Friday, December 12, 2008

Visiting Jekyll Island with Kids

For Thanksgiving we visited Jekyll Island in Georgia as we have every year for the many years. I thought I would post a slideshow here to share with family and friends as well as for those considering visiting Jekyll with kids. Jekyll is such a fun place to visit! Some of our favorite things to do are walk on the "driftwood" beach, take long walks around the island, drive around the island at night to see all the critters (deer, possum, raccoons, owls, armadillos), visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, eat at the Hotel, letterboxing, play on the playground by the putt-putt course, and as of this year visiting Cumberland Island. Check out my slideshow if you are interested in visiting this unique place!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Toffee Bars

This post is completely off-topic from my blog! :) I love this recipe for toffee bars so I thought I would share for those who need a quick recipe for a cookie swap. It's one of my favorites and most requested at church over the years:

Toffee Bars
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons of vanilla
1 package of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 small package of pecans chopped (if desired)

In a mixing bowl beat the 1/2 cup butter, the sugar, and salt with an electric mixer on medium to high speed till thoroughly combined. Stir in flour. Press into the bottom of an ungreased 13X9X2 inch baking pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven about 15 minutes or till edges are lightly browned. In a heavy medium saucepan heat condensed milk and 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat till bubbly, stirring constantly. Cook and stir for 5 minutes more (Mixture will thicken and become smooth). Stir in the 2 teaspoons of vanilla. Spread over baked layer. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or till golden. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the baked layer and put in oven (can be turned off) to melt for a few minutes. Take a knife and spread the melted chocolate chips (they will still look whole until you spread with knife). I cool in the fridge before cutting. The first piece may break when removing but after that they come out beautifully. Enjoy!!!

Friday, December 5, 2008

December's Free Book Giveaway

For December's free book giveaway I have two wonderful books - "The Usborne Book of Science Activities - Volume One" and "How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World" (an ex-library book in very good condition). "How to Make an Apple Pie" is a Five in a Row Book, Volume 1 and has a unit posted here - I found myself with two copies of these and thought they would make perfect giveaways. To enter the giveaway leave a comment on this post. Please leave some way of me contacting you back - be it your blog, website, or email address. The drawing will held on December 31st.

Monday, December 1, 2008

And the winners are ...

Penney Douglas won "The Gingerbread Baby" and Diana from won "The Usborne Book of Science Activities Volume Two". Congratulations ladies!!! Stay tuned for December's free book giveaway as I will be posting it in the next few days.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Letterboxing with kids - fun for the whole family!

The past two years my sons and I have done letterboxing while on Jekyll Island for Thanksgiving. The fun thing about letterboxing is that it gets your family outdoors experiencing nature while searching for a hidden letterbox.

The sport of letterboxing involves following clues to find a hidden box which generally has a special stamp. Generally the stamp has been created by the person/people who hid the box. When the box is found, the special stamp can be stamped in your journal to keep track of all the letterboxes you have found. I bought my sons a small photo album for letterboxing which we use with 4 X 6 index cards. We stamp the index card, label the stamp based on the clue title, the location, and then write the date. The box also generally has a small log in which you stamp your own special stamp and record your names. We purchased our "family stamp" from Michaels.

You can find a mulititude of letterboxing clues at for locations across the United States. This would make a great Christmas gift for families - you could make up a kit with an album/journal, a compass, and inkpads to get them started as well as some clues printed off for their area.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Developing Phonemic Awareness with Your Preschooler & Kindergartner

Have you ever wondered why nursery rhymes are an important part of "preschool learning"? One very important reason is because they promote phonemic awareness which is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words. It is an oral ability therefore does not involve looking at print. Research has clearly demonstrated that there is a significant correlation between phonemic awareness and beginning reading acquisition. Reading nursery rhymes to your child is one important way to promote phonemic awareness.

Children go through stages as their phonemic awareness develops -first becoming aware that language is made up of individual words, next that words have syllables, and last that syllables have phonemes (smallest units of sound that help distinguish one word from another - like "r" and "l" rip/lip). Reading to your child is one of the most important ways to promote phonemic awareness particularly with text like nursery rhymes and Dr. Suess books. I am going to mention a few more activities that you can do with your child to promote phonemic awareness.

1. Teach children to clap the beats of words. For example, horse is a one clap word, dinosaur is a three clap word. You can do this with names of people in the family to begin with because children have a natural interest in the names of people in their lives. Not only will this activity help promote phonemic awareness but as they become early readers/writers, it will also be useful for breaking apart words to write.

2. Begin to talk about words that begin the same sounds and then to distinguish words that have different sounds at the beginning.

3. Count words by giving your children counters (can be food like raisins or non-food like pennies) and having them putting down a counter for each word that you say. To do so, tell the children a simple sentence like "The dog went outside" then repeat the sentence slowly while the children put out a counter for each word. Next have them count to see how many words you said. Making the counters edible will make this a VERY fun activity!

4. Play a blending and segmenting game using pictures or objects in the room. First demonstrate by saying the name of a picture one sound at a time. For example, show 5 or 6 pictures of short words like (cat, pig, dog, horse, frog). Choose one of the pictures without the child knowing which one and say the sounds separately "p - i - g". Have the children say the word with the sounds together "pig" and then point to the picture. You can eventually progress to making it an "I Spy" game using objects in the room.

5. Elkonin boxes are another wonderful method of developing phonemic awareness which can also be used later in early reading/writing. To make an Elkonin box you draw a rectangle horizontally and then divide it into boxes according to how many sounds are in a word. For example, for cat you would have a rectangle divided into three. Then you have the child say the word slowly and push pennies into the boxes to represent the sounds. Make sure that the child is not breaking up the sounds when saying the word so that there are pauses or breaks between sounds. I tell the children to sing the word. Each box should represent one unit of sound not letter. So for the word ship you would have three boxes to represent the sounds- sh - i - p and for house you would have 3 boxes h-ou-s. It would be best to start out with three and four box words. Below are a 3 and 4 sound Elkonin box and sound cards you can use to get started. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Elkonin Boxes Cards

Get your own at Scribd or explore others:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Owl Babies Lapbook & Activities

We just finished a unit that I created for the boys using "Owl Babies" by Martin Waddell. You can find the unit here - . Most of the items in the lapbook are available on that website. I also scanned the picture of the giant owl from a wonderful book called "All About Owls" by Jim Arnosky. This nonfiction book was a wonderful compliment to use with "Owl Babies" which is a fiction book. I am absolutely amazed at how my owl counters came out as I am not artistic in the least. They were exceedingly easy to make and I'm sure will get plenty of use over the next few years. Making the owl picture with the pretzels for the branch was a lot of fun and I was amazed how they turned out!!! We used chex mix for the embellishments (round pretzel eyes and noses). The boys loved the lacing cards and I think it afforded them some fun fine motor practice. I think I will incorporate this in a few more future units. All in all owl babies was a hit!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

November's Free Book Giveaway

November's Free Book Giveaway will go to two recipients. The books for this month are Jan Brett's "Gingerbread Baby" and "The Usborne Book of Science Activities" Volume Two. There is a lapbook that corresponds with the Gingerbread Baby at . The drawing will held on Nov. 31st and will be promptly mailed out in time for a December gingerbread unit. To enter leave a comment on this post. :)

Preschool Sorting with Recycled Lids

When I did the Jesse Bear unit with my boys I really wanted some of those cute multicolored bears that come with little colored plates or buckets for sorting. At the time I didn't have the money so I came up with this idea instead - it's free and works just the same! My county has us throw away the lids on beverages and then recyle the actual container. When doing so, I noticed that the lids came in an array of colors so I began collecting lids from different beverages - oj, soda, grade juice, milk jugs, ... When I had enough, I wrote color words on paper plates that matched the colors that I had collected. The words were written with crayon and matched the color red. I spread out the plates on our kitchen table and the boys sorted them by color. We have also sorted by size. For those of you on a budget like me, this is a free alternative to those cute bears.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mrs. Wishy Washy Unit & Lapbook

We just finished our Mrs. Wishy Washy unit! We had such a good time with it. We did all the activities that I created which are posted at My boys really enjoyed fingerpainting the pig with "mud" (chocolate pudding) and then fingerpainting another pig with shaving cream. I made a flannelgraph set for retelling the story from this website - . This was a big hit! That is the same website where the bubble counting cards and story sequence cards came from. There was a ton of possibilities on that website. I got the "Counting Animals" book from . To culminate our study we visited Green Meadow farms. This was a great unit for my boys who are 3 1/2 and 4 1/2. Thanks for taking a look!!!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Winner of Shell Giveaway

And the winner of the shells is .....Anne. Congratulations!!! November's giveaway will be announced soon.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Homemade Koolaid Playdough

This is my all-time favorite recipe for playdough. I even like it better than store bought Playdough. The texture is awesome - it isn't crumbly like Playdough and is very easy for little hands to manipulate. It also smells so yummy!!! The Kool-aid packets give beautiful, vibrant colors. When the colors get mixed up, it doesn't turn a "dismal gray". For playdough pictured, I used pink lemonade & grape Koolaid. The recipe is as follows:
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup salt
2 pkgs. unsweetened Kool-aid
1 cup boiling water
1 1/2 tbl. oil

1. Mix flour, salt, Kool-aid, and oil until blended.
2. Add boiling water, mix with spoon until cool enough to knead.
3. Continue kneading until color is blended.
4. Store in air tight bag or container in the refrigerator (I have always stored in fridge).

I found a box of "101 Wilton Cookie Cutters" at Goodwill which the boys have loved using!!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Blue Boat Lapbook

We recently spent two weeks on "My Blue Boat" by Chris Demarest which is a book in the Before Five in a Row curriculm. The book is currently out-of-print but many library systems have it available for checkout. It was a fun unit which my boys really enjoyed. We used many components for our lapbook from here: I tied in several Bible stories that have boats in them like Jesus calming the Storm & Noah's Ark. We also used our new Do-a-Dots to dot the "W is for Whale" page from here: . We made boats from here: and floated them in the bathtub. As a surpise, I purchased the boys their own wooden boats from Magic Cabin - The boys were so excited about the boats especially when they found out that we would be visiting Aunt Tammy at her beach house the next week. This was a wonderful way to culminate "My Blue Boat"!!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lion's Paw by Robb White

I am so THRILLED to announce that "The Lion's Paw" by Robb White has finally been reprinted!!! I just got my very own copy after many months of vainly seeking an affordable copy of the then out-of-print book. I am currently working on a unit/lapbook for the book which should be posted on I will let you know when it is completed. This is a must read-aloud for any Florida family (although non-FLoridian children will also love it). :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

October's Giveaway

Shells from Pensacola Beach!!! I am collecting shells as we speak :) for this month's giveaway. The shells will match the memory game I made for my "Hello Ocean" unit posted on You can view it here - I will try to have at least one example of each except for a few of the more rare shells. Mostly there will be several of each type of shell. Leave a comment if you want to be included in the drawing. I will post the winner on October 31st.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Jesse Bear What Will You Wear

We spent last week reading "Jesse Bear What Will You Wear" and making a lapbook to go-along with it. Most of the components of the lapbook came from here - . The boys loved the felt bears that I made for them. I traced this bear pattern on a cereal box and then glued the felt on to make the body. Then I got out a bunch of fabric scraps and they chose clothes for their bears. We attached the clothes to the bears using velcro so that they could change out the outfits. I also added a component to my lapbook of rhyming words from the book because Eli & Max are really into "What Rhymes". I chose several pairs of rhyming words from the book and put them on cards with a matching picture. Then we said the words and decided what went together. This was a big hit!!! You can see pictures of the lapbook & dress-up bears below.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

And the winners are ...

Congratulations to Janna, the winner of Stellaluna, and Ruby, the winner of Corduroy!!! Stay tuned for October's giveaway - it is very hands-on!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

September's Free Book Giveaway

I will be drawing for the Free Book Giveaway on September 30th. There will be two winners - one for Corduroy and one for Stellaluna (both are hardcover). Email me your name and email address if you would like to be included in the drawing.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Jenny's Suprise Summer Lapbook

We spent the last 2 weeks doing Before Five in Row's "Jenny's Suprise Summer" lapbook. This was a great book and a perfect preschool lapbook!!! It is out of print so if your library doesn't have it you can request it through an interlibrary loan. I bought mine off of Ebay. It was not originally in my September plans but several weeks ago my mom and I both went searching for kittens at the local humane societies. Eli, Max, and I choose a classic orange tabby and named him Baxter after much debate. We also considered the names Garfield, Marmalade, Tigger, and Pumpkin. He is a considered a classic because he has bullseyes on both of his sides as part of his striping. You can see a slideshow of him here - . With that context, it made perfect sense to scratch my original plans to do "My Blue Boat" and go with this instead. Most of the lapbook components were taken from and I added a few more which are now also on the homeschoolshare website. You can find a direct link to all the components here - I like to use the boys' art work for my cover and back page. I used Eli's cat for the front and Max's cat for the back. These were two additional art project we did to go along with the lapbook. As luck would have it, I also found the book "Cats and Kittens", an Usborne First Pets book, for five cents at a local thrift shop. It went perfect with the unit and had a great idea to make homemade kitten toys out of felt and catnip. The boys had fun with this and so did our kitty! We also used Scholastic's First Discovery Book "Cats". This was a fun lapbook and so relevant to our lives! I am so glad I didn't rigidly stick to my schedule!!!

Jenny's Suprise Summer Lapbook

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Prompts to Support the Use of Strategies

Below I have given you the major teaching prompts that can be used with a student to promote the use of strategies in a child's reading. The prompts come from Fountas and Pinnell's book "Guided Reading: Good First Teaching for All Children" which as you already know I highly recommend. This gives the teacher the language to use with a student based on the strategy needing to be emphasized. It is an excellent resource! After taking a running record or several running records with a student and having analyzed it/them, it will be apparent what strategies and cue sources the child is neglecting. The prompts can then be used to lead the child to using the strategy they are neglecting. For example, say that a child consistently sounds words out making miscues that don't make sense with the story but are very visually similar to the actual word. Rather than focusing on the visual (sounding out) aspect, it might be helpful to point out to the child, "Does that make sense? Check your picture and think about what would make sense." With a simple glance at the picture and thinking about what would make sense, the word may pop right out of his mouth. This promotes the use of the visual cues (sounding the word out) along with the meaning of the story. Remember the goal of reading is to comprehend so we don't want to have children so focused on sounding words out that they lose sight of the real purpose of reading. I have experienced many great "sounder outers" who read flawlessly but have very poor comprehension. If your child is struggling in reading, I would highly recommend that you learn how to take running records (which I have numerous posts about) and consider reading Fountas and Pinnell's book.

Prompts to Support the Use of Strategies

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Books for Reluctant Boy Readers!

I recently heard about a four year old boy who doesn't like to read neither having books read to him nor looking at books. The mom was asking what she could do to encourage him toward reading. It got me thinking!!! First of all, the Lord convicted me about my grumpy attitude lately. My boys love books and have the tendency to empty the shelves as they "read" on a regular basis. They are not very good at putting the books back so guess who gets to do so- MOM!!! Well, I guess I shouldn't complain about this "problem"!!! I have found in my teaching career and with my sons that boys love non-fiction books. We have almost all of the Scholastic First Discovery books and my boys read them on a daily basis. There are topics such as Bears, Bees, Boats, Butterflies, Cars and Trucks, Castles, Cats, Colors, Construction, Eggs, Endangered Animals, Fish, Flowers, Human Body, Lions, Musical Instruments, Night Creatures, Rain Forest, Tools, Trains, Turtles and Snails, Weather and Whales (and much more). These were also a hit when my Sophmore in college was their age. Although we frequent the library weekly, I think it is important for there to be a large variety of books in the home that can be revisited again and again. I find many books inexpensively at local thrift shops. Another source of books that I absolutely love is I have acquired many of my First Discovery Books on that site. With paperbackswap, you post books on the site that you would like to trade. When someone chooses your book, you mail it at your expense using the media mail rate. It usually ends up being about $2.30. When they recieve the book, you earn a credit and can then choose any book on the site. It will be mailed to you for free. I can't say enough good things about this site!!! I have acquired some very expensive books from this site!!! The key is to interest boys with a wide variety of books, especially non-ficiton, and offer many opportunities for enjoying the books. I have children's books in just about every room in the house!!!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Analyzing Running Records

There are three main cue sources that good readers use to help them read – meaning, structure, and visual cues. Meaning deals with the information gained by looking at the picture and thinking about the story. Structure is a reader’s knowledge of the English language. Visual cues are the information gained from the letters and their corresponding sounds (typically thought of as phonics). A good reader integrates these three cue sources to read successfully. Oftentimes children are only prompted to use the visual information. When examining the errors that a child has made on their running record, it is very useful to see which cue sources the child might be neglecting. This can help the teacher prompt the student to consider the cues they are neglecting. When a student makes a prediction on an unknown word, there are three questions they should be asking themselves. Meaning – Does it make sense? Structure – Does it sound right? (Can I say it that way in the English language?) Visual – Does it look right? To analyze the errors on a running record, you need to have the book and the running record. On the running record form, are columns for MSV (Meaning, Structure, and Visual) which you will use for the analysis. Write MSV in the MSV column on the corresponding line of the error/s. For each error, you will determine which cues the child used to make the error and circle the letter. For example, if the child used meaning, circle M. To do the analysis, read the text up until the error and ask yourself, is there evidence for this error that the child used meaning for his prediction, then structure, and last visual. For each cue used, circle it. For self-corrections, analyze the error before the child corrected himself. Then put MSV in the column next to the error column (the self-correction column) and determine which cue MSV was used for the self-correction. This will generally be one cue source. When the analysis is finished, there will be a good picture of what cues the child is using and which cues are being neglected. For example, the child might use the picture clues and make it sound right grammatically, but completely ignore the visual information. If this pattern, then the teacher knows to prompt the child to attend to the visual information. This will make a lot more sense if you can see examples. This website does an excellent job of providing examples - Click on "Show Me", choose a grade level and then go through the different steps. It even has practice that you can check for accuracy. If you take a running record on your child and analysis it, I would be glad to check it for you. My next blog will give you teaching prompts you can use to facilitate your child’s use of all three cue sources. Guided Reading: Good First Teaching for All Children is an excellent resource that teaches about reading instruction and using running records.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cypress Gardens $5.00 Fridays in September

Cypress Gardens in Central Florida is having a special for the month of September - $5.00 admission plus you can upgrade your tickets for a season pass through December for only $10. Wow! The admission is generally $39.95 so this was a steal of a deal and we had an awesome time. They have a ton of rides and when we went (yesterday) there were basically no lines. The boys had so much fun riding on all the different kiddie rides and they even tried out the roller coaster. Eli said "It made my tummy hurt!" He was not inclined to go on it again. I rode on the wooden rollercoaster 6 X in a row without departing so that tells you how it busy it was. We had so much fun in the ride area that we ran out of time to see the gardens, ski show, butterfly house, aviary, plus quite a few rides. I would highly recommend homeschoolers taking advantage of this deal!!!

Cypress Gardens with friends

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Announcing September's Free Book Giveaway!

This month I am giving away two books for September's free book giveaway - "Corduroy" and "Stellaluna". Both titles are hard cover versions. "Corduroy" is a Before Five in A Row title and you can find a lapbook to go with it on the website - "Stellaluna" is a title and also has a lapbook on the homeschoolshare website - To enter click "Contact Me" on the right side of my blog and be sure to give your name and email address. The drawing will be held on September 30th. I love books and have a wealth of thrift shops in my area to shop for them. I hope this is a blessing to others!!! :) Robin

Lapbook Samples

Monday, September 8, 2008

Using Lapbooks in Homeschooling

About a year ago I discovered lapbooks and fell in love! When I attended college in the early 90's for elementary education, using thematic units in the classroom was all the rage. Teaching with thematic units basically encompassed tying the different subject areas into a particular theme thus making learning interesting and relevant. Unfortunately, it has since fallen out of favor as states have become more test driven. Lapbooks are a new twist on thematic units. A lapbook is basically a collection of minit books demonstrating the learning that has taken place when studying a particular theme or book. The minit books are attached to a book made from file folders. The neat thing about lapbooks are that not only are they fun to make while learning but they beg to be revisited again and again. I have designed several lapbooks for preschoolers as Eli and Max are in that age range. They are housed at one of the best resources for homeschooling on the internet - . This website has a multitude, and I mean multitude, of lapbooks and unit studies to print and use. The best part is that they are all FREE! I have the following lapbooks posted there - trains, "Feathers for Lunch", "Hello Ocean", "Mrs Wishy-Washy", and "Owl Babies" at this link and alphabet notebook, "Human Body" and "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" at this link . There are a ton more at all levels - prek through middle school. Lapbooking is a wonderful way to make learning fun and interesting - I challenge to try at least one lapbook in the upcoming month. You will not regret it!!!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Vintage records to develop listening skills!

I learned about this awesome website recently that has about 150 vintage records that your children can listen to online. Tonight Eli listened to "Goldielocks and the Three Bears", "The Gingerbread Boy", "Flick, the Little Red Fire Engine", and "Chug-Chug in Lollypop Land". The records are from the 40's and 50's and are really cute. It got me thinking about my childhood. My sisters and I listened to story records as youngsters. A lot of them were Disney records. I think there are some important skills that can be acquired from listening to a story without pictures - imagination, concentration, and listening skills to name a few. Our kids are so inundated with visual imagery these days which as a whole isn't necessarily a bad thing but I think it can stifle imagination and listening skills to some extent. So if you are interested, check it out - .

Friday, September 5, 2008

Running Records Online Workshop

I just found an awesome website that has an online workshop teaching running records. For those of you who are trying to learn it is awesome! It has a "tell me" component where it teaches about running records, a "show me" that allows you to see running records in action, and then a "let me try" section which allows you to practice and check your answers. Click on the title of this post - Running Record Online Workshop - to go to the site. This is an excellent resource!!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Running Records - Scoring Part 2

Now that you have practiced running records for a few days, I am going to teach you how to score them. The first thing to determine is how many errors your child made while reading. This is determined by looking at your running record. The following are each counted as one error - substitution (black/blue), insertion (black/-), omission (-/black), and told (/black T). For each of these mistakes (miscues), you count an error. The following are not counted as errors - repetitions, self-corrections and appeals. However, if the child appeals and is then Told, that counts as an error. That is why it is important for the parent to use Tolds very sparingly. Running records are determining what your child can do independently which is also why the Tolds should not be given out very much. Count the number of words for the book or passage and divide that number by the number of errors. This will give you a ratio. For example, if the number of words is 56 and there were 2 errors made that would be 56/2 or 1:28 ratio. This chart can then be used to determine what level the text is for your child - easy, instructional, or to hard. Use the closest ratio available on the chart, so the 1:28 ratio would be equivalent to 96% accuracy for reading or easy text. It's your turn now. I encourage you to choose a book, take a running record while your child reads, and then determine what level the book is at for your child. Remember that the goal is to be instructing your child using instructional material - not to easy and not hard. One of my first blogs (Aug 2008) talked about leveled books and the importance of it. Running records are a great assessment tool and can be used for documentation of reading skills. My next post will teach you how to assess the strategies your child is using when reading and which strategies he/she might be neglecting. This will help you know what to focus on in your reading instruction that is tailored right to your child.

Monday, September 1, 2008

I have been without internet for the last few days so I have not been able to post the follow-up to running records. I will get to it in the next few days if not tonight. I have been busy making puppets that the boys have requested. I absolutely love Valerie Bendt's "Successful Puppet Making" book! Besides making them for my children, I was thinking that they would make really cute Christmas presents! You can easily make a puppet in an evening. I love to buy children's books at thrift shops. My idea would be to find a children's book that is new looking and make a puppet to go with it. For example, "The Little Red Hen" and make the hen puppet to go with the book. This would make for an inexpensive but cute and fun gift!!! I'm sorry the picture is sideways - I could not figure out why!!!

Friday, August 29, 2008

And the winners are....
Melaniekay16 for "ABC Bunny" and
Allie (devriesfam) for "The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge".

Thanks for all who participated in my contest and for visiting my blog! There were 94participants!!! I will be writing part 2 of Running Records this weekend. I also plan to post video clips demonstrating teaching strategies for reading over the next year.

This drawing was so much fun, I have decided to have a different book drawing each month. So please stay tuned for the next drawing! Robin

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Friday, August 22, 2008

Warning: Read Running Records Part 1 before Running Records Part 1 Continued

Running Records Part 1 - Continued

So if the child said, "One big dog going in" instead it would look like this a big/little aaa . Under the word big would be a line and then the word little which is what the text said (I can't do it up and down on this computer but see example in link). This is called a substitution. If the child inserts a word that is not in the text like, "One silly little dog going in" it would be recorded like this - a silly/- aaaa . If the child leaves out a word, like "One dog going in", it is recorded like this, a -/little aaa (an omission). If the child repeats a word, then an R is written next to the word repeated. So if the child read "One - One little dog going in", it would recorded like this, a R aaaa . This is a repetition. If the child repeats a whole phrase draw a line from the R back to where they begin to repeat. If the child stops at a word and will not try it, write an A on the top of the fraction which signifies an Appeal for Help. You should say at that time, "You try it". If they do not or cannot, tell the word and but a capitol T on the bottom of the fraction. This stands for a told. The last convention is used sparingly. It is when the child gets in a complete muddle. You say "Try that again" and point to the part. Brackets are put around the part you are having them retry and TTA is written next to it. This should be used once during a running record at best. When you take the running record, you will start a new line when the book starts a new line. So on page 13 of "Go Dog Go" there are two lines 1. A green dog 2. on a yellow tree. So the checks for correct reading would be aaa and then a new line aaaa. When the child is trying to solve a word record what you hear on the top of the fraction. For example, if he/she sounds out the word, write the sounds they make with lower case letters. If he/she spells out the word, write the letters in capitals. So if he/she sounds out cat correctly before saying cat it would look like this c-a-t a /cat. If he/she sounds it out incorrectly, it would look like this - c-o-t/cat . One last thing, if the child makes a mistake and then corrects it, you put an sc next to the correction like this - cot sc/cat. There is a recording sheet at this website which can be used for running records - . Okay, take a deep breath, I hope I haven't lost you!!! This is very easy after practicing a few times. Please don't dismiss Running Records without giving it a try! IT IS SUCH A VALUABLE TOOL!!! Practice for a few days and then I will teach how to score it. If you want to read some more about Running Records, this is good site .

Running Records Part 1

Yesterday I talked about matching your child to an appropriate level of book and promised to teach you how to do that. Today I am going to teach you how to do a running record. Running records are a way to record your child while he/she is reading to determine two things. First, is the book at your child's independent (94-100% accuracy), instructional (90-94%), or hard (89-0%) level? Second, it will help you determine what strategies your child is using while reading and what strategies your child is neglecting. Knowing the strategies used and neglected will help you to know what you need to emphasize in his/her reading instruction. In my college class, I teach pre-service teachers how to use this tool. It enables them to teach specifically to the needs of each child. Many teachers do not use this, however. As home school parents we have the perfect opportunity to tailor instruction straight to our childrens' needs. This tool makes it possible. So, this first lesson will teach the conventions of running records. This link gives the conventions that I will describing so please refer to it as I go along - Running records are kind of like shorthand. It is a record of your child's reading without any intervention from you thus showing what he/she can do and is one of the best informal assessments of reading. The first mark to learn is correct reading. For each word read correctly, you will give a check for the word. So if the book said, "One little dog going in" and the child read it accurately, you would have five checks aaaaa. For anything other than correct reading the symbol will be like a fraction. On the top will be what the child said and on the bottom will be the actual text. (I have to break this up b/c it won't fit on one post - continued above)

Free Book Giveway!!!

To celebrate the beginning of my blog and my 40th birthday, I am giving away two books. The first is the Before Five in a Row title, "The ABC Bunny" by Wanda Gag. The second book is the Five in a Row title, "The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge" by Hildegarde H. Swift. Email me your name by clicking on the contact button. I will have a drawing next Friday, and two winners will be drawn. I hope you enjoy my blog!!!

Make Your Own Puppets

I have to share the cutest puppets that are made out of felt. The patterns and directions are found in the book "Successful Puppet Making - Learning Language Skills Through Play" by Valerie Bendt. My boys love them!!! So far we have made the bear and the fox. The book has patterns for the following puppets - Animals on the Farm (cow, sheep, pig, cat, dog, horse, duck, and hen), Animals in the Woods (mouse, rabbit, squirrel, raccoon, owl, fox, deer, and bear), and Animals in the Jungle (frog, snake, monkey, parrot, hippo, elephant, lion, and tiger). There are color pictures in the book showing what the puppets should look like. These puppets are super easy to make. You just cut out the felt using the patterns provided, sew it using yarn and a large tapestry needle, and then glue the felt details on with felt glue. Super easy!!! My boys are not reading yet but when we they do I will use them for reader's theater. Reader's theater is basically performing a play where the parts are read - not memorized. The focus is on fluency and expressive voices. It is a great way to practice reading in a meaningful context. The play can be presented to younger siblings, family members, or even at a retirement center for the residents. Here are a few links to Reader's Theater Scripts - , , and . The puppets are also great for the younger crowd in building language and imagination. Here is a picture of the two puppets we have made so far.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Matching Your Child to Appropriate Reading Material

For any child there are three levels of reading material - independent, instructional, and hard. Children should have ample opportunity to read independent books which require little help from an outside source. This helps build their confidence and enjoyment for reading. The second level of reading is instructional. This is text that a child can read with a bit of support. This means that they can read most of the story but have some learning opportunities. These teachable moments are valuable in propeling the child's reading progress forward. Hard material is to hard for the child affording little opportunity for progress as there is "to much work" involved with the story and can be very discouraging. The goal for reading instruction time is to have your child reading at an instructional level. This is based on Vygotsky's theory of proximal development . It is not necessary to used a packaged reading curriculum to match your child to text that is instructional. As a matter fact, some packaged curriculums may be to low or to high. There are many lists of books on the internet which are leveled by alphabet - A through Z. The approximate grade levels that correlate to the letters can be viewed here - . Once you determine your child's instructional level, then you can find books at the library that correspond. The goal would be to progress up through the letters. Easy books are read with 94-100%, Instructional is 90-94% accuracy, and Hard is 89% or less. I am including several links of leveled book lists but there are many more that you can find simply by googling "leveled book lists" - , , and . My next post will talk about running records which are means of determining the accuracy of any book your child is reading. That will enable to determine what level your reading material is at for your child - independent, instructional, or hard. In addition, it will help you determine what strategies they are using and what strategies they are neglecting. It is an awesome assessment tool that anyone can learn and requires no special tools other than the book, the child, a piece of paper, and pencil. Please let me know if you have any questions!!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hands-On Phonics

One of my favorite educators is Patricia Cunningham. She has written many books dealing with learning to read and write. I personally have had great success with her series of "Making Words" books. These books are multilevel, hands-on phonics and spelling activities. I have used "Making Words" and "Making More Words" in the classroom setting. When I taught in the public school system, I used them with learning disabled students. I had a district administrator observe our lesson and express great amazement as to what my students could do. With "Making Words" the students are given a set of letter cards depending on the lesson. For example, in lesson 1 of "Making More Words" the students are given the following letters a o c n r and s. The students place their letters in a row in front of them. You begin by saying "I want you to make a two letter word. Make the word "on". The children are then to say the word slowly and then pull the letters down from their choices to make "on". After they make the word, they are to check the word they made by slowly pulling their finger under the word while saying it. This trains the children to check on themselves. For example, if the child pulled down "oc" for "on". You want the child to discover this error on their own rather than being automatically being told "No that's not right". Good readers check on themselves and fix their errors. This process will train the children to be self-checkers. If they do not notice, after checking then the parent/teacher can lead them to discover their error by saying. "Say "on". What do you hear at the beginning? What do you hear at the ending? Are you right?" With some children, it is necessary to cover their error, when asking these questions and then uncovering "oc" when saying, "Are you right?" Each time they make a word they are to follow those steps - 1. Say the word 2. Make the word 3. Check the word. Have the child put the letters back with the others and then say, "Make another two letter word - make "or" ". In this lesson, they then make "as" and "an". Next, comes three letter words - "ran", "can", and "car". When going from "ran" to "can", instead of having the children push up the letters say, "Change one letter from ran to make the word can". "Change one letter on "can" and make it say "car". Following these same steps comes the four letter words - "cars", "cans", "scan", and "corn". When going from "cans" to "scan", say "Change the letters in "cans" around to make it say "scan". Five letter words in this lesson are - "acorn", "corns", and "scorn". In every lesson there is a mystery word that can be made with all the letters. I always gave my students a small treat if they could get it. The mystery word for this lesson is "acorns". There are some many phonics and spelling concepts taught through this method!!! My students LOVED "Making Words". It is hands-on phonics that is fun and game like yet teaches a wealth of concepts. Each lesson gives suggestions for ways to sort the words created. For this sample lesson the words can be sorted as follows: c sc s(plural) an orn . Last night I realized that Cunningham has come out with "Making Words" books for every grade level - K, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. I have the first three books she made - "Making Words" and "Making More Words" both of which can be used with primary grades and "Making Big Words" which is for intermediate. I highly recommend you checking them out. My boys are 3 and 4 so they are to young to begin these. When they are ready, though, I will be using these without a doubt to teach my phonics as opposed to using worksheets!
Our preschool year is beginning with great excitement! We are using Handwriting Without Tears - PreK, Right Start Math - Level A, Before Five in a Row, and Lapbooks/Units from Handwriting Without Tears has incredible manipulatives that will help facilitate pre-writing skills and alphabet recognition. We used them for the first time this week and the boys went nuts! There are wood pieces for constructing the letters, magnetic pieces that match to stamp the letters, dough to form the letters, and miniature chalkboards. I learned about Right Start math from fellow homeschoolers and am so excited about it. The point of this math program is for children to truly understand math as opposed to just memorizing. It is manipulative and game based with very few worksheets. Perfect for hands-on boys!!! We will probably be using level A for Pre-K and KIndergarten depending on Eli’s progress. If it gets hard, we will play the math games until he is ready to move on. I’ve read the manual and can’t say enough how awesome it is!!! This month we are rowing : “Yellow Ball” and “My Blue Boat” which are both Before Five in a Row books. We are using materials from to go along with the titles. Oh, I have submitted several really fun preschool units at homeschoolshare that you might want to check out. They are all very boy friendly as you might expect! The topics are Feathers for Lunch, Hello Ocean, Mrs. Wishy-Washy, Owl Babies, and Trains which can be found at and Human Body and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star which can be found here . I plan on posting reading helps for homeschooling parents over the next few months focused on elementary aged students (especially ones who are struggling) so stay tuned.