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!

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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

street signs for early literacy and math skill building

signs for early literacy learning

signs for early literacy learning

I’ve shared time and again the importance of using what is around you–environmental print–for early literacy and math skill-building.

Signs are everywhere, and they’re free.

And they can really help our little ones to become excited about reading.

Don’t believe me?

Try it.

I’m over at Scholastic Raise a Reader chatting about some ways you can use signs for your own little ones’ early literacy learning.  Check it out: Signs–Easiest Reading Your Kids Should Ever Do.

Want a little more?

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Street Signs For Early Literacy and Math Skill Building:

Check out these few posts about the same subject.

 

alphabet and reading on the roadAlphabet & Reading on the Road

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street signs for learningSigns, Signs, Everywhere are Signs

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street sign mathStreet Sign Math

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Happy street sign reading!!

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!

when talking to teachers: 5 tips for parents

when talking to teachers 5 tips for parents

when talking to teachers 5 tips for parents

As a writer for Scholastic Parents’ Raise a Reader blog, I’m always surprised at what sparks the most conversation among readers.

I recently wrote Talking to Teachers: What Every Parent Needs to Know, and it raised a boatload of emotion over on the Scholastic Parents’ Facebook page.

Really. I was quite surprised.

Check it out.  And tell me. . .

What do you think?

Am I missing the mark?

Do you agree or disagree?

Did any of the comments strike a nerve with you, as a parent or teacher?

Share your thoughts on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page, or find me on twitter, @teachmama, and let’s continue the conversation!

 

 

 

school RULES! super-silly lunchbox joke notes

school RULES! super-silly lunchbox joke notes

post contains affiliate links

 

 

school rules lunchbox joke notes

It has been such an amazing summer.  I am desperately, terribly, incredibly sad to see it go.

But here we are.  Marching forward.

At my kids’ request, I whipped up another batch of lunchbox love notes.  This time, they’re silly, wacky, crazy, funny, and giggle-inducing.

They’ve asked for more jokes.  So fun.

And since school’s starting in a minute (waahhhh!), what better way to ring in the new school year than by celebrating their good, ole school days with School RULES! Lunchbox Joke Notes?

Right?  Right.

And really, the jokes help to keep things light for this mama who has a hard time with change.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • School RULES! Super-Silly Lunchbox Joke Notes: During our last summertime library trip, we grabbed a boatload of joke books, and I added the ones that were school-related to this 3-pager joke printable.

They’re funny.  I must admit.

school RULES lunchbox joke notes

school RULES lunchbox joke notes

And because Cora loves the pictures–and can still really benefit from using them to help her decode the text, as an early reader, I tried to add related art for each joke.

Amazing to think that last year’s Wordless Riddles Notes were mostly photos because she couldn’t read as much. Incredible what happens during that Kindergarten year! Our babies learn to read!

There are 24 superstar, hilarious, fabulous notes on these pages.

 

school RULES lunchbox joke notes

Cut the notes together if you have more than one kiddo. . .

school RULES lunchbox joke notes

then write a little love. . .

school RULES lunchbox joke notes

. . . and fold it so that the answer to the joke is hidden!

To make it easier for cutting (so I’m not spending three hours standing and cutting, standing and cutting), I simply grab three copies of the first sheet and cut those–three pages at once. Then I do the same for the second and third sheets.

I stack them in our cabinet so I can easily grab the first three on the pile, write a quick ‘Maddy, I love you! xoxo love Mom’ on the note–something short and sweet–and toss them in the lunchboxes.

The school RULES lunchbox joke notes are here to download and use for your own kiddos if you so choose. If you would, feel free to share with a buddy so that all kids get a little something silly in their lunch this year!

Print them here: school rules joke lunchbox notes

school rules lunchbox notes  | teachmama.com school rules joke lunchbox notes

I try to put the same note in each child’s lunch so I can make sure there aren’t repeats through the month, though that doesn’t always work.  Just clip them together in a little stack so they’re easy to grab when I’m making lunches two seconds before they leave the house.

I wouldn’t worry if your kiddo isn’t reading yet; you can still add lunchbox love notes and have your child ask the teacher to read it to him or her. I did that when Maddy, Owen, and Cora were teeny, and I really think that it helps kids build confidence, patience, manners, and communication skills.

Though teachers are super-busy, and we all know that, most likely he or she can find 15 seconds to read a silly note to a student.

And that’s it. Just a little something silly to get us moving in the right direction next week when school starts. Keeping it light for a few weeks of change.

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 links below to more joke books if you’d like more silly  jokes in your life

back-to-school shopping: the secret to keeping kids happy AND parents happy

back to school : happy kids, happy parents

back to school shopping Back-to-School shopping can be crazy, stressful, and anxiety-producing for kids and parents alike.

But there are a few things we can do to make this annual event lighter, easier, and more fun for everyone.

We’ve kept our kids actively engaged in our back-to-school shopping ever since they were tiny, and this year was no different. However, as they get older, we make adjustments to keep them in the loop–from beginning to end.

We did a whole lot of pre-shopping research and planning, printed out their shopping lists, and then hit the stores.

And once we were there, we tried Cartwheel from Target that I really think is beyond cool for customizing and personalizing a shopping experience. Easy and free. Two ‘musts’ for anything that I incorporate into my life.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Back-to-School Shopping– The Secret to Keeping Kids Happy and Parents Happy:

Keep kids happy by. . .

back to school price shopping tabletop surprise

back to school price shopping tabletop surprise

 

1. Making them involved from step one.

This year, because we have a rising 4th, 2nd, and 1st grader (UNbelievable!), we had the kids help with even deciding where to do our shopping. As one of our tabletop surprises, they went through the circulars, compared prices, looked at their lists, and made some shopping decisions.

And then? We shopped.

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back to school shopping

 

 

2. Making shopping for supplies a ‘scavenger hunt’.

Each year, I’ve created a ‘kid-friendly’ shopping list for Maddy, Owen, and Cora. Their lists included everything they needed for the year along with hopeful donations for the classroom.

We read through the list together, and then the kids are on their own to search for each item (not really–we do it together!).

back to school shopping

back to school shopping

Each kiddo gets his or her own shopping back, list, and pen or pencil. And they’re free birds.

Need a list?

We’ve used:

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back to school shopping

3. Organizing ‘loot’ after you get home.

The cool thing about this is that not only are kids re-reading the list, you’re getting a chance to see that everything on the list actually makes it into the bags that you’ll take to Open House.

It reminds me of the way kids root through their Halloween loot after Trick-or-Treating–they really do love going through their supplies once shopping is finished.

And if we weren’t able to locate an item? Now’s the time to circle it, highlight it, and make sure we find it before the big day.

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Now it’s our turn.

Keep parents happy by. . .

target cartwheel | teachmama.com

1. Saving money.

Really. Totally one of the most fabulous things out there, Target’s Cartwheel is so crazy cool, it’s nuts.

The concept is simple: you choose up to 16 items you are shopping for, add them to your ‘cartwheel‘ via computer or mobile device, have the checkout person scan your special code at the register, and BAM! you get a huge discount.

And if you use it enough, you can earn badges, awards, and even more savings.   You can actually even link Cartwheel to your Facebook account (though there’s no pressure to do so), and then you get to see what your friends are buying, what they’ve saved, and what you’re missing out on if you don’t start using your own cartwheel.

They’ve got items organized in Collections so shopping is completely easy.

target cartwheel logo

Though admittedly I created my Cartwheel months ago, I let it sit, forgot my login and then re-created my Cartwheel again only recently and then (believe this. . . ) forgot to use it at the checkout for our back-to-school shopping (what is wrong with me?), many of my friends have used it and have saved HUGELY.

How do I know they did? Because I tell them about these great things then forget to use them myself and then thanks to the power of social media, I can tell how much they’ve saved because Cartwheel lets the whole world know (if you want–if you don’t want the world to know, you can adjust your settings). But don’t we all brag about great deals we find? I know I do.

Cartwheel does it for you.  Try it. And let me know what you think.

And then send me a text reminding me to use mine.

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target redcard happy

2. Creating a card that makes sense.

The reality is that I often lose receipts. And I often buy things I need to return. And occasionally I forget to return those items.  It’s a beautifully ridiculous combination, I’m afraid, one is equivalent to nails on a chalkboard for my poor, loving, patient husband.

So the REDcard makes sense for me.  It makes sense for my familia.

No need for me to get into the nitty gritty of the card, but check it out for yourself.  It’s a happy card.

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take charge of ed target

3.  Giving back.

Any time you use your REDcard, not only will you save 5%, but 1% of that savings will go to an eligible K-12 school of your choice.

The program is called Take Charge of Education, and literally all you have to do is visit the site, register your card and choose your school. And tell your friends to do the same. Because at the end of the year, your kids’ school will receive a check–thanks to your spending at Target.

Seriously. So do it. Because you know you spend a handful of cash at Target. Might as well have some of that go back to your school, right?

 

target give with target

 

But the giving doesn’t stop with your school–even though it sure is nice.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: Target has made it a goal to give $1 billion to education by 2015 through their their numerous programs and initiatives, like the incredible School Library Makeovers for one.

They’ve just re-launched Give With Target for a second time–and it’s awesome.

Here’s the deal:  (from the Target site)

Simply select a K–12 school from the list of eligible schools and vote for it weekly until September 21 or until $5 million has been awarded, whichever occurs first. It takes just 25 votes to start. After that, Target will donate $25 to your selected school. Upon receiving 25 votes, each additional vote equals $1 more for up to $10,000 per school. If your favorite school is not on our list, please choose another school.

give with target email screener

Target’s making it insanely easy to share, to vote, and to remind your friends, to, since they’ve all hooked up with Facebook for this one.

You can use their nifty little email template to share the news with your class, PTA, principal, friends, family, you name it. Share it. And if you to, and if you have enough sharing and voting going on, your school can really see some cold, hard cash, thanks to Target.

Just think about the books, equipment, technology, teacher training, and field trips that kind of money can buy. Nuts.

Start sharing, friends! Start the sharing!

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That’s it. We’re at year number five of buying school supplies and doing the elementary school thing, so we’re kind sorta hitting a stride.

No, it’s not perfect. But we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve now to keep kids–and parents–happy for at least a little bit of the experience.target inner circle

What works for your family? Any tricks for maintaining peace or bringing some big smiles to your crew? Do share!

fyi: This is an unsponsored post, written as a parent and educator who wants to share a few good–pretty darn great–things when I see them. As part of Target’s Inner Circle program, I am privy to a behind-the-scenes look at all things Target, but that in no way, shape, or form influences what I write about them.  Honestly, the more I learn, the more I like ’em. 

Please be sure to follow the links for more specific information about these programs and campaigns.

learning during read-alouds: improving fluency

help kids improve fluency

help kids improve fluencyThis is a re-post of a November 16, 2011 post because it’s totally worth revisiting.

 

Fluency is a tricky–but totally important–element of reading comprehension.

No. Question. About it.

And though research is funny about fluency’s roll in reading comprehension, I’m a firm believer in the fact that in order to fully understand what is being read, it must be read fluently.

Lately, improving reading fluency has been my focus for Maddy and Owen. And I’ve realized that there are a ton of ways to make fluency practice fun, and I’ve been reminded that what works for one kiddo won’t always work for another.

Here’s the skinny:

  • Fluency: Fluency is defined by Pikulski & Chard as ‘efficient, effective word-recognition skills that permit a reader to construct the meaning of text. . . fluency is manifested in accurate, rapid, expressive oral reading and is applied during, and makes possible, silent reading comprehension.’

Their definition is a synthesis of the definitions in the Report of the National Reading Panel (NICHD, 2000) and The Literacy Dictionary (Harris & Hodges, 1995), so it’s pretty solid.

I, personally prefer the definition of fluency developed by Mrs. Victoria and her second-grade class (as shared in Cahill & Gregory’s article): Fluency is reading like you talk, not too fast and not too slow, with expression and no sounding out.  It’s also important to understand what you read.

I like that definition. It’s easy and basic and sums up–in language that everyone can understand–the beauty and importance of fluency.

tips for improving reading fluencyModel, model, model fluent reading. We HAVE to.

Though there’s debate over whether or not fluent reading involves comprehension, I’m going to get bold and say I truly believe there has to be a link between the two.  You cannot possibly read fluently without understanding what you’re reading, and you cannot truly understand what you’re reading if you’re not reading fluently.  Right? Right.

There. I said it.

So a few months back, when I was chatting with Maddy about a book she had just read–a simple Junie B. Jones chapter book–and she was unable to tell me what happened, I kind of secretly freaked out.  As I watched and listened and watched and listened some more over the next few days, I realized that something was off.

Maddy was speed-reading and not comprehending.  She sped through each page–skipping words and misreading words and barely breathing or paying attention to punctuation in the least.  And I think that part of the reason was to try to get to the parts of her Junie B. books where Junie B. used the type of language that isn’t permitted at our house.  (Why we have these books in our house, I’m not sure, but that’s a whole other story. . . ).

So I decided that if I was going to practice what I preach and not scream SLOW DOWN!!! Stop! What does that say?! NO!! You’re wrong!! then I needed to do some thinking and moving. And fast.

tips for improving reading fluencyJunie B. books . . . hard for fluency practice.

 

Here’s what I did to help Maddy improve her fluency:

1.  I modeled fluent reading.  I read, read, and read some more. I read the Junie B. books that I can barely stand. The books I want to throw out the window.

And gradually I invited Maddy to read a page here and there, and soon it evolved into me reading every other page. And it’s fine.  It’s better.

tips for improving reading fluency

I still shake my head and tsk and tsk more when Junie speaks like a baby or uses incorrect English grammar, but it’s fine. It won’t be forever.

And as we’re reading different texts together at night, Maddy’s more inclined to read more out loud as her confidence is increasing.

2.  I had her re-read.  For passages that made Maddy really giggle and laugh and widen her eyes at Junie’s horrid behavior, I read the whole passage one time, and then I’d shut the book and pretend to totally freak out.

I can’t believe this. I cannot believe her, Maddy. What is she DOING? Please re-read this paragraph just so I can hear it again. I don’t believe it.

And she gladly re-read.  And if she was speedy, I’d say, remember how it sounded when I read it–make it sound the same way.

3.  We tapped our fingers.  At the beginning, after numerous attempts at modeling and having Maddy re-read only to speed through a passage, I had her tap her thumb and pointer finger together at the end of each sentence.

I said, Okay, I can tell it’s hard to stop reading because you love Junie so much, but I’m having a hard time keeping up. And remember that fluent reading should sound like talking–and we have to talk slow enough so that people can understand what we’re saying, right?So how about after each sentence, we pinch our fingers together–just for a second–to remind us that we need to stop and breathe a sec? Sound okay?

She was game. And after a few awkward sentences, sometimes too-long pauses, the tapping became more natural, more habitual, and eventually her pace slowed to a more natural one.

And now she usually starts out tapping but scraps it a few pages in.

4.  We mixed it up. We read shorter pieces–poetry, magazine articles, news articles, craft books–you name it.

I recognize that Junie B. books can be difficult for fluent reading because (thankfully!) Maddy doesn’t speak like she does, so I wanted Maddy to really hear herself reading short texts that she could read fluently and with ease.  Anything goes–cereal boxes, ingredient lists, photo captions in the newspaper, short magazine blurbs and poems.

And so far, she’s digging it.

5.  We celebrate successes.  When Maddy reads a passage really well–paying attention to text pacing, expression, and content–I try to point out exactly what she did that rocked.  Instead of saying something generic like, Oh that sounded great, or I like how you read that, I really get specific.

Maddy, you sounded exactly like Warren might sound when he said that to Junie.  You really made his voice sound sad.  Or Maddy, love that short pause when you saw the hyphen–that’s exactly what it’s there for–a break.

 how full is your bucket

fyi: This is just a starting point!   There are a bazillion ways to make fluency practice fun–and I am eager to try them out and share the other things we’ve been doing over here–but I needed to initially have Maddy slow down and pay attention to punctuation.  She needed to breathe. And slowly–slowly!–she seems to be engaging more with the text, remembering more, and paying closer attention to the concepts now that she’s paying closer attention to the words on the page.

We’ll see. . . .

 

 More of the skinny:

When I really took a step back and looked at what Maddy was doing as far as reading, I was surprised–and slightly taken–by the fact that she wasn’t able to adequately summarize (or even explain just a little bit!) the texts she was reading.  And she reads a lot.

Ever since she was teeny, Maddy went to bed with a huge pile of books.  And as she read them, we’d either hear a thump! clunk. thump. . . thump, as she dropped them from her bed to the floor, or we’d find a big pile of books next to her tiny body when we checked on her before we turned in for the night.

For a long time, I didn’t worry about Maddy’s reading; she made great strides in Kindergarten and again in first grade, and when she hung out on the same level for a few months last year, neither my husband nor I sweated it. It’s normal for kids to make quick level-leaps in the beginning (especially through Kindergarten and first grade), and often, once they reach a certain point–they kind of stay stagnant.

There are a ton of levels in Kindergarten and grade one; ideally, kiddos move from level A to J during this time, as they move through Early Emergent and Emergent Reader Stages while they’re learning the basic concepts of print, alphabetic principles, phonological awareness, and early phonics.  And then in grade two, the move can seem small–K to P–but the strides are great.   Readers slowly begin to tackle more difficult sentence structures, less repetition, more of a reading comprehension focus.  They hang out in levels for a longer period of time, which is why there is a larger number of books in these level ranges.

This is another simple but totally important reading comprehension strategies as part of my Read-Aloud Learning series. I am LOVING it, and thanks to the following *awesome* articles I used as a reference for this post:

Applegate, M. D., Applegate, A. J. and Modla, V. B. (2009), “She’s My Best Reader; She Just Can’t Comprehend”: Studying the Relationship Between Fluency and Comprehension. The Reading Teacher, 62: 512–521. doi: 10.1598/RT.62.6.5

Cahill, M. A. and Gregory, A. E. (2011), Putting the Fun Back Into Fluency Instruction. The Reading Teacher, 65: 127–131. doi: 10.1002/TRTR.01018

Pikulski, J. J. and Chard, D. J. (2005), Fluency: Bridge Between Decoding and Reading Comprehension. The Reading Teacher, 58: 510–519. doi: 10.1598/RT.58.6.2

independent learning, poetry and play: tabletop surprises

tabletop surprises week 5

post contains affiliate links

 

 

learn and play independently tabletop surprises
The greatest thing about tabletop surprises is that they afford my kids the opportunity for some seriously fun independent learning in cool and creative ways.

Because learning–especially in the summer–should be fun, right?

Right.

This week, we traveled a bit to hang with our familia in the Keystone State, so we only rocked our tabletop surprises four days this week.  And Friday? Our boy celebrated his big numero ocho cumpleanos. So we made our tabletop surprise especially for Owen.

We added a little bit of math, a little bit of reading, a little bit of critical thinking, and a whole lot of on-their-own-time kinda fun.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Independent Learning, Poetry, and Play– Tabletop Surprises:

tabletop surprises mealtime math madness

  • Mealtime Math Madness with Melissa & Doug Math Fact Placemats: This tabletop surprise moved from the work room table to our kitchen table–and it stayed there pretty much all week long.

I’ve always been a fan of mealtime learning, placemat parties, and using the many hours spent at the breakfast table for newspaper reading, sneaky learning, personal discovery, and more.

learning fun placemats tabletop surprise

learning fun placemats tabletop surprise

So when I found this sweet line of fun, wipe-off placemats from Melissa & Doug, I wanted to dance.   Really. Like running man al kinda dance.

We have tried the Alphabet & Numbers set, the Advanced Skills set, the Basic Skills set, and the Math Skills set. We haven’t tried the Fun Skills set (my poor, poor kids).

What I love about these sets is that though the problems are not mixed randomly, my hope is that kids will see patterns in the answers that will help them down the road. I don’t know. I can hope though.

learning fun placemats tabletop surprise

Love the wipe off crayons that are super easy to write with and bright enough to see. Love that there’s one mat each for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division and the answers are on the back of each. So if the kids aren’t up for writing, then at least they can eat and stare at the answers. Maybe the answers will sear into their brains if they look at them long enough. . .

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tabletop surprises day poems

  • Poems–Memorizing & Reciting:  I love poems for so many reasons, but for kids, poems can be a super way of working on reading skills.

Check out how we rocked some serious poetry this week: Reading, Reciting, and Memorizing Poems

Fluency, memorization, and recitation are three big open doors when it comes to poetry, not to mention the creativity, writing skills, language play, critical thinking, and comprehension strategies you can practice.

 

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tabletop surprises day shopping

  • Back-t0-School Shopping & Lists: Our family totally digs Back-to-School shopping, and it’s a tradition to kinda ‘do it up’ every year.

We’ve had the kids use their own school supply shopping lists from day one, and each year I do a little something to support Maddy, Owen, and Cora in their reading and management of their personal lists.

This year, I put them to work even before we arrived at the store.

back to school price shopping tabletop surprise

back to school price shopping tabletop surprise

 

I printed out supply lists from the school website, and I let them go.

Owen in particular had a great time trying to figure out the best places to buy Skylanders most inexpensively, and once he figured that out, he spent a few minutes plowing through his list.

The challenge was having them incorporate the coupons I had on the table–that involved some serious math practice.

Though this tabletop surprise required more support than I had anticipated, it was worth it. Now we have our back-to-school shopping plan outline for the weekend.

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tabletop surprises day free electronics

  • Free Electronics:  Really, for Owen’s birthday, all he wanted was a free day for electronics.

So that’s what we gave him.

Free reign of the Wii, the Nintendo DS, the LeapFrog LeapPad, the LeapFrog GS, the iPad, and the iPad mini, and my boy was in hog heaven. The best gift I could have given him, he said.

No Game Time Tickets. No timers. Nothin’.

I had to do a lot of deep breathing to ease my anxiety over my kids’ brain cells being zapped by the second, but surprisingly, they didn’t spend all day on electronics. tabletop surprises buttonJust a whole lot of it.   Gulp.

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Stay on top of the Tabletop Surprises by checking out the past few weeks if you’ve missed them:

Or check out some fun ideas from a our Smart Summer Challenge a few summers back.

 

fyi: affiliate links included in this post

reading, reciting, and memorizing poems

memorizing and reciting poems

post contains affiliate links

 

reading, reciting, and memorizing poems

 

For our tabletop surprise today, we rocked some major poetry.

Knowing that poetry reading is sometimes less intimidating than reading other texts and knowing that right now my Owen really isn’t into reading anything that doesn’t have the word ‘Skylanders‘ in it, I needed to think outside the box.

My kids usually dig poetry, and they have been digging the flexibility of our tabletop surprises and they totally dig getting in front of a few people and hamming it up.

So today? We did some reading, reciting, and memorizing of poems.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Reading, Reciting, and Memorizing Poems: That’s it.

That’s what we did.

reading, reciting, and memorizing poems

I put a handful of poetry books on the table, with a note that said:

Today:

1. Find a poem (or tw0!) that you love

2. Practice reading it over and over and over

3. Can you memorize it?

4. Read it to our family tonight!

And I let ’em at it.

I set out some of our favorite poetry books:

reading, reciting, and memorizing poems

We talked about ways to memorize things:

  • copying it over and over
  • reading it repeatedly
  • reading it line by line, and remembering it by sentences
  • recording yourself reading it and listening to it over and over
  • committing it to memory by one or two lines, and adding as you go

 But the emphasis was not on memorizing–that was only if they wanted to.  The emphasis was on reading the poem in the absolute best way you possibly could. To really ‘own’ the poem like it was your very own.

 

reading, reciting, and memorizing poems

No nursery rhyme books today. We went big. Or kind of.

The only rule was that everyone had to find a poem that had as many lines as his or her age.

That way, no one could grab a 2-liner and call it a day.  They had a total blast challenging me to find a poem with as many lines as my age, but we finally agreed that I could put a few together to add up to all of my years.

Whatever it takes, right?

reading, reciting, and memorizing poems

Cora carried her book around for most of the morning, reading and reading and reading her chosen poem.

Sometimes she’d read it silently, but most times she demanded that someone watch her and listen. Most of us gladly obliged.

When my husband got home from work, even he practiced a few poems.

And after dinner, we had our poetry recitation!

Maddy was the only gal who memorized hers. And proudly wore the Harry Potter robe she’s been sporting for the last week.  Owen copied his onto a connected stretch of Post-it Notes, and Cora read hers from the book.

reading, reciting, and memorizing poems

We clapped, hooted, and hollered when someone was finished, and we tried to give them meaningful praise for what they did well: You read that in a way that sounded just like you were talking! Excellent phrasing–we could really understand that long poem better when you read it that way! You said each word so clearly! No WAY you memorized that 10-line poem! Way to use your brain!

It was totally fun. So we’ll definitely do it again before summer’s end.

Excuse me while I head out to read some more poetry. . .

 

Why should we do this with our kids? Because teeny, little poetry packs a big punch. That’s why.

Lyndsay A. Gurnee, of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute says that “the use of poetry in the classroom is the best way to reach out to learners of different academic levels by activating the imagination of each individual student” and that is absolutely the reason I tried it with my crew (Gurnee, Lyndsay A.  Motivating Reluctant Readers Through Poetry, Yale University: Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/ 8.6.13).

More on why poetry rocks:

Check out:

  • Reading Poetry in the Middle Grades because even though the poems may be a higher level for elementary school kids, I truly believe the concepts and methods for approaching the poems can be adapted for younger readers.

 

fyi: affiliate links are included in this post

creative hands-on learning for kids: tabletop surprises

creative, hands on learning for kids | tabletop surprises

post contains affiliate links

 

creative hands-on learning for kids: tabletop surprises

 

Tabletop Surprises have been a saving grace for us this summer.

Quick and easy learning on my kids’ own time.  They’re digging it.

This week we incorporated some serious creative hands-on learning that involved critical thinking and math, science, and literacy skills. I’d say that by far our first two days were Maddy, Owen, and Cora’s fave activities hands down.

What are Tabletop Surprises? If you follow me on Instagram, you’d know what I’m talking about because each day I’ve shared a quick photo of each day’s surprise each day of the week.

Tabletop Surprises are fun learning or creative thinking opportunities for the kids on our craft room table. Just sitting there.

Waiting for someone to come along and try ‘em out.

 

This week we got creative and crafty.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Creative Hands-on Learning for Kids–Tabletop Surprises: Each day is a little different.  And honestly? This has been so much fun for me as I think of cool things for the kids to do.

tabletop surprises recyclables

  • Create & Invent With Recyclables: Really, all I did for Monday was put out a handful of random recyclables, and the kids went to work trying to design and create something that could help someone or something.

I wasn’t sure how it would go, but it was the hit of the week, by far.

invention with recyclables

invention with recyclables

I put a little note on a big box of recyclables—paper rolls, tubes from the toulle from our fairy skirts a while back, plastic containers, you name it. I didn’t put out every recyclable we had; rather, I tried to keep it simple while at the same time provide them with a range of objects that would be usable and cool.

I wanted to keep it open for the kids and make the sky the limit.

invention with recyclables

invention with recyclables

Along with the recyclables, I put a roll of duct tape and a roll, a roll of clear packing tape, and a roll of masking tape on the table.  And a few pairs of scissors.

Maddy, Owen, and Cora literally sat at the table for an hour or more. And when they finished, they took turns presenting what they created to a small  audience of each other and me.

invention with recyclables

invention with recyclables

Though none will end up taking first place in Invent America! this activity kept their brains moving and creativity flowing.

Maddy created what she set out to be an automatic dog feeder but that morphed into a binocular system of sorts.

invention with recyclables

invention with recyclables

invention with recyclables

invention with recyclables

focus: Creative thinking, fine motor, engineering, critical thinking, speaking, and presenting

Seriously? So fun.

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  • Playing with Flowers:  We’ve done this about once a year, and the kids love it. Whenever we have older flowers that are on the outs—ready to be tossed—I let the kids pull them apart.

Because who doesn’t like to have permission to pull petals off of flowers?

On three separate trays, I put a paper plate with several flower stems.  I included a small sheet of Parts of a Flower in case they wanted to accurately identify any of the parts, but they weren’t really into it.

flowers for learn and play

learn and play with flowers

puzzles melissa and doug - 10

I also included a small life cycle of a flower book for Cora that she could color and label as well.

This activity ended up moving from our craft room table to our back porch, and it quickly transitioned from a calm, cool, indoor science lesson into an attempt to make potions and perfume.

puzzles melissa and doug - 14

puzzles melissa and doug - 15

puzzles melissa and doug - 16

Maddy, Owen, and Cora used jars for water and smashed and smushed petals, tiny pieces of stem, grass and dirt.  They added yellow pollen, tiny parts of the flower centers, and every petal they could find.

focus: Sensory discovery, fine motor, creative thinking, free play, science

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tabletop surprises day learn to draw

  • Drawing Lessons:  Drawing lessons was not at all my intention today, but I stumbled across the most amazing site packed full of free resources that I had to use them.

In my opinion, this was the coolest thing we did all week.

I literally stumbled across the most amazing site by Donna Young called Donna Young’s printables and resources. On it is such a wealth of resources for at-home learning, it’s nuts.

learn to draw with donna young

drawing lessons with donna young

I put a little note on the table explaining what they needed to do, and I let ’em at it.

Though it’s difficult to sort through it all, I started with about four sheets of Drawing blocks for younger children and several of Drawing Ia.  I wanted it to be engaging without being too tough for them.

They loved it.  A few blank sheets stuck to a clip board, a handful of newly sharpened pencils, and the kids found time throughout the day to sit down, draw, and relax.

We’ll definitely return to this site, as the options seem to be endless.  Though I totally love and appreciate free play, open-space creativity, and free-form drawing, I also love that this gives kids a challenge–replicating lines and shapes and working hand-eye coordination.

focus: fine motor, hand eye coordination

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tabletop surprises day floor puzzles

No note needed, I gathered all of our big Melissa & Doug floor puzzles and put them on the table. Many we’ve picked up at yard sales over the years, many were gifted to us, and some we’ve bought ourselves.

puzzles huge and happy floor puzzles

Some, the kids can do with their eyes closed. Others, like the 100- piece and 300-piece puzzles take more time, but they’re willing to work at it.

By the end of the day, our living room floor was carpeted in a huge T-Rex and a bunch of underwater scenes, horses running, presidents, USA maps, the planets, desert, you name it.

focus: fine motor, gross motor, problem-solving

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tabletop surprises day story starters

Essentially, Story Starters is a free site that lets users choose a theme and then helps them generate ideas For more on Scholastic Story Starters, check out the quick post I wrote about Story Starters for Scholastic Raise a Reader blog.

story starters computer

story starters computer

The kids really liked using this site, and though they did need support at the beginning, soon they could manage and navigate on their own.

The cool thing is that with every writing piece, kids can save, download, or print their final product.  Newspaper articles, journal entries, postcards, you name it.

And for activities like this, I do feel thankful that we have two tiny Asus Netbooks–great size for little hands, for sure.

story starters computer

story starters computer

story starters computer

 

And when stories are printed, they are formatted in cool ways. Kids loved this.  And they loved that they could share what they did with their dad when he got home from work.

For Cora and Owen, I let them get started with typing and then I took over as they dictated. I wanted their ideas to flow and didn’t want them to be hindered by their weak typing skills. It worked out great.  Maddy liked trying to type on her own, and I let her go.

With all free writing, I didn’t get hung up on spelling, punctuation, or the like. I wanted the kids to freely write, get all of their ideas down, and not worry about mechanics.

Again, something we’ll definitely revisit.  Totally worth it.

tabletop surprises button

And that’s it. Week four of our free-bird weeks of summer, and we’re enjoying every day.

Stay on top of the Tabletop Surprises by checking out the past few weeks if you’ve missed them:

Or check out some fun ideas from a our Smart Summer Challenge a few summers back.

 

fyi; affiliate links are included

math, literacy, and creative summer learning: tabletop surprises

math, literacy, and creative summer learning: tabletop surprises

math, literacy, and creative summer learning: tabletop surprises

We’re week three into our tabletop surprises, and this week, we rocked some sneaky math, literacy, and creative thinking.

The kids woke up to some easy activities and ones that required more thinking—and two that required more movement. Sign language was one of the week’s activities.

The basis for tabletop surprises is just to let Maddy, Owen, and Cora find their own time to do these little activities that sneak in a little bit o’ learning and fun into their days.

They take all of five seconds to set up and prepare, and it’s a whole lot of pulling from resources that are around the house—from our own focused learning at home, or from my previous classroom teaching experience.

Fun stuff.

Here’s the skinny . . .

  • Math, Literacy, And Creative Summer Learning– Tabletop Surprises:   Set up and then go. That’s it.

We’re three weeks in. Here we go!

tabletop surprises sudoku

  • Sudoku: That’s right. Sudoku is hard. Number sense and critical thinking and logic all wrapped up into one pretty, griddy package.

Sudoku puzzles are logic-based number puzzles.

I found mine on KrazyDad, where I found the mazes a few weeks back.  Free. Tons of them. So worth checking out. I totally heart KrazyDad.

sudoku  tabletop surprises

sudoku  tabletop surprises

I printed some Easy ones for Monday’s tabletop surprises.   Even some of  Easy level ones were tough for the kids.

I’ll definitely throw Sudoku  in the mix again before the end of the summer because the puzzles were that hard for the kids. I’m not sure how we hadn’t tried them before, but Sudoku was on my mind from the cool outdoor Sudoku on this year’s we teach: summertime learning eBook.

Maddy, Owen, and Cora solved the Kid ones quickly—and they should have. They were super easy. But the Easy ones really challenged them. I think I need to learn more about how to solve them, some of the tricks and logic strategies myself, and then I’ll give them the skinny before trying this activity again.

My plan? To read up on the Sudoku Space site which has a pretty detailed explanation behind the puzzles.

tabletop surprises sign language cover

  • Learning With Sign language: I got these great sign language cards from a friend who moved a few years ago, and every so often I pull them out for the kids.

For our tabletop surprise on Tuesday, I simply gave them the following challenge:

1. Put the cards in ABC order.

2. Learn your name in sign language.

3. Learn two more words of your choice in sign language.

4. Show me what you’ve learned!

sign language cards  tabletop surprises

sign language cards  tabletop surprises

Owen ran with it and impressed Maddy, Cora, and I while we ate breakfast. He’s my early bird and usually gets his tabletop challenges finished before the girls finish breakfast.

Maddy and Cora move a little later, usually tackling the challenge after lunch or late afternoon.

Consensus was they liked this one.

Want to give it a go? Download and print one of the free sign language cards from the ASL site or these little sign language alphabet printables from abcteach.

tabletop surprises day money

I think the problem was that I didn’t have a lot of money out for them to play with—we didn’t have a ton of coins to actually play with or fill the coin wrappers. I get it. It’d be hard to spend time counting coins and then not actually have $2 in nickels to fill a wrapper completely.

Anyway, it was out on Wednesday, and they enjoyed sorting the coins from the non-coins (Chuck-E-Cheese tokens, foreign coins, random small, coin-like objects).  I think you can grab coin wrappers at any bank (at least you could a while back), or you can find them very inexpensive on Amazon.

tabletop surprises letter writing

  • Letter Writing: The other day, Cora received a little ‘hello’ note from one of her classmates, and it reminded me of how much kids—mine, especially—enjoy getting mail.

So on Thursday, I put out some note paper, pens, and envelopes and a little note that said:

Send a little ‘hello’ to

-Nana! -Cousins! -Grandparents!  -Friends!

tabletop surprises letter writing

tabletop surprises letter writing

letter writing tabletop surprises - 4

What got them stuck was the envelope and how to address it properly.  I made a little sample, and it helped a bit.  Spelling their cousins’ names? Also tough.

Clearly we need to do more practice here or at least I should update our Family Playing cards.  I’ll add it to my list.

I just liked how this got Maddy, Owen, and Cora thinking, writing, and sending a little love.  We need to do it more often, for sure.

tabletop surprises descriptive writing

  • Descriptive Writing: Inspired by our Stop, Observe, and Write activity from last summer’s Everyday Journals, I threw a card from the Everyday Journals on a clipboard along with some journals and notebooks.

We had breakfast out on the back porch, and then the kids took some time to find a quiet spot and write.

descriptive writing tabletop surprises -

descriptive writing tabletop surprises -

It was quick, it was easy, and my hope was that they would be able to tune into what they saw, heard, smelled, felt, and maybe even tasted as they sat, listened, and wrote.

The key? Modeling. You sit and write with them, sharing what you wrote so that they hear what descriptive writing sounds like.

And that’s it. Just an average, thoughtful, summer week.  And along with some trips to the pool and nearby parks, some errands and chores, it was a pretty sweet week.  Though it’s crazy, and I’m behind on all of my work, emails, and cleaning, I am thankful and blessed.

Stay on top of the Tabletop Surprises by checking out the past few weeks if you’ve missed them:

Or check out some fun ideas from a our Smart Summer Challenge a few summers back.