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Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Fun-Filled, Learning-Packed Hour at Language Stars

        My son and I just went to our Language Stars* class on Saturday. I say "our" class because I learn (and enjoy it) just as much as he does! One thing that has continued to impress me since our very first class is the well-planned and executed curriculum. The teacher manages to keep both parents and tots engaged and learning for, literally, the entire hour!
        There is a lot to learn every week. There's a song, some new object names, and other vocabulary, such as verbs. This week, we learned some animal names, sang a song about a spider, and focused on big and little.
        One of the first activities was simple but effective: The children each get a big stuffed animal, then each little stuffed animal comes out to look for its mommy. My son got the pig (ju with a high tone).  He thought it was really funny when the wrong animal came up to the pig to see if she was the mommy.  Each child got a different animal and the names were repeated at least 6 to 8 times.
        Of course, throughout class, the adults have to help the little ones ask questions like, "What is your name?"  We do it dutifully, even though most of us are no where close!  The teacher corrects us with patience, stressing the correct sounds.  She asks even the shyest of children (e.g. my son) to repeat the words after her, as well.
        Even snack time is utilized.  Each child is encouraged to say the name of the snack, ask for a plate and cup, and sing the "My Tummy/I'm Thirsty Song."  While the children eat, the teacher reads a relevant story.  The book is usually in English, but she speaks only in Mandarin, pointing out pictures for the little ones.

        While the children are seated, the teacher passes out a coloring sheet.  The purpose is 3-fold:  1) to practice color words, 2) to review the day's vocabulary, and 3) to hang it at home as a reminder of this week's class.  This week, ours was effective, but not fancy.  My daughter came home with a beautiful craft from the older class!  But, it has to be something easy for the little ones, so we colored big (da) and little (shou) chickens.
        We ended class with a song and sitting in the circle again.  Everyone sang the good-bye song (at least the parents tried to), and off we went.  In an hour, we had heard/learned at least 50-80 words, maybe more counting the songs and new vocabulary.  It was a very productive hour indeed.

Thanks for reading!
Any comments on your own second language learning experiences are greatly appreciated.

Teacher Tam

*I get 50% off tuition for blogging. What could be better than talking about something I really enjoy?
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Friday, July 29, 2011

!!!!The Big Back to School Sale and Blog Party!!!!

There are 2 teacher events starting Monday that you CANNOT miss:

1)  Use code B1T1S at checkout to get 10% off everything AUGUST 1-6, then check out the sellers at the bottom of this post to see who is offering additional sales!
I'm offering an additional 20% off (in conjunction with the 10% with the code B1T1S) from AUGUST 1-6, so please check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  THIS IS ONE OF ONLY 2 ANNUAL, HUGE SALES*, SO DON'T MISS OUT!!!
*based on last year

2) AND . . . You need to check out the Back to School Blog Party (Aug 1-5) at Effective Teaching Articles.  Lisa is offering a new freebie every day and  some great PRIZES!!!!  Visit her blog every day to check out the fun!

The 10% OFF promo code will be B1T1S and be good from the 1st-6th

Biology Introduction Complete Unit Plan 20Products

The Ultimate Lab Safety Bundle for Science Teachers

Metric System Scientific Measurement Unit Plan of 12 Products

Science Stuff Blog

Think-Tac-Toe-Bundle Differentiated Literacy Activities for Any Text
Literacy Activities Using Thinking Maps 
Sentence Starters for Paideia Seminars

Reading Comprehension Strategy Resource Binder

Literacy Elements Resource Binder

11 Themed Kooshball Templates for your SMARTboard
Runde's Room Blog

Rachel Lynette's TpT Store

Beginning of the Year Activities
Any List Spelling Activities

150 Creative and Critical Thinking Cards

Minds in Bloom Blog

Spanish Speaking Activities

Spanish Projects

Spanish Bell Ringers

Spanish Plan's Blog

Student Portfolios: A Collection of Printables for Throughout the Year

Animal Habitats Mini-Unit: Balanced Literacy ArtScience

Number of the Day: Developing Number Sense Numbers from 1 to 50

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Preschool-Kindergarten-First Grade Reading Math Games SAVE ON BOTH

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7th Grade Bell Assignments

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 Irregular Past Tense Verb Game: Grammar and Vocabulary Unit Plan

Reflexive Pronouns ELD-ESL: Grammar Unit and Lesson Plan

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Solve Systems of Equations Resource and Activity Packet

The Enlightened Elephant's Blog

 Fabulous Fairy Tales Unit Ideas for 10 Fairy Tales

The Great Poetry Race Fluency Kit

Addition and Subtraction Mystery Pictures

First Grade Brain Blog

 36 Week Reading Response Journal

Read-Aloud Journal: A Simple Way to Teach Reading Strategies

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Back to School Unit September

Complete Poetry Unit

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Ready for Summer Math and Literacy Center

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 Greatest Common Factory and Least Common Multiple Four-in-a-Row Game

Gallon Castle A Story of One Family in Capacity Kingdom

Time Center Activity: Racing Fun With Time

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 Welcome Back to School Activities for the First Day and Beyond

Wild About Learning Wild Animals Safari Jungle Classroom Theme

A-Dino-Mite-Year Dinosaur Classroom Theme

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Antonym Power Point and Worksheets

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Colors and Color Words Sorting Mats Circus

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Fractions for the Confused and Bewildered AllOperations

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UNITS 1-10 Test Reviews for Grade 1 Everyday Math Notebook Files

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 Wise Guys TpT Store

Beginning of the Year 18 Lessons, Activities, and Worksheets on a CD

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Clip art from: 
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Linky Party! Sticker Charts are my Favorite!

Thanks, Lesson Plan Diva, for hosting such an awesome linky party!  I simply had to join.
I've been teaching pre-k and kindergarten for about 13 years now and I have used a LOT of different behavior management plans.  But, my old stand-by, my favorite, has to be a very simple sticker chart.  I prefer this over any other method because:

1)  It is positive reinforcement.  I teach little ones.  I like happy faces and rainbows and I usually sign my name with a picture of sunshine attached.  Why in the world would I like flipping cards to red or taking recess time?  I don't.  So, I really love positive methods of encouraging preferred classroom behaviors.

2)  My little ones get a prize right away.  When I award a sticker, that child knows right then that they have done something good.  There is no waiting and no guessing.  Not only did I smile and  say something kind and encouraging, I also handed them a tangible (yet small) token of praise.

3)  They learn to wait.  While students do receive that small token right away, they also learn to wait for a larger prize.  Learning to delay gratification (I've read) helps them be better at saving money when they grow up.  It also makes them more likely to go to college because they can work a long time to get a reward.  See?  Stickers are great!

And, last but not least, reason #4)  If you are having a behaviorally difficult day, just take a moment to tell the class that you feel like giving away a lot of stickers.  Let them see you put a couple of pages in your pocket.  You will be amazed at how wonderful the rest of your day goes!

FREE STICKER CHARTS!  Click on "Jumping on the Pirate Boat" in the list of previous posts to your right.  Click on the picture of the pirate sticker chart to get 5 sets of free charts!

As always,
Thanks for reading!
Teacher Tam
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jumping on the Pirate Boat (or ship, I guess)

It sounds like "Pirates" will be the theme in a lot of classrooms this year.  If yours is one of them, then you need to check out the FREE pirate-themed desk plates at Mrs. Johnson's First Grade blog.  They are sooo cute!
To go with them, download my FREE pirate, back to school, jungle, dinosaur, and superhero sticker charts

And check out my  Pirates!  Sight Word Game .  It comes with 2 sets of sight word cards. 

Thanks for reading!  
Teacher Tam
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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Our Language Stars* Adventures: How We Got Here

Even though I only speak a little Spanish, I have always had a great interest in languages.  Since before my husband and I were married, I had envisioned our children learning to speak Chinese (my husband is Chinese).  Yet, neither of us speaks Chinese. So, as you can well imagine, this presents a problem!  It's what prompted me to begin my quest to teach our 3 children Mandarin.
I have to admit that I was very discouraged, at first.  When we visited one of the local non-profit schools and talked to a few parents, we were told that what we wanted was impossible unless someone in our home spoke the language.  My daughter was too young to attend their classes, anyway, so I went home disappointed and thoroughly discouraged.
Now, it's 2 years later and we are slowly but surely finding our way.  We enrolled my oldest daughter (now 3 1/2) in one of the several not-for-profit, Mandarin instruction schools in the Chicago area.  They hold classes on the weekends from fall to spring, just like most public schools.  We just started last February, so it didn't take long for May to come around and . . . poof! . . . no classes!  My daughter and I were just getting started, so I was left looking for a class to keep her learning during the summer.
Again, we visited schools, spent several hours searching the internet, and called EVERYONE!  While there were more than a couple to choose from, one program didn't seem appropriate for her age, another would have caused us to rearrange our entire schedule, and yet another had to cancel the preschool class due to lack of interest!  "Here I am being interested!" I wanted to yell but, after all, I realized it WAS my fault because I should have been preparing for this in April and not in June (Yes, I am a procrastinator).
Anyway, I kept seeing all these ads about Language Stars*.  And, frankly, I didn't even call them because it seemed a little expensive.  Then, they offered a 4 class deal on Family Finds.  Like I have said before, I'm a couponer, so I absolutely cannot resist a good deal.  I signed up my daughter and my son (2 1/2).   Not only did I get a good deal (4 classes for each of them, a Language Stars CD, their FunImmersion curriculum book, AND a t-shirt for each kid), but I found what I had been looking for all along:  A school that would help me teach my children to speak Mandarin.    
Now, while I do not speak Mandarin, I do have 3 things going for me:  1) perseverance, 2) I'm an early childhood teacher, and 3) I have always been interested in language learning, especially by young children.  So, to tell you the truth, I was hooked when I walked in the door at Language Stars.  They have got it DOWN!  Nothing impresses a teacher more than to be handed the full curriculum when she walks in the door!  And, not just any curriculum, but one that includes on-line links that pronounce it for you, allow you to copy coloring sheets and other practice materials, and give you every possible adult language learner crutch so that you can help your child.  We can now follow along at home, singing the songs before and after class (they are all online and/or on the CD), learning the words after I have the computer pronounce them for me yet again!
So, we're all enjoying our time at Language Stars.  My daughter goes to the "Kids Only" class.  I go to the "Parent and Tot" class with my son.  The teacher is not only top notch, but she is always prepared and attentive to each child.  NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) would be proud of how "developmentally appropriate" their classes are. (Click here to read their Position Statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice). The center is filled with bins, labeled and stuffed with teaching materials in preparation for each lesson topic.
 Sheets from the FunImmersion curriculum book are blown up and hung on the wall so students can see the words in Chinese characters and in Pinyin, the close-to-English pronunciation system (AND just so I can remember the words to the songs!).
 While my only complaint with LA is the price, there are discounts for siblings and for paying ahead-of-time that make it better, and you definitely get what you pay for.

Sometime this week, I plan to post a few Mandarin language links for materials that I have found useful. I also want to provide you with a list of Mandarin language resources in the Chicago area.  We plan to continue at Language Stars AND still attend the not-for-profit school on Sunday afternoons, so some of you might want to do the same.  I would love to receive some comments from other parents, language teachers, those who are bilingual, or other interested readers.  Any thoughts or advice for me?
Thanks for reading,
Teacher Tam :)

*I blog about my experience and get discounted tuition.  For a couponer like me, nothing could be better!
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