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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Santa AND Mommy are Watching!

My husband told me this week that he read somewhere that it takes10,000 hours to be "proficient" at something.  I guess that means Olympic level.  Carnegie Hall level.  Completely and totally bilingual?  Then I look at my kids.  How many hours of Mandarin do they have so far?  About 450 hours at Language Stars* for the oldest (if I am counting correctly).  Maybe 200 for my oldest boy and 50 for the youngest.    I just let out a long, tired sigh.  We have a l-o-n-g way to go.  

But, in a way, this is reassuring, too.  It keeps everything in perspective.  How much should they REALLY know?  What should my expectations be?  This fact put a new spin on it.  My kids are about where they should be, saying some words and simple sentences.  Obviously, at 2,000 hours or 5,000 hours, my expectations will be quite different.  But for now, we're good.  They are doing well when you compare a few hundred hours to a few thousand.  

Yet, my expectations are changing a little bit, too.  Most weeks, after my youngest son and I complete our Parents and Tots class, we wait outside for them.  He plays with the waiting room toys and I do some work on the computer.  It just so happens that we are right next to their classroom.  And it's not that I planned that or anything, or that I intended to listen.  I just sit there because that's where the toys are.  But, for the last few weeks, I have heard them speaking English to each other AND to the teacher, despite her encouragement to speak Mandarin.  Despite the fact that they CAN certainly say and respond with simple statements like, "Please give me a red car."  

So, last week I let them know.  "Do you know where I am when you're in class?"  I asked.  "At the store?" my daughter guesses.  "Doing your work?"  my son responds.  "Yes, I'm doing work,"  I say, "But do you know WHERE I am?"  Blank stares from both.  "I am right outside your classroom.  I can hear it when you speak English in class.  I want to hear you speak Chinese."  Wide eyes from both.  They had not expected that one.  

Hopefully, that knowledge (plus a weekly reminder before class) will be as effective as Santa and our Elf on the Shelf, Chippy.  Just knowing that someone is watching/listening will hopefully change behavior.  Especially after I tell them how much Santa LOVES Chinese!  

*We receive 50% off of our tuition for blogging about our Language Stars experience.  

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Paper Plate Crafts AND Word Families!

I think these turned out so adorable that I just HAVE to share them!  

First of all, let me admit to a LOVE of paper plates.  I love to use them for crafts.  You can literally make anything out of a paper plate!  I have been using paper plates for crafts for years, but never thought of pairing them with word family practice.  Not until I downloaded a Halloween freebie from Susan Moran.  Then I'm like, "Cool!  I can just make it from a paper plate!"  

So, here are 3 of the things we made using her original idea and extending it through 2 more holidays!  

Everyone make -op family wreaths for Christmas!  Aren't these super cute?!

The more advanced readers did the -ate family while others did another short vowel family.
The majority of the class did the -et family on our Halloween spiders.  More advanced readers did -ake words.  

Here's a picture of Susan's original idea and a link to her Halloween freebie.  You should check it out.  Sorry it's so blurry, but you get the idea!  

I hope you enjoy making some of these in your own classroom!  Students enjoy them and they look great hanging around the room!  

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Common Core Math Workbook Giveaway Winners!

Congratulations to the winners of my Common Core Cut-and-Glue Workbook contest!  It just ended yesterday.   Since there were over 120 entries, I picked 6 winners (1 for every 20 entries, as promised).  Each winner gets to pick one of my CC Cut-and-Glue Workbooks for Christmas or Winter (kindergarten or first grade level).  

The winners are:
Nan, Rachel, Dee, Heather, Nancy, and SueAnne

Each winner has been notified by email and will receive their prize as soon as I know which workbook they want!  

Thanks to all who participated!  Be sure to watch the giveaways section of Teachers Notebook.  I really like to give away items there to promote my store.  My giveaways usually last for 5 days, and I ALWAYS give away 3 at a time so you have a good chance!  

Happy teaching!  

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Common Core Math Fun and GIVEAWAY!

I want to let you know about a few new products I have in my store.  We are having so much fun with them!  I am definitely not a "worksheet" type of teacher, but I see the value in practice and know how necessary it is to have a tangible product to help with assessment and portfolios.  So, I came up with worksheets that are fun and engaging, yet provide valuable Common Core practice.  They're cut-and-glue!  My little ones in the classroom AND at home really enjoy cutting and coloring them and they do a little math in the process!

My son easily understood the concept, too!
I think he liked it that there were only a few problems.
This is a "counting on" page from the Christmas/Holiday set.
When I had one of the sheets up on my computer, my daughter (She just turned 5.) and son (He's almost 4.) saw it and decided that it looked like fun!  I printed off a couple of sheets and away they went!   

I have gotten some great feedback about these packs, so I know other students and teachers are enjoying them, too.  Which brings me to the best part . . .  THE GIVEAWAY!  

There are 4 possible prizes.  You can pick the one you want.  Keep in mind that the First Grade Common Core Math Cut-and-Glue Workbook for Winter has not been posted yet, but it's coming soon!  I'll be picking 1 winner for every 20 entries (with a minimum of 5 winners), so the more people who enter, the more winners we'll have!  

Here are the links to the products, so you can check them out:

Click here to take a look!                                                                                                                
Click here to take a look!  
Click here to take a look!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Class With Daddy

So, my youngest, at 2 1/2, goes with me to the Parents and Tots class at Language Stars* on Thursdays.  I usually leave him at home with Dad on Saturdays, taking my other kids to class and using that time to get my own work done.  But, lately we've had some make-up classes to use, so I've been taking him to class on Saturdays.  Correction:  I have enlisted my husband to take him to class on Saturdays while I still get some work done.  The feedback from Dad is always interesting.  You'd think we were in class with different children.

First of all, let me admit that my youngest is . . . spirited.  Okay, so I spoil him a little, let him get away with things that my other 2 never did in the first place, etc. etc.  (I hope my husband doesn't read this little confession.)  Not that he misbehaves (very much), but he is a very lively little one who likes to act silly, do things all by himself (even when he can't), and have almost everything done "right now" (Even though he only knows about 100 words, those 2 are his favorite.  I have NO idea where he would have learned them.  I certainly NEVER say that.  Again, I hope my husband isn't reading this.).  

Last week, my son and husband get out of class and come in search of Mommy.  "How was class?"  I ask.  My husband gives me a funny look and says, "Well . . . it was okay.  But he was all over the place."  (What does he expect?  Our son is 2.  ALL of them are all over the place.) "Did he leave the room?"  I ask.  "No, he just wanted to climb all over me and go under the table,"  my husband responds. "That's okay,"  I said, smiling.  My husband wasn't smiling.  I guess he had higher expectations of our son's behavior.  

My criteria for a great class is that no one leaves the room.  Maybe some parents think I'm aiming a little low, but when you're talking about a 2-year-old, I think that's pretty good.  At 2, he'll walk around the room, go under the table, but then come back to my lap and sit down to watch the teacher.  When he's done listening, he'll take a break again until a more engaging toy comes out.  But, I do have evidence that he is listening.  He is learning things because he'll repeat what the teacher says when prompted.  When we're talking about how old each child is, he tries to hold up 2 fingers (so he understands).   

That's one of the reasons we're at Language Stars*:   The teachers understand.   Even if my husband (who really hasn't spent time around any children other than our own) doesn't "get" the behavior of a 2-year-old, the teachers do.  They know that the little ones can only sit for short bursts of time.  They know that my son needs to be up and moving around, but that chances are he's still listening (at least enough to know when his favorite cars or rockets come out).  They have activities that are developmentally appropriate, like playing with a little bit of water, matching objects to pictures, or sorting objects.  And, best of all, they know to quickly transition to some fun activities or movement to regain the attention of my short-attention-span little man. 

It might take a while to get Daddy used to going to class (languages are NOT his thing) and used to my son's 2-year-old energy.  But, I am quite determined to help him enjoy the class more with our son and recognize that learning is still taking place.  How else am I going to get some time to run errands?!
This week's topic was transportation.  My son LOVED the colorful vehicles!

As always,
Thanks for reading!  

*We receive 50% off our Language Stars tuition for sharing our experiences on the blog.  

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Really, I Don't Know WHAT Happened to Your Videos

Sometimes my love of Mandarin backfires on me.  Not often, but it happens.  My desire for my children to learn sometimes has me doing things that make my life a little more difficult.  (I mean besides the long jaunts to our Language Stars* classes and our even longer drives to the non-profit school on Sundays.)  

Due to the holiday this week, we have no Mandarin classes at Language Stars.*  (I HATE that!  No Mandarin class makes me sad.  I mean, what WILL we do with the time?)  So, we were discussing this on our way to the car on Saturday.  My daughter, ever the opportunist, sees her chance.  AS SOON AS we get in the car, she says, "It's my turn to choose a video."  (This usually means some annoying princess video that my boys HATE--sorry Disney--and whine about all the way home.  But, sadly, it WAS her turn.)  And what does she pick?  THE MOST ANNOYING VIDEO ON THE PLANET which I must admit that I purchased.  

And why did I purchase it?  To help my daughter with her Mandarin, of course.  It's a Four Golden Princesses video.  When we first started classes, we used to watch their videos on YouTube.  It's this group of 4 little girls who made all these singing/dancing/dress-up videos in the early 90s.  Cute, to a point.  Well, at least the first 50 times you watch it.  When I saw her interest, I ran right out and ordered--not one--but TWO of them!  And, they are L-O-N-G.  An hour and a half of annoying little kiddie tunes (some traditional Chinese and some translated from English).  They probably made at least 15 to 20 of these.  I didn't know there were that many annoying kiddie songs in the world.  Understandably, my sons HATE these even more than the regular princess videos.  

So I said, "Honey, why don't you choose a different video.  The boys don't like that one very much and it is really long.  (And I really hate it.)"  Her priceless reply?  "But Mom, we need to practice our Chinese.  We don't have class next week, right?"  Foiled again.  She uses my own reasoning against me.  Needless to say, we were stuck watching that video for the next hour and a half.  The good news is that I can sing several of the songs.  The bad news is that I can sing several of the songs.  I think those videos need to be misplaced.  Especially before she uses the but-we-don't-have-class-this-week excuse to watch one again.  

Thanks for reading and Happy Thanksgiving!  :)

*We receive a 50% discount for blogging about our Language Stars experience.  Awesome all the way around!  We love their classes!  

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Grease on the Gears

All you have to do is Google "benefits of being bilingual" to get a barrage of information on its positive points.  I even read somewhere (mom of 3, so I have NO idea where) that it delays the onset of Alzheimer's.  Check out what Wikipedia has to say here (my husband's go-to for info).  You can also find a reference list of links on the Language Stars* site by clicking here.  I've read that your kids will have higher test scores, be better at math, do better in a business career, have better social skills, be more creative, and on and on.  But, as I gave this some thought this week, I realized that we aren't taking Mandarin for any of these reasons.  So, why are we taking Mandarin and what are we getting out of it?

If you've been keeping up with my blog (you have, haven't you?), then you have read this story before.  I distinctly recall the one moment when I decided to look for Mandarin classes for my children.  My husband's uncle was standing in the kitchen holding my youngest, then an infant.  Someone said, "Gee, it's too bad they don't speak Chinese."  And I thought, yeah, it is.  But then the thought came to me that it wasn't too late.  In one second, I realized that  1) they were still young enough to learn easily, 2) we live in Chicago, so it would be easy enough to find SOMEWHERE to take them, 3) it would mean work for me, and 4) being bilingual wasn't the goal, because we might never get there.  In that one split second, I just thought:  Whatever we get out of it is what we get.  I refuse to find myself 20 years down the road and wish that I had taken them to classes--too late.  

So, did you catch that?  I knew from day 1 that being bilingual was not the goal.  At least, not for us.  I think that's somewhat unrealistic, given that no one is speaking the language to them at home (except for the little I can manage).  What I was looking for was EXPOSURE.  The chance.  My dad uses the expression "priming the pump."  While I'm not sure what real-life example he is referring to (I have NO mechanical skills whatsoever), I understand and agree with the concept.  It's kind of like, how can the gears move properly if there's no grease?  Language Stars* classes are our grease.  They give my children a CHANCE to become bilingual.  And it's not so they can get great test scores or be more creative, or any of those things.  It's just so they can learn to love and appreciate another language and their own ethnic heritage.  

Already, I am seeing that my daughter seems to enjoy the classes more than my son.  (My bittiest one is repeating and using some words, but he's still too small to know his interest level.  He just likes sitting on Mommy's lap in class!)  She seems to be learning more and participating more and retaining more of what she has learned.  She can correct me and teach me new words and answer the questions I ask her.  In fact, I was floored last week when we had a mini-conversation in Mandarin!  Granted, it was just about where her dad was and that he went to the bathroom with her brother, three or four sentences, but STILL!  I was quite thrilled.  I am already seeing that my work to get them to class every week may go somewhere.   

Are they learning Mandarin?  Obviously.  I am very pleased with what I've seen at Language Stars and their approach.  Will they someday be truly bilingual?  Who knows.  I hope so.  But, all I can do is my job "priming the pump," providing the opportunity.  They have to do the rest.  

*We receive 50% off our tuition for blogging about our Language Stars experiences.  
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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Eavesdropping or An Observation, You Decide

This week I got the chance to eavesdrop.  I'll admit it.  And, what's better is that I learned A LOT!

While my kids are in their Language Stars* class on Saturday, I use that time to do my "computer work."  I am very glad that there's a Starbucks right next door so I can not only hang out in a quiet place and get work done, but I can also grab a much needed second cup of coffee.  (I believe that you must have at least as many cups of coffee a day as you have children.  For me, that's 3!)  Anyway, I spent most of the time at Starbucks, then came back to LS and sat at a little table they have in the back of the center to finish the rest of my work.  

First of all, I should tell you that parents can only sit in on classes for the older students on certain days.  I completely agree with that because my children are actually more well-behaved with other people (what's up with that, anyway?).  I understand why LS has that rule.  So, imagine my delight when one of the teachers left the door to his classroom open!  Even though it's around the corner and I cannot see the class in action, I can now hear EVERYTHING going on inside. 

Being a truly unobtrusive observer rarely happens.  As a teacher, I know that when I do an observation just the act of observing changes the dynamics of the classroom, whether it is for the students, the teacher, or both.  So I recognized this right away for what it was:  A valuable opportunity to "see" exactly what the kids only classes were really like.  

I have to admit that sometimes I get discouraged.  I helped my son put on a cat tattoo the other day and he couldn't come up with the Mandarin word for cat (which I think I learned in the very first class).  Moments like this discourage me.  I know I shouldn't assume that he learns the same material I do or even in the same way or at the pace I think he should.  But, nonetheless, I get discouraged.  Then something like my unintended observation happens and I am reassured again.  Language Stars really has some solid teaching going on!  

The class I "observed" (i.e. eavesdropped in on) was in Spanish.  But, I speak more Spanish than Mandarin, so I think that was a good thing.  I could actually follow along without needing to see the props.  I heard 3 very important and specific things from this class that reminded me our 30-minute trips to class twice a week are well worth it:

1.  The teacher repeated, repeated, and repeated the material.  
                 We do this in parents and tots, but it was nice to hear that it is going on in the kids only classes, too.  He sang the song of the week over and over again, substituting different vocabulary words from the week's list.    He used the vocabulary over and over again in different ways.  

2.  He prompted the students to expand their sentences.
Once he got a correct response from a child, he would then ask another simple question and/or model an extended sentence using her answer.  Our teachers do this, too, but perhaps it was just easier for me to hear it done in Spanish.  It was more obvious to me because I was observing and not trying to learn the vocabulary myself!  

3.  He kept adding in new vocabulary.  
There were a couple of times that I was tempted to peek around the corner to see what he was talking about!  It would be "vocab I know, vocab I know, vocab I know, NEW WORD" for me.  This is perfect because it's easy for students to pick up the new word's meaning through context clues (which I was lacking due to my vantage point).   

So, in short, I was impressed and reassured by what I heard on Saturday.  I know that all of the teachers not only have backgrounds in teaching/working with children/related fields, but they also receive the same training from Language Stars.  So their approach is almost exactly the same.  Therefore, I know that what's happening in the Spanish kids only class is the same thing my children are getting in their Mandarin class.  Good to know.  Now, off to review the word for "cat" with my son!  

*We receive 50% off of our tuition for sharing our Language Stars experience.  But all opinions expressed here are my own because we really enjoy going to Language Stars!  :)

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Toy Box With a Higher Calling . . .

          I am happy to report that we have been working on our Mandarin more at home the last 2 weeks!  As a teacher, I know that a parent's attitude toward learning and academic encouragement are crucial to a student's success.  Therefore, I know that Mandarin cannot only be a priority during Language Stars* class time, but it needs to be made a priority at home, too.  So, we pulled out our little books this week and I ordered the workbooks that accompany them.  We've been doing the workbook pages (some of them are cut-and-glue, my favorite!) on our "down days" when we have more time.  In fact, my older two were BEGGING to do some workbook pages last night.  Imagine that!  

       But, I also need to think more about just incidentally using the language.  For example, take a look at this picture from our Language Stars* Parents and Tots class this week:

Objects that encourage language development
       What do you see?  They seem just like random toys, right?  But they aren't.  To me, it's not a toy box, but a "vocabulary box."  The items were chosen specifically to elicit as much language from the child as possible, as well as from the teacher, I suppose, so that the child can hear the language.  There are colors; various vehicles; little people (girls and boys); different shapes; animals and common "child" items pictured on the blocks; as well as objects that can be used to illustrate prepositions such as under, over, in, and on.   They are all in one big box, presented to children at the beginning of the class during a powerful "play" time filled with language.   

       I have to ask myself, where's our "vocabulary box" at home?  Some of it is currently on the refrigerator.  We have a set of magnetic animals.  I put a few out so we can practice their names in Mandarin.  Box items are also on our bookshelf.  While we do have some books in Chinese, I should take my cue from Language Stars* and just use the  English book to review Mandarin vocabulary--or, as much as I know, anyway.  My "vocabulary box" also consists of the Halloween decorations we just put up.  My youngest son and I have been using these to practice colors, although I also need to learn a few more words like "ghost" to go with it.  

      So, this week, my goal is not only to keep up reading the little books to my kids and doing the actually engaging little worksheets I bought, but it's also to keep in mind the "vocabulary box" and it's purpose.  I need to go around the house, gathering materials that I can use to teach and reinforce vocabulary (even if I have to look up a few words).  I need to remember to use the words while we play together, eat together, and get ready for bedtime.  My support and interest in the language will help determine their success.  So, just as math and learning to read in English are stressed in our home, Mandarin has to be, as well.  A "vocabulary box" is a great place to start.   

Thank you so much for reading, 

*We receive 50% off our tuition for blogging about our Language Stars experience.  

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Every Moment is a Teachable Moment

          I was inspired this week to work more on Mandarin with my kids at home.  When we first started out, I was working with them a lot, but the everyday just got to me, I suppose.  It's hard to do, day in and day out, with so many other things going on.  But, I realized this week that even little things can help.  
      In our parents and tots class at Language Stars* this week, I was reminded that every moment is a teachable moment.  The teacher uses absolutely every moment of class to teach something, whether she is reviewing old vocabulary or repeating and reinforcing new vocabulary.  I was struck by the idea that I can do the same, it will just take a little effort on my part.  
      Snack time at LS is always the same, creating a routine that is familiar to the children and making sure to reinforce useful vocabulary surrounding eating and drinking.  But, there is also a unique activity during snack for each class which centers on the vocabulary/topic for that week.  This week, we were working on body parts, so the teacher took out place mats with body part pictures.  

Using snack time activities to reinforce new vocabulary

        The idea is that the teacher calls out a body part and the child places some of his/her snack on top of the correct picture.  It's a pretty simple concept, but what stuck me is how this normally lost time was captured and used to practice vocabulary.  Can I do that at home?  Sure.  I don't know if I'll be making place mats for snack, but it gives me ideas.  We have little books that we haven't been reading lately.  I have some tracing sheets for my daughter that I need to locate today.  My kids LOVE to play games, so why not spend a little time making some in Mandarin?  
        So, while I don't have hours and hours of time to devote to practicing our Mandarin, there are little things I can do.  There are small moments that can be seized and utilized to reinforce the language.  Teachable moments are everywhere.  I just have to go looking for them.

Thanks for reading,

*We receive 50% off our Language Stars tuition for sharing our experiences through this blog.  
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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Math Journal FREEBIE for Kindergarten and First

        I have really enjoyed making a couple of FREE things lately, so I thought I would make one more!  I know that math journals have been sooo helpful for me and my students, so I thought I'd make some free math journal prompts.  They are pet-themed, so they can be used any time of year.  I plan to stick them in as fillers every now and again, as needed, or maybe bring them out when we're doing animal groups.  They could also go with the "All About Me" theme since some students have pets they like to talk about.
CLICK HERE to get your collection of 20 pet-themed math journal prompts.
         I have found that math journals serve as a wonderful record of a student's progress in math.  During conferences, the parent can see how his/her child is increasing his/her  understanding of each mathematical concept.  They also serve as a quick assessment tool.  You know right away which students understand the concept, illustrating and answering the problem quickly, and those who need help beginning to solve it or somewhere along the way.  I have also found that most of my students enjoy drawing and coloring their answers and will even color the picture on the prompt!  

           While I was not able to address ALL of the math standards with only 20 prompts, I tried to give a nice sampling of the different types of problems that I usually include.  Some prompts are only kindergarten or first grade (These could still be used as review or for an extra challenge.), many of them address one or more standards from both grades.  
       So, click on the link under the cover page above and grab a copy today!  

Please take a moment to add my Teachers Notebook store to your favorites, too!  That way you'll not miss the next freebie!

Have fun teaching math!

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Halloween LA Freebie for PreK to First!

     Fall is in the air here in Chicago, so I've been having a little TOO much fun lately buying some fall graphics--including the cutest Halloween ones!  I combined these with the needs of my students, some of whom need more practice merging the sounds to read 3-letter words.  This group includes my 4-year-old daughter, who is just SO excited to be finally reading like a big kid!  She wants me to bring home each and every game for her to play, so I've been making some new games to meet the demands of home and school!  And this great new FREEBIE is one of the results:

FREE CVC reading game for PreK to first

    My students were playing this yesterday and LOVED it!  It's a matching game, so it's easy for younger students to play on their own.   It comes with 4 word sets for each medial vowel, instructions in case you want to send it home, a full-color response sheet to laminate, and a black-and-white response sheet.  
    My beginning readers got a lot of practice because they have to read each word they turn over.   They also liked the adorable graphics and Halloween theme, so they wanted to play it over and over.  In fact, I'm going to have to make another copy to send home (I send games for homework.)  because I decided to add this one to centers a little early.    
     So, click on link below the first picture and get your Halloween CVC FREEBIE!  While you're there, take a moment to add my store to your favorites list.  That way, you'll receive notices when I post a new item, or have a sale, or (and this is my favorite part) have a giveaway!  

Happy teaching (and happy Halloween a little early)!  
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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Second Language Learning for My Little Ones (and ME!)

     In case you missed it last week, I was telling everyone how I FINALLY opened the Rosetta Stone box and actually got started learning more Mandarin!  (insert applause here) For adult learners, I would highly recommend it.  I changed the options so I not only hear and learn the words, but the characters, too.  And, while I won't be writing the Chinese characters any time soon, my hope is that I will at least be able to read enough to know which public bathroom is the right one!  
     In fact, the way Rosetta Stone teaches the language is very similar to the way my kids are learning it at Language Stars*.  It's what I like to call the "sink or swim" method.  Nothing is directly translated.  Rather, you are expected to figure out what they are saying from clues in the pictures that are presented.  Similarly, the kids in class learn language in this natural manner by tying language to its usefulness.  It looks very different from the French classes I took in high school, which mostly relied on rote memorization.  For both Rosetta Stone and Language Stars, language is tied to necessity.  LS:  Where is the banana? (The child is expected to get it.)
RS:  Where's the picture of the girl with the banana?  (The adult has to choose the correct picture.)  
At Language Stars, children learn through play and real life situations.

I am finding that it is both easy and effective to learn this way, not to mention kind of fun!  At Language Stars, my children are learning through play and repetition.  With Rosetta Stone, I am learning in a similar manner through computer games.  
      Contrast this method of learning with that of the Pimsleur method.  While I have also found this to be a highly effective method (for adults, anyway), it relies on translation.  Therefore, I think it takes me a little longer and, unfortunately, encourages me to continue translating things into English in my head in order to understand.  For example, the CD says, "Say 'Where is the bathroom?' "  Then you have to say it in Mandarin.  Sometimes it has to answer questions directly from Mandarin with no translation, but this is not the norm.  I'm finding that the Rosetta Stone and Language Stars methods actually discourage translation.  Therefore, you learn faster.  The children and I are learning a second language just as we learned our first:  Naturally with an emphasis on communication rather than memorization.  Now I even find myself thinking of the Mandarin word for something first!  THAT is a very cool feeling!  
     So, we are all learning, slowly but surely.  While it would be great to get to spend six months or a year in China, I don't see that happening any time soon.  Language Stars and Rosetta Stone (for kids and adults, respectively) are the next best thing.  

Thanks for reading!

*We receive 50% off our tuition for blogging about our Language Stars experiences.

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Beaded Bracelets With Sight Words!

     My sight word bracelets were such a hit in my classroom today that I just HAD to come home and blog about them!  If you follow my store (or have a student in my class), you might notice that I'm a little bit obsessed with bracelets this year.  (Well, any sort of "wearable" really, as you might soon see if I have time to put it together.)  Anyway, here's what we did today . . .

Today, we made sight word bracelets for the word "THE."  

     I think I should just stop looking at any sort of catalog that comes to my house.  The School Supply and Oriental Trading Company ones should go straight to the recycle bin, as a matter of fact.  But, they don't!  I just happened to check out the craft pages and spied these big letter beads with large holes, just perfect for little hands.  (Click HERE to see them.  Scroll on down the page for similar, cheaper options.)  Of course, they are just perfect for spelling sight words!  
     A few great things came out of this that make me eager to keep doing more sight words:  

1) My students really enjoyed this activity.  They worked on fine motor skills, did patterning (it was optional today), identified letters, and read the word.
2) Everyone was eager to read their word to someone else, including friends on the playground, another teacher, or a parent.  Reading the word over and over was exactly what I wanted to see!
3) You know they like something when they wear it ALL DAY!  

     Of course, this activity would get to be "old hat" after a while, so I plan to do it only a couple of times a month, focusing on main sight words.  Well, really on the sight words that I have the letters for.  For example, we used almost all of the Ts today, so any word with T is out of the running for now.   

     Anyway, I would highly encourage you to make sight word bracelets with your students.  They're sure to be a hit!

Happy teaching!  
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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Back to Schools and Schedules!

       Today was technically our first day back to the reality of everyday life.  We were on vacation last week, enjoying the last HOORAH of summer.  Today, it was back to Language Stars* classes and tomorrow it will be back to preschool.  New year, new teachers, new schedule . . . and no more summer!  :(
     My youngest son attends the Parents & Tots class with me.  He seemed really excited to get back to class today--a little TOO excited, as I suppose 2-year-olds can be.  But, his new teacher (new to him, not to me, because my older children had her for a teacher) was very patient and tried her best to keep him engaged today.  

Learning the color blue with a blue bowl and a blue dog

     The theme was "Colors of the Rainbow" (or something like that).  First, we played with dogs of different colors, matching them to bowls of the same color.  I suppose this sounds kind of silly until you think about how much 2-year-olds LOVE putting smaller objects inside larger ones, carrying them around the house, dumping them out, shaking them, and so on.  This is actually one of my son's favorite pass-times.  If you're missing something (like keys, for instance), just look in his recent favorite sack or container.  

Learning colors with several dogs and bean bags in bowls
      The teacher continued this idea by bringing out bean bags of various colors to sort.  Of course, I think the kids were just too used to the idea that you throw bean bags, so this required a little more parent direction.  I guess I should have taken his bowl across the room so he could appropriately throw the bean bag.  But, to be honest, it's hard to try to learn Mandarin AND think of these things at the same time.  

     Our craft/coloring project was really cool today.  We made windsocks (We called them kites in Chinese.) with rainbow-colored streamers.  He really enjoyed whipping it around and around in circles.  Very cute and colorful.  
     So, even though summer fun is over,  I need to remind the kids (and myself) that fall fun is on the way!  

As always,
Thanks for reading!

P.S.  Here's a little update on my own Mandarin efforts.  I finally opened the box!  I did it!  I took the Rosetta Stone Mandarin with me on vacation and I am now about 4 or 5 hours into it.  I have to say that it is just as amazing as they say.  You learn new vocabulary and sentence structure at once, as well as the characters!  Pretty cool!  

*We get 50% off our tuition for blogging about our Language Stars experience.  But, still, all opinions expressed here are my own.  We LOVE our Language Stars classes!  

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Virtual Teaching Expo!

  Wow!  I think Teachers Notebook has really outdone themselves on this one!  Check out this training event:

*  5 presentations by TN teacher authors  
* Buy your ticket on or before Aug 24th and get it for half price!  Only $10!  
* Plus, not only is YOUR ticket only $10, but TN will make sure 2 other teachers get 
   FREE tickets!  
* There's also a VENDOR HALL where showcased items will be 30% off  Aug 25th - 
   Sept 1st --- ONLY for attendees of the event!

Doesn't this sound AWESOME?!  

But, you still haven't heard the best part . . .
All attendees will receive a GOODY BAG with well over $100 in FREE materials!  One of mine will be included, as well.  I chose to include my "Add and Read Sight Word Sentences for Spring" (a $3 value) because my students really liked these games last year and the pack covers PreK to 3rd grade, so more teachers will be able to use it.  

I also have 3 items in the vendor hall for 30% off:

1) Math Journal Prompts for Kindergarten COMBO Pack

2) First Grade Math Common Core Cut-and-Glue Workbook

3) Word Work Pack:  CVC Word, Sight Words, Sentences, Blends & Digraphs

So, click on the "Save Big Teach Big" logo above.  Scroll down and look to your right to sign up!  Hurry because the promo ends soon!  

Thanks for reading,

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What?! It's the end of summer already?!

          I got a real kick out of my son's Mandarin class this week. In our Parents & Tots class at Language Stars*, we were studying emotions. It was the last class before the fall semester starts and the last "summer camp" outdoor class for my two older ones. Needless to say, it sort of crept up on me (happens to me a lot, actually). As a teacher, I know that HIS teacher was saying to herself, "Doesn't she read ANYTHING we send home?" as I proceeded to ask when the last class was and when the fall semester started. It reminds me of an infant with a jack-in-the-box. Surprised every time. 

     Anyway, the topic was "emotions." There's really nothing funny about that at all. Or, at least, there wasn't until the teacher took out this big picture of a stuffed bear. Also not funny. But then she started sticking these different faces to it and I found it incredibly funny. I just had to take some pictures. And, not only was it funny, but some of the faces reminded me of myself and my reaction to the end of summer.  

    First, this is how I looked at the beginning of the summer.  This is supposed to be bear's angry face, but I think of it more as a "game face."  I was ready to get things done this summer.  1) Start some more serious Mandarin study of my own.  2) Read more Mandarin books with the kids.  3) Find or make them each an age-appropriate workbook . . . . 

"Mama bear is gonna get stuff done this summer."

This, however, is EXACTLY how my face looked the last day of summer classes:

"What do you mean this is the last class?!"

This is a picture of me now that, not only do we not have class all week, but I also somehow managed to accomplish ABSOLUTELY NONE of my goals for the summer. 
"But summer classes just CAN'T be over!"
  Needless to say, I'm quite sad that summer is coming to an end.  And, just as I have every school-related semester since college, I vow to actually get something accomplished during the fall semester.  Promise.  This time, I'll at least try to read the memo about when it's over.  

As always, thanks for reading,

*We get 50% off our tuition for blogging about our Language Stars experience.  But still, the opinions expressed here are my own.


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Saturday, August 18, 2012

WIN my Math Journal Prompts for Kindergarten COMBO Pack!

CLICK HERE to take a look!  

     I am really so excited about my new Math Journal Prompts for Kindergarten COMBO Pack that I decided to give 3 sets away for FREE (a $10 value)!  It includes Common Core based journal prompts with back to school, fall, Christmas/holiday, winter, & spring themes.  That's 200 prompts!

   Last year was my first year using the prompts and I felt that they really helped in many ways.  First of all, many students loved getting to draw and color during math, adding details to their illustration of each math problem.  Second, the journals are a wonderful assessment tool.  I knew right away which students had a good grasp of each topic and those students who needed more examples and opportunities for practice.  Third, the journals were a real asset during conference time.  They served as a tangible example of each child's math work, progress, and conceptual understanding. 

An example from the Christmas/holiday set
  Of course, I will be using them again this year!  And I want to give 3 lucky teachers out there the opportunity to use them, too!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back to School Sale on Teachers Pay Teachers!

    You will not want to miss the Back to School Sale at Teachers Pay Teachers!  Many of the sellers will be offering discounts on their items, some as much as 20%!  You can get even more off than that if you use promo code BTS12 at checkout.  This is one of only a few site-wide sales all year (3, I think?), so it's time to stock up!  
  EVERY ITEM IN MY STORE will also be 20% off (28% with the promo code)!  Here are three of my items that you don't want to miss.  Click on each title to take a look.

1)  Math Journal Prompts for Kindergarten COMBO PACK  
         This set has all 5 of my math journal prompt sets included---a total of 200 prompts!  And, of course, they address the Common Core Standards.  Save $4 (even more during the sale!) when you buy the prompt sets as a combo.

2) Kindergarten Math Common Core Cut-and-Glue Workbook

      This workbook covers ALL of the Common Core Math Standards for Kindergarten!  There are 2 or more pages devoted to each standard.  

      I liked the kindergarten version so much, I made one for first grade, too!  It also covers ALL of the Common Core Math Standards for first grade and has 2 or more pages devoted to each standard.  

Then, here are 2 more great items that you'll find in MY SHOPPING cart!  Click on each title to take a look.  

     1)  Inquiry Process Science Unit--Six Experiments!   From Karen Langdon
     I think this looks great because 1) these look like well-planned activities that can easily be done in the classroom, and 2) I'm always on the lookout for thoughtful science activities!  

    2) Monkey Squares    From Barbara Evans

    I am buying this for my classroom, but also for my 4-year-old daughter.  She is ALWAYS asking me to do Suduko puzzles, but she's not quite ready for those yet.  I think this would be the perfect introduction!  

     And, while you're shopping, be sure to check out some of the other stores with items on sale.  We're busy making a nice list of them below :)  

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