understanding italics in fiction: text features and meaning

understanding italics in fiction: text features and meaning

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

 

understanding italics in fiction: text features and meaning | teachmama.comI’ve always tried to make a big deal about certain text features when we see them in fiction that we’re reading, especially bold and italics.

I’m cool like that.

There’s something about bold and italics that make me feel like they give us a teeny glimpse into what the author really wants us to understand in the text.  Or maybe I just can hear the characters’ voices more clearly when I can see what they would be emphasizing during conversations.

Or maybe I just tend to use them a  lot so I’m happy when I see them on someone else’s page.

Whatever it is, Cora and I had an interesting conversation about italics last night before bed, and I thought it was worth sharing.

If we had this chat, certainly other parents are having the italics chat as well.

. .  . or maybe we’re just a strange family.

Either way, it’s worth taking a look at if you do any read-alouds with your readers at home.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Understanding Italics in Fiction–Text Features and Meaning:

Cora was reading a book to me when it all started.

It was a book from her Media Center that she picked up yesterday called The Witch Who Was Afraid of Witches, by Alice Low, illustrated by Jane Manning. Very cute book geared toward readers in grades 2-4, about a little witch who is afraid of her two older, bossy and nasty sisters until she discovers her own magic one Halloween night.

understanding italics in fiction: text features and meaning

understanding italics in fiction: text features and meaning

 

Like I try to do during read-alouds, I let Cora’s first time reading through the italics and ignoring them go.

She didn’t alter the meaning of the text; she just ignored the text feature. It’s all good.

But when she finished the book and we were talking about it, I said, Man, I liked how fluently you read that story. You really do a good job of paying attention to the punctuation, especially when people are speaking. I showed her a few places where she did this, pointing out specific examples.

One thing I’d love for you to do next time you read it, though, is keep your eyes open for certain text features–like italics. I personally love italics and bold when I see it in books. Do you want to know why?

She nodded. understanding italics in fiction: text features and meaning

 

I like italics and bold because it kind of lets you know what the author wants the reader to emphasize.

Like here: (I flipped back to the beginning of the book.) I read, ‘Her oldest sister, Polly knew everything’.  See how ‘knew’ is in italics? The author wants us to say it with more emotion to make a point–that the oldest sister had a brain full of information.

Cora stopped me. She closed the book. 

Confidently, she declared: Well I don’t care about italics. The author is not the boss of me. 

 

understanding italics in fiction: text features and meaning

 

I honestly felt like I was in a bad sitcom.  I have not a clue where she ever heard that phrase, but not much surprises me from my tiniest.

Well that’s fine, I said. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to when it comes to reading. We really just want you to find good books that you enjoy and like reading. But the thing with italics and bold is–that they help ‘complete’ the story. Sure, you can read anything on the page–the words–and look at the illustrations–but if you ask me, text features like italics just take it a step further. They take the reading up a notch. Like beginners may just read the words, but experts may read it all–italics, bold, the whole thing. Because they want to get the whole picture. 

I showed her two other places in the text where the author used italics, focusing on the part when little witch Wendy was sad in her bed, hugging her broomstick. She says, ‘At least I have you. . . you give me a little witch power’.

We talked a bit about that statement and how it sounds different when a person reads it without emphasizing ‘you’ and with emphasizing ‘you’.

She wouldn’t budge. I didn’t convince her of the power of italics. . . but at least I got her thinking.  I hope.

 

Is this skill imperative for young readers’ understanding of a text? Must they be able to respond to every text feature they encounter in fiction or non-fiction texts?

Honestly, it’s not the hill I want to die on. (Notice deliberate use of italics, please.)

If kids are decoding the text in a book like this, and if they understand and appreciate the story, it’s all good. However, Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, grade 2 requires that students understand how text features are used in nonfiction (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.2.5).

And if you jump on over to the fiction side of CCSS, you’ll see that students need to acknowledge different points of view of characters which they can express by reading in a different voice for each character when reading aloud (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.6)–so this is where understanding the text features in order to best understand the characters would come into play. Or when ‘integrating knowledge and ideas’ students have to use information gained from illustrations or words in a text . . . in order to demonstrate understanding of characters, plot, or setting (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.7). So does this count as ‘information gained from words in a text’? Hmmmm. 

So there you have it. They’ve got to understand how text features like this are used, but if they choose not to read it that way, it’s their choice. Kids just have to show that they understand what’s going on. And clearly, my kiddo gets that the author isn’t the boss of her.

 

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

halloween word search

halloween word search teachmama.com

originally published 10/26/11 but republished today for you!

 

halloween word search  teachmama.com

Homework time over here this week and last has been a little spooky.

Just a bit.

Cora and Owen have been rockin the Halloween Word Search, which I made last year for Owen when he was on his crazy word search kick and which I made not a single change to this year.

Owen is much more into the ole word search halloween, but Cora did give it a go twice, never actually finding all of the words–or even caring that she didn’t. She did, however, love the idea that she had ‘work’ to do just like Maddy and Owen at homework time.

So while they worked, she worked. . .

Here’s the skinny:

  • Halloween Word Search: I didn’t get a chance to edit the document and that was actually fine because, like I said, Cora gave it a go for a bit but wasn’t in love with it.

It could be that it was too much for her–too many small letters all jumbled together–or that word searches just aren’t her game.  Perhaps a bit of both.

 

halloween word search  teachmama.com

halloween word search  teachmama.com

She was very excited at first, when I sat down next to her and read through each of the words she had to find.  I drew tiny pictures of each, right next to the word to help her remember each.

We talked about strategies for hunting for each word, like:

  • going line by line and searching for the first letter, then looking for the second letter once you find the first;
  • using a piece of paper to help guide you as you look at each line of letters;
  • saying the first letter over and over in your head so you remember; and
  • looking for double letters.

halloween word search  teachmama.com

word search halloween

We talked about different ways of identifying each word, like:

  • using a highlighter to highlight the word;
  • using a different color to highlight each word;
  • using water colors to paint each word;
  • circling each letter of the word;
  • circling the whole word.

She searched a bit, choosing to use her Hello Kitty pen o’many colors, but when Maddy and Owen were finished with their work, she was finished with hers.  She asked to finish her word search the next day, but she decided that coloring her tiny Mickey Mouse coloring pages was what she needed to do instead.

I bet if there were jewels in the word search, or sparkles or glitter, she’d be more game. . .

And that’s it–just a little bit of literacy-focused Halloween Word Search fun during homework time.  Happy Searching!

Want a few more fun halloween ideas?

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

get kids to read | kindle ebooks for reluctant readers teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

 

 

get kids to read | kindle for reluctant readers teachmama.com

These days, with school in full swing and cool ‘big guy’ neighbors across the street and a travel soccer team to keep him busy, my boy isn’t that big a fan of reading.

He’s into Pokemon (ugh). He’s wicked smart on Words With Friends.  And he spends a good amount of his free time thinking about how he can eke time out of his Screen Time Cards for Minecraft and AnimalJam.

Honestly, he’s one of the coolest kids I know. And lately, he just hasn’t been digging reading.

I get it. Often changes of schedules and shifts in season mean that my kids’ interests will ebb and flow, but Owen hasn’t deliberately reached for books for quite a few weeks.

It makes me a bit nervous, though, knowing that reading habits often change when kids hit middle school. A few short years, and he’s there.

One thing that’s helped a bit with Owen’s  little reading ‘dry spell’ is giving him a chance to read books digitally. eBooks.

It’s one way we get our kids to read–and really enjoy reading. Kindle eBooks.

And I truly think that in this day and age, a healthy mix of digital and traditional books is quite the norm–or it really should be–if we want our kids to grow as readers in the digital age.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Get Kids to Read–Kindle eBooks for Reluctant Readers:

Owen’s not the only one who is game for reading books on our Kindle.

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers | teachmama.com

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

 

Maddy and Cora love it, too, so we often have to resort to figuring out whose day it is so that there’s no major battle.

I think there’s something about the simple holding of the Kindle device that I think my kids love. They love how light it is, how sleek it is, and how easy it is to navigate.

For reluctant readers, especially, Kindle eBooks are great for:

  • ease of use. Kids can find books in seconds.
  • organization.  My kids each have their own little collections.
  • convenience.  They can pick up where they last left off without worrying about finding a lost bookmark.  They can touch the corner of a page, and the bookmark is there–even able to sync to Kindle apps on all of their devices.
  • focus. Especially with chapter books, there’s not a whole lot of distracting fluff or add-ons in Kindle eBooks.
  • quality. Kids can long touch a word, and its definition appears along with the Wikipedia definition and translation option. I like this feature.

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

Kindle eBooks are also great for:

  • skill-building.  Long touch a word, and kids can highlight or make notes about a word or passage. Upon finishing a book or chapter, they can look back at all of the notes they made and share them via email.
  • increased comprehension.  Many books have the option of adding professional narration to the text which helps emerging and struggling readers better understand what fluent reading should sound like.
  • online safety.  The Parental Controls on Kindles are super, and the Kindle FreeTime piece is a huge bonus.  With Kindle FreeTime, I can assign a separate user for each of my kids, put books on their shelf, and make sure that when they’re in bed reading at night, that’s really what they’re doing.
  • variety. I’m a huge fan of the Kindle Unlimited which gives you a ton of free books each month. For a small fee (cheaper if you’re a member of Amazon Prime), you can score a boatload of books for every member of the family. We’ve had it for a month now, and we’ve really been happy with it.

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

 

The bottom line is that kids need a balance. They need a healthy combination of print and digital books to keep them interested and keep them savvy with both mediums.  But if a kid’s balking when it comes to reading and needs a kick-start, Kindle eBooks can do it.

As Junko Yokota and William H. Teale state, in their May 2014 article in The Reading Teacher:

Let us be clear from the start that we believe that both print and digital picture books should play central roles in early childhood literacy education.   The issue
in this instance is not one versus the other, but what works well for achieving which ends in particular situations or for particular lessons.

Junko, Yokota & William H., Teale (2014). Picture Books and the Digital WorldEducators Making Informed Choices. The Reading Teeacher, 67(8), 577–585. doi: 10.1002/trtr.1262

The article goes on to explain how important it is to choose quality eBooks but how often the ‘extras’ –music, supplementary features, add-ons, etc.–upset the integrity of the story.  It was an interesting read. Though my kids are now more reading chapter books on the Kindle and are past picture books on the devices, I did like what the authors had to say.

What’s your experience with Kindle eBooks? Have they been helpful in getting your kids reading and, more importantly, wanting to read?

Let me know–I’d love to hear it!

 

 

fyi: Staples sent our family a Kindle to help in the writing of this post, but as always, opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and parent.  Visit Staples.com for more on the Kindle. 

Some links are affiliate links.

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

recipe reading for kids fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches MONSTER

post contains affiliate links

 
recipe reading for kids fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches MONSTER

Ever since my kids were tiny, I’ve let them play around in the kitchen.

It hasn’t always been pretty, but it’s been fun. And now, though they’re still learning, at 10, 9, and 7 years old, my kids are pretty skilled at cracking eggs, measuring ingredients, and navigating the wilds of cookie baking and meal-making.

Recently, Cora has been into some serious snack preparation.

Not only has this benefitted our bellies; what I’ve also been reminded of is how important recipe reading is for kids. 

Kids are decoding important functional, everyday words. They’re reading informational text. They’re analyzing words and phrases in a text and interpreting what it all means.

And the coolest part of the whole recipe reading for kids? They’re having fun and learning in the kitchen.

Cora rocked out some serious recipe reading and Monster-Sandwich making in our kitchen, and it was a blast for all of us.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Recipe Reading for Kids–Fun Learning in the Kitchen with Monster Sandwiches:

Cora used one of the recipe books I pulled out for our Tabletop Surprises: Favorite All-Time Recipes Silly Snacks (2004).

She flipped through the book, and she immediately declared that she was going to make each snack.  I knew she couldn’t because most of the recipes required something we didn’t have in our pantry.

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

 

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

So I encouraged her to use a sticky note to bookmark the snacks she wanted to make. And she could make one snack each day.

We need to make sure we have all of the ingredients, I told her. And this is the only way. You choose what you’d like to make, and then we’ll make a grocery list. 

So she did.

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

It was a weekend, so Monster Sandwiches would be our lunch.

We worked together making a grocery list, and then we hit the store.  It went surprisingly well, I think because she was focused and knew her recipe would be our lunch. She was totally psyched.

When it came to actually preparing to read the recipe, we did what every chef should do first: we read the ingredients and put them out on the counter.

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

Then Cora took the lead and read through each step, starting with opening rolls and spreading them with butter.

Step two required a layering of cold cuts, tomato and cucumber slices, and then finally making the monster tongue.

Though Monster Sandwiches are basically just a cold cut sandwich, it didn’t matter.  The simple 3-step recipe had a few crazy and exciting parts, and Cora loved it.

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

 

The photo in the book helped her as well, and that’s half the fun of being a chef–comparing the photo to your masterpiece and making changes where you see fit.

Hands down, the sweet gherkin ‘horns’ and black olive eyes were a super-cool part of this recipe, and little hands needed a bit of help in securing them.

 

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

 

Recipe reading for kids is a great way of sneaking in some reading and learning in the kitchen, for so many reasons.  Here are a few of our ‘learning in the kitchen’ posts:

Just a few years ago, we realized that Maddy was not reading closely at all–she was skimming during reading–so recipe reading really helped get her back on track. You can’t glaze over steps in a recipe; you can’t glaze over ingredients, or you’ll end up with something quite unlike what you set out to make.

Maddy and I had to have a serious ‘skimming vs reading’ conversation, and baking helped us through it.

 

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

 

How do you incorporate learning in the kitchen? I’d love to hear it in the comments below!

 

fyi: affiliate links used in this post–check out the books I recommend below

 

nighttime reading with elementary schoolers: make it a date

nighttime reading with elementary schoolers teachmama.com

We’re back in business. nighttime reading with elementary schoolers | teachmama.com

School’s in session, and we’re all slowly but surely trying our best to adjust to our new fall schedules.

And we’re tired.

I mean it. Tired.  Kids are tired. Parents are tired. Everyone’s tired.

I know it will get easier, but man.

There’s nothing like those first few Friday afternoons of the school year, especially a Friday after a five-day week.

It’s literally all I can do to keep my kids composed from school to home.  They’re beat. They’ll cry at the drop of a hat, and they’re quick to argue, pick, and prod.

So especially because it’s a new school year and we’re all picking up new routines and schedules, it’s uber-important for us to sit down with our kids and read with them before bed. 

Really. No matter how old our kids are. Even if they’re in elementary school or middle school.

If they want to read with us, we should be game for it.

Make it a date.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Nighttime Reading with Elementary Schoolers–Make it a Date:

Put a reading schedule on the calendar in ink, rotating the days you read with each kiddo. Or read together. Or do it according to books. Read one book with one kid and while you do so, the others can read silently in their rooms.

I know very few of us have kids the same age, with the same interests, who want to read the same books.

You’ll figure it out.

Bottom line is that a lot can go down during bedtime reading, so it’s way too important to give up.

Kids want to hang with us. They most often think we’re pretty cool. So that guaranteed time at night is a super time for them to open up about school, friends, concerns, and dreams.

 

3 Reasons to Read with Your Elementary Schooler Every Night:

nighttime reading with elementary schoolers | teachmama.com

*****************

Bedtime Reading Strategies: birth to independent reading:

bedtime reading strategies | scholastic

Not sure where to begin? What books to read with your crew?

No fear. Check out Maggie McGuire’s Top 100 Books that Parents Love to Read to their Kids as a start.

It can be anything. The most important thing is that you’re reading. With your littles. No matter their age.

 

What’s your favorite bedtime read? I’d love to hear it! Share it in the comments!

Cheers, and happy reading during this incredibly exciting journey!

learn with seashells: letters and sight words

learn with seashells: letters and sight words | guest post by @educatorsspinon for @teachmama

learn with seashells: letters and sight words | guest post by @educatorsspinon for @teachmama

Huge thanks to an extraordinary educator and parent, Kim Vij, for guest posting for us for this final Rockstar Sunday of the summer. 

Kim is a great friend of mine, and I am continually amazed by her creativity and ideas over on the blog she writes, The Educators’ Spin on It, along with her pal, the awesome Amanda Boyarshinov. 

These two ladies are rocking it over on Pinterest with 1.5 million–yes, million!–followers. 

Go find them. And then follow them. You’ll be glad you did.

Today, Kim shares with us a fun, summertime activity great for early literacy skill-building.

Or, if you want this activity to have a mathy-spin, go right ahead and throw in some numbers. The possibilities are endless.

Here’s the skinny. . .  

  • Learn with Seashells– Letters and Sight Words, by Kim Vij:

Finding playful ways to incorporate learning and fun in the summer is something parents and teachers try to provide for kids.

We look for summer camps that kids love but still look at what they will take away from the camps as far as learning new skills, too.  One focus that we want kids to keep is their language development and reading abilities.

learn with seashells: letters and sight words | guest post by @educatorsspinon for @teachmama

Here’s a fun sight word game that is summer themed that your child will love! And it will give you a great use for all of those shells you’ve collected over the last few weeks!

(Or if you haven’t had a chance to hit the shore this year, buy your seashells on Amazon: buy seashells.)

To create, first gather some sea shells from the beach or even at your local craft store. You will need at least 26 shells for each letter.  Now it’s time to research the words our child should be working on.  Here’s a list of Dolch Words or Fry Words for each grade level from Kindergarten to Third Grade.

Use the words that your child should be working on and write them down on a sheet of paper with your child.  Here’s a blank circle template for printing.  Then attach the circles to a few funs pieces of scrapbook paper to make it colorful.

learn with seashells: letters and sight words | guest post by @educatorsspinon for @teachmama

Next take the seashells and add all of the letters of the alphabet onto each shell.  Put the shells in a fun container.  We added ours to some colorful cloud dough we created recently.  Sand would be fun too to use in the container.

For the Summer Sight Word activity encourage your child to spell on the sight words using the shells.

It’s time to search for the letters needed to create the site words on your game board.  Create enough words so that you can switch the search around too!

learn with seashells: letters and sight words | guest post by @educatorsspinon for @teachmama

Extention Ideas

To extend the activity you could have your child write down the words that they find.  Here’s a shell word printable.

For more ideas on how to work with words go check out Amy’s post on Words 3 Ways and Sticky Finger Writing

learn with seashells: letters and sight words | guest post by @educatorsspinon for @teachmamaFor more Literacy Sea Shell Activities you may enjoy:

kim vij educators spin on it

 

Kim Vij is an early childhood educator and mom of three. She shares her “Educator’s Spin” on parenting issues and how to make everyday moments into learning opportunities at The Educators’ Spin On It and award winning Pinterest Boards. You can find Kim on PinterestFacebookTwitterInstagram & Google +.

 

 

Looking for ways to get kids into summer reading?  Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest Boards

This post is part of our new Rockstar Sunday posts.  Each week, I will highlight one ‘rockstar’ in the parenting and education field.  These posts? Seriously awesome.

Have something you’d like to share that in some way relates to fun learning, school, technology, education, or parenting? For a short time we’ll be accepting Rockstar Sunday guest posts.

 rockstar sunday promo teachmama

The response to our Rockstar Sunday feature has been overwhelming. I am in awe of the ideas, submissions, and shares!

Having been in the blogging space for 5+ years, we know for sure that our readers are always up for fresh and fun ideas on literacy, math, technology, parenting, and learning in the every day. They love crafts, hands-on teaching ideas, printables, cooking with kids, and anything that makes their job as parents easier, better, and more fun.

You don’t have to have a blog of your own–just cool ideas to share! We look forward to hearing from you!

other posts in the series:

 

fyi: affiliate links used in this post for seashells

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

positive affirmation notes for kids teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

Countdown’s on for the new school year, so I’ve been at work making a new set of lunchbox love notes.

In the past, we’ve covered joke notes, we’ve covered puzzle notes, fun fact notes, and travel inspired notes. We did a closer look notesKindergarten notes, and more jokes.

But this time I really wanted to so something that I think might help the kids in a different way as they move into the new year: positive affirmations for kids.

My girls have seen something similar when we made our Awesome Me boxes a while back, but Owen hasn’t.

And really, boys and girls both can stand to have some reminders of how awesome they are.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Positive Affirmation Notes for Kids–Lunchbox Love:

When I hear the words ‘positive affirmations’ I still can’t help but call to mind the old corny Saturday Night Live skits of Stuart Smalley’s I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.”

Nerdy. Silly. And soooooo funny.

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

 

But as funny as I found–and still find–Stuart Smalley, I still believe that all that positive talk does help.

It really does.

Claude Steele back in the 1980’s focused on the effects of self-affirmation, and research today, though a bit mixed, votes predominantly in favor of the power of positive self-talk.

All kids can benefit from a little dose of positive self-talk.

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

Especially as my oldest moves from a tween to a teen, I know she needs to hear that she’s awesome.

As my boy moves from a little guy to a tween (oooooh maaaay gosh. . . ), I know he needs to hear that he’s awesome.

And as my baby moves from a little fish to a bigger fish in the elementary school pond, I know she needs to hear that she’s awesome.

And they all need reminders about how to treat people and how to let others treat them.

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

 

So I’m  hoping these Positive Affirmation Notes do just that–for each of them.

I printed three copies of each of the sheets, and there are 24 little notes on two sheets and one blank sheet so I can write in my own.

Though with our other notes, I usually give them all the same note on the same day, with these, I will mix it up–give each kiddo a specific note when it seems they need it most.

And it won’t be an everyday thing–I’ll add some of the jokes here and there, the holiday ones, and ones I write in as we go. The last thing I want them to be is annoyed with them. positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

lunchbox love- positive affirmations for kids _ teachmama.com

 

Here’s the pdf to download and use as you’d like: lunchbox love- positive affirmations for kids _ teachmama.com

Feel free to share.

The more kids who get these in their lunch, in their binders, or on their pillows at night, the better. Right?

 

Want a look at all of our lunchbox looooove notes? Here they are:

Need more awesome Back-to-School lunchy ideas? Definitely check out:

Here’s to a rockstar 2013-2014 school year and many more to come!

fyi: feel free to use the affiliate links below to make your kids’ lunches awesome

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

reading under the stars  teachmama.com.png

sponsored post

 

 

 

reading under the stars | teachmama.comSummer is in full swing, and what better way to really rock it out in the summertime than by camping?

Not for real camping, my friends–I’m talking backyard camping.

In my book, backyard camping counts. Especially if you’re not all that much of an outdoorsy family.

We have been talking about backyard camping for awhile now, so I decided to surprise the kids with a tent.  Not a huge tent, but a 6-person, easy-to-assemble, totally affordable tent.

Because we really rocked it out with our spring break trip to Disneyland, we are laying low this summer, and no biggie beach trip means that we’ve got to be creative with our summertime fun.

So creative we were.

We set up the tent, made some s’mores, and did some reading under the stars until we . . . decided to come back in the house and sleep in our beds.

It’s hard really roughing it with backyard camping.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Backyard Camping and Reading Under the Stars–Summer Reading at its Best:

We invited some friends over during the afternoon for a playdate and a tent set-up. They loved it. Playing in the tent was a huge hit for the whole neighborhood crew.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

The afternoon was spent playing in the tent, so really the kids spent the greater part of the day excited about our ‘camp out’.

They played campout. They had snacks in the tent. They played games in the tent. After dinner, at about 6:30pm, Maddy, Owen, and Cora brought sleeping bags and pillows into the tent along with their EVEREADY® flashlights, lovies and books.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

They knew that part of the reason we were doing our serious backyard campout was because we wanted to have a chance to read under the stars, just like the Scholastic Read Under the Stars summer reading challenge they were doing.

Really, the reading’s been happening all summer. It was the camping that was totally new.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

We had s’mores. We danced a little. We were ready for a campout.

We were all cozy in the tent, teeth brushed, dirty feet tucked into sleeping bags, listening to the crickets and the owls and the distant barking dogs when all heck broke loose.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

The chaos began.

The storm had arrived.

The tides were a’ changing.

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

Cora started crying because the Maddy was too close to her and because the window panel was hanging down by her arm and it wouldn’t stay tucked into the wall.

And then Maddy started getting angry because Cora was not being nice.  And so when Cora yelled, I WANT TO GO SLEEP IN MY BEEEEEDDDDD! Maddy said she wanted to sleep in her own bed, too.

And then Owen said, I want to go inside to sleep too. I don’t want to sleep out here anymore.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

And so yep.

At 9pm, right after my husband had put his feet up and settled comfortably into a show and a snack, thinking his family was out back sleeping peacefully and that he had a quiet house to himself, the troops came marching in.

Sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, flashlights, and books in tow, and a lonely tent out back.

Poor confused Brady was happy to have his family in the house again.  Cora was happy, Maddy was happy, Owen was happy, and I was happy. Back in the cool air conditioning, dirty feet in their own beds, flashlights on and open books in hands.

And? The kids spent the entire next day in the tent.

And what I realized is that we’re not failures or big losers for trying the backyard camping thing and not actually following through; we are winners for trying it. Right? I mean, we came close, didn’t we? We kind of had the experience and maybe we’ll try it again?

I don’t know. The cool thing? The kids were reading. Books and summer reading was a natural part of our attempted backyard campout, so that’s what counts.

reading under the stars

Logo

 

Huge and happy thanks to Scholastic for always coming up with cool themes and ideas for their Summer Reading Challenge and for partnering with us for this post series. This year’s Summer Reading theme is Reading Under the Stars, and is powered by EVEREADY®, the maker of batteries and flashlights, to encourage families to discover new and fun ways to explore reading outside this summer.

 

 

fyi: I am happy to share my experience with our backyard campout as part of a sponsored campaign.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and by my three little kinda-campers and summertime readers.

Affiliate links are used within.

let kids learn on their own time: tabletop surprises

let kids learn on their own time: #tabletopsurprises | teachmama.com

let kids learn on their own time tabletop surprises  teachmama.com

We just finished week number six of our ten week tabletop surprises — a simple but clever way we encourage our kids to learn on their own time.

Tabletop Surprises are just that: invitations to learn, play, create, invent, and think–on their own time. 

Little fun activities just waiting for someone to come along and try ‘em out.

Here’s what we did this week.  A little bit o’ math, a little bit of reading, a little bit of writing, and a bit of critical thinking.

Pretty fun.  But next week? Even better.

No kidding.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Let Kids Learn on Their Own Time–Tabletop Surprises:

 

monday:


magnets + pipe cleaners + paper clips + vases = FUN #tabletopsurprises #summer #familyfun #science #keepthembusy #momsofinstagram

 

 

tuesday:

my crew will love this one! ( and the parents win on Thursday night!) #kidsinthekitchen #cooking #foodiefamily #food #tabletopsurprises #summer

 

wednesday:

back by popular demand: brain teasers. want ’em? head to the blog. click on #tabletopsurprises #summer #brainteasers #brainy #sofun #teachmama #printables #familyfun

 

thursday:

poem reading. poem writing. offline. online. #tabletopsurprises #summer #familyfun #writing #readingrocks

 

 

friday:

math challenge problemos about baseball and chocolate, thanks to @nctm #tabletopsurprises #summer #math #smart #familyfun

 

 

Check out all the fun we’re having this summer! 

Follow along on Instagram and leave YOUR user name in the comments so we can follow YOUR #tabletopsurprises adventures!

Want the skinny on #tabletopsurprises? Wonder what in the world I’m talking about?

Check it out:

tabletop surprise email promo 400 teachmama.com.png

 

fyi: #spon: I am in a partnership with Intel. Through this partnership I gain access to content, product, or other forms of value.

teach letter sounds using 26 kid-centered photos

teach letter sounds using 26 kid-centered photos | guest post by @totschooling on teachmama.com

teach letter sounds using 26 kid-centered photos | guest post by @totschooling on teachmama.com

We’re thrilled to share another Rockstar Sunday guest post with you–this time from a multi-talented blogger, Viviana.

Viviana is a mom of two and the creator of Totschooling, a blog filled with cool printables and tons of early education ideas. I’m thrilled she’s sharing this post with u s.

 

  • Teach Letter Sounds Using 26 Kid-Centered Photos, by Viviana

Hi! I’m Viviana, a mom to two little girls – a toddler and a preschooler. We do a lot of early learning activities that I share on my blog Totschooling, and I am so happy to be here to share this super fun activity that has been a big hit with my daughters!

Kids love to look at photographs, especially photos of themselves. There is something so fascinating about seeing their image transferred onto a piece of paper.

I find that my 3 year old daughter not only loves to look at photos but she also enjoys posing for them, making silly faces and seeing how the pictures turn out. This creates a double opportunity for learning – the act of taking the photos and then later analyzing them.

Since we’ve started working on letter recognition and letter sounds, I thought it would be fun to use photographs as a way to practice these concepts. Here is how we did it:

Each time we learned a new letter, I asked my daughter to find things around the house that start with that letter sound. For example, for the letter B we found a baby doll, a blue ball, a book and a banana.

 

teach letter sounds using 26 kid-centered photos | guest post by @totschooling on teachmama.com

 

I taped a piece of paper to the wall with that letter, and helped her pose for the picture.

For some of the letters we couldn’t find objects around the house, so we improvised. We used action words instead. For Y she yawned, for J she jumped, and for Q she made a quiet “ssshhh” sound.

She had a blast posing for these pictures and didn’t even notice she was learning!

Here are some ideas for the less common letters:

J – jump, jacket

Q – quiet, queen

U – umbrella, under

V – vitamins, violin

X – x-ray, xylophone

Y – yellow, yawn, yo-yo

Z – zipper, zebra

teach letter sounds using 26 kid-centered photos | guest post by @totschooling on teachmama.com

 

After you have all this fun taking photos for every letter of the alphabet, what do you do with the pictures?

The possibilities are endless! First, print out the photos, either at home or at your local print shop – 4×6 is a great size for these activities.

I printed them myself, 4 per page, then laminated and cut them out.

 

teach letter sounds using 26 kid-centered photos | guest post by @totschooling on teachmama.com

 

1. Create a photo ABC book – You can do this simply by hole punching the photos and then using a ring or a piece of yarn to thread them together. Or, you can purchase a photo album and insert all the pictures into the sleeves. This book is great to look at casually or to play a “look & find” game where you ask your child to find all the things that start with each letter sound.

2. Alphabet Wall Chart – Create a unique and custom wall chart that everyone will love to look at again and again.

3. Match the Letters Game – Lay out a few letters, either from a moveable alphabet or write the letters on pieces of paper, and ask your child to find the photos that go with each letter.

4. Match the Objects Game – Lay out a few objects and ask your child to find the photos that go

with each object. These objects can be ones that were used in the photos or different ones.

5. Memory Game – You would need two copies of each photograph. Place them face down and play a classic memory game.

6. Bingo Game – Put together 9 or 16 of the photos to create the bingo mat. Then, call out letters while your child puts tokens on the correct photos.

7. Story Time – Come up with a story about what is happening in each photograph. This is great for language development, imagination and can help your child to remember the letters.

You can also try this activity with many different concepts, such as learning colors, numbers, emotions, or just about anything else that can be learned visually.

I hope this inspires you to create your own playful learning experience with photographs and have as much fun as we did!

 Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Viviana, for sharing these ideas! I know many readers will be inspired to do the same!

teach letter sounds using 26 kid-centered photos | guest post by @totschooling on teachmama.com

 

Viviana is a blogging mom to a toddler and a preschooler, sharing ideas and resources for early learning. She specializes in educational printable activities, which you can find on her blog Totschooling. You can also follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Google+.

 

Looking for more fun ways to sneak in some literacy learning into your day? Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

This post is part of our new Rockstar Sunday posts.  Each week, I will highlight one ‘rockstar’ in the parenting and education field.  These posts? Seriously awesome.

Have something you’d like to share that in some way relates to fun learning, school, technology, education, or parenting? For a short time we’ll be accepting Rockstar Sunday guest posts.

 rockstar sunday promo teachmama

The response to our Rockstar Sunday feature has been overwhelming. I am in awe of the ideas, submissions, and shares!

Having been in the blogging space for 5+ years, we know for sure that our readers are always up for fresh and fun ideas on literacy, math, technology, parenting, and learning in the every day. They love crafts, hands-on teaching ideas, printables, cooking with kids, and anything that makes their job as parents easier, better, and more fun.

You don’t have to have a blog of your own–just cool ideas to share! We look forward to hearing from you!

other posts in the series:

best summer learning idea for kids: tabletop surprises

the best summer learning idea for kids teachmama.com

the best summer learning idea for kids | teachmama.com

We’re continuing to rock it out with our tabletop surprises–simple, meaningful, and fun ‘surprises’ on our kitchen table every day.

Whenever Maddy, Owen, and Cora feel inclined to hit the table, they do.

It’s really worked, and I’m thrilled. Some days, obviously, are better than others. But for the most part, the tabletop surprises have been the best summer learning idea for our kids.

Letting them use their brains on their own time. In their own way.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Best Summer Learning Idea for Kids–Tabletop Surprises:

Keeping their brains moving . . . week four.

 

monday:

sudoku! online and offline so that everyone is happy. . . #tabletopsurprises #summer #math #smart #hard #brainy #brainteasers

tuesday:

engineering. #tabletopsurprises #creative #summer #familyfun #keepthembusy

 

wednesday:

awwwwwh. bringing back the faves. find a favorite children’s book. read it. then learn about the author online. luckily there are a ton of fabulous sites with lists of author websites and luckily we have them all listed on teachmama.com….add an Author Hunt sheet to the mix, and you have a winner! !

 

thursday:

story starters! SO sad, @storycubes could NOT find my story cubes so using @thinkfun last letter cards and imagery lesson resources from the classroom …it works! 

 

friday:

letters to family members! (with an example letter explaining the day’s #tabletopsurprises )

 

Check out all the fun we’re having this summer! 

Follow along on Instagram and leave YOUR user name in the comments so we can follow YOUR #tabletopsurprises adventures!

Want the skinny on #tabletopsurprises? Wonder what in the world I’m talking about?

Check it out:

tabletop surprise email promo 400 teachmama.com.png