It's never too early to explore with any type of concept. It will definitely set the foundation for future learning if they are too young to grasp the concept. One benefit for having a mixed age group is that children listen in and explore with concepts long before they are "ready" too and if they are older but still don't grasp it...then they'll get it the next go around. The problem comes in when we, as adults, expect the children to grasp and show understanding of a concept before they are ready. I see that often with well-meaning parents trying to teach their children academics at two years old. Just like we develop physically from trunk to extremities...we also learn things in an order, cognitively, and it all must build upon each other. So, if a parent is thinking their child is "smart" and wants them to write their letters of the alphabet "because their know their abc's" that parent is actually pushing the child in a way that is going to cause frustration which can cause issues with attitude toward "school" later. More likely than not, the 2 year old can sing the abc song. Yes, that has it's place...but that is not the same as knowing the letters and sounds out of place. Also, at two, they are not physically ready to write. There needs to be so much more fine motor work done prior to expecting a child to pick up a pencil and write their name. But it just come from the lack of knowledge of child development coupled with wanting "what's best for their child".
Okay...not sure why I felt I needed to mention that...but maybe because one of our activities today would have been seemingly "too advanced" for my students. We actually worked with word families today. But that's Kindergarten work! Well, perhaps, in a traditional school setting. But I'm not all that traditional. :-) My goal is to help each student, individually, take a step forward from where they are at. Actually, I would say that both the 4 and 5 year old are probably more advanced then what they expect of the K students upon enrollment, at least in our area. But so be it. Why hold them back? Go with the flow of their development. Anyway, after a child can hear and make their own rhymes and are also showing letter recognition, I like to take it a step further and introduce word families. They noticed right away that the words we were working with rhyme. Yeah! And the oldest student noticed that the word had the same letters at the end of the word. Yeah, again! There in lies the key difference between word families and rhyming words. Rhyming words use the sound at the end of the word and word families have the same sound and the same letters at the end. For example: bear and chair rhyme but they are not in the same word family because they have the different ending letters. All four older children did this activity today. Definitely exploration for the 3 and 4 year old but it's stretched the brains of the two 5 year olds, especially the one that has been with me since a baby.
You can't really see it well but some of the raindrops have -ot word family pictures, dot, spot, cot, hot, tot, pot. I wrote the word so that the ending sound was in a different color then the remainder of the word. For the younger ones, they'll use the activity for rhyming reinforcement but the older ones will begin to build on what it means to have the same letters at the end of the word. Each child did a different ending and we'll keep them all posted for a bit. Extras: half of a circle is a semi-circle; crayon-water color resist as an art technique; counting raindrops; noting that sometimes a handle on an umbrella is the same shape as the letter J.
Okay...my wall is more than a drying rack (previous blog). :-P
It's a work space also. It's beneficial for children to work standing up and it's nice for me not to have to help each child up into the booster seat at the table each time they go to a new "work". :-) Activities like this work well at a wall. There were actually two more clouds off to the left. I spread it across the whole wall to keep it less cluttered. I taped the clouds on the wall and placed the raindrops on the wall in two columns with sticky tack. Sticky tack works very well for activities that require moving pictures. The children looked at the picture on the raindrop and placed it under the cloud with the same beginning sound. This activity is a printable from www.kidssoup.com