If you haven't checked out one of my Play to Learn programs before, they are station-based activities that promote early literacy based on a children's book. While I set them up, each activity is for the caregiver and the child to work on together. What makes it different than a normal craft program is that each station promotes a specific skill. We also add signage showing what to do and why we are doing it. I started them in Fall 2011 and they have now expanded across our library system as one of our early literacy initiatives. It's kind of cool.
Station 1: Nametags
I had precut shoe shapes in 5 different colors (red, blue, yellow, green, and white) with our AccuCut machine. The kids could pick out their shapes, write their name on them, and attach them to their shirts with tape. To assist the kids in writing their names, I typed out all of their first names on a piece of paper and ran a couple of copies to put at this station. This way they could also recognize their name from the list and try to duplicate the letters if they aren't quite ready to spell their name on their own.
As librarians, we know that learning to read and learning to write go together. At this station, the children are learning to recognize letters and how they are formed. They are also strengthening their hand muscles as they write (kind of like exercise) so they can eventually write smaller letters and longer sentences.
Station 2: Pete the Cat's Colors
I took the basic idea of colored shoes from Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes to make this coloring book. We had all of the pages printed and preassembled. The kids just had to color and write their names.
We have two big skills we are working on at this station. The first is comprehension. As you can see on the page above, I wrote the word "strawberries" in red. This is to give the child a clue that the shoe should be colored red. With comprehension, we are teaching children that words and letters have meaning. Colors are a great example to use with comprehension, because they can see the color and know what the word means. The other skill is coloring (or the writing skill). Coloring is exercise for little hands, which helps to make them strong enough to write their letters.
Station 3: Making Pete the Cat Out of Shapes
You have to love Pinterest when you can find all kinds of great ideas to fit with almost any theme! This idea came from a picture that I saw on Pinterest. I just had to create a pattern and tie it back to early literacy. In addition to the gluing component, which strengthens hands just like crayons, we asked kids what color shoes Pete is wearing. Each child had a sticker to add to their picture, then were encouraged to write the color name next to it. As an added bonus, we worked on shape recognition (not an early literacy skill, but an important early childhood skill).
Station 4: Color Matching with Pete's Shoes
This idea came from a Flannel Friday post by LibrErin. I really liked that you have the color shoe and have to match it to something that is that color.
I used Microsoft clip art to create all of the images except the shoes. Those I had to draw because I couldn't find a good shoe picture. Feel free to steal it.
This station also promotes the comprehension skill.
Station 5: What Sounds Like Cat?
To create this station I drew a large blue cat, kind of like Pete. Then I made cards using clip art. Some were -at words and some were other words. The goal is to add the cards that rhyme with cat to the giant blue cat.
As you can see, mat sounds like cat so it is added to the cat. Chair does not so it is put off to the side.
This station works on the decoding skill. This means that words are made up of sounds. Here we are looking for words with the -at sound.
Station 6: Button Sorting Station
I had originally seen this post about button sorting based on Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any buttons that weren't an obvious choking hazard so I needed a plan B. We purchased two activities from Lakeshore Learning which work well here. The one that the kids liked the best was a button sorting station. The set includes a large number of laminated mats and large buttons. 8 kids can easily work from this set at one time. The second item we purchased was a shape sorting tray that also included buttons. The shape sorting tray had a sensory aspect to it that in addition to large plastic buttons, there was bumpy foam shapes, and shiny metallic shapes.
How does button sorting promote early literacy? With our button sorting station, the mats each had a characteristic printed across the top, such as triangles or purple. The goal of the station is to add buttons with that characteristic to the mat. This reinforces the comprehension skill. The child is seeing the word and learning that it has meaning. Then they are using that meaning as they work at the station. A secondary skill here is the sorting skill that promotes early childhood math.
Station 7: Reading the Books and Playing with the Flannelboard
We pulled out all of our copies of all of the Pete the Cat books and put them out on our story time carpet for parents and children to read together. Then I pulled out a large Pete the Cat flannelboard and 2 pizza box flannelboards that I had made for kids to play with as they retell the story.
This station works on 2 skills-reading and talking. Reading is important because it promotes a love of reading while teaching kids new vocabulary. A love of reading is one of the most important factors in teaching children to read-if they want to do it, they will be excited to learn. The flannelboards promote talking. As children pull out the parts, they are telling the story (even if it isn't the same as in the book).
As an added bonus, my new Pete the Cat puppet came last week. He fit right into this station. My favorite part about him is that the kids weren't using him as an actual puppet. He tended to play a lot of Ring Around the Rosie today (who knew?).
How it went?
Honestly, this was my favorite Play to Learn program that I have put together (and not just because it was about Pete the Cat). There was a great balance between crafts and activities and the room wasn't overcrowded. I got a lot of complements from the parents about how much they love this type of program. Complements like that are fun, because they make you excited to keep doing this. The kids liked it too, although when I asked one boy what his favorite activity was, he told me "red". Well, at least we were covering colors today too.