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Mary Ducette, Coordinator, Ready to Learn

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Build On What You Watch: A Triangle for Learning

Young children learn by doing—by interacting with the people and objects around them. To learn, they need to experience things again and again. They need to play, to manipulate, to group and repeat.

To get the most from the TV you and your children watch, create a Ready To Learn Learning Triangle. Our learning triangle is TV that teaches + storybooks + activities—all related to one theme or skill. The Learning Triangle can follow any order, at any time! For example...

If a Program You Watch Takes You on a Tour of a Pretzel Factory

  • Make pretzels at home—for real or pretend—out of play dough or clay.
  • Make a recipe chart of the ingredients needed to make pretzels and talk about measuring and sequencing.
  • Before or after watching the program, read a book such as Bread, Bread, Bread by Ann Morris.
  • Even make a game out of twisting your body up like a pretzel!

If You Watch a Segment About Families from Different Countries

  • Read How My Family Lives In America by Susan Kuklin.
  • Plan an activity where your children have a chance to tell you/write and illustrate their family customs.
  • Visit an international grocery and talk about the variety of foods.
  • What other activities celebrate diversity?

Choose Smart TV

Smart TV—TV that teaches—does so because it is a good match between the social, emotional, and cognitive developmental skills of an audience. A three-year-old is learning very different skills than a six-year-old.

Smart TV is grounded in a curriculum—a list of things to learn—and each show on PBS has a curriculum. Choose shows and segments—pieces of shows that have a beginning, middle, and ending—that deal with the very things your children are learning about. Use a VCR to tape a show and pick out the pieces that you want to use. While you're watching—ask questions, sing along, make predictions about what will happen, and have fun!

Extend the Learning with Books

Find books that are a good match to the topics and concepts of the TV show or segments you watch. Don't be afraid to read the same stories again and again. Read aloud each day and encourage children to look at books on their own. Visit your local library to check out books that complement the segments you watch. Be sure to share information about the books and topics children study in school or child care or at home with your child's caregivers, teachers and families.

While reading storybooks, stop before the ending and ask children to add their own ending to the story. Add drama to your reading by using different voices for different characters. Collect props and puppets to act stories out! Ask your children to tell you how the story is like what they saw on TV. How is it different? Help the children make connections between what they watch and the stories they read.

Do Activities to Build On What You’ve Watched

The learning can grow and grow through activities that are a good match to the theme or skill taught in the TV you watch or the storybook you read with them.

Art activities, outdoor play, science experiments, math games, dramatic and creative play, language and word play, music, and even the routine of everyday living like walks in the park and cooking dinner—all of these and many more can become learning activities that relate to something your children watched on TV. Choose activities that are a good match for your children's abilities and plan ahead of time. Be sure to talk about how the activity is connected to what you watched.

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