Saturday, December 11, 2010

Afterthoughts - Baking

Eden Grace donning her apron
I took a little hiatus (3 weeks) from blogging while my family was here for 2 weeks , plus I needed one week to recoup!

We had a lovely time together as everyone gathered from California, New York, and Florida to the Lone Star State of Texas!

As families go, I think I have one of the best!  Loving children and grandchildren, and a loving, wonderful husband!  We had a blast! 

One of the things that has become a yearly Christmas (we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas 2 days apart) tradition is baking cookies with, now, my 2 grandchildren, Silas, 3 years old, and Eden Grace, 16 months old.  So I thought I would share with you some pictures of the fun we had baking some sugar cookies together!  From start to finish this year!


Silas looking at the ingredients that were listed on the recipe.
(What can he see with that hat on I ask you?)

Eden Grace helping the mixer beat the ingredients
Silas adding the salt
Silas cutting out the dough that he rolled
Sugar-cookie man!
Two little bakers hard at work
What an accomplishment!

Time for the icing

"It's more fun this way, Daddy!"
"Am I going to be able to get this icing to the cookie before it drips all over the table?"
Serious concentration
Lots of colorful cookies
"Yummmm! The best part, Nana!"

PS:  Silas loved the colorful recipe and could read the word "cup" by the time we were done looking at the ingredients!  (See - "Third in a Series of Musings of Exciting Ways to Motivate Your Child to Read")

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Finds

I found this book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom!, by Bill Martin JR, and John Archambault,  and a cassette to go with it in the early 1990's.  The class I was teaching then was an alternative kindergarten class.  The children loved it!   I can't read it now to my grandson without singing it!

Since then Bill Martin Jr,  Michael Sampson, and Lois Ehlert have done a numbers book , and John Archambault and David Plummer have written ABC Chicka Boom with Me.  The last is a sing-along phonemic awareness/phonics songs and activities workbook.

Any of these are a great addition to a young child's wish list!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Third in a Series of Musings on Exciting Ways to Motivate Your Young Child to Read

Take out the markers and let's get baking!  Markers?... Baking?... Yum? Seriously, one of the best ways I have found to motivate children to read is to give them a reason to read.  Children love to get into the kitchen and bake!  To get their hands in the dough, to roll it, and pat lick the icing from the beaters, to scrape the last of the icing in the bowl.  It is a great motivator!

I have worked with children in the classroom (sometimes 20-some of them), reading the recipe with them, walking to the local grocery and buying the ingredients (each child with a slip of paper with his ingredient to find as we all walked around together), and contributing each of the items to the recipe.  We made stone soup one year doing exactly that!  What fun it was to have the parents come in and feast on the delicious soup.  And, yes, we used a stone in the soup.  It was a stone that a friend inherited from her Native American grandmother for the specific purpose of using it for soup. (I would not recommend taking a stone from the garden and using it.)

But, most interesting, with young children, is baking!  They especially love to make cookies.

How do markers fit into the recipe?  Writing the recipe out, as simply as possible, with different colored markers for different words so the children recognize the words more easily is great fun!  For example, every time cup is written in the recipe write it in red, flour could be green, butter could be yellowbrown sugar could be brown , etc.  This helps the child remember the repeated words in the recipe, adding to their vocabulary.

The recipe might look like this:

Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies

1 cup butter softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 1/4 cups flour

Cream butter and brown sugar together.
Add flour , mixing at low speed until dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl.
Form into 1 inch balls.
Place on ungreased cookie sheet 2 inches apart.
Stamp with cookie stamp or bottom of glass.
Bake at 325 for 12 to 15 minutes.
Makes 2 to 3 dozen cookies.

This same concept can be used in building something together (reading directions), playing a game together (reading the rules of the game), writing and sending letters together.  All provide reasons for reading for the child in an experential way, an interesting way, a way of intense meaning to the child!

One of the most important elements in all of the activities that I have mentioned thus far in motivating your child to read is the interaction between you and your child/children.  All of these activities have special meaning because of the love you have for your child.  Sweet memories to be locked away in the heart of the child to remember and cherish, and to be associated with the act of reading! 

Happy eating...I mean, reading!



Thought that you would like to meet "Cali, the Big Red Dog"!  Not quite red, but BIG!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Second in a Series of Musings on Exciting Ways to Motivate Your Young Child to Read

A lot of the buzz, as far back as I can remember, has been to read to your child beginning at an early age if you want your child to have a great love for reading.  And, I agree with this wholeheartedly! But what about making it have intense meaning for the child?  How can you accomplish this while reading to your children?

Taking a cue from my grandson, Silas, who calls our Siberian husky "Cali, the big red dog", while reading to your child you can make him the main character of the story.  Who says that you have to use the name that is supplied?  Children love to hear their own name mentioned in the book.  My daughter Anna loved it when we read the story Anna Banana to her (unfortunately for her the name has stuck as a nickname).

Another way to have it have meaning to the child is to involve the child in the reading process.  I love the book Ferdinand  by Munro Leaf   for this express purpose.  Ferdinand is a bull who loves to smell the flowers.  Children love it when, instead of saying the word smell, they draw air into their noses and make the sound of sniffing, and then say the rest of the refrain, "the flowers".
And, what child doesn't love to "act out" a story?  With or without simple props, with or without simple costumes, the action of bringing the story to life is so intriguing to young and old alike. 

Storytelling, involving the child (or someone the child knows) is another way the word has intense meaning to him.  Telling a story to the child about himself (real or fantasy) can propel him into a love of language.  These stories can even be written down (by you or the child) and illustrated with drawings or photos, though this is not necessary.  Stories can be started and then added onto by the child, as a way to involve him in the storytelling.
The more ways your child can experience the wonderful world of language, the more he will have a great love for it!   Happy reading! (literally)


PS  If you would like to see a wonderful example of storytelling read this interesting excerpt from my friend's (John Bird's) Memoirs, I Used to Want to Be A Cowboy 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Finds...

These great white board crayons (instead of markers) for little ones can be found at  your local Wal-Mart!
They are by Crayola and are a real hit with the children that I know.  They even come with a special glove with which to wipe the board clean! 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

First of a Series of Musings on Exciting Ways to Motivate Your Young Child to Read

If I was asked to write a list of fun and inspiring ways to motivate your young child to read, at the top of the list would be a way for the written word to have intense meaning to your child.

When I taught First Grade many years ago, I came across Sylvia Ashton-Warner's book, Teacher .  In this book, she describes her technique for teaching reading to young Maori children.  I decided to adapt her program to my classroom and found it to be a great way to launch children into the world of reading!  As the author points out, children's first words and first books should come from their life.  So, I started each morning with "Key Vocabulary"(Miss Ashton-Warner's name for it), a "one-look" sight vocabulary originating from the child himself.

 Each day each child would think of a word he wanted to know.  I wrote it on an index card.  These self-chosen words accumulated and were kept in  his specially decorated shoebox.  The next day, before giving him a new word, I would ask for the "old" words .  If a word was not remembered I would put it aside and eventually toss it in the trash because it had failed as a "one-look" word, and could not have been of much importance to the child.  While I was giving words to each child, the others were sharing their words with partners, or printing their words on the chalkboard.  Still others were putting their words on a  magnetic board or on a felt board with felt letters.  All of the children were busy sharing and learning each others words!

 When it got to the point of having 20 words in the box the child would make a "word book" in which he drew pictures for his words to share with the class, or a parent, etc.  Then, we would begin again with some different words to put in his box!  The children were never at a loss for words!

This time of "Organic Reading" was the noisiest and the most productive time of the day.  I believe its success stemmed from the concept of using words important to the child, the language of his world to the written language of reading.  What joy!  After having the security of his world in the written word, the child can then reach out in love and joy to other books, other readers.

Sylvia-Ashton's Warner's book Teacher  (reprinted version) can still be purchased for you to read from Barnes and Noble. 

NB  I first bought this book in 1973 , my first year of teaching, when First Grade was the grade to initiate reading.  Everything is done so much earlier these days.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Thoughts on TP

Now I know you all are thinking,  "What in the world is TP ?" Those silly acronyms!  Is it some new method of teaching, or a label for a little-known learning disorder, or maybe my thoughts on being "Tickled Pink"?

Well, I don't know about you but I can NEVER find paper when I need it.  One day I wanted to write down a few thoughts pertaining to learning   - I can't remember if they were my thoughts or someone else's - before they disappeared from my mind.  These little snippets  are very basic ideas but, very foundational in the ability (or inability) of students to learn.  They are realizations relating to one's own experiences as teacher, as well as, learner.

SO here are my "Thoughts on Toilet Paper" concerning basic learning principles.  Yes, I finally found some paper!  In the bathroom!  Desperate measures for desperate times.   LOL!

1.  To help students learn something  you  should first understand what they already know

2.  Showing students how to do something is better than telling them, and letting them do it is best of all

3.  Do not show or tell too much at once, since learners digest new ideas slowly and should feel secure with new skills or knowledge before acquiring  more

4.  It is necessary to give your pupils as much time as they need or want to absorb what you have shown or told  them

5.  Instead of testing their understanding with questions, let them show how much or little they understand by the questions they ask you

6.  Do not get impatient or angry when learners do not understand, frightening them only blocks learning

Something to think about and ponder.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


It's been a long time since I have been in the classroom, but some of my fondest memories are of teaching children to learn. I loved to guide my students through important discoveries...the shapes of letters and numerals, the way a word looked, how words were similar and different. Not exactly earth-shattering discoveries you say? Not so! I could see the blast of a rocket in the eyes of a child who figured out a word by blending sounds together. The brilliant light of the stars reflected on the face of a student who added sets of objects and came up with the correct sum.

Working with children and seeing them succeed was the delight of my heart and my reason for teaching! Early Childhood Education was my major and I pretty much, over the course of years, taught 3 year old preschool up to second grade. Teaching in many different states and different types of schools (public, private, christian, home school umbrella school) I found children of these age levels to display the same love and determination to learn!

In recent months I have had the privilege of walking alongside a few young moms who have chosen for one reason or another to take on the full responsibility(along with the father, of course) for the education of their children. I have enjoyed the wonderful delight of troubleshooting for them the little glitches that pop up in the educational process. And, in turn, that has led me to jot down a few thoughts on my teaching ideas and methods that might be helpful to others.

Even if this goal is not accomplished the way I am anticipating, I am looking forward to seeing what the musing of an ex-schoolteacher will do to bless those who have children at these ages. Ideas are floating around in my head - quite dangerous for a 59 year old because you never know where they are going to land - as to what form this blog will take. So join with me in this endeavor and add what comments or questions that you may have and let's see where we will journey together .