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Monday, June 24, 2013

Read About Robots, Make Robots

... We've been doing just that all month long! There are too many fun robot books to not have a robot-themed unit! I'm so excited about this one, I'm creating a full literacy-pack that will be available on the Teachers Pay Teachers site... eventually. Just as soon as I find time to complete it... aaaaand figure out how the heck to post it into my store (I'm a serious newbie there).

I'll share some of the fun with you here, and I encourage you to grab some robot books to read with your kids or students. You don't even have to suggest a craft or activity to follow these books - the kids suggest and ask for it themselves! I mean, what kid doesn't want to make a robot?

Here are the stories we read:

We played some robot games after each story, and these games helped us practice some essential early literacy skills like rhyming, vocabulary, and alphabet knowledge.

Then we created! Each class project serves as catalysts for further story discussion, it gets the kids' creative juices flowing, those imaginations start dreaming things up, and then they end up with a fun little reminder of that week's story to take home with them!

Here are a couple of the projects we made:

Inspired by the art in Robot Zombie Frankenstein, we pieced together colorful geometric shapes, cut from foam, to make our own unique robots. The end pages in Robot Zombie Frankenstein beg for a project like this to be done after you read the book!

This week we are turning ourselves into robots with these fun robot templates I created that we simply added our photo to! So fun! Each student gets to share about what kind of robot they are - we have learned about various kinds of robots from our reads! We had some "Robot Zombie Frankensteins," and we had some "chef robots." 

Do you have a favorite robot picture book? Would you mind passing it along in the comments? I've got some little readers itching for more great book recommendations on this topic!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Summer Boredom Buster: Make Your Own Board Game!

For some parts of the country, school is just letting out for the summer. In other parts, like where I live, we're already almost four weeks into summer break! So that means the inevitable summer boredom is creeping in a little. Who am I kidding? My kids were complaining they were bored the very first day of summer! No joke!

On one of those first "I'm bored" days I whipped out a Lego board game idea I found on Pinterest. It was an extremely simple game of rolling dice and moving along a very simple board where you gathered or lost Lego blocks till you reached the end. As I played this with My Little Reader, we were brainstorming various ways we could improve on the game. One of my older kids came and joined us and the more we talked about it, the more she wanted to make her own board game. Then My Little Reader wanted to make one too!

So the next day we pulled out cardboard and our big roll of paper, crayons, markers, stickers, and got to work. I sat down to help My Little Reader, and was really excited to implement all our great ideas into our own board game. He had other ideas. He had come up with an entirely new concept (one that I barely understood), and he could not be swayed to use any of my ideas. My assistance ended up being utilized merely for coloring and writing.

But it was OK, because My Little Reader was having a ball and getting to be creative, use critical thinking skills, tinker and design, and imagine his own little story. Because that's what a board game ultimately is, right? It's a little story you (or your pawn) ventures through, and the adventure changes a little each time.

I wrote the words on the game spaces for my son, but he dictated it all and oversaw the process (he's kind of a bossy pants). It was great print awareness practice, as he used words to design the game the way he wanted. Then as we played the game, he got to see the words he came up with being read and used over and over by the game players. Games are great tools for demonstrating the power and purpose of words and print. "Steal another player's treasure" or "lose a turn" can carry great significance toward winning or losing. Especially to a competitive preschooler!

My Little Reader had a ball with his board game! We have all played it many times. He takes great pride in his creation, and loves to see us all having fun with it. This was a spontaneous activity that kept my kiddo busy for quite a while, and helped him practice some of those valuable literacy skills while he was having all that fun!

How are you keeping the summer boredom at bay in your family? 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pen Pals! A Great Way to Keep Them Writing This Summer!

Enjoy this flashback tip I shared last summer!

My lovely cousin, Holly, asked me if my kids would like to be pen pals with her kids over the summer and I hastily replied, "Yes!" Holly is a teacher and knows what good writing practice this will be for our kids. I'm thankful for her initiative, as this was one of those things I was wanting to do this summer, but wasn't sure I was going to get around to starting.

Our kids have never met, and so this is a great way for them all to get to know each other. It's also fun for them all to get real mail in the mailbox. And coming up with interesting things to write about, or clever letter-writing ideas, will be cool too!

Holly's kids sent fun little pen pal boxes to mine to get it all going. My kids were psyched to open their package and start using their stuff. My older son did great with reading his letter he received, and my daughter got to writing back immediately (my littlest one was most excited about coloring in his new coloring book)!

My kids of course wanted to pick some fun things out too, and we sent those off to their pen pals last week. I found I fun little "All About Me" worksheet (thank you Pinterest) for my kids to fill out and include in their package they sent. It was a good prompt for them, as they were suffering from a bad case of What-should-I-wriiiiite-itis the day we sat down to write our first pen pal letters.

We're already planning to find some fun postcards to send while we're on vacation later this month. Photos from summer activities will be fun to send as well. I'm hoping we can get creative and keep it fun. Any writing practice is great, and pen pals are a great way for kids (especially little ones) to understand some of the purposes of print.

Share your creative pen pal writing ideas in the comments. How/what are your kids writing this summer?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Creating Captive Readers

I have been anxiously anticipating the newest edition of Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook. The waiting has reminded me that I need to be reading and reading and reading with my kids. But if it's not bedtime, then sometimes My Little Reader is resistant to sitting down with a book (he would rather be playing Legos). So I've been trying to get creative with reading to him in moments where he doesn't have much else he could be doing. I've been trying to catch him as a captive audience. And in this digital age we're living in, that's tough!

So here are some ideas of places you might find your child to be a captive reading audience.

1. In the bathtub. Rub-a-dub-dub, they can't easily escape from the tub. I figured that even if my son was playing with his toys in the tub, he still might catch some of what I was reading him. And it turned out that he became more interested in the stories than his toys.

2. The bathroom. We have to do "sit time" every day with our son right now. I could just send him in there to sit by himself. Or I could steal those moments to sneak in a story while he's still and stuck!

3. Appointments and waiting times. I know the go-to these days is the smart phone or Ipad to entertain in these moments. But what if you just happened to "forget" to bring those one day? Or you loaded them up with some awesome storybook apps?

4. The car. I don't utilize my car enough lately. Now I can't read while I'm driving. But my kids will almost always sit and look at a book while they're strapped down in the car. Keep the car stocked with some high-interest books. For my kids that would look like comic books and favorite character stories. Maybe some look-and-find type books.

5. The table. Have nothing to talk about at the kitchen table? Or maybe you're like our family and you need to keep the bickering to a minimum. Whip out a book and start reading. Sure, it sometimes makes it hard to eat your own meal. But when the kids finish eating and clear the table you can finish your own dinner in quiet solitude... maybe with your own book to read!

6. While they are doing a favorite activity. My Little Reader will absolutely listen to a story if a slide up next to him with a book while he's building with his Legos. Especially if it's a Lego City story. I know not all activities allow this, but what about while they're painting or coloring, playing with dolls, or putting together a puzzle?

7. Cleaning time. Hopefully your kids help out around the house and you (and/or your spouse) are not stuck with all the chores yourself. My kids have daily and weekly chores they help with. And chore time might be a lot more pleasant for us all if I pulled out a books and took the time to read to them while they dusted or folded laundry. They have to do it anyway, might as well make the most of the moment! Who knows, they might come to look forward to cleaning time!

8. Create special reading moments. Maybe new traditions or fun surprises that your child might then associate with books in the future - like a reading picnic. I think I might try some breakfast and lunch picnics in the yard this summer with books! We even have little tents I made last summer that would make this extra fun. How fun would it be for them to wake up and find a picnic and stories waiting for them at breakfast!

Have ideas for finding moments to read to your kids as a captive audience? Please share in the comments; I need all the ideas I can get!