Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Homework Help ~ Get a Routine

Homework will be most successful if you stick to a routine. Try to do homework in the same place and at the same time every day. This helps kids to get into the homework mode. Also, if there is a set routine it helps kids to know what is expected of them. With kid's schedules as busy as they are, it can be tough to stick to a routine, but really work on making it a priority. Try to create a routine that will work for your family, and then stick to it!

Some routine suggestions:

  • Don't put it off! Try to get it done as soon as you get home.
  • No TV, videogames, etc. until homework is done. If your children are able to come straight home from school, they may have a long enough evening that you could give them a half hour to unwind first. However, if children have daycare or after school activities, there may not be enough time to schedule in some down time before homework. It's nice to have time to relax before bedtime as well. That will help kids get to sleep better. If your evening does have enough time for relaxation before homework, consider outdoors time rather than TV and videogames. This is great for several reasons. First, TV leads from one show to another, and soon your schedule is shot or you are fighting with your child. Videogames can be the same way; ever heard, "I have to finish this level. I can't save it yet!"? Another point is that later on it will be too dark to go outdoors, so encourage it while it's still early.
  • If you break routine, determine to get right back on it the next day.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Website Review ~ A + Math

Website: Aplusmath.com
Appropriate for ages: 6 – 10    
Helps with: Math

Review: This website has math games, flashcards, worksheets, and help for homework. I like the home work helper because it allows kids to put in the problem along with their answer. Then, it tells them if it's correct or if they should give it another try. I like that feature because it does not just give kids the answers. It makes them figure it out for themselves. I think you will find quite a bit of math activities for your kids to experiment with.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Working with Dialogue

Practice the punctuation of dialogue by using comic strips. Have the child write the comic in paragraph form. This way he can focus on his punctuation instead of coming up with dialogue. It is a great way to practice, but kids enjoy it a bit more than usual because it involves comics.

Via I Love that Teaching Idea

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Book Review ~ Pirate Girl

Title: Pirate Girl

Author: Cornelia Funke

Accelerated Reader (AR) Level: 3 (worth a half point)

Ages that Will Enjoy the Book: 5-8

Movie Version Available: no

Review: This is a picture book. The author incorporates some larger words, which is a nice feature. Younger kids will be able to understand it, yet broaden their horizons at the same time. The book is a little quirky. That can be a good thing, but I didn't really care too much for this book. It is pretty hum-drum. It reminded me of the Pippi Longstocking books, but without the humor and with a less interesting plot. I think it was a bit too predictable, and I was not a fan of the illustrations. I like bold, colorful, cartoon-like pictures in a picture book. These illustrations reminded me more of The Farside comics, or a Shel Silverstein book. However, sometimes young children are far less critical. Maybe a young child would enjoy this story. I think the fact that it is a bout pirates should work in its favor.

Also by Cornelia Funke

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Math Dice

To practice addition, subtraction, or multiplication, get some dice! Have your child roll the dice then add, subtract, or multiply the 2 numbers shown. It's good practice, but children enjoy it a little more, because it feels more like a game. For older children, add more dice. They can either add 3-4 numbers, or they can use them in pairs to make two digit numbers.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Website Review ~ Weather Eye

Website: http://weathereye.kgan.com/cadet/forecast/figger_cloud.html
Appropriate for ages: 8 - 12
Helps with: Science     

Review: This website teaches kids how to predict the weather by looking at clouds. Then, it gives them a couple opportunities to try out their new skill. I think it will be interesting for kids, because it is something they can try in real life. After trying the little quiz, you can try wind forecasting if you like.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Predict the Future

When kids read, it is good to have them predict what will happen later on in the book. That keeps them engaged in the book. It also teaches them to pay attention to foreshadowing (clues the author leaves to hint about what will happen.) Any time you can get children to pay more attention to what they are reading, you are bound to improve comprehension. You should ask questions to children as you read about what will happen next. (Perhaps at the end of a chapter or an exciting point in the story would be a good time.) Later, talk about if the predictions were correct or not.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Book Review ~ The Boxcar Children Series

Title: The Boxcar Children series

Author: Gertrude Chandler Warner

Accelerated Reader (AR) Level: 3-4 (worth 2-3 points)

Ages that Will Enjoy the Book: 7-11

Movie Version Available: No

Review: These books were my first chapter books. I started reading them in first grade, and I was hooked on them. They are a little bit older, but I think kids will still enjoy them. The idea of being on your own as children is quite an adventure for little imaginations, and then the children find their grandfather, who turns out to be wealthy. It is quite an intriguing setting. I like several things about this series. For one, the books really promote good family relationships. The brothers and sisters are very kind to each other and they really look out for each other as well. Another nice thing about this series is the quality of the mysteries; they are challenging for young minds without being overly frightening. That can be a difficult balance to find in a child's mystery, but I think the Boxcar Children books have struck it perfectly.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Facts and Opinions

Next time you are watching TV with your kids, make the commercials into an educational time. Have your kids listen for facts and opinions in the commercials. List the facts and opinions that you noticed in the commercials verbally. See who can find more.

Via I Love that Teaching Idea!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Website Review ~ AAA Math

Website: www.aaamath.com
Appropriate for ages: 7-11
Helps with: math    

Review: This site is designed to help children practice writing numbers in expanded and standard forms. First you will see a brief description of how expanded form works. Scroll down and there is a box for practicing. You must push start. Then, the computer will give you three digit numbers written in expanded form. The child needs to write the number in standard form and push enter. I have noticed as a teacher, that some kids have a tough time grasping this concept. I think that if your child falls into that category, this would be excellent practice. It gives some easier and some tougher problems to help them practice on all kinds of numbers. The down side is that I did not find a place to practice going the other direction (turning standard form into expanded form.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Colorful Spelling Words

Writing spelling words can be monotonous practice. To make it more fun, have your child write them with crayons or colored pencils. There are several activities you can do with the crayons:

* Write your spelling words with two or three colors in your hand. Kids enjoy the way it looks, but make sure they work to keep the letters neat so it is readable as well.

* Pick one color for vowels and one for consonants. Write your spelling words using the two colors to distinguish between the two.

* Many spelling lists work on phonics, prefixes, suffixes, or a certain grammar rule. Highlight the featured rule(s) in a special color. For example, the list works with words that have double consonants like the word hitting. So, they would write the word hitting using a special color to write the "tt" part.

* Write each syllable in a different color. If they aren't sure, they can look up syllable divisions in a dictionary.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Book Review ~ Duck

Title: Duck

Author: Randy Cecil

Accelerated Reader (AR) Level: 3 (worth a half point)

Ages that Will Enjoy the Book: 8 and under

Movie Version Available: no

Review: This is a picture book that is written by a man who is primarily an illustrator. The illustrations are too cute, and the story is charming. Duck is a carousel animal that lives quite a life on the side. He is full of hopes, dreams, and the ability to love. I thought it was a great little book, and my four month old seemed to enjoy it as well.

Also by Randy Cecil (some he authored and some he illustrated)

Friday, March 13, 2009

World Map Skills

This is an idea for working on world map skills. Get a copy of a world map (preferably one you can write on) or print one. (Click here if you need a map to print.) You will also need your local Yellow Pages. Have your child flip to the section where restaurants are listed. Then, have him map the restaurants matching them up with the country the food originates from. For example: In Italy you could write down Olive Garden, etc.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Website Review ~ Free Rice

Website: www.freerice.com
Appropriate for ages: 8 and up
Helps with: math, vocabulary, foreign languages, geography

Review: This is a great site because children can practice scholastic skills and help fight hunger around the world at the same time. The idea is that you pick a subject and answer questions. For each question that you answer correctly, 10 grains of rice are donated to hungry people through the UN World Food Program. If you go to freerice.com, it will automatically put you in the vocabulary section. But, if you go to the top of the page, you can click on the subjects tab. That will give you the option of answering questions about famous art, chemistry, English grammar or vocabulary, geography, foreign language, and math. Kids can pick a topic of interest and try their best to answer (learning new things at random,) or they can pick a topic like multiplication where even an upper elementary student could be successful. It is a great way to practice your multiplication facts while helping others at the same time. The nice thing about the site is that you can adjust the level of the questioning. Also, the site learns to adapt to your skill level. Questions get gradually tougher, but as you start to miss them, they start to ease up again. As you get questions correct, your bowl (on the right side of the page) will fill up with rice.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Timed Flashcards

Flashcards are a great way to help kids study. Here's an idea to take it one step farther: use Power Point to create a simple slide show of the flashcards. (Even if you have no experience with Power Point, you could put together a slide show quite easily.) The great thing about using Power Point is that you can time the child's response easily. You can set the slides to change every so many seconds, so that you know if the child answers in time. This would be a great tool for practicing any timed response. For example: math facts, sight words, vocabulary words, etc. Then, the child has until the slide changes to answer.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Book Review ~ Wayside School Series

Title: Wayside School

Author: Louis Sacher

Accelerated Reader (AR) Level: 3 (worth 3-4 points)

Ages that Will Enjoy the Book: 8 - 12

Movie Version Available: Yes (animated – not really a common movie though, also a weekly cartoon)

Review: I love to read these books with my class. They are so animated and full of child-like imagination. Kids love to imagine all of the nonsense that goes on in Wayside School. Kids will laugh their way through the entire series. I must admit that I enjoy it as well. It is a nice story for kids who are just starting out on chapter books because each chapter is a standalone story. It makes a large undertaking like beginning a chapter book, more possible since it can be done in small steps.

Also by Louis Sachar

Monday, March 9, 2009

Test Taking Tip ~ Multiple choice

More and more, tests are becoming multiple choice. It is a great idea to give your kids a few pointers on how to test well. Obviously, it's not a great idea to guess on your tests, but if your child can not come up with the answer, then it is nice to have an idea of how to pick wisely.

One thing to pay attention to on multiple choice is distracters. The wrong answers are called distracters, for obvious reasons. Often, two or three of the answers will be very similar or have quite a bit in common. That way if you are close to the right answer, but not 100% sure, the similar answers make it a bit more difficult. However, if you have no idea of where to head on the answer, this can help you as well. Look for the answers that have some similarity. That should help narrow your choice just a bit. It will most likely be one of those answers. This technique may increase your odds to a 50/50 or one out of three.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Website Review ~ Hippo Campus

Website: http://www.hippocampus.org/
Appropriate for ages: 8 and up    
Helps with: Math, Science, Government, History, Psychology, and Statistics    

Review: This website is a great tool. You can search through all of the topics listed above and find video lessons on hundreds of subtopics. For example, you can search U.S. History and find videos of most major historical events. Additionally, you can switch to the textbook tab and search through quite a few textbooks. Each textbook includes a list of topics to help you find what you are looking for quickly. This site is very easy to navigate through and holds a wealth of information.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Memorization Tip ~ Rhyming Phrases

When you are memorizing information, creating a rhyming phrase can really help you remember something. I find myself thinking "30 days hath September, April, June, and November..." any time that I need to know if a month has 30 or 31 days. Another example is, "In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue." Recalling this information is easy because I know a little rhyme to help me remember it. I have applied this to help me study for numerous tests (especially history with all of its facts and dates.) Maybe next time you help your child study for a test, you can come up with some sort of rhyming phrase to help him remember the information.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Book Review ~ Shadow Children Series

Title: Shadow Children Series (Among the Hidden)

Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix

Accelerated Reader (AR) Level: 4-5 (worth 5-7 points)

Ages that Will Enjoy the Book: 12-15

Movie Version Available: no

Review: I really enjoyed these books. They are full of suspense and plot twists. They are written on the fourth and fifth grade level, but use caution before giving them to children that age. I know a few fourth graders that love this series, but many students that age would not be ready for them yet. They are set in a future society where government leaders have decided that there is not enough food. To "fix" this problem, they decree that each family may only have two children. The series follows several children who were born into families already having two children. They must, consequently, live in hiding or get a new identity. The children, their families, and their supporters try to change the government so all children can be safe. Some situations may be too intense for younger children. However, if your kids are old enough to handle these books, they are very well written. Readers will be kept on the edge of their seats at all times.

Also by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Teach Me

Next time you have been working on a skill or concept with your child, have him try to "teach you" the material. This is a great way to assess if your child has grasped the concept or not. If a child can teach it back to you, then he has truly mastered what he was learning. It is also a great way to find areas that still need a little polish. Children usually like to feel like they are teaching an adult something new, so it should not be too hard to get your child to cooperate. Ask questions to make sure he explores all areas of the material in his lesson. Obviously, this idea will not work too well if the student has not understood the material himself. So, make sure you cover it thoroughly before having him teach it back to you.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Website Review ~ Kids Health

Website: http://kidshealth.org/index.html
Appropriate for ages: 8 and up
Helps with: Learning about health

Review: This website has individual pages for parents, kids, and teens. The site provides articles about health as well as ideas for science experiments and health related puzzles. The kids' site is very age appropriate. I think that kids might enjoy some of the puzzles. Also, I think this site would be very helpful if a student needs to do any research relating to health. There are lots of articles to read and a glossary of medical terms.