Friday, November 4, 2011

Kid's Music Series: Songs From The Baobob CD and Book

I am a sucker for Children's Books with amazing illustrations, and the first thing I noticed about Songs From The Baobab was the beautiful artwork!  The illustrations of the African Lullabies and Nursery Rhymes the mothers were telling their children take on life through the colorful paintings.  The textures and different mediums and patterns used creates a story in-itself to accompany the simple phrases.  I appreciated that each page had the African words to accompany the English translations, and the story really comes to life when you enjoy it with the accompanying CD.
Songs From The Baobab the CD includes 29 songs that are from 10 different countries including Rwanda, Senegal and the Ivory Coast.  The beats range from uplifting and fast, to relaxing and soothing, and I felt like I could just imagine the people singing these songs with such joy and enthusiasm.  The songs are sung in 11 different languages, and even though I could not understand them I still felt a connection to the women, children, and men singing.  The kids really enjoyed listening to something in a foreign language and would often stop to interrupt and tell me the translation-which was very hilarious!  We also enjoyed how each song concluded with a brief description of the cultural significance of the song and instruments used.

Songs From The Baobab CD and Book are a great way to add some cultural history from Africa into your little ones library.

Check out Songs From The Baobab from The Secret for images, commentary, and audio samples.  You can even purchase the album to add to your MP3 device!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

TouchyBooks Review and Discount: The Journey of Christopher Columbus

With Columbus Day just around the corner, why not celebrate with a discounted TouchyBook?  The Journey of Christopher Columbus is currently 50% off and will be sure to delight any child with a fun-filled quick history lesson.
As a teacher, I was happy to see that the book was historically accurate, and as a mom to 2 preschoolers I was happy to see it was geared towards little kids.  TouchyBooks made Christopher Columbus come to life with cute graphics and a simple storyline.  The book's wording works well in that they made Columbus talk about himself in the past tense as he explained to kids today what people believed about the world when he was around.  He explains that they thought the only continents were Europe and Asia ("The Indies").

The interactive features included were a few simple touch-and-move features per page, but there were also two new puzzle games that the kids really liked.

So if you are a TouchyBooks fan like me (and if you are not-you don't know what you are missing), pick up The Journey of Christopher Columbus today for 50% off.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Scholastic Storybook Treasures DVDs Review: My First Collection Vol. 2 Featuring Spoon

Scholastic just seems to know what kids like, and The My First Collection Vol. 2 Featuring Spoon is another hit.  This DVD set includes 3 discs featuring: Spoon, Dem Bones, and That New Animal.  There are 13 stories total with a run time of 127 minutes (plus extras).  It is recommended for ages 2-6; however, I think the Dem Bones songs are great for older kids as well.

Here is what you get with this set:

Disc #-Spoon: This disc is perfect for ages 2-4
  • -Spoon: The cute tale about learning to appreciate YOU (contains highlighted text feature)
  • -A Boy, A Dog and A Frog: Cute video (not cartoon) about a young boy and his dog trying to catch a frog. No words, just cute music.
  • -Otto Runs For President: Still storybook images shown with highlighted text feature
  • -Bugs! Bugs! Bugs!: Lots of color in this one. Still images and highlighted text.

Disc #2-Dem Bones: Amazing disc that is perfect for anatomy lessons (Dem Bones) and history lessons (Erie Canal, dinosaur bones). Good for ages 4 and up.
  • -Dem Bones: LOVE this one! Great song with highlighted words.  The parts of the body are colored red on the skeletons when the song talks about them.  We learned a lot of new facts about our bones!
  • -Hush Little Baby: Still photos from the original storybook with highlighted text as it is sung (twice).
  • -Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night: Still photos and highlighted text.  A little morbid considering the fox is going just be aware.
  • -Dinosaur Bones: Great colorful images and highlighted text that will teach your little one all about dinosaur bones and paleontologists!
  • -The Erie Canal: This story starts out with a quick history lesson (and real life photos) of the creation of the Erie Canal.  Then, the story transitions into still images (cartoons) and a song about the Erie Canal that the kids really enjoyed!

Disc #3-That New Animal: Preschooler Oldies but Goodies
  • -That New Animal: Still pictures and highlighted text about a dog who is trying to figure out why this new animal is here (aka: the baby)!
  • -I Love You Like Crazy Cakes: Adorable old story with highlighted text.
  • -Smile For Auntie:  Very old images with highlighted text.  Not really a family favorite.
  • -Blueberries For Sal:  One of my favorite old stories complete with highlighted text.

Scholastic Storybook Treasures: My First Collection Vol. 2 featuring Spoon truly has some amazing stories and songs on it that are for any age! The publisher recommends these discs for ages 2-6; however, with the songs on the parts of the body, and the Erie Canal, this collection could be a teacher's dream!  I highly recommend this set, so buy yours today:

To find more Scholastic Storybook Treasures, like NewKideo on Facebook.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Scholastic Storybook Treasures Review: Chrysanthemum...and More Whimsical Stories

There is something about the teacher in me that runs our free time at home like a classroom.  If we are going to watch a show on TV, is it educational?  Is the book we are reading at night serve a purpose other than entertainment?  Can you count those vegetables before you eat them?!  Seriously, my brain never turns off.

So when I hear the name Scholastic I do think "educational," and they did not disappointed with their latest release boxed DVD set Chrysanthemum...And More Whimsical Stories.  The set comes with 3 DVDs, each of which is at least one hour long.  Every disc contains short stories that are read aloud by celebrity narrators.  I had a fun time guessing which ones Sarah Jessica Parker, Meryl Streep, and Danny Glover read!

I really liked the "old-school" aspect of these stories in that the original artwork (in most cases) was used, rather than a beefed-up cartoon that really takes away from the story itself.  It reminded me of working in the classroom and reading a Big Book to my students.  Now you can watch these DVDs at home and have the same feeling.  Ahhh!

The BEST feature of these DVDs is that the "main stories" on each disc showed the words at the bottom and highlighted them as the narrator read along! Hooray, Scholastic for encouraging one-to-one correspondence for little kids, and the read-along capability for older kids.  I was a little disappointed that the "bonus stories" on each disc did not have this feature, but they were still enjoyable; however, the teacher in me was sad.

Here is a break down of what you get for your money:
Disc #1- Most of these stories have a mouse theme, and are very preschooler friendly
A Weekend With Wendell
The Caterpillar and the Polliwog
Hondo and Fabian-Bonus Story
Mouse Around-Bonus Story

Disc #2- Classic fairytales with beautiful original artwork (especially in Rapunzel)
Rapunzel-NOT to be confused with the Disney version of the story
The Elves and the Shoemaker
The Talking Eggs
The Three Billy Goats Gruff
Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China-Bonus Story
Princess Furball-Bonus Story

Disc #3- More "cutesy" stories that a younger reader/preschooler will love
Is Your Mama A Llama?-NOT to be confused with the Mama Llama series that is so popular today!
Noisy Nora
Each Peach Pear Plum
The Little Red Hen
Reading to You Bunny-Bonus Story

For under $25 Scholastic Storybook Treasures: Chrysanthemum...and More Whimsical Stories is a must-have!  You will have over 180 minutes of short stories to watch that will help your child learn various reading skills from building one-to-one correspondence, recognizing sight words, and reading along.  Buy it today and "Like" New Kideo on Facebook to see all the latest and greatest from Scholastic as they are released!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Millie And The Lost Key App Review: Dog Gone Cute!

There are so many children's APPs out there now, that finding one with the right fit (for the right price) can be a little tricky.  Well, Millie And The Lost Key by Millie Was Here is an amazing one for your little boy or girl, and for $3.99 I think it is worth the price. Plus you can get the free APP "Meet Millie" to kick off the series and give it a try.

I have tested out a lot of APPs for kids, and it seems like the interactive features in some are great, but in others fall short.  The features often over-shadow the story, but in Millie And The Lost Key you get the best of both worlds: creative interactive features AND storyline.

Millie And The Lost Key is about a dog named Millie (who looks scary-identical to my Tibetan Terrier Sami I had as a child!). Millie goes on an adventure trying to find the key to unlock the treasure box filled with her favorite treat.  She ventures through many obstacles (all set in and around New York City with real photos) to find her long lost love-bacon.

What makes this APP really unique is that the storyline is set around original photography!  You actually get to meet Millie and see her in action as she searches for her treasure.  The photos are paired up with interactive illustrations at times, and you even have the option to make Millie do different things (like fly a plane, calm down, search around, and more).

The APP has three modes to play in: read to me, read by myself, or my new favorite-bedtime mode (in which the sound is lowered and all the game features are disabled).  The narrator's voice is great and really makes the story come alive.  As a Reading Specialist, I especially like that the words are lit up as the story is read aloud! Hooray, teaching kids one-to-one correspondence in a fun way!

The interactive features are what really sell this app.  Here is a list of some of them and the kid's favorites:
-pop up pictures that you push to come to life
-moving the airplane around the page to show the route Millie will take
-playing games in which you touch a rotating "tile" to make it flip over (kid's loved this one)
-carnival-style games that you can win prizes and points for
-scratch off pictures similar to lotto scratchers-new feature I have never seen before and the kid's favorite!
-sliders to make pictures move (even a winding path one great for hand-eye coordination)
-buttons to make pictures come to life
-touch and move images
-stickers that are hidden on every page and your child can collect (a little tricky to find for younger ones, but fun to collect)

I could probably fill up this entire post if I named all the features, so you will just have to try it for yourself.  Millie And The Lost Key is appropriate for any age child, and there is nothing inappropriate (within the wording or context).  This book is a sweet story in a collection of APPs about Millie! I am excited to see what comes next!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Keys To Reading Silently With Comprehension AND Speed

Recently, I was asked by a My Reading reader about which techniques are most effective for silent reading, and how one might acquire this skill.  This is a great question that I felt really needed a post to answer all the parts.  Here is the reader's comment, along with my embedded answers in red.

I have a question about how one should read when they are reading silently.

I was recently talking to a friend who is a very good reader. He told me that when he reads, his eyes see the words and the words "click" (or rather the meaning of the words "click") in his brain and he understands them. He told me that when he sees numbers, they slow him down because he has to actually say them in his head.
There are two methods of reading silently: subvocalization (saying the words inside your head), and non-subvocalization in which you are not saying the words but rather thinking about the meanings of the words.

It is interesting that numbers slow him down; however, if they are in the numerical form rather than the written word I can see that connection.  That is likely due to the area of the brain that does mathematical functions as opposed to the portion of the brain he uses to "define" the words inside his head.

I realized that when I am reading, I actually say every single word in my head, as if someone was reading it aloud to me.
I often do this as well.  I found that I had to practice reading in a faster manner (regardless of clarity) a few times to make my brain more comfortable with the feel.  This 'forced speed reading' does help you train your mind to gloss over words and interpret meaning rather than saying these words subvocally.  It is something you really have to work at, but can be done.

So I have a few questions about this.
1: Which method is more efficient; actually saying every word in one's head, or being able to look at the word and instantly understand its meaning?
This is actually a trick question because BOTH methods are effective for different purposes:
  • -Subvocalization (or saying the words inside your head as you read) is very effective for memorization,  focused comprehension, learning, and intense focus.  It is bad for reading quickly as you will never read faster than you talk at about a rate of 150 words per minute
  • -No Subvocalization is great for reading at a very rapid pace, and is good for total comprehension of the entire written work.
2: As I suspect the latter, how does one acquire this?
You must work at it.  The reason you are using subvocalization is because you were taught that way!  As a child you began by reciting letter sounds of words aloud and then you would transfer this skill inside your head.  

I suggest taking time each day to read by speed reading the passage as fast as possible first regardless of accuracy.  Then go back and try it a little bit slower.  It is important to try and think about the 'meanings' of the words and NOT the words themselves.  Of course, this is very difficult.  With practice you will begin to improve and your speed and accuracy will pick up.

Just like how you learned to read as a child...this is a process! It has to be worked on over and over to achieve mastery, but it is a very great skill to have.  If you find that you are stopping more than 5 times in a 100 word passage (this is known as the 5-finger rule) the context of the passage is above your reading level (ie: your vocabulary is not high enough to achieve mastery).  Having a high vocabulary is absolutely a key to learning to read quickly.  My suggestion to increase accuracy: crossword puzzles, scrabble, online word games with definitions.

One more, slightly off-topic question. Is it possible to learn to read multiple words at once? Is it possible to learn to see and understand say 2, 3 or even four words at once, so when you are reading you are able to read by moving your eyes less and less sideways and thus you can read much faster? If yes, how might one acquire this?
Many speed-reading programs would say yes.  I have heard that it is possible to train your brain to read multiple words at once and comprehend them; however, I admit I have not experienced this myself.  I find that as I read quickly that I will "flash" my eyes across a line and pick up many (but not all) of the words at once.  When I think about it now (since I obviously don't as I am reading), my brain can very often fill in the blanks when it comes to conjunctions (and, for, or, so, etc), and other high frequency words.  Therefore, it appears that I am reading multiple words at once, but in actuality I am reading portions of phrases.

*I really hope that I was able to answer all of your questions, and that you have a good place of where to start to acquire this skill.

-Please leave me comments and let me know:
  • Did you find this post helpful?
  • Have you tried these techniques?  Did they work for you? 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

TouchyBooks Review and Giveaway: The Witch's Apprentice

It's that time again you lucky ducks! Today's review of the TouchyBooks story The Witch's Apprentice also has a giveaway in which 5 winners will get to pick the Touchybook story of their choice loaded directly on to their iPad or iPhone.  Only takes a few seconds to enter!

Today's book The Witch's Apprentice seems to fit in perfectly in today's world of Harry Potter and Twilight lovers (yes, I admit I am one of Edward in case you were wondering)!  This book though is geared more towards younger viewers (ages 12 and under) rather than tweens (anyone else getting tired of that word?).  The graphics are dark and spooky in overall appearance, though the little girl witch is more cutesy than evil.  She is training to be a witch and talks about all the steps and spells she must practice in order to achieve her goal.  I loved the large amount of interactive features that were really unique which included:
  • Dressing the witch in her proper attire (socks, hat, cape, etc)-kids LOVED this one
  • Reading magic cards (they are printed backwards and you must read them in a mirror-so creative!)
  • Reading magic words with the touch of a wand
  • Creating your own concoctions (thank you for using large vocabulary words)
  • Racing witches around on brooms through the sky
  • Practicing magic spells on the cat and turning her into....whatchamacallits!
  • Picture puzzles (the kids had fun mixing and matching animal parts)
  • Choosing different funny noses for our witch
This TouchyBook is definitely on our must-have list.  Now is your chance to win it (or another book of your choice).
5 people will win a TouchyBook of their choice.  Just complete at least the BOLD entry below, then complete optional entries for more chances to win!  If you have any problems entering using this Rafflecopter giveaway, please leave me a comment below.  Good luck!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Read The Walls!

I took LoLo out for an adventure the other day (aka The Mall) and decided that we would play little games with all the signs and words we saw out in public.  This is a great way to get him thinking more about how letters make up words, that words have meanings, and that words can be found anywhere.

Here are some of the things we read:
  • Menus in restaurant windows (he used pictures and the first letter of the word to figure them out)
  • Signs out front of stores advertising sales (he was excited to see words he knew "the," "and")
  • Push and Pull signs on doors (he learned the difference between these words "-sh" vs. "-ll")
  • Walmart coupon flyer at the door
  • Advertisements in store windows (I would have him look at the pictures to figure out what the ad was for, then show him to corresponding word)
So next time you are out, make reading the words around you a game!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Get A Grip

Is your child learning to write, or having trouble with penmanship?  If so, get a grip! Now, don't be offended...I meant it literally.  Getting a rubbery pencil grip (like the one shown below) can really help your child learn the proper finger positioning for writing. 

Most kindergarten teachers take the time to correct hand positions, though with the rigors of today's state standards and all they have to accomplish, many teachers lack the time needed to correctly teach this skill.  As a result, some children need more time to perfect writing.  Now that it is summer you have the chance to get your child's penmanship up to speed. So go get a rubberized grip and practice, practice, practice!

Monday, July 4, 2011

TouchyBooks Review and Giveaway: The Tortoise And The Hare

I am excited to announce that I will now be reviewing new TouchyBooks on a regular basis.  What that means for ME is that I get to test and review new stories on one of the best apps for kids there is, but what is means for YOU is the chance to win free books!  Hooray!
Today's story is the classic fable The Tortoise And The Hare.  I am happy to say that TouchyBooks stuck with the original story and added a modern twist with cute graphics.  I liked the purple Hare and the way he came off as cocky in the beginning and so forlorn at the end!  The Tortoise is very friendly and cute, especially with his little headband.

The kid's favorite parts of the story were the balloon that floats up at the starting line and you can touch it to pop it which begins the race!  They wanted to play that page over, and over, and ugh over.  Another page that received tons of laughs was where the Hare decided to take a nap because he had such an overwhelming lead.  As he napped there were snot bubbles that oozed out of his nose, and with a touch you can pop them.  Guess what the kids did over and over on that page?

This is a great, classic, simple story that was a lot of fun.  It didn't seem to have as many interactive features as some of the other books; however, we loved the ones it did have.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Little Sky Writers App: The Little Airplane That Teaches Writing And Phonics

Little Sky Writers by is a cute little app that any child, or airplane lover, will like.  It is the perfect app for young preschoolers who are learning to write, recognize letters, or phonics.  This app is available for the iPad and iPhone.  On the menu screen your little one will be able to pick which color plane he would like (red, blue, pink), and then you press the start button and your engine starts up!
You can choose to practice writing letters in capital or lowercase font.  My favorite feature of this app is that it shows a dot where the plane should start and stop writing the letter, and a 'track' that the plane should follow.  This teaches your child the correct way to write a letter.  Directionality is not often shown in similar apps, and as a Reading Specialist I have to say that I LOVE that they included this feature in Little Sky Writers.
As the plane follows the path it leaves behind puffs of smoke to show that the path was completed.  Such a cute feature.  What is even better is that it can not follow an incorrect path.  If your child tries to drag the plane on an incorrect path it will simply pull the plane back on track! A great feature for young kids with limited fine motor skills.

One feature that the kids found hysterical was the voice of the narrator.  As you trace the letters he says words and phrases that coordinate with the letter.  LoLo really liked the letter G which said "Gobble, Gobble is thought to be what a turkey says; however, he really says 'Hello, I am a Turkey'!"  Somehow this phrase just seemed to throw him into a fit of laughter every time...seriously, like 20 times!

This app is a great summertime activity to help your child learn writing and phonics skills for the upcoming year, or to review skills they need to perfect.  Check it out by going to your app store on your device, or iTunes and typing in 'Little Sky Writers.'

Today's Reading Tip: Keep Working This Summer-Here's Why

Every year as school starts back up I find that some of the same groups of students come back to see me for Language Arts support.  As always I find that these students did NOT continue to practice any of the skills I taught them over the summer, and therefore we usually have to back track about 4 months!

Now, imagine what your child would be like if you work with them this summer on keeping up with their reading skills! Obviously if you are reading this you care about your child's academics, but did you know that MOST children do not do any sort of academic work over the summer, and MOST are behind by 4 months upon entering school in the Fall?  So, I encourage you to have your kid be at the top of the class.  Even if your child was about average in his class last year, you now have the potential to have him entering the following year closer to the top portion.  So get working!  Only about 10-15 minutes a day is needed, but the key is consistency and focus!  You can keep it easy by buying a workbook for your child's grade level he will be entering, or you can go over all that work that the teachers sent home over the course of the previous year.  Good Luck...and remember teachers LOVE parents like you :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Today's Reading Tip: Spell It Out

So you smarty pants out there probably just spelled "it" out loud didn't you?  Well, what I was referring to was spelling words out loud to help your early reader understand that words that are spelled can be sounded out to make words they understand.

LoLo is 4 years old (and 4 months) and is just realizing that Mommy and Daddy talking in 'code' is really us just spelling words that we want to keep him unaware of.  No longer!  Now he understands what we are doing and is asking every time we spell something what the word is.  I told him he would have to sound it out if he wanted to know. So I decided that on purpose when I would talk with my husband and I would spell out very easy CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words just so he could figure it out.

Today we were talking about both kids not taking a nap and here is what happened:
Me: "So Sandi told me that neither kid took a N-A-P today and that was not good!"
LoLo:  "What does N-A-P spell?"
Me:  "If you want to know you will have to sound it out to figure it out for yourself."
LoLo: "Ok, can you help me?  (Me-No) Well, N-says /n/, A says /ah/, P says /puh/"  Then he tries a few times to sound it out and after a few tries he gets it.  "Oh, we didn't take a nap today and that was bad!"
Me:  Turning to husband "We need a new system!"  "Good job LoLo, now you can find out all of Mommy and Daddy's secrets (LoLo smiles really big)!"

Friday, June 24, 2011

TouchyBooks: The Children's App You MUST Own!

In the world of Apps for your electronics there are too many to choose from, but not tons that are great for kids.  Sure Angry Birds is a fun game, but educational and fun...I think not!  That's why when I was asked by TouchyBooks to review their app store and interactive books for kids I was ecstatic.  Then once I tried them with the kids I was blown away!

The books are called TouchyBooks because they interact with your child's touch via iPad or iPhone.  These will soon be offering them via Android, Windows Phone, and Flash Web too.  You can download your own TouchyBooks bookshelf for free and try out a few sample books before you purchase any paid books.  This app can be downloaded via iTunes or the app store on your device.  Here is what your virtual bookshelf will look like:

I decided to try out the free books first and downloaded those on to our iPad.  The first thing I loved about them was the amazing illustrations! Each book has completely different styles of illustrations, but overall I found the graphics much more amazing than many children's books we own (and that is a ton given I am a Reading Specialist)!  The Moon Secrets book reminds me of a happier version of The Nightmare Before Christmas in regards to graphics, while The Candy Factory illustrations seem to take inspiration from the children's book Abuela.

Each book can be played two different ways: read to me (with audio), or read with me (no audio).  I love that the text seems to appear on the page in a font that is similar to the illustrations.  The funky font in The Candy Factory appeared tilted and silly, while the Sleeping Beauty font was elegant and floated on the page.  Each story has different touch sensitive areas on the illustrations, so your kids can make mice run, characters fly, or a prince kiss a princess (to name a few).  I especially liked that the kids could make the cotton candy cloud float around the page with a touch of a finger (in The Candy Factory).  In the book The Adventures of Alt you can make Alt (a funny little alien being) go on adventures! He flies in a balloon and rescues friends.  I could go on and on about what an amazing app this is, but you truly must try it out for yourself!

Here are my favorite books that we tried:

Sleeping Beauty: an abbreviated version of the classic tale with dramatic illustrations and a 'surprise' feature where you make the prince kiss Sleeping Beauty to wake her up!

The Adventures of Alt: take Alt on an adventure to rescue new friends while listening to a 'robotic' narrator (honestly could have done without that part, but overall loved Alt and the interactive features)!

The Candy Factory: a MUST have! You can make the kids float on a cloud of cotton candy around the screen....enough said!

Moon Secrets: a cute short story that works for young ones with short attention spans.  Adorable large graphics that move with the story. This one is FREE to try!

I Want To Be A Pirate:  LoLo's favorite one (of course).  He told me today that he wants to be a pirate when he grows up...oh boy! I liked the colorful characters and simple backgrounds.  LoLo really liked the canons that fire when you turn the page!

    So if you are going to download any app for your kids this summer...this is the one!  Try select TouchyBooks today for free and I know you will be hooked! Also, look for our upcoming giveaway in which you could win the TouchyBook of your choice for FREE!

    Disclosure: These downloads were given to me by TouchyBooks to facilitate this review.  All opinions and words are my own.

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Ask Questions!

    So sorry for the lack of posts these past few days, but life was getting crazy! Now, back to Today's Reading Tip!

    Today's tip is in regards to asking questions to help your child retain comprehension of what was read.  I created some cute little question owls, and for the life of me can not seem to find them now!  Anyways, I would love to tell you how to make your own. 

    Here is what you will need:
    • 6 tongue depressors OR popsicle sticks
    • 6 owl stencils cut out on cardstock or very heavy paper
    • a sharpie
    • some white glue
    First, take the owl template you can find HERE and print out 6 each (or use your own template).  One per sheet in the largest size you can accommodate.  Then, write one of the 6 question words on the owls in large letters across the torso (one word on each owl)
    1. WHO
    2. WHAT
    3. WHERE
    4. WHEN
    5. WHY
    6. HOW
    Next, you can choose to laminate your owls if you wish and then cut them out.  Once they are cut you are ready to glue them on the sticks and use them with your child.

    Here are some ways I use mine in the classroom and at home with LoLo:
    • As we read I occasional stop and hold up a sign and ask a question, such as: "WHO stole the cookie?"
    • If my students have a question as I am reading they can hold up an owl and ask me a quesion.  Example, Leah held up the WHAT owl and asked "what happened to the troll under the bridge?"
    • At the end of the story I use the owls to recap.  I hold up each one and ask a specific question.  Example, "WHO is the main character," "WHERE did the story take place," etc.
    Once you have made your owls, tell me HOW will you use them?

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Make A Word Flip Book

    Now that LoLo is really taking an interest in reading words he sees places I really want to give him more opportunities to be confident and succeed. After all, how can a child really feel good about reading when he is trying to sound out words like "cafeteria" and "selection?!" So, since he is only 4 and needed more encouragement to read words he could sound out I decided to make him a word Flip Book.

    Here is what you will need:
    -A 4x6 cheap photo album that holds at least 20 cards (I bought mine at the local $1 store, or the bin at Target)
    -some BLANK 4x6 index cards
    -a marker

    Just write some sight words and simple 3-letter consonant-vowel-consonant words on them. Here is a great list with suggestions. These words will be easy for your little one to sound out and are great for teaching early reading techniques.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Self Tanner: Jergen's Natural Glow Firming Lotion

    Self Tanner:  Jergens Natural Glow Firming Lotion
    Hi everyone! Ellery here from Mom's Life Made Easy with another sunless tanner review.  This time you can find this one right at your local drugstore for under $10.  Jergens Natural Glow Sunless Tanner With Firmer is a pretty thick lotion that has a slightly sunscreen smell to it with a hint of coconut (reminds me of Banana Boat sunscreen).  There really is no "tanner" smell, which is nice, you just smell like you spent the day at the beach.

    This tanner is unique in that it gives you a gradual tan when you apply it daily.  I tried it everyday for two weeks and I could see that my skin did look more coppery and did not have an orange tint.  The change was very gradual and not something you would really notice after just a few days.
    I also liked that the lotion did moisturize well, so I didn't feel that I needed to add my own moisturizer on top.  It also blended well into the areas I didn't tan, such as my face, hands, and feet.

    Now on to the bad news...I didn't notice any firming!  I was all excited to see some slight toning on my thighs and belly, but didn't see a thing.  After two weeks I can't say that I felt or visual noticed any sort of "firming."  So my suggestion would be to just stick with the original and save a buck or two!

    Happy Tanning from Mom's Life Made Easy!

    Disclosure: None, I purchased at my local store.  Thanks for suggesting this post Aunt Cathy!

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Activities For Your LeapFrog TAG Reading System

    Do you own a LeapFrog TAG Reading System?  If not, I highly recommend it! This system comes with a "pen" that when placed on top of words or markers in TAG specific books will read the word or story aloud to a child.  I love both of the TAG systems: The TAG (which allows the child to read a whole page/portion of text, or will read word by word), and the TAG Jr. (which has simpler features for a younger child).

    I also like that I can incorporate activities to go along with our TAG system, such as:
    • I will put a sticky note on the page with the number of the words "the" on the page and have LoLo find them.  I will do this same activity for every sight word we have previously worked on.  Then, I just leave the notes in the book so he can play again later.
    • I will say a word to LoLo and have him use the TAG word to find it.  Since he is a very early reader, I choose an easy consonant-vowel-consonant word like 'cat' and have him find it with his eyes and check his answer with his TAG pen.
    • I will ask him questions about the story and have him find the answer with his TAG pen.  This works best for one-word answers that are specific in the text.  An example would be "who found the bone?" and he points the TAG pen to the word Scooby.
    If you do not yet have a TAG pen and books, what are you waiting for?

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Print Your Own Early Readers

    Have you ever gone to the bookstore looking for very beginning reader books only to be disappointed?  Me to! Those Bob Books not only have extremely boring pictures, but also have incomplete sentences, unusual sentence structure, and periods at the end of phrases!  Seriously, they are this reading specialist's worst nightmare!  My suggestion would be to either make or print your own.
    If you haven't been a My Reading reader for long, you might not know how much I love Cherry Carl's website Carl's Corner.  One site she also hosts is called  This site has a lot of little books that you can print at home.  I like to print them out and have the kids color them.  Then we go through with a highlighter and look for all of our "focus words" (usually sight words we are working on that day). has so many great resources, and even has series of books that connect to the Literacy Series by Scott Foresman (SF) which may be used within your child's school.
    Happy Reading!

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Get Writing!

    If you have been keeping up with my 'Today's Reading Tip' series, you probably know how much reading and writing go hand in hand.  It is a necessity that your child is practicing his writing skills often, and what more fun than to practice them without the traditional pencil and paper.

    The Crayola Dry Erase Poster Set is a large re-usable sticker that goes up on your wall!

    The best thing about it is that it has correct lines for the beginning writer (many products do not).  It is a large size, has many lines, and is easily erasable so your child can spend a lot of time writing.  I would suggest using dry erase pens that are washable just in case your child gets them on their clothes (or worse, the wall).  These pens easily come off of skin and the white board:

    Remember that when you clean it DO NOT use water! I leave my husband's gym sock next to it so the kids can put their hand inside and easily clean the board.  If dry erasing does not get all the residue off, then try a dry erase specific cleaner such as this one:

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Play The Game Memory

    Today's reading tip may sound a little odd to you, but let me tell you why playing the game Memory will help with learning to read.  Memory helps train your brain to remember locations of either pictures or words, which in turn helps with building visual connections within a given space (the playable area in this case).  Reading a book uses many of the same skills.  For reading you must learn to recognize parts of words (such as word families), read from left to right, and recognize paragraphs and sentences. All of these skills have to do with visual cues much like playing the game Memory.

    So the next time you play Memory, think about all the things going on in your child's brain and how these connections are helping build visual memory which in turn will help him become a better reader.

    Tuesday, May 31, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Benefits of Books on CD

    Wow! Things have been so busy around here that I have hardly had time to post.  So sorry, there is more to come so keep posted.  Today's reading tip is about the benefits of listening to books on CD.
    Recently the kids got two new CDs on tape and I thought about how much listening to these helps build their phonemic awareness which in turns build their reading skills.  Books on tape are great to listen to anywhere and do not have to accompany the book to be beneficial to children.  Most people listen to them at home along with using the book, and this is a great way to teach your child good fluency as they listen to the reader speak, as well as show the visual connection of the word to the spoken word.
    One way we like to listen to our books on CD is in the car.  For example, right now we have Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? in the car.

    The children know that it is a book, but they do not realize that by listening to the story they are building their phonemic awareness skills.  The CD helps to promote good reading skills by giving an example of good fluency (speed/accuracy of the reader), rhyming, pronunciation, tone of voice, and in the case of this story-repetition.  Then at night when we read the book, the children are able to put all of these skills to use.  They don't even realize that they know all the words on the page until I point to them as they read to me!

    Friday, May 27, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Work Those Word Families

    Once your preschooler has mastered his letter sounds it might be time to consider teaching word families. 

    Word families are groupings of 2-3 letters that are commonly found in many words throughout the English language, such as:

    There are too many to list, but try these great lists on Enchanted Learning

    Once your child has learned his word families well he will begin to recognize them as one set of sounds and will not have to sound out every letter individually.  Even some of my older students who read letter-by-letter benefit from re-learning their word families to aid in better fluency (rate and accuracy of reading.

    Wednesday, May 25, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Must Have Book-Making Words

    If you were to go into any teacher's classroom at my school, you would likely find the Making Words Book by Patricia Cunning.  I first discovered this book while in my credential program at San Diego State University, though I did not realize it's full potential until I became a Reading Specialist.

    This book gives you activities to use with students in grades (K-3, though I have used it up to 6th with struggling readers) to help build their phonics and spelling skills.  There are no other additional products you need to buy, you simply create them yourself.  If your child is an early reader or a fluent reader with some difficulty spelling or deciphering new words, then this is the book for you.  It helps your child learn to build words by pieces and helps them to see the connection between short base words and words with prefixes and suffixes.

    This series also comes in Making Big Words for students who are more advanced (3rd and up):

    As well as Making More Words which is an additional supplement to Making Words:

    Disclosure: None.

    Today's Reading Tip: Use Proper Reading/Writing Terminology

    I never understand why some teachers and parents use simpler words for academic language.  Some examples I can think of are:
    • Big and little letters for upper and lowercase
    • Excited mark for exclamation point
    • Writer for author
    • Artist for illustrator
    I truly feel that children can grasp the concept of academic language if they are exposed to it at a very young age.  The use of simpler words (such as big and little letters) in place of an academic term (upper and lowercase) must be very confusing, when in a higher grade level they are expected to know the proper terms!
    My advice-don't dumb it down.  Use the proper term from the onset, and your student or child will learn what it means through example and repeat exposure.

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: KWL Chart

    If you are a teacher, you probably know that a KWL chart stands for "Know, Want To Know, and Learned."  If you are a parent, you might not be aware of the benefits of having your child keep a KWL chart for books that they are currently reading.  Here is an example of what a KWL Chart could look like:
    Teachers like to use this chart to help students learn critical thinking skills which aid in reading comprehension.  I use these charts with any of my students who are reading chapter books.  It is difficult for students to stop and take the time to analyze the text, therefore, the use of a KWL Chart makes them formulate and organize the information they have read, what they feel will happen next, and what they still want to know.  KWL Charts work best for non-fiction books, but can also be used for fiction texts.

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Showing Sight Words Everywhere

    Right now I am working a lot with teaching LoLo (age 4) his sight words.  I start by teaching the words through chants, for example: T-H-E spells the, T-H-E spells the, high-ho the dairy-oh T-H-E spells the.
    As we sing this chant, we often have an index card in front of us with the word written on it.  I point to the letters as we chant, then we look for the word everywhere.

    When I read stories at night, I have LoLo point to all the words the on the page.  Or sometimes I will stop reading and ask him what the word is.  I show him examples in my books, magazines, and mail.  He gets really excited that he can recognize this word so quickly all over the place. I make sure that as we learn new sight words that we always review the previous ones.

    Quick Fact: Here in the state of California, kindergarten students should be able to recognize (and at some schools spell) the top 100 sight words!  That is quite a task for a 6 year old.

    Friday, May 20, 2011

    New Posts Coming Soon!

    Hi Y'All! Sorry there have been no posts this week.  Hubby and I were house-hunting out of state, but I will be back up and running Monday.
    Please stay tuned!

    Saturday, May 14, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Don't Correct Every Error

    If you have a beginner reader you know what a joy it is to listen to them sound out words and recognize sight words...but you also know that these tasks are tedious and mind-numbingly annoying to listen to! Yes, I said it.  I am a Reading Specialist and I often find myself wanting to speed along my beginning readers and offer suggestions for every word just to make it easier for me to listen to.  With that said, I know I must bite my tongue and left them apply all the skills I have taught them.

    I am not by any means suggesting you do not correct errors, instead I am suggesting you correct errors on occasion so as not to completely discourage a child to read.

    Here is what I usually do with my students:
    • If the child stops on every word (or every other word) to sound it out then the book is too hard to encourage independent reading, and you may have to help him so he doesn't get discouraged.
    • If the child makes an error on a word by leaving off a suffix (such as -ing, -ed, -es) and the story still makes sense, just let it go.  If it is a consistent error then mention the corrections after the reading.
    • If a student makes an error on a sight word-tell the sight word to him.
    • If the child says a name wrong-don't correct until after the story.
    • If the child makes errors every few words, but is reading at a smooth pace, just let him continue.  Then after the passage, have him go back to the words he missed and sound them out with you. 
    These are just a few of the corrections I use.  Of course every child is different and you must use your own judgement before anything else, especially with your own child.

    Disclosure: These are the tips I use-not necessarily the tips that you MUST follow. Please use with your own background knowledge of the reader.

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Onomatopoeia

    First off, so sorry I did not post yesterday! Blogger decided to shut down for the entire day, so I took a mandatory break :) After a nice cocktail and an early bedtime, I am back rearing to go!
    Today's post is about onomatopoeia (pronounced "on-O-mot-O-pee-uh").

    Wikipedia defines this term as:
    • "a word that imitates or suggests the source of the sound that it describes."
    • For example, a cat says "meow," and a horn says "toot" (my kids seem to think that particular one is hilarious!).
    Not only is the word onomatopoeia fun for kids to learn to say, but also what the term means is fun to say too! Preschoolers take a particular liking to making silly noises, and reading books with silly sounds, such as:

    What I suggest is that next time you read a book similar to these ones, teach your child about the term onomatopoeia and what it means.  They will love the fact that they know many words that fall into this category, and also will love telling their friends and family the new "big word" they can say!

    Disclosure: None.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Must Have Book-Making Words

    If you were to go into any teacher's classroom at my school, you would likely find the Making Words Book by Patricia Cunning.  I first discovered this book while in my credential program at San Diego State University, though I did not realize it's full potential until I became a Reading Specialist.

    This book gives you activites to use with students in grades (K-3, though I have used it up to 6th with struggling readers) to help build their phonics and spelling skills.  There are no other additional products you need to buy, you simply create them yourself.  If your child is an early reader or a fluent reader with some difficulty spelling or deciphering new words, then this is the book for you.  It helps your child learn to build words by pieces and helps them to see the connection between short base words and words with prefixes and suffixes.  This book also comes in

    Disclosure: None.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Use Flashcards A New Way

    When you hear the words "Flash Cards," you probably groan out loud.  I know I still do.  That is most likely because you grew up putting all types of things on flash cards and studied them with the "drill and kill method" (emphasis on the 'kill' part)!  Well, I like to use flash cards with my students in different ways:
    • Play the Memory Game: make 2 cards for everything you are focusing on (ie: sight words).  Lay them face down in a random order and play the memory game. Winner is the person to get the most matches.
    • Play "Smack It!"  I made this one up, and my students just love it.  Put your flash cards face up on the floor and give each player a fly swatter.  Shout out a word on a card and the first person to smack it gets a point (or you can remove the card to make it easier).
    • Play Word Detective.  Assign each student a word card (or a few if older players).  This game works best with sight words (aka: high frequency words).  Have each detective find the word somewhere in the room.  This game works great in a classroom or written word enriched environment.  If you are playing at home you can open up books and lay them on the floor and have the detectives find them that way.

    Monday, May 9, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Sing BINGO To Remember Names

    In our house I help my kids learn how to remember names by singing the song B-I-N-G-O.  Of course this works best with 5 letter words, but can be adapted to work with others as well.  My son and daughter both have 5 letters in their names and we used this song to teach them at an early age (2.5) how to spell their names.  My youngest son has 4 letters in his name and we just sang the song by spelling his name and then adding in his name for the 5th letter (which works well since it is one syllable).

    Other names that worked well for us:
    • Nonna (the kid's grandmother)
    • Poppa (kid's grandfather)
    • Daddy
    • Mommy
    • Brody (our dog)
    • Happy
    • Silly
    • Crazy
    • Clock
    • Dance
    You can sing this song by using just the chorus, or for more fun add in your child's name:
    • "There was a Peter who had a word and Nonna was the word-o. N-O-N-N-A, N-O-N-N-A, N-O-N-N-A, and that's how you spell Nonna!"

    Friday, May 6, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Constant Exposure To Print

    The more your child is exposed to print the more she will take it in.  I suggest doing a room make over and placing print all over the walls.  One great way is to get some wall decals for your child's room.

    I love these ones on ETSY:
    -For Preschoolers who are just learning letters:
    • This alphabet tree from Decalsmurals on ETSY is really cute and would help with letter recognition.

    -For more advanced readers who can build their own words:

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Writing Practice For Preschoolers

    One of the best ways to help your preschooler learn to write his name is to practice, practice, practice! Yes, it might be the best way, but you can make it more interesting.

    I like to have LoLo (4) draw a picture and below it I write a story that he tells me about his picture.  I write the words in print on the lines in a yellow highlighter, then his job is to go back and trace over each of the letters.  Since he is still new to writing, I keep it to 2 sentences maximum.  I hang his artwork in our dining room so everyone who comes over for dinner can see it.

    TIP: Make sure you are using the same font that your child is used to seeing in the classroom (or will be seeing). Some schools use ball-and-stick (letters made up of balls, sticks, and hooks), and some use D'Nealian (such as a fancy "a" and "t"-as shown in the font I am using now).

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Incorporate Cloze Activities Everywhere

    Cloze activities are defined by Wikipedia as:
    • "A cloze test (also cloze deletion test) is an exercise, test, or assessment consisting of a portion of text with certain words removed (cloze text), where the participant is asked to replace the missing words. Cloze tests require the ability to understand context and vocabulary in order to identify the correct words or type of words that belong in the deleted passages of a text. This exercise is commonly administered for the assessment of native and second language learning and instruction."
    I suggest that you implement the strategies of a Cloze test within various activities you do with your child throughout the day to promote their ability to build context and vocabulary while reading. 

    Here are some suggestions on how and when to do this:
    • As you read a book out loud at night, leave out a word and have the child fill it in.  I love to do this with Dr. Seuss books in which I leave out a rhyming word and have my kids guess it based on the pictures (make sure you choose a word that is obvious).
    • Sing a familiar song in the car and leave out a word.  Have your child shout the word that is missing.
    • Say a nursery rhyme and leave off a rhyming word.  Have your child say the missing word.
    • Take a familiar picture book and cover up a word with a post-it note.  Have your child say the missing word and check his answer by removing the post-it.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Correct Way To Write Your Name

    The title of this post may sound a little odd to you.  After all, you know that a name should be written with a capital first letter and lowercase for all of the following letters-but does your preschooler?

    As your child begins to show an interest in writing her name, it is very important to have her learn that it should start with a capital letter only.  Many preschoolers like to write all of their letters in capitals; however, as a reading specialist I strongly discourage this.  When your child begins to develop an understanding that written symbols are words, and that words have meanings, they will come across many words that have capitals at the beginning-but NOT those that have all capitals!  Furthermore, your child probably already recognizes their name in print, and it does not have all capitals either (at least it should not).

    Reading and writing are very much so inter-related, and thus should mirror each other.  I always suggest to teachers that they help to teach their students how to correctly write their names with only one capital at the beginning followed by lowercase letters.

    HINT: If you have a preschooler who does write her name all in capitals, now is the time to work on correcting this behavior before she starts reading.  Have her find the letters in her name in magazines and cut them out and paste them in order (but the trick is to only find the first letter as a capital).  I often find many different L's for my son and have him choose the correct one to use for his name (only one is capital).

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    Today's Reading Tip: Benefits Of Using Your Finger While Reading Aloud

    Today's reading tip comes from a question I received regarding using your finger while reading aloud to your child. 

    You all probably already know many of the benefits that come from reading aloud to your child (phonemic awareness development, fluency development, etc), but did you know that using your finger to point to words as you read also has big benefits? 

    When you read to your child at night, do you show him the pictures? Of course you do! One reason to do that is so he can tell what the story is about even if he does not understand all of the words you are reading.  Now that your child is beginning to understand that words on a page mean something as well, you should be pointing them out too-and I do mean that literally.  By pointing to the words on the page as you read them, you are teaching your child one-to-one correspondence.  This skill will help him develop an understanding that each word has a meaning, and that every word is made up of a series of sounds (or phonemes).  This understanding is an important concept to master in order to begin reading independently.

    HINT: DO NOT point to each word with a sharp movement under the word.  Instead, slide your finger along under the words as you read.  Children who adopt this movement themselves when reading are more likely to read faster and more fluently!

    New Series: Today's Reading Tip!

    Today I will be launching my new series "Today's Reading Tips!"  This series will send a new tip everyday (M-F) to help you teach your child how to read.

    From tips on how to teach sight words, to tips on segmenting and blending, I will cover it all. 

    Please make sure you follow me via email so you will get all the latest tips straight to your inbox when they are posted!

    Let me know if there is something specific you would like covered.

    Wednesday, April 27, 2011

    My Next Post-Created Just For You

    I have decided that my next post will come from your questions regarding reading.  So, I want to hear from you. 
    • Is your child struggling in the area of reading and you aren't sure what to try next?
    • Have you attended a Student Study Team meeting (SST) regarding a reading-related issue and you are not sure what to make of the results?
    • Is your child beginning to show signs that he is ready to start reading, but you are not sure where to start?
    • Are you concerned that your child may have a serious reading problem?
    These questions only cover many of the topics I have often discus with parents.  I am happy to answer ANY questions you may have.  I will use your questions as my next topics for posts (I promise to keep anonymous), so leave me a comment.

    I look forward to reading your comments!

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    Personally Yours Books-Review and GIVEAWAY (Ends 4/29)

    I remember when I was a child and how much I LOVED seeing my name in print! I guess I was a little more enthusiastic than most given that my first name is Ellery....and honestly, how often do you come across that one?!

    My kids were so excited when we received a book from Personally Yours Books with Mickey on the cover, but the pure joy came as I began to read it.

    Personally Yours Books creates personalized storybooks with your child's name, family/friends names, and your location in it.  It was fun to see that it had Mr. F's name on every page, and had references to LoLo, LaLa, and me as well.  Every time I would read the kids names aloud their mouths would drop open, then they would giggle.  It really helped to keep their attention for the whole story.

    I like that the cover is hard and well made, though the pages are paper (so not appropriate for very little ones to handle).  The size is a little smaller than a traditional hard-back storybook, but I found that I liked that because it was more portable.  These books are really cute, and now is your chance to win your own!

    To enter the giveaway, visit 
    by clicking HERE.

    Saturday, April 16, 2011

    Great Digraph Printables-Carl's Corner

    If you haven't read my previous post on Carl's Corner, you might not be aware that I love, love, love this site! It has so many great resources for every area of teaching reading. 

    I thought that after my last post on digraphs and tongue twisters, you might be interested in more resources to help you teach digraphs.  Carl's Corner had a great page on digraphs (that also includes vowel pair digraphs), with TONS of printable worksheets, rhymes, games and activities.  This resource is free, and is a great place to find everything you will need to successfully teach digraphs to your reader.

    -To find out more about digraphs, visit my previous articles on:

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    Digraphs and Tongue Twisters

    One great way to teach digraphs is through tongue twisters.  Even if your child is not yet reading, tongue twisters are a good tool to use for teaching them auditory recognition of digraphs.

    For more on what digraphs are revisit my post on them.

    Here are some tongue twisters you can use to help teach digraphs:
    • How much wood could Chuck Woods' woodchuck chuck, if Chuck Woods' woodchuck could and would chuck wood? If Chuck Woods' woodchuck could and would chuck wood, how much wood could and would Chuck Woods' woodchuck chuck? Chuck Woods' woodchuck would chuck, he would, as much as he could, and chuck as much wood as any woodchuck would, if a woodchuck could and would chuck wood. (To teach CH)
    • She saw Sherif's shoes on the sofa. But was she so sure she saw Sherif's shoes on the sofa? (To teach SH)
    • Thirty-three thirsty, thundering thoroughbreds thumped Mr. Thurber on Thursday. (To teach TH)
    • Why do you cry, Willy?
      Why do you cry?
      Why, Willy?
      Why, Willy?
      Why, Willy? Why? (To teach WH)
    • Tom threw Tim three thumbtacks. (To teach TH)
    • He threw three free throws. (TH)
    • Chester Cheetah chews a chunk of cheep cheddar cheese. (CH)
    • There those thousand thinkers were thinking
      where did those other three thieves go through. (TH)
    • Thirty-three thousand people think that Thursday is their thirtieth birthday. (TH-good one to use to point out that TH can be at the beginning, middle or end of a word)
    • Fresh fried fish,
      Fish fresh fried,
      Fried fish fresh,
      Fish fried fresh. (SH)
    • If two witches would watch two watches, which witch would watch which watch? (CH-also teach the difference between CH and TCH)
    • King Thistle stuck a thousand thistles in the thistle of his thumb.
      A thousand thistles King Thistle stuck in the thistle of his thumb.
      If King Thistle stuck a thousand thistles in the thistle of his thumb,
      How many thistles did King Thistle stick in the thistle of his thumb? (TH)
    • Which witch snitched the stitched switch for which the Swiss witch wished? (TCH)
    • Thirty-three thousand feathers on a thrushes throat. (TH)

    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    Sight Word Game #1

    Learning sight words is often times done with flashcards and repetition.  Works for some, but not for all.  I really suggest making learning sight words a game. 
    Here is one game I like to play with my son (4 years old) that he just loves.

    Here is what you will need:
    • old magazines, newspapers, or flyers that come in the mail
    • scissors
    • glue stick
    • plain paper
    • pencil
    Take the plain paper and fold it in half long wall, so you have a vertical line.  Write one sight word at the top of one side, and another on the other side.  We only do 2 words at a time right now because he is only 4, and we have learned "the" and "and."  Then have him find the words in the magazines/papers you have.  For my son, I show him a page that does have the words on it and tear around the paragraph or phrase.  He then has to find the word, cut it out, and glue it on the correct side of the paper.

    This game makes learning those sight words a little more fun and exciting, while exposing him to recognizing different fonts, capital and lowercase letters, and different styles of writing.

    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    Sign Language And Phonics-Tip #4

    I can not tout the benefits enough of using sign language and phonics, but I also believe it works wonders to teach phonemic awareness.  Remember phonemic awareness is a skill pre-readers need to master in order to begin reading.  It is the realization (and understanding) that spoken words are made up of sets of sounds. 

    Example: the word cat is made up of the SOUNDS /c/, /a/, /t/.  This is NOT referring to the letters and their individual sounds, but the sounds heard within a given spoken word.

    Now with that clarified, here are some helpful hints to using signs to teach phonemic awareness:
    • As you are teaching segmenting, it works well to teach each sound with a handsign.  For this I would use one sign for each sound.  So for example, for the word cat you would say /c/, /a/, /t/, and use each ASL handsign for each letter.  It is important to use one sign for every sound to help your child better understand that each sound is unique and individual.
    • When you are teaching blending, I suggest using the same handsigns (as you did for segmenting) but now stretch them out from left to right as you blend the sounds. For example, say the word cat slowly with the letter sounds connecting.  As you speak, do the hand signs from left to right changing them as the sound changes.  This will help your child begin to understand that sounds can be connected together to make a word, and that words go from left to right (later helping with reading).
    Do you have questions about how to implement this? Ask away-I will answer!

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    Sign Language And Phonics-Tip #3

    I had mentioned before that when I am teaching sign language with phonics I do it in conjunction with the Houghton Mifflin Sound Spelling Cards.  Here is a link to see what the cards look like.  You will notice that this is a pdf file that was created by another school district which shows recreated Sound Spelling Cards.  That is because you are not able to reproduce the actual materials from Houghton Mifflin (HM).  You can buy them for $139 if you like!

    When you look at the cards you will see that there is a picture for each card, and the various spellings for each sound.  I like that these cards show you ALL the variations for how the sound can be spelled, unlike other letter cards that just show a picture and the letter.  This is another reason why when I teach the sign for each card I use the picture, not the letter handsign. 

    For example, look at the letter C card.  It is a picture of a cat.  I would have the card hanging on the wall and say "C as in cat says /c/, /c/"  and sign the word cat as I am saying this.  Then, I would stop and explain that C can say /c/ on its own, or the best friends CK can also say /c/, but only at the end or middle of a word.

    I would usually teach about one sound/spelling card every 3 days or so until it was mastered.  Then as I add in new ones to teach, I always end the lesson with a review of all the cards I have done.  I would suggest that you align your lessons with the language arts adoption that your child will be using in his elementary school.  If you are not sure which program they use, just call the school and ask.  You can always create your own too, but why not give them a head start!

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Sign Language and Phonics-Tip #2

    It is so nice to read that PBS has posted an article on the benefits of Sign Language and reading.  It talks about how sign language can benefit the kinesthetic learner (as well as everyone else), and how it aids in the development of early reading skills.  Definitely worth a read.
    Check it out HERE.

    Friday, April 1, 2011

    Sign Language and Phonics-Tip #1

    In my previous post on sign language and phonics I talked about the benefits of connecting phonics and sign language.  In this post I bring you a great resource that can teach you quickly and easily the various signs you might need.  This website, called, gives you an online dictionary that shows videos of people signing rather than other ones that show pictures. After all, sign language can not be shown accurately through words since it is a visual language. 

    I suggest that you use the ASL dictionary portion of the website. You just choose the word you want, click play, and watch the video which shows how to create the sign for your word. Enjoy!

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

    Sign Language and Phonics-A Winning Combination

    When I was getting my degree in Liberal Studies from San Diego State University, I knew choosing a foreign language would be an easy decision.  I had tried French and Spanish previously and knew that I was NOT an auditory learner.  Therefore, I chose a minor in Communicative Disorders with my foreign language being American Sign Language (ASL).  Little did I know that this choice would work wonders for me in my career years later!

    Flash forward (well, I won't say how many years), and I have used sign language to teach students with severe reading problems how to read.  The key was adding a kinesthetic approach to a skill that is visual!  Teaching reading has always consisted of a teacher who teaches a skill to a student (with a visual guide and an auditory example), and the student applying this skill through the same modalities. 

    I decided to experiment with adding ASL in the classroom and see how it would work.  I began with my pre-readers and taught them the letter-sound correspondence with an ASL sign for each.  You could use the letter hand sign for each letter of the alphabet, or you could use the sign for the picture that corresponds to the letter card.  For example, we use the Houghton Mifflin Language Arts program in our school and I use ASL signs that correspond to the pictures.
    There were 2 reasons I choose this approach over hand signs for the letters.
    1. My kindergarten students had a very difficult time with the fine motor skills it takes to form the hand signs for each of the letters.  It was much easier to sign the picture words (ex. apple, cat, fish), which tend to use larger motions of the hands and arms.
    2. It connected their signs (kinesthetic) with the pictures (visual) and therefore helped them remember the sound (ex. if they remembered cat they could hear the initial sound in the word).  If I just taught the hand sign for the letter they would remember the visual letter, but NOT necessarily the sound that it makes.
    I really suggest that anyone who is teaching a child their letter sounds that they incorporate ASL.  I use it with my own kids (ages 4 and 3), and they just love it! 

    Keep following for more tips and ideas on how to use ASL to teach reading.

    Monday, March 28, 2011

    What's A Digraph?

    A digraph is defined by as:

    1. "A pair of letters representing a single speech sound, such as the ph in pheasant or the ea in beat."
    2. "A single character consisting of two letters run together and representing a single sound, such as Old English æ."
    Digraphs are often difficult for early readers to decipher because they can not be sounded out letter-by-letter.  It is important to teach digraphs as a specific focused lesson.  I do teach my students the word digraph as I focus on a particular digraph during a week's lesson.  I explain it as two letters who are best friends.  These best friends make one sound when they are next to each other in a word.

    Examples of the most common digraphs are:
    • Ch-makes the sound /ch/ NOT /chuh/
    • Sh-makes the sound /sh/ NOT /shuh/
    • Th-makes the sound /th/ NOT /thuh/
    • Wh-makes the sound /wh/ NOT /whuh/
    • There are also many vowel digraphs, but these are more often taught as vowel pairs in school in which the following rule usually applies: 
      • "the first one does the talking, and the second does the walking."  For example, the ea in beat would say /E/ since the letter e did the "talking" and the a "walked away."
    It is important to understand the difference between a digraph and a blend.  A blend is defined by as:
    • "Blends are different (than digraphs) because they have more than one letter but you can hear their sounds and are not one single sound. It is contrary to its name of 'blend'."

    Saturday, March 26, 2011

    Make Any Wall Your Whiteboard!

    I have been thinking about making a magnetic whiteboard on one of the walls in my kid's room for a long time.  After reading reviews of other people who have done this I think I am going to go with the following products. 
    First I will apply the magnetic primer:

    Then I will apply the whiteboard paint:

    I can't wait to try it out and use all the magnetic letters I have from my classroom to help LoLo work on creating CVC words.  I will also take photos of family members and glue them on to magnetic sheets you can buy at Walmart. Then you just cut around the person (or object) and have a personalized magnet to play with. 

    I will update when I get a chance to put it up.

    Have other suggestions?
    Want to try your own?
    Have you done this before; how did it work out?
    Leave me a comment and let me know.

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Parent of a preschooler? YOU can teach your child to read!

    Do you have a preschooler who is showing signs that he is ready to read, but you have no idea where to start?

    My Reading Specialist offers consulting for parents to train YOU how to teach your child to read. 

    Here is what it consists of:
    1. First meeting-I assess the student to make sure he is ready to read and see what skills he might already know.  I review the assessments with you and give you feedback.  These assessments are then used to create individualized lessons for your child. (usually takes about 1 hour total)
    2. Second meeting-I will bring various lessons, games, and activities (for you to keep) based upon what skills your child needs to become a reader.  These lessons will be individualized based upon his previous assessments. I will TRAIN you (the parent/caregiver) how to administer these lessons and offer suggested timetables for application. (usually takes about 1 hour total)
    3. Third meeting-This meeting usually takes place after the majority of the lessons have been covered.  I will administer follow-up assessments and see which skills were retained successfully and can be applied by your student, and what skills may need to be recovered.  I will offer advice and additional consulting if new lessons are needed (but that is not usually the case). (usually takes about 1 hour total)
    I offer consulting either in person (San Diego area), or via webcam (lessons will be mailed).  Please contact me if you have any questions via my "email me" link on my sidebar, or comment below.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    Free Handwriting Worksheets

     LoLo is now writing his name and some basic CVC words, but needs some more handwriting practice.  I like using the free handwriting worksheet creator from Handwriting Worksheets Wizard.  You can enter up to 10 words for your child to practice writing. You choose the font (Zaner-Bloser style is most common now in schools), the size (choose larger for young children), and line patterns (I suggest block, dot, space for the best practice similar to in-class).
    Hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Love Eric Carle? Check out this cute toy line!

    When it comes to kid's books that I love to read over and over, I think of The Very Hungry Caterpillar from Eric Carle.  Sure the story is pretty cute, but my favorite part is the artwork.  Over the years his style of art has become so recognizeable to me that when I was shopping around in the baby toy department a while back, I couldn't help but notice the Eric Carle toy line right away!

    I bought the pull-string sun shown above, and Mr. F loves it to pieces.  It plays a sweet little melody (not an annoying doorbell-type song) and has little flashing LED lights in the plush portion of the sun.

    I also purchased the play dome seen below:

    This play dome was great when Mr. F started crawling and he loves to look in the mirror and pull the butterfly string to play music.  I wish I had bought it earlier when he was into tummy time.  I love the bright colors and designs that are synonymous with Eric Carle.

    I was so surprised to find out just how many Eric Carle toys are out there.  View the slideshow below to check some more of them out: