March 16, 2012

Yee Ha Hee Ha Ho!

Yee Ha Hee Ha Ho! is a repeating phrase in my book, Famous Fenton Has a Farm, and a great example of a way to promote phonological awareness (a scary word to look at or try to say out loud in front of a group, but a fun word to bring to life when you're reading to young children!).  In my last post, I talked about print motivation, one of the National Research Council's six key skills recommended for preparing children to become readers when they enter school.  This week I'll talk about phonological awareness, which is being aware of the smaller sounds that make up words.

But before I do, I wanted to share a couple of other really good articles about the tremendous value of simply cuddling up with a young child and sharing a book together.  You don't have to incorporate all of the "fancy tricks" I'm discussing to experience the value of reading with your child.  Just find a good book. Hold your child close. Enjoy the pictures.  Read the words. Share the time.  The following articles get to the heart of the simplicity of it:  1) Walter Dean Myers is this year's National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.  A recent interview with him on this topic can be found here.  2) Judy Cox is a reading specialist and beloved author of many books for young children.  A January 25, 2012 blog post by Judy on this topic can be found here

That said, if you're interested in enriching the story time experience even more, reading with an ear for phonological awareness is a a great place to start.  How do you incorporate phonological awareness? Read Rhyming Stories; Let Children Fill in the Missing Rhyme Word; Find the Rhythm in Stories; Sing Stories; Play with the Sounds in Words; Make Up Silly Rhymes; Extend Favorite Rhyming Stories with Additional Made Up Verses; Play Word Games that Involve Word Sounds and Rhymes.  Want more ideas?  Here is a great website to explore.

One of the things I found myself thinking about when I was preparing for a workshop on this topic for the recent PCPO Conference, is what it's like to listen to an unfamiliar language. When you listen to a conversation in an unfamiliar language, you don't hear any of the word sounds--you just hear sounds.  The word sounds that are unique to a particular language seem to be fairly random until you get to know the language. When you listen to a somewhat familiar language (but one in which you're not fluent), you might catch a few familiar words/sounds here and there, which might give you the ability to decipher some of what is being said.  When we incorporate phonological awareness into our reading time with children, we are making a point to provide plenty of repetition for the sounds that make up the English language so that these sounds become less "random" and more familiar to the child's ear (and speech).

Here are some examples for how I incorporate phonological awareness when I read books from the Story Time with Signs & Rhymes series with children:

The Nest Where I Like to Rest:  This is a cumulative story, so I invite children to chant along with the story as it builds page after page.  I also encourage kids to make the "honking" sound along with the goose and the "sniffing" sound along with the rat.  

The Big Blue Bowl:  This is also a cumulative story, and kids love chanting along each time a new ingredient gets added to the Big Blue Bowl. This story also has a repeating phrase:  "Fill it up, fill it up, fill it up, I say, and my friend (duck/dog/goat, etc) fills it up with me."  I show children the sign for "your turn," and ask them to chant along with the "Fill it up" part of the story each time I show them that sign.  Additionally, the words, Big Blue Bowl provide alliteration, another element in phonological awareness.  

See the Colors:  I sing this story to children to the tune of "Oh My Darlin' Clementine."  I also point out that "brown" starts with "B" and "blue" starts with "B," and the signs for both "brown" and "blue" are made with the "B" handshape. Incidentally, the sign for "black" (which also starts with "B") is not made with the "B" handshape, and I point out this contrast as well. 

A to Z Sign with Me:   This is a unique rhyming alphabet story in that it is told with words that are sequenced from A to Z (i.e. "Talk like the animals. Oink! Peep! Quack.  Cheer when the roller coaster speeds down the track.").  After I've read this story directly from the book, I like to write the story "vertically" on a sheet of paper or easel, so children can see how the alphabet is structured in the story.  For example: 

Lip grows a
Nose blows a sneeze.     

I encourage children to sign each letter of the alphabet in order as the story progresses.  It's really fun!

Famous Fenton Has a Farm:    This story is a wild tongue twister with all kinds of silly language.  It fits to the tune of "Old MacDonald Has a Farm," and it is has a repeating phrase: "Yee Ha Hee Ya Ho!" (that shows up in place of the traditional E-I-E-I-O).  All I need to do with this one is invite children to Yee Ha along with me and they in!  

If you want more ideas for incorporating phonological awareness into your story time, this website has great information and lots of ideas for other books to read.  And, as I've mentioned before (and will likely mention again), hang out in your local library.  Attend their story time programs and soak it all in!  Yee Ha Hee Ha Ho! 

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