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Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Fun Thing to Do at the Library!

I always struggle with ways to get my boys actively involved in book selection at the library. My oldest girl always begs to go to the library and keeps herself very busy searching for books while we're there. My two boys love reading books, but they often depend on me a little too much to pick out good books for them don't always put much effort into themselves on our library trips. My middle one is getting better bit by bit, but My Little Reader will still usually just quickly grab a few books to fill his bag and then want to go play with the trains or the computers.

This week we were all on a hunt for some new Christmas books to read (it was our Advent calendar activity for that day). I looked up some Christmas-y titles on the computer card catalog and starting browsing the shelves to find the books on my list.

My boys were wandering aimlessly so I enlisted their help. "Can you boys help me find this list of books? There's a lot of them. Work together and start by looking for 'E FON', then see if you find a Christmas book there." (I didn't write down all the book titles on my list.)

They were so excited to go hunting! My little guy wasn't able to find the call numbers himself, but with a little help from his big brother or from me, he could! Trying to then hunt out the Christmas title with that particular call number I gave them was like a treasure hunt. They were so proud of themselves with each book they found.

When we completed hunting out the books on our list, they begged me to make a new list so they could find some more. They seriously could have done that all day. And what great practice with their library skills and even practice with their alphabet and spelling.

To Have a Fun Library Book Hunt...

1. Choose a theme of books to look for (Holiday, Dogs, Back to School, etc.)

2. Do a computer catalog search and make a list of books to hunt for o
n the shelves. (You could involve your kids in this part too if you want.) Decide if you want to write down the book titles or just let your chosen theme guide your kiddos in hunting out the correct books.

3. Give your kids a list of the library call numbers your copied from the computer catalog. Or verbally tell your kids the call numbers as you go. If you want, you could write a few separate call numbers on separate sheets of paper and give one paper to each child. Let them race to find all the books on their list (if you trust them to not get too competitive and disruptive).

4. Assist younger children with this activity. It's great fun and helps them practice their alphabet and library skills. We sang the alphabet song a few times as we hunted for our books.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

We Love Goodreads! How 'Bout You?

Do you utilize any of the handy online tools or apps for readers? I admit, I'm not very tech savvy, but I do love Goodreads for keeping track of what both my kids and myself have been reading. Keeping track of what we read on Goodreads is useful because...

  • We homeschool, so I like to have our books recorded for academic record keeping. And I know I'm not going to misplace my Goodreads list like I might misplace a notebook, or even a document on my computer. 
  • It gives the kids (and me) a feeling of accomplishment to look back over how many books we've read. My daughter and I participated in the Goodreads 2013 reading challenge this year and far surpassed our reading goals we set for ourselves. We're looking forward to setting a higher goal next year and really pushing ourselves!
  • It helps us identify what our reading interests are by observing patterns in what types of genres, authors and topics we tend to gravitate toward, and enjoy the most.
  • It helps us find new books we want to read. We can pull up our Goodreads account easily while we're at the library and find a book from our "want to read" list. Or we can get the name of that author whose book we loved, so we can find more stuff by them. 
  • It's really easy to use. I have the app on my smartphone and every time I read a picture book (several times a day) with My Little Reader, I can punch it into my app and easily record it. I always have my phone with me, so I don't have to go hunting down a notebook or my computer to log each book we read, which means I'm less likely to forget to log a book. 

I know Goodreads has a lot of features we don't even utilize yet. There are book clubs on there, and ways to explore new books to read, and you can converse and socialize with friends on your friend list about what you're reading. Honestly, I think my kids probably know how to use all that stuff better than me. My older two kids have their own accounts, so they take ownership in recording their own reading on there, and they use it to come up with new books to search for at the library.

I'm including a few photos here of some favorites that my boys and I read together recently (I'm sorry I haven't updated our family bookshelf on my sidebar in forever. It's on my to-do list.)

What other book apps and websites do I need to know about? I know there must be other good ones I'm missing out on!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fun Books and Activities for October

Need some quick ideas to make October a cool month of reading? Look no further! I've got a few for you right here!

Make your own books and story pieces of The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything.

Enjoy the beautiful weather with some autumn reading adventures and Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf.

Spider fun with The Itsy Bitsy Spider at home... or in the classroom.

Cool Stuff to do with Spooky Carrots.

Beautiful creations with Leafman.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

New, Fabulous Halloween Book and Activity!

Charlotte Gunnufson sent us a copy of her new book Halloween Hustle and the kids and I have been enjoying it immensely. I have actually had to get onto my kids a bit about them dragging the book all over the house (and out to the car on errand trips), before I got a chance to post a review while the book still looked nice and new!

I planned to sit down and read and play with the book today with My Little Reader since it's aimed at kids around his age (he's in kindergarten). But my older son (9) couldn't resist the fun and wanted to join us too! 

I thought it would be fun to make our own little skeletons that could do the Halloween Hustle as we read the story, and fall down just like the skeleton in the book. My Little Reader decided he wanted to make a mummy like the one in the book. After some hard work, and a couple revisions, he had it the way he wanted. We each attached our creations to popsicle sticks for marionette-style puppets. 

I used simple white yarn (because that's what I had in my craft cabinet) to attach the mummy and skeleton to the popsicle stick handles. We punched holes and used twisty ties (again, using what I had handy) to make the puppets' joints move so they could hustle. 

Isn't that an adorable mummy? I think so!

The story is full of fun and whimsical Halloween-type characters that are headed to a party on Halloween night (warning: there is a zombie in the story that is a little on the gross side). While observing the cover, My Little Reader wondered how the skeleton would be able to dance without falling apart since he has no skin or muscles, and he was right on the money with his wonderings. Turns out the skeleton has quite the trouble staying put together as he dances through this tale. 

The rhyming text makes it lots of fun. And we love that it has a happy ending for the skeleton. 

And it really says something when my nine year old thinks a picture book is cool enough to sit and listen to mom read it. 

The skeleton would be easy enough to use even without the string and popsicle sticks attached. You could make the jointed skeleton out of card stock and simply let your child hold him with his hands and make him dance. Be sure you use card stock - I don't think regular paper, or even construction paper, would be heavy enough to work very well. 

I have included a pattern for the skeleton that I made (below). I do not have a pattern for the mummy My Little Reader made. But your little reader could make their own mummy, or could create a puppet based on another character in the book. You could make all the characters and do a puppet show of the story!

Check out the book trailer here!

And learn how to do the "Halloween Hustle" here!

Have fun! And I would love to see some pics of your puppets you make!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Kindergarten Book Talk

This weekend I had My Little Reader give a book talk on one of our recent library picks that he enjoyed.

Consider having your child record a book talk about one of their favorite books and let them share it with friends and family, or their classmates at school! Encourage them talk about books with others!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sight Word Practice

I have never done much sight work with My Little Reader. But now that he's a kindergartner, it seems more important. And the trick to get My Little Reader engaged with what he's learning is to make it a game. So we keep our sight word practice fun, low-key, and low-pressure. He's only five, and I'm trying to remember that forcing him down the reading road before he's ready will do more harm than good long term.

Sight Word Memory is the game we started with. We're focusing on just five sight words to begin with. I made my own cards for the game out of index cards. My Little Reader decided to underline the words on the cards, because he was getting confused about which direction they were supposed to go.

Once he was doing well with Sight Word Memory, we moved on to Sight Word Dash. I took our memory cards and put one of each word in a place in the house (I just spread them on the floor or table). I took MLR down the hall and told him a word to go find; he had to dash down the hall to the room they were in and come back with the correct word card. Then I repeated those steps till he had retrieved all the sight word cards. I would either give him a time limit on a timer or just time to see how fast he could complete the task (we played both ways). He loved this game, and wanted me to have a chance to play too. He set the game up for me just as I did for him, and he read me each word I had to go find and bring back. This variation of the game was great practice for him too since he had to read each word that I was to go find.

Then we played Sight Word Dig. I happened to have a bucket of dry beans (weird, I know). If you don't have dry beans handy, you can pick some up pretty cheap at the store. Or you could use rice, sand, or something similar. We wrote each word on a small piece of paper, and buried them in the sand. Then we took turns digging for the words in bucket of beans. MLR wanted to use the timer again. When it was MLR's turn to dig I would tell him each word to dig for. When it was my turn to dig, MLR would read me each word I needed to dig for off of the sight word cards.

As we continue our sight word practice, I'll share more fun ways we're practicing our sight words!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Help Your Kids Keep Track of the Books They've Read

Giving your kids a way to record, and even just visually see, all the books they've read can help them discover their reading likes and interests. And discovering that they have likes and interests when it comes to books can help them begin to really identify themselves as readers. They might realize they have a favorite author. Who knew! Or they might discover that they seem to have a thing for historical fiction or can lead them to discover what historical fiction is (or other genres for that matter)!

I have made a bookshelf for my little guy, and he has sat in on a discussion I had with my older kids that covered the various literary genres. (I thought it would be way over his head, but he's interested, and he's getting it!) For each book they read, they get to put a paper book on their bookshelf in the appropriate color for the genre it was from.

Figuring out the genre of the books they read has been kind of fun for them. It's been like a little puzzle they get to figure out.

(I'm missing "Nonfiction" on our chart still!)

My Little Reader loves his little paper bookshelf that I hung on the wall in our bonus room. He helped me put a couple books on it that he's read. One of the books is The Mouse and The Motorcycle, which we all just finished reading aloud together (now we're reading The Secret of Platform 13).

Since his brother and sister are reading chapter books, I'm trying to keep devise a way to kind of keep things level with filling their paper bookshelves (I have competitive kids). I decided he has to read 4 books per day with me (in addition to his bedtime stories) and if he meets his reading requirement all week, then he can choose his favorite book from the week to add to his shelf. Last week he added Color Chaos.

We also have Goodreads accounts that we like to track our reading on. My boys know that I try to record most of the books we read on Goodreads, and have gotten into the habit of giving each book we read together a star rating. "Mom, give this one four stars," one will say. "No way, two stars!" the other will counter with. It has sparked some heated debates at bedtime, let me tell ya!

There are countless ways you can record and display your child's reading progress. You could make a goal chart and color it in little by little as they inch toward their reading goal for the month or the year. You could make a paper chain, and they could add a new link for each book they read. Pinterest can help you with more ideas than you ever wanted probably!

Keep the reading excitement up and celebrate those milestones as they hit them!

Do you keep track of the books your child reads? How do you do it?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Learning Art Through Literature

I love reading books with My Little Bookworm and seeing his interests and curiosity sparked. He gets interested in everything he reads about! That's how we have been doing a lot of his homeschooling these past few weeks - we read lots of books!

This past week we read Color Chaos. It was one of his choices from the library, and he loved learning about the primary and secondary colors as we read through the story. Even after the story was done, he was walking around the house categorizing everything he saw according to its color.

I decided to capitalize on his interest and put him to work doing some color wheel projects.

We did this fun science experiment using water, food coloring, and cups. It didn't work for us, but I guess that's what makes science so interesting - it's unpredictable sometimes. We talked a lot about what was supposed to happen, and reasons why it maybe didn't work. He loved it all the same.

Then I thought he would love making a color wheel. But when I suggested the idea he balked. "I don't like coloring or painting," he declared (his interests seem to change daily lately). He said, " I only like doing things with toys." So I made that work, and had him create a color wheel with his favorite toys!

Again, he loved it, and was very engaged with the work. Even after he finished the wheel, he made several "robots" and pointed out to us all that he had used all the primary and secondary colors to create them - straight off his wheel!

There are so many fun books about art. Here are a few I really like. Read them with your little guys and see where their interest and imagination takes them! Real and lasting learning only seems to happen for my kids when they care - and they usually care about what they read about in books!


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Maximizing Library Trips with Your Kids

Successful library trips seem like they are always just beyond my reach. I have felt this way since I just had one little baby toting along to the library with me. Now I have a 12, 9, and 5 year-old

in tow each visit. We're now homeschooling, and we're now consistently visiting the library once a week.

One of my main goals for the year is to teach my children how to use the library effectively: how to find what they are interested in, use the computer catalog, utilize services, be excited about their book choices, and just appreciate the library.

We are tackling this goal in small chunks. Each week we do a little library mission together before heading our separate ways to find our personal books and play on the computer. Well actually, we have only just begun working on this goal, so we've only done one little mission to date (finding books on the human body), but the plan is for this to happen every week.

I also want my kids to be more invested in their library book choices. I often feel like they are just choosing things off the shelf willy-nilly so I will let them go play on the computers (mostly my boys). I have struggled with how to get them to care more about the books they are choosing, and with how to teach them that there are better ways to find a book you really like.

So we are doing a couple other new things in addition to our weekly library missions. I have filled up the home computer bookmark bar with Goodreads, Amazon, our library computer catalog, Bookseer, etc. I am trying to arm them with some easy-to-access tools for finding stuff they want to read. I am also showing them book trailers every week. These are totally new to them, and they can't get enough. After each trailer they all exclaim, "Let's read THAT book!" Every one. Well done, Book Trailer Producers!

And we are doing Library Show and Tell when we get home from every visit. Everybody gathers together with their library bags in hand and we show each other a couple books we picked out and tell why we chose them. I also plan to have us gather before our next visit to the library and give an update on our book choices  (Did we finish the books we chose, why or why not? Would you recommend it to  friends? etc.)

I'll keep you posted with how this goes. And in the meantime, let me know in the comments how you manage library trips with your kiddos. Let's share our tips and tricks!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Tips for Managing Screen Time

Sitting mindlessly in front of the TV or video games for endless amounts of time has been a problem we have been battling in our house for a few years now. Some of my kids would literally sit in front of a screen all day of you let them. Yes. They really would.

We have employed various strategies to help put limits of the screen time. And might I just comment on how the term "screen time" keeps growing to include more and more devices and avenues for our kids to participate. In our house we have an array of devices the kids like to use. Most of them are "family devices," but our oldest has an iPod that she bought with her own money. It's a lot to try to monitor and limit.

But limiting screen time is something I'm willing to battle over in our family. Did you know that studies show that after 10 hours of screen time per week, children's grades begin to decline? It's not so much about the screens themselves being bad for our kids, it's the things they're not doing while they're spending all that time in front of the screens that becomes a problem. They're not playing, imagining, creating, building friendships, reading, helping out around the house, discovering hobbies... (The Read Aloud Handbook)

Here's what we have found that is working for us:

For summer or weekends:

1 TV show or thirty minutes of screen time in the morning.

1 hour of screen time after lunch (while I take a nap).

1 show or thirty minutes of screen time in the evening.

School days:

1 hour of screen time after lunch (while I take a nap).

1 show or thirty minutes of screen time in the evening.

I let my kids carry unused screen time over to the next day if they want. But their max is 2 hours in front of a screen at one sitting, and they can only carry over hours from ONE day. 

We have only been using this system for a few weeks now, and it was a bumpy start. I was getting a lot of comments from the kids like, "OH, I thought I turned on the TV at 12:30, not 12:00. Oops!" or "I thought you were going to tell me when my time was up." There was a refusal to take any responsibility for keeping track of their time. I was so frustrated about it all that I was looking into devices that attach to your TV or video game systems and keep track of viewing time for you.  But they were expensive and each device could only attach to one unit, it didn't seem like a viable option for our situation.

Then I saw these little timers (pictured at top pf this post) on Amazon. They seemed like they might do the trick. They sit on a base, and you set the timers on the base, not on the timer themselves. Then the timer can be put on your wrist (there's a strap), or clipped on your pants and taken wherever. The timer buzzes on both the timer itself as well as the base. So my kids don't have to watch the clock and keep track of their minutes, but they are getting a sense of how much time they are actually sitting in front of the TV. And I don't have to nag. They can ask for a timer when they want to use their screen time, and they know it's time to turn it off when the buzzer buzzes. 

The other day one of my kids said that the new time limits were helping them not want to watch so much TV anymore. And it seems to me this is indeed true. I gave them one free day this week before school starts, and told them they didn't need to use the timers or anything; a couple of them turned the TV off themselves after a bit and went outside. This isn't to say there wasn't complaining at the beginning. I was told it wasn't fair and wasn't enough "tiiiiimmmme" multiple times. 

I'm sure this is no fool proof system. And the timers we bought got mixed reviews, sounds like they sometimes stop working after only a short bit. Of course, other kinds of timers could work as well, I just like that I can keep track of the kids' time at the same time as them, and they can't screw up much of anything on the timers while using them.

I have no affiliation with the maker of these timers featured, and I'm not being paid to write this post.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Ideas for Summer Book Fun!

Can I show you what we've been doing in class this past month? I can't believe I will be trading the preschool classroom for the homeschool classroom. It feels very weird, but exciting. And I'm thrilled that I will get to invest more time and energy into creating fun and meaningful literature experiences for my little guy AND my older kids!

I am also scheming to continue visiting my beloved schools for some special story times throughout the year so I don't suffer any terrible withdrawal effects!

So here's the fun we've been having this past month:

We had so much fun reading Chalk (Bill Thomson)! Huge hit with the kids. Oh, the fun they had imagining what it would be like to have their chalk drawings come to life! So much imagining and pretending. We drew with "magic" chalk of our own and pretended our drawings came to life. The students begged me to reread this one all month long!

Blackout (John Rocco) was another hit! I felt like this story was my son's own personal story: a boy wants to play a game with someone, but everybody in his family is too wrapped up in their technology to be bothered. Then the power goes out. Suddenly life slows down, the family comes together to have fun and pass the time during the blackout.  I think all modern kids can likely identify with this story! We turned out the lights after we read the story and made shadow puppets like they did in the story. My students were amazed by this. Then we took a picture of a city with the lights on, and turned the lights back on with our neon paints! Again, amazement from the students! And the pictures turned out so cool! Even my big kids had fun with this project when I came home with the extra supplies. We read the book around our kitchen table quite a few times!

Like Chalk, Walrus (Stephen Savage) is a wordless book. A Walrus escapes from the zoo and must hide form the zookeeper. He discovers his passion and finds a way to fulfill it while remaining at the zoo, so all ends well. The kids just crack up at the silly places the walrus hides and tries to disguise himself. So simple, but so entertaining! I brought little walruses, made out of craft foam, for us to hunt for in the classroom. Who would have thought the kids would love this so much? We also made pictures where the kids had to illustrate a way to disguise their foam walrus. Many of them took their inspiration from the book and made scenes similar to Savage. But some came up with some new ides of their own. When we finished crafting, they all wanted to take turns hiding the walruses around the room again. So if you're looking for a way to keep some preschoolers busy - hide some walruses! Ha!