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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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