Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bad Jokes & Early Learning - Part 1 of 2

Did you miss our 1/19 event Having Fun with Language? Don't miss the next Children's Loft program: Tanya Lee Stone and Rebecca Rupp's Adventures in Non-fiction. 

Bad jokes, worse puns, nonsense words and other word games are all great ways for early learners to develop control over language. We explored this idea in the Bear Pond Children's Loft on Saturday, with educator and picture book author David Martin leading the group.

Take jokes as an example - jokes are a quick demonstration of comprehension because either you get it and laugh or you don't. It's a "little epiphany." And, frankly, it doesn't have to be a good joke.

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Cow who?
No, Cow Moo

What's one and one's favorite day? Twosday
What's a potato's favorite day? French Fryday
What's a spider's favorite day? Websday

You, too, can invent a bad joke.

Nonsense words and rhyming are other ways for children to anticipate and fill in the "right" answer. David notes: "Knowing that a rhyming word is coming up .. . helps children anticipate what the word will be. Rhythm in a story is also a wonderful way to encourage children to read with fluency.  And when children read more fluently, they understand more of what they are reading.  Ta-Da!  Comprehension!  Besides, stories in verse are fun to listen to, and that’s nothing to be scoffed at."

One example shared was a lesson plan from the Stern Center that a participant used when she first started teaching. In the lesson, each child has a different food and the instructor plays the hungry puppy who asks for mixed up foods, like 'Bapples' and 'Parrot Licks' or 'Lac & Sneeze'. The kids, of course, can correct with the right food word. David recommends the book The Hungry Thing that has a similar plot line (but, sadly, is out of print).

Playing is also a chance to help young learners think in stories. It can be acting out basic stories using the toys students are already playing with or something more structured. One example of a structured activity uses the book Farmer Duck.

Farmer Duck is the story of a duck who needs to do all the chores on the farm, until the other farm animals step in to save him. You can gather the main objects of Farmer Duck into a box and ask kids to use these objects to make up a story, with characters, a problem they need to solve, a beginning, middle and end. Usually this part requires some facilitation. After the story is done, the picture book shows another way someone wrote a story with the same objects.

David points out that you don't need to invent these stories, songs, rhymes and activities from nothing - there are plenty of existing ones to build off of. For one example, see this earlier blog post about using 'To Market, To Market'. Or what David did with a joking back story for Five Little Piggies in his picture book with the same name. David, Jane, and the event participants created an entire list of recommended books for this purpose, click here for the virtual display.

Check out the follow up post links with to recommended reading for educators from David here

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