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 Dano2.com 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.