Bringing Life to Early Childhood

A Blog by Jan Jobey

Category: Literacy Outside

Take Literacy Outside! Harvest Comprehension!

Writing is another important literacy skill and children need lots of opportunities. Strengthening those little hands and making it fun to write are important aspects of enhancing writing skills. Important brain connections are being made between visual, kinesthetic, and other literacy concept developments.  Writing also integrates many developmental domains.  The ability to understand that

It’s great to know our letters, to know the sounds the letters make, to know that we turn pages right to left, and to write the letters of our name…but we cannot forget how PRICELESS comprehension is!  Comprehension involves listening, thinking about what we’ve heard read, and communicating those thoughts.  It’s what a child will need the rest of his life to make sense of what he or she will read in texts, assignments, projects, digital pages and documents, and on and on.  As teachers, it means we need to learn how to ask good questions that do two things:  inform us of the child’s understanding and encourages the child to think about he/she has read.  The only requirement for these questions is that they be open-ended…questions that elicit more than one or two word responses….for example, questions that begin with how, what else, what if, what might, or what do you think? Here are some ideas to build comprehension skills while your outdoors!


1. Act out favorite stories
2. Read stories outside about nature, then have them look for similar things book is about.
3. Challenge children to dictate a story about a field trip, a special visitor outside adventure, watching an animal or traffic.
4. Demonstrate actions or sounds from an earlier story reading.  “Show me what happened to the duck”, “Show me what the flea did”.
5. Act out nursery rhymes such as “Hickory Dickory Dock”.

6. Act out songs such as “Row Row Row your Boat”.
7. Information books:  Ask them to recall what the book said about an “outdoor” topic—leaves, for example—Ask them to find something that was in the book.

8. Read a book under a shady tree.

·         Ask prediction questions such as “What do you think will happen next?”, “What do you think this book is about”?

·         Ask recall questions such as “What happened when the bears came home?” or “What was this book about?” or “What happened first/second/next/last?”.

·         Ask opinion questions such as “What do you think little bear felt?”  or “What would you do if that happened to you?”




  Woodland Riddles                     Pet Riddles

(click on each book to find out more information!)


Woodland Riddles and Pet Riddles both provide great information about animals appropriate for children…but did you know there are conversational extenders on each animal page that supports the teacher in asking great questions?  Check it out! You and your children will love the many ways to learn in both of these books.


I hope you have enjoyed my “new” blog . Please let me hear from you.  Let me know what you think.  Do you have other ideas to share?  Also, I’d love to hear about other early childhood topics that you would like more information!

Take Literacy Outside! Add Some Writing!

Writing is another important literacy skill and children need lots of opportunities. Strengthening those little hands and making it fun to write are important aspects of enhancing writing skills. Important brain connections are being made between visual, kinesthetic, and other literacy concept developments.  Writing also integrates many developmental domains.  The ability to understand that marks are representations of oral words is Cognitive and the exploration of making those representational marks is Creative expression.  Additionally, desire to communicate with others is Social-Emotional and Communication development whereas, holding tools and coordinating movements is Physical Motor development.   Opportunities for this rich school readiness skill cannot be discounted! It’s PRICELESS!  So, here a few outdoor writing experiences that will have children scratching out messages in no time.


1. Turn the outdoor play house  into a drive-thru bank, McDonalds, or a Taco stand—have wipe off boards or chalk boards inside and outside the house, post office, pumpkin stand, or gas station.

2.  Provide clipboards for writing and drawing science observations.
3.  Offer paint sticks or craft stick to write in the sand and dirt.
4.  Provide space for sidewalk chalk.
5.  Provide post-it note pads or small note pads so policeman can “write” tickets to speeding tricyclists.(is that a word?)
6.  Provide chalk paint for fence or easel painting.
7.  Write with various outdoor found objects—Try twigs, stones, acorns, etc dipped in a little paint for ‘ink’.

8.  Sign-up lists for popular toys such as tricycles can be done on anything from a clipboard to a wipe-off board.

9. Map Making:  Challenge children to draw a map of the playground.  This could be to map a treasure hunt or to make a “path” to follow.

10. Challenge children to use their bodies to represent something (a flower growing, bird flying….).

11.  Portable Book Making Kit:  Assemble a tub with book making supplies such as blank books, markers, and pencils.

Check out this  Writing Set!  While it’s intended for indoor use, there are many outdoor themed pages.  Putting a few on a clipboard for sitting in a shady outdoor area is a great idea…all the child needs is their finger to draw the paths!

Do you have other Writing ideas for taking literacy outside?

Take Literacy Outside! Water generously with Concepts about Print

Any garden that is going to grow, requires water.  Children learn a lot about print when they are read to.  We’ve all seen toddlers use jargon to “read” a book.  This behavior indicates that the child understands that we speak a story when we look at a book.  Better yet, children who pretend to read…WILL read.  Concepts about print include being able to understand that print carries meaning.  It also includes understanding that we read from left to right across the page and from top to bottom of the page. Illustrations and graphics carry meaning as well.  Water your literacy garden generously with Concepts about Print.

1.      Create simple signs…such as traffic signs or door signs.  Include arrows to “read” direction or simple graphics that correlate with the signs.
2.      Create an obstacle course that uses stick figure symbols to tell children what to do.
3.      Mailbox:  Have a letter every day from a fictitious person that writes them every day. Perhaps this writer sends them a poem or song to read that is illustrated.

4.      Simple illustrated maps to read of playground or campus that direct children to find a “treasure”.
5.      Hold up pictures of simple stick-man shapes and challenge children to make their body make that shape.
6.      Signs that label what kind of trees and shrubs are in play area.
7.      Make “Driver’s Licenses” using photos and their “signature”—put on a ribbon or a clip on badge to wear when they get a bike to ride.

8.      Install “story boards” in a few locations around the playground.  This is similar to “historical markers” you see on the roadside.  Maybe one tells about the beginnings of the learning center and another tells a story about a bird or squirrel that is commonly seen in the area.

9.      Post an illustrated sign of simple playground rules.

10.  Plant a garden and label plants with words and pictures.


Fox in the City is a book that I wrote a few years ago. Children will love “reading” all the environmental print throughout the book….and they will love learning how the fox will survive when humans disrupt his woodland home.  It’s a great story about adaptability and endangered animals as well!


    Fox in the City

(Click on the book for more info!)


                     Do you have other “Concepts about Print” ideas for the outdoors.  I’d love for you to share with us!


Take Literacy Outside! Planting the Seeds of Phonological Awareness

Continuing with the idea of GROWing literacy, the next step after preparing the soil, is to plant your seeds.  Phonological awareness is one of the best predictors of reading and spelling success.  It is a broad skill that includes phonemic awareness (letter and sound association), rhymes, alliterations, segmentation and syllables.  Here are lots of “seeds” (and sounds!) to plant.

Phonemic Awareness “Seeds”:
1. I Spy: For example,  I spy something that begins with a /b/ sound…..When the child finds something that begins         with the /b/ sound have them tell you the beginning letter of the item.

  1. Rhyming I spy: I spy something that rhymes with “loud” (cloud).
  2. Phonemic I spy: I spy something that has the same beginning sound as “train”  (tree)
  3. Listen for outdoor sounds—animals, weather, vehicle, birds, plane, trains, etc. What sounds do they make? What letters make those sounds?
  1. Action Alliteration Names:  Jumping Jan, Kicking Kim, Climbing Caleb. Let the named child lead the action and have other children follow.
  1. Sunny Sounds—Using die-cut paper letters, have children tape letters in a pattern, string, name (whatever) on a dark colored piece of construction paper.  Use double-sided tape, rolled masking tape, or sticky putty to keep letters in place.  Hang their paper with letters in a sunny location.  After the dark paper fades, remove the letters.  Have fun sounding out the made-up strings of letters, names, or words.
  2. Bean Bag Toss—Lay out 2 or 3 hula hoops with a letter card in the middle of each.  Have some beanbags labeled with various objects that begin with one of the letter sounds.  Children pick up a bean bag and toss the bag into the hoop with the matching sound.
  1. March around the alphabet: Use carpet/foam squares with alphabet, play music, when music stops, point to children and have them name their letter or make the sound their letter makes

9.  Phonemic Hop Scotch–Write letters inside hop scotch squares and have children say the sound of the letter as  they jump on them.


Check out these books that are perfect for promoting phonological awareness:

(click on the book for additional information)

Pet Riddles              Pig Prince             Woodland Riddles


What ideas do you have for Phonological Awareness that you can take outside?

Take Literacy Outside! Preparing the Soil with Alphabetic Principle

Literacy doesn’t just happen in the classroom. It’s all around us and with a little effort we can take literacy outside.  Discover and share exciting ways to promote literacy learning outside! With some “planting and nurturing”, literacy can GROW.  Kinesthetic learners will really benefit from literacy activities that take place in the outdoor environment.  Some components of literacy include Comprehension, Alphabetic Principle, Phonological awareness, and Concepts about Print.  This post will look at ways to GROW Literacy by preparing the soil with Alphabetic Principle: Alphabetic principle is the understanding that words are made up of letters and letters represent sounds. If a child understands these letter-sound associations, he is on the way to reading and writing words. (More on Phonological Awareness coming soon!). Just like in preparing the soil for a garden, we must enrich the soil of literacy with language about the alphabet, we must break it up with lots of fun, and we must plan and prepare activities for learning.  Let’s get started!

Preparing the Soil with Alphabetic Principle:
1. Scavenger Hunt for Alphabet in Outdoor environment.  Are there signs within the visual environment? License plates on cars that can be seen? Do you have or can you make traffic signs for trikes?  Provide a clipboard (with an alphabet list) and pencil tied on for children to record words they find with each letter.
2. I spy…alphabet.
3. Chica Chica Boom Boom Tree—hang large foam letters about to find and name.
4. ABC obstacle course.  “Plant” large foam letters about the play yard and have children follow the alphabet through crawling, climbing, running, hopping.
5.  Alphabet Simon Says:  Scatter carpet/foam squares with alphabet and have children perform gross motor acts along with finding a letter:  Hop on the “H”,  “Jump over the J”,  “Gallop around the G”,  ….
7.  Sandy Letters—find some plastic or magnetic letter shapes (or make some out of craft foam) to hide and find in the sand…Extend by asking “What sound does your letter make?”
8. Upper and Lower Case Mix-up:  Using jar lids from food containers, use a permanent marker to write letters (upper and lower case) in the inside of the lid.  Hide a few pairs along with a few more that don’t have a match in a sand box.  Encourage children to find the matching upper and lower case letters.
9. Hanging letters out to dry:  Locate some infant/child t-shirts without writing.  With a Laundry marker, put a letter on each t-shirt. Let the children “wash” the laundry and then hang on a low clothesline.  Give a child letters of his/her name…see if the child can hang the letters in correct order.  Variation:  Put upper case letters on t-shirts and lower case letters on shorts…match tops and bottoms.
10.  Freeze small craft foam (pre-cut) letters in ice cubes individually…Put them in the water table on a hot day….After they’ve melted, the letter could be used to play like making “alphabet soup”.
11.  Alphabet Bowl—use pop or water bottles labeled with alphabet.  What pins did they knock down, which one is left standing?
12.  Alphabet Hop Scotch–Write letters inside hop scotch squares and have children say the letter as they jump on them

I’d love for you to share any ideas you have about Alphabetic Principle in the great outdoors!


Here are a couple of ABC books about animals that make great “outdoor books”:

(click on the book to find out more!)


Woodland ABC's                              Pet ABC

Early Childhood is Priceless




I may be new to blogging, but I’m definitely not “new” when it comes to early childhood education!  My entire life has been devoted to early childhood in one way or the other and I’m looking forward to sharing practical applications of the vast early childhood knowledge “out there”, tips and ideas for teachers, and,  sometimes, just my thoughts in this blog.  Literacy, learning, and special needs are near and dear to my heart because of my own early childhood experiences as a child who entered first grade with my own language!  When I think of how my experience has shaped my life and my ability to serve those in the early childhood field, it also affirms the importance of the formative years!

Which brings me around to this: Early childhood IS PRICELESS.  In this day of budget cuts and lowering of standards, it brings, to me, a high level of concern of how these decisions will affect the individual child, our communities, and the future of our society.  Children of today already face challenges such as parents who work too much and who spend less time with them, going to bed hungry which affects the ability to learn, or children who are not taught in ways that they were meant to learn.  Budget cuts are affecting decisions about whether a mother can even afford to work, or if she can buy food for her family.  They will affect how childcare centers can pay their bills or even stay open.  And all in an age where we have tremendous resources available…but not necessarily accessible.  An age when we can send people to the moon, but fail to send all children to quality early learning settings.  Such dichotomy should bring us all a high level of concern!

It is my hope that as I begin this “blogging experience” that I can contribute to the priceless work and joy of teachers, the priceless responsibilities and privileges of parenting (and grandparenting), and the priceless accountability and honor of program administrations.  I invite you to join me and “follow” my blog!

And since we are in the midst of summer break, let’s remember how VALUABLE outdoor play is! Stay tuned for ways to take “Literacy Outside” in my upcoming posts! I invite you to comment, share ideas, or just “like”!  I look forward to sharing with you!


Together for Children,