Monday, November 25, 2013

Gifts for Teachers

Get Simple
If you’ve got multiple teachers to buy for make this is as easy as possible for yourself. 
Gift Cards. ALWAYS a favorite with teachers. Don’t worry about the amount. $5, $25, whatever you can afford will greatly be appreciated by teachers. 
  • $5 or $10 Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts (or whichever coffee place is closest to the school) in a cute mug.
  • $10 to Barnes and Noble or Amazon stuck in a kid-made card.
  • $10 to Godiva -- Seriously, one of the favorite gift cards I’ve EVER received from a parent. I got $25 and it took me months to use up. It was awesome.
  • $25 to $50 to a teacher store such as Lakeshore. (That stuff is expensive, but great.)

Get Specific
Think about the special relationship your child had with their teacher. Did they connect over a favorite book, are they both art lovers, or math people? Do they both love dogs or the color pink? One year I helped a child deal with the death of a beloved pet. Later that year her parents gave me a plush dog.

Get Creative
Some of the best gifts are homemade!
Think about having your child make a card, a small gift or ornament. Check out these cute ideas:

Go With the Theme
Lots of Classrooms have a decorative theme. My classroom theme alternates from Moose to Superheroes. I’ve gotten several cute plush moose or moose figurines from students. I’ve also gotten a few wonderful superhero storybooks. *Be careful with this one. I had a friend who had WAYYYY too many frogs. 
  • If the theme is an animal, such as bears, rabbits, frogs, etc give a gift card to Build-A-Bear so they can make their own mascot for the class.
  • Instead of stuffed animals or figurines, look for books that go with the theme. 

Create Your Own Theme
I love theme gifts! So fun. 
  • Coffee Theme: a gift card, a mug, a bag of flavored coffee, a bottle of Torani Syrup, biscotti
  • Pet Theme: (if you know how big their pet is) A new leash and collar, a box of treats or specialty dog cookies, toys, books, etc.
  • Pampering Theme: bubble bath, loofah, pedicure set, body cream, Burt's Bees Tips and Toes
  • Date Night Theme: Popcorn, popcorn seasoning, gift card to Red Box or a movie theater, large boxes of candy, cute popcorn containers.
  • Sports Theme: Local sports team memorabilia, such as a hat or T-shirt. Mini balls, a pack of sports cards, etc. If it's baseball, add a box of Cracker Jacks. 
  • Cooking Theme: wooden spoons, mixing bowls, dish towels, specialty mixes such as pancake and waffle mix, dip mix or soup mix, 
  • Gardening Theme: a gardening gift basket filled with things such as gloves, tools, gardening tool caddy, seeds, bulbs or live plants. (We moved into a house with tons of hydrangeas all over the yard. The previous owner was a kindergarten teacher and the hydrangeas were all gifts from her students. years later they were a beautiful reminder to her of those students, and now we get to enjoy them!)

Give to the Whole Class
Books! Books! Books!
A nice box set or a beautiful hardback picture book is something the whole class will enjoy. Don’t worry if it’s a book the class already has. Books wear out. Multiple copies mean more than one kid can look at it at a time. Some great books as gift ideas:

Get Office Supplies
My favorite pens ever were a gift a received from a parent (who was also a teacher). The sharpie retractable pens. I love those things, but probably wouldn’t have spent the money on them myself. Here are some office supply ideas:

Support Small Business Crafters
Look for cute gifts at local Craft Shows, or search for personalized gifts.
Some of my favorites:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Apps for Early Readers

Apps: readingphonicsstoriesetc.

(I only researched apps for Apple products, but many of these are available for other devices)

BOB Books
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
FREE lite version, 1.99 to 3.99 full versions
The easy to read books in app form! It encourages sight words, sounding out words, stretching syllables and it's fun, cute and easy. 

Duck Duck Moose
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
.99 to 1.99
Duck Duck Moose are the developers of several apps for kids including interactive songs and math games--many of them award winners. 

iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
Lots of Stories including Sly the Dragonfly and Little Goose.
The Read to Me feature highlights the words read which helps the child read as well as builds their sight word vocabulary.

Dr. Seuss Beginner Books, Collection 1 & 2
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
$14.99 each (FREE sample versions, $4.99 for individual books)
These apps give you 5 stories each, which is a little cheaper than them individually. They work in 3 ways: Read with Me, Read it by Myself, and Auto Play. 
Read with Me version highlights text as it’s read and introduces new words. Lite versions are free and show several pages of each story. 

TabTale Books
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
Lots of stories here, mostly Fairy Tales. 
Easy to navigate, ads featured at the bottom of the free version. There are a lot of stories you can download, but this isn’t my favorite for kids learning to read. The Read to Me option doesn’t show the words, so the kids can’t read along. The Read by Myself version allows them to record their voice--which, if they’re already reading, is a great way to increase fluency.

Sesame Street ebooks
iPad only
$3.99 a month or $39.99 a year
The initial app is free, and there are free ebook samples (not read aloud). Through the subscription price you get over 150 books--ebooks, audio books, and Animated Audio Books. They also have Reading tips for parents, and interactive games. I love the Animated Alphabet books and any story with Grover. ♥ The other great thing is that they come in a variety of reading levels. 

Read Me Stories--Various Stories
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
FREE--sort of
This is a popular app rated with 4 1/2 stars. It offers a new “talking picture book” every day. Each story highlights the words as they’re read. 
You have to make in-app purchases to get new books, and what you buy in the iPad doesn’t sync to your iPhone. However, it teachers new words, reading concepts and pronunciation. 

MeMeTales--Various stories
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
FREE--sort of
This is another one that requires you to make in-app purchases, however, as I write this, they’re offering 15 free books for downloading the app.

Elmo Loves ABCs
iPad only
There is a lite version you can try for free, which only gives A, B, and C as options. This is a great app for little ones just learning their letters. They trace the letter with their finger, listen to songs about things that start with that letter, watch little, cute videos. 

Achieve It With Sesame Street
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
This one’s for parents and kids to do together. It offers challenges for kids to complete to help then learn in the world around them. Challenges include looking at a book while they’re waiting, sharing a toy, saving money, or eating a healthy snack. Kids can earn videos or stickers as rewards for completing tasks. It’s also cool because they take pictures of their challenges, add the “stickers” and can email it to someone. 

Get Electric with the Electric Company
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
Tapping on the word gives a verbal definition and pronunciation. It’s focused on a feelings theme; games, videos and music are all about facial expressions, moods and adjectives such as thrilled, petrified and curious. Great for increasing vocabulary.

ABC Touch
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
This is great of Kids learning their letters. It’s customizable and I’d suggest changing it from uppercase to lowercase letters. They’re harder to recognize, but are used more frequently than uppercase letters. (teacher pet peeve: teaching only capital letters. Ever seen a book written in only capital letters?)

Phonics Awareness-1st grade
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
This is by bugbrained apps which has lots of great educational apps for different grade levels K-3rd, including phonics, fluency and print concepts. Phonics Awareness is great for little ones who struggle with sounding out words, separating word parts and blending sounds. The guy’s voice is a bit dull, but clear and helpful. I wish the pictures matched the words, instead being just bugs.  

Phonics Genius
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
This one teaches blends, chunks and repeating word parts, like “ch” “ar” “ive". There’s not much to it, it’s basically a verbal flashcard app. It gives several words featuring that sound and lets the kids record their voice saying the word. This would be a great way for kids to practice for their spelling tests. If they’re working on the “oa" sound for example, they find that chunk and read all the words with it. It’s also a great way for kids in speech therapy to practice the sounds they’re struggling with.

**If you have an app you’d like me to add to this list let me know.** 

(There are a lot more, this is just a selection)

Freight Train by Donald Crews
iPhone only

Secret Agent Splat’s Mission (A Splat the Cat book) by Rob Scotten
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

Fancy Nancy books by Jane O'Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
$1.99 to 2.99

Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig 
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

Kung Fu Panda storybook and comic books
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

How to Train Your Dragon
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
$2.99 (on sale)

Ice Age
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

Puss in Boots
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss 
(Several Dr. Seuss books are apps, and run about 3.99-4.99)
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

Dr. Seuss ABCs
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

Winnie the Pooh Puzzle Book
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

Grimm’s Fairy Tales--from various developers
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
FREE to $4.99

LadyBug Girl by Jacky Davis and David Soman 
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

The Night Before Christmas by Jan Brett
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

The Berenstain Bears (several books)
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
FREE to $3.99

Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

Paddington Bear by Micheal Bond
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

Biscuit (several books) by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and Pat Schories 
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
$.99 to 2.99

Toy Story Read-Along
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

Brave Storybook Deluxe
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

Monday, October 21, 2013

Teaching Patience

Teaching patience to little ones is an ongoing process that will probably take years. While it's true that some people are naturally more patient than others, it CAN be taught and practiced.

Taking Turns
No kid wants to be last in line, or the last one to get a cupcake when it's someone's birthday, but waiting is a fact of life that isn't going to go away. It's important for little ones to know they aren't the only ones who have to wait. They won't always be last, but they won't always be first either.
  1. Brainstorm with your class things to do while you're waiting your turn: Count as high as you can go, read signs or posters that are near you, think up rhyming words, practice math facts, etc.
  2. Playing games, such as board games are a great lesson in Waiting Your Turn. With a full classroom it's easier to divide in teams and take turns writing letters or words on the white board, having spelling bees or practicing math facts.
  3. Taking Turns While Talking. With a partner kids take turns talking. Give them a topic, such as "Your Favorite Foods" or "Your Favorite Animals". The partners take turns saying ONE thing they like.  
Wait and Do Nothing
In school kids have to learn there are times when you have to sit and do nothing. Whether we're waiting for our turn at lunch, taking a bathroom break or getting our vision checked in the clinic, sometimes we have to sit, wait and do nothing until it's our turn.
  1. Relate Waiting and Doing Nothing to their lives outside of school. When do they have to wait? At the doctor's office, in line at the store, playing a game, when mom and dad are busy doing grown up things, etc.
  2. Brainstorm things to do when you have to Wait and Do Nothing. My class came up with ideas such as sing a song in your head, count in your head, make up a story in your head, have a whisper conversation, make shadow puppets, etc.

Patience When Learning or Making Something
  1. Introduce the words Patience and Frustration. 
  2. Take a Break. When kids are frustrated they need to understand that it's ok to take a break. Model what this looks like.
  3. Practice stopping what they're doing, taking a deep breath and relaxing, then getting back to work. You can have the kids practice this with an easy activity, such as putting a simple puzzle together, coloring a page or writing. 

Patience Waiting For Something
Birthdays, Christmas, growing, recess...we're always waiting for something to happen.
  1. Tell them about the things you are waiting for. Kids need to know they aren't the only ones struggling with things. Let them know how you handle waiting: focusing on something else, counting down the days, etc.
  2. Give them something meaningful to wait for that also gives them ownership. Growing seeds is a great way to do this. Hatching butterflies is another. Check out the Root Garden Viewer, the Sprout and Grow Window, and the Live Butterfly Garden
  3. Cook together. If you Homeschool, baking or cooking is a great lesson in patience with a wonderful reward! Check out the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, Pinkalicious Cupcake Cookbook, The Disney Princess Cookbook, and Wookiee Cookies: A Star Wars Cookbook

More Patience Tips and Strategies
  1. Use egg timers or sand timers. Set the timer before a fun activity, such as recess or free time. Kids can practice waiting for two or three minutes and then build from there.
  2. Learn the Patience Song. (video below, lyrics here)
  3. Teaching Patience Article by Scholastic.
  4. Teach Kids to Play "I Spy."
  5. Article: 6 Ways To Teach a Toddler Patience
  6. The Patience Game by Meaningful Mama

Books That Teach Patience
Babushka's Doll by Patricia Polacco
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
Llama, Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
This Monster Cannot Wait by Bethany Barton
The Pigeon Wants a Puppy by Mo Willems
Remy the Rhino Learns Patience by Andy McGuire
Tallulah's Tutu by Marilyn Singer


Videos That Teach Patience
Check out Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood on PBS. Older episodes are available on Amazon Prime Videos. Several episodes have Daniel Tiger learning patience.

Kids Character Building: Patience

Sesame Street: Zac Efron and Elmo Talk About Patience

Patience Pays: A Lesson in Waiting

Patience Song

Sesame Street: Taking Turns

Sesame Street: Two-Headed Monster Takes Turns

Monday, September 30, 2013

Books Dads Enjoy Reading to Kids

My little boy LOVES being read to--and he doesn’t care who’s doing it. He’s too little to choose his own stories yet, so we choose for him. As an early childhood teacher I have several favorites that I enjoy reading, but I can tell there are some books my husband enjoys reading more than others. 

Tips for Dads (or anyone new to reading to children and babies)
  • Choose books you enjoy reading. 
  • Choose books that were your favorites as a kid. 
  • Help your child choose books. Look for nice pictures, easy text, humor or a shared interest.
  • Do the voices. Make the sounds. Read with expression. This will make it more fun for both of you and encourage your child to read fluently when it's their turn.
  • Read together. If there are words in the book your child knows let them help you. 
  • When reading to an infant, let them look at the pictures, but also make sure they can see your face. 
  • When reading to a toddler talk a lot about what they see in the pictures. Point to things, give them the correct words, etc. 
  • When reading to preschoolers, kindergartners and 1st graders it's 
  • important to make sure every time you read a book together it isn't about learning to read. If they are being read to, and they're doing their homework they will learn to read. Reading together at this age and when their older is about learning to enjoy books and spending time together.

Here is a list of books Dads will appreciate as much as the kids do.

*Instead of putting them in alphabetical order, I arranged the books in each category by age-appropriateness: books for infants and toddlers first, books that can be read to kids 5 and up last.

Boys as the Main Character
Sloppy Joe by Dave Keane and Denise Brunkus
Elmer by David McKee 
Jamberry by Bruce Degan
A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog by Mercer Mayer (wordless)
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak 
Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox 
How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers
Hey, Little Ant by Phillip M. Hose
Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus
Too Much Glue by Jason Lefebvre
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
James in the House of Great Aunt Prudence by Timothy Bush
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Cowboy Books
Cowboy Small by Lois Lenski
Good Night Cowboy by Glenn Dromgoole
B is for Buckaroo: A Cowboy Alphabet by Gleaves Whitney
Armadillo Rodeo by Jan Brett
Cowboy Kid by Max Eilenberg

Dad Books
My Dad Loves Me by Marianne Richmond
Daddy Hugs by Karen Katz
My Dad is the Best Playground by Luciana Navarro Powell
Because I'm Your Dad by Ahmet Zappa
When Dad's Don't Grow Up by Marjorie Blain Parker
Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willams 
Just Me and My Dad by Mercer Mayer
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

Dr. Seuss
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? by Dr. Seuss
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss
Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? by Dr. Seuss
Oh The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss

Fact/Non-Fiction Books
Boys of all ages love non-fiction books--and in my experience, the grosser the better. Dinosaurs Roar by Henrietta Strickland
Dig In! by April Jones Prince
Roaring Rockets by Tony Mitton
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker
Dinosaurs A to Z by Andrea Posner-Sanchez
My First Dinosaur Book DK Books
Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog by Adrienne Sylver
Biggest, Strongest, Fastest by Steve Jenkins
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins
The Construction Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta
Bats by Gail Gibbons
Spiders by Gail Gibbons
National Geographic Kids Readers: Mummies by Elizabeth Carney

Funny Books
The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone
Elephant and Piggie Books by Mo Willems
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin
The Stinky Cheese Man by Jon Scieszka
Crankenstein by Samantha Berger
Frank Was A Monster Who Wanted to Dance by Keith Graves
Click Clack Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
Dogzilla by Dav Pilkey
Kat Kong by Dav Pilkey
Hi! Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold (a series)
Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle (a series)

Inanimate Objects as Main Characters
Smash! Crash! by Jon Scieszka
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
I Stink by Kate McMullan and Jim McMullan
Truck by Donald Crews (wordless)
The Witches Broom by Chris Van Allsburg

Pirate Books
Bizzy Bear: Pirate Adventure by Nosy Crow and Benji Davies 
Pirate Potty by Samantha Berger
Pirates! (Board Buddies) by Viviana Garofoli 
Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC by June Sobel
The Castaway Pirates: A Pop-Up Tale of Bad Luck, Sharp Teeth and Stinky Toes by Ray Marshall
How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long
Pirates Don't Change Diapers by Melinda Long

Science Fiction/Star Wars
Star Wars ABC by Scholastic
Star Wars 123 by Scholastic 
Alien Al by Roger Priddy
Aliens in Underpants Save the World by Claire Freedman
Star Wars Heroes by Scholastic
Star Wars Villians by Lucas Books

Sports Books
Football ABC by Mark Weakland 
Z is for Zamboni (Sports Alphabet) by Matt Napier
Take Me Out to the Ball Game (Sing-Along Storybook)
Pete the Cat: Play Ball! by James Dean 
Froggy Plays T-Ball by Jonathan London

Superhero Books
Superhero ABCDC Superheroes ABC 123 by David Bar Katz
Nickelodeon Team Umizoomi: Tiny Heroes
Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ninja Heroes
DC Super Heroes: The Ultimate Pop-Up BookSuperhero Squad: Meet the Superheroes by Lucy Rosen
Superhero Squad: Iron Man Springs into Action by Kirsten Mayer
The Amazing Spider-Man (Little Golden Book) by Frank Berrios
Spider-Man versus the Green Goblin (I Can Read Book 2) by Susan Hill


Authors Dads Love to Read Aloud
Oliver Jeffers
Steve Jenkins
Kate McMullan
Dav Pilkey
Jon Scieszka
David Shannon
Shel Silverstein
Chris Van Allsburg
Mo Willems