Emotions and the Letter Ee
October 6, 2020
By October, we usually feel like we've established a routine in class, and are gearing up for Open House. While we won't be able to have an open house this year, maybe there is something you can do at home to help your child feel like the "work" they are doing is special and important. If you don't already, you could display their artwork in the house; there are tons of creative ideas for hanging art on Pinterest if you need inspiration. Maybe your child would enjoy a "gallery night," where he/she has the opportunity to pick out a few pieces she made and tell your family about them (what they are, how she created them, etc.). This could even be done with written work (like letter-writing practice), a song he learned, or something he built with blocks. In the classroom, it's impossible to keep every masterpiece that is built of blocks or Legos, so we take pictures of them with the kids. Sometimes, the simple act of pointing out that we recognize they worked hard on something is enough for the child, and a lot of what preschool-age children do involves hard work. Whether it's the challenge of following multiple-step instructions, coloring within the lines, writing/copying their name, or remembering the words to a finger-play, children often learn these skills through play, watching others model behaviors, repetition and positive reinforcement (ie: "You wrote your name, Olivia! I love how your O is so round, like a circle!").
Following Multi-Step Directions
Throughout the school year, we work with the children towards following multiple-step instructions. In kindergarten, and of course later in life, they will be expected to hear (or read) and follow directions that have more than one part. Examples include, "Go to your room; grab your coat and put it on," or, "Grab a piece of paper and some markers, then draw a picture of a tree." These examples may be a bit advanced for a two or three-year-old, but four and five-year-olds should be progressing towards completing tasks like this with minimal reminders, which, in turn, will help them complete everyday tasks effectively (as well as academic tasks).
If your child is struggling with following directions, here are some ways you can help encourage your child in this process (courtesy of Kid Sense:
Eye contact: Get the child’s visual attention before giving an instruction.
Single instructions: Give your child only one instruction at a time.
Simple language: Keep language simple and direct.
Break verbal instructions into parts: Instead of “Go and get your lunchbox and your hat and go outside”, say “Get your lunchbox.” When the child has followed that instruction, say “Now get your hat” then “OK, now you can go outside”.
Repeat: Get your child to repeat the instruction to ensure that they have understood what they need to do (e.g. “Go and get your bag then sit at the table. What do I want you to do?’).
‘First/Then’: Use this concept to help the child know what order they need to complete the command (e.g. “First get your jacket, then put on your shoes”).
Clarify: Encourage the child to ask for clarification if they forget part of the instruction or have trouble understanding what they need to do. Encourage them to ask for the command to be repeated or clarified (e.g. “Can you say that again please?”).
Visual aids (e.g. pictures, gestures, body language and facial expression) can be used to assist the child’s comprehension and recall of the instruction.
Visual cues can often be very useful to help the child to follow longer instructions as it provides them with something to refer back to if they are having difficulty remembering what they need to do. It also highlights the order in which they need to complete the instruction.
There are some fun games you can play to practice following instructions as well. Simon Says is one that you can build on as your child gets older as well. For example, Simon may say, "Jump up and down while flapping your arms," instead of just "Jump up and down." You may also play drawing games, where somebody gives instructions (ie: draw a circle; draw a line at the bottom of the circle...), or a blind-folded trust-walk-style game, where you tell your child to "take two steps forward" (or something similar) to direct them to a specific spot. The "winner" of the game is the one who followed directions well enough to reach the goal.
Zoo Phonic Animal Friend: Ellie Elephant, Ee
Ellie Elephant is his week's animal friend. Vowels can be tricky for kids because they have both short and long sounds. Whereas with the letter A, we focused on the short sound (ie: apple), for the letter E, we are introducing both because it much more common for words to begin with an E and have the long E sound (ie: eagle), or the short (ie: envelope). There is a video below from our Zoo Phonics friends introducing Ellie Elephant, your child may enjoy. There is also a suggestion for an Ellie Elephant-related craft in the gallery below. Whether you're using sensory bags, art, scavenger hunts, coloring pages or worksheets, it's important to make it fun. Also, try to find opportunities throughout the week to point out the letters we've been learning, where they occur naturally, such as, "Look at that cute dog; what letter sound does 'dog' start with?").
Being aware of your feelings, and being able to recognize what others may be feeling is a crucial skill in life, but is a skill that some of us still struggle with, which is why we intentionally teach it in preschool. After learning what the various emotions are, we can transfer that knowledge to ourselves, then to others, with the goal being to develop a sense of empathy. For example, your child may see a picture of a face with an open/shouting mouth, red cheeks, and V-shaped eyebrows, and we label it as "angry." As a result, your child learns to identify this facial expression as "angry." When we discuss with our children how it feels inside our bodies to be mad (ie: tight in the chest, tense, like they may explode, wanting to hit things...) they learn to recognize when they are feeling angry themselves. Coming up with and discussing analogies for anger may be helpful as well (angry like a bear, a boiling pot of water, volcano erupting, etc.). After your child is able to identify the emotion, she may see another person who is angry, and point that out. Eventually, because she understands what it's like to feel the various emotions, she may feel empathy for people as they are experiencing emotions. Note: empathy takes a lot of time to develop, and can still be challenging for many of us as adults.
When we feel big emotions, we all have coping techniques we've learned over time, and most children need to be taught how to handle their feelings also. In our classrooms, this sometimes takes the form of playing a "calm down" song and having the children lay down on the floor while listening to it with the lights dimmed, or we may put on a "peaceful breathing" exercise from Go Noodle. Cosmic Kids Yoga has some good resources on their "Zen Den" channel. Often, these activities are labeled as "mindfulness exercises" because they encourage us to be aware of, mindful of how we are feeling and what we can do to feel happy and healthy. Cosmic Kids offers some short meditation videos along these lines (see "Be the Pond" below). In general, getting plenty of exercise during the day can help us all handle our big emotions better.
Simply praying with your children can be a peaceful, calming activity for many of us, too. While there are some guided Christian meditations for children online, I have found that praying out-loud with my children and specifically asking God to help my child feel peaceful, to calm their hearts and minds, and for God to shine God's light and love through them (and thus help others who are also feeling big feelings to know God's comfort and love).
In the gallery below, there are some suggestions for activities to help teach and reinforce emotions (and how to deal with big feelings) with your child, as well as a read-aloud of How Do Dinosaurs Say I'm Mad by Jane Yolan and Mark Teague. Actually, there are too many wonderful books about feelings for me to include them all here. No need to worry, though, the Huffington Post compiled a decent-sized list for us here.