Friday, March 30, 2012

Online Easter Fun

Here are some sites for online games, puzzles and coloring with an Easter theme. Enjoy!

Primary Games Games and puzzles

The Kidz Page Games, puzzles and coloring

Kaboose Games

A Kid’s Heart Games and printables

I bet you’ll have fun with these!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Promoting Literacy with Easter Fun

Easter will be here soon! To get ready, here are several ideas for promoting literacy at home. Next week I'll have a bunch of craft ideas.

Word Searches
You can find Easter word searches online but creating your own is a better literacy idea.
  • Brainstorm a list of Easter words. Stuck? Click here.
  • Give each family member a piece of graph paper to create his own puzzle.
  • On the graph paper, write the letters of each word in the squares.
  • Fill in the unused squares with random letters.
  • Exchange searches.

Crossword Puzzles (a little trickier)
  • Brainstorm a list of Easter words and their definitions (clues). Or let everyone come up with her own clues. The simplest clues are fill-in-the-blank sentences: We like to ___ for Easter eggs.
  • Give each family member a piece of graph paper to create his own puzzle.
  • Lightly plot each word on the graph paper, in pencil, criss-crossing the words.
  • Once all the words have been plotted, heavily outline only the graph squares you used.
  • Write out your clues to correspond with the across and down words.
  • Carefully erase the words.
  • Exchange searches.

E-A-S-T-E-R Words
Using the letters in Easter, create other words. Examples: sat, tear, rest… If you want, you can make it a contest to see who gets the most words. You can also give extra credit for longer words.

This site has more Easter ideas.

Easter cards can be fun to make. These sites will give you some ideas.

Easter lends itself nicely to science experiments. Check out these sites for some ideas.

I hope these ideas give you some fun things for your family to do. Check back next week for lots of ideas for Easter crafts.

What are some ways you celebrate Easter at your house? Write them in the Comments box!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Books for Celebrating Easter: Part 1

I love Easter. It’s my favorite holiday. I like how we can celebrate it simply (not too much hoopla!) and then we can look forward to spring, lovely spring. What’s not to love?

Here are some Easter books to start our celebration. Next week there will be several more.

The Easter Story by Brian Wildsmith
Brian Wildsmith is one of my favorite writer-illustrators. This book is absolutely beautiful. It tells the story of the last days of Jesus' life, the crucifixion, and the resurrection, as seen through the eyes of a small donkey. It is a perfect read aloud book.

The Easter Egg Farm by Mary Jane Auch
Pauline the hen lays the most unusual eggs. Her owner, Mrs. Pennywort, thinks they're quite lovely so she encourages her. Together, they open an Easter egg farm.

Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco
Miss Eula and her 2 grandsons welcome the girl next store to Sunday dinner each week. To thank Miss Eula for her wonderful Sunday chicken dinners, the three children sell decorated Easter eggs to buy her a beautiful Easter hat. Patricia Polacco never fails.

Easter around the World by Shannon Knudsen, illustrated by David L. Erickson
I knew there were lots of Christmas traditions around the world, but I’d never thought about different Easter traditions. This book describes how Christians in 8 different countries celebrate Easter. Interesting! This is part of the On My Own Holidays series.

The Best Easter Egg Hunt Ever by John Speirs
Along the same lines as the Where’s Waldo books, readers are invited to search for Easter eggs and other Easter symbols in pictures crowded with details. Challenging!

Miz Fannie Mae’s Fine New Easter Hat by Melissa Milich, illustrated by Yong Chen [sorry no link available]
This book starts as a lovely family story about a young girl who helps her Daddy buy a new Easter hat for her mama. It takes a delightful turn during the Easter morning church service. I didn’t see it coming!

Minerva Louise and the Colorful Eggs by Janet Morgan Stoeke
What happens when the hen Minerva Louise discovers eggs that are NOT the normal egg color? Bewilderment and concern. This book has some quite funny moments. I have to quote what she reports to her hen friends. “I’m finding eggs outside, and some of them are so cold they’re turning blue.”

Do you have any favorite Easter books? Write them in the Comments Box!

This week's free story from Bob Brooks is Sick Chipmunks.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Online Fluency Sites

One of the ways to improve your reading fluency is to read along while someone is reading aloud. Most of the stories on these sites have someone reading them aloud. I’ve mentioned some of these sites on earlier posts, but some of them are new. Have fun!

5 simple comics that may inspire you to write your own

There are also songs, printables and games.

These stories are wonderfully goofy!

There are interactive stories in English and Spanish.

Stories are read with a fun British accent.

I hope you found some sites you enjoy!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Improving Reading Fluency: Part 2

Last Wednesday’s Parent Post, Improving Reading Fluency, Part 1, began our investigation of reading fluency. This week’s post continues this topic, with a heavier tech slant. The important thing to remember is whatever you choose to try, keep it light. I’d hate to think that anything I suggested detracts from your family fun!

Audio Books
As I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of audio books. They’re good for vocabulary development and increasing enjoyment of books. They’re also great for developing fluency. Some reasons and ways to use audio books:
  • Many librarians and teachers are women. Audio books allow boys to hear male narrators as role models.
  • Audio books provide models of good reading, pacing and expression.
  • Have your child listen to an audio book first and then have him read the text on his own, either to himself or aloud.
  • Audio book readers are usually trained actors. Model trying to read aloud like the audio book reader. Encourage your child to do the same. Keep it fun!
  • Have your child listen to the audio book while he or she follows along with an unabridged (important!) copy of the book.
  • Consider making your own audio books of favorite stories. Family members can read different parts. Ham it up!
  • If your child has been identified as having a learning disability or dyslexia, taped books are available from Recordings for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D).
People Reading Activity
I love this idea! Check out Reading Resource for other ideas.
Print the People Reading cards.
Click on the following links to print off these short phrases:
Reader 1 chooses a People card and a short fluency phrase card. She must read the short phrase to represent the person that was drawn. Take turns. Variation: players try to guess what People card the reader chose.

This site is not free, but is one I would have been interested in as a teacher and probably as a parent. I like games that help you practice skills and the sheer volume of games offered here appeals to me. I’d love to hear your take on this program if you try it out.

Resources used for this post:

Please share any fluency ideas you've tried!

Monday, March 19, 2012

All About Space Books: Part 1

Today starts the first of a 2-part series on books about space. Today, the books are about our solar system and other objects in outer space. Next month (after 2 weeks of Easter books) there will be books about space travel and the stars. Many of these books are written at middle school reading levels. ALL of them have outstanding illustrations.

Destination: Jupiter by Seymour Simon
On December 7, 1995, the spacecraft Galileo arrived at Jupiter to uncover some of its mysteries. Circling around the planet, Galileo sent back to Earth lots of new information, including photographs of the surface of Jupiter and its moons. Seymour Simon studies these and other recent discoveries about Jupiter. As with all Simon books, this is a beautiful book with amazing pictures.
A few more space books by Simon:
Destination: space
Our solar system
Comets, meteors, and asteroids

11 Planets: A New View of the Solar System by David A. Aguilar [2008]
For many years, it was understood there were 9 planets. Now scientists are changing how they look at planets. This book explains the new system of understanding planets.
13 Planets: The Latest View of the Solar System by David A. Aguilar [2011]
In just 3 years, the author needed to update his original book. Scientists who study space have learned there are more bodies in space that need to be considered planets. Their view now is that there are 8 regular planets and 5 dwarf planet.
Note: The second book contains a lot of the same information as the first book, plus information on the new planets. If you are really into space study, you might want to look at both of these books. Otherwise, the 2011 book is probably the one you want.

When is a Planet Not a Planet? The Story of Pluto by Elaine Scott
This book explains in a different way how progress in technology has changed our understanding of the universe. It gives a lot of the background history. It doesn’t deal with the all the new dwarf planets but it does talk about how Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet. There is also an audio book version, which I think would be quite nice.

The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons
Although this book is a little old, it still contains lots of information about the moon. It explains the phases of the moon quite clearly, plus how the moon affects Earth.

Black Holes by Dana Meachen Rau
I must admit I’ve had a tough time understanding black holes. This book is the first to make it clear to me. I think I’ve got it! Rau has also written books about the planets, constellations and space travel in her Our Solar System series.

A Black Hole is NOT a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, illustrated by Michael Carroll
This book offers a lot more information than the one above. It's also clearly written and goes into more depth. If black holes fascinate you, then you'll definitely want to check out this book.

About Space by Jana Carson
This book is part of the We Both Read series. In this series, the text on the left page is at a higher reading level and the right page is at a lower reading level (about 2nd grade), giving a parent and child a chance to read a book together. About Space is full of information about space and has clear photographs to support the text.

Asteroids by Derek Zobel (sorry, no link was available)
Asteroids provide lots of clearly-written basic information with excellent pictures and photos. It’s part of the Blastoff! Readers space series. This Level 3 series has at least 17 other books in it.

If you are a fan of space books, I bet you already know some good ones. Please write their titles in the Comments Box!

Friday, March 16, 2012

More Fun Magazine Sites for Kids

Last Monday and this Monday, I told you about all sorts of magazines for kids. Here are some websites that go along with this week’s magazines.

Ranger Rick
Big Backyard
Wild Animal Baby

Have fun!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Improving Reading Fluency: Part 1

This week and next, I’m re-posting my 2 blogs on reading fluency, with a few modifications. The originals were posted last June. Since I have new readers, I decided to run it again.

What is Reading Fluency?
Fluency is the ability to read text accurately, quickly and with confidence. It’s the ability to read phrases and sentences smoothly and quickly, and most importantly, with comprehension.

Why is reading fluency important?
As children become fluent readers, they begin to think less about the words and more about the meaning of the sentences they're reading. Fluent readers can respond to the material with emotion and thought. Without fluency, reading is a chore because so much effort goes into decoding (sounding out) each word. With that much effort, there’s little energy left for making meaning.

Fortunately, there are ways to improve fluency. Here are some suggestions. The important thing is to choose activities that your child wants to do or at least doesn’t mind (or fight) doing.

Model Fluent Reading
When you read aloud, read with as much expression as the story permits. No need to be over the top – unless that’s fun for you and your child. In my mind, goofy is good!

Repeated Readings
Many children enjoy reading, and hearing, the same story/book/poem over and over. This is a good thing – repeated readings and hearings builds in comfort and familiarity. Such familiarity reduces the need for decoding and allows better flow, and therefore, confidence.

Echo reading
Echo reading is when one reader reads a piece of text and a second reader echoes that same piece. This works really well with poems but other text can be used as well. I suggest you switch roles frequently so your child gets to be the first reader and you are the echoer.

Choral reading
Try reading together! Choose a piece of text and read it simultaneously together. Maybe even read it together for someone else.

See the post, 9 Books for Summer Drama Fun for resources for drama.

  • everyone has a copy of the complete script
  • highlight each player’s part (yellow highlighting is best because the other colors tend to obscure the text)
  • read the script aloud before choosing parts
  • ham it up!

I love games. I love games that are fun and yet teach, without being too obvious. I relied on games a lot in my classroom to reinforce what I was teaching. Consider the following games for improving instant word recognition.
Bananagrams – Using letter tiles, players race against each other to build crossword grids and use all their letter tiles first.
Perquackey Game – This game consists of 12 cubes (dice with letters on all 6 sides), a timer, and simple rules. You roll the cubes and make up as many words as you can until your hourglass timer runs out. It can be modified for different ability levels.
Boggle - A small container holds 16 cubes, each cube marked with a different letter on each of its six sides. Shake the container and the cubes land within little pockets. Find as many words (of three-or-more letters) as you can in three minutes. Points are tallied by word length.
Scrabble Upwords – A 3-D word game – build new words by stacking letters on top of those already on the board. Create complex layers of crosswords to earn more points.

Resources used while writing this post:

Coming up next Wednesday: Improving Reading Fluency Part 2

Monday, March 12, 2012

Top Magazines for Kids: Part 2

As I said in last week’s post, I’m a big fan of magazines. The best ones catch your eye and imagination right away and keep you engaged. Here are the last magazines on my list. Be sure to add your favorites to the Comments box.

FootStepsAfrican American History
Footsteps is designed to help readers discover more about African American History. It includes informational articles and interviews, historical photos and artwork, maps and activities.

Girls' Life Magazine
Girls' Life Magazine is geared to girls 10 to 15. It’s packed with advice on friends, family, school, crushes, fashion and beauty. More of the same is available on their website.

Highlights for Children contains poems, stories, puzzles, jokes, riddles, rebus stories, crafts, and hidden pictures. It has things of interest for ages 4-12.

Kids Discover This full-color, monthly magazine covers nature, science and geography topics for children ages 6 and older. Each issue is devoted to a specific subject. Magazines are shelved by subject area in the nonfiction collection.

This is a magazine from the publishers of Cricket, targeted to a younger audience (2-7). It contains numerous learning activities with a particular focus on reading and understanding. It contains poems, stories, cartoons, and activities.

Muse is a magazine for ages 9-14 from the publishers of Cricket and Smithsonian Magazine. It includes articles and activities about science, nature, poetry, music and more.

Kids is published by the National Geographic Society for kids between the ages of 8 and 14. It covers a wide variety of topics, but focuses on geography, adventure, wildlife and science issues. The web site includes links to stories, fun facts, games and other activities.

Odyssey is billed as "The science magazine for young adventurers!" It includes sections on science news, science fun, and the website contains links to webcams around the world. (Recommended for ages 10-16.)

Ranger Rick is a monthly magazine for kids ages 7 and up. It features colorful animal photos, funny drawings, and stories about nature, outdoor adventure, and helping the environment. The online version includes web sites for homework help, monthly activities, games, sections for parents and teachers and a sneak preview of the current issue.

Spider is a magazine from the publishers of Cricket, recommended for ages 6-9. It contains stories, articles, poems, drawings, cartoons and letters.

Sports Illustrated for Kids
Sports Illustrated for Kids is a monthly magazine for elementary age children. It includes interviews with sports heroes, comics, action photos and more. The website provides interactive opportunities.

Wild Animal Baby 
Wild Animal Baby is a  publication of the National Wildlife Federation. It includes stories, fingerplays and big colorful photographs and drawings of wild animals for children between the ages of 1 and 3. The website offers more games and activities for young children.

Young Rider is for horse lovers. Although it is geared primarily towards girls, it is also appropriate for boys. Ages 7 and Up. The magazine covers both English and Western style riding.

Your Big Backyard also called Big Backyard
Your Big Backyard is published by the National Wildlife Federation. It introduces 3-7 year olds to the fascinating world of nature. It features big, colorful photos, read-to-me stories, poems, riddles, and games.

Zoobooks is for ages approx. 4 and up, best for 7-12. Each issue features a different animal and covers topics such as anatomy, habitat, socialization, and reproduction. For younger kids: Zoobies and Zootles

Resources used:

I hope these suggestions help you find some magazines you enjoy. Remember, check with your school and town librarians for other ideas. Your perfect magazine is out there!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fun Sites for Kids' Magazines

Monday, I told you about a bunch of magazines for kids. Here are some websites that go along with those magazines.


Have fun and check next Monday’s post for some more magazines!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Promoting Literacy with Children's Magazines

Ever wonder why doctors (lawyers, beauty shops…) always have magazines? They want to keep our minds off the waiting. What better way to distract us – pictures, interesting bits of info, new ideas – all packaged for a quick read and surefire distraction. Better than glaring at the receptionist :)

But the magazines offer us more than distraction. I've seldom wished for a longer wait, but there are times when I've wished I could finish an interesting article. Magazines are built to draw us in and capture our attention.

Children’s magazines are designed to do this, too – just what we want for our reluctant readers. There are lots of quality magazines for children and there are lots of reasons to have them available for our young readers.

Monday's post, Top Magazines for Kids: Part 1, suggested 15 magazines for your child to consider. Next week, I'll suggest 15 more. But these lists are just a sampling. Check with your school and town librarians for other ideas 
Or, try Googling your child's interest, followed by magazine.

Many of the ideas included in today’s post came from these 2 sources: Children’s Magazines for Literacy  and Book ChookBoth sites are worth checking out for more information.

  • The format of children’s magazine invites us to explore – pictures, headings, graphics – these all make reading seem less like of a chore and more like fun.
  • Magazines are less intimidating for young readers and engaging for all ages.
  • Magazines are great for teaching kids the elements of visual literacy: maps, text boxes, tables, illustrations, graphs, pie charts, labels, captions, cartoons, and diagrams. Learning to make sense of these elements is a great thing to do together.
  • Magazines build our store of knowledge, plus give us lots of info to share, which is such great fun.
  • Magazines provide a way to explore areas beyond our personal experience. Think about it, would you rather learn something new by reading several pages of text in a book or by scanning and reading a picture-dense magazine?
  • Magazines demystify complex and dense content by using callouts, speech bubbles, pull quotes, and other design devices.
  • Magazines offer us a chance to be exposed to new forms of literature – short stories, poems, photo-essays, reviews, and non-fiction.
  • Magazines are able to combine an informal tone with serious information.
  • Magazines have images of children who are the age of the readers themselves, which create a sense this is about me.
  • Magazines are more up-to-date than most books, including textbooks, and so can give more current information than a book that takes over a year to become published.

  • Read aloud time – there will be lots to read, discuss, predict (What do you think this picture is about?)
  • On car trips – consider having a rotating stack that is only for the car
  • Waiting times (before the school bus comes, at the doctor’s office, before dinner…)
  • During homework breaks
  • At breakfast and snack times
  • While the TV is on – kids are often better at multi-tasking than we are
  • During computer time – many magazines also have an online component

  • Start with current passions (bikes, animals, mummies…)
  • Expand into less passionate interests
  • Consider some adult magazines. You can look at them together and read the captions and some excerpts from the articles.
  • Go to the library and browse – most libraries let you check out magazines that are not the most current ones. This is a great way to see what you like before committing to a subscription.

I hope I’ve convinced you that magazines are a great literacy resource. In the next couple Monday book posts, I’ll give some suggestions for magazines to consider. Already found some magazines you like? Please write them in the Comments Box!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Top Magazines for Kids: Part 1

Top Magazines for Kids: Part 1
I’m a big fan of magazines. Magazines are great at giving information and ideas in fun and entertaining ways. They have bold headings, outstanding pictures, funny stuff and you can just read what interests you. What’s not to like?
There are a ton of magazines for kids. To decide on which ones to suggest, I went to several resources for recommendations. This week I’ll tell you about 15 magazines and next week I’ll tell you about 15 more.
I give the suggested age group for each magazine. However, I wouldn’t stick too closely to the suggestions – if a magazine interests you, check it out. It might be just what you’d like.

American Girl is designed to celebrate the achievements and foster the creativity of girls, ages 8-12. It is filled with craft projects, games, girl-to-girl advice and more. The website features a variety of fun activities.

Appleseeds is geared to children ages 7-9. Each issue has a theme and covers the history and cultures of people and places both far away and near. Recent topics: the Vikings, the Civil War and Ghost Stories. The issues include articles, interviews, photographs and activities.

Ask features puzzles, riddles, cartoons, articles and more. It invites readers ages 6-9 to explore the world's greatest artists, inventors and other thinkers.

Babybug is designed for children 6 months to 2 years old. Ths boardbook magazine contains colorful pictures, short stories and rhymes to engage listeners and encourage children to try reading.

This is the official magazine of the Boy Scouts of America. It’s for boys from 7 to 14 and includes news, nature, sports, science, and comics. The website includes a section where you can download the plans for making various projects, such as stilts or a telegraph.

Geared toward elementary-age boys, Boys’ Quest includes stories, poems, crafts and other educational activities.

This magazine is designed to help readers between the ages of 9-15 understand how historical events intertwine. Each issue of Calliope is devoted to one theme in world history. The website lists current and upcoming themes and links to theme-related websites and others of interest to children.

Chickadee is filled with puzzles, games, pictures and activities of interest to children between the ages of 5 and 9. It features photos and stories emphasizing funny, unusual and true information about animals and people.

Chirp The See and Do, Laugh and Learn Magazine
Chirp is recommended for children ages 6-9. It features short stories, jokes, puzzles and other games. The website also features activities for young children.

Click is a magazine for ages 3-7 from the publishers of Cricket and Smithsonian Magazine. It includes articles, stories, cartoons, activities and more to help introduce young people to the world around them.

Cricket features children's stories, poems, articles, songs, crafts and jokes for children ages 8-12. Contributors are often internationally known authors and illustrators.

Dig is produced in cooperation with the Archaeological Institute of America. It brings the excitement of archaeology and other earth sciences to readers, ages 9-14. Each issue focuses on a theme and contains information and activities, colorful graphics and photos to promote a broad understanding of the featured topic.

Discovery Girls is created by girls for girls, ages 8-12. It includes articles on a variety of topics, from fashion to technology. Every other month, the magazine editors travel to a different part of the country to involve a new 12-girl panel in the creation of the magazine.

This is a magazine for parents with children ages 3-12. It’s an idea book for things families can do together. It offers creative activities, party plans, family travel, and learning projects.

Faces is geared for children ages 9-14. It provides historical information about places in the news, colorful photos, maps and activities to help young people increase their knowledge of world cultures.

These are some of the resources I used.

I hope these suggestions help you find some magazines you enjoy. Check back next week for some more. Also, your school and town librarians may have more ideas. Your perfect magazine is out there!