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March 1, 2018

Fairy Tales and 4-Year-Olds: Building Oral Language Skills

By Sandra Carrillo
Grades PreK–K

    When we focus on developing a child's listening, speaking, and vocabulary skills, we lay the foundation for reading success. All of these things can happen through the art of storytelling. It is through storytelling that children learn the dynamics of conversation and the ways in which they can take turns sharing their own experiences.

    What are the best kinds of stories to tell? Well, FAIRY TALES of course! As a young child, my favorite stories to listen to were (and still are) fairy tales. And now there is such diversity in the ways that authors have written versions of fairy tales, that our children are given opportunities to make their own personal connections. 

    Fairy tales typically include elements that:

    • teach a lesson
    • show kids how to handle problems
    • give us a common language
    • develop a child's imagination 

    I have chosen The Three Little Pigs as my example, but you can adapt these activities to use with any fairy tale of your choice.

    Shared Reading: Building Oral Language Through Storytelling

    Storytelling actively engages many parts of the brain at once. Children are engaged in critical thinking, listening, and speaking. Unfortunately, in our fast-paced world, storytelling is becoming a lost art. Gone are the days when family members — often multi-generational — would gather around the dinner table or in the living room and tell stories. This is why more than ever we must make a conscious effort to plan intentional activities that engage our children in storytelling.

    A fairy tale like The Three Little Pigs provides an excellent opportunity for children to engage with the story through predictable text, as well as providing a good model for fluent and expressive reading. Just reading the story aloud without showing any pictures gives the children the opportunity to focus on just listening. Using a flannel board to tell the story through the main characters and setting may also be helpful. If you don't have a copy of this in your fairy tale library, you can use this version from Scholastic Teachables (FREE until April 5, 2018).

     

    Shared Writing: Response to Literature

    Shared writing is an instructional approach to teach writing to students by writing with them. The process of writing is demonstrated by "thinking out loud." The teacher acts as scribe while the student contributes ideas.  

    One of my favorite shared writing activities is to respond to literature by writing a letter to a favorite character in a story. The teacher uses the shared writing technique to elicit children's responses. This type of book extension activity helps increase children's comprehension and creates a personal connection to the story. 

    Writing a Letter to a Favorite Character

    Materials: Chart paper, markers, large envelope, and card

    Encourage children to think critically about something that happened in the story. Is there something that they want to know more about? In this example, students can choose to write to one of the three little pigs or to the wolf himself. 

    • Say, "Boys and girls, let's write the first little pig a letter and tell him what we think about how he built his house of straw."  
    • Think out loud as you say, "When we write a letter to someone, we begin with 'Dear' so I will write 'Dear Little Pig' at the top of the page." 
    • Ask, "What would you like to say to the little pig?"
    • Continue to elicit responses while asking questions like, "What do I need to put at the end of the sentence?", etc.
    • When you are finished, re-read the letter to the children. Address the letter on a large envelope to "mail." 

    When I have finished this activity I take the entire class to our front office so they can watch as I put it in the outgoing mail bag. Later, I create a response from the character and send to our classroom in a large envelope. I ask someone from the office to either call us on the PA to send a student to pick it up, or have the office person make a special delivery. Building the excitement for the students in this way makes it a sure winner to add to your writing center. Enhancing your writing center as you begin this unit on fairy tales will also encourage children to continue writing. 

    One of my favorite follow-up lessons is this Fairy Tale Mail (available with subscription or 30-day free trial) activity from Scholastic Teachables:

     

    Building Oral Language Through Retelling

    Retelling is an effective method of building oral language and in turn, allows children to practice comprehension skills. It is not enough to rely only on questioning during the actual read-aloud, we must give children ample opportunities to retell the story on their own in a variety of ways. They can do this in the Library and Listening center, Dramatic Play center, or in the Construction center. Be sure to have a variety of story props readily available.

    Story props should include: puppets (both finger puppets and hand puppets), costumes, masks, a flannel board, materials to build the setting, a copy of the book, pictures of the main characters, and sequencing cards of the main events. 

    Puppets and masks do not need to be store-bought. There are a variety of resources where you can download copies. Children love creating these as well. This also provides a great opportunity for them to take them home and share the story with family members. These masks and pig puppet, for instance come from Scholastic Teachables (FREE until 4/5/2018):

                             

    Home-to-School Connection

    As we all know, the home-to-school connection is extremely important for a child's success in their academic career. Scholastic has created a set of First Little Readers Parent Pack. What I love about these readers is that there is a resource page for parents that details how they can use these books at home with their children.

    Many times we assume that parents always know what do, but it is helpful to always provide some guidance. If parents are shown how to start a conversation with their children before, during, and after the reading, then there is some consistency to what children are learning at both home and school. They are hearing the same language from their family members and their teachers.

    For this particular unit, I used Level D. The language is simplified just as if a child were telling the story. A child can look at the illustrations and successfully tell the story in the correct sequence. These little readers are perfect for little hands and are a great way to build the home-school connection.  

     

    Additional Resources:

    Another great resource that can be found at The Teacher Store on Scholastic's site is Cindy Middendorf's Building Oral Language Skills. Middendorf provides dozens of wonderful research-based ideas focused on developing oral language.   

    I hope you found these strategies and resources helpful in getting your fairy tale unit off to a great start!  

    Have a magical day!

    Sandy

    Follow me on Twitter @loves2teachprek2

    When we focus on developing a child's listening, speaking, and vocabulary skills, we lay the foundation for reading success. All of these things can happen through the art of storytelling. It is through storytelling that children learn the dynamics of conversation and the ways in which they can take turns sharing their own experiences.

    What are the best kinds of stories to tell? Well, FAIRY TALES of course! As a young child, my favorite stories to listen to were (and still are) fairy tales. And now there is such diversity in the ways that authors have written versions of fairy tales, that our children are given opportunities to make their own personal connections. 

    Fairy tales typically include elements that:

    • teach a lesson
    • show kids how to handle problems
    • give us a common language
    • develop a child's imagination 

    I have chosen The Three Little Pigs as my example, but you can adapt these activities to use with any fairy tale of your choice.

    Shared Reading: Building Oral Language Through Storytelling

    Storytelling actively engages many parts of the brain at once. Children are engaged in critical thinking, listening, and speaking. Unfortunately, in our fast-paced world, storytelling is becoming a lost art. Gone are the days when family members — often multi-generational — would gather around the dinner table or in the living room and tell stories. This is why more than ever we must make a conscious effort to plan intentional activities that engage our children in storytelling.

    A fairy tale like The Three Little Pigs provides an excellent opportunity for children to engage with the story through predictable text, as well as providing a good model for fluent and expressive reading. Just reading the story aloud without showing any pictures gives the children the opportunity to focus on just listening. Using a flannel board to tell the story through the main characters and setting may also be helpful. If you don't have a copy of this in your fairy tale library, you can use this version from Scholastic Teachables (FREE until April 5, 2018).

     

    Shared Writing: Response to Literature

    Shared writing is an instructional approach to teach writing to students by writing with them. The process of writing is demonstrated by "thinking out loud." The teacher acts as scribe while the student contributes ideas.  

    One of my favorite shared writing activities is to respond to literature by writing a letter to a favorite character in a story. The teacher uses the shared writing technique to elicit children's responses. This type of book extension activity helps increase children's comprehension and creates a personal connection to the story. 

    Writing a Letter to a Favorite Character

    Materials: Chart paper, markers, large envelope, and card

    Encourage children to think critically about something that happened in the story. Is there something that they want to know more about? In this example, students can choose to write to one of the three little pigs or to the wolf himself. 

    • Say, "Boys and girls, let's write the first little pig a letter and tell him what we think about how he built his house of straw."  
    • Think out loud as you say, "When we write a letter to someone, we begin with 'Dear' so I will write 'Dear Little Pig' at the top of the page." 
    • Ask, "What would you like to say to the little pig?"
    • Continue to elicit responses while asking questions like, "What do I need to put at the end of the sentence?", etc.
    • When you are finished, re-read the letter to the children. Address the letter on a large envelope to "mail." 

    When I have finished this activity I take the entire class to our front office so they can watch as I put it in the outgoing mail bag. Later, I create a response from the character and send to our classroom in a large envelope. I ask someone from the office to either call us on the PA to send a student to pick it up, or have the office person make a special delivery. Building the excitement for the students in this way makes it a sure winner to add to your writing center. Enhancing your writing center as you begin this unit on fairy tales will also encourage children to continue writing. 

    One of my favorite follow-up lessons is this Fairy Tale Mail (available with subscription or 30-day free trial) activity from Scholastic Teachables:

     

    Building Oral Language Through Retelling

    Retelling is an effective method of building oral language and in turn, allows children to practice comprehension skills. It is not enough to rely only on questioning during the actual read-aloud, we must give children ample opportunities to retell the story on their own in a variety of ways. They can do this in the Library and Listening center, Dramatic Play center, or in the Construction center. Be sure to have a variety of story props readily available.

    Story props should include: puppets (both finger puppets and hand puppets), costumes, masks, a flannel board, materials to build the setting, a copy of the book, pictures of the main characters, and sequencing cards of the main events. 

    Puppets and masks do not need to be store-bought. There are a variety of resources where you can download copies. Children love creating these as well. This also provides a great opportunity for them to take them home and share the story with family members. These masks and pig puppet, for instance come from Scholastic Teachables (FREE until 4/5/2018):

                             

    Home-to-School Connection

    As we all know, the home-to-school connection is extremely important for a child's success in their academic career. Scholastic has created a set of First Little Readers Parent Pack. What I love about these readers is that there is a resource page for parents that details how they can use these books at home with their children.

    Many times we assume that parents always know what do, but it is helpful to always provide some guidance. If parents are shown how to start a conversation with their children before, during, and after the reading, then there is some consistency to what children are learning at both home and school. They are hearing the same language from their family members and their teachers.

    For this particular unit, I used Level D. The language is simplified just as if a child were telling the story. A child can look at the illustrations and successfully tell the story in the correct sequence. These little readers are perfect for little hands and are a great way to build the home-school connection.  

     

    Additional Resources:

    Another great resource that can be found at The Teacher Store on Scholastic's site is Cindy Middendorf's Building Oral Language Skills. Middendorf provides dozens of wonderful research-based ideas focused on developing oral language.   

    I hope you found these strategies and resources helpful in getting your fairy tale unit off to a great start!  

    Have a magical day!

    Sandy

    Follow me on Twitter @loves2teachprek2

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