Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Spin and Write!

edit:  I was just thinking that this might be an idea that you might like to use but with different writing tasks so I went back and added a spinner without words so that you can write your own in.  :-)

A simple spinner...we'll put a brad with paperclip in the center.  
I plan to use this mainly for the 1st and 2nd graders.  This allows for them to explore with writing without Ms. Amber truly assigning something.  :-)  And also, the 1st and 2nd grader are siblings and I want them to not feel they have the "same" assignment.    

Journal Prompt
A couple ideas I've been toying with...journal prompt sticks and journal prompt bookmarks.
Journal Sticks
I came across this idea on Pinterest. 
Another blogger had a red mark on one end of the stick and a green mark on the other so when they had used them in their class they would flip it over so the red was showing so they didn't get a repeat.  With homeschooling, I'm not sure how I would want to do that as I'd rather each of them choose their own.
 There are SO many journal prompts on the Internet if you are looking for them.  Here's a few to get your started.
Mercury Mine (September to December ideas)
Journaling Helps (narrative and opinion prompts)

In my browsing I came across Journaling Bookmarks on an adult journaling website.  I decided that would be even easier than sticks for this year.  Less prep for sure!  They could check off or highlight what they've done already.  So here is one to get you started.  :-)    
You can download this journaling bookmark freebie  if you think it would be helpful.  :-)

If it works out well and I make more, I'll share them.  My thinking is to print on cardstock and provide a highlighter to mark the ones they've done.  Perhaps I'll laminate them to be used again.  Haven't decided for sure yet. I tried to get the special character...empty checkbox to work...but it wouldn't.  Maybe by next time! I went September to December, FYI.  They aren't necessarily seasonal prompts, one or two on a month.  It's just an easier to plan it this way. 

Themed Paper
 I have multiple binders of themed borders and writing paper, from my school-age program days, so I figured I might as well put them to use.  :-)  The children will be able to write whatever they wish on the papers.  I will encourage them to look through their lists, picture prompt pages, and etc to help them come up with an idea of what to write. 

Here are some printables I came across for this activity.
What the Teacher Wants has a set she uses for teaching narrative writing that would work.

Coming soon will be a selection of "How To" cards to choose from.

Cut and Paste Stories
Again, something I had in my possession already.  I have a selection of purple folders here from my child care days and so all the writing papers will be organized in their own purple folder.

Picture Prompts
I like this printable from Joy in the Journey
She also has a lined writing page for a final copy of the story they create.  However, I plan on these activities to be "short and sweet" and they will look back through their lists, picture prompt pages, etc to help them come up with ideas for the themed papers.  :-)  For the actual pictures...I don't want to step on anyone's toes when it comes to copyright and to be truthful, I usually just use google images for pictures that I use around the home here.  So, I will not be sharing the actual pictures.  Remember that you can also use old calendars or magazine pictures too!

Mini Books
Printables I found to go with this.
SparkleBox has multiple free fold and go book templates.
But truthfully, what I planned on doing was the simple fold and snip books and various sizes and colors of cut and staple booklets.  :-)  We are starting off pretty simple! 
Here is one of many instructions on how to make the mini foldable books. 

List making is a great way to help the children learn to brainstorm which is the first step of the writing process.  I found that my students here had "brainstorm blocks" last year.  It was REALLY hard for them.  

I've got about 22  "list" templates ready with a few more ideas in my head to do when I get a few moments.  Some of them have lines like a list, some don't.  I wanted to do a variety.  Here are 3 examples.
Here the children will use ROY G. BIV to help them remember the color of the rainbow and list objects in corresponding colored pencil and band.  For example, someone might write...strawberry, crayon, leaf, jello, barn, apple, raspberry in red pencil in the top band of the rainbow.

Here the children will write words to describe grapes.  One word per grape, in either green or purple pencil.
Here there are two lists.  The apple on the left asks them to list words to describe an apple.  The one on the write asks them to list ways to use apples.  The center apple asks them to draw their favorite way of eating an apple.

In addition to these pages, I will have several sheets of blank list pages so they can create their own topic if they wish.

Feel free to print a copy of the List Writing Templates here.  FYI, it took awhile to upload so it will probably take a bit to download.

A lovely homeschooling mom came across this poetry book at a garage sale and picked it up for me, knowing I was on the look out for ways to implement more poetry writing.  How sweet!  I will use that book this year so I don't have as much prep work.  It's labeled for grades 1-6, has 3 levels of learning for each type of poem, pages that break down writing the poem, and even some cute "publishing" poetry pages for their final copy. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Daily Fix-It

I'm trying to make some of those changes I've been wanting to make for this next school year.  I feel I really need to focus on being well prepared at the beginning of the year to help them become as independent as possible since baby #4 (yes, surprise, surprise...well, as much as it can be a surprise) will be making an appearance in December some time. 
One thing I finished today...that I wanted to do LAST year was the Daily Fix It.  I don't think I shared that link so I want to do that. 
Amanda Nickerson from One Extra Degree has so graciously shared this 50 page FREEBIE! It is so "clean" and simple.  I love it! 
Today I made sure that I had all pages printed and I bound a book for my 3rd grade kiddo. 
Have I mentioned how much I love my Fellowes Comb Binding Machine?  :-)

It is well known that with kiddos like him...language arts is a struggle.  Oh boy, that was our main struggle last year.  And it took all year to get him to separate "ART" and "LANGUAGE ARTS".  He had a bad attitude about art all because it was also in the topic Language Arts.  Ha!  Absolute craziness that I just could NOT understand.  Well, I have a little bit better understanding this year and forsee a much more successful school year in that regard.  Since Language Arts tends to be a "struggle" (Reading comprehension...not included at this point.  He reads and comprehends 2-3 grades above level but heaven help us if he has to "respond" to it in anyway.) I'm trying to provide quick ways for him to get extra practice without overwhelming him.  This Daily Fix It will help in the grammar area.  :-P
He'll probably get the Grammar Posters on a ring to keep with his things...I made them last year and found them most useful for 3rd grade.  :-) You can see the post, a closer up image of each of the posters and get the pdf. free here.
We're being told that we should receive our 2013-2014 materials in 7-10 days.  YIPPEE!  I'll be glad to get a good look over my 5th grader's materials but also want to start getting in my mind how to set up for this year.  I think C., the 3rd grader needs his own space...BY HIMSELF!  Maybe I'll switch my two oldest.  A. missed being with the group and with a little self-discipline he can learn to be successful out in the main area with the younger kiddos I think.  Ah!  I don't want to rush August at all because I have lots to do...but I'm looking forward to school starting up! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Listening To Audio Books, Links

Preparing for this fall!  It's only a few weeks away and I have some things I am "making changes" with.  Figured since I was already doing some "searching on the Internet" I'll just share it with you all as it might be a help.   Hope so anyway!

Something we only did here and there last year was listening to books on tape/cd or computer.  Often it was the preschooler's activity and then the others wanted to listen also. However, at times, I would just find a book that the 1st grader was reading on Youtube so he could listen to it first and follow along before reading it to me.  :-)  

I've always felt that a listening center is a lovely component of a classroom. Granted, I've seen some that weren't so profitable and the kids didn't enjoy it much but I've seen others that were very much enjoyed.

My goal for this year is to incorporate a few moments of the day for the children to spend listening to an audio book.  However, instead of trying to use cassettes that I have here and they get pretty frustrated with and can't be all that independent with, or depend on the library's limited selection, I am going to provide a website each week that has several books that they can choose from.  I am NOT going to try to connect the story to their course work. This will be a free choice-pick your own story.  I really think they will enjoy it immensely.
Our $5 headphones that I purchased at the beginning of the school year last year that I didn't think would hold up all that well but did!  None of them broke and I can't say that the kiddos were all that gentle with them!  We used them all the time!  A necessity for having several students doing schooling at once!
Purchased at Amazon.

Quick reminder of a few of the benefits of a listening to audio books:
*  It's relaxing...and causes most students to become more positive about reading.
*  They hear correct pronunciation of words as well as receive a model of how to appropriately read aloud.
*  Introduced to new vocabulary!
*  Typical improves concentration, active listening, and comprehension.
*  For new readers, it helps build confidence in reading.
*  Helps children become familiar with a variety of genres.  Sometimes elementary aged students get in a rut with the types of books they will choose on their own but are willing to listen to many types of books.
*  Often they will listen to books ABOVE their reading level.
*  Studies are out there about the benefits of listening without a visual aid for all these kiddos that are part of the "digital age".  Reinforces them to use their imagination to picture the scene and characters.

Here are several of the links I have come across already that have several audio story options!  Plenty enough for a school year!  I'll just have the choice of website as a tab that comes up on each laptop.  :-)  

Cobb Schools Literacy Centers Page had K-2 talking books selections!


Kids Audio Books (Lots...just listening...no pictures)



Light Up Your Brain (Some very LONG ones!)

Audio Book Cloud

Barnes and Noble (There isn't very many here but the neat thing is that the author themselves are reading their own book!)

Online Audio Books

Robert Munsch (His books with him reading.)

What I plan to do is provide a daily response sheet for the "listening center". Each day will touch on a different skill.  Perhaps a Monday would be good for just listening, writing down basic info and drawing a picture about the story. Another day they will respond to the book with the focus of making connections to the story, day three may be to tell about the beginning, middle, and end of the story, and yet another day will be stating the components of the story, like setting, characters, etc.  Here are some freebies I have come across on Teachers Pay Teachers that you might be interested in!

My favorite so far...
Spotlight on Listening


Differentiated Listening Response Sheets

Common Core Listening Response Sheets

Listening Center Worksheet

Listening Center Reader Response Sheets

Listening Center Reader Response Sheets2




This one would be nice for upper grade level!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Biome-Ecosystem Wheels

I have a year "under my belt" for grades 1-4 with MVCA, which uses the K12 curriculum.  Overall, the curriculum is lovely.  I have no concerns about the children covering everything they need to.  However, there seemed to be so much “paper”.  Not all that fun for learning coach or teacher.  Unfortunately, with the first year and 6 kiddos here, on top of not knowing what each curriculum entailed, we had time (and energy) for only the required assignments.  I don’t really want that to be the case this next year.

I’ve been working on creating Science Unit binders for C., who is going into 3rd grade.  I expect he will become very independent this next year…as long as I’m organized and we follow a very specific daily schedule with him. (A little lesson I learned last year is do a little in every subject every day.  That makes units be completed more quickly and they have a better retention rate when it comes to unit checkpoints.)  My goal for C. is to allow him to go forward with Science on his own easily and also create a binder for his work so that we could all enjoy it.  He loves to share any new found information/facts.  I started History binders last year and it fell by the wayside because most of the printables in the history curriculum were coloring sheets and that did NOT keep their interest.  However, the little we did do…they loved to go back and look at it.  

Biome/Ecosystem Wheels  
One of the activities for Science3- Unit 3:  Ecosystems- is to read through several nonfiction books about various biomes.  They have a book about the Tundra, Boreal Forest, Temperate Deciduous Forest, Tropical Rain Forest, Desert, and Grassland/Prairie.  I actually have most of them recorded on the laptop because they weren’t “easy reading” for last year’s 3rd grade student.  However, I think C. will be able to handle them fine.  We’ll fall back on the recordings if we need too.  I found the “research and note taking” okay…it's a good skill to learn...just wasn't very intriguing.  So we are taking a different approach to it for this year…something visually appealing for the binder. 

I got the idea from a teacher from the 
This is an example of what that class did.
This was an upper elementary or even middle school class.  

However, Mr. C. does NOT care for anything ‘artsy’.  He’s getting better little by little, but it’s not something he willingly does.  If I was doing this with his brother I’d give him the 2 blank circles to create his own wheel, organize it on his own, etc.  Goes to prove that each one is so different and that is a-okay! 
So here is the version I’m going to provide for him, printed on cardstock…one wheel for each book.  He’ll probably balk at decorating the top of the wheel in a way that represents the biome, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.  No reason why we can’t google and print some images and make more a collage.  I think that overall it will be visually appealing for him. After he gets the first one done and he’ll be more willing to do the other ones.  I also think it will appeal to his sense of organization and it’ll help him know what the point of reading the book is about…what information should be gleaned from the book.  It’ll also make him feel important and work on some of those presentation skills when we take the time to have him share the wheels with the rest of the group.

It's not "perfect" as I just eyeballed the lines to create the wheel but it will suit our purposes just fine.  If you want a copy, feel free do download for your own personal use.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Baking Bread!

I've always been a firm believer that "kids in the kitchen" reap many benefits.  However, since I'm not necessarily a "homemaker" by nature...it was very easy to put cooking and baking on the back burner when other things came up to do.  This summer I've been trying to make sure that each one of my boys gets their chance in the kitchen at least once a week, usually more.  I actually find that I'm enjoying it more than I ever use to. 

Benefits of kids helping in the kitchen...

*  Real life activity...gets them away from computers, TV, etc.
* Encouraging the boys in the kitchen have an extra benefit because if they do get married and have a family, I guarantee their wife will so appreciate them being comfortable in the kitchen.  I am one of those wife's who has a husband that can handle kitchen "duties" just fine.  :-)
* With practice (and lots of patience) the children become more and more independent and soon they'll be able to put on a meal or bake a dessert without much adult assistance.  That always helps with busy families!
* Cooking is a great sensory experience.  There are very few children who dislike being in the kitchen unless they have severe sensory issues.  Even my kiddos that do have sensory issues...since it involves food, they are willing to give it a try anyway.  I started with doing "non-messy" activities, being sure to use spoons and spatulas to keep them from getting "dirty" right away and they have progress so well in this area.  :-)  We can be a lot more "messy" without any crazy behaviors.  Ah!  Little by little!
* Children will be much more willing to try something they had a hand in making!  Involving a picky eater in cooking and baking is such a benefit I've seen over and over!
* Reading, Science, and Math are all parts of it!  Reading "real-life" directions on how to make something is important.  I'm a firm believer that if you can read and comprehend a recipe, you can cook.  No excuses!  :-)  So exploring with the recipe "language", figuring out conversions for recipes, understanding the science behind the cooking such as why yeast works and what to look for to make sure it's fresh...are all life skills!  Yes, I'm one of those moms that intentionally provide a measuring cup that is smaller than what they need.  It took awhile but my two older kiddos have learned to read through the whole recipe before starting AND check all measurement tools.  :-D  It's been SO good for them!  Lately we've been doing more "cooking tips" like when you have two ingredients in which you can use the same measuring spoon/cup, measure the dry ingredients first if you can. 
*  This provides time with mom "on their own" when we are doing it 1:1.  This is a big plus for us here this summer.
*  Helps them be aware of the expense of cooking/baking and how we need to "plan ahead".
* For the homeschooling mom...we can easily incorporate history/culture/geography!
*  We have so many more conversations about home cooked/baked vs. store bought foods and the differences.  Health Education anyone?  :-D
Oh, there are plenty more but there are some right off the top of my head.


We explored with baking the bread in the crockpot.
Um, well... it doubled nicely right inside the crockpot.   However, when we turned it on High as various recipes recommended...it took an hour and a half to "bake" and it actually flattened.  That's it on the right.

So since the recipe was REALLY REALLY quick and easy, we did another batch and popped it into a warmed oven to raise and then baked it according to the directions on the recipe...or we THOUGHT we did.  :-)  That's it on the left.  We had it on at 350° for 50 minutes and that was too long.  You'll notice down below that the original recipe states 375° for 45 minutes.  Hmmm.  
Here's the recipe A. explored with today...
Easy-Kid Friendly:  *****
Taste: *****
Appearance: **
We are going to try this recipe again with doubling it and on a better weather day.  Kind of overcast and rainy and that could have effected the raising and baking.  As it stands, the kids liked it, the flavor was good, but I wouldn't make it for company!  (It was VERY good with homemade cherry jelly or honey.)

We found this recipe at Busy Mom's Menu Plan.

Simple Bread Dough Recipe

  • 1 tablespoon (1 packet) yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup boiling hot water
  • 1 tablespoon oil

  1. Add yeast, sugar, salt, and flour to a food processor fitted with a blade attachment.
  2. Process on low for 1 minute.
  3. Slowly add water, then oil.
  4. Process until dough is no longer sticking to sides, and forms a ball.
  5. Remove dough, form into ball.
  6. Place in greased bowl and cover with a towel.  Let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.
To Freeze:
Wrap dough ball in plastic wrap.  Place in freezer bag and store in freezer for up to 6 weeks.
To Bake:
If using fresh dough, place into lightly greased loaf pan and punch dough down to fit pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until edges become crisp and golden brown. If using frozen, remove dough from freezer and thaw at room temperature for 4 hours before baking.

This makes a very small loaf. 
Definitely double it for a normal size loaf of bread.