Why am I Writing this Blog?

I am very concerned about the growing level of illiteracy among our children. This blog is for parents who are homeschooling, parents whose children are falling behind at school and they don't know how to help them, teachers who would like to bounce ideas off an experienced teacher or get ideas to help student with problems. I will do everything in my power to help anyone in the areas of reading and writing.

In this blog I'll be using the original English spelling forms, so please make allowances if you're American or have been taught the American spelling form.

Please be understanding about the advertisements on the blog. It gives me the opportunity to earn a little to add to my pension.

Related links for teaching training, lesson plans and worksheets:

Fantastic Free Video series on how to teach handwriting:
by handwriting expert Nan Jay Barchowsky
by handwriting teacher Matt Nisjak

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: http://www.handwritingebooks.com/
101 sheets of lower case and 101 of upper case letters, plus a bonus book on numbers and another on words for $5.95 for the lot - A great bargain.

Information on Education and Homeschooling
EducationBug: Education Directory - articles, directory, newsletter and profiles on schools

Free Worksheets:
Eastside Literacy
First - Schools

Lined Handwriting Sheets:
Handwriting For Kids

Making Handwriting Sheets:
Handwriting Worksheets
Ed Helper

Videos About Teaching Handwriting:
Teachers TV

Free Lessons and Ideas:
The Electric Company
First 55 Come Alive
Literacy, Families and Learning
ESL Partyland

Ed Helper - Spelling
Ed Helper - Reading Comprehension
Ed Helper - Vocabulary
First - School
Sites for Teachers
Sites for Parents
Clipart for Worksheets
The Teacher's Corner
Teaching Made Easier
School Express

Membership Sites:
Ed Helper
Reading A-Z
ELSIE: Reading 0-6

Inexpensive Handwriting Books
Staidens Homeschooling

Thursday, July 30, 2009

2009 Notable Children's Books

For a look at the list of the best children's books, from the Association for Library Service to Children, Click Here Happy Reading!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Most Dangerous Cake Recipe in the World!!


4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
A small splash of vanilla extract and your favourite tipple
1 large coffee mug

Add dry ingredients to your largest mug and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips (if using), vanilla extract and a drop or two of your favourite tipple, then mix again.

Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes on 1000 watts (high)
The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed!

Allow to cool a little and tip out on plate if desired.
EAT! (this can serve 2 if you want to feel slightly more virtuous).

And why is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the world? Because now you are only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or night! You are going to forward this straight away, aren't you...??

Phonics changes the structure of the brain - enhances intelligence

I was about to put this article in the Education News section, but decided that it was far to good to have it rotate out of my blog, so here it is. It was written by Shannah B Godfrey and published in the Examiner.com. I often put articles from this source in the Education News section and would recommend its Family and Parenting section to anyone with school or preschool aged children.

A research team headed by scientists from the esteemed Yale School of Medicine announced in 2004 a particularly significant finding for children who have trouble learning to read. It was reported by Gilbert Zarate in the Brownsville Herald: http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/opinions_more.php?id=61072_0_11_0_C

The focus of this study, as much of the writing on this topic, is on how to assist struggling readers. While struggling readers show us what the critical issues are, children who are not struggling will be able to learn much more, much quicker, if they are also given exposure to the best teaching practices. Unfortunately, as is commonly the case, teachers leave good students to fend for themselves on the mistaken assumption that they don’t need help.

Mom and Dad can and should do things at home to enhance their child’s learning and intelligence.In the words of the reporter:“The study reported that the brain function of poor readers actually changes to resemble the brain function of “good” readers when they have been taught to read through instruction that is direct, systematic, and focuses on the sounds and letters that make up words, the meanings of words, and helping children read accurately and quickly.

"Using functional MRI scanners, researchers were able to document that effective reading instruction not only improves reading ability but actually changes the brain’s functioning so children can read more efficiently. These struggling readers were taught to read using a comprehensive reading program that focused on systematically teaching phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary and spelling and, as a result, formed new and lasting neurological connections and pathways in parts of their brain that regulate reading ability.
"We know that almost every child in America — whatever race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic level — can become a strong and confident reader when taught through a comprehensive approach grounded in systematic, research-based instruction. And we know that scientifically based reading instruction can be successfully implemented in all schools — whether urban, suburban, or rural.

"Unfortunately, the reality today is that nearly 40 percent of fourth-grade students are unable to read at grade level. While many policymakers, educators and parents are enthusiastic about teaching children to read, not all schools and school districts are implementing instruction grounded in scientific approaches that have been proven to increase reading skills. Despite what we know works, not all schools have put in place carefully developed, comprehensive reading programs that include research-proven instructional practices. This is a travesty.
"We know that reading instruction for struggling readers must be explicit, systematic, and allow sufficient time for student learning. We also know that the reading curriculum should include the five critical components that are fundamental to learning to read — phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension.”

So if the scientific evidence strongly proves that phonics instruction re-maps the brain for the better, why does the educational establishment, for the most part, continue to ignore the data and teach ineffective reading (and math) methods? Part of the answer may be found in the lobbying and monetary influence of textbook publishers, who follow fads for personal gain rather than true research results. Part of the answer may be found in the egos of some educational people pushing their own theories and agendas. Part of the answer can be found in the inertia and ennui of large government entities, schools, to resist change.

Whatever the factors, it is clear that parents must not let their gifted children be left to fend for themselves in school. Parents can follow the best practices of phonics reading instruction (and math instruction) with their children at home to ensure a great foundation for success.
Gifted children need exposure to many types of learning to be well-rounded. One of the best programs for kids is scouting. They start as young as 6 years and go until age 18. Scouting gives your child a sense of accomplishment. Being able to claim the rank of Eagle Scout on a résumé is a prestigious thing. To find information for a scout troop near your home, go to the Boy Scouts of America office near you. In the Kansas City area it is Council 307 – Heart of America Council, Boy Scouts of America, PO Box 414177, Kansas City, MO 64141. Phone: (816) 942-9333. http://www.hoac-bsa.org/ Girl Scouting will be discussed in the next article.
Author: Shannah B Godfrey

Shannah B Godfrey is an Examiner from Kansas City. You can see Shannah B's articles on Shannah B's Home Page.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Should toddlers and preschoolers use computers?

Here's a great article from My Swainsboro News on children and computers.

Spend some time online, and you will notice more and more websites targeted at young children. Educational groups, commercial companies, and software developers have all devoted attention to creating resources for children, including preschoolers, toddlers, and even infants.

But are these programs good for children? Should toddlers and preschoolers spend time on the computer? Computers can be valuable learning tools for young children. Unfortunately, too many programs and websites available today are not developmentally appropriate for young children.

For more of this story, click on or type the URL below: http://www.forest-blade.com/articles/2009/07/20/opinion/editorials/doc4a64b3f2590aa758960924.txt

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Story Time! Children's books and the art of reading to children

This is a great article by NMDad on how to give your children the most when you read books together.

Reading is a wonderful way to spend time with your children. Reading is part of providing a stimulating environment in which your children can learn and grow. Reading to them provides a foundation for language development, literacy, and possibly a lifelong love of books. Who doesn't want all that for their kids?

While any kind of reading is better than not reading at all, some methods are better than others. (Yes, there's more to it than the words on the page.) If you're interested in a parent's experience and advice on this topic, some of my personal favorite kids' books, and some milk and cookies* please follow me below the fold.

*Readers must provide their own milk and cookies.

For the rest of this really instructive article click here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Self-regulation: The key to sucessful students? by Todd Hoffman

This article comes from Education.com via The Tehran Times. It is immensely interesting considering our fairly permissive society and the freedom given to our children. Perhaps this is part of the reason that our literacy levels are falling.

New research suggests that children who learn to mind their P’s and Q’s may also have an easier time learning their ABC’s and 123’s. In a new study conducted by the University of Virginia’s Claire Cameron Ponitz and Oregon State University’s Megan McClelland, the researchers found that kindergartners who had high levels of “self-regulation” in the fall did better on tests of reading, vocabulary, and math in the spring when compared to children with low levels of self-regulation.

What is self-regulation? According to Dr. Ponitz, self-regulation is the ability to control and direct one’s own feelings, thoughts, and actions. It can be as simple as a child raising his hand when asking a question in class, or as complex as a child controlling her feelings when frustrated or angry. “Self-regulation underlies our daily decisions and long-term behavioral tendencies,” Ponitz says. “When people make poor choices - e.g., about health, school, work, or relationships, it is usually because of a failure of self-regulation.

With regard to early development, children who learn to control themselves and make good choices do better socially and academically than children who are overly angry, aggressive or impulsive.” While the ability to self-regulate has long been considered an essential part of a child’s healthy emotional development, self-regulation is increasingly being seen as a good predictor of a child’s academic success.

According to Dr. McClelland, a number of studies have found that self-regulation significantly predicts literacy outcomes in children. In their own research, McClelland and Ponitz found that aspects of self-regulation not only predicted literacy outcomes in preschool and elementary school, but also predicted the gains in literacy children made during that time. In specific, they found that children who showed improvement on a simple task designed to measure self-regulation skills also showed improvement in emergent literacy, vocabulary, and early mathematics skills. “We think it's because the skills in the task - remembering instructions, stopping yourself, and paying attention - are also important in school,"Ponitz says.

Good self-regulation skills are also important for a child’s social development. “Self-regulation helps children succeed in classroom contexts,” McClelland says. “The children who can successfully navigate these learning environments have better relationships with their teachers, are more liked by their classmates, and do better academically. They are also more motivated to achieve because of these skills.”

Both Ponitz and McClelland believe parents and teachers play a crucial role in the development of their children’s self-regulation. “Parents and teachers are critically important guides and models for children as they learn how to control themselves,” Ponitz says. “At home and in the classroom, providing organization, consistency, and structure seem to be important predictors of children's self-regulation. For example, following through with rules provides children the chance to practice controlling themselves.”

McClelland agrees that self-regulation is a learned skill. “There is a lot of evidence to suggest that self-regulation can be taught in children.” As an example she points to an intervention aimed at improving self-regulation in preschoolers. “In one recent study,” she says, “we found that a series of classroom games in preschool designed to help children practice paying attention, remembering instructions, and demonstrating self-control significantly improved self-regulation skills, especially for children with low self-regulation.”

The good news for parents and educators is that easy ways to help children develop self-regulation skills may be as close as the local playground. Both Ponitz and McClelland suggest that classic games where children must follow directions and wait to take turns may be particularly suited for the development of self-regulation. Specifically, they recommend:

Red Light, Green Light. One child is the stoplight, the other children are the cars. When the stoplight yells “Green light!” the children run towards the stoplight. When the stoplight yells “Red light!” all the children must stop. If a child doesn’t stop, they must go back to the starting line. A popular variation is to include a “Yellow light!” where children must walk instead of run. Excellent for developing self-regulation skills because children must learn to pay attention, follow directions, and wait their turn.

Simon Says. When Simon says, “Simon says jump!” the children must jump. But if Simon only says, “Jump!” and somebody jumps, that person must sit out for the rest of the game. The last person standing becomes the new Simon. Another excellent game for developing self-regulation because children must listen carefully, pay attention, and follow directions.

Role Playing. Ponitz believes that role-playing games in which children pretend to be another person for an extended period of time may also provide opportunities for children “to think about their choices and not give in to their immediate impulses.” For example, have one child pretend to be the teacher while the rest of the children pretend to be the students.

To make the games even more challenging, McClelland recommends adding rules that require children to pay attention, remember new instructions, and do the opposite of what they are used to. For instance, instead of having children follow commands when a person says “Simon says...” do the opposite and have them follow commands when the phrase isn’t used.

Be creative! As research increasingly shows, simple games can be more than mere child’s play when it comes to helping children develop valuable skills that will serve them well later in life.

Todd Hoffman has worked as an assistant preschool teacher, a freelance children's writer, and an educational consultant. He is currently a graduate student in the Cognitive Studies in Education program at Columbia University. (Source: Education.com)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

News Flash from AWN - July 13

The Electric Company Becomes a Daily Show on PBS Kids

Press Release from Sesame Workshop(NEW YORK, New York -- July 13, 2009) Get out your circuit breakers as THE ELECTRIC COMPANY turns into a power strip! Starting September 7th, Sesame Workshop's hit program THE ELECTRIC COMPANY, will be charging up PBS KIDS GO! with a daily dose of literacy superheroes and wily pranksters.

Six-to-nine year olds will be able to tune in every day to see Hector, Jessica, Lisa and Keith outwit their scheming neighborhood prankster-counterparts in a way that reinforces strong literacy skills and teaches kids that reading isn't just for school -- reading is cool.

"Reading and writing are critical developmental areas for children and children who are struggling with literacy skills by second grade are often at risk for never being able to catch up," said Linda Simensky, VP, Children's Programming, PBS. "By offering THE ELECTRIC COMPANY every weekday on PBS KIDS GO!, we are opening the doors for more children to explore reading and just how much fun it can be."Kids are plugged into THE ELECTRIC COMPANY making it the #1 show on PBS KIDS GO! in its block -- and the current doesn't stop there. The show's hit website, pbskidsgo.org/electriccompany, has had nearly four million site visits and over 11 million Electric Company video clips played since its launch in mid- January 2009.

Also this fall, THE ELECTRIC COMPANY will be partnering with local PBS stations, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as well as after-school organizations to bring a "Shock" to twenty cities nationwide with THE ELECTRIC COMPANY 2009 Circuit Tour. Starting August 8th, THE ELECTRIC COMPANY's star beat boxer, Shock, will host a 90 minute experience in each city beginning with a 25-minute multimedia, interactive show. The Circuit Tour will also include hands-on pre- and post-show activities that will engage kids with interactive content, games and demonstrations in an effort to give today's 2nd grader the literacy tools necessary to succeed in 3rd grade and beyond.

"We are thrilled to bring this critical piece of THE ELECTRIC COMPANY directly into communities around the country," says Randell Bynum, Director of Educational Outreach for THE ELECTRIC COMPANY. "We look forward to sharing a live, interactive Electric Company experience that will turn kids on to the power of reading."THE ELECTRIC COMPANY is part of PBS KIDS Raising Readers, a national literacy initiative focused on using public media to improve the reading skills for children ages two-to-eight, with an emphasis on children from low-income families. The effort is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and a Ready To Learn grant from the U.S. Department of Education, part of a cooperative agreement with CPB- and PBS.

Monday, July 13, 2009

20 Fun Language & Thinking Games for Travellers

This post, used with permission, from Literacy, Families and Learning is a real gem. There are 20 wonderful games to use with the kids on long trips, or even short ones. If you're homeschooling or just want to give your kids a learning boost, they'll be great as well. Enjoy!!

This post is a follow on from my last post 'Holiday Activities: 30 simple ways to stimulate learning' (here). This time I've just focussed on great language games that can be easily played in the car on long (or short) journeys. Many of them could also be played in a bus, or in some cases, a train. I've tried to keep the ideas simple and adaptable for use with children of varied ages. I've included a number of games that we played with our children in the car when they were young, some I used when teaching and some new ones that I'd love to play with my grandchildren. Most of the new ones have been gleaned from a great resource published by Usborne Children's books, '50 things to do on a journey' (here). I've modified many of the latter to suit the needs of younger children as well. One thing to note is that you don't have to play every one of these games competitively and if you do, you might need to handicap older children.

1. Sound word categoriesYou start this game by agreeing on 3-5 categories (depending on the age of the children and their vocabularies) for which people will have to be able to think of words that belong to them; for example, an insect, flower, person, country, girl's name, action word. Someone chooses a letter (maybe Mum or Dad to make sure that it isn't too hard) that has to be used by everyone and is applied to each category. The fastest person to quickly name their words earns 3 points, the second gets 2 and the third 1. So for the letter 'f' and the three categories insect, country and girl's name you could say fly, France and Fiona. A parent usually acts as the timer.

For games 2 to 20 just click this link Literacy, Families and Learning