Our story illustrations.

Here's part of the illustrations. The story is one I tell often, and I wrote the beginning on butcher paper so the kids could illustrate it.

Ever since my son has been old enough to ask for stories, I have told a series of stories called “Prince Nicholas stories.” Shockingly, they are all about a prince (Nicholas) and his adventures in the forest, ocean, lake, stream, pond (and so forth) that are in the area behind his castle in a land far, far away. When his sister was born, the stories included a “Princess Abby” character so the prince and princess are doing things together in the stories.

Every story starts off the same way: Once in a land far, far away there lived a prince and his name was Prince Nicholas. He had a sister named Princess Abby. They lived in a big gray castle made of stone with King Daddy and Queen Mommy. One day……. and there the stories start to differ.

So for today’s creative lesson, I thought we would start a new Prince Nicholas/Princess Abby story and have them illustrate it. I got out some butcher paper and wrote our traditional introduction down in 4 sections. One section ws the intro (in a land far, far, away). One section was about Prince Nicholas. One section about Princess Abby. The last section about the castle and mommy and daddy. Then I gave them crayons and they went to work.

Nicholas is illustrating a story I wrote. He drew a picture of the prince in the story to make it look like him since the prince's name is "Prince Nicholas."

Abby just scribbled. Nichols told her she could color the first part – and amazingly she followed his directions pretty well. But Nicholas got to draw all the faces, crowns, and castles. He made a brown castle (because he didn’t want to use the gray marker), and put brown bushes outside the castle (because he didn’t want someone to have to water them). He also drew a tall red barn so that the horses and cows could be really tall and have a place to live.

Why would we do something like this?

First, it is a way to use their imagination. Young children have great imaginations. Getting used to putting the ideas they see in their heads when they hear a story onto paper is a great thing for them to learn. It is all about being able to communicate their mental images. This is a story I tell them; it has no books and no preconceived images. So this is a good story to start from.

Second, it is a way for Nicholas to see how words work to make a story. He can talk and carry on great conversations. He can recite whole movie plots, statistics about space, and more. But to actually see how words tell a story is something he is still working at. We read books, but those stories are already put together. This is a spur of the moment, made-up story that he gets to participate in developing.

Third, it is about reading comprehension. He helps me read the words in order to draw the pictures. This means he has to understand what the words are combining to say. If he tells me that he wants to make the castle brown instead of gray because he wants to use the brown marker, he is still showing he understands that the story says the castle is gray. Just the fact that he felt the need to speak up and justify his choice of color for the castle (I did not ask him, he volunteered the information) means he understands he’s doing something different from the story.

He’s not a great artist, but I put this up on our wall with pride. We will work on the next part of the story tomorrow, and continue until we finish it. I can’t wait to see the whole thing.

Left-Right and Top-Bottom

Today’s work was all about left-right and top-bottom.

By now, we know the difference between top and bottom. We’ve been doing it during play for a while. We crawl to the top of the play structure, slide to the bottom of the slide……we wipe chalk and mud off the bottom of our shoes………all of these have taught top and bottom.

Today’s top to bottom was a little different. I drew pictures of Caterpillars and some feet and had Nicholas draw the legs, top to bottom, that connected the Caterpillar’s body and feet.  We drew some fireman poles – from top to bottom – and did some flower stems and balloon strings- also from top to bottom.

Then we worked on left to right. First of all we practiced reading with “Cat in the Hat.” And we made sure to read lines from left to right and top to bottom.

Then we drew lines connecting animals and their babies from left to right (I printed out pictures of animals and their babies using MS Publisher – thanks ClipArt for the multitude of images). Then he had to draw the letter of the animal above each line, and we went from the top to the bottom of the page.

We also practice writing the words: top, bottom, left, right.

Then we did the Hokey Pokey song and worked on our left and right sides of our bodies.

Why the emphasis on left to right and top to bottom? Well, these are some basics that need to be reinforced before serious reading and spelling can work. We are already working on some sight words and sounding out longer words in stories, and having him read stories he’s familiar with. And we, here in the USA, read left to right and top to bottom. So we are simply reinforcing the concepts he needs to read with some extra fun work.

And we had the letter M today. We drew lots of letter M’s today. After all, M is for Magnificent Mom.

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.

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