Early Literacy Workshops

Early Math Skills Early Literacy Workshop

This is a workshop my colleague and I hosted with parents at a local school. The following is the format/outline of the workshop and the points we covered all through casual but directed conversation and through fun activities. 

Math + Literacy Early Literacy Workshop Outline:

Quick review:

What is early literacy? (Discussion)

Definition: Early literacy is what a child knows about reading and writing before they have the ability to read and write ex: scribbling with a crayon, recognizing shapes

5 Foundations of Literacy? (Discussion)

Read, Write, Talk, Sing, Play (I like to sing it to a beat, drum on table, helps us remember)

Major Talking Points:

  • Count
  • Point out shapes
  • Talk about patterns & relationships
  • Make music

Counting: How can we count at home?

  • Grocery store (Ex: How many apples should we buy? How many apples should we buy if everyone in the house gets 1 apple?)
  • While cooking: (Help with measuring, How many of X do we need you think?)
  • General counting by sight: (counting steps, counting ppl on the street, counting stripes on a shirt, counting sidewalk cracks)

Shapes: How can we encourage our child to notice and acknowledge shapes?

  • Easiest thing to do is point out shapes you see, maybe pick a shape of the day
  • Can be done on train, at home
  • Ask how do you know it’s X shape?
  • Make it a game: Play “I spy” “I spy a green circle” (a traffic light?)
  • Playing with shapes such as legos, tangrams, blocks, drawing and cutting shapes, tracing shapes to make a story

Patterns and relationships: How can we encourage our child to notice patterns?

  • Recognize repetition (of lines, colors, shapes) great at the grocery store & clothing store
  • Use math words to describe change (I am taller than I was last week!, I dumped blocks out of the bucket, then I put them back in the bucket when I cleaned up, this is the very beginnings of algebra)
  • Where are patterns? On street, in bathroom, at stores, on clothing
  • Finding all the squares in a book
  • Sort blocks (by color, shape)
  • Matching capital and lowercase letters
  • Larger smaller
  • Matching lids, bottle caps to containers

Making Music:

  • Clapping to a beat helps children understand rhythm, numbers, patterns. Rhythm=pattern
  • Read rhyming books
  • Listen to music
  • Sing songs (1,2, buckle my shoe, 5 little monkeys, 5 little ducks, really all songs have rhythm)

Song Break!

(I chose this song because it has a lovely rhythm, a built in word pattern [tick tock tick tock] and some numbers!)

Tick Tock

Tick tock tick tock I’m a little cuckoo clock
Tick tock tick tock now I’m striking 1 o’clock CUCKOO! (jump up and sit back down)
Tick tock tick tock I’m a little cuckoo clock
Tick tock tick tock now I’m striking 2 o’clock CUCKOO CUCKOO! (jump up and sit back down)
Tick tock tick tock I’m a little cuckoo clock
Tick tock tick tock now I’m striking 3 o’clock CUCKOO CUCKOO CUCKOO! (jump up and sit back down)
Tick tock tick tock now it’s time to STOP

General tips:

  • Have natural discussions, not just questions and answer sessions
  • Patience, math talk takes time!


Two possible activities: Lego Time &/or DIY Tangrams

Legos & Discussion Time

Ingredients: Legos and that’s it!

  • Making & recognizing patterns with legos
  • Sorting legos
  • Making shapes out of legos
  • Counting legos

DIY Tangrams:

There are many places online where one can find printable tangrams and instructions for DIY tangrams with measuring and whatnot but I like to think of the simplest possible way to do things because I think that’s more realistic for parents, so here’s my short and sweet and super simple DIY tangram recipe!


  • Cardboard box
  • Scissors
  • Markers or crayons


  • Draw shape outlines on box
  • Color in each shape as desired
  • Cut out each shape
  • Make fun new shapes, designs and characters out of your tangrams!

This is a great activity to do together with a child and then continue to leave out on a table or the floor as an invitation to play.

Extension activities:

  • Only color one side of shape and then play a “matching” game where child tries to match colors
  • Close eyes and try to match shapes just by feel
  • Add numbers to each shape and play number matching game
  • Shape sorting, counting and pattern making
  • Invite child to turn shapes into characters based on a story you have read



Early Literacy Workshops

Early Literacy Workshop: Multi-Station Intro to 5 Foundations of Literacy

I conduct a version of this workshop every year for one of my favorite teachers. Parents and children come to the library and we do several things together:

  • Reveal children’s artwork on library wall
  • Hand out library cards and achievement certificates
  • Sing silly songs and/or read a silly book
  • Discuss benefits of library and library resources
  • Participate with children in multiple simple activities that enhance parental knowledge of read, write, talk, sing, play concepts and show parents how easy it can be to tackle at home.

Here are the details on the different stations we had available for the event. The stations contained a sheet of quick tips, and emphasized simplicity and collaboration between parent and child:

Dramatic Play Station:

Writing Skills Station:

More Dramatic Play:

More Writing Skills:

Even More Writing Skills:

Reading Skills/Collection Promotion:

And here you can see our silly song time and the children holding their certificates with their artwork behind them! (Apologies if they are blurry, I am a photography dumdum)


Early Literacy Workshops

Early Literacy Workshop: The Power of Pretend

This is a workshop I conducted on the importance of playing pretend. The workshop was conducted with our regular Family Storytime crowd of grown-ups with children ages 0-5. I framed the workshop as a regular story time, but included early literacy tips at appropriate moments throughout the workshop.

Book 1: Not A Box by Antoinette Portis

Theme Song: This is a sort of made up song, I originally found a version of it in some strange YouTube video, but edited it to better suit our workshop. Of course we did some pretending for each line of the song.

The Pretend Song
It’s fun to be this
It’s fun to be that
To leap like a lamb
To climb like a cat
To hop like a frog
To swim like a fish
To trot like a horse
To eat from your dish (om nom nom nom nom nom)
It’s fun to pretend
To play make believe
It’s fun to pretend
Or just to be me!

Re-focus song

Book 2: Meeow and the Little Chairs by Sebastien Braun

We ended by using pretend to sing some of our favorites songs such as Tick Tock (pretending to be a cuckoo clock) and Snake in the Grass (pretending to be a snake). 


The following are the tips we discussed throughout our workshop:

  • Playing pretend is important because it helps our child develop:
    • Vocabulary
    • Language
    • Social skills
    • Problem solving skills
  • What can we play pretend with at home or on the go?
    • Boxes
    • Clothes and costumes
    • Pots and pans
    • Stuffed animals and dolls
    • Subway cards and old credit cards
  • Encourage your child to tell a story by asking open ended questions while they are playing:
    • What is this character doing?
    • Where are they going?
    • How do they feel right now?

At the very end I also gave out this nice handout I found that summarized our workshop well:


Early Literacy Workshops

Early Literacy Workshop: Intro to 5 Foundations of Early Literacy

This was a workshop I conducted at a local school with parents of children ages around 3-5. The following is my outline of discussion for the workshop as well as the fun activity we did at the end.

Outline for Family Literacy Workshop

Welcome, Intros

What is early literacy? (Discussion)

Definition: Early literacy is what a child knows about reading and writing before they have the ability to read and write ex: scribbling with a crayon, recognizing shapes

5 Foundations of Literacy? (Discussion)

Read, Write, Talk, Sing, Play (I like to sing it to a beat, drum on table, helps us remember)

  • Read—read together, develops literacy skills, no X amount of time per day, okay to read book okay to repeat books, not finish a book, talk about pictures only, at this age we focus on development of LOVE of reading
  • Write—develops fine motor skills making it easier for child to hold a pencil, type etc
  • Talk—vocab skills, language skills, storytelling skills, social skills, word identification
  • Sing—singing slows down words so that its easier to understand vocabulary, also introduces children to rhythm
  • Play—develops, vocab, language skills and especially problem solving skills, gross motor skills

Silly Song Break! For this workshop we sang The Bananas Unite Song and Snake in the Grass. These can be found in my favorite songs section.

Today our activity will focus on the skill of writing.

Before a child excels at writing they develop fine motor skills, small hand movements that help with things later on such as writing and holding scissors.

What are some things you can do at home for writing skills?

  • Encourage scribbling by providing many opportunities to write and draw. Keep crayons and paper on a table where children can return again and again.
  • Get magnetic letters for the refrigerator or make letters from cardboard for the children to play with.
  • Have them sign their drawings to develop hand-eye coordination and build up their writing muscles. Children also begin to understand that writing represents words.
  • Talk about what they draw, have them make up stories or write captions for their drawings so they make the connection between written and spoken language.

Today we will be using easy to find at home materials to make a fun activity that your children can play with and that you can use to play with them. This activity will help your child develop those all important fine motor skills!  As an added bonus, this activity, like many that you already do at home, covers many of the early literacy skills such as play, write, and talk when you engage with your child!

Activity: Gel Bags


  • Clear hair gel
  • Quart sized freezer ziploc bags
  • Odds and ends (beads, pennies, old jewelry, pom poms, glitter)
  • Duct tape


  • Add gel generously into one ziploc bag, then add your odds and ends
  • Close first bag, duct tape, then place upside down into second bag
  • Duct tape second bag closed for added protection against leak
  • Smush away!

Extension activity:

Tape an X or O to the bag, challenge your child to get a particular item into the middle of the O!