Monday, February 3, 2014

January 27-31, 2014

Miss E. snapshots
Hard to believe she's 2 months already!

I so want to do more group lessons.  They are definitely something I consider beneficial.  This week the first grader started her writing unit so going into more details about sentences.  2nd grader does exceptional when working with the parts of speech all on their own but to work with them as a whole is more difficult to remember what is what.  3rd grader knows the parts of speech better than anyone but struggles with coming up with his own sentences and etc, 5th grader...just good ol' review since he never really learned any of it until last year.  
So how do you get the all engaged?  Start the morning out with the a bit of candy.  Ha ha!  I placed noun words on Kisses and verbs (being sure the use past, present, and future verbs) on Rolos.  I hid the candy around the living room and they went on a search, finding one of each type of candy.  Since they found them randomly...we made "silly sentences" which make it even more fun.  :-)
(Even the preschooler got his very simple sentence down, " Bear smiles.")
So, what are those shapes with their sentence?
I decided to introduce the Montessori approach to grammar.  Oh, how I wish Montessori materials were not so expensive!  Considering how Montessori got its's kind of sad where it has ended up.  Anyway...there is many things about Montessori I love...I try to incorporate what I can, when I can.  I was doing pretty good at the preschool level but have had to do more "research" at the elementary level so haven't implemented as much as I would like.  Oh well, step by step.  
One can purchase this poster at Alison's Montessori, if they wished.  I love the visual component...notice the related shapes.  Articles (which is a clue that a noun is coming around), adjectives (describes a noun), nouns, and pronouns are all triangles.  Verb/Adverb are circles.  Those were what we really focused on this week.  

Can't you just see how some of these younger kids would more easily learn and remember parts of speech with visuals like this?!  

Simple activity we are starting...very quick "Fix It" sentences.  We are starting out pretty easy but I am trying to include errors that benefit the 5th grader also.  As you can see, we added those symbols to that sentence also.  e are focusing on the most basic symbols right now.  We are also incorporating proofreading marks.  

You can get a freebie chart from Darlene Ann at the TPT store.
 We have a kitchen chemist in house!  
He definitely enjoyed the Acid and Bases explorations from Science5's chemistry unit.

Also, all three boys enjoyed using iodine to find starch in various foods.  :-)

Mixing iron acetate and ammonia.  Oh my....GROSS!  Ha!
Definitely a very quick color change but it also changed in other ways as it sat.

What was REALLY REALLY cool was that at our field trip they had an interactive periodic table "table" called a Reaction Lab!

AND...a Make Your Own Fireworks station which included flame tests! 

Misc. Snapshots
We are so slow in getting through the last two units for Science1.  There are so many things that could be done!  So, actually, we do a little something with both weather and animals most days as we try to do some "extras".   But that is all above and beyond the actual course lessons and so it doesn' show we are making a whole lot of progress.   This is a 3D scene K. created from a kit.  Neat!  Clearanced item I found at Michael's.  She was telling the others about her creation and we were reviewing characteristics of mammals.  

I really don't know how we got these.  I may have purchased them for a B & M class party or something.  Anyway, one of my kids had gone through their "treasures" and found a few of them.  He so kindly let me borrow them for the 1st and 2nd graders.  K. used it for a way to practice with the hundreds chart.  You can tell by this picture that she was definitely enjoying herself.  Ha!

L. used them to go through his penmanship practice and check for errors.  This time I wrote down each thing I wanted him to check for.  Was much more successful!
Loopy looples?
Bumping lines?
Spacing correct?
Tall letters tall and short letters short?

I really tend to push decent handwriting...probably because I have poor penmanship myself.  :-)  Isn't that the way it goes?  The things we struggle with we push our kids/students to do better with.   I will say that this year is much better in the area of penmanship for L.  Here are some things I did to help us get to the point we are at.

* minimal writing.

Huh?  One would think that the more they "practiced" the better they would get.  Well, I disagree on that one. in this particular case.  The more he wrote....the more frustration and less confidence.  It's not like he didn't know his penmanship was poor.   K12 curriculum has a LOT of writing.  So last year, we did a LOT of dictation and I cut way back how much writing he was required to least until he began to write more legibly and the writing became less time consuming.  By the end of last year we were starting to add to the expectations of what he was expected to write.  After a little of "relearning" at the beginning of the school year, he is now able to complete a writing assignment rough draft, a penpal letter, or a D.W.N copywork session all in one session!  Yeah!  He also has been doing more writing in Language Arts (literature sheets) and writing his math problems down!

* "back to the basics".

This was so beneficial. Being that I taught preschool for a bit, I had HWT tools.  Sticks and curves wooden pieces, mini magnadoodle, chalkboard, etc.  I love HWTears!  Anyway, last year, we even stopped the 1st grade handwriting book because he didn't have the correct letter formation down.  Having the correct letter formation helps in the fluency of printing.  Less steps, typically, and so less to organize in his brain.

* pencil grasp

There are mixed responses to whether pencil grasp plays a part in decent penmanship.  My vote, yes, it does.  Now, L. has a grasp that is considered "okay".  However, when I corrected his grasp to a tripod grasp, there was noticeable improvement!  So we tried pencil grips....those soon went to the wayside.  We could never keep the pencils with his pencil grip with his work.  Ha!  They always "disappeared" when we needed them.  But more than that, it was almost as if it added another step to the whole writing process and he didn't NEED more steps to keep straight.  So, out they went and in their place I provided golf pencils.  Yes, those little stubby pencils.  These made a big difference!  He could control these little pencils a lot better.  He wasn't as apt to hold the pencil about a 1/2" to 1" from where it "should" be held..  We are still working with this pencil grasp.  Habits are really hard to break.  "Fix your thumb please."  Is something he hears multiple times a day.  :-)

* posture

Teaching and expecting him to sit up to the table and support his paper with his other hand made a big difference!  We still struggle with this posture issue but it's coming along!

* pressure

L. had/has this habit of writing with LOTS of pressure.  This wore his fingers out long before he completed a task.  He was trying SO hard.  So now that he has learned to lighten up this pressure we struggle with "sketching" but boy oh boy, I'd rather "sketching" than pressing so hard that his fingers are white!  Now, we can actually get through a writing assignment rough draft or a penpal letter in one session!  That's very exciting!

*  Something I had noticed regarding the struggle to remember the sequence of letters word in his copywork and write it down.  It was so time letter and then find his space back on his copywork, then the next letter, but if there was a distraction in the room, he may forget what he was writing and have to go back and find that word and letter again.  So, I found myself taking a few moments and encouraging him to say the word, spell it out loud and then go write the word.  As soon as this became more of a habit, I noticed quite a large difference in his attitude toward writing because it didn't take so long!  

Research on my part and the necessity of changing my expectations is so important for his continual growth in penmanship. Since then I have learned about the term "graphomotor skills" or "orthographic coding".  Hmmm, interesting!  One little tidbit that I came across was, "Students who have trouble with orthographic coding will often forget how to form certain letters in the middle of a writing task. They frequently retrace letters or exhibit false starts or hesitancies as they write. Observations of their written output may show that they have formed the same letter several different ways. "  This was L. completely!  

* Muscle strengthener activities

Okay, I did pull in quite a bit of sensory materials that required him to use his hands.  I did this because at the beginning, I really didn't know where to start and I knew that strengthening those fine motor muscles usually helped the preschoolers.  However, with him, I don't think that was much of an issue.  There were other things going on.  But I do think that with today's "typical play" and lack of natural hand strengthening activities, we need to actively plan for activities that will help strength those muscles in the hands, from a very young age and need to consider that aspect when we have a student who has fine motor struggles.

* gender
I also believe what many people state...gender does make a difference.  Boys are going to have more noticeable struggle with fine motor skills vs. girls.  It all falls back to how the brain develops differently in boys vs. girls.  Girls are better equipped for writing and etc at a younger age...but the boys do catch up eventually!

Since Baby E., the two younger have been asking for the "big" dolls.  So, finally Ms. Amber got around to getting to the storage shed.  :-D  This winter isn't making it all that easy to do!  Nor does the fact that I'm usually exhausted by the time school's done for the day.  Ha! 
ALL 5 school-agers were engaged in this play.  Thank goodness, since having all the baby paraphernalia out (including the doctor set and some housekeeping stuff)  takes up the WHOLE living room.
One thing that K. and A. wanted to learn was how to swaddle.  Obviously we swaddle Baby E.  K. took every opportunity she could, this day, to swaddle whatever doll she had.  :-) 
Still working on her kitty cat!  Almost done!

Language Arts 
Left- adding vowel suffix endings.  She really is happy with the "little things". For example, using various dry erase markers to add the endings.  Ha!  This was a great way to get her to notice what type of letter was before the last letter, in order to determine if she needed to double the last letter or not.  :-)  To the right, a Writing Skills1 activity.  Sorted the slips of paper...then we chose 2 from the "not complete" column and made it into a complete sentence.  As you can see, we slipped in those parts of speech symbols and reinforced subject and predicate.

Building those spelling words!  SAY SPELL SAY!!! 

 Starting into Cam Jansen.  :-)  I love K12's variety of reading materials!  They touch on so many genres!  As usual, he takes books that he is reading on his own, into a bedroom and typically T. follows him and listens to the reading.  :-)  Awesome for BOTH kids!
Just getting in some sight word practice.

More spelling practice!
They say the word, spell it as they are writing it with chalk, spell it as they are erasing it with a paint brush (using correct letter formation) and then say the word again.  
Practicing addition and subtraction in small doses.  :-)  "Just happened" that he had a fact family study island session this same day.  Ha! 
Two free versions of this...
Mama Jenn
The First Grade School Box

A great little activity!  Not quite as organized as I'd like most of our activities to be...but so be it.  When they start to organize their tasks on their own, I know they are starting to get that concept ingrained.  :-D  Yes, I really push organization...moreso for some kids than others.

This was actually an MVCA outing.  Our first one that we were able to make it to. Typically, they are all to far away.  I was planning this field trip anyway and so it worked out perfectly!  They absolutely loved our day at the Midland Center for the Arts, featuring FROGS!
The planned and impromptu group snapshots.  The impromptu came out much better!

One of the many frog sculptures.  I think we decided this was our favorite!

Frog Jump Wheel.  Think...flip book....but in a larger version and a rolling wheel!

Each had a chance to dissect a frog.  :-D

Lots of information here and there and all over!

Six for the many frogs...snapshots for Aaron's camera.  I love to see things from their perspective...a camera is a perfect way to do it :-)


  1. Your Kisses / Rolo game has given me some ideas for music composition games ... THANKS!

  2. :-) I've actually seen several candy related music games here and there! I've been tempted to get some mini m&ms and see if I can't help Aaron with where the notes are on the staff. It is getting better a bit but sometimes I just have to shake my head.