Spelling again.

spell 1 We are headed back to spelling. Nicholas was told that if he finished all the spelling words and tests, then he could get a toy. So we are in week 9 and he’s finished all 12 weeks of spelling. What he didn’t know what that mom was going to make a new set of spelling words.

So this week I let him choose the first word and then we made the list out of all rhyming words. I’ve discovered that the more input he gets into his work, the easier it goes. So he picked the word “gain.” He said he had no reason, but he liked the way it sounded.

Then I made him find 6 words that rhymed with gain. He picked: Train, plain, main, grain, slain, chain. Those 7 words became his spelling words.

This week spelling should go pretty easy since he helped pick his words. At least that’s what I can hope.

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Leapfrog Tag Reading System.

We recently got a Leapfrog Tag system for Nicholas (he’s 3.5). We have the Leapfrog Jr. Tag and love it, so I thought the progression to the Tag system would be great.

The Tag Jr. uses a bigger reader while the Tag uses a reader the size of a pen. The children are asked to point the tip of the pen over the words (and then the system reads the words), or press it on various buttons (so you can ply a game or have the system read the page to you). It is a fun system, easy to use, and we love it. The variety of books are great.

Some people would just let their kids go with the system. I am not like that. We work on it together, and he can use it alone when I am putting the baby down for a nap.

You need to cover a few things with the children and the Tag:
1. You read from left to right, front to back, and top to bottom. These are things kids naturally learn while reading with you, but it is something that needs to be reinforced.

2. How to play the games and what things mean. The games help improve reading comprehension because they ask the children to find things in the book that occurred. It has been great for us.

3. How to press the pen. Sometimes the pen needs to be help just so, and pressed just right, over the various parts of the book. You have to review how to do this.

Once you go through these steps, it becomes a very fun learning toy. Nicholas thinks he’s playing when he’s reading the books with the pens. But he’s learning what words look like, what words sound like, how words are spelled, and reading comprehension. These are all important skills for children to learn. If they can learn them while playing, so much the better.

We love the Leapfrog Tag and would highly recommend it to anyone.

Our “Old MacDonald” lesson.

A favorite song of every parent is “Old MacDonald.” When I say favorite I mean annoying favorite. When Nicholas was little we sang this song to teach him the noises animals make. I remember one car ride when we sang this song for 45 minutes. By the time we were done the farm had, in addition to traditional farm animals: a dinosaur, a hippo, a giraffe, an elephant, a mommy (which Nicholas decided had to say “yes yes yes”), a rhino, a car, a cricket, a fly, a bee, and many other things. Nicholas decided, this morning, that his lesson was going to be on farm animals because he wanted to sing the “Old MacDonald” song.

First things first, we made a list of all the animals we wanted. I let him pick 5 animals to focus on. He chose: horse, cow, duck, pig, and bull. I tried convincing him that cows and bulls were the same thing, but he told me that “Cows are girls and bulls are boys. And, silly mommy, you can ride a bull but not a cow.” (He has been seeing a little bit of rodeo on TV that I have been using to inspire some fiction writing.)

First I wrote the words, then he traced over them. I write in a sharpie marker, and he traces with a pencil. Then we spell the words, pointing out each letter as we spell. That’s our fun language arts time for the day.

Then we pull out the computer and pull up pictures of the animals, movies of the animals, and information about the animals. Nicholas learned the difference between an Angus cow/bull and a White-face cow/bull. Seems like random information to absorb, but he’s proud of himself.

Next, we drew the pictures of the animals. This was a big step and we both needed the picture on the internet to help us draw. But we drew and colored. While we were drawing and coloring we talked about the animals, what parts we were drawing, what colors they were, how many feet each animal had (and much more). This was a lot of fun, even if our drawings were more abstract than practical.

Finally, we sang our “Old MacDonald” song. Abby really liked this portion too and danced. But Nicholas sung the song a few (maybe more than a few time).

So in about an hour and a half we did all this. We had so much fun. He’s very proud of his drawings and his new knowledge.

Taking walks.

In our house, the more we are outside, the happier everyone is. This results in a lot of walks during the day when the 3 year old gets grumpy. As an added bonus, the baby sleeps when we go on walks (she won’t sleep when her brother is up and playing). So we take lots of walks.

Walks, by themselves, are great experiences. You can talk about everything you see, look for letters, look for shapes and colors, and learn about the outside world. But you can also make each walk have a focus. When you pick a focus for your walk, you can turn it from a random educational/learning experience into a more themed experience.

Basic walks can include picking a letter, a shape, or a color. Then you point out everything along the way that is that color/that shape/starts with that letter. These walks are great for reinforcing colors, shapes, and letters already learned or for working on learning those things.

You can also go on “finding” walks. These work much like a scavenger hunt. For older kids you can make a list and have them find everything on the list, crossing the objects off as they find them. When you are walking with children who do not read, but you want to do a finding walk, you can make a list of pictures: Draw a flower for a flower, a tree for a tree, and so on. Or, for someone who wants to focus on one thing, you can pick that object at the beginning – like flowers – and simply point out all the flowers along the way.

There are also spelling walks. These can work one of two ways; first, you pick words and find the letters on signs and license plates you see on your walk. Second, you find objects that begin with the letters you need. You need to pick appropriate words at the beginning and make a list so that the letters can be crossed off. You can choose to find the letters in order, or find them generally.

Here are some of the lists we use on our walks:

Finding walks

List 1: flower, tree, animals, car, truck, rock, cow, cloud, grass, leaf, stick

List 2: paper, red flower, brown board, green leaf, a leaf with at least three sides, a clover, an oval rock, a brown rock, a white and black cow, a gray bird, an animal in the air, a bug with four legs, a flying bug, a tree with fruit or flowers on it

List 3: a red car, a bulldozer, a yellow car, a pickup truck, a delivery truck, a flatbed truck, a road sign, number 0-9, stop sign, an octagon, a diamond sign

Spelling walks

List 1: car, rock, road, shoe

List 2: star, cloud, cow

List 3: bird, rainbow, banana

List 4: spoon, fork, hat

List 5: water, apple, plate

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