing a song highlighting the initial sound. The Star child is also interviewed and the class makes up sentences about the Star practicing stretching out the words and writing the sounds that they hear. Then the children think of other words that start with the same letter/sound as the Star child's name. As the days go on, the activities will get a little more difficult.

Finally the children describe the Star child and then return to their seats to draw a picture of the child. They write their own name and the name of the Star child and many of the children will try to write words and sentences about the child. This is the beginning of children making the connection between the letters they see and the sounds they hear. For other resources, check our kindergarten wiki - Skills Star Names.

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