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Bright Ideas Just For Fun

A Snack Time Counting Game

Here’s a great little activity that took about 3 minutes to make. Bug loves it, and it’s a great chance for her to practice counting.

All you have to do is draw the six sides of a die onto a piece of paper. Then your child rolls the die and puts the correct number of snack items (Goldfish in this case) onto the corresponding picture on the paper. When all the spaces are filled, it’s snack time!

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Curricula and Books

Magic Tree House Series For History And Making Connections

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Pea is obsessed with Mary Pope Osbourne’s Magic Tree House series right now. If you aren’t familiar with this series, the stories revolve around Jack and Annie, two young siblings who travel through history (and sometimes space) to help an enchantress collect stories and lift spells. I won’t give away more plot than that. Each book is 10 chapters long, and the “missions” they go on are in groups of four books. It’s the perfect bedtime reading for Pea. She can’t read them on her own yet, but they help stretch her vocabulary and are a great way to introduce some history. Plus, by reading a few chapters at a time we can spread the reading of stories over days instead of minutes and go through the exercise of recalling what we’ve already read before starting each night.


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And she gets completely lost in the stories. We read three or four chapters each night, and she loves to look ahead at the pictures and try to predict what’s going to happen next. At the end of each book, she loves to go get the next book in the series and see where Jack and Annie will go next.

Keep in mind, she’s five years old. Bug is three and doesn’t quite appreciate the depth of the stories yet. I think her exact words were, “Jack and Annie aw bawing!” And of course, New Baby isn’t a huge fan either since these books aren’t very chewy and don’t have large colored photos.


Last night, something really cool happened while we were reading Magic Tree House #22: Revolutionary War on Wednesday. Pea was looking at the front cover photo of Jack and Annie crossing the Delaware with George Washington, and I was reminded of this post I wrote a while back. I was telling her how I used to lie on her bottom bunk and read a big-grown-up story about the same thing we were reading in the Magic Tree House adventures.

Just like Bug doesn’t quite get the stories on the level Pea does, Pea doesn’t understand how cool it is that she and I sat in the exact same spot and enjoyed the exact same story. Isn’t it cool that she will very likely read this story at least three or four times? I have no doubt she’ll go back and read the Magic Tree House series on her own when she’s able. She’ll also learn about the Revolutionary War and the Christmas night crossing of the Delaware when studying history (non-fiction). And if I am able to influence her, she’ll also catch it again in the historical fiction version I read last year.

We’re already on the hunt for the next series of books we think she may like. Anyone have ideas for kids who love Magic Treehouse?

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Bright Ideas Just For Fun

Technology Class Failure. But…

We started school officially today, and Ana charged me with doing a technology session for Pea. I had this grand idea of having her come up with a 6 paneled comic strip that she could create with this cool and simple comic generator I found. Um…yeah…I still forget sometimes that I’m working with a 5 year old attention span. We spent about 15 minutes on that. While it’s a really cool (and free) tool, it takes too long for kids that age to get any results for their efforts.

Lesson learned.

But I was able to salvage our time by doing something that was really easy, entertaining, and hilarious. Why not start with helping her get familiar with a computer keyboard, right? And what if we could work in some sight word exercises, vocabulary expansion, and foreign language practice too? Pea’s Spanish has been suffering lately. She understands fine, but refuses to speak. I think I may have stumbled onto something that will help with that though.

Silly Sentences and Google Translate

 

I wrote some silly sentences on paper, then Pea typed them into Google Translate. She tried to read all the sentences, and she could get most of the words, but I made it just hard enough that she couldn’t read it on her own and was so ridiculous that she wouldn’t get the joke until she listed to it. She loved hearing the silly sentences in Spanish and actually ran to repeat them to Ana. She actually chose to speak Spanish.

Now the challenge is to keep coming up with silly sentences and working the same words over and over until she can read them on her own. She’s already pretty good at finding the letters on the keyboard, but it’s good practice!

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Bright Ideas Curricula and Books In The News

Children’s Books Now Available on Kindle!

Here’s some great news!

There are over 1,000 new titles available, with support for pop-up text and highlighting the artwork in individual panels.

Ana and I were just talking at lunch today about how to keep one kid occupied while another is having one-on-one school time, and one of our main options is to use a tablet and some apps for some self-directed educational endeavors. Now Kindle with children’s books is a great option!

I loved my Kindle Touch with e-ink (until it got misplaced), but never really cared much for the Kindle apps for mobile devices. The way e-ink is so easy on the eyes was the big seller for me personally. But for children’s books that are heavy on illustrations, iPads and Android tablets are absolutely perfect and intuitive for kids to use.

We may have to get another device now! The Kindle Fire is pretty reasonably priced, and there are some other options out there like the Archos Arnova Child Pad that are both cheap and kid friendly.

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Curricula and Books

Choosing Curriculum – The Never Ending Story Of History

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At our house, “school” starts at birth…at least that’s the way we look at it. But things are shifting a little these days because “real school” will be starting soon. That means paperwork has to be filled out to declare that we’re officially home schooling. But there’s more…

Curricula must be chosen.

We may have a different approach than others, but here’s what we talked about and decided on for kindergarten/first grade history.

In our estimation, reading is the key to everything. The most important thing we can teach our children are the skills to read and comprehend, and (most importantly) to love it. A love of reading opens up every other subject. We’re easing the kids into this with the stories we read to them at bedtime. Pea (the 5 yo) has moved past the Dr. Seuss type books for bedtime stories since she’s able to read them herself now, so we have been increasing the density of what we read to her, continuing to model good reading habits and challenging her with tougher content and vocabulary.

Her current favorite is the Magic Tree House series, and it’s been great for introducing a little information about the histories of different parts f the world, although it’s fictional, and getting her to ask questions and wonder about different time periods and places. Admittedly, Bug (the 3yo) says that “Jack and Annie awe boawing!” There aren’t crazy pictures to look at, and they don’t do silly things like grow daisies out of their heads. That’s ok…she still listens to the stories, and she still gets her turn to pick books that are more appropriate for her.


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What we’ve decided to do to introduce history more formally is use the Story of the World books. All the reviews we’ve read lead us to believe this is the right choice for our family because it will let us introduce history as a story. What kid wouldn’t love that? We also have friends with older children who rave about these books and the results they’ve seen with their own kids. We’re hoping we can begin reading this book simply as a series of bedtime stories and letting Pea work through the accompanying activity books during the day. She loves when things “magically happen” during the day that she’s been learning about someplace else. That really helps her learn to make her own connections between what she reads and things that happen in her own life.

Feel free to share your own experiences with these books, especially if there are unseen pitfalls we need to look out for!

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Bright Ideas Lesson Ideas

Pop For Sight Words Game Option

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One of the best literacy gifts Pea got for Christmas this year was the Pop For Sight Words game. It’s a pretty simple toy–a popcorn box filled with sight words printed onto little cardboard pieces of popcorn. There are also some instructions included on how to play the “official” game, but we haven’t played it that way yet. Instead, we’ve made up a bunch of different games we can play with the pieces of popcorn.


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Pea’s favorite way of playing right now pits her against us. She picks a word and tries to read it (preferably by sight, but we’ll let her try to sound it out). If she can read it within three seconds, she gets to keep it in her stack. If she can’t we get the piece. One important action to take here is to not just read the word and put it in your own stack. Make sure you show your child the word as you say it. Remember, we’re working on sight words here, so it really drives it home for them to see the word and hear it at the same time. The good thing about the words included with the kit is that many of them are really hard to sound out (“when”, “where”, etc.), so it really emphasizes sight word learning.

We play until we have 10 words in our pile–these are words that she could not read. Then we give her an opportunity to “steal”. We show her every word in our stack, and if she can read it she gets to steal it to her pile. Another option would be to wait until we’ve gone through all the words and give her only one chance to steal, and we may change to that option later. But by having a “steal” round every 10 words it gives her a chance to see and hear the words she’s having trouble with several times throughout the game.

At the end of the game, she gets to count all of the words in her pile (not a bad math activity either), and we keep a running score of how many words she’s able to read. We’ve seen some really good improvement, and we’ve noticed that the more often we play the game the more quickly her score rises. Repetition!

Note: the packaging makes this game very convenient and fun for the kids, but there’s no reason to purchase it necessarily. You could make your own sight word cards yourself. We’ll probably end up doing this ourselves in order to expand the number of words involved.

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Bright Ideas Just For Fun

December Giveway…Straight Off Our Wish List!

Back by popular demand (and because some people are signing up for last year’s) we’re excited to announce this year’s giveaway. Last year’s giveaway was really popular, but we realized that we sort of limited the scope of it since it was a toy for a specific skill level. So this year we’re going to do something a little different…we’ll let the winner choose the prize.

This year’s choices are coming straight off our own shopping list for our girls, so you’ll know they’ve are Ana-approved!

Just as a side note…please don’t think limit our kids to reading and literacy toys. We’re only including those here because this is a reading site. They also love to play with craft toys, crayons/paint/chalk, counting and math games (that could be a whole different site), and anything with a Disney Princess on it. Now…let’s get to the choices!!!

Pop for Letters Game

We can’t wait to get this toy! There are so many fun things you can do with this! Memory match games for capital and lower case letters, shuttle runs (quickly becoming a favorite activity at our house) matching cases or sounds to letters, changing the first letter of a word to make a new word, etc. The possibilities are literally endless. Yeah…you could do the same thing with a few pieces of paper, but the fact that this is popcorn themed makes it way more fun and inviting for the kids.

Pop for Sight Words Game

Just like the Pop Letters game, but with sight words–endless possibilities! “Quiz games” with multiple kids to see who can read the word first, putting words together to make sentences, and once the kids can read all of these words you can play games for parts of speech sorting and spelling bees. You can even use the Pop Letter Game with this toy to create prefixes and suffixes for the sight words!

Pretend and Play School Set

Not necessarily a literacy game, but our girls love to play school, and the Pea just happens to teach Bug letters and sounds in almost every class since reading is her favorite subject. It really has helped drive home all the things Bug is learning, and we’re so excited the baby will hopefully have two teachers when it’s her turn to start school!

Silly Sentences

I remember Ana taking a long time to prepare for centers when she was a teacher so the kids in her class could play this exact game! It’s so convenient to have it made for you, and even better that the kids can go grab this game and play any time they want. Some ideas for extension activities are to have the kids draw a picture of the silly sentences they make or create entire stories based on the sentences.

How to Enter

That would be useful information, huh? Just like last year, all you have to do to be eligible to enter the contest is like us on Facebook. That means like us on our Fan Page, not like this post (although you’re welcomed to do that as well). We’ll randomly choose one of our fans at midnight on December 13, 2011 and contact the winner through Facebook to find out what prize they’d like to receive.

Thanks for your continued support this year. Merry Christmas!

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Bright Ideas Just For Fun Lesson Ideas

Sight Word Shuttle Runs…In Reverse!

A while back, Ana made up a fun game we call Sight Word Shuttle Runs that not only helps the kids with learning new sight words, but also lets them burn up some energy. We just realized at dinner last night that we can play the game in reverse too.

The original game was to have the child look at a word, read it correctly, then run to a designated spot to pick up pennies, toy soldiers, stickers, or whatever else motivates your child.

The reverse game is to say the word to the child, then have them run to the designated spot to find the correct word written on an index card with a bunch of other words written on cards. If they bring back the right word, they get the motivational item to add to their pile. If not, they take the card back and try again.

Yet another fun twist to help build vocabulary is to begin a sentence and leave off the last word, having them run and pick out the word that makes the most sense to complete the sentence.

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Bright Ideas Lesson Ideas

Sight Word Activity For Preschool Bird Unit

Mama Bird With Her Word Eggs
Mama Bird With Her Word Eggs

We’re doing an animal unit in our co-op, so I thought I’d share an example of how you can incorporate a book and craft activity into the unit. Preschool and kindergarten kids love doing crafts, and it’s great when you can tie everything together to help them make connections.

Today we focused on birds all day, and we read “An Egg Is Quiet” in class. This is a really nice book I found at the library. It has great information on all types of eggs–bird eggs, reptile eggs (we learned about reptiles last week), insect eggs, fish eggs, and even dinosaur eggs. We learned about dinosaurs in our last school unit!

It’s full of illustrations of different types of eggs, which let us match pictures of eggs with pictures of birds, and some great vocabulary words like “shapely”, “clever”, and “texture”.

Page Full Of Eggs From "An Egg Is Quiet"
Page Full Of Eggs From "An Egg Is Quiet"

After we read the book, we made paper nests to hold “sight word eggs”. On each paper egg, we wrote a sight word on either side. The kids can go through the eggs like they would flash cards, and each time they recognize the word they get to put the egg into the nest. For the nests, we just glued the bottom of the nest onto the paper and left the top open so that the eggs could be placed inside.

As you can tell by the un-named species represented in the first photo, they also have fun coloring the birds. 🙂

Some of the kids in our co-op know many more sight words than others, but that’s ok. Each child gets his/her own set of eggs with the words they are currently working on.

The younger siblings (2 year olds) have been participating in school a lot this year, and they spend time each week making animal letters. For them, we changed the egg/nest activity a little bit. So far they’ve made it up to ‘H’. For them, the game is to match the lowercase letter on the egg with the jumbled capital letter on the page.

Bird Nest for Letter Identification
Bird Nest for Letter Identification
Capital and Lowercase Letter Matching
Capital and Lowercase Letter Matching

 

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Bright Ideas Just For Fun

Chin Bop Syllable Count

Here’s a quick and easy game you can play in the car or around the house.

Learning to count the number of syllables in words they hear and say can help your child learn to “chunk” sounds in a word together when they are reading. A simple way to introduce this concept is to have them make a fist and place it just under their chin. Whenever they say a word, they can count how many times their chin bumps their fist to count the number of syllables in the word.

You can be in charge of keeping a running total of all the syllables they’ve counted, or make it a math/counting game by having them add the syllables in the last word they counted to their total. You can even challenge them to get a “high score” by learning and saying bigger and bigger words to increase their vocabulary.