Doing More With Less Since 1972

Category: Lesson Ideas (Page 1 of 5)

Pop For Sight Words Game Option

One of the best literacy gifts Pea got for Christmas this year was the Pop For Sight Words game. It’s a pretty simple toy–a popcorn box filled with sight words printed onto little cardboard pieces of popcorn. There are also some instructions included on how to play the “official” game, but we haven’t played it that way yet. Instead, we’ve made up a bunch of different games we can play with the pieces of popcorn.

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Pea’s favorite way of playing right now pits her against us. She picks a word and tries to read it (preferably by sight, but we’ll let her try to sound it out). If she can read it within three seconds, she gets to keep it in her stack. If she can’t we get the piece. One important action to take here is to not just read the word and put it in your own stack. Make sure you show your child the word as you say it. Remember, we’re working on sight words here, so it really drives it home for them to see the word and hear it at the same time. The good thing about the words included with the kit is that many of them are really hard to sound out (“when”, “where”, etc.), so it really emphasizes sight word learning.

We play until we have 10 words in our pile–these are words that she could not read. Then we give her an opportunity to “steal”. We show her every word in our stack, and if she can read it she gets to steal it to her pile. Another option would be to wait until we’ve gone through all the words and give her only one chance to steal, and we may change to that option later. But by having a “steal” round every 10 words it gives her a chance to see and hear the words she’s having trouble with several times throughout the game.

At the end of the game, she gets to count all of the words in her pile (not a bad math activity either), and we keep a running score of how many words she’s able to read. We’ve seen some really good improvement, and we’ve noticed that the more often we play the game the more quickly her score rises. Repetition!

Note: the packaging makes this game very convenient and fun for the kids, but there’s no reason to purchase it necessarily. You could make your own sight word cards yourself. We’ll probably end up doing this ourselves in order to expand the number of words involved.

Sight Word Shuttle Runs…In Reverse!

A while back, Ana made up a fun game we call Sight Word Shuttle Runs that not only helps the kids with learning new sight words, but also lets them burn up some energy. We just realized at dinner last night that we can play the game in reverse too.

The original game was to have the child look at a word, read it correctly, then run to a designated spot to pick up pennies, toy soldiers, stickers, or whatever else motivates your child.

The reverse game is to say the word to the child, then have them run to the designated spot to find the correct word written on an index card with a bunch of other words written on cards. If they bring back the right word, they get the motivational item to add to their pile. If not, they take the card back and try again.

Yet another fun twist to help build vocabulary is to begin a sentence and leave off the last word, having them run and pick out the word that makes the most sense to complete the sentence.

Sight Word Activity For Preschool Bird Unit

Mama Bird With Her Word Eggs

Mama Bird With Her Word Eggs

We’re doing an animal unit in our co-op, so I thought I’d share an example of how you can incorporate a book and craft activity into the unit. Preschool and kindergarten kids love doing crafts, and it’s great when you can tie everything together to help them make connections.

Today we focused on birds all day, and we read “An Egg Is Quiet” in class. This is a really nice book I found at the library. It has great information on all types of eggs–bird eggs, reptile eggs (we learned about reptiles last week), insect eggs, fish eggs, and even dinosaur eggs. We learned about dinosaurs in our last school unit!

It’s full of illustrations of different types of eggs, which let us match pictures of eggs with pictures of birds, and some great vocabulary words like “shapely”, “clever”, and “texture”.

Page Full Of Eggs From "An Egg Is Quiet"

Page Full Of Eggs From "An Egg Is Quiet"

After we read the book, we made paper nests to hold “sight word eggs”. On each paper egg, we wrote a sight word on either side. The kids can go through the eggs like they would flash cards, and each time they recognize the word they get to put the egg into the nest. For the nests, we just glued the bottom of the nest onto the paper and left the top open so that the eggs could be placed inside.

As you can tell by the un-named species represented in the first photo, they also have fun coloring the birds. 🙂

Some of the kids in our co-op know many more sight words than others, but that’s ok. Each child gets his/her own set of eggs with the words they are currently working on.

The younger siblings (2 year olds) have been participating in school a lot this year, and they spend time each week making animal letters. For them, we changed the egg/nest activity a little bit. So far they’ve made it up to ‘H’. For them, the game is to match the lowercase letter on the egg with the jumbled capital letter on the page.

Bird Nest for Letter Identification
Bird Nest for Letter Identification
Capital and Lowercase Letter Matching

Capital and Lowercase Letter Matching

 

Sight Word Shuttle Runs

I went downstairs for a cup of coffee this morning and saw Ana playing a new game with Pea. This one combines sight words with fitness (i.e. “energy release”). How lucky are we that she’s able to make up stuff like this on the spot?!?!

Pea is a very “high energy” kid. Sometimes when she’s really revved up we go out in the yard and do shuttle runs to help her release some tension and empty the tank. You may have done shuttle runs if you ever played basketball, soccer, rugby, etc. The basic concept is that you run to one point, touch the ground, run back to the starting point, touch the ground, and repeat until you are gassed. We don’t make her do this–she loves it on her own.

The game Ana came up with today was to put several slips of paper with sight words (“and”, “or”, “the”, “she”, etc.) written on them into a hat. That’s the starting point. The game is to take a word out of the hat and read it by sight, not by sounding it out. When she reads the word correctly, she gets to run all the way down the hallway to pick up an item out of a bucket. Use whatever motivates your child–marshmallows, pennies, small toys–for them to retrieve and bring back.

I could not believe how much she loved this game. The best part is that it’s very easy to add more and more words to change the difficulty level. And for a bonus, Bug was following her the whole time. She loved chasing her sister up and down the hall and repeating the words!

I Spy With My Little Eye Recycled

Here’s a quick and easy twist on a game your kids already play that can help them work on their phonemic awareness. You are probably all too familiar with I Spy With My Little Eye, where your child guesses which object you see based on the color you tell them. For example, you may say, “I spy with my little eye something…yellow.” And your child will guess all the yellow things she sees until she chooses the banana you were spying.

Try it this way the next time you’re playing–“I spy with my little eye something that begins with the ‘b’ sound.” Now, instead of colors, your child with look for objects that begin with a sound. Recognizing the sound and matching it up with an object is a phonemic awareness exercise. Don’t be afraid to explore other sounds like the ‘sh’ and ‘ch’ sounds.

You can even make it a phonics game by saying, “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the letter ‘B’.” This will require your child to match up the letter with the sound it makes.

Rhyming Volleyball

We’ve been playing this phonemic awareness game lately to help Pea not only develop some physical coordination, but also strengthen her ability to think on her feet. It’s very easy to play, and lots of fun for the kids.

Blow up a balloon and punch it into the air. As you hit the balloon, say a word–any random word will do, but you may want to start with one syllable words until your child catches on to the rules. You child then hits the balloon into the air in response, while saying a word that rhymes with the word you said. It doesn’t have to be a real word, it just has to rhyme. As they get better at the game you can hit the balloon again, returning it to them while saying another word that rhymes with the first two.

See how long you can go until someone makes a mistake. It won’t hurt to let them win every now and then. 🙂

If you see they are having trouble with the game, you can begin by hitting the balloon higher into the air initially, giving them more time to think of a response.

Name That Book!

It’s probably not a stretch to guess that your young child has a few select books they like for you to read over and over (and over) to them. These are the books you’ve read so many times that your child can recite them back to you and can queue you when the page needs to be turned. We tend to cycle through books like this at our house. A book will make it into the rotation for a week or two, then get replaced by another. Some make it back into the rotation quickly, and some seem to be forgotten.

We try to ask questions when we read these books to help them focus on comprehension, but it seems like there are only so many questions you can come up with when you are reading the same book every night. We’ve come up with a whole new way to get Pea thinking about details while we read, and she loves this game.

We call it Name That Book. We sort of stumbled upon this game by playing a similar game with animals instead of books. We start off with three somewhat vague clues about the details and events in one of her books and let her try to guess which book we are thinking of. She can ask for more clues if she needs them, but she really likes trying to figure it out based on the initial hints. The clues get more and more specific as we go so she has an easier time guessing.

We’re also going to try a new variation on this game where she gives us the clues and we try to guess the book. Hopefully this will encourage her to listen carefully and try to come up with clues that are obscure, sort of like the Stump the Teacher game for pre-k kids.

How And Why We Find Books At The Library

The last few  times I’ve taken the girls to the library, I’ve noticed that Chick Pea tends to gravitate towards books she’s somewhat familiar with. She has several books at home that are parts of a series (Dora, Mrs. Wishy Washy, Curious George, etc.) and if she sees a book she doesn’t own at the library that’s also part of that series, there’s a good chance she’ll want to check it out.

I really like to watch her semi-serendipitous process of selecting books, but in the last couple of weeks her eyes have been opened to a different way of looking for library books. One of her favorites at bed time right now is Curious George Visits the Library. In the book, George explores the shelves at the library and finds books on all sorts subjects he’s interested in–dinosaurs, trains, trucks, cranes, etc. Of course, he ends up with more books than he can handle, and pre-k hilarity ensues.

A couple of nights ago, Pea asked why George picked so many books instead of the two books she usually gets. We talked about how curious George is, and that he’s interested in many different things. I told her that when we go to the library, we can choose different books about the different things we want to learn more about and gave her an example of all the different things I like. Then I asked her what she likes to learn about. With a little guidance, she realized that animals and flowers are things she’s curious about, and we decided we’d look for books about animals and flowers the next time we’re at the library.

We definitely don’t want to squash the idea of browsing for books just to see what catches her eye, but this is also a great opportunity for her to realize that we can look with a purpose for particular books as well–books that will help us learn about things we like.

Blending Phonemes With Your Hands

We’ve been playing a game in our co-op that Pea loves so much she asks to play it by herself as well. She’s a tactile learner, and this game gives her an easy way to visually and physically learn about blending phonemes with her hands. For more information about blending phonemes, you can read our longer article on phonemic awareness.

Here’s the basic idea for blending initial sounds:

  • Hold up your right hand and make the initial sound of the word. For example, if the word you are going to blend is “sat”, you’ll make the ‘s’ sound with your right hand.
  • Next, hold up your left hand and make the sounds for the remainder of the word, ‘-at’ in our example.
  • Finally, bring your two hands together and as you slowly say the whole word, making sure your child gets to hear the initial sound and how it is combined with the remaining sounds.

Once your child gets the idea, you can do the first two steps and let your child do the final step on their own, bringing the sounds together with their own hands to make the word. One key point is to make sure you are using your right hand for the beginning sounds and your left hand for the ending sounds. This drives home the idea that words are formed left to right. Remember, your child is seeing the mirror image of what you see.

You can use this same concept in reverse to isolate final sounds in words too! Just isolate the final sound with your left hand an use your right hand for all of the initial sounds.

What Was Your Favorite Part?

One really easy way to gently coax your child towards reading for comprehension is to ask them a simple question when you finish reading a book to them–“What was your favorite part?”

This works especially well with picture books because it gives them a chance to review the book by turning the pages and finding the one they like best. Once they find their favorite page, ask them what is happening on this page and why it’s their favorite. You can even download and print out coloring story books and let your kids enjoy the activity of coloring their favorite page.

We ask “what was your favorite part” about lots of things–books, movies, outings, and at bedtime (“what was your favorite thing we did today?”). The mental exercise of reviewing and sequencing the events is great, and it’s also a great way to start conversations and encourage them to tell you more about themselves.

Starting a Co-op – Finding Others

Thinking of starting your own homeschool co-op? Not sure how to find other people to participate? Not sure how to outline expectations? Here’s where we started…

We were really excited about the idea of homeschool co-ops long before Ana ever started one. But there were a couple of things we weren’t really sure about, like when we should do it and how to find other people who were interested. It had always been in the back of our minds, but was always one of those things we thought we’d get to sooner or later. We really started talking seriously about it when other moms in Pea’s loose-knit play group started asking about where/when she’d be attending pre-school. Our answer was always, “we’re homeschooling”, and since we sort of believe that education starts at birth, she was already “in” school as far as we were concerned.

We were discussing it one night, and Ana mentioned jumping right in and starting up a co-op for preschoolers. Why not? The beauty of a preschool co-op would be that even parents who planned on sending their kids to a traditional school later on but were currently staying home with them may want to participate. We also thought it would be a good time for us personally to shift Pea’s educational experience a little by exposing her to different teachers and other students. Playing the part of mommy and teacher at the same time didn’t always work out as planned for Ana.

Ana jumped online and went to our local MomsLikeMe site and wrote up a quick post, just to gauge interest, and the response was great. Actually, the response was a little overwhelming. There were a lot more people interested than we’d anticipated. We figured the ideal class size would be 6 or 7 kids, but there were way more initial responses.

A meet and greet was set up so that the moms and kids could get to know each other a little. This was one of the most important steps of organizing the co-op. Of course, not every family who responded showed up for the meeting. Not a problem–if you aren’t interested enough to come to the first meeting, you probably aren’t that interested long-term. The meetup also provided a chance to lay out all the things that would be involved in a co-op. Supplies and curricula cost money, so there would obviously be a financial commitment. More importantly, there needed to be a commitment to being heavily involved with teaching classes and providing care for younger siblings while their moms were instructing.

Most of all, there needed to be a real commitment to participate every day to help the kids establish a steady group dynamic in their school. Sure, kids get sick and scheduling conflicts come up, that’s understandable. But the kids needed the stable group and each mom’s unique creativity and perspective.

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I wouldn’t go so far as to say anyone was scared off, but if anyone expected this to be just another playgroup or a chance for moms to get together and gossip while the kids played with letter blocks, their eyes were opened to a very different idea. The group of moms that decided to continue on with the project was fully committed, and the results have been great. The kids are now getting a variety of classes taught by different moms, and they are having a blast with it.

I’d say the commitment of the families involved, and that especially means the MOMS, is the single most important factor in the co-op’s success so far. If you are thinking of starting a co-op, don’t feel bad about being selective and laying out firm expectations from the very beginning.

Top Posts People Check Out Here

We were on a pretty long hiatus from posting here due to some big life changes like moving (twice) and having another baby, plus the general posting inertia that seemed to accompany those. But that hasn’t stopped people from visiting the site, thankfully. So here’s a list of the top 5 “old” posts people have been looking at for the last couple of months. I’m limiting this to lesson ideas and general info articles…

Reading’s Fab Five – an introduction to the basic elements of reading (phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension).

Who Let the Letters Out Song – a fun song to sing with your kids to help them associate letters and sounds.

Stump The Teacher – “trick” your young reader into reading a book for depth and detail in order to ask you questions you can’t answer about the book. This game really encourages them to read for comprehension.

Rhyming Down The Alphabet – I’m glad this one is popular, because our 3 year old loves this game. You give them a word, and they create words that rhyme with it as they move down the alphabet. This one seems to be great for a child who really (and I mean REALLY) likes to talk (and talk).

Exit This Way – another one that’s great for more advanced readers.  This activity encourages your child’s comprehension by having them come up with an alternate ending for a book or story.

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.

Questions Help Your Young Child Develop Comprehension Skills

There is a big difference between being able to read individual words and being able to comprehend what you read, and this is one of the common issues older readers struggle with. One of the best ways to prevent issues with comprehension is to help your young child develop comprehension skills by asking questions while you’re reading to them.

Relax…we’re not talking about grilling them about plot development or character motivation. After all, “Very Hungry Caterpillar” doesn’t exactly have subplot or a source of conflict. But there are questions you can ask your child as you read it that will encourage them to think about what what the words mean on another level. For example:

  • “The caterpillar in the story likes strawberries. Do you like strawberries?”
  • “Do you think a pickle and a cupcake would taste good if you ate them at the same time?”
  • “Did the caterpillar eat more on Tuesday or Thursday?”
  • “Would it be fun to wrap yourself in a blanket like a caterpillar in a cocoon?”
  • “Why do you think the caterpillar was so hungry?”

Obviously, these are very simple questions–mostly yes/no, and mostly subjective. But they help your child relate to the characters (or animals) in the books you are reading and make connections between the story and their own lives. Try to keep it fun and silly, and if your child needs help with questions that have right and wrong answers give them a little nudge. For instance, if they answer that the caterpillar ate more on Tuesday than Thursday, or if they aren’t sure, help them out by giving them a strategy to find the right answer: “Let’s count and find out!”

Weaving Literacy Into Learning Numbers

Here’s a fun way to help your child expand their vocabulary when you aren’t even “working” on reading.

Chick Pea is working on a weekly art project that is geared towards helping her learn the numbers that are multiples of ten. Each week, she gets to glue the appropriate number of objects onto the numbers, counting them out (with Ana’s help when needed). There’s also a corresponding sentence that accompanies each number that describes what’s going on in the picture. These will later be put into a book that she can look through on her own for review.

She loves to do art projects, and it’s really helping her get a concrete idea of amounts of objects. That alone makes this a great activity. But while I was admiring her work last night, Ana pointed out something very interesting about the project that I hadn’t picked up on. Can you see it?

Notice that the words “speedy”  and “fierce” are used to describe the animals in the project. This is important because Chick Pea doesn’t know what these words mean–at least she didn’t before. She knows what “fast” and “angry” mean. Those are words she can naturally understand because they are used so often. And even though she may not make sentences with the new words on a daily basis, just being exposed to them is helping to expand her vocabulary.

Another activity Ana has planned once an entire book is finished is to point out to her that all of the sentences start the same: “I am as…”. Notice how those small words are one line by themselves. This can be used to help her expand her bank of sight words and also introduce the concept of similes.

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