Friday, October 29, 2010

Free Stuff, Friends.

So, I really, really like winning giveaways. In fact, I won a giveaway this week. It was from Living Montessori Now and I won 3 kits of Montessori reading materials. I know, you're jealous!! It pretty much made my whole week (and let me tell you, it was a tough week!) I really can't wait to dive into the materials and share with you all that I am learning. If you want general information on incorporating Montessori activities into your play/learning time, check out Living Montessori Now. You'll find lots of great activities and tips.
Today I was gearing up for my normal Friday blog hops. I "meet" so many great people this way. While stopping by one of my favorite blog hops, Smart and Trendy Moms, I noticed they already had info about their Christmas giveaways. It looks like they are going to have some good ones. If you go there now, you can get bonus entries for every giveaway that is coming up which will totally increase your chances of winning. Here's a link:

Smart and Trendy Moms

If you are stopping by my blog for the first time, I'm not always this random. Have a look around and if you like what you see, stay and follow! Just leave me a comment so I can come follow you back! Welcome to Ready. Set. Read!

Smart and Trendy Moms

Thursday, October 28, 2010

5 Little Pumpkins Finger puppets

Logan loves puppets. When I pick him up from his class at church he is often playing with the puppet box. He told me, "You need make me some puppets." After reminding him to say, "please." I agreed!
I loved these finger puppets I saw at Pink and Green Mama.  We are reading the poem, "5 Little Pumpkins" this week. So I knew I wanted to make pumpkin puppets.
I also loved this 5 little pumpkins craft I saw at Adventures-in-Mommyland and JDaniel4s Mom.
I figured I could combine the 2 crafts to make just what I needed. So here are our 5 little pumpkins sitting on a gate finger puppets. The pumpkins are made out of egg cartons. They are sitting on 5 toilet paper tubes. The tubes are strung together on a dowel rod to make a "gate". He can either play with them all together or take them off and have separate pumpkin puppets.

Here's how we did it:
1. Cut an egg carton apart so that you have 5 separate cups.
2. punch a tiny hole in the top and bottom of the egg carton cup.
3. Paint the egg carton cups orange.
4. While the paint is drying, glue white paper around the toilet paper tubes.
5. Punch a regular sized hole in two sides of the tube, making it possible to string the dowel rod through.
6. When the orange paint on the egg cups dries, draw a face on it. (We just used googly eyes because I saw them in the craft box but they'd probably look more like pumpkins if you just drew a face on them.)
7. String a green pipe cleaner through the back of it the egg cup
7. Tape the pipe cleaner to the inside of the toilet paper tube. The pipe cleaner is what will hold your egg cup to the the toilet paper tube.
We put the pumpkins on to the rod one at a time as we said the first part of the poem. Then we took them off so they could "roll out of sight."
I loved hearing Logan play with them later. He would make them say, "You scared?" "No I not scared. I have fun." And then he'd roll them away.
I'm thinking you could make some interesting bobble-head dolls this way, too!
I'm linking this up to...

Shibley Smiles

abc button

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Now I know my ABCs????

We've been talking the past few weeks about decoding report card talk, or what to do when you enter a parent/teacher conference and find that your child is not mastering a particular standard. Today I want to take a look at the standard of letter recognition. I want to stress that today's post are ideas that I have from working with first grade students who did not have mastery of letter recognition. I would not necessarily teach it in this manner to my son, who is only 2. I would use some varied approached to get the letters known with him and I would take it at much more relaxed pace.

Know the term: Letter recognition simply means to know the entire set of letters my name, sound or word.

Understand the Problem: You might want to ask the classroom teacher for specifics. Does your child not know anything about the letter? or does he know all the letter names but doesn't know the corresponding phonetic sound? etc.  Different approaches to teaching reading, will instruct students to learn letters in different ways. When working with struggling readers, it is best to just worry about getting the letters known.
Get it known by name, sound, or by word. Marie Clay says, "Beginning readers making good progress use any of these ways of identifying letters. It seems to be useful to have more than one way of labelling a letter."
You might also want to consider which letters are confusing your child. For instance, if your child has a b/d confusion, don't give him a worksheet of bs and ds. Introduce the b one day and the d another day. Don't work on distinguishing them from one another until you are sure the letter is known!
"There is quite a science to learning letters but don't let that worry you. Just have fun exploring and talking about how letters work with your child." Richard Gentry in Raising Confident Readers

Search for a Solution:
There are many, many ways to practice letter recognition. Here are just a few:

  • Texture letters (Cut letters out of sandpaper, carpet samples, fabric, let your child trace the letters)
  • Model writing the letters and talk about movement. This post tells you multiple surfaces for practicing letter formation
  • Make your own Alphabet book-- Put twenty six 3X5 index cards on a ring. Add letters to the book as they become known to the child. Let your child choose a picture to correspond with the letter. These homemade books are so much better than professionally produced ABC books, especially when your child chooses which picture to include. You can even get FREE stickers here. Print them onto mailing labels and then your child can just choose one and stick it in the book!
  • Published alphabet books - find one on a topic your child enjoys. For instance, tryThe Dinosaur Alphabet Book (Jerry Pallotta's Alphabet Books) for dinosaur lovers.
  • Try these activities with magnetic letters
  • Practice the letter in the context of writing. Try having a practice page near where your child writes. When your child is writing, have him practice the formation of one new letter. Have him do it until he can do it quickly. (This is similar to finding the letter in a book while reading, but it slows the brain down a little bit and lets it think about the letter)
  • Play with Alphabet puzzles
  • Make a ruler sized alphabet strip to post on your child's workspace so he can reference a visual form of the letter when writing.
  • Make letters out of playdough or cookie dough and bake.
  • Glue items into the shape of the letter. (For example, write a letter B in glue. Have your child glue beads to the letter.)
  • Letter squirt. A few weeks ago I posted about our color squirt activity. Try the same activity with letters!
"You need to respect the learner's pace of learning but you need to get the entire set of letters known as soon as this can happen. That will make the child's decisions about words easier." Marie Clay

Literacy Lessons: Designed for Individuals, Part Two: Teaching Procedures
Raising Confident Readers: How to Teach Your Child to Read and Write--from Baby to Age 7

Great website for Teaching the Alphabet

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cheerio! It's Halloween!

This week we've been playing with this Cheerios Halloween Play Book.
The Cheerios Halloween Play Book (Cheerios Board Book)
I actually found it while cleaning my basement. I have no idea where it came from but I would highly recommend it for a toddler/preschooler activity. The Cheerios Halloween Play Book is a board book with recessed spots for missing cheerios. For example, the costumed children dressed as a lion and a mouse need buttons(Cheerios) on their costumes. This actually took quite a bit of fine motor concentration for Logan to get the Cheerios into the correct spot. My favorite page is the grid page. On this page, there is a pattern on the grid (pumpkin, Cheerio, pumpkin Cheerio). Some of the cheerios are missing. Logan doesn't generally understand patterning yet, but I found that by just having to fill in the pattern (and having the scaffold of the recessed spot for a cheerio), he was very successful and pleased with himself. This is a great quiet activity. A great take in the car or take to the doctor appointment activity. And a great "Your brother is asleep, could you keep it down?" activity.
Since Halloween is this Sunday, you might not have time to acquire a copy for yourself. But never fear, they have a Christmas version as well!! I don't have this book, so I can't recommend it. But I think we'll be getting it.The Cheerios Christmas Play Book
I'm linking up this book review to We Play at Childhood 101.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What My Baby is Reading: 9 months old

If you haven't begun a daily read aloud routine with your baby, I think 9 months is a great time to start. Generally, the baby is on a fairly regular schedule by that age. The family is back on a routine or schedule. And the baby is so eager to interact with you, that reading time will feel very rewarding to a parent. This week I wanted to share some of the books that I am reading with Tyson, my 9 month old.

Wheels on the Bus (Raffi Songs to Read)The Wheels on the Bus (Raffi Songs to Read) Illustrated by Sylvie Kantorovitz Wickstrom
Tyson (9 months)  and Logan (2 years) love this book. Tyson loves when I sing to him and he loves the actions of making his arms go round and round, with help. Both boys love when the babies say, "waa, waa, waa." I think Tyson may even be tentively trying out the word baby as he always babbles, "ba-ba-ba." on that verse (or he is just babbling and that's ok too.) And he babbles, "ma-ma" when the mommies on the bus say "shh, shh, shh." The text actually says "parents" but I always forget and say "mommies". If you don't have this book, you can always just sing the song to your baby as it is familiar. But we really love this particular version because of the wonderful illustrations. They are humorous and detailed enough that you can have a conversation with your older child, yet your baby can still take in the illustrations without the page being overly busy.

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? [POLAR BEAR POLAR BEAR WH-BOARD]Polar Bear, Polar Bear What do you Hear? by Bill Martin Jr. This book is similar to the classic "Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do you See?" except it focuses on animal sounds.. What I like about this book is that it discusses a variety of animal sounds including some that would not be found in a typical book on animal sounds (such as zebras, peacocks, and walruses). We have the board book version and so Tyson is working on learning to turn the pages in the book. He also likes to bat at the animals and sometimes even points to them.

Moo Baa La La LaMoo, Baa, La, la, la by Sandra Boynton is another book that is good for sharing with children of multiple ages. Logan finds the three singing pigs say, "la, la, la." funny still. And Tyson likes to look at the cartoon animals. It is another fun book for teaching animal sounds and pointing. Do you notice a theme here?

The Great Big Word Book Fisher-Price Little People Books by Margaret A. Hartelius
Since Tyson has decided he loves to point, I decided a word book was in order. Generally, I like to stick with books that have very clear illustrations for babies (like the Bill Martin animal books that only have one large animal per page). But by 9 months, a babies visual perception is probably good enough to start introducing word books. I love this book because it involves every day people (mommy, daddy, boy, baby, etc.) and every day places (home, school, grocery store, playground). Again, this is a good book for reading to children of a variety of ages.Tyson loves to bat at the pictures and point.  Logan loves to make up a story about the pictures.. An older child who was a beginning reader could try to read the labels on the pages for sight word practice.
Even with a young baby, you can begin making connections in text by showing the baby a page with the playground and saying, "remember when we went to the playground? Remember when you went down the slide? whoosh. That was fun!"

I'm linking this up to What My Child is Reading at Mouse Learns, Mouse Grows. Check it out to see book suggestions for all ages.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Felt Board Bats

Bats are a great Halloween craft idea for kids. Books about bats are also highly engaging for the preschool crew. My two year old, Logan, is going to be Batman for Halloween. His costume is almost finished and he is so so so so cute! I would probably let him wear it everyday if he asked. Luckily, he hasn't asked.
Of course, we had to read some bat themed books to gear up for the big day.
halloween activities for kids, preschool halloween crafts, halloween games, halloween craft activities, ready set read, book activities, crafts for kids, halloween books for kids, halloween

5 Little Bats Flying in the Night by Steve Metzger is based on the poem, 5 little monkeys. See my full review of this book here.
I created a roll up felt board several months ago. I placed 5 bats on the felt board at the beginning of the book. The story is a counting backwards story. Each verse we would remove one bat and count how many bats were remanining. Of course, Logan is only 2 so much help was required.
Interesting though, although many 2 year olds can rote count fairly high, I recently read  that most preschoolers can only count and match one to one up to their age. So a 2 year old can probably consistently count two items, a three year old would consistently count 3 items, and then at age 4 or age 5 the idea of one to one counting really kicks in and children can count and match higher numbers. (This came from a handout that my Parents as Teachers educator gave to me.)

We are going to do a similar activity next week with 5 little pumpkins sitting on a gate and introducing concept words (first, second, third, fourth, fifth).  JDaniel4s mom has a cute Five Little Pumpkins post. This was part of her Read. Explore. Learn. meme that she hosts each Friday. This Friday I am linking up for the first time. I'm also linking up our felt board play to We play at Childhood 101. Both of these are great sites so go check them out!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Success with Sight Words (Decoding Report Card Talk)

Reading Test for Parents. Read each word.
  • gave
  • save
  • cave
  • have
Because you are a proficient reader, you probably didn't stumble through that list, but perhaps you paused before reading the last word, have.  That is because that word doesn't follow the normal phonetic pattern of the preceeding words.  There are some words that will not be efficient for a child to "sound it out". Those words will be learned best through sight.

Know the term: Sight words are words that are either nonphonetic (like the example above), high-interest (mom, dad, and favorite Toy Story character's name), or frequently occuring.

Understand the Problem: If your child is having difficulty with sight words, meet with the child's teacher. If you are already practicing the words at home every night, let the teacher know that. It's similar to a doctor appointment. If we tell the doctor we are exercising and eating healthy and we're not, it doesn't help him diagnose the problem. However, if we are exercising and eating healthy, and we still have high cholesterol, the doctor needs to know this information. The same holds true for parent teacher conferences. Don't lie about your practice, but if you are practicing sight words at home, the teacher needs this information. This doesn't mean your child has a learning disability!! It just means there may be something confusing for your child. Perhaps he doesn't understand directionality in words and he doesn't know where to begin looking.
If  you are just stuck in a rut or need ideas for practicing sight words at home, I've gathered a few for you.

Search for a Solution
1.  Practice sight words while reading books. Did you know that studies have found that students who are the struggling with reading the most tend to spend the LEAST amount of time in class participating in actual reading? I found this article on homework but Drs. Brannigan and Margolis cite some great supporting research for using continous text to practice sight words. (By the way, their blog ( is awesome for parents, especially parents whose children may be struggling readers or struggling in general with school.) You can print FREE books to practice sight words here: Hubbardscupboard

2. Practice sight words while singing.
Excuse Me, Mrs. C is a blog written by a K teacher. She posted this idea to create a picture of a bus. One by one place a sight word on the bus and sing: (To the Tune of The Wheels on the Bus)
The word on the bus is the, the, the
the, the, the
the, the, the
The word on the bus is the, the, the,
all through the town.

See if you can fit the spellings of sight words into common tunes your child knows. For instance, To the tune of B-i-n-g-o:

and that's how we spell could.

3.  Practice sight words while playing games. Here is an example of a sight word game from The Activity Mom. Write the sight words on popsicle sticks. Draw a stick and read a word. I thought it was good that she didn't make it into a competitive game, either. Go here to read all about her game. (By the way, you can buy premade games with sight words. I recently saw one for about $15. But just think, this will only cost you a few dollars for the sticks and you can personalize them. She even included names of characters from Toy Story 3!)
You can also play sight word bingo, sight word concentration, sight word go fish, etc.

4.  Practice Sight words in writing. Give your child lots of opportunities to write. When they get to a sight word, practice it on a dry erase board before putting it into the writing. Have your child practice copying the word first, then write it alone. Have them write it quickly.

4. Celebrate your child's successes. Write words that are known on index cards, punch a hole, and place on a ring clip. Your child will love watching the pile of known words grow larger. You can take it with you in the car for sight word practice on the go. (Have your child try to read the whole pile. Try to read it faster. Try to read it with a funny accent. Try it with a high/low voice). Repeated practice will help.

Recommended Resources:
Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction, 4th Edition (Book, CD & DVD)Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction.

Success With Sight Words: Multisensory Ways to Teach High-Frequency WordsSuccess with Sight Words: Multisensory Ways to Teach High Frequency Words

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Fall Tree Craft

Logan made this in his Wed. morning class. I thought it was too cute not to share. What an easy way to make a fall tree!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Spooky Stories for Halloween

As Halloween comes close,the books I am reading with my preschool boys aren't scary, but maybe spooky and definitely funny. We love reading Halloween picture books and I hope to grow my collection of Halloween books over the next few years. Many of these books also include basic preschool themes like counting, so they are a great way to sneak in a little seasonal learning.

Five Little Bats Flying in the Night by Steve Metzger This book is based on the 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed rhyme. Logan already does that rhyme with his older boy cousins and grandparents and they substitute their own names into the rhyme. I thought he would like a book that substitutes bats for the monkeys. Instead, he was quite upset the first time because he thought I was reading the story wrong. Eventually has has come around and has even enjoyed doing a felt board activity with this book.

Five Spooky Ghosts Playing Tricks at School by Steve Metzger This Metzger book follows a similar pattern. In this story, the ghosts are causing trouble at school. In each refrain the teacher calls a mommy, daddy, grandma, etc. Logan didn't quite understand the book. It's probably best for kids who are already in school. Some of the concepts were too school specific for him. Although, I think he'll like it more as we read it.

halloween activities for kids, Six Creepy Sheep, halloween crafts for kids, preschool halloween crafts, ready set read, picture booksSix Creepy Sheep by Judith Ross Enderle Another Halloween counting book! In this story, 6 sheep start off on Halloween night. They encounter creepy things (like pirates, fairies, hobos, goblins, and witches). One by one they run off. In the end, they come to a Halloween party. They find all of the creepy things at the Halloween party. If your child scares easily, I would recommend starting with the end and showing them that all of the scary things in the story are just animals dressed up for a Halloween party. (It's pretty clear in most of the pictures that they are wearing costumes)

The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything by Linda D. Williams In this book, children repeat the sounds that a little old lady hears in the woods. The suspense in this book builds, but the ending is funny rather than scary!

There was an Old Lady who Swallowed Some Leaves by Lucille Colandro This is a fun story based on the traditional "I know an Old lady who Swallowed a Fly". There are a ton of these seasonal spin offs and in each one, the old lady swallows a bunch of crazy stuff and then pukes it up (scary, right?). Then, the objects always merge together to form some crazy holiday appropriate masterpiece. They are pretty predictable pieces of literature, but kids love them.

Where's my Mummy? Look at that adorable mummy on the cover of this book! The text is equally as sweet. In this story, a little mummy plays a game of hide and shriek before bed. Not much scares a mummy, but when a tiny creature ends up scaring him, his mummy is right there to comfort him. 

Also, if you want some spooky stories which are age specific as well as grouped according to very mild, slightly spooky, and spookier still, then check out this great post I found at Good Books for Kids
Do you have any spooky stories to share this week?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Oh Baby, It's Friday!!!

Look how big my baby boy is getting!!

Welcome new friends,
This is my mommy's blog. She really, really, really likes books. She loves to read to my older brother (2) and me. She's always cartin' us around to different places to experience what we read about. She does all these art projects with the brother. She used to be a reading specialist but now she stays home with us and  sings all these silly songs to us and recites poems... and then she blogs about it all right here. So, stick around. Say hello to my mommy and she'll come say hello to you!
Ps. Become a follower, and you'll be able to see more cute pictures of ME!

Smart and Trendy Moms

My Wee View

Enjoy your weekend!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Decoding Report Card Talk

Last week, I mentioned the standards based report cards that are replacing the more traditional letter grade report cards in schools in my area. This week, I want to dig into a standard that you might find on a kindergarten or first grade communication arts report card. I looked over several report cards from schools in my area. Most of the report cards included a score for the standard "Demonstrates understanding of concepts about print." Are you thinking that you can't demonstrate that understanding? Cause what the heck are they talking about? Well, let's unpack this report card talk.

Know the term: Concepts about Print commonly refers to an understanding of how print in a book works. This might include direction in books (where to begin reading, which way to go) directions in words (letters make up words, letters have to go in a particular order), word by word matching, understanding that the print carries the message in the book (and not the picture), and knowledge of text features (periods, question marks, quotation marks, or speech bubbles). (FromAn Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement)

Understand the problem: There is a lot packed into that one little standard, eh? I wanted to start with concepts of print because I feel many early readers have a problem with this concept which spills over into all other parts of their report cards. Is your child having problems with sight words? Maybe his real problem is not knowing how to look at the word. Is your child having trouble reading a page fluently? Maybe he is looking at the page in an inefficient way. Is your child having difficulty learning his letters? Maybe he doesn't know that letters must maintain one directional pattern. According to Marie Clay, most of the things a child has encountered in his life thus far can be viewed from any direction. For example, turn a block over and it's still a block. However, with letters, if you turn a b around, it's a d. Turn it upside down, it's a p, and so forth. This can cause a lot of confusion for young children and we need to be aware! (Becoming Literate: The Construction of Inner Control)

Search for a solution:
At your next opportunity, ask your child's teacher to give you some specific information on which part of print concepts your child doesn't understand. Then, check out these skill specific ideas.

1. Matching spoken word to written word (1:1 correspondence)
  • Grid games. Here are some free and fun grid games.
  • Read books with patterned predictable text. These are books that aren't based on words you can sound out but rather follow a predictable pattern that is repeated. (ie. Mom is cooking. Mom is running. Mom is sleeping.) Model pointing word by word. If your child isn't resistant to this, hold your child's hand as he points. (It's amazing that kids will let their teachers do this with them but don't want their parents help in pointing!!)
2. Understanding book handling (Where to begin reading, which way to go,  understanding that the text carries the meaning). 
  • Read to your child everyday. Play games with books. Be silly and act like you don't know how to handle to book. Ask your child, "Do I start reading here?" as you turn from the back of the book.As you are reading books or are just out and about, have your child look for words and letters. Even if they don't have many known words, you can still help the understand the concept of a word. As you are reading say, "Can you put your fingers around just one word like this?" Use your index fingers to model finding a word. See who can do it the fastest, etc. Make it fun! Check out more ideas for read alouds in Mem Fox's Reading Magic
  • Read books with patterned predictible text. "As they hear and participate in the reading of the simple stories found in predictable and patterned books, children become familiar with how print looks on a page. They develop book awareness and book-handling skills, and begin to become aware of print features such as capital letters, punctuation marks, word boundaries, and differences in word lengths." (From Reading Rockets Website)
  • Model writing with your child. (Reading and writing are reciprocal which means that which can be done in reading can be done in writing and vice versa.) Write a thank you note to Grandma. As you are writing, narrate the writing process. "I'm starting my writing at the top of the paper. Oops! I ran out of room to write. Where do I go next." Share the pen with your child and have him include what he can write. (Even if it is just the first letter of his name!) This is also a good place to model text elements such as periods and question marks.
3. Understanding direction in words (words are made up of letters, letters have to go in a particular order to form a word.)
  • Build words with magnetic letters. Give your child one letter at a time and have him build known words from left to right.
  • Use your child's name  to point out first letter in a word, last letter, etc. If you haven't already, plaster his name everywhere! (I recently made place mats for Logan with his name on them. I've seen other bloggers who do simple things like writing your child's name on a plastic plate or cup).
4. Understanding the difference between a letter and a word.
  • Have your child compose a short story. (Start with one sentence) Write the story on a long strip of paper. Cut the story apart between the words. Have your child reassemble the story.
  • Point out known letters or have your child go on a scavenger hunt to find one known letter. Use the term letter repeatedly.
  • Point out words in the environment. Say, "This cereal has a word on it. It tells us what kind of cereal it is."
FREE online activities for developing concepts of print.
After I typed this post, I found these free activity cards here. The whole first section relates to concepts of print. They are broken into beginning, making progress, and ready to read.
** Teachers, how awesome will you be at your next conference if you print these out and pass them out to parents for skill specific practice.**

These are just a few ideas to get you started. As new posts come up that relate to this topic, I'll list them here.
Let me know if you have any specific concerns regarding print concepts and I'll try to address that (or even read up on it because it's a good way to keep me brushed up on my knowledge). Also, please share any ideas that have helped your child master concepts of print.
Next week, I'll be looking at mastering sight words. (Something that many of my friends have asked me about.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Color Squirt

I loosely follow the Hubbard's Cupboard 2s curriculum with Logan. This month we are doing fall activities. One of the suggestions was to create leaves of different colors, place them on the floor, throw a beanbag and name the color of the leaf. Logan had no real interest in this game. I played for about 5 minutes just trying to model how much fun it could be. After no more than 5 minutes I, too, quit. (I mean, I DO know my colors...)
Then I saw this post and had an "a-ha moment". The next day we were outside and I grabbed the chalk and  drew leaves of different colors. Then I would say a color and Logan would spray water on the colored leaf.
He loves the spray bottle. He usually uses it to clean supersoak the house.
It's amazing how a new activity can become engaging when we begin with a prior activity that interests the child.  Now, if only I can remember to do that every time we play!!
I'm linking up to Childhood 101

We Play

And On Friday I'll link this up to Play Academy at Nurturestore

play academy

Visit for more play based fun and learning!