It’s been a month. I so wish I had more time to write. I miss writing, but I’ve accepted that my love of the written word must serve a less selfish purpose for now: to teach my children that love. This endeavor has required a different, sometimes uncomfortable, state of mind for me.
Some say in order to create art, one must learn to appreciate it. For the record, I hated art appreciation. I much preferred a brush in my hand, bringing my vision to life on canvas, rather than twitching in my seat in an auditorium. But to teach requires appreciation at an even deeper level. Now, instead of using words to make imagery, I’m having to take a step back and break them down, view them almost forensically, learning an appreciation of the letters, shapes, and sounds that make them.
Luckily I’m creative, so I’m seldom stumped by the seemingly endless trial-and-error process of keeping my children engaged in learning. And I love to teach. However, I freely acknowledge a lack of patience that makes teaching a challenging mindset for me. I base many of my teaching activities with my children on the Montessori method, which is primarily child-led and employs the senses to inspire learning naturally rather than repetition and rote memory. I’m fortunate to have found a preschool for my son which uses the basic principles of this method in an informal way, fitting nicely with what I’m doing at home.
Here are some of the activities I’ve come up with to teach letters, writing, and vocabulary. So far, so good. Let me know how they work for you:
1. 3D letter art. We start the week by painting a paper mache letter with non-toxic paint. This helps teach the shape of the letter and the strokes necessary to write it. We then trace the letter onto a big sheet of paper for additional sensory experience. Then we hang the letter up on a cork-board and look for pictures in magazines of things that start with that letter. I let him cut them or tear them out and then pin them to the cork-board – a fine motor skill exercise combined with pre-reading that helps him learn to associate letter sounds with images. At the end of the week, we paste the cut-out pictures on the back of the letter so that so that any time he needs reminding what sound the letter makes, he can flip it over and look at the pictures.
2. Family competition. Throughout the week we try to come up with words that start with the “A” sound [or B and so on] and see who comes up with the most words. At the end of the week, the winner is treated to something fun, preferably something starting with the letter of the week!
3. Finish line. We’re a household of Formula One fans, so I put down checkered-flag tape on our hardwood floor in the shape of the letter we’re learning, with a “start” and “finish” label so the boys can race cars along the shape of the letter. Again, helps with getting the shape of the letter, and it’s noisy fun!
4. Letter scavenger hunt. On a cardboard box, or in a magazine, we look for the letter we’re focusing on for the week. Each time he sees one, he circles it or points to it, and at the end of the activity, he counts how many he found. This one stuck so well that my 3 year old randomly calls out letters when he sees them on street signs, in the grocery store, and during bedtime stories.