TIRED OF CONDUCTING SHOW AND TELL OVER and over again in your classroom? Concerned about the competition and possessiveness that can occur? This is a good time to revisit this traditional preschool staple, change what doesn't seem to be working about it, and add some new twists.

Exploring New Possibilities

Most of us experienced a form of show and tell (positive, negative, or both) as young children. Early childhood training programs often include show and tell as part of a group-time curriculum, emphasizing that it helps children build language skills and increases their confidence. In fact, many families expect early childhood teachers to include show and tell in their programs, but, at the same time, may feel frustrated by the pressure of helping their child find an appropriate item to share.

It's also true that children of diverse economic groups and cultures may feel uncomfortable with a focus on new toys and possessions. Happily, teachers have moved away from a singular focus on things from home and now include objects, textures, sounds, and ideas from everywhere!

Here are a few ideas to try the next time you enjoy show and tell in your classroom:

Using Classroom Items

Part of the problem with show and tell is the pressure parents experience when they first must search for an object at home and then remember to send it to school with their children. When you use objects from around the room, you level the playing field. You also invite children to look at the items in the room in a new way. Here are some ways you can incorporate classroom items in your show-and-tell experience:

Find something special. Everything is special when you look at it in a new way. Encourage creative thinking by asking children to look at standard classroom objects differently. Give a few children a brown paper lunch bag and send them on a hunt to find something special in the room to bring to show and tell. Invite children to tell their classmates one special or surprising thing about their object. For example, a child might notice that a crayon can "draw" from either end.

Make it a puppet. Ask a few children to find something in the room that they can use as a puppet. When you think about it, anything can be a puppet when you give it movement and a voice. Children can even have a conversation between their puppets. What might the block say to the ruler?

Offer a show-and-tell grab bag. Try filling an interesting bag or pillowcase with a variety of objects. Invite children to reach into the bag, pull out an object, and tell something they notice about it. Invite children to talk not only about the object's appearance, but also about how the object might be used.

Introducing Variations

Here are some interesting variations on the show-and-tell theme that you might want to try in your program:

Suggest creative movement. Children can pick a favorite movement to show and tell, like hopping, skipping, snapping their fingers, tying their shoes, and so on. This is a great confidence builder because children love to show what they can do.

Introduce a show-and-tell transition. You can excuse children from group time using a show-and-tell format. Ask children to look around the room (from their seats in the group) and find something to show. Invite them to raise their hands when they see something. As you call on them, children point to, show, and name the object.

Send home a puppet. Use a stuffed animalstyle puppet (one with arms and legs) as a send-home object. Suggest children do something with the puppet and bring it back the next day to tell about what happened. An object like this will give children something to talk about.

Share a book from home. Children don't really have to read the book; they can just tell the story using the pictures. Children can also take a classroom book home to read with family members and then report about it at show-and-tell time.

Have a show-and-tell "Stuffed Pet Show." Invite children to bring in a stuffed animal to share at group time. Ask children to describe their "pet." Encourage children to incorporate their pets throughout the day (or week).

Share favorite words. Young children are very curious about new words. Ask: "What is your favorite word now? Why?" Children can draw or write their words to bring in for show and tell.

Play show-and-tell telephone. Invite a child to whisper a word to the child next to him. That child whispers the word to the next child, and the word goes around the circle. Has the word ch`anged by the time it gets to the end? ECT