reading informational text and crafting: easy, beautiful jewelry-making

reading informational text and crafting | teachmama.com

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reading informational text and crafting | teachmama.com

One of the things that my kids love to do is crafts, so when Melissa & Doug came out with the Art Activity books, I was sold.

Combining reading and crafting? Bam.

A match made in heaven.

Sure, good ole free play and open-ended art is awesome, but some days, an Art Activity book is a super way of sneaking in some reading for kids. And the ‘art’ of reading informational text to follow directions and to use drawings and diagrams to support the reading are foundational skills in nearly every grade level of the Common Core State Standards.

Reading informational texts is something covered in some way almost every year in the English Language Arts Standards. As parents, let’s do what we can to support our kids’ learning from home.

It’s a win-win-WIN.

Maddy rocked out the informational text reading this week with the help of Melissa & Doug’s Craft and Create Mixed Metal Jewelry set. And she’s loving her new jewels.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Reading Informational Text and Crafting– Easy, Beautiful Jewelry-Making:

I knew that Maddy would love this Mixed Metal Jewelry Set, because right now she’s totally into accessories and jewelry.  And she’s also into doing things independently.

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

And she really did love it.

She took off from the start, opening the set and reading and following the directions.  She began by setting out all of the pieces. And then she started with the Layered Earrings.

We chatted along the way, checking out a few different design options and deciding on the silver-bronze-silver graduated layered discs. Love it!

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

 

She made these adorable earrings!  Aren’t they to die for?

Next she moved onto the braided bracelet.

As she read, she used the photographs and diagrams to help her more clearly understand the steps.

 

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

Especially when it came to the four-strand braid, she used both the diagram and text. I held one side of the bracelet as she braided, and I totally learned something new!

I have never in my life braided with four strands, but Maddy figured it out and explained it to me as she went. Super real-life application of an important reading skill–and Common Core State Standard.

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

Her bracelet turned out so awesome.

And not only did we learn how to do the four-strand braid, but we also learned some cool, new ways of tying off bracelets, combining strands, and connecting the mixed-metal washers and rings.

So fun.

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

I really think this is only the beginning.

Maddy so loved jewelry-making that we’re heading to the craft store for some mixed metal pieces this weekend.  Though the set comes with plenty of pieces, Maddy was busy and included a handful of pieces in each one she made.

It will be so awesome to see her apply her new skills to the other pieces we purchase at the store.  She felt great about what she made and looks forward to making more. Love. It.

In my opinion, there’s nothing better than this! It’s real-life and purposeful informative text reading at its finest!

melissa doug blog ambassador buttonfyi: I wrote this post as part of the Melissa & Doug Blog Ambassador program.   Melissa & Doug has long created rockstar products that nurture creativity and thought in our children, which is why I am so proud to be a part of this program.

As always, my opinions and ideas are my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator.

10 must-read multicultural children’s books

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10 must-read multicultural children's books | recommendations for younger and older readers @teachmama

Today is Multicultural Children’s Book Day, and we are celebrating diversity in children’s literature!

Woo-hoo!  You better believe I’m all for it.

Our kids must read a wide variety of books, books that feature characters of all shapes and sizes. They need to read about different families, foods, and cultures.  Different holidays, customs, and crafts.  Different experiences, events, and celebrations.

It’s imperative that our books reflect the world around us, and, in my opinion, there’s no better way to open up the doors of conversation and learning rather than with books.

And though there are a million, trillion books out there, today you’ll be able to add some great, new titles to your list for your next library trip, thanks to my list here and the many other bloggers who are writing about their favorite multicultural children’s books today.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 10 Must-Read Multicultural Children’s Books: I’ll be honest. I’m kind of cheating here.

Narrowing this list down was pretty tricky for me, since I have a boatload of favorite multicultural children’s books.

But what I also realized is that because my own kiddos (10, 8, and 6 years old) are slowly moving over to that YA (young adult) bookshelf, my picks are a bit of both.

I couldn’t help it.

My top five must-read multicultural children’s books are:

  • Cora Cooks Pancit, by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore  | Little Cora learns the art of cooking pancit with the help of her mama on a rare day when her brother and sisters are out of the house.
  • The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush, by Tomie de Paola  |  I love Tomie de Paola’s take on this Indian legend about how a young boy, the artist of his tribe, creates a painting to fulfill his Dream-Vision.
  • So Far from the Sea, by Even Bunting  |  The Iwasaki family visits Manzanar, where Japanese were interned during WWII, and little Laura says goodbye to her Grandfather in a touching and memorable way.
  • The Legend of the Bluebonnet, by Tomie de Paola  |  The story of a courageous Comanche girl and how she parts with her most prized possession in order to help her people is moving and unforgettable.
  • Mama’s Saris, by Pooja Makhijani  |  I have always loved the grace and beauty of not only the sari but the story of how important it is for a little girl to wear a sari like her mother.
  • I also love, love, love the A Child’s Day series–a day in the life of a child in some part of the word.   It’s a photo journal, a glimpse into what life is like for children all around the world. Love these.

diversity quote maya angelou |  teachmama.com @teachmama

For slightly older kids, I love these multicultural books for young adult (ya) readers:

  • The Recipe for Adventure series, by Giada DeLaurentiis  | (ages 7-12)  Adventure, cooking, and a whole lot of Italian family is the focus of this series which follows Alfie and his sister Emilia all over the world as they solve mysteries and sample food along the way.
  • Aloha, Kanani, by Lisa Yee  |  (ages 8+)  Kanani’s Hawaiian life is totally foreign to her New York City cousin, Rachel, but the girls have a whole summer to learn from each other and embrace their differences.
  • Children of the River, by Linda Crew  | (ages 9+) Sundara and her family move to Oregon to escape the Khmer Rouge army, and Sundara struggles with balancing her Cambodian identity with the new American lifestyle.
  • The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros  |  (ages 13+)  Beautiful and poetic, this coming of age story tells Esperanza’s experiences growing up in the inner city.
  • The Contender, by Robert Lipsyte  |  (ages 13+ ) Alfred works hard to stay out of trouble, but he finds out that a winner isn’t always the guy who comes out on top.

It’s really just a start. I have a ton more to recommend, but I do want you to check out other folks’ recommendations as well!

Want to know a bit more about Multicultural Children’s Book Day? Sure you do.

blogger buttonMission of Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries.

Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

The event’s sponsors are Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books Chronicle Books, and Susan Daniel Fayad: Author of  My Grandfather’s Masbaha.

Do check out the other great bloggers who are participating in the Multicultural Children’s Book Day event:  

2GirlsLostInaBook · 365 Days of Motherhood · A Bilingual Baby · A Simple Life, Really? · Africa to America · After School Smarty Pants · All Done Monkey · Andi’s Kids Books · Anita Brown Bag  · Austin Gilkeson · Barbara Ann Mojica ·  Books My Kids Read · Bottom Shelf Books · Cats Eat Dogs · Chasing The Donkey · Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac · Children’s Books Heal · Church o Books · CitizenBeta · Crafty Moms Share · Discovering The World Through My Son’s Eyes · Early Words · Flowering Minds · Franticmommy · Gathering Books · GEO Librarian · Gladys Barbieri · Going in Circles · Growing Book by Book · iGame Mom · I’m Not The Nanny · InCulture Parent · Itsy Bitsy Mom ·Just Children’s Books– Kid World Citizen · Kristi’s Book Nook · Mama Lady Books · Mama Smiles · Mission Read · Mother Daughter Book Reviews · Mrs AOk · MrsTeeLoveLifeLaughter · Ms. Yingling Reads · Multicultural Kids Blog · One Sweet World · Open Wide The World · P is for Preschooler · Rapenzel Dreams · School4Boys · Sharon the Librarian · Spanish Playground · Sprout’s Bookshelf · Squishable Baby · Stanley and Katrina · Teach Mama · The Art of Home Education · The Brain Lair · The Educators’ Spin On It · The Family-Ship Experience · The Yellow Door Paperie · This Kid Reviews Books  · Trishap’s Books · Unconventional Librarian · Vicki Arnold · We3Three · World for Learning · Wrapped in Foil 

 

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summarizing: at-home practice of a super-important reading skill

summary checklist teachmama.com

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summarizing: at-home practice of a super-important reading skill | close reading a text

The other day, Maddy came home with not necessarily a homework assignment but a challenge from her fourth grade teacher: find the story of Prometheus and explain the connection between ‘Flame’ (an interactive pen in her classroom) and the story.

What was to be nothing more than a five or ten minute reading and jotting down of ideas turned into a quick refresher on how to summarize a passage.

Summarizing is a difficult task when it comes to reading, and it’s made more difficult when the text is challenging.  Myths are hard! All those names! The crazy things that those gods and goddesses do!

But with some modeled help of close reading, it was a little easier.

Here’s the skinny. . . 

  • Summarizing– At-Home Practice of a Super-Important Reading Skill:  In order to adequately summarize a text, the reader has to totally understand what he or she read.

‘Close Reading’ is actually a specific, deliberate reading strategy used to aid readers in comprehension. 

I chose to use it because of the difficulty of the myth.

Close Reading passages helps aid students with comprehension, and often Close Reading is used with nonfiction texts. However, it can be used for just about any passage if need be.

Essentially, Close Reading is just what it sounds like–looking very closely at a text or passage. ‘During a close reading, students explore the deep structures of a text. . . identifying the ‘bones’ of the passage’ (

Close Reading involves several prescribed steps that are really pretty simple:

1. First reading: teacher shares purpose and students annotate (highlight or mark) text

2. Chatting and charting: talk about what was read and chart on sheet or on graphic organizer

3. Second reading: return to text to answer several specific text-dependent questions

4. Chatting and charting: talk about what was read and what new information was gleaned

5. Independence: students somehow demonstrate their new understanding, making connections, inferences, independently and with confidence

summarizing summarizing close reading steps | teachmama.com

At home, after my kids have spent an entire day at school, it’s hard to push them to do something that sounds as involved as this.  But really? Because we did this together, it wasn’t all that hard.

In order to complete Maddy’s homework challenge, we first searched for “Prometheus Story” and found How Prometheus Gave Fire to Man, which I printed and stapled together.

I handed it to her and thought we were finished. But when I asked her to tell me what happened in the story, she had a really hard time.

summarizing: at-home practice of a super-important reading skill

Zeus, this god, like was angry with Prometheus and his brother. They were all fighting.  Wait.  I’m not sure. Prometheus . . . he’s this . . . I don’t know. 

Okay, well let’s look at it together, then.

Grab a pen or a highlighter. Let’s read it. We’re going to highlight all of the important information. We want the information–not the teeny details, okay?  Let’s focus on finding out who exactly Prometheus was.

summarizing: at-home practice of a super-important reading skill

We read the first few paragraphs together–it was only a 2 1/2 page print out–and I took the lead and thought aloud as I identified all of the important information on the first page.  She took over for the second page.

For any first reading, it’s helpful for kids to have a reason to read. Maddy’s reason was to find out who Prometheus was.

After we finished the first reading, we went back and I said, Okay, let’s look back at the highlighted words and phrases and read them.

So we did.  Any questions she had, I answered with ‘Let’s go back to the text to find out.‘ After she was clear on the basics, we were ready for a second quick look at the text.

We should have a better idea of who Prometheus is after this reading, but I want you to read through it one last time thinking specifically about what your teacher asked you: ‘How does the story of Prometheus compare to Flame?’ (Again, Flame is this interactive pen they have in their classroom.)

She read through it a second time, with this specific focus.

I said, Your teacher wants you to bring in an index card with a few pieces of information about the Prometheus story on it. What might be the first thing you write down?   A summary of this short text can be written in 2-3 sentences and should cover only what is essential: what happened and why, who was involved and what was the outcome.

 

summary checklist  teachmama.com

We talked through her quick summary, making sure it was specific and concise.  If I thought she added something that wasn’t necessary, I asked, ‘Is that a detail or essential information?’

Then I asked again: How does the story of Prometheus compare to Flame in your classroom? 

She thought for a minute, looked down at her index card, and looked at me. I think the story connects to Flame in our classroom because when Prometheus gave humans fire, he gave them a lot of power. Maybe Flame gives us power to do things in our school?  (Yaaaaay! Hip, hip hooray! She got it!)

I think you have a really good idea there. Take it to school tomorrow and see what your teacher says.

Summaries are super-important. And Close Readings are important, too.

But what’s most important for kids is to have them recognize the connection between what they’re reading and their own little lives.

In a recent article in The Reading Teacher, the authors explained that this was the key in their research with Close Reading in a fifth grade classroom: ‘Connecting close reading to real-world applications and writing tasks motivated students to review the text with attention to detail, language, and back-ground knowledge’ (p 118 Students’ Close Reading of Science Texts)

For Maddy, her connection was understanding what she read so that she could go back to school and share her findings with the class.

And that’s it.  Quick summary talk during homework time.  I’ll definitely be doing what I can from home on summarizing; it’s a super-important skill and big for all English Language Arts Common Core grade levels.

 

Three cheers to the following resources for help with this piece:

Grant, Maria C , Lapp, Diane , Moss, Barbara & , Johnson, Kelly. (2013). Students’ Close Reading of Science Texts: What’s Now? What’s Next?. The Reading Teacher, 67(2), 109–119.

Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement (2007), Harvey & Goudvis.

Guiding Readers and Writers (Grades 3-6): Teaching, Comprehension, Genre, and Content Literacy (2000), Fountas & Pinnell.

 

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books as gifts: holiday ideas for kids

books as gifts

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books as gifts

 

For any occasion, books are my go-to gift.

From baby showers to birthdays, graduations from preschool or highschool, for well-wishing or comfort-giving, books are a rockstar way to show people you care.

This holiday, my pal Allie and I have been sharing a ton of our book-giving recommendations over at the Scholastic Raise a Reader blog.

I’m sharing only a few of our picks here.

Please hop on over to Scholastic’s Raise a Reader to learn more about the books, picks, and ideas.

Here’s the skinny:

  • Books as Gifts–Holiday Ideas for Kids:

boxed sets for toddlers

great boxed sets for toddlers

book sets like:

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gifts for all kinds of princessesprincess books: gifts for every kind of princess

books like:

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best reading gifts for digital kidsbest reading gifts for digital kids

gifts like:

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10 ebooks for older readers10 eBooks: must-haves for older readers

I love the Storia eBook versions of these books for older readers (or check out the hardcopies below):

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book sets for kids who love adventure and mystery

book sets for kids who love adventure and mystery

book sets like:

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find best bookshow to find the perfect book gift for kids: using Scholastic’s Book Wizard

Not sure what to get but know for sure your child has some favorite authors, themes, or genres?

Check out Scholstic’s Book Wizard for more recommendations, catered specifically to your loved ones’ needs and levels!

Just a start here, friends. Just a start!

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the polar express night: a holiday family tradition

the polar express night: a holiday family tradition

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polar express night The following guest post is written by Karen Blake. Karen is a teacher, mom of three, and aunt of many.  She’s a lover of traditions and is quite honestly one of the most creative and crafty friends I have.

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Traditions are my favorite.

And Christmas traditions are the absolute BEST!

My husband, Doug, and I have  a number of fun traditions with our three little ones, Keegan (4 years old), Brigid (2) and Declan (10 months), but one of my all-time favorite traditions was started way before my little family of five was created.

That tradition is Polar Express Night, or as my nieces and nephews like to call it, P.E.N.  And this holiday tradition was put into place way before the movie came to the big screen!

  • Polar Express Night–A Holiday Family Tradition:

Here’s a little bit of history on how this night came about.  I’ll try my best to make it brief, but I want you to see how this fun family event has evolved.

I went to college to become a teacher.  It was in my children’s literature class, that I discovered Chris Van Allsburg’s  book, The Polar Express.

polar express night - teachmama.com

I fell in love with this story and it was on that day that I knew I would do something special with my students once I graduated and had my very own classroom.

Well, that dream came true.  Every single year, I would read The Polar Express to my students.

The students would bring blankets and sit on the floor, and I would hand out hot chocolate and cookies and then read the story.  At the end, I would give each child a bell. I called each student separately and as I put the bell around their neck, I would say to them:

polar express quote: teachmama.com

I always teared up when I did this, too, and I was sure my fifth graders thought I was a nut!

This classroom tradition was special to me, but it wasn’t until former students would come back to school to visit during the holidays, wearing their bells and telling me how they will never forget our Polar Express Day, that made me realize what that message really meant to them.

So, because of this, I started a Polar Express Night with my nieces and nephews (who were, and still are, the world to me!).

How Polar Express Night (P.E.N.) began:

When I started P.E.N, there were seven nieces and nephews.  This was 12 years ago.  Since then, we have gained two more nephews, one more niece and my three babies.  I was single and living on my own in my small townhouse when I invited my 7 nieces and nephews (ranging from age 2-9) over for a special story.

polar express night - teachmama.com

They were so cute and little and so very excited.  I did exactly what I had been doing in my classroom.

We read the story, drank hot cocoa (with lots and lots of marshmallows and whipped cream, of course) and cookies and they each received their bell.  Those were the simple days.

Oh my, how P.E.N has grown! 

My 2nd year, I decided to have them all spend the night.  It was just the best!  We all got in our jammies, ate pizza and went on with the tradition we started the year before.  I couldn’t give them bells again, so they all received a special holiday mug from me.

polar express night - teachmama.com

polar express night - teachmama.com

The whole night and the gifts just got bigger and bigger as the years went on!  This is why still today, I hold P.E.N– and even the niece and nephew that are in college can’t wait for this night.

Each P.E.N is unique and special. 

I wanted each P.E.N. to be unique and special, so in addition to the book, we would have an activity.

But of course, each year had to be different.

polar express night - teachmama.com

Here are some of our yearly P.E.N activities:

The year that new traditions started.

The year that The Polar Express movie came out on DVD and that really helped with “activity time”!  That’s when new traditions started.

We now start with the book and then we put the movie on and pop the popcorn (everyone has a job: marshmallow person, chocolate shaver, pour the packet of hot cocoa helper, whipped cream squirter, stirrer, server, etc).

polar express night - teachmama.com

We don’t drink our hot chocolate or eat our cookies until that scene of the movie comes on!  Honestly, we start the movie, hit pause when that specific train scene comes on and then we all grab our cup of yumminess and handful of cookies and we sing along to the Hot Chocolate song.

And yes, the kids have aged and they are no longer ages 2-7, they are now 12 years older and still singing and having fun.

So, for the past several years, the Polar Express Night plan has been:

  1. eat pizza,
  2. read the book,
  3. watch the movie (with all of the treats),
  4. do an activity.

Some of the activities have been:

P.E.N has a new home and continues to grow.

In 2007, I was newly married and in my new house.  I’m not sure my husband knew what he was getting into!  I was now out of my small townhouse and in my new home, which meant more room!

polar express night - teachmama.com

Thank goodness, because everyone was bigger and this gave P.E.N a new level of excitement.  Aunt Karen had more space to run around and we didn’t have to sleep on top of each other.

Each year that we gained a new niece or nephew, it too brought a new level of excitement.  The older kids were excited to share this special night with their new cousin.  Most of the kids didn’t start the sleepover part until they were 4 or older, but we never let them think they were missing out on anything.  They stayed until the movie ended and we just pretended it was bedtime after that!

And when Karen’s babies arrived?

I couldn’t wait to have my own children and have them be a part P.E.N too, but when my first child was due two months before Christmas I just didn’t know what I was going to do.  Do I have Polar Express Night with a two-month-old?

Silly question, Karen, of course you do!  What would Christmas be without it?

So, when you are the aunt of 9 nieces of nephews and have your newborn little son, you have Polar Express Night and you have a blast.  And when you have 10 nieces and nephews, a 2 year old and a 4 month old SUPER colicky baby girl, you still have Polar Express Night, because again, what would Christmas be without it?

And then when you have a 3 year old, 17 month old, and you’re 8 months pregnant, you STILL have P.E.N, because what would Christmas be without it?!

No regrets.  None.  I would be sad if I didn’t have those memories.  Who needs sleep anyway??!!

Polar Express Night is everyone’s favorite.

So, now we have a total of 13 beautiful people that look forward to this tradition.  My youngest, Declan, will experience his first this year, and it will be memorable for all.  Every niece and nephew finds the excitement in introducing this tradition to their little cousin.

My toughest part of the night? What creative activity and gift do I come up with?  I put that pressure on myself, because I want to make it perfect for them, but I know that isn’t the important part.

polar express night - teachmama.com

polar express night - teachmama.com

Some of the gifts I’ve given are:

  • the holiday t-shirt,
  • the mug,
  • a snowman making kit,
  • a grab bag,
  • Polar Express pillow cases,
  • gift cards to their favorite places,
  • and many more.

My favorite?  The “I survived Aunt Karen’s Polar Express Night” t-shirt!

polar express quote

The best part of that was when we all happened to go to church at the same time the day after P.E.N and all of the kids were in their t-shirt!  This sure did make me smile, and I laughed out loud when someone tapped my mother on the shoulder and said, “Who is Aunt Karen and what is Polar Express Night?”

Memories to last a lifetime.

The most important thing is that a group of boys and girls that love being together are making memories that will last a long time. Maybe they will even continue this tradition years and years down the road when I’m just “too tired”!!!  That won’t be anytime soon, though–I can guarantee that!

I love to hear the whole gang discuss the memorable moments.

polar express quote

They like to remember the laughs that they have had, the arguments on who would be the “whipped cream squirter” for the night, what team won family trivia, who had the best gingerbread house, and we always find ourselves trying to list the gifts that they received each year.  I will admit, some have been quite memorable!

What P.E.N means to me.

I’m looking forward to my 2013 P.E.N.  I’m sure that some of the teenage nieces and nephews may think they are getting a bit old for it, but I believe that deep down, they  just don’t want to miss out and truly do love it as much as I do.  Hopefully when they all wake up the next day, and I feed them their stacks of pancakes and piles of bacon (I truly feel like a diner cook), they will think, “I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on this.”

polar express night - teachmama.com

I recently emailed my college niece and asked her what this night means to her.  Here is her response:

“Polar express night means a lot to me. It’s not just time to spend with cousins, because we do that plenty during the year, but it really makes us appreciate each other.  We all have roles to play and we know everyone’s favorite part of both the movie and the night in general. For some, it’s the cookies, for others it trivia, and for some it’s hot chocolate.

One thing that has been pretty special is welcoming new cousins to it. When we started, Ryan didn’t sleep over, or James and last year James did for the first time. Not to mention your new babies, that adds a great addition, not just because they are cute, but because we become more responsible with them around.

We have more tolerance for each other -which is a little bit bad to say- but through those arguments/tiffs that occur every once and while we are given an opportunity to apologize and grow. polar express quote 2

Christmas day is wonderful, as is Christmas Eve, however Polar Express Night offers something extra that those other days don’t. It is a night to spend with the people that will be your friends for life, the people you can tell anything to, laugh with and cry with. They have felt the same sadness as you, and the same pride, that comes with being a member of the Collins family. I love Polar Express night and couldn’t imagine Christmas without it.”

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  And remember, believe in the magic of Christmas!

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Karen,  for sharing this fun and meaningful holiday tradition with us!

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karen blake guest post teachmama.comKaren spent 13 years in the classroom, teaching 5th grade and doing what she could to make her students’ learning meaningful and magical. Now, she’s at home raising her 4, 2, and 1 year old, tutoring students, and working for Rendi, where she captures families’ magical memories for sharing and display.  Right now, she’s most likely busy planning this year’s Polar Express party for her many little bell-ringers.

Find out more about Rendi and check out Karen’s pins on family and learning!

Looking for more wintertime activities to add to your family’s traditions? Check out:

Or check out any of teachmama’s posts on Christmas or traditions!
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3 cool kids, 3 cool books: what we’re reading now

3 cool kids 3 cool books | what we are reading now

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3 cool kids 3 cool books | what we are reading

It’s hard to find books that work for your kids.

I totally get it.

So every so often, I’m going to share 3 cool kids, 3 cool books: what we’re reading now.  It’s a quick look at the books that my kids, Maddy (age 9), Owen (age 8), and Cora (age 6) are digging.

It’ll be a vlog, because they’re quicker for me.

And you’ll get the insider’s scoop–why my kids like the book or series and why I like the book or series.  As an avid reader, a former high school English teacher, a Master’s Degree in Reading, you better believe I have some ideas.

Above all, though, I am a normal parent who really just wants my kids to enjoy reading.

So here’s the skinny. . .

  • 3 Cool Kids, 3 Cool Books– What We’re Reading:

Check out the video for the details:

 


 

 

 

But if you just want the quick and dirty link to the book, here you are:

 

What do you think? Are these faves in your house?  Any recommendations you think we should check out?

Let me know!

 

fyi: Affiliate links are used in this post, which means nothing other than if you use the link provided, teachmama.com gets a teeny, tiny percentage of your sale. Bam.

top 2 insider secrets for motivating your kids to read

top 2 ways to motivate kids to read

Every parent hopes that their kids grow up to be readers, right?motivate kids to read

Sure above all, we hope our kids grow to be happy, law-abiding, well-adjusted human beings, but beyond that, wouldn’t it be nice if our kids were readers, too?

Wouldn’t it be awesome if our kids not only knew how to read, but they also really enjoyed reading, choose to read for pleasure, and loved talking to us about the books they’ve read?

Right. It’d be so awesome.

But it doesn’t have to be that far-off of a dream.

There are some things we can do at home–things that don’t cost a million dollars and don’t require all that much effort on our parts. Perhaps a deliberate decision to change, but it’s totally manageable.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Top 2 Insider Secrets for Motivating Your Kids to Read: Having just finished a graduate course called Motivating Students to Read, this information is truly backed by a boatload of research.

It’s not rocket science.

It may not be surprising.

And you may not want to hear it.

But here it is:

 

What do you think?

Ready to take the plunge and really make a difference in your child’s reading?

Let me know–would this work for your child? Have you tried it?

tips and tricks for teaching emergent readers (with free printable early reader books!)

tips and tricks for teaching emergent readers

The following guest post is written by the incredibly talented (and busy!) Anna of The Measured Mom.  Anna is a former classroom teacher, currently a mom of four littles who will be joined by a fifth this winter!  Please check out her rockin blog.

tips and tricks for teaching emergent readers

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I’m thrilled to be guest posting here at Teach Mama! As a former first and second grade teacher and now mother to four little ones, I love teaching children how to read.

Today I’d like to share my tips and tricks for teaching emergent readers. You’ll also find some free printable emergent readers and links to even more!

  • Tips and Tricks for Teaching Emergent Readers (with Free Printable Early Reader Books!):

 

So first of all… what’s an emergent reader?

The term emergent reader can mean two things. It can mean the actual reader himself, or it can mean little books that beginning readers use when they’re just beginning to match voice to print. Let’s talk about the children themselves.

Emergent readers are beginning readers who…

  • know their alphabet and at least some letter sounds;
  • know the difference between a letter and a word;
  • have an basic sense of story (beginning, middle, end);
  • are beginning to match spoken words with print;
  • may recognize words in some contexts and not in others.

What behaviors do emergent readers exhibit?

  • They may use their finger to point to words as they read.
  • They read slowly (word by word).
  • They use the picture clues as they read.
  • They are learning to use beginning sounds to help solve harder words.

tips and tricks for teaching emergent readers (4) - the measured mom on teach mama

 

What kinds of books are best for emergent readers?

The best kind of books for emergent readers are little books with the same name: emergent readers. I’m not talking about phonics readers which can be laborious and painful for brand new readers who are probably not sounding out words with consistency.

I’m talking about little books that meet the following criteria:

  • They have strong picture support.
  • They use repetition, rhyme, or rhythm.
  • They have controlled, repeated vocabulary.
  • They use natural language.
  • Their text is large and clear with only 1-2 sentences per page.

tips and tricks for teaching emergent readers (2) - the measured mom on teach mama

How do we best teach emergent readers?

First of all, we get them books that they can read. Unfortunately, true emergent readers (the books) are extremely hard to find. You are unlikely to find them in your local library and can spend a small fortune purchasing them from the big education companies. Thankfully, you can find free or affordable emergent readers by doing a little hunting. Here are some of my favorite resources:

Reading A-Z.com ($90 for a year’s subscription and unlimited downloads)
Ohio State Keep Books (Books are only about 25 cents each – ask about Kid’s Sets if you want single copies instead of classroom sets)
This Reading Mama’s Reading the Alphabet curriculum
Free Emergent Reader Set  from The Measured Mom

That’s right – the last collection is from me! I’ve been creating four themed readers (such as animals, community helpers, and fairy tales) for each new sight word – starting simple (sight word a) and adding on as we go. You can access my growing collection by clicking on the image below:

free-emergent-reader-collection-the-measured-mom

And today I’m sharing a set of free emergent readers for you to use with your children at the very beginning of this stage! Get them here: Free Emergent Reader Set

To assemble these little books:

  • 1) Print pages 2-9 front to back (Page 1 is my Terms of Use).
  • 2) Be patient for the download and your printer – it may take a few minutes.
  • 3) Cut each page across the horizontal center.
  • 4) Insert the inner page of each book and staple with a long-armed stapler.

free books for emergent readers

How do we support emergent readers as they read?

1) We give helpful prompts.

  • Use the picture to help you.
  • Does the first letter of that word match what you said?
  • Did that sound right?
  • Get your mouth ready to say that word.

tips and tricks for teaching emergent readers (3) - the measured mom on teach mama

2) We celebrate what they do well.

  • That didn’t make sense and you went back and fixed it – good for you!
  • That was a funny page and you laughed! I can tell you’re really thinking about what you’re reading.
  • You didn’t know that word, but you used the picture to help you figure it out. That’s great!

tips and tricks for teaching emergent readers (1) - the measured mom on teach mama

3) We encourage them to grow as they move beyond emergent reading and into early reading.

  • Are you stuck? Try the first chunk of that word.
  • Look all the way through to the end of the word.
  • Sometimes if you’re stuck it helps to start back at the beginning of the sentence.
  • That sentence ends with an exclamation point. Show me how it sounds when you read that.

By reaching our emergent readers where they’re at and providing them with reading materials they love, we guide them on the path to a lifelong love of reading!

ANNA pic for blog!

Anna taught for eight years and received her MEd in Curriculum & Instruction before beginning her career as a stay-at-home mom. She loves to learn and grow with her daughter (age 6) and three little boys (5,3,1) – plus another blessing due in January! Anna shares free education resources for parents and teachers at The Measured Mom. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Anna,  for sharing!

Looking for more activities for ringing in Halloween (and sneaking in a little learning) with your littles?

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

math and writing: ten apples up on top

ten apples up on top

post contains affiliate links

 

ten apples up on top

 

The following guest post is written by Jackie Higgins, of Ready-Set-Read. Jackie is a great friend and longtime we teach member, now a member of the we teach advisory board.

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I’m Jackie, an early literacy blogger, reading specialist, and mom of preschoolers. I’m also a book-a-holic. According to my husband, I have too many children’s books. Is there such a thing?

In our house, I use books to teach basic preschool concepts as well as connect to our experiences. This fall my boys have experienced visiting an apple orchard. We’ve read books about apples and done much of our learning at home based on apples. I prepared for our thematic unit by finding many wonderful picture books about apples at my local library.

You can view my complete list of apple books in my apple unit.

After I found the books my boys loved, I created activities using math, science, and language objectives. As Amy would say it was a great way to “sneak” learning into our day.

Plus, research shows that using thematic units helps kids to connect to what they are learning in a meaningful way.  I’m so thrilled to be here today on Teach Mama to share one of our faves from our apple unit, Ten Apples Up on Top by Dr. Seuss.

Ten Apples up on Top Book Review

Ten Apples up on Top by Dr. Seuss is a rhyming counting book. In the story, a lion, a dog, and a bear compete to see who can balance the most apples on top of their heads. Most kids think this story is so funny. It has a loud, crazy ending. Your kids will join right in with the “kaboom!”

This is a great book for helping kids learn to count objects to 10.  The rhyming text and use of high frequency words makes it a great choice for beginning readers as well.

 

Book Activity for Ten Apples up on Top

apple unit math activity

 

After reading the book, Ten Apples up on Top, we decided to challenge ourselves to see how many apples we could stack on top of our heads. I created apple bean bags for this activity. I cut red felt in circles, stuffed it with beans, and sewed around the circle. The beanbags were pretty easy to make with basic sewing skills. With a little imagination, any size or color of bean bag can be an “apple” up on top, though.  There’s no need to create apple bean bags unless you really want to.

We even created a few “challenges” similar to the book. We tried balancing our apples while hopping, while walking, and while dancing.

After a few tries, the boys recorded the number of apples they were able to balance. We used those in our counting and writing activity.

 

Math and Writing with Ten Apples up on Top

 

apple unit math activity

After our balancing apples challenge, we created a math craft. The boys glued apple clip art on top of a boy face. They carefully counted out the apples to match their score from the game above. Then, they practiced writing numbers.

They are preschool and kindergarten aged so I provided a print out of the sentence. “______ had ___ apples up on top.”  I helped my youngest fill in the blanks with his name and number, but my kindergartener was able to practice writing his name and practice number formation.  My preschooler really wants a beard, so he added that as well! More advanced children could practice writing a complete math sentence to describe their pictures.

I provided my kids with faces to color for their project, but many kids would be able to draw themselves with apples up on top. If you are interested, all of the clip art is included in my apple unit.

 

Extending the activity

The week after we completed this project at home, my son’s kindergarten class read Ten apples up on Top and did a similar activity.  His class was learning to compare numbers. They chose how many apples to put up on top. Then they compared that with a partner. This would be a fun way to introduce math terms such as greater than, less than, equal/same.

Fall is a great time to explore apple themed books and activities. Books can simply be enjoyed together or parents and teachers can work in learning activities to extend the learning. We loved learning about apples and learning basic concepts through our apple unit. Next month we are off to the pumpkin patch, so I guess I better head back to the library. After all, you can never have too many great children’s books!

****

Looking for more book activities?

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

 

ready set read buttonCome visit with Jackie at Ready-Set-Read for more ways to engage your children with books. You can also find Jackie busily pinning on Pinterest, tweeting on twitter, and chatting about the best Children’s literature on facebook and Google+.

 

Huge and happy thanks to the amazing Jackie Higgins for sharing her expertise with us! Please check out her blog, follow her, friend her, and favorite her–you’ll be glad you did!

 

 

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

5 reasons families need backyard chickens (no, this is not a joke)

why families need backyard chickens cover

post contains affiliate links

 

 

We love chickens.backyard chickens for families teachmama.com

We really do.

We love backyard chickens.

As in, we love them thanks to two hens who came to us from Rent a Coop here in the DC Metro area and stayed with us for four weeks.

Kiki and Jennifer.

Though they were admittedly not the first chickens we ever knew (my close friends and family are nodding–or shaking their heads– remembering fondly the days of Peepers and Pappy), but they were the first plump, sweet, free-range feathered girls we ever really loved.

And now that they’re gone? We miss them. We talk about them often, and we laugh about the good times we had with them.  The kids do Kiki and Jennifer impressions.

Brady still mopes around our yard, wondering where his feathered sisters have gone.

Have you thought about giving backyard chickens a try? Sure you have.  And now’s your chance. Our friends from Rent a Coop are offering one teachmama.com reader the chance to have backyard chickens for four weeks, just like we did.

Or if the backyard chicken experience isn’t for you, then they’ll let you in on their chick hatching program which we’re trying for ourselves this winter.  Wetotallycannotwait.

 

backyard chickens for families teachmama.com

And we can hardly wait.  Have I said that? We can’t.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 5 Reasons Families Should Have Backyard Chickens (& How YOUR Family Can Do It):  Backyard chickens may seem crazy, silly, ridiculous to you, but I’m totally convinced that they are an awesome addition to any family.

Clarification: many families.

Sure, with any pet, you’ve got to make sure it’s the right time and that you have the time, effort, and energy to care for them. But these girls? So easy.

 

backyard chickens for families teachmama.com

 

1.  Your family will learn so, so, so much.  We all learned so much about chickens, and we’re still learning.  Our friends learned a ton about chickens.

No one in our world really knows about chickens, which is why having them in our backyard was so much fun.

We learned that chickens love treats.

backyard chickens sept

backyard chickens sept

We learned that our chickens wanted to be close to us and would never wander far.

We learned that chickens like to be held, ride on tire swings, and spend time on tricycles.

We learned that chickens like to drink water from dog bowls.

And we learned a whole lot more.

backyard chickens for learning and fun teachmama.com

2.  Gathering eggs? So fun.  It’s like Christmas morning every time you run out to the coop.  It was the perk of whomever’s day it was to be the one to pick up the eggs.  So fun.

It took Kiki and Jennifer a few days to get into a schedule of laying eggs, but soon they’d each lay one egg sometime late morning.

And what we learned about eggs is that no–even if we didn’t eat the eggs and prayed hard enough they still wouldn’t hatch into chicks.

You need a rooster for that.  You’re nodding your head, right? Now you get it.  Everyone who came to see the chickens wondered the same thing–what makes the eggs hatch? It’s the rooster, yo.  Learned that for myself from the BackYard Chickens FAQs.

Also what’s cool about the eggs is that there you go–you have breakfast right there in your own backyard. Owen learned to make his very first scrambled eggs–all by himself this summer. And he got the eggs from Kiki and Jennifer. We’re like basically self-sufficient over here.

 

backyard chickens for learning and fun teachmama.com

Sometimes Maddy just likes wearing Harry Potter robe around the yard. Jennifer liked it.

3.  Chickens are so easy.  Seriously.  We put their organic feed in the feed bowl and only had to refill it every few days. We did the same thing with their water.   Every week-ish we cleaned out the coop and put in new wood shavings. Voila. Done.

They do not bite, and their pecks are so gentle.

They’ll eat anything almost, and they love treats. (Check out the Chicken Eats & Treats sheet we had hanging in the kitchen for the last four weeks!)

Kiki and Jennifer let Maddy, Owen, and Cora hold them, carry them, love them, hold them, and carry them more.

They actually got along with Brady.  And by ‘got along’ I mean, Brady chased them and they let him.

 

backyard chickens for learning and fun teachmama.com

backyard chickens for family fun and learning

backyard chickens for family fun and learning

4.  Chickens are hilarious.

They look really funny when they run.  And they’ll run for just about any treat.

Want a few more funny chicken videos? head to my Instagram account
They are just plain hysterical to see in a suburban backyard, in the same way that it’s funny for kids to see their teachers outside of the school building. It’s just not–the norm.

So when you are eating breakfast and your pet chicken hops up on your porch and struts by your sliding glass door, the kids will go nuts crazy laughing.

When you’re doing dishes and see your kids holding a chicken on their hips, walking around your back yard or swinging with a chicken on their laps, you’ll laugh.

When you hear your kids tell other people about your chickens? When you all watch a chicken shove its face into a watermelon, peck a tomato, or steal grapes from your hand? All funny.

 

backyard chickens for learning and fun teachmama.com

backyard chickens for learning and fun teachmama.com

5.  Your kids will be so proud. They will love becoming experts on chickens.

They will be beaming as they demonstrate to their friends and neighbors how to properly hold a chicken.

They will love to be able to show family members how awesome their chickens are.

They will love to have people come by to visit and meet your chickens.

 

What you need to think about if you’re considering chickens:

  • chicken poop: Though it’s supposedly great for your grass, it is there as it is with any pet.
  • chickens peck and scratch: If your yard is 100% awesome and perfect, mulch spread out of flower beds may bug you. Our yard? We hardly noticed.
  • HOA rules: Your housing development or neighborhood or county may have rules about keeping backyard chickens.

 

Check out all of our backyard chicken photos:

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Huge thanks to Tyler from Rent a Coop for making our backyard chicken experience so easy.  He rolled on up with our coop and the two sweetest hens around, bringing everything we needed for the whole four weeks.  I had not a clue that we’d love Kiki and Jennifer as much as we did. The experience was so much fun for us all, and we really hope to do it again this spring.

Tyler quickly and patiently answered my wide range of insane texts: They’re not laying eggs! What’s wrong?  (It’s okay–it takes them a day or two to get comfortable–), and he worked around our schedule for drop-off and pick-up.

He didn’t flinch when he came to pick them up and there were 50 kids and adults in the house and yard or when Cora followed him to his van, peeking through the coop window yelling, Bye, Kiki and Jennifer!!! We love you and we will miss yooooooou!!

Cool fact: Tyler makes the coops–as in constructs them himself with recycled materials, and it’s easy to move (you’ll move it around your yard every few days), and it’s predator proof.

Check them out on their Rent a Coop site.  Follow them on their facebook page.  Follow them on twitter and instagram–and bug them like I do to share more photos of their hens.

backyard chickens sept

Let’s just pretend Owen’s wearing matching shoes. . .

backyard chickens for learning and fun teachmama.com

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GIVEAWAY: One 4-week backyard chicken/ coop rental from Rent a Coop OR participation in the chick hatching program for your home or school.

Do you want to win your own 4-week backyard chicken/ coop rental from Rent a Coop OR participation in the chick hatching program for your home or school??Yes, yes you do.

Please use the Rafflecopter widget below to throw your name in the hat:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
By entering this giveaway, you are demonstrating your understanding of and compliance with the Official Sweepstakes Rules.

This giveaway ends Friday, October 11, 2013 at midnight ET and is open to folks here in the DC Metro only; our friends from Rent a Coop can only send their chickens so far, you know. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 10/13/13.  Winner must respond within three (3) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.

 

fyi: This is an unsponsored post, but our family was given the opportunity to try our hand at raising backyard chickens for four weeks in exchange for sharing a bit about Rent a Coop.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my personal experience as a parent and educator–and, of course, my three little chicken-loving littles.

Affiliate links are used in this post.

the national book festival: what it is and why you should go

national book festival what it is and why you should go

national book festival what it is and why you should goThe National Book Festival is this weekend, September 21-23, 2013.

Go.

It’s awesome.

And it’s free.

It’s on the National Mall here in DC, but if you can’t make it, don’t fret.  There are tons of online resources available–so it’s kind of like you’re there even if you’re far from our Nation’s Capital.

Honestly, it’s one of my most favorite weekends of the year, and that’s not an exaggeration.

This year? On Saturday, I’m thrilled about trying to catch a glimpse of KEVIN HENKES (of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, Owen, A Good Day, many others…), Fred Bowen (from our fave Washington Post section, the Kids Post), Veronica Roth (no joke! she wrote Divergent and Insurgent), the Poetry Out Loud winners, & more.

And Sunday? GIADA!!! Did you read about her new books for kids? Yes. She combines cooking and adventure and kids. We read all about it in the Kids Post this very day.  They’re called the Recipe for Adventure series, and the first takes place in Naples and the second in Paris.

Also? Mark Teague (LaRue books, Pigsty, and more), Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner & A Thousand Splendid Suns) & more.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • The National Book Festival–What it is and Why You Should Go:

Follow @LibraryCongress on twitter because the Library of Congress hosts the event along with honorary chairs, President and Mrs. Obama.   If you go, use #NatBookFest to add your tweets to the mix!

  • What it is: The festival is essentially a celebration of books and reading. It features 100+ authors, poets and illustrators in several pavilions where you can actually meet and hear firsthand a ton of different poets and authors, get books signed, have photos taken with storybook characters and participate in a variety of activities.

national book fest extras

So check out the schedule. Figure out what two or three authors you and your kids want to see. Then search your house for your favorite books by that author, shove the books, some sunscreen, some waters, and some snacks in your backpack, and get your tail on down first thing in the morning.

In the past, they’ve had reusable bags and posters available for visitors, and you just wander around, smiling and happy and in disbelief that you’re in the presence of seriously awesome literary rockstars.

  • Where it is: Between 9th and 14th Streets on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Sunday, Sept. 22 from noon to 5:30 p.m.   Rain or shine.
  • Why you should go: I wrote about the awesome of the National Book Festival last year, but it is worth repeating.

Check it out:

national book fest -- bring your family

This year:

  • Scholastic will be there again, sharing how a number of authors and illustrators have shown what Read Every Day means to them.  Check out information on Scholastic’s eBook platform, Storia, and Build A Book yourself!
  • PBS Kids will be there again, sharing news on the new series, Peg + Cat, and tons of favorite PBS Kids characters will be there for pictures, like Abby Cadabby from Sesame Street, Arthur, The Cat in the Hat, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Curious George, Daniel Tiger from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Martha from Martha Speaks, the cast of SUPER WHY!, WordGirl and Peg and Cat from the new PBS series.  Educator resources will also be shared. Love it!
  • The Digital Bookmobile will also be there again, along with a number of other cool tents, sponsors, and resources and activities for kids and families.

national book fest fun

Will we see you there?

If so, and you have a Girl Scout in your family, she can earn a National Book Festival badge just by going!

nat book fest girl scout badge

Need more information?

Have you been there before? What suggestions, advice, or experiences do you have to share?

Talk about some serious learning in the every day when and if you can make it down!

 

fyi: This is an unsponsored post, written only to share news of an awesome event I’d love to see more families in the DC metro area take advantage of.

Affiliate links are used in this post; when you click on a link, we get a teeny, tiny little percentage of the sale. Thank you!