What Three Little Pigs Can Teach About Reading & Writing

This post was submitted by Liz Buchanan, originally published in her blog on March 17, 2015.

In my songwriting life, I’ve become a little obsessed with characters in threes. My initial “Three Piggy Opera” was so much fun that on my next Once Upon a Tune CDalbum, Once Upon a Tune, I included my own songs about The Three Bears, Three Billy Goats Gruff and Three Little Kittens. You can find all these songs at my Songs for Teaching Page.

What’s with all the threes? Plus there are all the variations and parodies of the above stories: The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, Los Tres Cerditos. How about The Three Little Tamales or The Three Little Javalinas! The three-character theme is a staple of many a kindergarten curriculum.

Why three? This is probably all explained similarly elsewhere, but here’s my take. The three somebodies are a perfect way to teach about the elements of the typical linear story. Stories have a beginning, middle and end. Stories have a protagonist who wants something. Stories have an antagonist who thwarts what the protagonist wants. Protagonist figures out in the end how to overcome antagonist.

Hey, that’s just what they taught us when I got my MFA in fiction writing (though of course there are the feminist variations that just go in circles). What makes a good story all comes down to … The Three Little Pigs!

So at my most recent kindergarten concert, I lined up three children holding their three cut-out houses, of straw, sticks and bricks. I said, “Just like these three pigs, stories have three parts: a beginning, middle and end.” The first pig is the beginning of the story, the second pig is the middle, and the third pig finally figures out how to solve the problem.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff unfolds in exactly the same way. The Three Bears gets more complicated, because Goldilocks isn’t your classic bad-wolf antagonist, she’s just a bit confused about what to do upon encountering a strange house in the woods. But in a slightly more advanced way, the story’s scenes develop with essentially the same three-part structure.

It also occurred to me that The Three Little Pigs is a perfect way to lay the groundwork for writing a simple, cohesive essay. You know: state your premise, develop your ideas in three tidy segments, and tie it all together in a conclusion.

Now, I wouldn’t go telling kindergarteners to write essays based on the three pigs structure (though in this current weird world of ‘kindergarten is the new high school’ somebody might be trying to do that). But I do think that learning the structure of the ‘story of three’ provides an effective overlay for the logical analysis, organization and presentation of ideas.

Again, I’m sure I’m not the first person to think of this. But for me, it was an aha moment.

Do kids get the connection? Do they better understand literature and write more cohesive essays after carefully studying The Three Little Pigs? I don’t know. I’d love to hear from teachers on this topic.

I do firmly believe that giving students a chance to embody the story through singing, moving and acting deepens their understanding and might even make them better writers. Plus they’re having a lot of fun – we can still do that in education, right?

Phonemic Awareness by Margo Edwards

Today’s post is from  Guest Blogger, Margo Edwards of Sightwords.com. 

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Phonemic Awareness is a crucial foundational skill for child literacy. It is, quite simply, the ability to think about and play with the sounds in spoken words. A child with high phonemic awareness understands that:

  • adding a /fff/ sound to the beginning of arm makes a new word, farm.
  • the word bow is the word boat with the /t/ sound chopped off the end.
  • if you take the word mug and replace the /mmm/ sound at the beginning with a /rrr/ sound, you get the word rug.

Phonemic Awareness is sometimes called Pre-Phonics. A child with high phonemic awareness and a solid knowledge of the alphabet letters and their sounds is well-prepared for Phonics and for future success in Kindergarten and elementary school.

How do I teach Phonemic Awareness to my child? Our free online curriculum has 110 carefully sequenced games and activities designed to help you do just that. The curriculum includes clear instructions, “how-to” videos, and free printables, providing everything you need to lead an individual child or a classroom full of preschoolers down the path to literacy.

Start as early as age 3, with Listening and Rhyming games. Then introduce the idea that spoken language is made up of Sentences and Words, which can be divided into Syllables. Four-year-olds who can divide words into syllables are ready to dive into the heart of our curriculum: Beginning Sounds, Ending Sounds, and more. Our final module is actually a bridge between phonemic awareness and basic reading.

Early literacy is the key to success in future learning. If a child falls behind early, it’s nearly impossible to catch up. Seven out of eight children who start elementary school behind their classmates are still behind at the end of elementary school. So help your child get – and stay – ahead of the curve!

Margo Edwards is the Director of Content Development at SightWords.com, a website dedicated to providing free resources that promote child literacy. SightWords.com is proud to be sponsored by the Georgia Preschool Association.

Click here for songs that teach Phonemic Awareness!

Finding Great Books for Your Kids!

Kids readingDo you ever get lost in the library or the bookstore? In all honesty, it isn’t really a bad thing when that happens, but with our busy lives, sometimes we find something quick and easy. That is why whenever I need a new children’s book, I turn to the experts and look at the award winners. Here are few of the great children’s book awards and the winners for 2016.

Caldecott Awards

By far my favorite book award is the Cadecott Award. The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. The illustrations are always so captivating. Great for engaging readers of all ages!

The 2016 Medal Winner:

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

by Lindsay Mattick and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Before Winnie-the-Pooh, there was a real bear named Winnie. Here is the remarkable true story of the bear who inspired Winnie-the-Pooh.

2016 Honor Books:

Trombone Shorty

by Troy Andrews (author) and Bryan Collier (Illustrator)

Hailing from the Tremé neighborhood in New Orleans, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews got his nickname by wielding a trombone twice as long as he was high. Trombone Shorty is a celebration of the rich cultural history of New Orleans and the power of music.

Waiting

Illustrated and written by Kevin Henkes

An owl, a puppy, a bear, a rabbit, and a pig—all toys arranged on a child’s windowsill—wait for marvelous things to happen in this irresistible picture book.

 


Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement

Illustrated by Ekua Holmes, written by Carole Boston Weatherford

Stirring poems and stunning collage illustrations celebrate Fannie Lou Hamer, a champion Civil Rights.

 

Last Stop on Market Street

illustrated by Christian Robinson and written by Matt de la Peña

Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. This energetic ride through a bustling city highlights the wonderful perspective only grandparent and grandchild can share.