Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tour Your City

Many times people do not do the "touristy" things in their own city. Take a "vacation" in your own city this summer. Go to a welcome center to pick up brochures, and look on your city's website for more ideas. Visit museums, monuments, landmarks, festivals, zoos, science museums, etc. Most places have discounted prices for kids. Sometimes, you can even find places that are free or offer free times on off days (usually Monday - Thursday through the day.) You may be surprised by educational and cultural activities in your area!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Book Review ~ Amber Brown is not a Crayon

Title: Amber Brown is not a Crayon

Author: Paula Danzinger

Accelerated Reader (AR) Level: 3 (worth 1 point)

Ages that Will Enjoy the Book: 7-11

Movie Version Available: no

Review: This book is a bit predictable. It is made to be a beginner chapter book, so kids may not mind a predictable story. The plot line is simple with a few breaks in the main story for some humor attempts. As basic as this book is, I think that young kids may enjoy it.

Other Amber Brown books

Also by Paula Danzinger

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Check Out Your Library

Now is the time to find out what your library offers. The summer will be upon us soon! Many libraries offer programs that you may be interested in such as:
  • Summer Reading contests/programs
  • Kids' programs
  • Book Mobile - Some libraries offer a book mobile that travels around the area for people who cannot make it to the actual building. You can order books on-line and then pick up them up close to your house on the book mobile. You can also return books to the book mobile.
  • Movies - Many libraries are now loaning new movies. You usually can only keep them for a few days. (Think Block Bluster, but often it's free.)
  • Audio books - These could be an alternative to CONSTANT movie watching on a road trip.
For more information ask your librarian or look on their website to see what your library is offering this summer.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Website Review ~ NASA Kid’s Club


Appropriate for ages: 6-13

Helps with: Science

Review: This website has several games for kids. Many are educational. At the top you can click on the level you want to play on and it will scroll to the appropriate games. The bottom has games that are for all ages. Kids can play with Buzz Lightyear and learn space facts, and science skills, or dress up for space while learning about the parts of a space suit. There are quite a few game options.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Memorization Tip ~ Sing a Song

Learning a list to a simple tune can really help you recall the information. In fact, just this last Saturday, I was talking to a ninth grader from my church. He was telling me that he had to learn the list of prepositions to a tune. That reminded me of when I was in Junior High. I had to learn the list of prepositions too. I had used the tune to "10 Little Indians". Immediately they all cam back, "Aboard, about, above, across, after, against, along, amid..." I could remember them easily because I had learned them to a tune. Help your children come up with little songs to learn things. It will stick with them for a long time.

Also, along the lines of learning through songs, Animaniacs was a popular cartoon when I was in upper elementary school. I bought some of their tapes. They turned out to be very educational. They are not in print anymore, but you can find them on Amazon. They have songs that help you learn your states and capitals, the water cycle, how to say hello in several languages, islands of the world, countries of the world (probably somewhat out of date now,) the planets and their order, your senses, the U.S. presidents (through Clinton,) and many more. I to this day sing parts of these songs in my head to remember some of the more obscure presidents or state capitals. Upon meeting someone from another country, I can remind myself of a greeting in their language from "The Hello Song". They are pretty good CDs. Along with the educational stuff there are also several fun songs on each album, and in Animaniacs tradition, they are very silly and kid appropriate.

Yakko's World
Animaniacs Variety Pack

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Book Review ~ Cluck O’ Clock

Title: Cluck O' Clock

Author: Kes Gray

Accelerated Reader (AR) Level: 2 (worth a half point)

Ages that Will Enjoy the Book: 7 and under

Movie Version Available: No

Review: This is a charming little picture book about a day in the life of a few hens that live together on a farm. The book is written in a lyrical rhyming form. I think it will really appeal to young readers/listeners. In my opinion, a good picture book must have good illustrations. The illustrations in this book are very cute. They are full of beautiful colors and attention to details. I love it when the pictures build on what the author writes to add further information. This book does a great job in that area. I enjoyed reading it, and I think that kids will enjoy it as well.

Also by Kes Gray

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Memorization Tip ~ Acrostics

Try to learn things by making an acrostic. When you have to learn a list of things, try to make a word out of the first letters. Some times this can be difficult, and you may have to tweak the words a little bit to make it fit, but if you can come up with an acrostic, it will help kids remember the list a lot better come test time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Website Review ~ National Library of Virtual Manipulatives

Appropriate for ages: 7-12
Helps with: math    

Review: This website has every kind of math manipulative imaginable. You can make charts, practice with money, work with base 10 blocks, try patterns, use number lines, and much more. This is great for practice. I think it also may help with homework. Often kids get to practice with these kinds of items in class, but most families do not have these kits at home. By using this website, kids can use familiar items to help them visualize homework problems.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Toy Spelling Bea

When I was young, my mom helped me learn my spelling list by putting on a Spelling Bea. I would get all my toys together and have them spell my words out. If "they" were wrong, they were out of the contest. Try starting with a set number of toys (like 5 or 10.) Go through the list of words 2 or 3 times. To make it fun you can set a reward for each toy who makes it through to the end. Keep it small; offer something like 3 Skittles or M&Ms per toy that "wins" the Spelling Bea.

As a side note... my husband and I have disagreed on if it is a Spelling Bea or a Spelling Bee. I googled it to find out. Apparently many people spell it both ways. This is what I came across...

"Yes, 'bee' was the first word in history to be misspelled. Someone spelled it 'B' trying to be cute in 1776.

In 1850 when they tried to correct their mistake, they tried, 'be'. But that was wrong.

A committee was formed in 1941 at the start of WWII and a competition was held. It was composed of all women, since the men had been drafted.

The female mastermind Bea Este Masters took home the prize of 50 jars of honey with her correct spelling of 'bee'. Hence, the 'Spelling Bea' was coined, named after her. And people have been misspelling the event ever since."

Friday, April 17, 2009

Book Review ~ Judy Moody

Title: Judy Moody was in a Mood. Not a Good Mood. A Bad Mood.

Author: Megan McDonald

Accelerated Reader (AR) Level: 3 (worth 1 point)

Ages that Will Enjoy the Book: 7 - 10

Movie Version Available: No

Review: This is a book in a series of books about Judy Moody. She is quite a fireball with big hopes, dreams, and criticisms. It is a good transition into chapter books because the print is large, and the book is not that long. Parts of the book are pretty funny. It is written to appeal to a child's sense of humor, frustration, etc.

Other Judy Moody books

Also by Megan McDonald

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Teachers often use rubrics (a written plan for how to grade something) when they are grading things like projects, speeches, writing papers, etc. Ask them ahead of time if you can get a copy. Keep it out so your child (and you) can refer to it as you work on these types of things. Teach your child how to make a plan to achieve the desired level. This is great practice for kids, and it teaches them that they can control the outcome of their grades.

I graded all of the students' writing papers this way. I tried to teach them these skills, but a little extra practice with it at home goes a long way to help "make it stick."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Website Review ~ RIF Reading Planet

Appropriate for ages: 7 and under    
Helps with: Reading

Review: This is a place where you can read books (picture books) on-line. The site will read out loud for the child, but words are also on the screen so kids can practice reading along. Several books are available.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Edible Geometry

When you start working with shapes and 3D figures, get some marshmallows and toothpicks. Poke the toothpicks into the marshmallows to make your figures. When you get to upper elementary and kids start learning about vertices, edges, and faces, this will also help. Marshmallows are vertices; toothpicks are edges; and faces are the open spaces in between.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Book Review ~ Silly Goose

Title: Silly Goose

Author: Marni McGee

Accelerated Reader (AR) Level: N/A

Ages that Will Enjoy the Book: 8 and under

Movie Version Available: No

Review: The illustrations in this picture book are beautifully done. Kids will enjoy looking at this book as much as they enjoy the story. The book is about a fox who is trying to trick a goose into being his lunch. However, goose has some loyal friends who will try to help him out. The story is cute, and the entire book is adorable.

Also by Marni McGee

Friday, April 10, 2009

Homework Help ~ Motivation

It can be hard to motivate kids to do their homework. The younger they are, the easier it seems to be to motivate them. Often, the younger kids like doing their homework because it makes them feel grown up. However, as they get older and the homework starts to pile on, it starts to get old quick. Sometimes the only motivation that works is "no TV or video games till homework is done." If you are looking for other simple ideas some are listed below.
*Have special homework pencils or pens that are ONLY for homework. (For younger children, cartoon characters should work. Older kids may like a special color or grip.)
*Ask teachers if they mind homework being on special paper or done in special ink colors. Some teachers do mind, so check first, but I know that I never minded because it was something fun for kids. If teachers don't mind, you could let them use colored paper or green colored pencils. Getting to do something unconventional makes it a bit more fun.
*Let kids enjoy their afternoon snack during homework time. Obviously, this works best if the snack is something dry and not too messy.
*Let kids "get comfy" to do their homework. Sitting on a beanbag chair can be fun during homework time.

If you have ideas to add, please share them in the comments below.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Website Review ~ Language Adventure

Appropriate for ages: 5 and up
Helps with: Spanish Vocabulary         

Review: This website has categories of words (like food, verbs, etc.) After clicking on the category you will see pictures to illustrate different words. The Spanish word for that picture is underneath the graphic. If you click on the picture, the site will pronounce the word for you so that you can hear it. I noticed that I had to keep hitting the back button on my browser after listening to the pronunciation, however. This is a nice website, because kids absorb new languages so well. The optimal time to learn a new language has been reported to be 12 and under. Also, young children are interested in trying new languages, so this can be a good way to expose them to new words in Spanish. After kids have mastered the words, there is a link to try a few games. (You actually have to click on the description below the word games and not on the actual word "games.") Kids can try to play matching type games here to test out their new language skills.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Homework Help ~ Philosophy

Check with your child's teacher(s) to find out what his or her philosophy on homework is. Some teachers want homework to be done completely independently. They do not want parents to help because they plan on grading the work. Other teachers want parents to be partial participants, letting the kids do the work and the parents check it. Still others want parents to be highly involved. This is my personal preference. I want parents to re-teach anything that kids do not understand. I teach during class the way that I've found to work best for the majority of students. However, your child may not be in the majority. You as a parent can work with your child to find the style that works best for him. You can try different methods until he gets it down. Typically teachers will not want you to give the answers to your child, because that will not teach him how to do it. Teaching how to do it (without giving the answers away) is a whole different story. That is very helpful. Once the child understands how to do the work, make sure you give the child an opportunity to try some problems on his own. He needs that practice before he gets all the way to the test. I also wanted parents to check problems and have kids fix problems that were incorrect.

Talk to your teacher(s), and find out how they feel about homework. Then, coordinate your evening homework routine to fit that particular model.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Book Review ~ Molly and Her Dad

Title: Molly and Her Dad

Author: Jan Ormerod

Accelerated Reader (AR) Level: I could not find an AR quiz currently available

Ages that Will Enjoy the Book: 4-8

Movie Version Available: No

Review: This is a picture book about a little girl named Molly who wants to know her father better. She doesn't know a lot about him, so she makes it all up in her mind. Then, he comes to visit for a week while her mom is out of town. The story is OK, but I think it would be nice to have just a few more details about his trip. It seems to be the focal point of the book, yet it rushes by quite quickly. It feels like Molly's dad is only there for 2 or 3 days instead of a week. The illustrations remind me a little bit of Ramona Quimby in the Beverly Cleary books. They seem to be done with chalks. While they are not particularly my style of art, some of them are pretty cute, and I love that they elaborate on the narrative. It's hard to grow up without a dad. Maybe this book could help.

Also by Jan Ormerod

Monday, April 6, 2009

Homework Help ~ Atmosphere

Homework needs to be done as far away from distractions as possible. The living room or the kitchen table can work (especially if you want to be around to help,) but only if you can keep siblings, pets, and general noise at bay. If that is not possible, their bedroom or a study will probably be your best bet. Distractions are not only extrinsic, however. Intrinsic distractions can be just as problematic. You don't have to be a parent too long to figure this out! Try to have the homework place set up so that these distractions are as limited as possible. For example, have a supply of pencils (to replace the one that will inevitably get broken,) plenty of paper, perhaps a drink of water, and anything else your child typically needs. This will help your child focus, and hopefully get through his homework quicker.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Website Review ~ Animal Corner

Appropriate for ages: 7-12
Helps with: Science, Research    

Review: This website is full of animal information. It's not the most kid friendly layout, but they will quickly figure it out. Kids might like to even just look around on the site just for fun, but I can see it being a big help if they have to write an animal report. Animals are categorized by where they live to help kids find what they are looking for.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


To practice synonyms, start out by having your child write a common kid's song or poem. For example, have him write "Shoo fly don't bother me." Then, have him change the lyrics to come up with as many synonyms as possible. The song could end up something like leave bug don't annoy me. It's not important that it fits with the tune anymore. Just focus on coming up with good synonyms.

Via, I Love that Teaching Idea

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Book Review ~ Charlie Hits it Big

Title: Charlie Hits it Big

Author: Deborah Blumenthal

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

Ages that Will Enjoy the Book: 10 and under

Movie Version Available: No

Review: This is a cute little book about a guinea pig that runs off to find fame and fortune in Hollywood. The little girl that takes care of him is quite distraught to find him missing, but Charlie leaves a note to tell her where he has gone. The illustrations are adorable; there are a couple that are quite humorous (Charlie flying on the airplane sitting on 3 pillows and his suitcase so he can reach his tray and Charlie getting his foot stepped on.) The story is also very charming. Charlie apparently does not realize that he is not a human! I think you will enjoy this little picture book.

Also by Deborah Blumenthal