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 Specialist.com 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 LittleBookLane.com.  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).  LittleBookLane.com 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.