Friday, April 29, 2011

Summer Reading and Writing Kits!

Now that spring has (FINALLY) arrived, Baby L and I are already thinking ahead to summer! With all the traveling we plan to do, we need some portable drawing and writing materials to keep Baby L's writing life alive and strong!

Here's what we did.

First I gathered up materials to make a box to hold all of Baby L's fun summer writing materials: 1) a cereal box decorated with catalog clippings, 2) some stapled booklets of blank paper, and 3) some crayons, markers, tiny notepads, stickers, envelopes, and post-its:

Then I put it al
l together, so that Baby L has one transportable, totally fun, totally awesome SUMMER WRITING KIT! I even added in the mini-clipboard that the Easter Bunny brought her.

In the classroom, I love ending the school year by making reading kits and writing kits for the kids to take home for their summer reading and writing lives. You can spend the last week or two of reading workshop or writing workshop teaching the kids how to take care of and use their special summer kits so that by the time they leave for summer vacation, they've had plenty of practice with taking things out and putting them back, coming up with their own ideas for reading and writing projects, and dreaming up the kind of reading and writing they hope to do.

Here are some ideas that many teachers (and parents and caregivers) love!

For a container you could use:

  • A giant zip-loc baggy
  • Cloth bags ordered from Oriental Trading or other catalogue
  • If you're a classroom teacher, sometimes parent volunteers are willing and able to sew beautiful bags for reading or writing kits. Thanks parents!
  • Blank aluminum lunchboxes (available at some craft stores and websites) for children to decorate
  • A typical pencil box
  • Children could decorate whatever the container is with glued on pictures, stickers, or paint to personalize the kits

Some possibilities for tools to put in the Writing Kit:

  • A notebook or notepad with blank paper (unlined for young children)
  • “Special” summer writing paper with a place to sketch, and lines to write on just like writing workshop at school (photocopied onto colored paper to make it special; stapled or hole-punched and stuck on a ring to turn it into a notepad)
  • Consider various paper sizes, decorating the paper with a stamp, photocopy a border or design onto it or placing a sticker at the top to turn it into “stationery”
  • Colorful post-its, or post-its cut into shapes (stars, hearts, clouds, or other)
  • Special glittery or colorfully designed pencils, pens or markers
  • Envelopes and stamps, include a card with an address where children can to write to you and their new teacher(s) over the summer
  • Post cards, greeting cards, notecards, etc.
  • Poetry object(s) (seashells, stones, feathers, leaves, dried flowers, other)
  • Recipe cards, list paper, How-To paper, mini-calendar
  • Mini-staplers, tape, and/or glue sticks
  • Personal Word Wall, Alphabet Chart, Blends Chart
Some idea for reading kits:
  • Collect favorite books to put in the reading kit
  • Include books written by the child, other children, or by the teacher or parents or caregivers and friends
  • Special book marks with reminders for things to think about while you read ("I'm wondering..." "This makes me think..." "I notice..."
  • A tiny flashlight for reading under the covers
  • Special post-its (of course!!)
  • A tiny notebook for making a wish list of books, or for jotting or sketching ideas about the books
  • A tiny calendar for tallying up how many books you read each day or how many pages you read (if you are an older kid who reads chapter books)
Whatever you do this summer, have fun doing it! If you decide to make a summer reading or writing kit let us know, we'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Easter Egg Hunt=Grammar Lesson?

Baby L, Daddy B, and I went to our first Easter Egg Hunt this weekend at McCarren Park! It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and Baby L filled a shopping bag full of eggs. We put lots of them back for other kids to find, and still had a ton to take home.

Later that night, after Baby L went to bed, I emptied out all the eggs and cleaned them up so L could play with them in her play kitchen. As I popped open each egg and removed whatever candy or toys were inside it dawned on me that we could hide the eggs all over again in the house--why wait until Easter? What a fun game to play!

So that night I filled the eggs back up with stickers and hid them all over the house. Since L is only 1.5 years old, I hid them in plain sight. I didn't want her to lose interest after finding the first egg.

The next morning, Baby L found the first few "hidden" eggs immediately. It's easy to see why:

After she found the eggs on the stools, we started giving her clues to find the rest. "Look under the baby doll.... next to the wagon... on top of the coffee table..."

L totally understood that we were telling her generally where to look, but the prepositions-- under, over, in, on... those were tricky for her. We coached her with gestures, we pointed, we restated, we repeated and emphasized certain words. What great practice with grammar! said the teacher-voice inside my head. Oh just have fun...don't ruin it with grammar! said the non-teacher voice inside my usual.

Either way, L loves our new game!

Teachers are constantly asking me for ideas for how to teach grammar. A really great resource for teachers of older children is The Power of Grammar, by Mary Ehrenworth and Vicki Vinton. You'll find lots of smart ways to teach grammar in a way that calls upon children's abilities to think creatively and meaningfully, rather than memorizing a bunch of grammar rules for a test, or filling out worksheets.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Taking Our Tiny Scientist to the New York Aquarium

Yesterday we braved the pouring rain and howling wind and packed up Baby L and drove to the New York Aquarium. We brought along with all the books we could find about sea life, and read them on the way!

One great thing about this book...

...and this book....

are the audio recordings of the books on the CDs that come with them. We have four or five books from this series and all of them are equally as beautiful. Baby L, Daddy B, and I loved listening to the the CDs all the way to the aquarium, and we felt like experts on sea life by the time we arrived!

And then, one of the first things we saw when we got there...

He (or she?) looked just like the turtles in our book!

But Baby L's (and Mommy and Daddy's) FAVORITE thing of all at the aquarium was this guy:

I nearly bought a stuffed animal version of the walrus, but it was Baby L who said, "Put back!"(One of her favorite things to say these days--especially if it's a food she doesn't want to eat). I listened to her and I put back the toy walrus... we really do not need any more stuffed animals... but I kind of wish I had brought him home to cuddle with!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Make a Special Reading Spot in Your House

Kids love having their own special spot for reading. Having a favorite place to read helps children build their identity as readers - they can think of themselves as "readers" before they even know the alphabet!

Here are some ideas:
1. Set up a corner with a basket of books, some pillows and some post-its.
2. You could set aside a child-sized rocking chair with a tote-bag full of books resting in it.
3. Keep a basket of books next to your child's bed with a mini-flashlight for reading under the covers.

Here's Baby L's fave reading spot right now:

Use your imagination!

Does your tiny reader have a favorite place to read? Leave a comment and share!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mark it With a B! For Baby and Me!

It started a few nights ago, in the tub, actually. Baby L pointed to the red foam letter B and said, "Baby."

I really thought it was just a coincidence, but just to check, I said, "Where's the B? B for Baby?" and she pointed to it again. Then she turned her attention to her beloved ducky and the moment had passed.

But the next night, in the tub, it happened again. This time I was singing the ABC song and writing the letters of the alphabet on the wall of tub with L's tub crayons. When I came to the end of the alphabet, I said, "L. where's B for Baby and me?" Again! She did it again! She scanned all the letters - starting at Z and moving backward very methodically, until she came to the letter B. She immediately smiled, pointed, and said, "Baby!"

Still, I thought, maybe just another coincidence. So, just casually, over the next few days, I started asking her to find the letter B. When reading a book with really big print I asked, "L do you see a B for Baby?" When playing with her ABC blocks. When walking down the street. She totally knows the letter B now! AMAZING!! (At least, I think so, anyway...)

Yesterday, I wrote all the letters of the alphabet on a big piece of paper taped on her easel, and she's been going back to it again and again with her crayons and markers, "writing" the letters. She colors and scribbles very deliberately, right on top of each letter. So cute!

She can also tell you where "D for Daddy" is, and "M for Mommy."

Next thing you know, she'll be writing her first book!

I do feel a little bit like I'm playing with fire, here. It is so tempting to go totally overboard. I could start asking her all day everywhere we go to find letters and numbers. Or pull out flashcards or something crazy like that. But obviously she's learning the letters without any particular drill or practice. So I think it's best if I just keep reading aloud lots of great books, talking about books and writing, and giving her lots of opportunity to see letters and numbers in her environment.

Do you have a story or idea to share about learning the alphabet? Please leave a comment and share!