Looking for ways to improve both language and literacy in your preschool students? Our district recently moved to a home and community-based model for service delivery of our three-year-olds with special education needs. At the same time, we were moving classrooms and office space around which lead to a “review and purge” of our toys and materials. I didn’t want to donate all of our classroom toys now that we were moving to a home-based model…there had to be a use for them in our practice! That’s when I came up with the idea of learning buckets. It was based on the book buckets that I used to get with my children from the public library but with more of a language development and literacy twist! We went through our toys of which we had duplicates and found books that associated with the toys.
Why language and literacy buckets?
It strengthens our partnership with parents by promoting their role as their child’s first teacher!
Language and literacy buckets make reading and learning interactive and fun! First and foremost, reading should be a pleasurable experience for children.
Language and literacy grow together in children. As language grows, so does reading and writing! It makes sense to work on both together!
While there was some leg-work involved with this project, for us it was really more about using what we had on hand. However, you can make the learning buckets as simple or as complex as you want. We made use of our current resources but you could also use your favorite language-enriching books for preschoolers and buy toys (or hit garage sales or thrift stores) associated with the books!
Here is a simple list of what you need:
- clear plastic durable containers that are large enough to hold the book, toys and printed literature,
- a durable book that is fun for children to read and is vocabulary rich! Many parents still have the old Golden books and trade books which do not always offer good language models.
- toys or activities that offer opportunities to learn a new pre-academic skill or language skills or offer opportunities for pretend play!
- a laminated list of the contents of the bucket (adhere to cover of the bucket),
- printed literature (laminated) of questioning strategies that parents can use during reading time to enhance their child’s language skills. Click here to see the one we use in our district: Parent Handout for Book Bucket
- a check out system so you can keep track of who has the buckets!
Here an example of one of our learning buckets. We had a lot of toy food and the book Lunch! by Denise Fleming, I already had some Boardmaker cards that I had made to go with the book so I printed and laminated them. We included both these sequencing cards and toy food that matched the foods in the book. We threw in our parent handout and our first learning bucket was born! The buckets do not need to contain new items or fancy toys! The reality is that children are hard on books and toys. We expect that toys will be lost, and book pages will be ripped, so we have not put substantial money into them.
Check out the picture of the contents of the food bucket!
Here’s the list of contents that we put on the inside of the cover of the bucket:
Don’t forget the most important piece of the learning buckets! Model for parents how they are used with their child! Read the book to the child and teach parents questioning strategies and how to use the accompanying toys to teach their children valuable new language and literacy skills. Check back with parents after they have used the buckets and ask questions about their experience!
In Wisconsin, we are required to have annual student learning objectives (SLOs). The Early Childhood Teacher and I have written our SLO around these learning buckets. It has been a good choice for an SLO for us because it relates to a new initiative (feels relevant!) and it relates to literacy, and therefore, has a wider application. If you are interested in learning more about this SLO, I please comment and I may do another blog post on it.