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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Creating Teachable Moments at Home with Money

If there's one thing we know for sure, it's that children do not understand the value of $money$. It's an age old complaint from parents, and with the Christmas season just over the river and through the woods, why not do something about it?
Consider this... You could dedicate the beginning of the new year to engaging in fun-filled, educational activities with your children- around money! Of course you can begin any time! I like beginning on the first day with a penny, because it adds some significance to the learning and the investigation of each number. You could begin your investigation on the first day after a birthday, the first day of the month, any day!

Book Bums strives to equip and inspire parents when it comes to creating teachable moments and generating high interest and energy for learning with kids. We thought, with the new year approaching, that teaching kids about money would be great way to get started with that goal.

You won't need much to begin. A handful of coins (the more the better), printer paper, crayons, a magnifying glass, a water dropper, a blank scrap book (homemade is fine), on-line access to information about coins and what's on them, and some books will get you off to a great start. You may want to download the song, "Playground in My Mind" by Clint Holmes, too. The lyrics for the chorus of that song will present opportunities for interactive literacy lessons. More information may be found below.

Here's the plan...
You may purchase a piggy bank for each child (for Christmas?) along with a note explaining that you will be doing some exciting things with them learning about money. Then, (on the first day of January?), announce to your children that you will be be giving them one penny a day. It will be important for you to keep up with this, consistently, for the first 25 days at least. After that, it's okay to allow a few days a week to slip by without adding money to the bank, but be sure to catch the bank up periodically so that on the 50th day you present a half dollar, and then, on the hundredth day, a dollar.

Day one- 1 cent, 1 penny
BEGIN PRACTICING COUNTING TO 100 by ones with pennies -min. 100 pennies needed (but not all may be needed early on)
When counting by 1s, tap one pointer finger on the palm of the opposite hand.
Print a few 100s charts from the following address:
You can fill in one number per day on a blank one and also point to the numbers as you count on an additional chart that's filled in with properly formed numbers 1-100. Sometimes you'll point to the numerals while you count. Other times you'll move pennies, one by one, to a new space on the table, counting as high as possible, with the goal of counting to 100. On day five, you'll begin counting by 5s , so you can color in boxes of the numbers you say when counting by fives with a particular color. When you get to dimes, you can simply outline the box since all of those numbers will have already been colored in. When you get to 25s, you can add an additional color to the box outline. Of course you'll continually review counting by ones, fives, tens, and twenty-fives. After you've got a handle on those, you may add counting by twos with the pennies.

As you count together (in the car, at the table, in the bathtub etc.) you can have your child hold out one finger and tap it on the palm of the opposite hand to indicate you're counting by ones.
Day two- 2 cents, 2 pennies
Day three- 3 cents, 3 pennies
Day four- 4 cents, 4 pennies
Day five- 5 cents, 5 pennies, trade for 1 nickel
BEGIN PRACTICING COUNTING BY 5s with nickels -min. 20 nickels needed
When counting by fives, chant and clap an open hand on top of the opposite open hand, parallel with the ground.

*Emphasize that we always count coins beginning with the coins that have the greatest values!*

Day six- 6 cents, 1 nickel and 1 penny
Day seven- 7 cents, 1 nickel and 2 pennies
Day eight- 8 cents, 1 nickel and 3 pennies
Day nine- 9 cents, 1 nickel and 4 pennies
Day ten- 10 cents,1 nickel and 5 pennies, trade for 1 dime
BEGIN PRACTICING COUNTING BY 10s with dimes -min. 10 dimes needed
When counting by tens, clap two fives together, fingertips up.

Day fifteen- 15 cents, allow child to choose: 1 dime + 1 nickel, 3 nickels, etc.

Day twenty-five- 25 cents, trade 25 cents for 1 quarter
BEGIN PRACTICING COUNTING BY 25s with quarters -min. 4 quarters needed
When counting by 25s, hold up10, then put fingers down and hold up ten again, then hold up 5 more (quickly!). It almost works with the syllables in the number words (twen-ty-five, fif--ty, seven-ty-five, one-hun-dred.)

After this, allow children to make any logical combination of coins, helping as much as needed.

Each day, record how much money you have (on a dry erase board, a chalk board, with magnetic numbers and letters on the fridge...) in numbers and words.

e.g. day 1- one cent 1c $0.01

If you keep it going, of course, by the end of one year, each child will have $3.65 and a lot of fun experiences learning about money!

For at least 100 days, you will dedicate about 15 minutes or so, a few days a week, to experimenting with and talking about coins. You'll give your child a penny a day, and record how much money you have all together, each day. Divide up the activities so that it makes sense with your timeline. Don't be rigid, and make it a point to follow your children's lead. That's where the magic begins!

To begin, on day one, read a children's book such as "Bennie's Pennies" or even "Henny Penny" and then present your child with a shiny, new penny. Make any connection with the story that is logical and engaging. You will be surprised to see how excited your kids can become when you get excited with them about a topic!

First, look at the penny together. I mean really look at it. Use the magnifying glass and notice everything you see. Who's the guy? What's the building? Can you see that teeny, tiny figure in the middle of the building? What words do you see? Begin to wonder together about what it is that is there on the penny and consider why it's there. Have some informative materials ready. Have you traveled to D.C.? Pull out the memorial photos with you in them! You can do a web search, get out the ol' encyclopedia, or check out some books from the library. Of course, your teaching materials will vary, depending on the age of your children. Read whatever it is that you choose ahead of time, so that you can get to the good stuff quickly and your children don't lose interest. Jot a few notes about what you find. ("Oh! His name is Abraham Lincoln and he was our 16th president... Let's make a note of that. Let's see, it's a name, so we'll start with a capital letter...") I like to read books such as Abe Lincoln's Hat, by Brenner and A Picture Book of Abraham Lincoln, by Adler. If you have really young children, do a "picture walk" noticing the pictures and read only the words that you believe may be of interest to your child. Any notes may be affixed to a page in the scrapbook I mentioned in the "materials needed" section.

To add literacy focused lessons, I suggest you download the "Playground in My Mind" song, or just watch it enough on youtube enough to become familiar with the tune.

We're going to change it up a bit so that with each new coin introduced, we'll have a song to sing featuring that coin. You'll also want to print the lyrics so that you can promote one-to-one correspondence, pointing to words as you sing them. Simply copy/paste the following lyrics into a Word document. Increase the font size, and I also suggest using the font "Comic Sans MS" because it has the most standard letter formation. (e.g. no curly letters like "a" and "g")

Days 1-5
My name is Jenny. I got a penny.
I got a penny, shiny and new.
I'm gonna buy me one piece of candy.
That's what I'm gonna do.

Days 5-10
My name is Michael. I got a nickel.
I got a nickel, shiny and new.
I'm gonna buy me five kinds of candy.
That's what I'm gonna do.

Days 10-25
My name is Ryan. I got a dime.
I got a dime, shiny and new.
I'm gonna buy me ten kinds of candy.
That's what I'm gonna do.

Days 25-?
My name is Porter. I got a quarter.
I got a quarter, shiny and new.
I'm gonna buy twenty-five kinds of candy.
That's what I'm gonna do.

Here are some additional, fun activities you may choose (one a day or so) to engage with your child in fun, educational ways. You'll change the the coins but the activities will remain the same for each new coin introduced. Remember that we're using coins to promote: curiosity about the world around us, a love for learning, opportunities to extend learning, the building of background knowledge, and foster parent/child interactions at home.

Listen to the sounds your bank makes when you shake it. Note how the sound changes when you add more and more coins! Students may shake their banks like rhythm instruments as they sing their song each day! It's practice keeping a steady beat, too!

Ask your kids to chose a crayon that is about the same color as the coin you're focusing on and do some rubbings. Place the coin on the table and cover with a plain piece of white printer paper or add the appropriate coin rubbing border to your song lyrics sheet for each coin ("Playground in my Mind"). Gently rub the crayon over the coin. Viola! It's instant fun! Be sure to include both "heads" and "tails" sides of the penny. Sometimes children need help holding the penny in place or it wiggles and the picture isn't as satisfying. Simply hold the coin with the tips of your nails, on top of the paper or glue the coins (one heads up and one tails up) to piece of heavy paper or right on the table and let it dry. Label at least one "heads" with the word "head" and one "tails" with the word "tails."

Kids will cut appropriately colored construction paper (brown or gray) into circles. (Begin with squares and teach children to trim off the four corners to turn them into circles.) Encourage kids to create their own two-sided pennies, including both heads and tails.

Create silhouettes of your children (like those of the presidents) by shining a bright light on their faces, turned sideways, and tracing the outline on a large piece of large, white paper.

Next, introduce the "Heads and Tails Game." Demonstrate for your children how to write the words "Heads" and "Tails," one on each side (left and right) of the paper. Make each sound you hear in the word as you write it. {You may notice together that when two vowels (a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y) are together, the first one usually says its name. Note here that "tails" follows the rule, but "heads" does not.} Draw a line under each heading. Next, show your kids how to hold a penny in your joined, cupped hands, shake it up, and drop the penny onto the table. Begin keeping a tally of each drop. Heads or tails? Which one gets 10 tallies first? Try it again. Which one this time? Add this work to the scrap book.

Next, let's try the water drop experiment. You'll need a small container of water and a water dropper. I strongly advise that you practice using a dropper before introducing the penny. Explain how droppers work. Squeeze the bulb, place the tip into the water, release the bulb, and see how the water climbs into the dropper. Demonstrate how to gently squeeze one drop at a time. This may take some practice, and it's a great way to work on fine motor skills! Place a penny on a plate or tray. Have students predict how many drops of water will fit onto the penny without the water spilling off. Remind children to avoid touching the tip of the dropper to the surface and allow them to begin dripping water, one drop at a time, onto the penny. This is so much fun to do. If you have older children, you can do the experiment many times and find the "average" number of water drops that can fit on a penny. (To find the average, add the total number of drops used in each experiment and then divide that number by the number of times you did the experiment.) Keep track of the number drops you used in your scrapbook so that you can, later, compare it with the nickel, dime, quarter, and half dollar! Note, too, the magnifying effect of the water (when a convex meniscus is formed) on the penny.

Here's a video of dropping water on a penny. I still am amazed when I watch and do this experiment. You, if you feel it's appropriate, could discuss "surface tension" with your child as well.

Here's an additional experiment you may wish to try!

Hint: Never "dumb down" what you find. Kids are learning sponges, and with some energy and repetition, they are capable of so much more than we can imagine! Please DO say words such as "surface tension" and "convex meniscus!" Kids are often motivated to learn when it feels more sophisticated. Repeat academic terms often. Ask your child to repeat them after you.

Science connection... Have some dull pennies? See what cleans them the best: ketchup, lemon juice, or salt and vinegar!

You may wish to invest in coin stamps for both heads and tails (and a black stamp pad) or stop in at Book Bums to borrow ours to make board games for your learners. Vary "heads" and "tails" and making a path around a piece of copy paper. First we color the coin the appropriate color. Then we use the coin we're learning about and shake it (like the Heads 'n Tails Tally game), drop it on the table, and move one space if we land on heads and two spaces if we land on tails. Of course you can make your own rules. You can add pitfalls by making a red circle (or other) around some of the coins (e.g. Go back two spaces) or create jumps by making a green (or other) circle around some of the coins (e.g. Move forward two spaces). My students LOVE this game! You will need movers of some kind. Buttons, cereal pieces, or candy pieces (Skittles) work wonderfully! We want our kids to recognize that they do not need "store bought" items in order for fun learning to take place!

You may make "flip book" type pages for coins, too, to add to your scrap book. Fold a piece of appropriately construction paper in half. Cut a circle but keep the fold, at the top, intact. Draw a the "heads" on the front. Lift the flap and draw the "tails" on the opposite side of the "heads" (not the bottom circle, but the top). On the bottom portion, write the name of the coin and its value (e.g. penny- 1c). You can glue each coin to your scrapbook, making an interactive review activity!

Note: The "obverse" side usually has a head on it; hence the name "heads." The reverse side is therefore called "tails."

Invite your child to place all of this work in the new, plain scrapbook which will hold much of the work you do together with coins. It's a great way to store what you're learning for review, and kids like having a final product to proudly share with others! Allow your child to decorate the scrapbook. You may do it all at once or add to the cover, as you progress through the lessons. Always add photos of your child partaking in the activities you choose. Add "text" to the scrapbook by allowing your child to add labels, or by writing captions that your child may read, at least eventually. (If you make copies of the pages, this would make a great gift for relatives who live a long distance from you.)

Featured word for days 1-5: one
*I strongly advise that the word of the week is a word that does not follow a fairly consistent phonics rule. "Penny" follows the rule, but "one" does not. I'd choose "one" for the first four days. For the next featured word, I would not choose "five," but "nickel" instead. Since "dime" and "ten" both follow phonetic guidelines, I'd choose the word "cent" next, since it has the tricky soft c sound (/s/). Note : When "c" is followed by "e", "i", or "y", the "c" sounds like an "s." {ce, as in ice; ci, as in city; cy, as in bicycle} Same for "g" except it sounds like /j/. {ge, as in gentle; gi, as in giant; gy, as in gym} Choose words to feature every five days or so. Meanwhile, while writing in the scrapbook, constantly remember letters and sounds together as you stretch out words to write them and as you blend the sounds in the words you've already recorded.

To reinforce the reading and spelling of words, be creative! Make instant pudding together, and write the words in the pudding-- licking fingers allowed! Pour some sugar on a plate or small platter so that it just barely covers the surface. Write, wiggle the plate so the sugar fills the entire surface again/erases writing, write again. Say the name of each letter as you write the words, or make the sounds if that works. Always add the writing of the featured word with pencil/paper writing. Teach your child to hold his pencil properly and to form each letter correctly! This is so important if your child is old enough to pick up a pencil with the intention to write.

http://www.watchknow.org/Video.aspx?VideoID=12103 video- How to grip a writing tool

http://www.auburn.edu/~murraba/letters.html How to correctly form each letter

(At Book Bums, we have a particular order in which we teach children to properly form letters. It's a logical progression and it helps kids solidify many letters that children are often reversing; those tricky bs and ds & ps and qs, etc. More about that coming soon!)

When we got to quarters, my students became captivated by the different states represented on each coin. We then began collecting all of the states (plus 6 non-state quarters including Washington D.C. and the territories). I suggest that you consider purchasing a quarter collector map. I wish I had! See address:

What a great way to allow children to consider where they live and the states in their country! The map also includes states' statehood dates, capital, nickname, motto, state flower, and state bird. My students began learning about Ohio as a result of our coin investigation... led purely by their interest. Following their questions we had an "All About Ohio" display including maps of Ohio, our flag, a cardinal puppet, ladybugs, buckeyes, etc. It was like a mini Ohio museum! We danced and sang "Hang On Sloopy" (O-H-I-O!), tasted tomato juice and we're planning a birthday party for Ohio on March 1st! I hope you can already see how that party will create lots of opportunities for fun learning experiences. We'll write invitations, plan each activity, make snacks and cupcakes, and so much more! We also created an acronym to recall Ohio's neighboring states, labeled our state and its neighbors on a map along with our state capitol, and the nearest large city to where we live. Our US map has been a huge hit since this study, and we've begun learning about maps, cardinal directions, a compass, and even time zones!

Remember, I teach first graders! They are not all "getting" everything, but those who are are flourishing, and those who aren't are certainly making connections as they're ready. All instruction is connected to something our students are interested in. They are the driving force!

If your children are not interested, drop it! Forget the lessons presented here. It should not feel at all like "work." I'll continue to post more ideas for integrated learning opportunities you may take advantage of at home, and something will intrigue your young learner. Let me know if you have some ideas already! I'll get to work helping you to put some meaningful learning experiences together to grow your child as a lifelong learner!

More books about coins-
Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday, Viorst
Pennies, Welcome Books (There's one for each coin!)
The Penny Pot, Murphy
The Coin Counting Book, Williams
One Cent, Two Cent, Old Cent, New Cent, Worth & Ruiz

More books about Abraham Lincoln-
The Story of Abraham Lincoln, Pingry
Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books, Winters
A Picture Book of Abraham Lincoln, Adler
Abe Lincoln's Hat, Brenner
A. Lincoln and Me, Borden

Another resource- Littleton Coin Company -www.LittletonCoin.com
My students loved getting the sales catalogs!

Please post any comments, additional ideas, videos, books, your results to the experiments, etc. We want our blog to be as interactive as possible! Not all blogs will be this long, but we wanted to give a "big picture" of the lessons so you can have your eyes wide open as to ways we strive to make learning fun at Book Bums!

Friday, November 26, 2010

McCoach, et al. (2006) stated that “differences among schools may be largely a function of the differences among their students prior to school entry and that the widening of the achievement gap may result from differential growth rates during non-instructional periods” such as summer recesses. They indicated that the widening of the literacy gap during non-instructional periods may be occurring because of differences in family literacy practices, and that “If educators hope to close the reading achievement gap, they should consider concentrating their efforts on non-instructional periods” (2006, p.26).

In my short-lived, first attempt at blogging, I noted research that spells out what parents of successful readers do with their children. Then, in my second post, I said that, perhaps, it's a bit more than that. Reading with children, after all, may look entirely different from one family to the next. When looking at research, improving parents' "teaching" effectiveness seems to be a logical "next step" when it comes to children and literacy success.

Book Bums wants parents to be excited about snuggling up to read with their children, but we also want them to be equipped to make the most of the time they're investing so that their children will enjoy reading and will learn to read well. I believe that parental support is no longer an option. It is an essential ingredient in the education of our children.

What parents have done (or haven't done) before their children enter kindergarten has already set the stage for their children's literacy success. From there, teachers try to fill in gaps for students who are "behind" and they strive to teach next steps for the rest.

Even the most knowledgeable, well-intentioned teacher is limited as to what s/he can do for each child in a classroom filled with two dozen children, each with vastly varied needs. I have been teaching for nearly 23 years, I have almost completed my doctorate with a focus on early childhood literacy, and I love children with all that I am, and yet some days, as I'm hugging my students good-bye, I ask myself, "Did I even look into her eyes, today? Did I even hear his voice?" How could that kind of teaching ever take the place of a parent's? It couldn't!

We can teach parents how to effectively interact with their children so that they, indeed, raise readers. That's why Book Bums exists!

Look for more information on Reading Foundations, our workshops for parents and their preschool children.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Benjamin S. Bloom stated, “It is the adults in the home who serve to stimulate the child’s intellectual development, and it is the adults in the home who determine the basic preparation of the child for later learning in the school” (1981, p. 77). In 1990, Adams stated, “We are left with the conclusion that the likelihood that a child will succeed in the first grade depends, most of all, on how much she or he has already learned before getting there” (p. 8).

So, what are children doing with their parents before getting to first grade?

When I asked dozens of teachers what one message they would like to send to parents of preschoolers, they all said the same thing: Read with your child every day. Perhaps you are reading with your child, each day, because you understand that it is an important investment in your child's academic life. Great!

However, I would like to step out on thin ice and say that just reading with your child may not be enough.

Okay, so I began this blogging thing with encouragement; a list of ten simple things parents of successful readers do. Do those things, and you will experience joyful interactions with your child around books, while promoting reading success. It's true! Here's the thing...

I met a woman last evening who was crying, clearly broken, because she had read to her child every day, and yet her daughter is struggling in school. And this mom cannot afford the expensive, intensive instruction it will take to get her daughter back up to grade level expectations. *

So what went wrong, there?

I think I may have the answer. You see, it's more than the reading of the story that grows readers. It's the little things that some parents do without even knowing they're doing it. It's the noticing of the words together. It's the playing with the sounds in words. It's the rhyming games, and feeling of the musical rhythms of text. It's the discussions about "six silly snakes" all beginning with the same sound and that saying "the black back pack" has a special ring to it because all of the words end the same way. It's the writing of notes to grandma, where parents ask "What sound do you hear at the beginning of the word love?"

Educators call this Phonemic Awareness. Phonemes are the smallest units of sound produced in language (NRP, 2007). Phonemic awareness is different from Phonics in that letters are not necessarily assigned to the sounds. Phonemic Awareness comes before (and during, and even after) Phonics instruction- where letters are associated with the sounds. (Aren't we adults still drawn the sounds of language? We can become captivated when listening to people speaking another language without even understanding a word that is being said!) Researchers have stated that “Children who enter school with high phonemic awareness usually learn to read and write well, regardless of the literacy instruction method to which they are exposed” (DeBaryshe & Gorecki, 2007, p. 95). Wow. That's powerful!

*If your child needs intensive remediation, I can recommend intervention programs that utilize diagnostic evaluations and research-proven approaches to promote reading success. Of course, Book Bums strives to help in this area, but we can direct you to a more intensive intervention program than we provide, should it be needed.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It has been shown that preschool-aged children with strong oral language and emergent literacy skills demonstrate consistent advantages in language and academic performance as they progress through their formal schooling (Debaryshe & Gorecki, 2007; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). Though researchers and policy makers in the United States tend to focus on classroom interventions to improve students’ literacy success, recent research has shown that the home environment is the more reliable predictor of children’s language development and that high-quality preschool paired together with effective family supports is the most effective way to promote academic success (Sylva, Scott, Totsika, Ereky-Stevens & Crook, 2008).

When we were dreaming about opening Book Bums, I suggested that we should invest in an enormous sign -all CAPS... "EVERY PARENT IS A HOMESCHOOLING PARENT." Yes, parents have the greatest impact when it comes to their children's skills and attitudes with reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The question is, are all parents equipped and inspired to make the most of their teaching opportunities?

Many parents say things like, "I am accountant. That I know how to do. But I don't know the first thing about helping my kids read." Even homeschooling moms can cling too tightly to the curriculum packages they've purchased rather than do what they feel would be most beneficial for their children. Here's what I'd like you to know...

Research indicates that parents of successful readers:

(1) want their children to succeed; (2) impart a sense of importance of education and have high expectations for their children; (3) impart a love for reading and value reading together; (4) like, enjoy, and respect their children and are willing to spend time, money, and effort to nurture literacy; (5) believe in the adage that the parent is the child’s first teacher: (6) know what’s going on at school and in their child’s literacy life; (7) believe they can have an impact on their child’s literacy development; (8) provide literacy artifacts, especially children’s materials in their home, often simple and inexpensive; (9) read to their children often; (10) serve as role models as readers themselves (Spiegel, 1992, p.1).

Did you notice that the research doesn't mention that parents need a teaching degree or the most expensive homeschooling curriculum packages to raise successful readers? I am certain that you are highly qualified for the job and that you, indeed, have what it takes! Read them again... Number one- check. Number two- check...

In upcoming postings I'll address each of these findings, and it will be my aim to do the equipping as well as the inspiring via this blog and, of course, through Book Bums. I hope you check back!