Bruce is down to the last seven pages classroom activity pages of our school district’s second grade curriculum, Houghon Mifflin Math Expressions. That means he’s done about 173 pages from the classroom books. I’ve only had him do about 30% of the homework books, because a lot of it was too repetitive and easy. I made an exception for the the double and triple digit addition and subtraction pages, which I had him complete because he needed the practice. Curriculum compaction is a common practice for gifted children, who get bored and surly with too much repetition.
I am a soooooo looking forward to moving onto something else with Bruce. Houghton Miffling has been okay, but I’d like him to do something more inspiring, like our Right Start Level C curriculum. http://www.alabacus.com/pageView.cfm?pageID=286 So yesterday, on one of Bruce’s non-school days I made him a deal that if he could do seven pages of math in one day I would pay him ten dollars. I called this “the ten dollar challenge”. (Okay, so the merits of paying a kid to do school work are debatable. In my defense, he’s five and a half and seven pages would be like doing a week and a half of second grade math in one day.)
Well that little son-of-a-gun! Bruce dragged out his Hougton Mifflin homework book, and started cranking through the data and graphing pages that corresponded to the unit he did last November. It was super easy for him, and he did seven or eight pages in about an hour. Pay up mom! The seven classroom activity pages, are yet to be completed.
Then last night when my husband and I were going to bed at 10:20, I found Bruce in his room with the light on doing more math. He had another seven pages ready to give me, for payment. That means he did three weeks of second grade homework in one day. I need to end this deal or I’m going to go broke.
“Who’s got the power, the power to read?” Dang that song is catchy! If you have even seen Super Why then you know what I’m talking about.
Today was Jenna’s last day of watching Rusty and Rosy, for a long time. She is 20.5 months old now, and has been watching it for almost two months. I’ll still bring it Rusty and Rosy every once in a while if she asks for it, but we are now moving on. Ideally, I’d like her to watch Leapfrog’s Letter and Talking Words Factory. http://www.amazon.com/LeapFrog-Talking-Roy-Allen-Smith/dp/B0000INU6I But our library’s computer system is being upgraded and I can’t put it on hold yet. So in the meantime, we are going to start watching Super Why on PBS. http://pbskids.org/superwhy/
Super Why has improved a lot over the past few years. The first season it only used upper case letters as I recall. Now they do a whole bunch with lower case, which is great. I’m aiming to have Jenna watch Super Why once a day, with myself sitting next to her encouraging her to identify letters.
Okay, this letter isn’t really about Alternate Day Kindergarten, but it is about how the current Kindergarten system is pretty messed up. This lady’s letter really saddens me, especially since it sounds like her grandchildren could really benefit from full day Kindergarten. You can read it for yourself at:
Dreambox math is something that has really made a difference for Bruce. http://www.dreambox.com/ It helps kids learn math skills by visualizing numbers as dots, sets, and ten frames. Kids get to choose their own character, and progress through adventures of increasing difficulty. Parents get to see what standards their kids are learning by checking out the parent dashboard.
Bruce started playing Dreambox before it was officially online as a beta tester when he was three. Back then, the concepts were the right level for him, but he got bored with having ten problems in each set. After three problems of the same type, he wanted to move onto something else. He played Dreambox off and on around this age, but never consistently. It didn’t matter at the time, because as a beta tester, Bruce got to play for free.
Then the summer Jenna was born and Bruce turned four, I signed him up for a couple of months. By that time, Dreambox was online and cost about $15 a month, with the first two weeks being free. Since I was sacked out on the couch nursing a newborn, I let Bruce play as much as he wanted. He polished off the Kindergarten and first grade curriculum over that summer, and then lost interest and we canceled our subscription.
By Christmas of his Kindergarten year, at age 5, Bruce expressed interest in Dreambox again so I signed him up. It was a great activity for him to do over Christmas vacation, and he worked on a lot of second grade skills. After about a month, he was more interested in playing with his new Christmas presents, so I canceled our subscription. I might sign him up again this summer if he is interested, so he can work on the third grade content.
All in all, we only spend about $30 total for Bruce’s Dreambox experience, and it was totally worth it! It’s definitely worth having your child try it for the first two weeks, which are free. It is really easy to cancel your subscription, and they don’t give you any grief.
It’s been about one and a half months now since we began teaching Jenna her ABCs. She’s twenty months old, and doesn’t really have the capacity to sit down for a formal assessment where I ask her to identify all of the upper and lower case letters, so I can’t report an exact percentage of what she now knows. But there have been lots of opportunity for informal assessments.
A few days ago at Bruce’s soccer practice, Jenna saw a bag from Borders and correctly identified all of the letters (although she still says “Ro Ro” for “R”). Last night in the bathtub, she named all of the letters that floated by except for “H” and “G”. She really seems to have the uppercase alphabet down. Now we just need to keep working on lowercase letters and sounds.
Jenna is 20 months now, and continues to be fascinated by books. We spend anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours doing read aloud together every day. She is also showing more interest in independent reading, even if it is only for five minutes. Our homemade books are great for this, as are books we have read together hundreds of time before. Here she is on the couch reading while I tidy up, but another of her preferred reading places is on her little potty in the bathroom. If only she viewed the potty as something other than a comfy reading chair!
Here’s a letter Bruce worked on last night to deliver to one of the kids in his class tomorrow. It says: “Sorry Jordan for being mean. I won’t do that in the future. Next half of the note for the parents. I like the way you handled it. I am happy you didn’t tell Mr. Sacket. From Bruce.”
As you can see, there are a lot of things going on in this letter that pop out at you; letter reversals, phonetic spelling, and words that end mid letter on the right of the page, and then pick up again on the left. But since Bruce is still just five and a half, this is all completely normal and doesn’t worry me at all. I didn’t harp on anything, or make him change something, because I did not want to interfere with his creative flow. He spent a good twenty minutes on this and really worked hard.
One thing I will try to start having some mini-lessons on however, is this business of running out of space for a word on the right, and then finishing it off on the left. I really need to teach him about putting finger spaces between each word.
Here’s another homemade book we made yesterday. You can print one out too. (For more information on the how and why of Homemade Books, please see: http://teachingmybabytoread.blog.com/homemade-books/)
Jenna’s Doggie Book
I’ve started playing letter identification games with Jenna. Right now we are using the Hooked on Phonics cards, but any cards would do.
Way back when, I was trained in A-B-A therapy for working with two little boys with Autism. Some of those methods have stuck with me. In general, when working with flashcards I like to give the child three chances to get the right answer. By the third try, I “help” the child touch the correct card. I always use a lot of positive reinforcement when doing flashcard work, and I keep the sessions extremely short.
With Jenna, we are working on upper and lower case letter matching. We only play with the cards for about five minutes, and she earns a sticker at the end. So far her accuracy is only at about 50%, but that’s okay for now. The important thing is that she is having fun.
Here are all of the pictures from the counting book we made yesterday. You can print out the pictures, and paste them onto some stapled paper if you would like to make your own book too. Homemade pattern books like these, are great for emergent readers.
Duck, Duck, Goose
Long ago when I taught third grade in a not-so-nice neighborhood, (actually it was the former murder capitol of America), I had a lot of success with a project I called “Read a book to a little kid.” At the time, most of my third graders could not read, all of them were still learning English, and some of them had just immigrated from Mexico the prior week. (And that was for real, I’m not making a terrible joke.)
Reading aloud for these children was slow, difficult, and embarrassing. But I found that when they read to their Kindergarten buddies, their fluency and confidence improved tremendously. I created a graph, a chart, a token reward system and boom! Some of the third graders even started reading to their buddies at recess and in their own free time. It wasn’t a magic wand, but it did make a difference for the third graders, and probably for the Kindergartners too.
I’ve heard that reading to dogs, has a similar effect. (And once again, that wasn’t a bad joke!) Our public library even has a program where children read aloud to dogs. Children appreciate reading to dogs, because there is no judgement, nobody harping at them to sound out that word, and nobody telling them to be louder or softer. In some ways, it’s the ideal way to practice read aloud.
To be fair, younger children often have to been in the right mood to go along with this program, and some little listeners, will not be suitable at all. “Read it louder! Read it faster! I want Mommy!” But if you have multiple kids at home, or a family pet, this is definitely worth a try on a regular basis.
Today I started working on visualizing quantities 1 to 5 with Jeanna. I say visualization, because I’m teaching her to count with quantities, instead of just counting with one to one correspondence. The best way to explain why I’m doint this is is to read Joan Cotter’s insightful article on young children and math: http://www.alabacus.com/pageView.cfm?pageID=314
I hadn’t read any of this when Bruce was little, so my husband and I taught him how to count with correspondance, before teaching him any visualization strategies. But then he started at a wonderful Montessori program, nine hours a week at age three, and his math really started taking off. By February of his second year there, when Bruce was four, he was ready for first grade math. All of that was due to Montessori, and their wonderful focus on visualization, grouping strategies, manipulatives, a lots of fun activites to practice. I’m very eager to try this method with Jenna here at home, and see how far it will take her.