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.