Posts filed under ‘School Readiness’

Storytelling Workshop Activity for Children

A student works on writing her own story in the Storyteller Workshop.

This summer, ReadBoston has been experimenting with new supplemental literacy activities in a pilot program at several Storymobile sites. In an effort to design a more comprehensive literacy curriculum to accompany the Storymobile program, we have been developing new activities and leading workshops on some new ideas to accompany our Storymobile program.
This activity, introduced by one of ReadBoston’s summer staffers, has proved to be a favorite with children of many age groups! Called the “Storytelling Workshop,” the activity complements the storytelling theme already present in the Storymobile programming and encourages children to be creative while practicing many skills that are important to improving literacy. The group conversation time at the beginning reinforces new vocabulary and verbal communication, while the storytelling aspect helps to develop memory and critical thinking. Though the individual writing component itself has obvious benefits, the focus of this exercise is on developing ideas rather than on grammar and spelling. Sometimes, a fear of being wrong can discourage children from even trying to write. However, by emphasizing the importance of creativity, children are free to practice without fear of making mistakes.

The activity is fairly straightforward and easy to do with any number of students: together, kids and their teacher come up with the beginning of an original storyline with fully developed characters, setting, and conflict. Together, the class composes sentences and begins to tell the story. However, when the story reaches its climax, students break off to write their own creative endings. Once finished, these stories can be copied and made into books!

All you need is paper and colored pens. It can be good to set up larger sheets of paper on the walls so everyone can see what the group is brainstorming (or you can use a whiteboard if you have access to one). You can start by talking about components of the story, like characters, plot, setting, dialogue, and conflict. For more advanced children, this conversation can be more in depth and include complex ideas like themes, points of view, and climax. Then, once the kids have an understanding of the story components, start to develop your own story by asking them questions about your main characters, the setting, and the plot. The more detail the better, so ask them to be specific! As you work together, you can start writing the story out as the students describe it.
Once the story gets to an exciting cliffhanger—with lots of questions, split up the kids to write their own endings. Supply them with paper and colored pens or crayons and encourage them to use the tools you talked about to finish the story in their own creative way. If students don’t feel comfortable writing, they can draw pictures to express their ideas. Once they’re finished, you can turn their endings into individual books by adding the beginning section you wrote together, making front and back covers, and binding the pages to each other.
This project can be as elaborate and advanced as you’d like depending on how much time you have and the reading experience of the children. Practicing storytelling in this way can strengthen literacy skills of all kinds while reinforcing the natural creativity of the students.


August 9, 2012 at 1:27 PM Leave a comment

Show Love, Develop Fine Motor Skills

Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity for both parents and childcare providers to engage children in activities that will improve their fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are the coordination of small muscle movements which occur e.g., in the fingers, usually in coordination with the eyes. These skills are vital to our everyday life and impact our ability to do all sorts of things ranging from being able to pick up small items, being able to button a shirt to drawing and writing in the classroom. However, these skills are not innate to humans and need to be developed over time and craft projects are an excellent way to do so.

Drawing and Tracing: If your program will be celebrating Valentines’ Day try creating “mailboxes” for each child made of cardstock, brown paper bags, or recycled boxes. Have the children decorate their mailbox with crayons, colored pencils, markers, or even paint. Provide stencils for them to trace hearts, flowers or other shapes onto the mailbox.

Using tools:  Have children make their own Valentines to give away with colorful construction paper and safety scissors. Encourage the children to decorate their Valentines with glitter, stickers, stamps or paint.  This would be a great opportunity for children to practice picking up and manipulating small objects.

The basic arts and crafts of Valentine’s Day offer great fine motor skills practice to children and a lot of fun at the same time! While they create their tokens of affection, you can show your care by encouraging them to develop the skills they need for the rest of their lives.

February 9, 2012 at 2:38 PM Leave a comment

Child Scientists Needed!

Have you ever seen those signs on the T that say something like “Do you have a child between the ages of 2 and 5?  Does he/she like to do puzzles and play games?  Come to ‘X’ University to play some games and help us learn about how children learn!”

Well, it turns out that it’s very hard to get people to trek out to ‘X’ University to participate in studies like these.  So institutions like Museum of Science, Boston  and Boston Children’s Museum are offering our space to researchers so they can collect data for their studies.  This also enables the research to get out into the public domain.  Researchers collect data by recruiting museum visitors to participate in a variety of studies that last about fifteen minutes and happen right at the museum during the course of their visit.

The Museum of Science has created a “Living Lab”  where research happens right out in the open in a corner of their Discovery Center or the Human Body Connection.  Boston Children’s Museum has been a partner in this project and is learning from them how to work with researchers effectively.

At Boston Children’s Museum the research sometimes happens behind closed doors with parents present, but often happens out in the open as well.  Researchers benefit because they have a captive audience from which to collect data and the students who collect the data get practice talking to the public about their research. The museums benefit from having researchers visible because it emphasizes how much learning and brain development is happening in the process of “play” – playing at museums or playing games at home. We can also utilize the research to plan exhibits and programs that promote learning.

The Early Childhood Cognition Lab at MIT actually has their own lab space at Boston Children’s Museum called PlayLab .   Researchers are there everyday conducting studies for young children ages 3 months to 8 years.  Their research is focused on answering questions about how children learn and understand cause-and-effect relationships and interpret different types of evidence.  The studies are short and fun, and may include playing games or watching a short video or display.

Other studies taking place at Boston Children’s Museum are:

  • Children’s Beliefs and Preferences (Harvard)
  • The Development of Executive Functioning (Children’s Hospital)
  • The Development of Children’s Estimation and Counting (Boston College)

December 9, 2011 at 10:40 AM Leave a comment

Stroll Into Summer with East Boston Children Thrive

Our go-to store for milk, eggs and just about anything we run out of last minute is a little bodega on our corner.  The owner knows our 3 year old and is great about including her in our transaction, whether it is just by asking her about her day or by asking her what color the lollipop he has given her is.  The owner also posts flyers about community events and tells us about things he’s heard of that he thinks may interest my family. 

East Boston Children Thrive, led by the Community Partnerships for Children East Boston neighborhood cluster, is highlighting these kind of family-friendly businesses and giving families a fun opportunity to meet each other in their Stroll Into Summer event this Saturday in East Boston.  Families are meeting at Bertulli Park in Central Square at 9 am on Saturday, June 11th for a stroll to 6 family-friendly businesses in their neighborhood.  There is a prize for the best decorated stroller and other family giveaways. 

East Boston Children Thrive engages families and businesses to support school readiness.

This unique event is just one way Boston Children Thrive is engaging businesses in supporting school readiness and helping parents build connections with each other and with their community.

I’ll post next week about how the event went.  In the meantime, if you know any East Boston families with young children, please spread the word about this event.  And if you have any creative ideas for how to engage the business community in supporting school readiness, please feel free to share that too.

June 8, 2011 at 10:10 AM 1 comment

The Great Marshmallow Experiment

If someone put a marshmallow on a plate in front of you, would you eat it? Or would you wait and, as a reward for your waiting, have two marshmallows? I know if you are talking to me and it’s about 3pm, I would have a hard time waiting for that second marshmallow!

(Check out this video to see which kids have more will power than me at afternoon snack time: Kids Marshmallow Experiment

The marshmallow experiment was a study that offered just this. The experiment was originally conducted in 1972 by psychologist Walter Mischel of Stanford University and has been repeated many times since. In the study, a marshmallow was offered to each child. If the child could resist eating the marshmallow, s/he was promised two instead of one. The scientists analyzed how long each child resisted the temptation of eating the marshmallow, and whether or not doing so had an effect on their future success. The results provided researchers with great insight on the psychology of self control.

Recently, I read an article on NPR about just how important this self-control is for children. Something that was particularly interesting to me was the knowledge that the children who struggled with self-control as preschoolers were three times as likely to have problems as young adults. So many times, there is a focus work on learning specific directed “lessons” and it is easy to forget the simple things, self-regulation, patience, and self-management. Then again, these are things that teachers, families and friends can help to teach children everyday and that enable a child to sit down and learn those lessons. This is something that can start at a young age and that continually needs to be reinforced (even for those working adults with a craving for an afternoon treat!!).

March 16, 2011 at 9:34 AM Leave a comment – How You Can Help Provide Boston Kids with High Quality Books

At ReadBoston, an important part of our work is providing Boston kids with access to high quality children’s books. In fact, each year, ReadBoston distributes over 50,000 brand new books to Boston kids through our summer Storymobile program alone. Access to books is one of the most important factors in developing the literacy skills necessary for school success. Research shows that low-income children have little access to high quality reading materials. There is about 10 times greater access to reading material in higher-income neighborhoods than in lower-income neighborhoods in an urban setting. Further, kids who read outside of school do better in school than those who do not. 

As a nonprofit, we rely on donations to provide Boston kids with access to high quality books. And, it just got easier to donate these books to ReadBoston! We’re partnering with Boston-based to get books to children most at risk of not reading on grade level by 4th grade. It is very simple. Check our list, print a mailing label and send it off. You get to have your book ‘re-used,’ ReadBoston has some budget relief and more kids will have more books. Click here to see how you can help!

March 9, 2011 at 2:33 PM Leave a comment

The Value of Play

Play is one of the most important aspects of childhood. It is through playing that children learn about their surroundings and how to interact with others. As part of Countdown to Kindergarten’s mission to enhance early learning opportunities for the children of Boston, we offer FREE Play to Learn groups. Our playgroups bring together parents, children and an early childhood professional to build a community of peers for support, to foster nurturing behaviors, to help families access other needed services and to model developmentally appropriate practice.

Families have the opportunity to join one of two hour weekly playgroups at any of our nine sites. We are currently looking for participants for the Trotter and  the Holmes Elementary Schools and for the Saturday group at the Tobin Community Center.

Each of playgroups sessions includes:

  • Educational play
  • Circle time
  • Snack
  • Information and resource sharing
  • Gross motor and sensory play
  • Goodbye circle
  • ReadBoston’s Reading Trail lending library

Our playgrops have proven to offer an enriching early learning enviorment, provide a positive “first school” experience, empower parents to be teachers and foster realtionships that build community. If you have a family or a small group who may be interested in participating, please refer them to our schedule and let them know they can register by contacting Rosa Inniss at 617-635-9288.

March 2, 2011 at 10:36 AM 1 comment

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