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Bright Ideas Lesson Ideas

Sight Word Shuttle Runs

I went downstairs for a cup of coffee this morning and saw Ana playing a new game with Pea. This one combines sight words with fitness (i.e. “energy release”). How lucky are we that she’s able to make up stuff like this on the spot?!?!

Pea is a very “high energy” kid. Sometimes when she’s really revved up we go out in the yard and do shuttle runs to help her release some tension and empty the tank. You may have done shuttle runs if you ever played basketball, soccer, rugby, etc. The basic concept is that you run to one point, touch the ground, run back to the starting point, touch the ground, and repeat until you are gassed. We don’t make her do this–she loves it on her own.

The game Ana came up with today was to put several slips of paper with sight words (“and”, “or”, “the”, “she”, etc.) written on them into a hat. That’s the starting point. The game is to take a word out of the hat and read it by sight, not by sounding it out. When she reads the word correctly, she gets to run all the way down the hallway to pick up an item out of a bucket. Use whatever motivates your child–marshmallows, pennies, small toys–for them to retrieve and bring back.

I could not believe how much she loved this game. The best part is that it’s very easy to add more and more words to change the difficulty level. And for a bonus, Bug was following her the whole time. She loved chasing her sister up and down the hall and repeating the words!

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Bright Ideas What Others Are Doing

Our Co-op For Preschoolers In Action!

Ana isn’t going to toot her own horn about this here, so I’m going to step in and toot it for her. A few months ago, she posted on a local website asking if there were any other moms in our area who would be interested in starting up a home preschool co-op for a small group of kids. The response was great, and before they knew it they were having a meetup so the kids and moms could all get acquainted.

The results have been so much better than we could have hoped for! I can’t speak for any of the other families/kids, but we’ve seen a huge acceleration in Pea’s learning since she started going to a “real school” with other kids who have different talents and abilities. The biggest benefit has been the different skill sets and creative ideas the other moms have brought to the group. Of course, Ana is teaching reading, but other moms are in charge of math, writing, science, cooking, calendar time, art, etc. Every session has a lead teacher and a helper which allows the moms who aren’t teaching to help take care of the smaller siblings.

The school meets Monday and Tuesday mornings for instruction, and Fridays are for field trips and play time. It has been an incredible supplement to the things we work on every day at home, and the introduction of other kids and teachers have had an impact on Pea’s behavior and interest in learning from other people.

I’m so thankful for Ana and the rest of the moms in the group for their huge efforts and contributions to our children’s educations!!!

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Bright Ideas Lesson Ideas

Animal Letter Crafts

Chick Pea has really been enjoying a weekly craft day that allows us to work on letters and sounds. It’s a great way to not only teach kids the letters and their sounds, but also give them a chance to work on their fine motor skills by placing the animal parts onto the paper. She’s also very proud of the them, and loves to look at them displayed on the wall.

So far, we’ve made it through “I for Iguana”, and the quality seems to be improving every week. The excitement builds up every week because she now knows which letter is coming next and which animal she’s going to be constructing.

Here’s a list of animals you can use, but feel free to come up with your own creative ways to go through the letters with different animals or a different set of objects altogether. TIP–spend 10 or 15 minutes after bed time the night before you plan on doing the craft to prepare everything, cut out the shapes you’ll be using, etc.

  • Alligator
  • Bee
  • Caterpillar
  • Dog/Dragon
  • Elephant
  • Flamingo
  • Giraffe/Gorilla
  • Horse
  • Iguana
  • Jaguar
  • Kangaroo
  • Llama
  • Monkey
  • Nautilus/nest
  • Octopus
  • Penguin
  • Quetzal
  • Rabbit
  • Snake
  • Tiger
  • Unicorn/Umbrella Fish
  • Vampire Bat
  • Walrus
  • Fox
  • Yak
  • Zebra
Categories
Curricula and Books Just For Fun What Others Are Doing

September Giveaway and More For October!

First of all, thanks to everyone who participated in our August giveaway by subscribing to Reading Coach Online! We’ve randomly chosen and notified our winner for the Abunga
gift card (Congratulations!), and we’re even doing another Gift Card Giveaway in September to give everyone else another chance to win.  Don’t worry, September’s giveaway is open to our current subscribers as well as new subscribers.  If you’ve already subscribed you are eligible, and if you haven’t subscribed yet, what are you waiting for?

Hopefully you’ve had a chance to browse through our Lesson Ideas and have found activities that are both fun and educational for your children.  We encourage you to not only try these ideas, but also leave comments and let us know how they’ve worked for your family (including any tweaks and variations you come up with).

We have a big contest planned for October, and all you have to do to enter is leave a comment on one of our Lesson Ideas or write a blog post linking to your favorite lesson idea. We’re lining up prizes right now, and we’ll release prize details as soon as they are finalized. I just wanted to give you all a heads up on the October contest so that you have time to try out some of the lesson ideas if you decide to join in on the fun. So stayed tuned for more details!

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Curricula and Books Just For Fun

You Still Have Time…

To win a $20 gift card to Abunga.com for this month’s Back To School or Home School Giveaway. We’ll be drawing a random name from our email subscribers on September 1st, so go ahead and subscribe today!

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Curricula and Books Must Reads My Humble Opinion What Others Are Doing

5 Questions To Ask Before Buying Homeschool Curriculum

A new school year means a new curriculum for many families. Whether you are just starting out or you’ve decided to try something new, there’s a ton of curricula to choose from. Although I have my favorites, I don’t like to recommend any particular curriculum to anyone because families and children are so different. What works great for one family (or child) might not for another, so it’s really important that you take your time choosing the one that’s best for you and your kids.

So how do you decide? You can start by asking yourself the following questions about the curriculum you are considering for reading instruction (although these could be used for any subject). I’ve put them in order of importance for me…which of course may be different for you!

  1. Does it fit my child’s learning style? As the learner, your child’s learning styles and preferences should play a major role in deciding what type of curriculum you should buy. Is she more hands on or does she enjoy listening to and discussing stories? Does she do well learning with technology or does she prefer more traditional approaches? Look for a curriculum that uses methods that work best for her.
  2. Does it fit my teaching style? Although your child’s learning style is a really important deciding factor, you are the teacher and therefore must be comfortable in how you teach the material! Do you like to have things laid out for you in a very structured way (day by day plans, lesson procedures, suggested/provided materials, etc.) or are you more interested in having freedom to choose the what, how, and when of it all? You might even fall somewhere in between – check out question # 5.
  3. Are the instructional methods solid? By this I mean…Is it a trusted curriculum that has shown good results for many kids? Is it based on reading research? Is it thorough or does it just skim the surface of what you want to teach? Try to do your own research by visiting curriculum fairs, talking to other parents, and reading reviews online (on sites other than the publishers’!).
  4. Is it fun and engaging? This is huge! This is where schools sometimes have an advantage…there are many fun things a teacher can do with a class of students that parents may not be able to do to at home to keep interest high. So it’s really important that you find something that is fun and keeps your child’s attention. Try to look for curriculum or methods that include things your child loves to learn about. It’s so important for kids to have fun reading!
  5. Does it allow for flexibility? If you home school, then you know this is a must! Flexibility allows you to change, add, or leave out certain things from your instruction. Some programs only work well if they are followed as is, so you may not see the best results if you decided to tweak it. Just make sure you chose something that lets you have some wiggle room if you need it.

Starting a new curriculum can be very exciting for parents and kids, so have fun with it! Check out what these homeschoolers have to say about it:

A to Z Home’s Cool has some great resources put together to help you avoid wasting money.

Home School Curriculum has descriptions of curricula along with comments and input from parents about each one.

PEAH shares great resources to help you save money and keep you updated on the happenings in the world of homeschool curriculum.

Have a great year!

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Curricula and Books Just For Fun What Others Are Doing

Back To School, Or Homeschool, Giveaway

Summer is flying by, and people are no doubt getting geared up for back to school. Whether your kids go to public school, private school, or homeschool, we want to help you get this year started on the right foot by giving away a $20 Abunga.com Gift Card to one of our new subscribers this August. To be eligible, all you have to do is subscribe to our site through email (it’s free) using the form below. That’s it!

Enter your email address:

Seriously, that’s it! Only email subscribers are eligible, but if you’ve already subscribed in a feed reader you can always subscribe by email too. As long as you subscribe before midnight on August 31, you will be included in the random drawing.

If you don’t know about Abunga, it’s a family friendly, online discount bookstore that gives 5% of its revenues to non-profits.

Thanks, and good luck!

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Articles In The News What Others Are Doing

Literacy On the Web

One of the issues we’re already concerned about is setting a good reading example for our kids. We feel like it’s important to not only read to them, but for them to see us reading on our own as well. Ana is much more apt to read books than I am. I’ve always been a pretty voracious reader. I’m constantly reading, but 90% of my reading now occurs online. I feel like I need to make a conscious effort to read books when little ones are around because I’m afraid they’ll associate a computer as some type of toy and won’t understand that what I do with the computer is actually reading. But even if they realize that I’m reading, is that the kind of reading kids need?

Yesterday’s New York Times has an excellent article discussing the changing face of reading and how it affects literacy. Reading online is increasingly popular with young people, and the experience of reading online resembles more of a zig-zag-bob-and-weave than the linear beginning, middle, end type reading most of us grew up doing in books, magazines, and newspapers. When I was a kid, I was big fan of “Choose Your Own Adventure” books because they offered a little bit of control over the story, and the story could change. One of the reasons I love reading online is because the experience is similar, and it offers many more tangents. The difference is that those books I loved so much still had a beginning, middle, and end to their stories.

From my own experience, I think the big issue with reading online is that I don’t tend to get as much granularity as I would from a book. I use my online reading as more of a macro view of a subject. Although I can get many more vantage points on a subject, I tend to miss out on the details. I tend to use what I read online as a guide to what I want to read more about in a book; the overview that I get online helps me decide what I’d like to learn about in detail. But, just as the article suggests, I think the way my brain works has definitely been changed by the availability of information we now enjoy.

I think it’s interesting that for kids born in the last ten years or so, this way of getting information is perfectly normal, and for the generation before mine (at least a large number of them), they haven’t really transitioned to life online the way many in my generation have. It’s definitely a strange spot to be in, having experience “extreme reading” both before and after the presence of the web.

Still, I tend to agree with this statement from the article:

Even those who are most concerned about the preservation of books acknowledge that children need a range of reading experiences. “Some of it is the informal reading they get in e-mails or on Web sites,” said Gay Ivey, a professor at James Madison University who focuses on adolescent literacy. “I think they need it all.”

What do you guys think? Does reading online really count as reading?

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In The News My Humble Opinion What Others Are Doing

Reading Phailure?

USA Today has a pretty scathing criticism of Reading First in its editorial section. The crux of the argument is that the system has been duped by textbook publishers into wasting a lot of money on a program that has no value. But does that mean the research is wrong? Is the problem with the research or the implementation?

…the studies the panel reviewed show that intensive phonics has little to do with students’ ability to understand what they read. Distinguished literacy experts Frank Smith and Kenneth Goodman have provided compelling evidence that comprehension is the basis for learning to read: We learn to read by understanding what is on the page.

But what happens after we learned to read? How do we learn to stretch our skills? What about reading to learn? Shouldn’t our goal be to eventually learn to understand by being able to read what is on the page? Mr. Krashen’s solution to literacy ills is the mere presence of books.

Instead of wasting billions of dollars more on Reading First, let’s invest much more in libraries in low-income areas. Let’s make sure all children have access to books, and solve the real literacy crisis forever.

Great. Now what do we do about the kids who don’t live next door to the library?

Whether taught at school or at home, with books paid for by the parents or provided free for loan by libraries, using researched based techniques or trial and error, children are ultimately going to be affected more by their parents’ attitudes toward literacy and reading than anything else.

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In The News Just For Fun What Others Are Doing

COH Issue For June 10

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up–thanks to The Common Room for hosting! Just a few of the interesting posts that caught our eye here at RCO:

Hands on ABC Order — some activities you can do with your child to exercise their alphabetizing skills.

First Grade Curriculum Review — great insight from a first year homeschooler on several subjects (not just reading)

There’s More to Education Than Smarts — an interesting post about the social responsibilities that come with an education.

And take a look at the test Phil gave his 4th grader.

There are several other great posts in the carnival for homeschoolers–check it out!