Posted in Literacy, math, Phonemic Awareness

Wild Wednesdays

(Post drafted yesterday but… internet problems)

While I would like to say that my wild ones and I got to making our lovely heart-shaped bird-seed feeders, we instead spent most of the day taking care of cats! We are watching our neighbors 4 cats and our two barn cats are not feeling well. So after feeding 6 cats, 2 kids who need at least 2 breakfasts, and a dog (oh and sometimes myself) we drove an hour and half round trip and spent another hour and a half at the vet. We get home and there is a sink of dirty dishes, kids who forgot how to get themselves a snack, and cats that need their kitty Gatorade. School, you say?

My kids have been asking to eat their box of candy hearts, so sure why not… thinking… WAIT let’s first do some math. We poured out the hearts, sorted them by color, counted them, graphed them, etc.

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I have so many printables on my computer that I could print and use but my computer is slow and it literally takes 30 minutes for it to think about the first click. I proceeded to draw some shapes and lines in their journals for them to record and show their learning. So there is math for today.

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Hmmm…what literacy activity to do now? I remember seeing something on Pinterest about a Heart Hop activity. That sounds fun, but I didn’t want to look it up on my phone so I had to come up with something quick. My little guy is really working hard on his beginning sounds and starting to blend those funny phonemes into words. He needs daily practice so I wanted to incorporate those sounds into our game. I grabbed some paper, cut out some heart shapes and wrote some consonants on the white paper and vowels on the red (the plush alphabet letters that we use have the vowels in red, so I wanted to keep with that).

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Game is pretty simple… I laid down a simple CVC word that he had to hop, saying each sound as he jumped. At first he jumped slow since I could tell he was thinking of the sounds. After he jumped each one slowly, I asked him to jump again a little faster and a little faster to help him with his quick thinking and to help those sounds be blended faster.

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After a few words, I let him choose his hearts and we built some nonsense words that are always funny to him. The other aspect of phonemic awareness that I thought we could quickly practice was syllable counting. I turned the red hearts over and wrote numbers 1-4 on them. I grabbed my picture cards out of my purse (since we have lots of fun ways to use them while at restaurants). I had my little ones choose a card, say the picture, and then jump once for each syllable of the word.

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So these probably aren’t the most elaborate ways to practice phonemic awareness but when you have a busy day, aren’t feeling well, or just an activity that is quick and easy to put together, these do provide some fun practice.

What’s your EDventure today?

 

 

Posted in Storytelling

Storytelling: How to tell a story

I’m going to start by saying that my stories are pretty good and I prefer to tell an improv story, in other words, I’m making it up as I tell it. I feel confident in telling my stories, but hey I’m only telling to my two young children and sometimes a group of children. Nonetheless, I went to ol’ Google and typed in “How to tell a story.” The results weren’t what I expected to see. I saw articles on how to tell a story to improve your leadership skills, an article from wikiHow that included pictures on how to tell a story, even an article posted from Harvard Business Review and how we tell stories to our co-workers to help with our projects. Um…. yeah not what I was hoping for.  So back to my own brain-storming, How exactly does one tell a story?

Well the short answer is YOU are already a storyteller. Every time you meet with a friend or talk with your spouse at night about your day, you are telling a story. Every time you pull out old pictures and reminisce about that day or event, you are telling a story. When you sit around a campfire and share stories of younger days, you are telling a story. We are ALL storytellers, it really is just our nature. However if you, like me sometimes, want to actually put together a story for an educational purpose or a simple bedtime story you really don’t need to do what google says- brainstorm, memorize, practice again and again. Here’s some tips on just how to tell a simple story and make it amazing. Keep in mind the following tips are more for the audience who is young, young at heart, or just prefers a story to listen to. These tips may not be tailored for any business event or persuasive co-worker project 🙂

  1. Tell a story with sequence in mind: One way is to use story lines from your child’s favorite story or show. Whether it’s Curious George, Bubble Guppies, or Paw Patrol, the story line is usually the same. Most stories follow a beginning, middle, and end sequence and there is usually always a problem to solve, something to discover, a new place to go. Example: My son, who sleep-plays was convinced that a monster came in his room and took apart his LEGO castle. Of course, this is right before bedtime and my 4 year old daughter’s eyes are the size of grapefruits and I see she is quite terrified of this monster her brother speaks of. This is a great time to tell a story as a way to help deal with those big emotions. So…lots of ideas come rushing to my head as my kids and husband find their seat on the bed. Long story short, the monster my son named Took-Apart Monster and I rolled with it, would come into his room every night to play with the toys because he came from a land where monsters are supposed to be scary and mean and are not allowed to have toys. But he longed for some toys and friends to play with. So when it was time to go back to his monster world, he would forget to pick up the toys. He would come back each night (I would include the names of the days of the week as the educational tidbit) and the same would happen. Every morning, the little boy would find his toys all messed up. Finally, the little boy had enough and left the monster a note telling the monster to stop playing with his toys. The monster replied that he was ever so sorry to ruin the toys and why he played with them in the first place. The little boy was relieved and also sad for the monster who had no toys to play with. The little boy would leave out a special toy for the monster to play with and the monster would make sure to put it back. So real life here again- the kids were literally relieved, my daughter was breathing normally again, and you know what? Not one kid interrupted, their bodies were still, and they had a focus that is almost only see when stories are told. So point here is that stories really are captivating when there is a repetitive sequence and then a surprise or twist in the story, it does wonders.
  2. Make stories relatable. Make your stories meaningful to your children but maybe in a conspicuous way. Change the characters or names, but leave the meaning, event, or emotion the same. By making it close to the heart of your child, they will be able to connect to it and see it from an outside perspective which helps them reflect, evaluate, and comprehend.
  3. Add surprise or suspense in your stories- this is why I love improv stories. Maybe I’m telling it, it’s going good but then I’m out of ideas- great time to add that twist or turn. Kids love it and it’s very captivating. Just try and keep it in the same realm of your story line. Though I do love when my kids tell a story and their surprises have absolutely nothing to do with what they were telling, and that’s a-okay!
  4. Stories usually have a enemy and hero, however they DON’T have to. My sometimes do and sometimes not. My daughter enjoys her stories where it’s just about friends having a tea party and no bad guy involved. She’d rather prefers it that way and it doesn’t take anything away from the story. My son, on the other hand, is not quite captivated unless there is some bad guy involved. So know your audience.
  5. Make it fun! I’m not very good at changing my voice to be a tiger, and then a fairy, and then the evil dragon- I struggle here. However, I do change my tone and pitch and it does do the trick. Change from speaking louder and quickly to more soft and slower. Then back loud. It helps me grab their attention when I can’t seem to provide 8 different voices like my husband can. Add silly words, visual vocabulary, action and fun. If we are telling to our children then yeah make it fun!
  6. Throw in educational lessons! Sometimes my stories aren’t for bedtime. I tell stories to help my children with their rhyming words or maybe a specific letter or sound I want them to learn. Maybe you tell a story with lots of objects or names with letter B. I like to add some geography to my stories. If my characters are traveling I will name where they are going. For instance, I told a story once about a family of pronghorn (we see those a lot driving) and how they traveled through the Rocky Mountains to the Great Plains for a race to see who would be the fastest pronghorn. Later, find it on a map with your child. I’ve told stories about a butterfly garden and I include the names of different butterflies. This brings your story alive and adds in much needed imagery to take your story from eh to wow!

So these are just a few of the things I try to do with my stories. Again, nothing really researched just tried and true practices for when telling to our youngest listeners, whose bodies and brains are going miles in minutes. Stories are great at slowing that pace down, bringing focus, and igniting imagination.

Go tell your story! I believe in it!

Posted in Literacy, Storytelling

Storytelling: Why telling stories to our child is important

Ah storytelling…even just the word to me is so magical, so inspiring, so anticipating. I love telling stories, perhaps because I also a mild obsession with children’s stories and as a (former) early elementary teacher, I’ve read countless stories to so many children. Though I only ever read them stories. It wasn’t until I had my own children that I truly came to know and witness the magic of storytelling and why every child should be told a story.

I want to share many different aspects of storytelling, such as why do we tell stories, how do I share a story, what should I tell about. I’ve talked with other parents and teachers about how they do storytelling and often the response is, “It’s hard to tell a story,” “My stories are all always the same,” or “I have absolutely no idea HOW to tell a story.” As much as we judge ourselves about our stories, our young children don’t seem to hold the same judgement, they just love listening. So for the sake of the children that I so passionately love, I want to share this magic and the beauty of storytelling. Please visit back often as I will share a little at a time. It is my hope that you will gain the same love of storytelling that I have and also to help you see that you and anyone can be an amazing storyteller!

So for today’s post I want to share WHY storytelling is so important.

  • Let’s first look back in time to when hunters would go off for the day and return back home with the hunt. A fire is made as the men, women, and children gather around to hear the tale of the hunt. An entrancing story is told (and often acted out) as children sit and listen, hardly even blinking. The stories hold wonderment and magic, bu they also hold facts. These stories pass on knowledge for the young boys who will become the next hunter. They learn how to hunt, what tools to use, where the best spot is, etc. Same is true for the women as they would tell stories of the days gatherings, harvesting plants and herbs. They pass on information about what plants to harvest and which to stay away from. So while these stories connect the people of a group at night under the stars, they also pass on information.
  • Stories help our children deal with big emotions and challenges. When stories are told that children can connect to, they can process and understand what is happening from a distance but yet they can connect it back to themselves. I once told a story to my children but my goal was to connect to my son who was experiencing some fear and anxiety about swim lessons. My story was about a pronghorn (we see those all the time driving out here) named Junip who was entering a race and his family and all pronghorns trekked to the Great Plains for the race. He was very nervous to compete and meet other pronghorns. So long story short, Junip faced his fears, ran like the wind, did his best, and met new friends.
  • Stories open up a whole world of imagination and creativity for children, and adults. Truthfully, deep down we all still have a child within. Well-told stories beg for the full circle of questions, and answers, and then more questions. Stories are wonderful for the brain. As a story is being told, the brain is constantly firing neurons and making synapses as it can’t help but make connections to what is being heard. And guess what…to the person who is telling a story, that brain is more active too!
  • Stories bring a focus or a center of attention to our children. One day, we had a long drive ahead of us and my kids were just in one of those moods where they were constantly arguing and bickering. I decided this was the perfect time for a story. Thirty minutes had gone by and no one interrupted, argued, etc. I would look back and I could tell their bodies were settled, relaxed, their eyes were looking out the window as if they were watching the story happen outside. After the story, their whole moods had changed. Also, telling stories before bedtime brings that relaxation to their bodies and minds so they will fall asleep better.

When children are told stories, wonderful things happen to the body, mind, and soul. However, stories aren’t being told as often as they should. We can change that. In my next post, I want to share with you the HOW of storytelling.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in math

Subitizing: Practice by Playing (free printable included)

“Do we have school today?” my kids ask me. While it is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and most schools are out, we school on. Why? It is always my goal of homeschool to make learning fun and to help them see that learning takes place everyday. For instance, for math we cook or play games, for literacy we read together and have free writing in our journal. For science we go outside.

Well since my kids are asking me this question, I’m guessing that “school” isn’t totally what they would choose. They actually do have fun doing school, but it’s the pulling them away from the thousands of LEGOS or the 15 baby dolls that need breakfast.  It’s all fun but things are a balance, too much free play and they start fighting and arguing. So as much time as I give them to play freely (which is a lot) we do make time for structured lessons.

Today it also snowing. I love the snow. Snow days around here are spent playing outside, cooking, painting, reading, and playing games. So for math today, I decided I wanted them to practice subitizing by playing a dice game. I quickly printed our game boards, grabbed a couple dice and some cubes, and we’re ready.

The game is super simple. Give each child a sheet of paper, a die, and 12 counters (can use beans, coins, small math cubes or blocks, etc.) Have your student roll the dice and QUICKLY tell you the number. Remember, subitizing is “seeing how many” rather than counting each dot. However for young students they may need to count at first and the more they practice the more they will just know. After students have determined how many of the dice, they find a square with the same amount. Students keep rolling and covering until their board is covered.

You can also use this as a partner game. Stormtrooper J had blue cubes and I red. We took turns rolling and covering. If you roll an amount that does not have a matching square you skip your turn.

It’s a pretty simple game, but good for practicing seeing numbers represented in a visual set and knowing it without counting. Below is the printable I made. Please feel free to print and use for your math time.

roll and cover

Up next, I’m thinking I will create some subitizing BINGO gameboards.

It’s always an EDventure!

 

 

 

Posted in math

The Teachable Moment: Counting and Subitizing with Pancakes

Little A really wanted pancakes this morning. I never mind, I love pancakes too! Stormtrooper J and Little A helped me measure and mix (hey look kids some other words that start with the /m/ sound that we can add to Letter M word list!).

  • 1 cup protein pancake mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup plant protein milk
  • we also add chia seeds and of course chocolate chips

Stir, get the 1/4 cup and pour the mix onto the griddle. Waiting, waiting- gosh darn it, I forgot to spray the pan. I take a gulp of my coffee, scrape the pancake mix off the griddle and re-measure our ingredients (since I used about 4 quarter cups of the batter). ….ok now we can make pancakes!

Kids run off to play, I finish making the pancakes, making sure there are a few non-chocolatey pancakes. Sometimes Stormtrooper J asks for plain.

We ended up with 5 chocolatey pancakes and 2 without chocolate chips, however it is 6:50something in the morning and I’m not quite in the teaching/thinking mode yet. My kids however have been up for almost an hour and full of energy. So as I’m putting the syrup and the strawberries on the table, Little A happily shouts “Mom, you made 6 pancakes!”  I quickly check my two stacks of pancakes, 5 and 2, and say, “Well let’s count them again.” Together we determine that one stack has 5 and one stack has 2, add them together and conclude that there are 7 pancakes. Little A is clearly not done with her mathematical thinking, and says that we should count the chocolate chips in the pancake. I peek at the pancakes and think, “Wow, ok looks like a lot but we can actually practice subitizing (a fancy word for “seeing” how many without counting one-to-one) with our pancakes!” Ok, another drink of coffee, grab a piece of paper and we start.

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We look for groups of chips that we know and can see. Stormtrooper J points out the group of 3 and I write it down. He sees the other group of 3 (looks like it could be 4, but ok 3), while Little A is good at finding the groups of 2. I’m thinking in my head, “I need a food marker so we can actually circle these groups on our pancake”… oh yeah back to writing down our numbers. We have 3, 3, 2, 2, 2, 2, and 1. Little ones can work with these numbers. We conclude there are 15 chocolate chips on the bottom of this pancake. We finish eating our pancakes strawberries and I’m pretty satisfied with our math lesson for the day, a lesson I didn’t even put into the lesson plan book (honestly, I don’t have one).

This is what I love about math for younger, early elementary students. It shows up in so many everyday places. We will eventually get to a math workbook but for now, this is all the math your little one needs.

Math note: subitizing is a wonderful skill to work on with your student. Again, subitizing is the ability “to see” a small amount of objects without actually pointing to and counting each one. Subitizing is what tells you how many dots, or pips, are on the dice when you roll it. To help your student learn this skill, play lots of developmentally appropriate math games that use dice. I’ll share, in another post, my other fun ways you can teach subitizing that requires very little or no prep work.

Have a good day!

 

 

 

Posted in Literacy

Book Reading and Activities

kitten

Last night for Little A’s bedtime story we read, Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes. This is a darling story of a kitten who looks up in the night sky and sees what she thinks is a big bowl of milk. She is determined to get the bowl of milk and tries again and again to get it. Does she get it or not? This book was a gift to my daughter for Christmas and she loves reading it again and again.  Luckily for us it also incorporates the letter we are working on, letter M.

Here are some activities to do with this cute story. Choose what works with your student and their learning style.

Comprehension: When we are reading together, I like to find one aspect of comprehension that we will work on (the main types of comprehension are predicting, questioning, making inferences, summarizing, visualizing, and using background knowledge). It’s always a good idea to quickly read the book before reading it with your child. For this story, I chose to focus on predicting.  Sometimes I will say, “While we read this book we are going to think about what’s been happening so far and make a guess about what will happen next.” But since this was our bedtime story I didn’t get into those specifics. Tomorrow we will reread it and extend our learning.

While reading the story, the kitten is trying to reach the big bowl of milk in the sky. She climbs to the top of the tree but is not scared. The text asks, “What could she do?” I paused here. I asked Little A, “Kitten has a problem. She is stuck up in a tree. What are some things she can do to solve this?” Little A came up with a few suggestions and I complimented her thinking. Finally I said, “Ok, what do you predict or think she will do?” Little A predicted she would claw her way sideways down the tree (clearly she has seen her kittens do this many times over).

Introducing vocabulary: The kitten was very determined and persistent in trying to get her bowl of milk. Ask your child what these big words might mean and have some discussion about these new words. Highlight other times you or your child witnesses determination or persistence.

Beginning Sounds: Draw or print out a picture of a moon and a glass of milk. Don’t write the words down, this activity should be more about listening to the sound when you say the pictures than seeing the letter of the word you write. Put the pictures next to each other. Tell your student that Kitten thinks the moon is a bowl of milk. Point to each picture and say the word, emphasizing the beginning sound. Ask your child if they know what letter makes the beginning sound. Once they have determined which letter, create a list of objects that begin with letter m. It may be hard for your student to come up with words out of the blue. Go on a hunt around the house or outside for things that start like moon and milk. Look through books and magazines. Or gather objects from around the house, making sure some start with the /m/ sound and some objects that don’t. See if your student can pick out which ones have the same beginning sound.

Sequencing: What a Night! This activity can be modified for preschoolers and up.  Cut out 4 or 5 circles from white construction paper. You can cut more for older students. Label them beginning, middle, and end. Have your student draw what the kitten was doing in the beginning, an event from the middle, and what the kitten was doing at the end. For younger students, ask them about their picture and write what they tell you. Students who are exploring letters and print may want to write on their own. Write down what they say underneath their print. Older students can practice writing their own sentence (s). Design a cover and staple together.

Pretend Play: Read through the book again and talk about cats, the things they do, they ways they move, etc. Have your student pretend to be a cat.

Art:

  • Kitten thinks the full moon is bowl of milk. Ask your student why kitten thinks so. They may suggest that the moon is the shape of a circle like a bowl. Draw some circles of all sizes onto a poster board or piece of paper. What other things could a circle become (the sun, the wheel of a vehicle, the middle of a flower, a face, a knob)?
  • Kevin Henkes, who is the author as well as the illustrator, uses black, white and shades of gray for his illustrations. Have your student explore with black and white paint seeing how many different shades of gray he/she can make. Talk about how to make the gray color lighter and darker.

Science: Go outside and check out the moon! Observe over a week and see how the shape of the moon changes. Children can draw pictures, older children can learn the names and chart the moon over a month, or just enjoy taking the time to look!

Other books to read: It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles Shaw.

Happy reading!

 

Continue reading “Book Reading and Activities”

Posted in Uncategorized

Welcome!

I’m glad you’re here.

I am very excited about starting this educational blog and sharing our fun adventures with you. Let me introduce us to you. I am Kellie and here’s a bit about me. I dreamed of being a teacher and made that dream come true, with much help and support from my parents. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science with a focus in psychology and both early and elementary teaching degrees. I taught for 5 years in Jefferson County, before having my son Jake in 2011 and becoming a stay-at-home mom. We completed our family with our daughter Ava in 2013. I have also owned a brain workout center business where I helped kids and adults alike find the root causes to their academic or behavioral issues. In 2016, I enrolled my nature-loving children in a forest kindergarten where we spent close to 2 years learning outside year-round in all weather. Then in 2017 I started a homeschool-enrichment program in my home for kids ages 3-8. We miss you Apple Tree Schoolhouse friends!

My husband, Brandon and I met as sophomores in high school and have been together ever since, so 19 years and married for 12. We had always resided in the outskirts of Denver, moving from Highlands Ranch to Reunion. We decided last April to follow our dream of living in the country and moved to just about the middle of nowhere in Elbert County (technically we are in Agate, CO).

As far as homeschool, we are pretty eclectic. We use Oak Meadow (but I am currently thinking of a switch), and I throw in lots of my old teaching lessons, my own games, things I find on pinterest or other sites. We go out daily and try to do a lot of our learning outside. We learn by painting, playing, cooking, crafting, reading together, exploring music, etc. Living in the country, we do a fair amount of driving in a week so I try to have some lessons ready for the car. We learn in all different areas doing so many different things and we are so excited to share them with you.

My desire to start an educational blog started when I was trying to find a homeschool curriculum. It’s extremely overwhelming, amiright? In my opinion I didn’t find a literacy curriculum that I felt truly taught all the pre-reading skills, like alliteration, rhyming, and the many steps of phonemic awareness such a phoneme isolation and manipulation, etc. (I should say my favorite literacy curriculum so far is All About Reading, though I have not yet purchased it). It all seemed to go from learning letters, to learning sounds, and then putting sounds together to learn to read. That’s all good but there are a few other things kids need before they can read. Also, when I was a brain workout teacher, I came to realize two major things: 1) how kids are learning how to read before they are ready and 2) how crucial ocular motor skills play into reading. When these happen, you get problems, like kids that resist reading, don’t get it or have to be taught over and over, hate reading, battle struggles, and then physical problems with eyes, etc. Had I known these things I could have seen WHY my students were struggling and having to have an ILP (Individualized Literacy Plan). I could have worked on the root causes instead of teaching the same thing again and again.

So… I wanted to share some key elements that homeschool parents could throw into the mix when it comes to teaching literacy to prevent the struggles later. Also, I wanted to share some easy, fun and hands-on ways to teach literacy and math that involve no or very little prep. Finally, learning should be fun! All too much have I heard (mostly from public school families, which is why I choose to homeschool and perhaps you too) that school is boring, too much homework and testing, they don’t remember what they learn and that PE and recess are the favored subjects. That’s because kids want to move and they have to move to learn. It’s not my style to sit my kiddos down with a large math workbook though there are times worksheets are needed and I do use them. It’s all a balance for me.

My goal for my kids and our homeschool is to blend the good things from homeschool and public school into one. So that is my hope for this blog, to provide you with an educational resource from a former teacher.

Here is a list of activities and resources you can find when you stop by.

  • Storytelling: stories, activities, and tips on how you, the parent, can become an awesome storyteller
  • Wednesdays are hereby claimed at Wild Wednesdays where you can find nature-inspired literacy, math, and science activities
  • literacy and math games for the home, the car, outside, etc.
  • how to teach literacy with a shared reading or read aloud lesson
  • various books with accompanied lessons and activities
  • literacy activities that teach phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension
  • journal activities that are extremely easy and require very little or no prep
  • tips on how to teach writing, phonemic awareness, comprehension and various subjects, math games
  • writing lessons and activities
  • how to find teachable moments anywhere
  • how to differentiate activities- I can share with you how to take matching cards and create a lesson/game that can work for your preschoolers and your 2nd grader. Isn’t that what we homeschool parents need, activities that can be differentiated so you aren’t doing 3 different activities for 3 different kids??
  • Freebies (worksheets that I’ve created or will share)
  • and so much more!

Need something or have a question? I am happy to create something for you, provide you with ideas, activities, etc. Just a quick note that I have early elementary schoolers. I am not in the realm of late elementary grades (yet!). But if you have questions or need activities for those later ages/grades I can still provide you some help there.

I hope you will enjoy coming along for our EDventures in learning. We are really excited to share with you!

Please add comments, share ideas, whatever you like. Thanks again for being here!