Learning with the Olympics

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We’re not a TV-watching family.  In fact, we don’t even have a TV.  We watch shows on our computer.  But for the past few days we have been glued to the Olympics.  With snow piled up on the ground outside, it’s nice to cuddle together under a blanket and watch some TV.  I remember watching when I was little and then practicing figure skating on the linoleum kitchen floor.  Fast forward to Big Sis jumping around the family room showing us her “snowboard moves.”  It makes my heart happy.

And while we are watching, we are learning about..

  • Sports– Being exposed to new sports is a great learning opportunity.  It gives kids background knowledge that will help their reading comprehension.  If they are reading a book where the characters are skiing, but they have no idea how to ski, it will be difficult to understand the book.
  • Sportsmanship–  The athletes reactions to falling down or low scores make good conversation starters about good (or bad) sportsmanship.
  • Geography– Just hearing the names of other countries is increasing kids’ knowledge about the world.  You can take it a step further and look up the countries on a map or globe as you are watching.  Talk about continents.  Compare sizes of countries.  The list goes on and on.
  • Flags– Play a game and point out our country’s flag each time you see it on the screen.  Identify other country’s flags and see if they can remember a few.  Or print out a sheet of flags and play a match game with the ones you see on TV.
  • Math–  There are numbers all over the place!  Younger kids can play “find the numbers” and call out 1-10 when they see it on bibs, scores, etc.  Older kids will be able to understand more about scores and times.  You can talk about place value with tenths of a second.  You can do math problems about how many more points someone needs to be in first.  Or make a table to show the metals from each country and add them up every day.

And then you can extend that learning.  You know, away from the TV.

  • Play a winter sport– Go ice skating.  Try out skiing.
  • Go to the library– Read books about the Olympics, a favorite sport, athlete, or country.
  • Make your own Olympics–  This is a family favorite.  Make up your own events and get the whole family involved.  The events can be board games, video games, obstacle courses, silly tricks, or even chores.
  • Get crafty–  There are lots of Olympics-related crafts on Pinterest. Get out your scissors and glue and get to it!

Sight Word Game- I’m Thinking of a Word

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I call this game “I’m Thinking of a Word.” It’s a quick sight word game to play while you are waiting at a restaurant or office.

  1. Write some words on a piece of paper.  (Of course you could also use homemade sight words or flashcards.)
  2.  Give a clue about one of the words. For example: “My word ends with the letter D.”
  3. See if your child can guess (and read) the word you chose.
  4. Now it is her turn to think of a word and give you a clue!

Some ideas for clues:

  • My word has the letter ‘b’ in it.
  • My word rhymes with…
  • I use my word when I talk about…
  • My word is in the title of….
  • My word has 3 letters.
  • My word means….
  • My word is the opposite of…
  • My word ends with the /t/ sound.
  • My word has 2 tall letters. (tall letters are h, t, k, b, d, l)
  • My word has two vowels.
  • My word has 3 syllables.

It is easy to make this game fit your child’s ability level. You can vary the amount of words you write, the level of difficulty of the words, and the clues you give.  You might play that they have to identify all the words that fit a given clue.  Or just give clues that only fit one word.  Have fun!

Common Core Standards:

kindergarten- first grade: Demonstrate understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds (phonemes)

kindergarten- fifth grade: Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.

Hide and Seek With Sight Words

This is an easy game to play with sight words.  It’s exercise and learning combined!  It is a great way to take a movement break in the middle of reading or homework.

1.  Purchase some sight word flashcards….or better yet, make your own.

2.  Scatter the sight words around the room writing side up.

3.  Call out a word and see if your kiddo can run and find it.  Exercise and learning combined!!

Okay, it’s not so much hiding as seeking.  Although you could turn the words face down to add an extra memory challenge.  You could also vary the game by the movement involved.  Call out a word and an action (skip to find the word “you”, crawl to the word “can”).  Have fun with it!

 

 

Making Sentences with Sight Words

What can you do with sight words?  Make sentences! Once a kid learns a few sight words, you mix them around and BOOM he is reading a sentence.  It will blow his mind.  All of a sudden, he is a READER!  Very cool.

(Psst…you will need sight words written on index cards, post-its, or other paper.  I made mine with magnets on the back so they can be used on a fridge or magnetic whiteboard.)

Try out a few of these ideas to make sentences together:

  • You say a sentence out loud and then the kiddo makes it using sight words.
  • Your child makes up a sentence and you make it using a combination of sight words and written words.  He reads it out loud to “check” your work.  Kids love this!
  • Your kid makes a sentence that you have read together in a book.
  • You make a sentence with sight words and without saying anything, see if she can read it.
  • Once you make a sentence, show how you can change words to make a new sentence.  “We can go up” can change to “Dada can go up” or “We can go there.”

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  • Make a sentence and leave a blank that you fill in with crazy words.  Instead of “Mama and I go to the store,” how about the moon? Brainstorm a list of ideas to fit in the blank.

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  •  Teach about the meaning of pronouns by substituting “it” for a noun in the sentence.  Try it with other pronouns that you have introduced as sight words: we, she, he, etc.

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  • Extend the activity: Once you have made a sentence, write it on a piece of paper and your child can illustrate it.  You could even make a whole book that they can read!

How to Display and Organize Sight Words

Having sight words around your house is a great way help beginning (or struggling) readers.  Sight words are easy to make (psst…here’s how I made mine) and you can do lots of learning activities with them.  In a classroom, there is a “word wall” where sight words are displayed so they are easily read/spelled.  Why not try something similar in your home?

How do I display sight words?

  • on the fridge-  This is great because they can easily be reached by little hands and moved around.  However, they end up jumbled and might be difficult to find.
  • on a traditional “word wall” in their bedroom or a common room-  Easy to see, but not easy to reach and manipulate (and maybe that’s a good thing?)
  • on a large whiteboard- It’s movable and you can write on it!
  • easel- This is another movable option that doesn’t take up wall space.

How do you organize the sight words?

  • alphabetically- Teachers usually organize their sight words alphabetically.  It’s easy to find words if you know the first letter and it’s a good way to practice ABC order.
  • number of letters- Kids can practice counting while they rearrange words in a different way.
  • tall, small, fall letters- Some letters are tall (t, b, l) some fall below the line (g, p, y) and some are small (m, o, a).  Organize the words into groups according to their shapes.
  • words they know/don’t know-  Just like flashcards, split into two groups of words they can easily read and words they are still working on.  Then watch the “know” group grow!
  • any group that makes sense- Experiment with different groupings.  Rearranging sight words means your kiddo is reading, thinking, and organizing words.  All good things!

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(Common Core kindergarten standard: Read common high-frequency words by sight )

Making Sight Words

My oldest daughter is interested in learning to read.  While I think the most important thing I can do is simply have lots of books around the house and READ, READ, READ to her…the teacher in me can’t help but do some other learning activities with her, too.  So one day while she was busy with markers, I made some sight words.

How did I choose the words?  Well, I looked at the pre-primer Dolch list.  You can also get a list from your child’s teacher, or be your own Mr. Dolch and just write down a few words that you see over and over in kid books.

How did I make the words?  I wrote with a black marker on lined paper, cut it out, then glued it onto colored construction paper and cut it out again.  (Hello, my name is Megan and I love scissors.)  I used bright construction paper so that it was easy to see the “shape” of the word.  This is a big help to visual learners.  Then I stuck a magnet on the back.  Everything is better with a magnet.

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Now what?  Now the fun begins!  Usually about once a week (or whenever my daughter asks me) I introduce a new sight word.  We read a book that uses the word a lot.  I show her the word I made.  We spell it.  Maybe she will write it.  There are a bajillion activities you can do with sight words.  I’ll share some in a post, I promise!  One idea is using the sight word in a sentence from the book.  Bonus: the words stick to the magnetic whiteboard!

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We keep the sight words (that we have introduced) on the fridge.  My kids see them and play with them every day.  We refer to the sight words when we read.  “Oh, U-P.  You learned that word.  Do you remember it?”  Sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes no.  That’s okay.  Keep it light and fun.  After all, I don’t want to do too much sight word work…then it would be like (gasp!) school.

(Common Core kindergarten standard: Read common high-frequency words by sight )

Autumn Book List

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Not Halloween books…not Thanksgiving books….these are just plain autumn books.  Sometimes it’s nice to focus on the season instead of the holiday.  They are all about leaves, harvest, a chill in the air, and animals getting ready for winter.  Check these out at your local library, and if you love them as much as me, run to the bookstore!  Or, you know, run your fingers over the keyboard to search Amazon. 🙂

  • The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri- Repeating text and animal sounds.  Great for beginning readers or reading to toddlers.  It is about a squirrel getting ready for winter.
  • Leaves by David Ezra Stein- Simple text about a bear worried about falling leaves.
  • Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke- Similar to Leaves, but more text describing a fox’s worries the leaves falling off his favorite tree.
  • Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert- Awesome illustrations that make different animals out of leaves.  My favorite is the leaf shapes identified inside the cover.
  • I Know It’s Autumn by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Nancy Hayashi- Describes all the everyday signs of autumn like geese flying south, school buses, wearing a robe.
  • It’s Fall by Linda Glaser, illustrated by Susan Swan- Beautiful cut paper illustrations plus a list of nature activities to do with kids in the back of the book!
  • The Leaves Fall All Around (a Scholastic Rookie Preschool book)- New fall lyrics to the classic “The Green Grass Grew All Around”
  • Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert- Large print and cool illustrations about a sugar maple tree.  Lots of extra information at the end for older kiddos.
  • The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger- The story of a little leaf that didn’t want to fall until another leaf fell with it.  Unique illustrations.
  • Autumn an Alphabet Acrostic by Steven Schnur, illustrated by Leslie Evans- Focus on the alphabet for younger readers and the acrostic part for older readers.
  • Awesome Autumn by Bruse Goldstone- Non-fiction book with lots of information for elementary students.  This has everything you want to know about autumn (but were afraid to ask)…okay, maybe not.

Before You Read

Pre-reading activities help kids better understand their reading.  Model how good readers make predictions, connections, and ask questions even before opening the book.  As your child gets older, do less talking and more asking.  Choose one or two of these ideas to try the next time you are reading a book together.

(Common Core Standards appear in italics.  They correlate with specific standards in different grade levels.  These standards are used in almost every school in the country.  Click the Common Core tab above to learn more.)

Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • Read the title, author, and illustrator out loud.   Talk about the jobs of author and illustrator.  (kindergarten- With prompting and support, name the author and illustrator of a story and define the role of each in telling the stor.)
  • Make connections to other stories by the same author or illustrator- “Oh, Eric Carle.  I remember he wrote and illustrated The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”
  • Titles written in large fonts are perfect for pointing out letters.  Go on a letter hunt for a few letters before you begin reading.  (kindergarten- Recognize and name all upper- and lowercase letters of the alphabet )
  • Take a close look at the pictures on the cover.  Make predictions by thinking out loud- “I see a picture of a car.  Maybe this book is about a car race.  What do you think?”  (kindergarten- With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they appear)
  • Compare the title and the pictures.  Think out loud- “The title is Freddy is Lost and there is a picture of a dog.  I think the dog is named Freddy.”
  • Make a connection between the book and your child- “This book is about airplanes.  Remember when we rode on an airplane ride to visit Grandma?”

Elementary

  • Talk about the parts of a book and see if your child can identify the title page, dedication, and even copyright information.  (kindergarten- Identify the front cover, back cover, and title page of a book)
  • See if your child can read the title by himself.  (grades K-5- Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words)
  • Ask if she remembers any other books by the same author/illustrator.
  • Ask him if the book is a fiction or non-fiction book.  How can he tell?  (grade 1- Explain major differences between books that tell stories and books that give information, drawing on a wide reading of a range of text types)
  • It if is a non-fiction book, ask “What do you already know about (insert subject matter here)?
  • Ask your child to write down a prediction about the book based on the cover.   What is it about?  Where does it take place?  What characters will be in it?  When you are finished reading see if the predictions were right!

Have fun reading together!

Choosing Books for Every Age

Babies

  • Board books or indestructible books  so you won’t have to worry about baby tearing it up
  • Black and white or bright colors for babies developing eyesight
  • Short books for little ones with short attention spans
  • One word per page to identify objects
  • Simple rhyming books such as Mother Goose
  • Large faces in the illustrations…better yet, make your own book with pictures of family members

Toddler and Preschooler books

  • Board books or stiff paper books are easier for little fingers
  • Texture or lift-the-flap books with things to touch
  • One word per page to identify objects
  • Mother Goose or other rhyming books
  • Simple stories with a beginning, middle, and end
  • Alphabet, color, or number books
  • Books about an area of interest: trains, favorite animals, princesses, etc.
  • Non-fiction books that relate to their life:  animals at the zoo, how to make cookies, new baby in the family, etc.

Elementary books (K-3)

  • Books for beginning readers- fewer words, rhyming words, repeating words
  • Simple stories with a beginning, middle, and end
  • Fairy tales
  • Longer books for read alouds
  • Books about an area of interest
  • Non-fiction books that relate to their life:  subject studying in school, family vacation, hobbies, etc.
  • Chapter books for advanced readers- Check to make sure subject matter is appropriate for their age-level.

Upper Elementary books (4-6)

  • Chapter books
  • Picture books with complex plots or subject matter
  • Non-fiction books: subject studying in school, area of interest, biography, etc.

The best way to choose a book is if it makes you or your child happy.  Start with books that you enjoyed when you were little.  Then ask friends with kids to recommend some good ones.   For older children, ask their teacher and librarian which books fit your children’s reading level.  But don’t let that limit you.  Maybe your first grader is reading on a second grade reading level.  That doesn’t mean she wouldn’t enjoy reading first grade or even kindergarten books every now and then.  And it doesn’t mean you can’t read a third grade chapter book together before bedtime.  Remember, your job is to provide your kiddo with lots of book choices, and let them make the final decision.

Happy reading!