Ready for formal learning – ready for school
Research in New Zealand shows that only two out of ten children are ready for school. Barbara Brann completed seven years of research and compiled a programme called “The Magic Caterpillar Building Blocks for Literacy Framework”. Casey the Caterpillar is a handwriting programme that is part of this framework.
“Children enter school with very different levels of cognitive (thinking and language), non-cognitive (motor co-ordination) and social skills. All of these areas are needed for the child to experience success at school. Without these skills, children will struggle to master the complex skills required for reading, writing and mathematics” (Learning skills 4 Kids 2011 – Getting Ready for School)
The human brain is lazy and it needs movement to jump start the cognitive parts (for learning) that is why movement is very important for children and why we focus on it with children. Children must learn first to move – using their gross motor skills before they are able to sit still and concentrate.
The Building Blocks programme has five domains and movement is interwoven into each one. The five domains are oracy (talking), concepts of print, auditory (listening), visual (looking) and motor (moving). At Secret Garden ELC, we will be focusing on all of these domains. These areas need to be interconnected so that children can learn effectively.
Many schools in the area have begun using “The Magic Caterpillar Building Blocks for Literacy Framework” and by adopting this programme we will help to make it a much smoother transition to school for your child.
Handwriting is a motor task for children. The Magic Caterpillar programme is a handwriting process which uses a story of a butterfly, a caterpillar, a grasshopper, a possum, sticks and leaves to make shapes that are used to form letters familiar and meaningful. It uses illustrations and pictures as visual cues for the language labels and uses basic shapes to form all the letters in the alphabet (16 shapes to form all letters).
To begin this programme we start with step one in the preschool room with all children. This is an oral story of the butterfly to establish the language of the story, a starting point (for future writing), left to right and down a page. We are repeating this oral story on blackboards and on the whiteboard so that the children know the story very well before moving on to the next step.
Step two is the auditory step. This involves reading the “Casey the Caterpillar” big book with all of the children. This helps children to familiarise themselves with the extended story, develop recognition of the shapes and establish language labels for the shapes. At Secret Garden ELC, we have purchased the book and the children are beginning to hear the extended story and look at the formation of shapes. We will repeat this often so the children are very familiar with it.
Step three will be with the older three and four year old children. This is a motor activity using blackboards individually. The children will draw the tree branch and the egg from the story. This will firmly establish left to right, consolidate a starting point and encourage verbalisation of the process.
ONCE CHILDREN ARE AT STEP FOUR THEY ARE AT BEGINNING LEVEL FOR SCHOOL
Step four is auditory and oral. We repeat the oral story connecting it to Casey the Caterpillar by drawing the shapes on the branches. Children will label these shapes connecting the oral and written story, recognise and label the shapes drawn and recognise where the shapes are drawn in relation to the branch. They will also locate shapes in names and words
There are eight steps in total and if the children are ready we will continue on to the next steps which they will also be doing at school.
Ladybug Club at Secret Garden ELC:
We work with the 4 year olds on:
- showing correct pencil grip
- scissor skills
- practising keeping pencils on paper when drawing/writing
- movement activities to cross the midline – it is important to get the right and left side of the brain working together
- memory activities
- simple games for transition to school to help your child to establish the underpinning skills necessary for starting school and formal learning
All our children’s learning progress is recorded on an online application called EDUCA. This is a great interactive application for recording children’s progress, which is accessible by parents and family logging in via the internet, or smartphone. Our parents absolutely love this application and being able view learning stories in real time whist at work.
Visit the EDUCA website at http://www.educa.co.nz/ for more information