Friday, December 16, 2011

beginner reading flash card game

D. has been quite interested in reading and writing lately, which I am thrilled about!  He is sounding out every word he sees and is excited to decipher text he finds around him throughout his day.  When a child shows the interest, it is time to jump!  I assure you there will be many, many mistakes, on the part of the child, and the parent during this learning phase.  The child should really feel comfortable to make mistakes, and to learn through trial and error.  English is very difficult!  Imagine how hard it must be for a child who learns that a letter makes a certain sound only to find out, well... it does... only if it doesn't fall after this letter, or at the end of a word, or by a vowel... there are so many "buts" and "ifs" that it is overwhelming to teach, much less to learn!  When learning to sound out words and taking those first steps into reading, tread lightly, and allow the child to set the tone.  It is best to use positive reinforcement, and to really clue into the child's signs of frustration.  If the child becomes the slightest bit frustrated, its time to go do something else.  
I decided to try to do something fun to support his interest with his very favorite subject... Cars, the movie.  I wanted him to be in charge of this pajama project, and rather than assign popper words, or site words, or a specific blend, I just let him work on words he is interested in, and wants to write, even if they are not quite "on level".  No pressure here to learn, just to have fun!
We began by printing out pictures we found on google images... for D. it was cars, but it could be all the princesses for a girl, or whatever the child is "into".  
Then we cut them out, and before moving into flash card mode, we played with the cars a bit, sorting them first by color, then by type, (fast, small, 4x4s...).  D. loved this!
 this is him examining all the cars
 color sorting
 fitting into categories
 Then, we glued each to a card.  He picked what color cards he wanted them mounted on, and it was always funny to hear his reasoning for picking a color.  "Oh, Francesco should be on black, because he is fast as the fastest tires, and tires are black, so he should be on black, mommy. "
Then I asked him what one word was that he wanted to represent that particular car.  He had some really great adjectives and logical words to go with each.  As I would write the word, I would pretend I couldn't figure out how to spell it, allowing him to do the work, without the pressure.  I also was modeling the difficulty encountered when reading and spelling, "f-l-i, fly!  wait, that isn't right, humm... what other letter makes the "i" sound, oh yeah, "Y"?  wow, this is crazy... why are there two letters that make the same sound?!? (We would both laugh). He thought it was so funny that I couldn't remember and needed his help.
He is actually playing with these cards, and is really making the associations between the words and the cars that he knows and loves.  It was easy to just mention the blends we encountered along the way, without drilling the concepts.  There is plenty of time for subtle exposure, which will solidify these skills over time.  So... when your child shows the interest in reading... JUMP, but not too high, and don't run too fast!  If you do, someone could get hurt!  :)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent- better late than never

So, I am slightly late in posting this.... but its better late than never.  You probably are already in full swing, but maybe you can still take some ideas from this.  This year we are adopting the popular "activity advent calendar" where you do daily activities rather than getting a present.

We are trying to make the experience educational in many aspects... some character education (sharing, giving, selflessness) Christian education about Jesus' birth, some reading (trying to decode words on the activity cards), and some math (adding and subtracting to get to the number of the day, calendar math, counting up and down, using Christmas tree manipulatives to explore numbers).  I printed out Christmas tree clip art, and cut them apart.
 Each day we manipulate the trees to get the date for the day.  For example, if today is the 16th, and we are going to pocket 16 on our Advent calendar, then we count out 16 Christmas trees, and then play with them.  Take away 6 trees, how many are left?  Add back 6 trees, and how many are all together?
   I have seen many activities on pintrest, and loved getting fun activities from there, and from other blogs, such as, and .
We are also using a book called My First Countdown to Christmas, by Scholastic.
  For the Activities, I used Print Shop and used a blank business card template.  I used a Christmas border and then printed them out and filled in each card with felt pen.
I went through our community calendar of events and our playgroup calendar and used some of those activities to fill the calendar.  Then I used some of the ideas from sites listed above and some I came up with.  So, each day, my son opens the pocket and discovers the days activity.
  Then at dinner each night, we light our Advent wreath (attached are the Advent prayers) and listen to "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel".

 At night we read Christmas books, and our daily "Count down to Christmas" page.
 That's our little Christmas tradition around our house.  What do you do?
Enjoy this blessed season!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Book Binding

Well... juggling two kids is so much harder than I ever imagined.  My little girl has reflux, and I believe some other tummy issues going on.  I literally have to hold her most of the day.  It has been hard.  One would think pajama projects would be easier since I am in my pajamas pretty much all day, but I am doing good to brush my hair and do laundry.  It has gotten very "real" for me.  Anyway, when I get projects in with my poor neglected son, I usually have her in my arms, so grabbing the camera is difficult.  So, bear with me during this phase that will hopefully be over SOON!

About 4 weeks ago my son started getting very interested in the solar system... VERY interested. I found a YouTube video to teach him more about the planets...
It is an awesome video, that has really taught him so much... more than I ever knew about the solar system!  He has the whole song memorized, sings it often around the house, and draws planets and talks about them to anyone that will listen.  Lately, he has also been into making books.  Well, he has since made about 4 solar system books.  One was based on the video above, using the words from the song created by "KIDsTV123".  (They have other great catchy songs too!)
So, we wrote down the words to the song, and found some planet printables online.  (you can just google images for "planet worksheets").  Then we just used glue, staples, construction paper, crayons, and so on to create the book.

We have since made 3 other solar system books, where he dictates to me what he knows about the planets, and I write.  One of the books, he colored the planets and then sounded out and wrote the names of the planets by himself.  I was super proud of this book, as was he.  All of his solar system books are a work in progress... he takes them to his desk and "works" on them, by adding things.  We have read them so many times that they are showing real wear.  I am so happy that he loves them so much and can take ownership of his work!
BTW...the picture at the top is his Halloween costume... a little obsessed, ya think?!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Counting by 10s using what they love

My boy is UBER OBSESSED with Cars (cars 1, not cars 2- which makes it really hard to find the toys he wants to play with, since its only cars 2 out in the stores- but I digress...).  I have noticed he is pretty interested in counting, and is pretty good with numbers, especially if they are on cars (there is no doubt he will recognize "95" every time it is shown to him, b/c it is Lightening McQueen's number).  His ability to recognize numbers that he identifies with toys got me to thinking about playing number games with his "race cars".  For a girl, this game could be done with cars as well, or with something they love, like barbies, even (see below for details).
I decided to work on counting by 10's to 100.  I asked him to pick out 10 of his favorite cars.  While he was doing that, I found small stickers (actually small price tags for a garage sale) and numbered each sticker 10-100 by 10s.  Then I took post it notes and did the same.  I made a circle out of the post its and told him to put his cars inside the circle where they would be on a "track".
 I put a sticker on each car.  I told him to take one car at a time, read the number out loud on the car, and drive it to its matching "pit stop" to get a tire change.

He loved it and we did this a few more times.  Then to mix it up, we put the numbers in a line and they would race to their corresponding number.  
 (I know... he's not in his pajamas... it took lots of caffeine this morning to get me going...)
Then I mixed them up and told him to "find the number 10" and so on, and place them in order in a line.
Then the cars each took a turn to race down the line from 10-100 and he said the number aloud as he passed it. 
He really had fun and continued playing with his numbered cars and their "pit crews" all day.
(For a girl, this could be done by numbering barbies, and having them find their house that matches their number).
Have fun racing!!!
- Jenny

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Story Starters for the young author

We all know that preschoolers are GREAT story tellers... you know how it goes:
 Mom to darling son, "Why are there cheetos  all under the coffee table, and orange hand prints on the sofa?"  Darling son back to mom, "i don't know, i guess because the dog ate the cheetos."  
Yeah, right.  Well, somehow kids are naturals at one type of story telling, but need a little work telling a story with a real plot.  They will spend many years in school learning the building blocks used to writing a successful story.  
In our house, we use pictures we draw or create as "story starters".  Story starters give the child something to describe and write about.  Preschool age is a great age to introduce this method to future writers because they are so creative, and their minds are not limited about what is true or false.  Ask a second grader to "write a story" and you are likely to get "I don't know what to write about" as a response.  Ask a preschooler to tell you about their picture and its hard to stop them.  
As you will see in the examples below, we started with a picture.  After the artwork was dry, I asked my son what the picture was about, and told him I would write his words. I was careful not to put words in his mouth, and not to correct any of his mistakes.  I wrote exactly as he spoke.  Then I read it back to him.  Kids like to hear what they have said repeated to them.  
 As you can see... these stories lack a plot, and they ramble.  They sure are cute little bits of his mind though, and I am so glad that I have in writing his exact thoughts at this age.
 Over time, with age and lots of practice, a child hearing their story read back to them will begin to recognize their writing mistakes.  They will hear the run on sentences, or the lack of flow, or that it just doesn't make sense the way they stated it.  (This is not something that needs to be pointed out to them.  We want to encourage them by getting excited about their stories and not critique them.)  Hearing it read aloud will make them better future writers.
 We used fun handprint or fingerprint art to begin with.  You can use any artwork your child creates, even pull out an old piece they did a while back, and have them tell you about it.

The handprint art ideas were found on pinterest by doing a search for "handprint art" and the fingerprint art was done using Ed Emberley's fingerprint book.  It can be found online.
Have fun listening to your children tell stories.  You will be glad you wrote them down, and will help develop your child's prewriting skills.  It will also give you a good laugh :)
- jenny

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Teaching about Charity

Its time to do something GOOD... REALLY GOOD... and Pajama Projects needs your help to pull it off!
   Pajama Projects is hosting a PAJAMA DRIVE to give a pair of new pajamas and a new book to children in need.  Pajama Program, a 501-C3 charitable organization, has located 2 shelters for Pajama Projects to send aid to. These shelters take in children in need from desperate situations. Many of those children have nothing of their own, and have seen much harder times than anyone deserves.  Wouldn't it be great for those children to have something that is theirs to bring them comfort at bedtime?
   We are collecting new (they don't have to be expensive) pajamas (newborn to teen sizes) and a new book to go with each pair!  Together, you and your child can pick out a pair of new pajamas and a book to send to Pajama Projects. I will deliver them to the shelters Pajama Program has chosen.  Teaching our kids to look out for those in need is one of the GREATEST lessons we can ever teach! You can go to sleep with a full heart knowing you gave a child, who rarely gets one, a peaceful bedtime.  What a blessing this charity is in the lives of those children.
I implore you to please send donations to :
Pajama Projects
c/o Jenny Kramer
8921 Lakeview Drive
Fairhope, AL 36532
I will update the blog with pictures of the pajamas and books when they come in.  I am really excited about this program and hope that you are too, and will help out!
(If you are interested in doing a Pajama Drive in your area, or to find out more about the charity and all they have done , log onto

Much LOVE,

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Symmetry Collage

Today we talked about symmetry... we didn't get too technical, but we discussed when a picture or an object is the exact same on one side, as it is the other.  I described it as "matching" and "twins" - terms he can understand and is familiar with.  To explore this new concept, we made a collage.
Materials needed:  paint, paper, paint brush, glue, scissors
To begin, he picked his 3 paint colors, and then painted one full sheet of paper the color of his choice.  This was to be the "background" of our piece of art.
Then I took one piece of paper and folded it in half.  We discussed how each page was the same, and that each half matched.  I cut the paper in half.  He used the remaining two colors and painted each of these pieces.  At this point, I suggest letting them dry.  (We did not, and things got messy :)
We took the two smaller pieces and folded them in half (we did one lengthwise, to be tall and thin, and one widthwise, to be short and wide).  Then he used a pen to draw a design along the paper.
This would be our outline to cut along.  I did the cutting.  Then we unfolded the piece together to see what shape we made.
 We discussed how each side was the same, or "symmetrical".  He decided how he wanted to place it on the big background page, and we centered and glued it down.
We did the same thing with the other  piece of painted paper.
 We used some of the scraps to make a "border" on our piece of work.
We then folded the whole piece in half, and discussed how the artwork, itself, was symmetrical, as well!  We think this one might be a framer!  It was lots of good messy fun, too!