Doing More With Less Since 1972

Category: Just For Fun (Page 2 of 3)

Activities With “Mouse’s First Snow”

We read “Mouse’s First Snow” yesterday in our co-op as an element of our winter theme, and afterwards we did a couple of activities that tied in with the book.

In the book, Mouse goes outside to play in the snow with his dad and follows his lead as the father does all kinds of outdoor winter activities. We don’t exactly have a winter here in Central Florida, so we had to be a little creative.

First, we let all of the kids have a turn “being” a snow mouse by wrapping them in tissue paper and adding a hat and scarf.

Next the kids built their own snow mice out of marshmallows, raisins, pretzels, and peanut butter. Perfect segue into snack time, where they got to eat their project!

Sometimes you have to use your imagination a little to find ways to tie activities into a book, but the kids don’t mind. They have very active imaginations themselves, and the activities are great for tactile learners and to help them make connections between books and life.

December Giveaway – LeapFrog Fridge Words

If your pre-schooler is like ours, they love to be with you while you’re cooking. And if you’re like us, you spend a lot of time in the kitchen over the holidays. LeapFrog’s Fridge Words Magnetic Word Builder can help! This educational toy makes your time in the kitchen more hassle-free, especially if you put it on the side of the fridge or the dishwasher, which allows you to actually open the door without interrupting play. Even if you are just starting on word groups, you can seed the toy with the word ending for your child (“_at”, “_an”, etc.) and show your child how changing the first letter can make a brand new word.

We’re giving away one of these toys in December. All you have to do to be eligible to win is become our fan on Facebook. Really, that’s it! And if you don’t have a pre-schooler, don’t worry. This makes an awesome gift for Christmas or birthdays!

We’ll be selecting a winner at midnight on December 15, which should give us plenty of time to contact the winner and have the prize delivered before Christmas. It also gives you plenty of time to spread the word!

Oh Yeah, This Is Fun Too

The other night I was reading the girls a book at bedtime, and I picked up on something I think may be really important to our girls learning to read. Now, we seem to always be on the lookout for “teachable moments” around here. Sometimes that means stopping to ask questions about the book we’re reading or pointing out some aspect of the book that ties in with something else we’ve been working on. We’re lucky that they usually lead us into this , so it’s not as if we’re forcing them into it. In fact, we never push anything on them if they don’t seem interested because we want them to enjoy the learning as much as we enjoy the teaching.

But this time something weird was going on. Chick Pea wasn’t stopping me on every page to ask questions about the story, and Bug wasn’t grabbing at the book or pointing at the pages while yelling out made-up words. They were both sitting quietly, listening to the story. They were engrossed. So I went with it.

I realized later that I wasn’t actually missing out on a teachable moment. I was taking advantage of one.

The lesson I was teaching them is that reading is an enjoyable and fun thing to do! We don’t always have to have a measurable objective every time we pick up a book.  Sometimes (most of time?) the best part of reading is getting so into the story that you lose yourself in it. If we can one day establish a love of reading independently in our kids, just imagine the gains they’ll be able to make in fluency and vocabulary on their own, not to mention all the other things they’ll be able to learn about.

We have to keep our long-term goal in mine: give them the tools that allow them to read to learn.

Loving to read is a pretty powerful tool.

A Throwback To Reading In The Car

I saw something today while driving that I haven’t seen in a while…kids reading books in the backseat of a car. I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. So many cars have dvd players in the backseat now that it’s become the normal activity for road trips.

Our little ones are in the early stages of learning to read, but we’ve adopted this in our car as well, even for short trips. We’ve been checking out read-along books from the library, and the girls really seem to enjoy them. Our oldest understands the concept of turning the pages of the book when prompted by the CD and following along looking at the pictures, while the little one just enjoys listening to the stories.

If your kids are fans of the Disney movies, they will especially enjoy the Disney read-along books because they include audio clips of the memorable voices of the characters from the movies.

Literacy Lowdown – Some Helpful Resources

Today’s Literacy Lowdown is dedicated to sharing some online resources that can help you teach reading at home. Happy reading!

Help With Spelling! Spelling City is a cool free site that lets you make your own spelling lists – a great way to combine vocab words into spelling lessons. Your kids can practice their words, take tests, and play games with the words you choose. They also have some cool vocabulary games that your kids can play using the same words. Check out this site for a fun way to do spelling!

studying for your weekly spelling test has never been easier.

StoryNory publishes weekly audio stories for kids. Our three year old LOVES to hear stories, and these are well told, entertaining, and FREE. You can listen to them right on their website or download the files as .mp3s and make CDs–a lifesaver in the car!

The Reading Tub is a site dedicated to promoting literacy. They have great suggestions for children’s books and great tips on literacy and reading with your kids.

October Contest Winners

Thanks to our readers who joined in on the fun for our October Lesson Idea Contest! We had some wonderful entries via email and it was tough to choose just three winners…but here they are:

  • 1st Place – A Year Subscription to Highlights Magazine : Congrats to Rachel for sharing how she used Stump The Teacher to get her son to dig deeper into the chapter book they were reading together. She was really impressed how it only took him a couple of nights to come up with some insightful questions.
  • 2nd Place – Special Reading Kit: Thanks to Valerie who had lots of fun playing Straight or Curvy with her 4 year old son. Now he points them out everywhere they go! His special made reading kit will include many cool things he can use to make his straight and curvy letters.
  • 3rd Place – $10 Abunga gift card: I hope Lori has a good time choosing a gift for her daughter on! She shared how she has helped her daughter learn more vocabulary words in the books they read by playing Vocabulary Riddles.

Congratulations to these three ladies and thanks to everyone else who joined in! I love reading how you guys use the lessons to help your children read at home. Although the contest is over, I would love to keep hearing from our readers (just remember to post your experiences in the comments!)

More contests to come in the near future…so stay tuned!

Time’s Almost Up

Halloween is just around the corner which means October is almost at an end…as well as our Lesson Idea Contest. I’ve gotten a couple of really good entries from our readers! However, they were submitted as emails instead of comments or blog posts, so I will be adding them to our site as comments for all to see.

You still have time to join in for the chance to win some cool prizes…so don’t be shy! Winners will be contacted and posted on the site November 1st. Good Luck!

October Lesson Idea Contest

Another great gift card to has been given away. Congrats to our September Giveaway Winner!!!

Didn’t win? No worries…our next contest starts now!

October Lesson Idea Contest: I hope you’ve had some time to try out some of our Lesson Ideas for this month’s contest. If not, you’ll still have the month of October to explore and try them out -so join in anytime. All you have to do to enter our October Contest is to do one or both of the following:

  1. Leave a comment on one of our Lesson Ideas to let us know how it worked out for you. You can even  add any changes you made to make it work for your family.
  2. If you have a blog, just write a post about one of our Lesson Ideas to share how it worked for your family. You can even include pictures and videos of the lessons. Don’t forget to link to us in your post (that’s how we’ll know about your post – it’ll act as your entry to the contest)!

That’s it! That’s all you have to do to enter the contest. Oh wait…there is one more thing. Your comment and/or blog post will have to be interesting enough to catch my eye because this is a contest. And to make it more fun, the winners will not be chosen randomly. That’s right I said winners because there will be a total of three winners this month! So really try to earn some creative points with your comments and posts!

You’ll have until midnight on October 31st to enter to win one of the following fabulous prizes:

First Place: A full year subscription for your child to Highlights Magazine. I love this magazine! We will order your subscription for the grade/age level of your choice.

Second Place: A special order Reading Kit tailored for your child made by yours truly.

Third Place: An awesome $10 gift card for

Have fun and good luck!

Literacy Lowdown – Sept 1

I hope everyone enjoyed the long weekend! Our thoughts are with all of those that are being affected by Gustav.

This week’s Literacy Lowdown offers some cool resources that you’ll be sure to use again and again. Have fun browsing…

Book Hooked: Do you remember that first book that really got your interest? The one that made you love reading? Well, go share it with the world over First Book! They’re running a voting contest to find out what the top 50 books are that made people love reading as kids. At the end of the voting (Sept 15th), the state that wins will receive 50,000 of those books to give to children in need. What a great cause…spread the word!

Cool Tool: What’s my number one tip for parents and teachers? Read aloud to your kids!. There are so many great things that come from reading books aloud…so keep on reading to them! Here’s a really cool (and totally free) resource that allows you to upload different types of text (word docs, PDFs, websites, etc.) and then have the computer read it to your child. Read The Words can be so useful! You can also use this as a teaching tool for writing. When I was in the classroom, I would always make my kids read their writing aloud to me so they could hear what it sounded like. About 90% of the time they would catch their own mistakes and make it better without me saying a word (just because they could hear that it didn’t sound right or make sense). This would be a great tool for older kids to use for that purpose.

The Classics: While on the topic of reading books aloud…here’s a great free resource for getting classic audio books. You can download the MP3s and even listen to them on your iPod. What an awesome way to expose your kids to the classics!

Comprehension Tips: As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in the process of adding to our Comprehension section. Stay tuned for the upcoming Comprehnsion Strategies and Skills series of posts! In the meantime, Collen Felz shares some great tips on encouraging reading comprehension that go along with the suggestions I’ll soon be sharing with you.

September Giveaway and More For October!

First of all, thanks to everyone who participated in our August giveaway by subscribing to Reading Coach Online! We’ve randomly chosen and notified our winner for the Abunga
gift card (Congratulations!), and we’re even doing another Gift Card Giveaway in September to give everyone else another chance to win.  Don’t worry, September’s giveaway is open to our current subscribers as well as new subscribers.  If you’ve already subscribed you are eligible, and if you haven’t subscribed yet, what are you waiting for?

Hopefully you’ve had a chance to browse through our Lesson Ideas and have found activities that are both fun and educational for your children.  We encourage you to not only try these ideas, but also leave comments and let us know how they’ve worked for your family (including any tweaks and variations you come up with).

We have a big contest planned for October, and all you have to do to enter is leave a comment on one of our Lesson Ideas or write a blog post linking to your favorite lesson idea. We’re lining up prizes right now, and we’ll release prize details as soon as they are finalized. I just wanted to give you all a heads up on the October contest so that you have time to try out some of the lesson ideas if you decide to join in on the fun. So stayed tuned for more details!

Read Between The Lions

I love this show! Even though PBS’s Read Between The Lions has been around for seven seasons, I always like to refer parents to it just in case they don’t know it exists. It’s a show that can do a lot to add to your child’s reading skills. Here are some of the things you’ll see on the show:

  • Books and stories are read aloud (book characters even come to life!)
  • New vocabulary is introduced in context
  • Words, syllables, and letters are highlighted as they’re spoken (this really helps fluency and word recognition!)
  • Silly songs and rhymes that promote reading in a fun way

Check out this video to get a peek at what it’s like:

You can also visit the PBS Lions’ page for cool games, stories, and videos that extend the activities you see on the show. It’s a really useful site that compliments a great show!

Literacy Lowdown – 8/24

We’ve had a great week here at Reading Coach…we’ve nearly doubled our readers! We’re getting a lot of great emails and comments from you guys – sharing your stories and asking some really good questions (I’ll soon turn some of those into a post). People are passing us around and we’re getting in contact with some really cool families. So a big thanks to all of you out there that support us!

With that in mind…there’s still one more week left till we giveaway the gift card to So feel free to share us with your friends who might want a chance to win too!

In other news…here are some great links for you to check out to see what others are doing this week. Happy reading!

Dr. Mommy shares her tips for motivating your teen to read. Very useful!

The Little Blue School is organizing an awesome literary event/contest for homeschoolers of varying ages. It sounds like something really cool to get into if your kids enjoy writing. Check out her post about their Book Arts Bash for more details! She also shares a pretty creative Unit Study on elections (called Vote For Me!) that’d be perfect to do this year.

This Homeschool Mom generously shares her novel guides with you so that you can have your kids do some creative things with the novels they read. Many of her activities help children deepen their comprehension of a book (and vocabulary words) in a fun way!

Catherine shares her experiences with teaching reading to her preschool daughter. It’s always nice to see when kids can have a hand in leading their own learning…even at a very young age!

Okay, so I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of kids watching tons of T.V. – but a show that’s created for the purpose of expanding children’s vocabularies gets a big thumbs up! Read more about this new show and how it can help your early reader at Fun With Vocabulary.

Get Into The Game!

We’ve received a couple of emails from people who are interested in starting up their own blogs to write about their kids’ progress and don’t know where to get started. It’s pretty easy actually. Just head over to WordPress and register. It’s ABSOLUTELY FREE and very easy to use. You’ll be writing your first post within a few minutes. Blogger is another free option, but we’re partial to WordPress around here. By the way, both of these options also allow you the option of keeping the entire blog private if that’s a concern.

If you want to get really fancy you can buy your own domain name and host your own site. It’s a little more work, but you have a little more control (and responsibility) over how your site works that way.

Why should you start an education or family blog? Here are a few good reasons:

  • Track your kids’ progress–It’s a great way to keep notes on their struggles and achievements
  • Meet and connect with others–If you’re homeschooling, there are many others with whom you can network and share ideas. The same goes for teachers and parents who are working with their kids outside of school.
  • A blog for your kids–having your kids keep a blog of their own is great writing exercise for them and also is a great way to help them (and you) get hands on experience with how technology is changing the way we learn.  Maybe they could use their blog to write reviews for the books they read.
  • A teaching tool–What if you posted assignments for you children on your blog and they were tasked with reading and comprehending these assignments? You could even include some intentional grammar and spelling errors and have your child find them.

There are probably a million other reasons for you to start blogging that have nothing to do with education, but hopefully this will convince you give it a try. Make sure you let us know about your new blog (a link would be great), and we’ll make sure to put you on our blogroll and feature your unique ideas!

Stump the Teacher

Can You Stump This Teacher?

Can You Stump This Teacher?

I made this game up when I was a teacher in the hopes of creating an interest for independent reading in my kids and also for improving their comprehension skills during independent reading. I introduced it as a contest because, if I’m honest, I knew that was the only way I was going to get their attention and initial interest. And no, I did’t feel the least bit guilty for tricking kids to read – especially when I knew that it could result in a new found love of reading!

A local organization donated a whole class set of a certain book that I thought the whole class could read on their own or at home with their parents. This was the first of many books I used to play Stump the Teacher. Here’s how I introduced the game:

  • I bragged to them that I was SO smart I could read a book, understand it, and be able to answer ANY question they could throw at me. Of course they didn’t believe me, so I had to challenge them by creating a contest to see if anyone could come up with a question that I couldn’t answer…therefore stumping the teacher.
  • I explained to the kids that I would assign a certain number of chapters each week and that every Friday they would get the chance to ask me any questions they wanted to see if they could try to stump me. It’s amazing how interested kids get when they think they might have the opportunity to prove you wrong. What an incentive!
  • I created a “Stump the Teacher” question box out of an old tissue box wrapped with construction paper where I had written plenty of goading comments like ” I bet you can’t stump me!” and “You better think of a really difficult question!”. I left cut up strips of paper next to the box so students could write their questions and drop them in throughout the week as they thought of them.
  • I encouraged my students to work together and/or get their parents to help them come up with really challenging questions. I was hoping that parents would get involved and actually read the book with their kids and discuss it so that they could come up with questions together. The idea worked with some but not all. Oh well, I tried!
  • Then every Friday they would gather around me on the floor as I picked questions out of the box to read and answer aloud. They’d laugh and squeal as I rolled my eyes, yawned, or feigned disinterest as I effortlessly answered their easy detail oriented questions (who, what, where, when type questions).

This is where the game became interesting. After making comments about how easy their questions were, some kids figured out that they would really have to dig and think about better questions to ask me. One week, I had a student ask me a really insightful question about one of the characters. I made a huge deal about what a great question that was and how he almost stumped me. Sure enough, other kids started asking similar questions and it soon became a competition to see who could ask the best question. It didn’t take long for these kids to dive in and use their critical thinking skills to really analyze what was going on in the story and with the characters in order to come up with questions to try to stump me. I was really impressed by their creativity! I, of course, gave in a couple of times to the really good questions and let some kids stump me as an incentive to continue their awesome brainstorming. Warning: Be prepared for the relentless gloating!

I realize that this game is best used in a classroom setting where you can use that competition to your advantage, yet it can still be a powerful way to get your kids to improve their comprehension of a selection at home. You’d just have to tweak it a bit and make it more of a game between you and your child and/or siblings. It would be a great game to use in a reading/literature class in a homeschooling co-op! Although competition is good in this game, the real reason it works is because of the continual discussion of the book. So let the discussions and your child’s questions be your guide throughout the book…it can be so much fun!

Do any of you have any tips or games you play with your kids to get them to understand books or stories better? We’d love to hear from you and have you share so we can all learn!

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