Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: September 2014

“Survival Colony 9” Makes Boys Want to Read

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In a post-apocalyptic world turned to dust, Querry Genn’s amnesia is either his greatest strength–or his downfall–depending on whom you ask. That’s the premise between Joshua David Bellin’s brilliant debut novel, Survival Colony 9. I was so excited to read this book that I preordered it from Amazon.

Survival Colony 9 was everything I hoped it would be. Scary, suspenseful and also thought provoking. Even better, it’s “clean” enough for my nine-year-old to read, so he’s pretty stoked.

The descriptive passages in this book were especially well written. I kept picturing the movie “Empire of the Sun” in all its ghastly glory. If Survival Colony 9 ever becomes a movie, John Malkovich should definitely play Querry’s father.

Some of you may recognize Bellin from my blogroll. He’s the creator of YA Guy, a blog that strives to highlight books that would interest teen boys as well as teen girls. As a teacher, reader and parent, I appreciate that mission!

Falling in love with picture books, all over again

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The most gorgeous book arrived in the mail today called Noah: A Wordless Picture Book. Beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe it. The artist,  Mark Ludy, raised a $36,000 Kickstarter campaign to get this book published. That shows you: 1) how darn expensive it is to publish a book these days, and 2) how much people believe in Ludy’s tallent.

What makes Noah different from the other Noah’s Ark books out there are the illustrations. Ludy’s work is on par with Graeme Base of Animalia, or James Gurney of Dinotopia. It is very imaginative. Koalas, polar bears and giraffes are all together on one page. Plus, Ludy digs deep into Noah’s relationship with his wife, which I thought was an interesting angle for the story.

Noah: A Wordless Picture Book is just what it says–a book without words–which will delight emergent readers, as well as parents with sore throats from reading so many books out loud. True picture books are hard to come across in bookstores. Whenever I see one I snap it up.

If you click over to Mark Ludy’s website you can see some of his artwork from the book. I dare you not to be impressed!

P.S. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

Afterschooling at the beach

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Half-day Kindergarten is only 2 hours and 40 minutes in Washington State. So every day after Kindergarten my daughter and I do “Mom School”. (Check out my full plan here.) On Tuesday we took Mom School to the beach.

What flotsam completes the square?

What flotsam completes the square?

 

Digraph practice. In retrospect we should have made "sh" for shells.

In retrospect we should have made “sh” for shells.

 

Reading practice. So much more fun in sand!

Reading practice. So much more fun in sand!

 

One of the great things about sand is that it works on fine motor skills as well as gross muscle work. So even though my daughter wasn’t doing handwriting worksheets, she was still learning. Plus, practicing your a-b-c’s in sand is a whole lot more fun!

 

The Berenstain Bears Blessed are the Peacemakers

The Berenstain Bears Blessed are the Peacemakers by Mike Berenstain is a mash-up of Brother and Sister Bear, Romeo and Juliet and the Beatitudes. The story hangs together okay, but not in a very engaging way.

I was pretty disappointed by how the whole peacemaking thing was handled. This was such a rich opportunity to offer children real problem solving skills they could use on the playground. Instead, they were offered an example of Cousin Fred jumping into the middle of a fight and quoting a Bible verse. That’s not how things usually go down at recess.

Also, I’m not entirely sure I agree that the meaning of “reap a harvest of righteousness” is “get a rich reward”. I think I would probably explain it as growing and gathering good things in our community.

In fairness to the book, there were some thought provoking questions at the end in “Activities and Questions from Brother and Sister Bear”. Hopefully parents and kids discuss these questions at length.

P.S. I received a free copy of this book from BookLook in exchange for my honest opinions and review.

I review for BookSneeze®

“Wheels of Change” by Darlene Beck Jacobson

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I am so excited to introduce you to Darlene Beck Jacobson’s new middle grade book Wheels of Change. Some of you might recognize Darlene as the author of the popular blog Gold From the Dust: Bringing Stories to Life.

Wheels of Change tells the story of sixth grade Emily Soper who lives in Washington D.C. at the turn of the century. For a twelve-year-old, Emily faces some pretty heavy stuff. Her favorite teacher is a suffragist, her frenemy’s mom is racist and Emily herself is embroiled in a daily battle with her mother over “acting like a proper young lady”.

I especially loved how relatable Emily is. She’s passionate about fighting for justice, but not in a stuffy way. You better be careful around this girl and a teapot!

The historical tidbits peppered into the story were fun too. In one instance, Emily’s mother is delighted to discover Corn Flakes because it means she doesn’t have to fire up the stove for breakfast.

Boys and girls alike will relate to this coming of age story set against the last days of Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. They might actually learn something along the way–without even knowing it. That’s the best type of historical fiction as far as I’m concerned.

Interested in finding out more? Check out the trailer:

 

Putting the sense in Number Sense

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The best teaching happens when you make a lesson visual, spatial and auditory. That’s why I love teaching kids number sense with a math balance.

Utilizing a math balance in a whole-class setting of twenty-seven kids would be tricky, but at home with one child it’s easy. The  balance we own came from Right Start and costs $25.

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5 does not equal 8. It’s so easy to see.

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Just like it’s easy to figure out that there are many number combinations that equal 5.

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In fact, we spent a full ten minutes just figuring out the number 5!

In pedagogy, we call this “Constructivism”.  It means learning a new concept through your own experimentation and discovery. Giving children the full Constructivist experience isn’t always possible, but a math balance makes it a lot easier.

For more posts about our math balance please click here and here.

Better Handwriting Paper

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I love-love-LOVE this new handwriting paper I’m trying out with my five-year-old daughter Jenna. It’s called Smart Start K-1 Story Paper and I bought it from Amazon.

What makes this paper genius is the colored lines. The blue line at the top is the sky, the green line on the bottom is the ground, and the dotted red line is the fence.  While your child is writing you say “Start at the Sky. Pull down to the ground. Lower case letters like the fence.”

Learning how big to make each letter is really complex. At school, teachers need to use the cheapest paper available. But at home I can afford to buy a higher quality paper to make life easier for my child. Enough practice with me in the afternoon, and Jenna will remember “Start at the Sky. Pull down to the ground. Lower case letters like the fence,” when she’s working at school.

My goal is for Jenna to work on handwriting 20 minutes a week. For more ideas for Afterschooling a half-day Kindergartener, please click here. For more ideas about handwriting, check out my Pinterst board.


Teacher Created Resources Smart Start K-1 Story Paper: 100 sheets

 

Destined for Doon

Destined for Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon is the second book I’ve read in the Doon series. (See my previous review here.) Both books are YA meets Brigadoon the musical. Two modern girls from Indiana, Veronica and Mackenna, are magically transported to the world of Doon where dancing, fashion, evil curses and two Scottish princes await. In this second installment Mackenna is brought back to Doon to assist Veronica in defeating a zombie fugus that is invading the land.

A real positive of the series is that both Veronica and Mackenna are intelligent, take-charge young women attempting to make good decisions for their lives. Veronica is more studious, but Mackenna is career driven. The story alternates chapters from each protagonists’ viewpoint.

I especially loved the line from page 220 “In the meantime, do what you can, and when you canna do any more, pause to honor the people in your life that make it worth living.” What a beautiful sentiment to share with young readers.

Not being a teen girl myself, a question I have is whether or not a fifteen-year-old would pick up all of the Broadway references that are packed into the Mackenna chapters. Almost every other thought she has is a clever allusion to “Tell Me on a Sunday”, “The Chorus Line” or “Les Miserables”. One of the funniest sections was a mash-up of the beginning of “Into the Woods”. If you’ve seen “Into the Woods” this is hilarious, but otherwise you might be confused.

Still, Destined for Doon  was smart, fun and engaging.  This book is definitely a keeper for when my daughter grows up. Thank you BookLook for providing me with a free copy in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

I review for BookSneeze®