Monday, August 19, 2019

Colored Foods 3 Part Cards

One of my Tot School Goals is to expose Archer to lots of vocabulary words.  What I found effective when Xander was little was making 3 Part Cards (a Montessori idea) and a corresponding Little Reader lesson. Since I am doing Color Themes and Archer LOVES food, I decided to put together vocabulary materials of different colored foods.

I made sets of both cards and Little Reader lessons for red, yellow, green, brown, orange, white and purple.

Here's an example for yellow:

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Friday, August 16, 2019

Games for Brains: Q-Bitz

Playing Time: 15-25 min
Players: 2-4
In this game there is a card and trays that have little cubes.  The cubes have different designs on them and you use them to recreate the image on the card. You compete against other players to see who can create each design the fastest.  There are three types or rounds.  One where everyone just makes the image on the card, one where you have to roll the cubes until you get the designs you need and one where you only get to see the design card for a short period of time and have to recreate the image from memory. I like that this game is easy to teach and play, so we can get it out with non-gamer friends and family and everyone can still enjoy it.

Brain Value:
We have been wanting to work on Xander's visual spacial skills and this is a great game for it!  Figuring out how to make the designs with the cubes is wonderful visual practice.  Recreating them from memory makes it even more challenging!  He has gotten much better at creating the correct design on the first try, but he is still working on improving his speed.

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

4th Grade Afterschooling Goals and Curriculum

Xander is eight and a half and about to enter 4th grade.  Since he has been so far ahead from first entering public school, I've always supplemented at home. Because I was working, we mostly focused on math, with some other subject thrown in. Last year, he did a LOT of IXL.  This year, I've decided to take a much more organized approach to his "Afterschooling".
I wrote out my goals and then figured out the curriculum that would meet it, but he would also enjoy.  Since he does go to regular school all day, I've had to be picky about what I teach him so that he gets free time too.  My goal is about 45 minutes of afterschooling work most days. He doesn't normally have homework from school, but when he had a huge project last year, we just skipped my work for him those weeks.

Here is what I decided to supplement and how:
Visual Spatial Reasoning - While Xander has scored really high on all of his standardized and gifted tests, his visual spatial reasoning is just the tiniest bit behind the other areas of math.
  • Games - We try to play a lot of games together. Several of these include a visual spacial component (Carcassone, Pylos, Q-Bits, Tsuro, Brick Party, Blokus). He also has a lot of solo logic games that work on these skills as well.
General Math - He's always enjoyed math.  Every time we go to the library he comes home with Life of Fred books and he would watch Mathtacular on repeat if I let him. Since he tends to be ahead of where they are at school, I supplement at home.
  • Beast Academy - We just discovered these books and love them! He reads the textbook, which is written like a comic book, on his own. We do the workbook together. (Not affiliate link, just love them)
  • Library Call Numbers - I've started writing his/my list of library books by call numbers and having him find them
  • Cooking - I plan on having him bake every so often, but halving or doubling a recipe
Logic/Critical Thinking
Logic and critical thinking are some of those skills that spill into everything else, but don't normally get taught directly in school.
  • Solo Logic Games - We have tons of these, so we'll just rotate them weekly.
  • Family Games - We play a lot of games together, but I have no patience for luck only games. As a result, a lot of our games have plenty of strategy and logic.
  • Mind Benders Level 4 - Xander loves these logic grid puzzles. Sometimes he needs some help walking through them, but he can usually figure them out on h is own.
  • The Basics of Critical Thinking book - My goal is to have Xander read just a few pages of this every week. However, I'm sure he will probably sit down and read the whole thing the first week I get it out. I haven't looked through the whole thing, yet, but it seems like a nice approach to critical thinking.

The kid has hated drawing/writing/coloring since he was little. Unfortunately, it is causing him to shorten his answers at school, so that he can write less. He also sometimes writes so quickly, it is entirely illegible. We're working on it, slowly.

I'm a former science teacher, so there was no way I could skip the science. I used the Next Generation Science Standards, which are the national standards, to figure out what he should be learning in 4th grade. From there, I am going to write my own activities and curriculum to meet the standards. I'll share as I go, and probably put the whole thing together on Teachers Pay Teachers eventually.

Keyboarding is not taught in our district until middle school. I originally purchased a subscription to keyboarding curriculum, but Xander didn't really like it. Lately, he has just been using Nitrotype. I don't love it, but he does, so we're going with it.

  • Tuttle Twins Books - Last year, my dad got Xander the entire set of Tuttle Twins books for Christmas. Xander's read all of the books multiple times, but I also want to make sure he's pulling the lessons out of them. My plan is to do a monthly "book club" with him. I'll read the books and write discussion questions for us. It will also be a great way for him to practice his summarizing skills.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Gross Motor Development Game for Colors and Shapes

Every kid is different, so I find myself trying to adapt learning activities to Archer.  He enjoys moving! To practice our colors and shapes, I made him this Roll and Find Gross Motor Game for colors and shapes.

Making the Game
You will need felt in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple, scissors, the printable dice and the shape templates. To make cutting easier, I pinned the template to two sheets of felt so that I could cut multiple shapes out at the same time (you could easily use staples if you don't have pins). I made each shape in two colors, but you could easily make shapes in each color and play with all three dice at once!

Playing the Game
There are three dice, one with colors, one with shapes and one with actions (skip, tiptoe, etc.). For now we are just doing either shapes or colors.  When he gets a bit older, we will add in the action die. I might also make more felt shapes, so that he has to find the correct piece with both color and shape. 

Print the free dice and shape templates here!

Archer is only 14 months, but he did much better than I would have expected.  He did eventually get distracted by the stars, because he is a little obsessed with that shape.  He wanted to carry them around instead of stepping on them!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Color 3 Part Cards

When Xander was little, we found that making 3 part cards and corresponding Little Reader lessons was very effective for teaching him words and concepts. Archer already really enjoys the existing Little Reader lessons I made, so I am working on making more 3 Part Cards and lessons.

Since we will be starting color themes soon, I started out by making some Color 3 Part Cards. There are 12 cards that you can leave together or cut the words and pictures apart. I have not yet made a Little Reader lesson, because one comes with the software, even if it doesn't have as many colors.

Check out more Color Themes Resources

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Friday, August 9, 2019

Games for Brains: Hey, That's My Fish!

Hey, That's My Fish!
Playing Time: ~15
Players: 2-4

This is another one of those short and sweet little games that is easy to learn and quick to play. It comes in a small box, so I find myself throwing in the bag for when we go on trips (although, it is not a good car game, you need a table).  Basically, there are a bunch of tiles with different numbers of fish on them and you collect as many for your little penguins as possible.  The trick is, that as you play, you collect the tiles, altering the size and shape of the ice floe.  You can end up stranded or block other players onto little sections.

Brain Value:
The strategy in this game comes from how you end up removing the tiles.  If you can block yourself off into an area where you get a lot of fish, you give yourself an advantage.  There's some visual spacial reasoning (although not super heavy as in some other games). You also have to decide whether to go for tiles with 1, 2 or 3 fish, depending on their placement. On the other hand, the game is simple enough, that Xander probably could have started playing well at about 5.

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Thursday, August 8, 2019

Tot School Color Themes Goals

(Archer will be  around 15-18 Months)

My oldest is eight and a half, so it has been a long time since I have gotten to do tot school. I am very excited to start again with Archer!  Starting at the end of August, we will be doing a color a week (with a few potential breaks for holidays or vacations or if life throws us some curve ball) Organization makes me happy, so I made a list of goals for myself of what I was hoping to get out of our color themes.  I figured I'd share for anyone else planning their own tot school.

Let me start by saying that every family has their own educational philosophy.  I believe that little kids can and love to learn. However, I also believe that learning should be fun and low pressure.  Little kids need to play, move and have fun, so our "formal" school time is only when we're both in good moods and only for short periods at a time. I see our activities as enjoyable ways to spend time together that also allow him to learn.

  • Vocabulary Building - Having an organized theme each week, will allow me to add in some vocabulary building. Archer loves food and he loves watching new lessons on Little Reader, so I have made him some lessons around food of each color.
  • Fine Motor - I feel like the next few years will be focused on fine motor development, so we will try to include some activities that work on them. Nothing crazy, because he is still so young.
  • Gross Motor - Research seems to indicate that all of brain development is interconnected, so I definitely don't want to forget gross motor activity! Luckily, with an active little guy, getting in some gross motor play should be pretty easy!
  • Sensory Play - First off, sensory play is fun! It also exposes kids to a variety of textures and materials. There's some physics learning involved with pouring, dumping, piling etc. Plus you can bring in math concepts like sorting.
  • Math - Like with Xander, I'm avoiding exposing Archer to numerals. Instead, we'll do other math concepts like sorting, ordering and matching. He is still little, so I'll focus on modeling rather than expecting him to do it.
  • Reading - After teaching Xander to read as a baby, and his huge love of reading now, reading is definitely something I want to focus on with Archer. Once again, it is low pressure but exposing him to words will be a part of our Tot School activities.

Now you'll notice, that teaching Archer the colors is not an actual goal of Tot School for us.  For me, color themes give me a great way to organize our activities. He knows most of his colors already, and I know he will learn the others eventually, whether or not we do any Tot School.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Vampirina Tot Pack

We recently went to the birthday party of one of our little cousins and learned that she and he sister are obsessed with Vampirina.  They were so adorable in telling me all about her, that I decided to make them a Vampirina Themed Tot Pack.

You can download the Vampirina Tot Pack HERE.

Since the girls are different ages, I tried to include a range of activities.  Here's a look at what is inside:
  • Character Cards: Use for decoration, name matching or print two copies and play memory!
  • Shadow Matching— One page has images and another has "shadows." I cut out the images and laminated them and left the "shadow" page whole.
  • Line Tracing
  • Letter V Dot Page—Use with dot markers or magnets.
  • Shape Tracing
  • Number Clipping: I cut out the cards and use a clothespin to clip the correct number
  • Tally Mark Practice
  • Number Line
  • Coin Recognition
  • Math Die - There's a tally chart, graph and results page to use with the die
  • Maze
  • Counting by 2s Puzzle and a Counting by 10s Puzzle - I cut these out and laminated them to be sturdy while being manipulated.

Most things I print on cardstock to make it more sturdy. Manipulatives I laminate. For anything that can be reused, I usually use either our pockets or our Crayola Dry Erase Activity Center.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Teaching My Baby To Read - Adapting Doman

I'm currently working on teaching my second baby to read. I recently posted about how he has shown he can read some words and have gotten some questions about what exactly we have done. I thought it might be helpful to share what has worked for our family.

I have taken a three part approach, but all parts follow the same essential philosophy. I came across it originally in How To Teach Your Baby To Read by Glenn Doman, but have read about similar approaches from Shichida and Right Brain Kids.  He advocates a method that has been working for decades.  The idea is to teach the baby whole words at a time, very quickly and cheerfully, allowing their "right" brain to learn them. There is no active thinking or phonics involved. Lessons should be FAST and FUN.  Quizzing, testing and over-practice are discouraged.  You definitely don't want to bore your baby or make them feel like it is work to learn.

*Note: while I taught Xander this whole word approach, he was able to read words I didn't teach him also. Eventually, he had enough words in his arsenal that he just kind of figured out phonics and decoding on his own. When he was a little older, we did go over phonics when we started spelling. He also enjoyed the Leap Frog phonics movies.

Part 1: Flashcards
I did not use the huge flashcards with red marker that Doman advocates, but instead printed words onto cardstock. Keep in mind that words should be big, since little eyes are still maturing.

We started at about five and a half months doing one set of English words, three times a day. (Technically, I also did one set of Spanish words three times a day, but we dropped it by the time he was one, because he just did not enjoy it and I am not going to force him).  Each set had 5 words.  The first set we did 5 days.  After that, we took one word out and added a new one every day, so he would see every word 3X a day 5 days (15 times total). I would sit him across from me, show him the word and say it clearly and happily.  Then I'd repeat with the other four words.  I would go as quickly as possible while still being clear. Ideally, we would have done this every day, but we did them most days a week, taking a break for holidays or illnesses. 
The easiest way I found to organize this was to use a file folder.  Each day I crossed off the word I took out and wrote the word I added. New words were kept in one hanging folder and old words got put into another.
We phased these out right around Archer's first birthday.  He was losing interest and not wanting to be still.  He also much prefers doing lessons on Little Reader.

Part 2: Little Reader
I started doing Little Reader with Archer at around maybe six month-ish?  I started with just Spanish, added in English, and ultimately dropped the Spanish, based on his interests.  The program comes with a pre-set curriculum that is intended to be done twice a day.  We only did one lesson a day, usually skipping the pictures (Archer didn't like them) and definitely skipping the word-split and game (word-split is kind of against the whole word idea). I also usually turn off the photo pronunciation and video.  It goes much faster if I say the word for the photo and skip the video. Each lesson takes maybe 3 minutes.

At 14.5 months, we are still doing Little Reader once a day or so.  We do picture flash now, because he enjoys it.  After we do one of the pre-set curriculum lessons, Archer always signs more, so I do some categories of words with him.  He likes these and the lessons I made when Xander was little much better. You can download any of the categories I made  for free here. Below is a video of what one of these category lessons looks like.

We will usually do a few different ones and he still usually cries when I cut him off.  Gotta love a kid that loves words!

Part 3: Movies
Both boys have LOVED Your Baby Can Read DVDs.  We started around six month-ish with Archer.  We progressed through levels 1-4 at about a DVD a month, but spent a little longer on DVD 5, because it is a review of all the others.  Recently, we have started him on Your Child Can Read, which he also loves.

I made the huge investment to buy him Tweedlewink DVDS, but he doesn't like them at all.  Maybe someday?? He watches an average of one movie, several days a week, rotating between YBCR, Meet the Sight Words (the first one is free on YouTube), Sparkabilities (now they are free on YouTube), and Your Baby Can Discover. I don't know that any of the reading movies would be enough, in and of themselves, to teach him to read, but they definitely help with the words that are in them.  Plus, they let me cook dinner!

Less Formal Activities
Everything I have described is my organized approach to teaching Archer to read.  However, we also read tons of books, pointing to the words as we read.  I also have lots of books around for him to browse on his own. I try to have some books with large, easy to read words.  We also have sight words readers and the early readers I made.

Please don't take what we have done as a strict outline.  Every baby and every family are different. However, every baby is also capable of learning amazing things! Whatever you try to teach your baby, as long as it is done cheerfully and without pressure, will result in some sort of learning!

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Monday, August 5, 2019

First Signs of Reading!

Archer is 14.5 months

It happened!  My baby can read!!

Ok, I should back up a bit.  I've posted several times about teaching Xander to read as a baby and why I decided to repeat the process with Archer.  Since babies can't actually talk, point or match, and any attempts at quizzing are discouraged, I had to go into it with some faith that what I was doing would be worth it.  Luckily, I already knew it could work when I embarked on the journey with Archer.  That isn't to say that there weren't times when I wondered if he would learn to read as easily or love it as much. Every child is so different.

Anyway, on Wednesday, Archer brought me his Your Baby Can Read flashcards.  He has always loved them and likes me to show them ALL to him.  As we were going through, I got to the one that said "car" and without any hinting or prompting on my part, Archer said "car."  I clapped and cheered and we moved on.  Later that night we did all the flashcards again so I could both verify that he truly knew it and so my husband could see.  He did it again! He can read the word "car." Since then, he has also consistently said "star" correctly when we have had out other word cards.

Yes, I know it is only a couple of word, but it is a couple of words I know my baby can read! I'm pretty sure there are other words he can read, because he will sometimes see words and try to say them.  However, since "car" is one of the few words he can say clearly, it was the first time I could know for sure.

Obviously, we have a long way to go before he'll be reading Llama Llama or Harry Potter on his own, but for now, I will rejoice in all the small achievements! That's part of my job as his mama!

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