Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Stories on YouTube

I've always been lucky enough to work in public schools where teaching and talking about Christmas was not taboo. My teaching units at this time of year were usually centered around "Winter Holidays" or "Christmas Around the World".

This is also the time of year when little ones are wiggly and excited and need short, hands-on, quick learning moments. Those squirrely moments are a great time to put in a 10 minute video, pass out a fun work packet and get some end-of-semester work or testing out of the way.

Disney World/Epcot Christmas Around the World

Olive,  the Other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh
(Part 1 of 5. Parts 2 through 5 are directly to the right.)

The Berenstain Bears Christmas Tree

Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, Read by Lou Diamond Phillip

Twas the Night Before Christmas (1968) by Clement Clarke Moore
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky--A Russian Christmas Story
(This is a link to the 7 part video)

Christmas Songs

Rudolph --the best version with lyrics I could find

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

Disney's Jingle Bells

Disney's Deck the Halls

Disney's Up on a Housetop

There's An Alligator Under My Bed

Mercer Mayer reads his picture book, There's An Alligator Under My Bed

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Books for Christmas

I was looking at the books at Costco the other day and saw some great ideas for Christmas gifts, especially for kids who love to read. I snapped a few pictures but there was A LOT more--and the prices were awesome.

Here are just a few of the deals I found:

Adorable Plush Storybooks. Soft and cuddly creature with a story inside! The pages are made of cloth so this is a wonderful, literary gift for an infant or toddler. At my Costco there were only the Very Hungry Caterpillar and Olivia, but I wonder if other Costcos have something different...

Even boys love books--and even girls love Star Wars. This pack of 6 readers is only $9.99. That's a better price than Scholastic. Less than $2 a book. They were shrunk-wrapped but going by DK's usual readers, I'd put these at a late-1st grade/2nd grade reading level.

Pop-Ups! I could never buy these for the classroom--too many little hands can destroy pop-up books. But kids love them. These are beautiful versions of classic stories. (Yes, Star Wars is a classic. It is!)

Dr. Seuss Beginner Books packs. Three hard cover books for $10.99. No classroom or child's room is complete without these classics. Costco sells a variety of these packs, including other authors in the Beginner Books series, like P.D. Eastman.

Early Reader Box Sets. These are very popular with my 1st graders when we do book orders, and Costco has them at a great price. Sets I saw included Star Wars, Barbie, Thomas the Tank Engine, BOB books, Dr. Seuss and Hello Kitty. These sets are great for early readers and often emphasize skills such as chunks, long vowels and rhyming. 

Christmas Record-a-Stories! Okay, there were other Record-a-Story books, but the 60s Christmas classics were too cute! What a great addition to a fun Christmas Tradition. 

If you don't have a Costco (or Sam's or BJ's) there are other inexpensive ways to give books as gifts. The book order forms teachers send home are almost always a great deal--plus they're always on trend with what's popular and current in your child's world. Half Price and used book stores often have new and "like new" books. As long as they're in good shape, children won't care if their used. Plus, used books are the ultimate recycling. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

We Give Books: FREE online books for kids

This is an awesome website that lets you read hundreds of kids books for FREE!

I love websites that are free and easy to join. The books are are sorted alphabetically, by age (0 to10), popularity, author, and genre. And because one of the founders is Penguin books, many childhood favorites are available, including Ladybug Girl, Skippyjon Jones and Madeline.

The sie is super easy to use. They have both fiction and non fiction. It's also a great way for teachers to preview books they may want to use before buying. They also have an Educator Resources section with extension activities, reading guides and more.

The books are not read out loud, but when you put it in Full Screen mode it's a great way to share a book with your little one, show on a smart board for your whole class, or for reading alone on an iPad.

We Give Books was started by Penguin Group and Pearson Foundation as a way to get books to kids who don't have them. They partner with a variety of organizations that get books to kids all over the United States and around the world. They also give you the opportunity to help.

Full Screen Mode

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Find-A-Book Website: bookpig.com

Check out bookpig.com. This website is a great resources for finding books. They're sorted by grade level, genre and award winners. What I like is that they suggest books based on your favorites. It also gives you approximate reading levels for each book.

You can also rent books Netflix style. The pricing isn't bad--especially if your local library is far, or doesn't have a great selection. They keep 2 shipments in rotation at all times, so you don't have to return all your books to receive new ones.

Books range from beginning readers to Young Adult.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fairy Tales

Introduction to Fairy Tales Lesson Includes vocabulary, characteristics and information about authors.

Fairy Tale Writing:
I've done two versions of using Fairy Tale words (vocabulary) for writing activities.

Version 1: These words are cut apart and placed in a brown paper bag. I gave each child their own bag, but it can be done whole group as well. The kids pulled a word out of the bag and wrote a sentence with that word. In math, the words were used to write story problems. Later, they used the words to help them spell while writing their own Fairy Tale or a version of one of their favorites. The words can also be used as a matching game with various Fairy Tale books.

Version 2: This is the same list, shrunk down to half a page. The kids were given lists like this with Halloween words, Thanksgiving words, Family words, Winter words, etc. Each list was glued on the back pages of their writing journal. That way they were easy to find. The words prevented them from asking me a million times how to spell something. It increased their reading and decoding skills by forcing them to find the word on their own, and it gave them confidence when they recognized words in the various Fairy Tales--which can often be difficult for little ones to read.

Fairy Tale Comparisons:
Comparing Fairy Tales using both different versions of the same tale, or similar stories, such as Sleeping Beauty, Snorking Beauty and Sleepless Beauty, is a great way for children to understand elements of fiction and practice critical thinking skills.

More Fairy Tale Printables

Additional Resources:

A Note about Fairy Tales and Walt Disney:
Walt Disney loved Fairy Tales. That's why he chose the story of Snow White for his first full-length animated film. For many kids his movies are their only exposure to Fairy Tales. Like other storytellers, he told his own versions and added his own elements. Exposing kids to other versions of the stories, both through books and movies broadens their intellectual scope.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

New Tab: Book Lists

Check out the new tab I created: List of Books by Theme.

The list is something I've been compiling for years. It encompasses academic themes and units; alphabet, rhyming, cowboys, bears, etc. --but more importantly, it lists books you can use to address the multitude of issues that arise when dealing with a room full of 5 or 6 year olds. I have books for interrupting, tattling, fighting with friends, being true to yourself, using your imagination, learning English, and never giving up.

For some of the books I've also attached questions to ask after reading, and comprehension pages I've created. I'll continue to add more of these pages as I find them when riffling through all my work.

Friday, August 31, 2012

FREE Kindergarten and 1st grade Printables!!

Click on the tabs at the top for FREE Resources, Links and Printables: worksheets, books, classroom posters, lesson plans and more...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

More About Learning to Read Using Songs

I created a tab at the top Called Learning to Read Through Songs with links and lyrics. I wanted to expand on that and tell you why this is important and why it works.

I am not a musical teacher. I don't sing to the kids about cleaning up or starting with a capital. I DON'T sing anything. But teaching little ones to read is not about what I like or how I learn or what I'm comfortable with. It's about them. Lots of children learn through music.

Why it Works:
  1. Kids remember song lyrics and can learn them quickly. By having the lyrics in front of them, they are connecting what the words sound like with what the words look like.
  2. It increases fluency. Songs can't be sung in that stoic robot voice kids often read with.
  3. It increases vocabulary. Songs have bigger words than "cat" and "like". Early readers LOVE big words. Some songs really provide an opportunity for conversations about new words.
  4. It increases their Sight Words. Last year my class became OBSESSED with Mary Poppins songs. Because of that, *every* kid, regardless of their reading level, recognized words like "spoonful" and "sugar." And "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" but that's valid.   
  5. It challenges the kids who are reading above grade level.
  6. It makes non-readers feel successful.
  7. It allows them to take control of their learning. "DJ for the Day" was one of the rewards in our class. The student who chose that award got to pick the songs they wanted to hear all day. If a student made a request for lyrics for their song book, I gave it to them (provided they were child-appropriate).
  8. It exposes them to songs they may not have heard before. Some of my favorites from childhood, and old folk songs like "This Land is Your Land," became some of their favorites.

Tips for Teaching with Songs:
  1. Sing every day. Even if it's just 5 or 10 minutes, or 2 or 3 songs. It can be done during snack, after they've packed up.
  2. Give them a Song Book. I used a 1 inch binder, printed songs on both sides and hole-punched. 
  3. Give them new songs, but keep playing the old songs. By the end of the year, they usually have between 50 and 60 songs, and about 15 we listened to regularly.
  4. Read over the lyrics periodically with them.
  5. Encourage them to point to the words while they're singing.
  6. Create word searches. Look at the songs they have in their Song Book and create a game. I did this because I wanted to make sure they were READING the songs, not just singing them. See my examples here: Song Word Search 1 Song Word Search 2 These examples use our school song, so you probably won't be able to use them unless you can convert from PDF to publisher and change it.
  7. Let them read their Song Book during Silent Reading. We did this on Fridays and called it "Loud Reading." They got to sit with friends and sing their favorite songs (with quiet voices). This was the time I'd really see them reading and decoding the words in the lyrics.

Songs my Class has LOVED 
Phineas and Ferb--Gitchee Gitchee Goo with lyrics                     Gitchee Goo Lyrics
This Land is Your Land
I Can Sing a Rainbow                                           I Can Sing a Rainbow lyrics
I Just Can't Wait to be King                                   I Just Can't Wait to be King lyrics
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious                          Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious lyrics
The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers
Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
The Bare Necessities                                             The Bare Necessities lyrics
Mr. Grinch                                                            Grinch lyrics
Step in Time--Mary Poppins This one's long!      Step In Time lyrics   

**Side Note: All the Mary Poppins songs had my classes singing with English Accents. Hilarious**

*Always preview YouTube links before showing them to your kids. Check the video for words changed into inappropriate words as well as foul language in the comments. I don't know what's wrong with people. *Also beware of ads placed on some of these videos as they can also be inappropriate. **ALWAYS PREVIEW!

Muffin Songs Channel Some have lyrics, some don't. Some phonics songs, some classic songs.
Schoolhouse Rock Channel Some of these will definitely be over the heads of the little ones, but my first graders LOVED the Noun and Adjective songs
HooplaKidz Lots of really cute songs here, some with lyrics, some without. (Although I really hate it when something specifically for children is purposely spelled wrong. Pet peeve.)
*For More Check out The Learning to Read Through Songs tab.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Secrets of Learning to Read Many Parents Don’t Know:

  1. Use the pictures. Many parents cover up the pictures when reading with their child. To this I say, NOOOOOO!!! Early readers need the pictures to help them figure out words. In fact, the pictures also help with comprehension and fluency. Talk about the pictures in the book before reading a single word. This is called pre-reading, or picture walk. To early readers it is VITAL. Figuring out the words this way gives them confidence. 
  2. Let them memorize. "My child isn't reading, they just memorized the book." Umm...isn't that how you read? Memorizing books with repeating patterns is an important early reading stage. And it’s something they’ll use to read for the rest of their lives. Think of it this way: You aren’t sounding out the words on this blog. You’re reading by sight--you memorized. Memorizing is part of whole language learning. They learn words through sight, through hearing them and seeing them over and over and over again. Memorizing makes them believe they can read--which gives them confidence.
  3. Sight Words: The words they just know. The words they can’t sound out. Some of the first sight words they will learn are color words: orange, black, purple. Sight words they NEED to know--number words. Especially one and eight. 
  4. Phonics. This is understanding letter sound relationships, sounding out words, and blending sounds together to make words. This is super important--but it doesn’t always work. Said. Sure. Light. These words can’t be sounded out, but will be in your child’s books. (This is where memorizing and sight words comes in)
  5. Spelling Tests. Spelling tests do NOT teach spelling. This is documented everywhere. Good spellers are good readers. Think of the adults you know--Who is a good speller and who isn’t? Who reads a lot, and who doesn’t? Teachers won’t get rid of spelling tests. They’re still a good assessment. (Especially of which parents help their children with their homework, and which don’t.) 
  6. Context Clues. Skipping words when reading, then going back to figure it out. Readers use the pictures and the rest of the text to figure out what new words are. (ex. The tiger has black _____. It also has orange _____.) Readers look at the pictures and the first letters to figure out the missing words. 
  7. Chunks/Rhyming/Word Families: Basically all these things mean are repeating letter patterns. They are a FANTASTIC tool to help young children learn to readThere is a reason most early books are about a cat with a hat who sat on a mat. There are many more chunks besides “at” that your child will need to know to decode words. Later, kids use these small word parts to sound out longer words.     
A *partial* list of the ones we teach in 1st grade:  
Short vowel: -am  -and  -ap   -in  -ing   -it  -op  -ot  -ong  -ut
Long vowel: -ake  -ame  -ike  -ee  -oa