Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Teaching Kids to Write About Dinner

A fun writing lesson for kids about dinner?

A fun writing lesson for kids about dinner?

I’m headed off to the classroom today to teach 100 first and second graders what is supposed to be a fun writing lesson.  (Fingers crossed!)

Here’s my plan:

Learning Objectives: This lesson is focused on prewriting and drafting.  My goal is for there to be so much scaffolding that it’s easy for kids to get their initial ideas on paper.

How I’m going to activate prior knowledge: I’ll start with a brief (2 minute) discussion on what dinner is like at their houses.  There’ll be lots of opportunity to complain about their moms’ cooking!

Materials: “Farmer Boy” by Laura Ingalls Wilder, “A Pizza the Size of a Sun” by Jack Prelutsky,  and Who wants to eat princesses, anyway? by yours truly.  Also, paper plates, markers, pencils, papers and two cans of soup for props.

A fun way to prewrite.

A fun way to prewrite.

The Plan: I’ll show the kids my plate chart, and perhaps draw a giant one on the board.  Then I’ll read small experts from each piece of writing; a chapter book, a poem, and a newspaper column.  After each reading, I’ll show how that gets organized on the plates.

Of course, Laura didn't really write this all by herself.  Thank you Rose Wilder Lane!

Of course, Laura didn’t really write this all by herself. Thank you Rose Wilder Lane!

From “Farmer Boy”: From the chapter “Winter Evening”, the two paragraph description starting with “Almanzo ate the sweet, mellow baked beans”.

Too many feathers to be tasty.

From “A Pizza the Size of a Sun”: The poem “My mother makes me chicken”.

Eating Cinderella would be yucky.

From “Who wants to eat princess, anyway?”: Just a few lines about eating Cinderella vs. eating Agent P.

After the readings: The body of the lesson will be kids getting the plates and organizing their own ideas. This is called prewriting, and I’ll walk around the room and help.  After about 10-15 minutes of prewriting, we’ll move on to drafting.  I’ll pass out some notebook paper and let them start writing.  If we have time, kids will share what they have written during the last five minutes of the lesson.

What about the 5 Step Writing Process?: That would be prewriting, drafting, revising, editing and publishing.  I won’t have time to get to all of that in one lesson!  😦  But this will be a good start.

A New Way to Play with the Memory Game

A New Way to Play with the Memory Game

A New Way to Play with the Memory Game

Do you have the Memory Game floating around your kid’s closet (or floor)  right now?  Great!  Here’s a way to use those cards to teach logic.

Set them out in groups of four where one picture doesn’t belong in the same category as the rest.  It’s like that old game from Sesame Street “Which of these things is not like the other?”

One of these things can't fly.

One of these things can’t fly.

Depending on the age of your child, you can make this game as easy or as hard as necessary.

Three of these things are symbols of weather.  One isn't.

Three of these things are symbols of weather. One isn’t.

If you’d like a book with premade activities like these, check out Can You Find Me.

Jenna(3.5) and I have been playing this book together while big brother Bruce takes guitar lessons.  I would describe it as meaningful busy work!

Turn Car Trips into Mini-Lessons


As an educator, I believe in giving children free time to play around in the backyard, goof off, and generally be a kid. But let’s face it; time spent in the car is usually wasted time. Some people use extended car trips as an opportunity for their children to break out the DS. In our household, car time is used strategically and purposefully.

That’s because carschooling is one of the easiest ways to expand on your child’s education. You have a captive audience on your hands, so you might as well use that to your advantage!

Of course, none of our carschooling curriculum is meant to take the place of meaningful conversation, and we don’t listen to educational CDs every day. If I sense that either one of my kids would like to talk or has something they would like to share, of course I turn the CDs off at once.

But if you think about it, every time you ride in the car you are probably listening to some sort of background noise already, usually the radio. So instead of listening to Radio Disney, why not immerse your children in history, language and meaningful ideas instead?

Some of our favorite CDs:

First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind

The Story of the World Volume 1

The Story of the World Volume 2

The Story of the World Volume 3

Beethoven Lives Upstairs

Mr. Bach Comes to Call

Mozart’s Magic Fantasy Greek Myths

Sherlock Holmes for Children

Abraham Lincoln and the Heart of America

Fairytale Favorites in Story and Song

Picasso, That’s Who!

Greek Myths

Speak Spanish with Dora & Diego! Vamonos! Let’s Go!

Kindermusik CDs

Yellow is the Sun

No written reviews yet but also great:

Too Much Fun with Toilet Paper

Too much fun with TP

Too much fun with TP

Here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column in The Herald this week.

Can you relate to my angst?  I just want a normal bathroom!!!

Backyard Book-Fort Book


Making homemade books is a free and easy way to bring high-interest reading material into your home.  For a young child, reading a book about her own life is about as engaging as you can get. 

(To learn more about homemade books click on the why and how-to.)

Here’s our latest homemade book for Jenna(3.5) about the fun we had this week with our backyard book-fort.


Jenna’s Tent


Jenna read books in her tent.


Marie-Grace read books too.


This is what the roof looked like.


You had to take off your shoes.


There was a jungle of raspberries outside.


Jenna had fun!


Announcing the 2013 Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour

parentingthegiftedblogtour2013 (1)

Teaching My Baby to Read  is very excited to be participating in the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour 2013 from June 14th-21st.

This international blog tour is organized by parents who met on The Well Trained Mind Message boards.

We come from different parts of the world, different school choices, and different social and economic backgrounds, but we all have one thing in common. We know that parenting a gifted child can sometimes be as challenging as it is rewarding.

If you have ever woken up at 3 AM in the morning wondering “What am I going to do with this child?” then this blog tour is for you!

From June 14th-21st the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour will discuss some of the most pertinent issues facing gifted education today:

 On June 14th Sceleratus Classical Academy will kick off our tour with “Comparison is the Thief of Joy.”

On June 15th Only Passionate Curiosity will share “Maturity vs. Ability; It’s a Big Deal”.  Childhood Inspired will write about “Nurturing Other Aspects of Giftedness Besides Academics”.

On June 16th Teaching My Baby to Read will feature “Harry Potter, Muggles, Mudbloods, and Giftedness in Family Trees”.

On June 17th Homeschooling: or Who’s Ever Home will write about “Nurturing Musical Talent in the Gifted Child”.

On June 18th Strader Spiel  will discuss “Homeschooling a Gifted Child with Special Needs” and The Washington Collation of Gifted Education will share “I’m an Advocate and So Are You”.

On June 19th Northwoods Classical Academy will write about “The Making of a Mathlete”.

On June 20th Homeschooling Hatters will share “Just Let Him Be a Kid”, and Sceleratus Classical Academy will end our tour with a guest post titled “When a Flower Blooms”.

There is still room for more contributions, so please email teachingmybabytoread at gmail dot com if you are interested in joining the tour!

Homegrown Nanny-Cams


My “I Brake for Moms” column in The Herald this morning. Check me out on page E2, of “The Good Life” section.

Practice Phonics With Flip Books

CVC Flip Books

CVC Flip Books

When your child is in the crucial stage between knowing her sounds and being able to make the cognitive jump and start sounding out consonant vowel consonant (CVC) words, one of the easiest things you can do to help is make CVC Flip Books.

They’re free, easy, and fun.

(Okay, they’re only kind-of fun. Just be sure to keep the activity to five minutes or less.)

Here’s an example of CVC flip book I made last year, which has been one of my most popular Pinterest pins ever:

When I was a teacher, I made flip books for students all the way up to third grade. They can become increasingly more complex as you go along.

If you are working with a really young learner like Jenna, make sure to write everything in lower case letters except for B/D/P/and Q. Those letters are really confusing in lower case form.

Please Follow me on Pinterest!

Kindergarten to First Grade Summer Bridge


Summer should be fun, full of lots of free time, and enriched with the opportunity to experience boredom. But you can also use summer as a way to give your child the one-on-one targeted academic attention she might be missing out on during the regular school year.

Here is what I would do for a neurotypical 6 year old:

Morning Message

  • I sound like a broken record on this one, but writing a daily Morning Message on a little white board while your kids eat breakfast is a great way to teach phonics, reading, writing and punctuation. Use your own intuition to level this activity according to your child’s individual needs.

Homemade books

  • Go to the store and buy a whole bunch of paper and special art supplies. Put them in a big box or bag, but don’t let your child use any of it. When he is asleep, staple together a whole bunch of homemade blank books. The next day, tell him that he can each make one book every day all summer using the special art supplies.
  • The trick will be that you need to heavily facilitate the writing of the books. The child is the author and illustrator, but you are the secretary. (This is like the grown up version of the homemade books I’m making with Jenna.)
  • Make sure you are writing sentences that your child will be able to read 95% himself. At the end of the summer you should have a big box of 50 or 60 books that your child has authored, and is proud to read independentely, or to Grandma and Grandpa.

Structured Math Lessons

  • If you can afford it, I would use summer as a way to teach structured, hands-on math lessons to your child every day all summer. I think that Right Start, is a great way to go. (Oh, how I wish they were paying me money to say that!) There is a really good online placement test to help you pick out which kit to get.
  • Right Start is a bit of an investment, because you’ll need all of the math manipulatives, but you can use those tools later on to help your child understand their public school homework all the way up to at least fourth grade. Right Start would be a substantial improvement than any regular “workbook” you could buy at Costco.

Computer Time

  • I can’t say it enough, but those darn Reader Rabbit programs really helped Bruce learn math. I like them a lot better than the Jump Start series. For entering first graders, I’d recommend “Reader Rabbit 2nd grade math”, which has a good range on it, even though it has 2nd grade in the title.
  • It would also be worth checking out, at least for the first 2 week free trial, Dreambox math. Bruce has really enjoyed Dreambox in the past.
  • There’s also Houghton Mifflin’s free online Eduplace math games.
  • Here’s an extra sneaky trick we use in our house. Bruce has to do 2 pages of math to earn screen time. Then the computer things he plays are all educational. What a racket!

TV Time

  • Television? Yes, because you’ve got to be able to make dinner sometime! If you haven’t already seen it, set your DVR to tape PBS’s The Electric Company. It’s a big step up from “Super Why” in terms of plot line, but still teaches a ton of phonics. It really helped solidify Bruce’s reading skills when he was four and five.
  • If you still sense a weakness in your child’s phonics skills, check out “Leap Frog Talking Words Factory #2” from the library. It goes over lots of serious phonics rules in a fun way.
  • Once again, in our house Bruce has to do 2 pages of math to earn screen time! But you could modify this to 30 minutes of independent reading time, or whatever you need.

DEAR Time (Drop Everything And Read)

  • Studies have shown that the more words on a page your child is exposed to and tries to read himself, the better his reading level abilities will be. High word count and practice is a better predictor of reading success than even teaching phonics or reading aloud to a child. So if you have an emergent or reluctant reader, it’s imperative that your make sure your child does Independent Reading every day, even if you have to resort to bribery!
  • Set up a cozy reading corner somewhere in your house, and stock it with a box of books you know are at an easy reading level for your child. You could even let your child munch on crackers or something, while she reads. Set the timer at 10 minutes, and slowly build up to 30 minutes by the end of summer.

Read Aloud

  • If I could recommend just one read aloud book for the summer before first grade, I’d suggest reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods. You could read it together at bedtime, or check out the audio book on CD and take it with you to listen to in the car on your next camping trip. I’d choose this book for so many reasons, but mainly because it’s an American classic, and also because I think boys especially should be hooked on to this series before they think it’s too “girly” and refuse to read it.

Those are all of my main ideas, but I’m sure there are lots of other good ones out there. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below, and to forward along the link to this page to anyone you think might be interested. Have a fun summer!

A Parade of Old Favorites

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time…

In the upcoming weeks I’ll be fixing links and freshening things up on my new blog one post at a time. Right now embedded links are still taking readers back to Blog.com, which may or may not be working (depending on the weather).

This will mean less new content for a while. But hopefully I’ll start remembering things I used to do.

If I could do half the things with my kids that I’ve already forgotten, then they’d be ready for college right now!


How to move from Blog.com to WordPress

Take THAT Blog.com!

Take THAT Blog.com!

I’m not an expert, just a horribly dissatisfied Blog.com customer. If you are in that situation too, this post is for you.

In the past 24 hours I’ve moved Teaching My Baby to Read from Blog.com to WordPress and all of my contact is intact.

This is what I did:

1) I opened up a WordPress.com account. (I think this was $99 for the year.)
2) I waited for Blog.com to be working. (Good luck with this step.)
3) In the Dashboard of my Blog.com blog, I clicked on “Tools”. Then I clicked on “Export”.
4) I saved my entire blog as an “XML” file onto the hard drive of my computer.
5) In the Dashboard of my new WordPress blog, I clicked on “Tools”. Then I clicked on “Inport”.
6) I imported the XML file of my old blog into my new one.
7) Ten minutes later, everything was transferred.

I still have a tremendous amount of work to do to update links, Pinterest etc, but it could be worse. At least I have all of my content.


This site is the new home of Teaching My Baby to Read.

For the past two years I’ve been blogging at http://teachingmybabytoread.blog.com, but for the past week my blog has been down. Spotty service from blog.com has prompted this change.

Please be patient with me as I transfer files, spruce things up, and figure out how to use Word Press.

Check back soon!

Explaining TB to Kids

My eight-year-old and I have just read a fascinating book called Invincible Microbe, Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure.  It’s by Jim Murphy and Alison Blank.

This book covers a lot of ground: science, history, racial tension, class strife, and horror. There is a lot of sadness, but not in a way that is too dark for elementary school.

 I had no idea somebody could make pathology so entertaining!

Paleo Mother’s Day Cookies

Paleo Lemon Bars

Paleo Lemon Bars

It’s been a while since my three-year-old and I made a homemade book together.  I need to change that because homemade books are awesome.  (For more on the how and why, click here.)

So here’s two learning opportunities in one.  We worked on basic math skills like counting, adding, and fractions by making lavender lemon bars yesterday, and today Jenna can read all about it.

Jenna Made Lemon Bars

Jenna added almond flour.

 Jenna added salt.

Jenna added lavender flowers.

Jenna patted the crust.

Jenna counted three eggs.

Jenna squeezed the lemons.

Mommy poured the filling!

(BTW, a similar recipe can be found right here.  Just add 1 T of lavendar flowers to the crust.)

MSP Results Don’t Tell You Everything


My “I Brake for Moms” column in The Good Life Section of The Everett Daily Herald this morning.

P.S. The library call number for A Dream So Big is: 266.0237 PEIFER,  the authors are: Steve Peifer and Gregg Lewis, and my full review of this book is here.