What will your verse be?

Robin Williams died yesterday. I really loved most of his work. He was first introduced to me in “Dead Poets Society” and then I became a fan. I’ve watched Mork and Mindy, Patch Adams, Good Will Hunting, and a ton of other movies because he was in the movie. In honor of his death, we are spending today’s lesson reading poetry and talking about it. In fact, we have made our own “Dead Poet’s Society” in our house.

We built a fort.

Then we watched this fabulous clip where Robin Williams is asking the students what heir verse will be.

Now we are reading poetry and talking about it.

Here are the poems we are reading today:

Walt Whitman: Oh Me! Oh Life!

Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken 

Rudyard Kipling: If

We then talked about which poem was our favorite. Each of us got to draw a picture representing our favorite poem, then tell everyone else about the picture.

Was there talking and reading in this lesson? Yes. Was there presentations and public speaking? Yes. Did each of us have to decide on a favorite and articulate a reason why? Yes. We practiced all these skills in a simple poetry lesson. And we also got to have a lot of fun huddling in a fort and doing class in a place that wasn’t a table, classroom, or desk.


Science articles for the week.

The goal is to have your student read and write. Whether it is fiction or non-fiction, the goal remains the same. I use nonfiction for my son – he likes to read about science. Reading about science also exposes him to a wide variety of vocabulary words and interesting punctuation. He reads enough fiction on his own and with me during reading time.

In addition, he’s learning about random topics while reading non-fiction. He loves all things science, and so reading about science helps him learn even more about a topic he already loves. If he had to read about dance or ponies, he probably wouldn’t do it as often. Lastly, by choosing articles that I know he will like, I don’t have to argue with him about doing the reading portion of the work. Sometimes we still argue about the writing – but we never have an argument about the reading.

Here’s the list of articles we’ve been using:









The next batch of articles.

In case you need more inspiration for reading science related things – or your child does – here are the list of the other articles we have used over the past week.

Remember, the goal is to read and then write a summary. I’m always happy when Nicholas wants to talk about the article, but he always has to write at least one sentence to summarize the article – since I want him to practice writing. I often get a lot of push back on writing. But the deal is, he has to write the sentence before he gets up. Otherwise, the whole exercise gets started over with a new article.

Sometimes he wants to read three or four before he writes his sentence – and that’s okay too. But he has to write a sentence before he gets up – legibly and that actually summarizes the article. Not simply copying the title.

Here’s the list:







The science articles.

We’ve been practicing reading and writing all summer. Some people have asked for the list of articles Nicholas is using as his reading and summarizing articles. So here are the latest articles we have been using.








Our science article for the week: Saturn and moons.

This week, a discovery was made about Saturn – it might (or might not) be gaining a new moon (or two). It wasn’t so much a discovery as it was a list of possibilities.

Here’s the link to the article we used: http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/04/15/saturn_cassini_may_have_photographed_the_birth_of_a_moon.html

I know we use science articles most of the time. Here’s why: There’s always one main point to a science article.

In an article about other issues, the children might need to have additional knowledge. But in science articles, the knowledge is all given up front. This is especially true in science articles written for non-scientists (which is what the Wired and Slate science articles are). Nicholas can read the whole article and understand it – from top to bottom. There are not too many odd science words, and there are not too many complex ideas.

Science articles are easy to grab one main point, three supporting points, and then make one sentence that describes the article. It’s why we use them.

We also use them because that’s what my child is interested in. It’s best, when doing reading and summarizing, that the child actually like what they are reading. Everyone remembers a book in school they struggled to get through; mainly because they weren’t interested. Therefore, we use things Nicholas is interested in as reading topics.

Makes sense for us.

Literature for the week: The Swing.

The image of a girl swinging - which is what my children like to do at the park. So I thought that a lesson based around a poem about swinging would be great.

The image of a girl swinging – which is what my children like to do at the park. So I thought that a lesson based around a poem about swinging would be great.

Our literature lesson for this week is based on “The Swing,” a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson.

To find the poem, visit this link: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-swing/

I printed the poem out so that each child would have a copy of the poem. Then we did a differentiated lesson.

Nicholas got to read the poem to Abby. Then he had to help her point out the word up – and he wrote the word “up” at the side of her paper. Abby then got a highlighter and had to highlight all the “up” she could find.

While Abby was highlighting, Nicholas got to answer the following questions – in writing:

1. What colors does the poem mention?

2. What does the child see when they go up in the swing?

3. What does the child see when they go down in the swing?

4. Does this poem make you want to go swing? Why or why not?

5. What do you see when you swing?

Then, when we were all finished (Abby also got a highlighter to highlight all letter E’s in the poem – since E is the letter for today), I had them each write their own poem.

Except they decided not to write them and to perform them instead. Which is also okay. Nicholas and Abby ended up doing a joint performance where Nicholas told Abby what to say. They dressed up in outfits from the dress up box so that they could put on the performance. Nicholas grabbed a paper towel roll and used it as a microphone. Then they performed for me. I did record it for future reference – they were super cute.

I’m always happy when lessons take on a life of their own. To see them engaged in creating their own lesson and poem and performance is amazing. I love watching the kids grow as they learn to do things like this.

What came next? Well, a walk to the park and a ride on the swings of course!

The newest books we love!

I’ve worked hard to find books for Nicholas. He sometimes likes books, and sometimes not. He preferes books with science and math themes. This includes his fiction. He doesn’t like the  Percy Jackson series. But he loves Encyclopedia Brown. The newest ones we are in love with are the Sir Cumference books.

I don’t really know why he loves them so much – except that they have a math theme in them. They are also shorter than some of the other options out there.

The problem with finding books is that there’s not a ton in between the little books that kids read at first and the later books, once kids are fluent readers. This is more true for boys than it is for girls. At least there’s not as much I like. I don’t like the Captain Underpants series. It’s not a good read for younger boys. It’s like the publishers have determined that kids who read chapter books are all 8 or older, so they can add different themes into them. For a 5 (almost 6) year old, some of those themes are too much for me.

He likes Hardy Boys, but since he reads those with his dad, he won’t read them on his own. So I searched and found the Sir Cumference ones. I found the first one at our used bookstore, so it wasn’t a big deal if he didn’t like it. But now that he likes them, I got the rest from Amazon. I’ve included the link to them below.

If you know of any books that boys like, leave a note in the comments. I’m always happy for suggestions.

Links to the Sir Cumference books that we love:

Sir Cumference and the First Round Table (A Math Adventure)

Sir Cumference and All the King’s Tens: A Math Adventure

Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland (A Math Adventure)

Sir Cumference and the Viking’s Map (Charlesbridge Math Adventures)

Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi (A Math Adventure)

Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessert (Charlesbridge Math Adventures)

Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter (Math Adventures)

Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone

Compound words activity.

Nicholas spread the words out on the ground before he was willing to put them together.

Nicholas spread the words out on the ground before he was willing to put them together.

We’ve been working on compound words in our house. Compound words are when two words are put together to make a new word. Nicholas sometimes thinks phrases, like “play ball”, are compound words. Then he writes them as if they were compound words. Which is a problem. So I decided we’d learn the difference between a saying and a compound word.

I made a list of compound words that we could use, and cut some of the pocket chart paper into half. I wrote half the compound word on one side, and half on the other. Then I gave Nicholas the set of papers and asked him to make words.

We put up the “definition” of the compound word on the pocket chart. Nicholas had to read it out loud – which he does with such lack of enthusiasm. But then came putting the words together.

He made words that I didn’t have on the list – but that were compound words. Then he realized he had words left over that didn’t fit together so he went back and changed them.

Here’s the list of words we used:

It was a bunch of fun watching him do it. We have another set of words to do later this week. We shall see if he, in his writing, starts using compound words properly.

This week’s literature lessons.

First of all – welcome back! It’s been a great holiday break and now we are getting back into the swing of school again. I’m sure that this week is going to be tough – readjusting to a schedule is always tough with my kids. But it’s time to get back to it.

We’ve been rather lax in the literature area in our studies. Heavy on the science and math. Lax on the literature. Mainly that’s because it is what Nicholas likes. But I’ve decided that we are going to include literature twice a week.

This week we focus on two things: the difference between a poem and a story, and imagery.

Difference between a poem and a story

We are using the poem, “The Queen of Heart” – you know, the one who baked tarts and lost them to the knave. This poem is to show the difference between a poem and a story.

What’s the difference? A poem is less concerned with grammar and story telling and more concerned with rhyme and meter. A story can be told – and often is – but it is told through a different, often shorter, method. A story has more details, character development, follows grammar rules, and is concerned with the telling of the story. A good story should have a defined beginning, middle, and end. A good story should also have a main character and minor characters. These things are not necessarily present in a poem.


Children often, instinctively, know what imagery is. It’s words that are used to describe a visual image. We are using Robert Frost’s “The Pasture” as the teaching poem in this exercise.

First, we define imagery. Second, we practice using descriptive language to create imagery. This causes fun sentences – The blue cow ran over the wet green grass to the babbling brook (my favorite from Nicholas – and some very silly ones (The fat frog sat on my head and made it wet because he’s sticky).

Then we read the poem and highlight the descriptive words that provide the imagery. Lastly, we use those images to draw what Frost is describing in his story.


If you want the poems, complete with the instructions, they are available for free at my TPT store. I’ve included the links below.

Links to downloadable mini-lessons:

The Queen of Hearts

The Pasture

Toddler Tuesday: Letter practice.

Want some great letter practice for your child? I love Starfall’s sheets.

We do a letter a day, so I’ll give you our steps to letter practice.

1. My preparation

To begin, I print the pages from Starfall for the whole week. Then I go and find pictures (thank you Clipart) of things that begin with that letter. I load all the pictures into one document and print them out on one sheet. If I can, I change the color settings to “outline” so that Abby can color them at the end. I put each day’s worth of letter activities into a folder and label them so I know which say is which.

2. First activity: Paint in the bag

First thing we do is trace the letter in the paint bag. I put some water and some paint and some flour into a Ziploc bag and tape it to the back door. She gets to trace the letter in the bag. It’s pretty cool. Sometimes she gets distracted by the way the light shines through the paint. I’m okay with that. She’s my crafty child, and as long as she does it five times, I’m okay.

3: Second activity: Cut out the pictures

Next she gets to cut out the pictures. Remember the pictures I put into a Word document earlier in the week? Those are the ones she cuts out. Nicholas is generally doing his online math at this point. So it is a good activity to do when the older one is engaged online and my younger one needs supervision.

4: Third activity: Trace the letters

Next we do the first page of the Starfall sheet – tracing the letters. She gets to pick her color (she likes to use crayons). I help her with the first 3 and she does the 4th (or more) on her own. Sometimes it is a weird shape. But she always tries.

5: Fourth activity: Glue the pictures

Next she gets to glue the pictures she cut out onto the second page. Sometimes Starfall has pictures, and sometimes they don’t. We name each picture (in German and English – which is why I have to do these beforehand so I can learn the German). She gets to glue. With a glue stick. I once let her use white glue and that was horrible. So now we stick to glue sticks. No glitter glue for this project.

6: Fifth activity: Color

Lastly, she colors. Why is this last? Because Abby really likes to color. If I let her do it first, then she wouldn’t do the rest. It took about 2 weeks to get her used to coloring last. But now she knows the routine. If she doesn’t do the first part, she doesn’t get to color.

That’s how we practice our letters.

%d bloggers like this: