quick and easy addition game: finding addends

quick and easy addition game: finding addends | teachmama.com | math printable #weteach

quick and easy addition game |  teachmama.comCora has really been into playing math games lately.

That’s right. Math games. I love it.

Like while Maddy and Owen are doing their homework, all my littlest one wants to do is math.

So I’m doing what I can to run with it.

She came home with a Finding Addends game a few weeks back, so lately, that’s been in our rotation.

Finding Addends is a quick and easy addition game that gets kids thinking, practicing their facts, and flexing their mental calculators.

Though it looks like it came from a program or texbook, I mirrored the game and have it here as a freebie printable. Because some days Cora and I like to write in our own numbers instead of the game ones.

We crazy like that.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Quick and Easy Addition Game– Finding Addends:  Super-simple premise here.

The idea is that players take turns flipping cards from a pile which have numbers 1-10 on them.

Once you get your number, you try to find the addends–or the numbers that, when added together, equal the number on the card.

quick and easy addition game | finding addends | teachmama.com

quick and easy addition game | finding addends | teachmama.com

Each player has his or her own tokens to cover the addends, and the winner is the person who has the most color blocks on the board at the end of the game.

No ‘tokens’? Use stickers (two different ones), coins (dimes and pennies), legos, cheerios, candy hearts, you name it.  Or just color in the blocks using crayons. No biggie.

Or something like that. I’m sure there are a million ways to play this, but that’s how we’ve been rolling lately.

quick and easy addition game | finding addends | teachmama.com

We’ve also played with mixed up manipulatives and did our best to cover each square of the board.

That works, too.

quick and easy addition game | teachmama.com

Want the Quick and Easy Addition Game to play today after school?

Download it here: addends game _ teachmama.com

It is a pretty basic download–one page is the board and the other is the set of cards. Print the cards out on cardstock so you can’t see through the back.

Or if you want to personalize your game, use the last two pages–they’re the board and cards but blank. Write in the numbers you need to work on, and you’re done.

So fun.

Looking for more super-fun, sneaky math activities?

Or check out the following math-happy posts:

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

25 ways to play with puzzles

25 ways to play with puzzles | teachmama.com

Get those puzzles out, my friends!25 ways to play with puzzles | teachmama.com

It doesn’t matter if your kids are 2 or 12–puzzles are a super way of flexing those brain muscles, practicing fine motor skills, and either some spending quiet time alone or time to catch up together.

So this month, bring out the puzzles.

Especially because January is National Puzzle Month and January 29 is National Puzzle Day (oh yes it is), you really want to celebrate puzzles this month.

And because puzzles come in all shapes and sizes, you’re guaranteed to find one that fits your needs, wants, and strengths. It’s up to us to share puzzles with our kiddos so that they can find what they love to do!

Here’s the skinny. . .

Highlights for Children has created a rockin’ freebie puzzle book that anyone can print and use: Mini Puzzle Guide. LOVE it.

Check out the Puzzle Guide by Melissa & Doug

How will you be celebrating National Puzzle Day? We’d love to hear it! 

kid-happy, pet-inspired poetry writing: haiku and cinquain

kid-happy poetry writing haiku and cinquain

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We’ve been dumped on.

Big time.kid-happy poetry writing haiku and cinquain

Tons of snow has kept us indoors for the last few days, save from the few hours we’ve spent freezing our tails off in the white fluffy stuff.

So we’ve had more than enough time to do some kid-happy, pet-inspired poetry writing. And we’re not messing around.

We’re going big-time here, rockin the haiku and cinquain.


We all listened, supported, and gave Maddy feedback on her entry into Pets Add Life’s 6th Annual Pet Poetry Contest.


And after paging through the entries, my Maddy decided that in order to set her poems apart from the rest, she was going to have her poems follow a slightly different format, a format that she’s recently learned in fourth grade and one that she really loves writing.

She couldn’t decide between the haiku or the cinquain, so she did both.

One stanza is haiku and the other is cinquain, and together they make her rockin entry into the contest. I mean, how can a person decide between those two options? They’re both awesome, right?

So we brainstormed, refreshed her memory about the specifics of the haiku and cinquain, and did some kid-happy, pet-inspired poetry writing.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Kid-Happy, Pet-Inspired Poetry Writing — Haiku and Cinquain:  Really, now that she’s in fourth grade, Maddy led the show with this.

She knew she wanted to write about our birds because she thought they would be a unique pet and that not that many kids would be doing the same.

She also knew the basics of haiku and cinquain format but wanted me to double check for her.

kid-happy, pet-inspired poetry writing: haiku and cinquain | teachmama.com

So she and I searched ‘haiku writing for kids’ and ‘cinquain writing for kids’ and came up with two really easy-to-follow resources:

kid-happy, pet-inspired poetry writing: haiku and cinquain | teachmama.com

kid-happy, pet-inspired poetry writing: haiku and cinquain

A quick refresher:

  • Haiku is all about syllables. It’s a three-line poem, with 5 syllables in first line, 7 syllables in second, and 5 syllables in the third.
  • Cinquain (pronounced sin-kane) is a five-line poem with a pretty specific formula:

    a one-word title, a noun
    two adjectives
    three -ing participles
    a phrase
    a synonym for your title, another noun

kid-happy, pet-inspired poetry writing: haiku and cinquain

She grabbed a piece of paper and started jotting down some brainstorming notes, starting with the cinquain and then moving onto the haiku.

When questions arose about word choice, she asked.  I need some help thinking of -ing words about the birds.  What sounds better: ‘budgie’ or ‘parakeet’? 

Owen and Cora were nearby, and though they are too young to enter the contest (boo-hoo!), they were on hand to help their sister.  And after a few drafts and several revisions, her poems were finished.

kid-happy, pet-inspired poetry writing: haiku and cinquain

kid-happy, pet-inspired poetry writing: haiku and cinquain

Though she loved writing her poem, I am willing to bet that Maddy’s favorite part was entering it on the computer, on the PAL website.  My kids love using the computer, any time of the day.

And after she finished, she and Owen re-read the entries, trying to narrow down her competition.

Talk about some fun reading–they laughed at the funny ones and got teary at the sad ones.  Some of those poems, written by kids are pretty darn good.  Gulp.

Really, kids can write haiku, cinquain, or any sort of free-verse or rhyme poem inspired by their pets any day of the year. Pets are a super topic because kids often have seriously strong feelings about their fuzzy, scaly, feathery, slimy brothers and sisters.

Find a funny pet photo or recall a silly memory of a pet’s naughty behavior, and you have ideal pet poem content!



But now is a particularly awesome time to get your kids writing in the name of their pets because the PAL Children’s Poetry contest has some pretty great prizes.  Kids in grades 3-8 may enter, and prizes are a $250 gift card for each age group and $1000 for the winners’ classes!

And aside from the prizes, kids feel awesome when their writing has a real purpose.  A real-life application. But the deadline is January 31, 2014, so you have to act quickly.

Check it out.  Share this blog post or the Calling All Creative Kids! post with your friends and your kids’ school.

Or just share the Children’s Poetry Contest site with them, and you’ll still be good.

fyi: This is a sponsored post; I was asked to share information about this contest by my friends at PAL, and I gladly obliged knowing it’s a serious win-win!

pet poetry contest: calling all creative kids!

pal pet poetry contest

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pet poetry contest | @PetsAddLife

As a longtime friend of PAL, Pets Add Life, I’m happy to share news about a cool opportunity for our students, teachers, and parents.

Now through January 31, 2014, Pets Add Life invites students in grades 3 – 8 to enter the 6th Annual Pets Add Life Children’s Poetry Contest and write a poem about their pets.   So fun.

All entrants have a chance at winning a $250 gift card and a byline in a national publication or online outlet.  But there’s more.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Pet Poetry Contest–Calling All Creative Kids:  Pets Add Life is a nonprofit campaign established by the American Pet Products Association.

And I love that PAL does this every year to not only get kids writing (yay!) but to celebrate our furry, feathery, scaly, fuzzy friends.

Love pets? Your creative student could win $250 plus $1,000 for their classroom!

That’s right.  Each winning student’s classroom will receive $1,000 to spend on pet-related education!

pal pet poetry contest

Teachers are encouraged to submit students’ poems in one entry on behalf of their classrooms. For more information or to submit poems, visit www.PetsAddLife.org.

PAL_logo_hiYou can enter the contest here: PAL Pet Poetry Contest.

Thinking about entering? We are too! Please stay in touch and let us know if your kiddo–or student–is a winner!

fyi: This is a sponsored post; I was asked to share information about this contest by my friends at PAL, and I gladly obliged knowing it’s a serious win-win!

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

summary checklist teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links



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.


fyi: affiliate links are used in this post


word building, letter writing, stamping to spell

stamp to spell

post contains affiliate links



stamp to spell | use stamps for early literacy learning and spelling | teachmama.com

 Originally published on 2.23.11 but republished because it’s that important.

During Maddy’s homework time yesterday, Owen had one task on  his mind: he wanted to write a get-well letter to his buddy who recently had surgery.  He knew exactly what he wanted to write–he told me at least two times during the day what his letter would say, and we knew exactly what we wanted to put in his pal’s little ‘get well quick’ package.

But my O-man wanted to make his letter special. He wanted to make it fancy he said, because he wanted to really cheer his buddy up.

So I brought down the alphabet letter stamps–our favorites from Melissa & Doug–and I asked if he wanted to stamp his letter.  Score! He did, so he got stamping. . .

. . . and while Cora initially began her own letter to Owen’s friend, she quickly switched gears and decided that she instead wanted to ‘stamp names’. So stamping names my little Cora did.

All the while, Maddy and I rocked out her homework, and I’ll tell you, overall, homework time went pretty smoothly for us.

  • Word Building, Letter Writing, Stamping to Spell: Before Owen began, he dictated his letter to me.  I wrote it down and placed it next to his blank card and the alphabet stamps.

I asked,  Do you want me to make lines for you, Owen?

No, I know what to do, he said.  And apparently he did. He got rolling and only stopped when Maddy mentioned something to him about spaces between words.

You should really try putting two fingers on the paper and use that as the space between words so it’s not all one big word on the page. That’s what my teacher taught me last year.

stamp to spell | teachmama.com

Owen tries out Maddy’s ‘two fingers for a space’ trick.

I confirmed her suggestion, and Owen started using his two tiny fingers as spaces. He got hung up when there wasn’t enough room on the page for the ‘u’ in ‘you’ so I tried to squeeze it in for him. It didn’t work:  Now it looks like a ‘q’ Mommy. Come on. Really, what am I good for anymore?

So I did what I could to fix it and he didn’t ask me for help again.

stamp to spell | early literacy | spelling | teachmama.com

stamp to spell | teachmama.comMy sweet, sweet Owen was so proud of his letter.   And he should be.

And I really didn’t need to, because he did know what he was doing. Sure, he moved back and forth between uppercase and lowercase letters, but at this point, that’s no big deal. He used his eyes to follow the words on the letter I wrote, found the correct letter stamp in the set, and then marked that letter on the page. That’s not easy.

Sure, he got tired and decided to omit a whole line of his message, but that doesn’t matter. It wasn’t an easy task, and he worked hard.

He stamped some flowers, dogs, hearts on the front of the card, and he added his own few hearts for his buddy.  If that doesn’t cheer a guy up, I’m not sure what will.

stamp to spell | early literacy | spelling | teachmama.com

stamp to spell | early literacy | spelling | teachmama.com

  • Stamping Family Names: While Owen stamped his letter, Cora stamped our family’s names.

Lately, she’s brought down our Family Name Chart at least once a week; she’s traced names, doodled on the page, anything.  Sometimes she just has the chart next to her as she colors.  Maybe because she likes the ‘older’ pictures of our family? (Cora was maybe a year old when I made it. . . )

The Family Name Charts are here to download if you’d like. They include three charts: one with MOMMY, DADDY and 3 blank spaces; one with Mommy, Daddy, and 3 blank spaces; and one with 5 blank spaces.

new family name chart (in Word, so you can change it yourself), or new family chart–BLANK ( as a pdf, so you can write in the names yourself).  Enjoy!

Cora began with Maddy’s name; she said, I need an ‘M’, I need an ‘M‘.  And when she found it, she stamped it.  Then she’d continue: I need an ‘A’, I need an ‘A’, I need the ‘A’. . . as she searched for it in the box.

stamp to spell | early literacy and letter recognition | teachmama.com


stamp to spell | early literacy | letter recognition | teachmama.com

Once Maddy was stamped, she went on to Owen, but before she started, I drew four little lines for her.  You can put the letters right on these lines so each letter is in the right place, I said.  I did the same for her name and Brady’s.

It was hard enough for her to follow the letters from the sheet, to the stamp set, to the paper, and keep them all in the correct spot, so I thought the little lines would give her a little help.


stamp to spell | early literacy and letter recognition | teachmama.comCora stamped family names.

And that’s it.  Cora stamped out family names, Owen stamped his buddy’s note, and when Maddy was finished with her work, she stamped a few fancy pictures for her pals.  Quick, easy, and worthwhile time spent for everyone, building words, writing letters, and stamping to spell, all the while practicing fine motor skills and spelling.

Our kiddos don’t always have to write in order to learn letters and words; in fact, sometimes when we mix things up a bit, they’re even more interested in ‘playing’ and (secretly) learning.

Want some other cool ideas for creating words and sending messages? Check out:

Have fun and feel free to link up any other ideas you have–I’m always up for more sneaky fun ways of spending time with my kiddos!


fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

how to help kids choose just right books

how to help kids choose just right books

how to help kids choose just right booksIt’s hard to watch a child struggle trying to read a book that is too difficult, especially when the kiddo is adamant about plowing through it.  Whether the struggles be with decoding the words on the page, with reading fluently, or with understanding what’s being read, it’s hard to watch.

Because though for many of us reading comes naturally and without thought, for others, reading is a continual struggle.  A long and laborious, difficult and painstaking process.

That’s why book choice is so important.

Muy importante.

Like really, really, really important.

Though children do need to be able to choose the books they read, if the child doesn’t choose a book that ‘fits’, it can really be downhill from there. He or she can get into a pattern of choosing books that won’t fit, making reading difficult and unpleasant.

But there are techniques and strategies that parents can employ to help guide children into choosing the ‘best fit’ books for their kids—books that match the child’s own strengths and abilities.

Nothing fancy or difficult, just a few quick reminders that your child can commit to memory that will ultimately provide him or her with skills that will make trips to the school library, media center, or book corner a whole lot more meaningful.

Here’s the skinny . . .

  • How to Help Kids Choose Just Right Books: I say it loud and clear right here. . .


And if you want the bookmarks to use for your own kiddos or classroom, please help yourself.

Best Fit Bookmarks: best fit books bookmarks

best fit bookmarks | teachmama.com

best fit books bookmarks | teachmama.com

I’d appreciate a pin, link back, tweet, or shout if you do choose to use them.  And if you have suggestions, I’d love to hear ’em!

(And if you choose to share them, which we hope you do, please link to this post instead of to the attachment page! Thank you!)

How do you help kids choose just right books? Let me know what has worked for you in the comments section below.

top 10 ways to talk to kids about books

talk to kids about books

op 10 ways to talk to kids about booksSometimes it’s all we can do to just read with our kids.

And honestly? That counts.  Big time.  So we should be happy if we’re reading with our kids. Woot!

But it’s also the talking with kids about the books that really packs a punch.  The payoffs are huge for kids in terms of reading comprehension skills, listening skills, speaking skills, and more.

Not to mention by talking to our kiddos about books, we’re helping them to develop a longtime love and appreciation for reading.  And we all want that, right? Right.

So here are the top 10 ways to talk to kids about books so you have them in one happy place for your summer reading pleasure.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Top 10 Ways to Talk to Kids About Books: Get ready. It’s life changing.

1.  Make connections.  Make connections between kids and characters in the book.  Make connections between what happens in the book and what has happened in your life. Make connections between what happens in the book and what happens in the world around you.

top ten ways to talk to kids about books connecting

2.  Make predictions.  Get kids thinking about what will happen in the book before they read.

3.  Activate schema. Use what kids already know to talk about topics in the book. Get their brains moving before the reading begins.

top ten ways to talk to kids about books predicting

4.  Ask questionsModel strong questioning by thinking aloud as you read.  Talk about your questions and show your child how asking good questions helps them to better understand what they read.

5.  Go on a book walkSometimes, reading doesn’t have to be reading every word on every page. Book walks are a great way to talk about the book–without reading it.

6.  Make inferences. Bring together big concepts by using what you know, what you read, and what you think will happen in the book.

top ten ways to talk to kids about books illustrat

7.  Think deeply. Kids can really surprise you if you aim high.  Show them how to think deeply about what they read by asking hard questions and modeling critical thinking.

8.  Look at the book’s printTalk about the print in the book, the layout, the words on the page.

top ten ways to talk to kids about books visual

9.  Talk about the picturesUse the illustrations to pull together ideas, discuss the illustrator’s craft, and to strengthen comprehension.

10.  Visualize. Make mind movies, images in the mind.  Visualizing is one of the key components of comprehension; if kids can visualize, they’re most likely understanding what they read!




schools out top 10 series by kbn

This post is part of the School’s Out: A Top 10 Series by KBN,  where over 25 Kid Bloggers from the Kid Blogger Network are sharing Top 10 Ideas to do with your children over your School Break!  Many thanks to Becky from This Reading Mama for organizing the series and to Kim from The Educators’ Spin On It for setting up the collaborative Pinterest board. Here’s the Schedule of what’s coming this week:

Sunday ~ This Reading Mama | The Educators’ Spin on It | Kitchen Counter Chronicle | Rainbows within Reach | Kindergarten & Preschool for Parents & Teachers | Monday ~ Train Up a Child Learn as We Go | Housing a Forest | Royal Baloo | Living Montessori Now | Tuesday ~ Toddler Approved | Play Trains! | 3 Dinosaurs | Wednesday ~ The Outlaw Mom | Teach Beside Me | Hands On as We Grow | Thursday ~ JDaniel 4’s Mom | All Done Monkey | Fantastic Fun & Learning | KC Edventures | Playing with Words 365 | Friday ~ Teach Mama | The Usual Mayhem | Nature and Play | True Aim Education | Saturday ~ Creative World of Varya | Craftoart | My Buddies and I

how to help your child remember what he reads

what to do when your child can't remember what he reads

how to help your child remember what he reads

Some children are able to easily read the words on a page but cannot remember a lick of what they read.

Believe it.

Whole paragraphs, pages, chapters can sometimes decoded–words read, even fluently–but nothing.  The child remember nothing.  Frustrating right?  Believe me, it’s not all that unusual.

And you can help!

  • What can a parent do?
  • What can a teacher do?
  • What should the child do?

Fear not.  There is help, and there are a handful of strategies that really do support this kind of struggle.

I covered what to do when your child can’t remember what he reads over on the Scholastic Parents blog this week, and I totally think it’s worth mentioning here.

Don’t get angry about the jump from teachmama.com to Scholastic Parents. It’s totally worth it.

See you there!

Here’s the skinny. . .

See you there!

raising word conscious kids: a chat with Mando and Rosita of Sesame Street

word conscious kids

I can’t stress enough the importance of raising word-conscious kids. word conscious kids

Words are everywhere, all around us. Why not capitalize on the learning opportunities available to us everywhere we turn?

If we model a love and genuine interest in words, that will translate into our kids being more aware of words, being stronger readers, and being more eager to learn new things.


This week, I had the incredible opportunity to spend time at the PBS Annual Meeting.  As one of the PBS Kids VIPs, several parent bloggers and I had a behind-the-scenes look at new programming, new ideas, and even new characters on some of our family’s favorite shows.

It was incredible, and I’m thrilled about what’s in store for us–they’ve got some top-notch programming in the lineup, from early childhood through adult audience. Really great stuff.

I even had the chance to chat with two PBS Kids rising stars about one of my favorite topics–words!

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Raising Word-Conscious Kids– Chatting Words with Mando and Rosita:  Really. Meeting these two superstars and talking about words with them was an absolute dream.

Check it out:

How to raise word conscious kids: with Mando and Rosita of Sesame Street

chatting about words with Sesame Street’s Mando and Rosita


Though it sounds complicated and scary, ‘word consciousness’ is really the furthest thing.

It’s easy. Easier than you think.  We were all up in the word conscious action right there in that very video clip.

See? So easy–and pretty darn fun.


word of the day: get family involved

Word A Day: Get the Family Involved

Word consciousness is as simple as pointing out a word on a page during a read-aloud, and it can be a totally on-the-fly thing–you don’t need to have a plan.  When you’re word conscious, you’re learning along with your kids; you’re simply word aware.

You can admit to not knowing the meaning or pronunciation of a word. You can admit to confusing a word with another.  Word consciousness is:

  • talking about the way a word sounds when you say it;
  • playing with words;
  • discussing the meaning of a word;
  • noticing words;
  • talking about the way a word looks on the page;
  • trying different ways of using a particular word;
  • challenging each other to use a ‘new word’ later that day;
  • listening for ‘new words’ during other read-alouds and taking turns ‘catching’ them;
  • sharing ‘new words’ as a family, at the end of the day or at dinnertime;
  • keeping a family list of ‘Cool, New Words‘ or becoming ‘Word Wizards’ and making a ‘Word Wizard Wall’ of words you love. . .


word a day-- word happy kids

Word A Day: Word-Conscious Kids

Want a little more word-happy information?

And that’s it–just our not-so-sneaky way of celebrating language and words any way we can.  So many ways to play with words, but not enough time to do it!

What ways do you help to raise word conscious kids? Share your ideas in the comments–I’d love to hear them! 

Until then?  Happy word learning!

nursery rhymes old and new: listening, learning and comparing

nursery rhyme old and new

nursery rhyme old and newWe’re on a crazy nursery rhyme kick over here.

But instead of sticking to our more modern nursery rhyme poems and calling it a day, we branched out a bit from our nursery rhymes 2.0, the Mary Had a Little Jam, by the amazing Bruce Lansky.   We upped the fun factor and added a little piece of comparison.

We looked at traditional nursery rhymes–the not always happy and cheerful and sometimes actually a little nutty nursery rhymes–from books I had when I was a child.

Old school nursery rhymes which might not sound like a big deal to you but when your kids are raised on mostly Mary Had a Little Jam and you give them the no-frills nursery rhymes, straight-up The Real Mother Goose, you’re in for a little shifting.

Wide-eyed, Maddy, Owen, and Cora listened to the sounds, learned a bit, and compared these powerful little poems.

And though yes, a little shell-shocked, it was a really worthwhile look at nursery rhymes old and new.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Nursery Rhymes Old and New– Listening, Learning, and Comparing: Like I said before, we had been on a real Nursery Rhyme kick.

So when I added two books to the mix, Mother Goose Rhymes by Platt & Monk and The Real Mother Goose, by Blanche F. Wright, the kids were naturally curious.

I didn’t say much.

In fact, all I did was color coordinate sticky notes between books, and I left them in a pile.

I put hot pink sticky notes on “There Was an Old Woman” in both books, I included as many colors as I could, matched up poems, and I let them go.

nursery rhyme old and new

nursery rhyme old and new

The O-man checking out the old–and new–nursery rhymes.

And after bath, when I noticed Owen reading the old nursery rhyme book, I said, Oh Owen, did you match up the sticky notes? I linked the poems by color–find the hot pink ones in each book and let me know what you think.

He opened the books and searched for the poems.  He looked at the page and then looked up at me.  Mom, why’d this old woman whip her kids? What’d they do?  I mean, was she trying to hurt them? Or were they bad?

nursery rhyme old and new

I said, Owen, I’m not sure. Let’s read it again.  We read it together. And we talked about what broth is and how even though it’s not true–it’s just a story–that it’s still not a pretty picture of hungry kids and a nasty old woman.  And then we read the ‘new’ nursery rhyme.

I like this one a whole lot better–it’s funny. And nicer,  he said.

I know–I have to agree, I said. This is the book of rhymes I had when I was little, and though some are funny, a lot are kind of . . . not so funny. And I wondered the same thing when I was your age.  When Aunt Mary found this book for us, the new one, I was like so happy I think I danced around the house.

nursery rhyme mice

nursery rhyme old and new

Let’s look at some other ones.

By this time, Maddy and Cora had joined us. We read a bunch of them:

  • Three Blind Mice
  • Mary Had a Little Lamb
  • Humpty Dumpty
  • Peter Peter
  • Little Bo Peep
  • London Bridge
  • Yankee Doodle

nursery rhyme old and new

The kids were speed-flipping through the pages of the book in order to find the poem’s ‘match’.

We laughed, re-read, and listened to the sounds in each poem.

We talked about the similarities–and differences we heard in each.  And we talked about how and why the authors made the decisions they did.

  • Was the old poem trying to teach a lesson?
  • Which illustrations did we prefer–and why?
  • How many years ago was each poem written? (We used the copyright for each book.)
  • Was the poem funny? Memorable? Silly?
  • What did we like–or dislike–about each poem?

nursery rhyme old and new -


Not for every one, mind you, but a few here and there. And we had fun with it–which is why, I’m sure, for the next few nights the kids argued over who got to read the nursery rhyme books before bed.

So cool, if I do say so myself.

And it only took a teeny, tiny amount of effort in matching up the poems, riding the wave of something the kids were already interested in: nursery rhymes.

Who knew that a 9, 7, and 6 year old would enjoy them so much?  I may bring out a few more oldies but goodies in the next few days. . .

I just finished reading “Let Me Tell You a Secret: Kindergartners Can Write!” by Amanda R. VanNess, Timothy J. Murnen, and Cynthia D. Bertelson in this month’s issue of The Reading Teacher.  I learned a ton from their article and case study, and what it made me realize is that even young children, emerging readers, can do well with confident, supportive teachers.

Cora, though only in Kindergarten, was holding her own in our little nursery rhyme right-bef0re-bed-analysis, listening to Owen and Maddy and adding her own insight to our discussion. It’s exciting. And amazing.

Moral of the story? Let’s bring it on–even for our little guys. They may be ready–but we’re just not always letting them have it.


fyi: Huge thanks to the following books for coming in handy for the last few days: Mary Had a Little Jam by Bruce Lansky;  Mother Goose Rhymes by Platt & Monk; and The Real Mother Goose, by Blanche F. Wright.

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