Tuesday’s Teaching Tip

If you have young children at your house, are the hours between 4-6pm somewhat hairy (maybe even extremely hairy) around your house?  It can be over here.  Hey, I’m just keepin’ it real.  I had a MOPS mentor mom who once called them the “arsenic hours”!

Dinner needs to be prepared – “But, I’m hungry now” becomes the mantra – the baby wants to be held (or at the very least, stand in between my legs and whine) – the two big brothers are fighting – everyone is cranky (sometimes even mama) – “But, I’m hungry now” mantra is repeated – daddy’s not home yet – the baby is crying – insert “But, I’m hungry now” mantra – the two big brothers are fighting over the same toy (again) and both of them claim they had it first…the list could go on and on.

Here’s a tip that helps with sanity around this reading mama’s house: give the kids something to do at the kitchen table (or bar area) as you stir the noodles and bake the chicken.

My favorite thing for the boys to do are simple:

  1. crafts
  2. writing activities

Notice I said simple.  The last thing I need is something else to do during this time, so easy is the key.

Here are some CRAFTS my kids like to do:

  • play with with Play-Doh (pull out special cookie cutters & accessories)
  • scissor practice (use old papers or coupons you’re not going to use)

  • play with stickers- I save stickers that they really like and let them decorate a scene with them, like they did with the vehicles seen here
  • play with stamps
  • water color painting-I found two Paint with Water Books at Books-A-Million for $1 each.  I can remember doing these as a child!
  • Carisa @ 1+1+1=1 has some other ideas I use for simple crafts.  But, I do not do anything that has the potential to create a big mess during this time.  The last thing I want is to have to clean up my kitchen right before dinner!

Here are some fun WRITING activities:

  • write on dry erase boards
  • color in a coloring book or page from DLTK’s site
  • Crayola Wonder & Crayola Explosion are great activities because their markers won’t make a mess on walls or chairs if I happen to turn my back on NJoy to stir those noodles!
  • work a simple puzzle like a crossword puzzle, maze, dot-to-dot, or word search.  ALuv really likes the Puzzle Buzz (made by Highlight) activities and I save the magazines for special occasions.

One more thing I sometimes do is utilize the laptop.

  1. I plop MBug in her highchair and let all of them watch a DVD on the laptop.  We get new DVD’s at the public library almost every week.
  2. Internet-You can view some of the sites we like here.
  3. Youtube.com has some great videos including this one, which is one of our all-time favorites.

If you find yourself wanting to pull out your own hair from 4-6pm, I hope that one of these ideas may help you out.  If you have some tricks up your sleeve for the “arsenic hours”, I’d love for you to share themWe could always use a fresh idea!


O What Fun!

Here are some more things we did with short o:

1. We re-matched the words and pictures.  The 2nd time he re-matched pictures and words, I helped.  But after that, I expected him to do it with minimal help from me.

3. We played Concentration or Memory Match

The words are on the left side and the pictures on the right side.  The pictures also have the word written in small print to make this game self-checking.

A match!

Just a side note: I used this green short o memory match set when I taught public school.  I also have another set exactly like this one that is printed on orange construction paper.  That way, I could place both sets in the same Ziploc bag at a center.  If I had 6 students playing short o memory match at the same time, 3 students could easily pull and play with the green set, while the other 3 students could play with the orange set.  I used this color system a lot with small group games to make it easy to identify and divide up sets.

4. We built words with Legos.

I organized the words in the sort (adding hog) so that he only had to change one letter at a time to make each new word.  We first built dog together.  I asked, “Can you change one letter in dog to make dot?”  This is a great phonemic awareness skill (a part of phonological awareness) because he had to listen for the individual sounds in each word to figure out how to spell the new word.

5. We went on a short o Word Hunt.

He read I Can Hop from readinga-z.com (I don’t currently have a membership, but the books are downloaded on my computer) and found and colored all the OT and OP words.

Here are the words I pulled out before reading the text.

I remembered as a child sometimes coloring in all the o‘s on the church bulletin during the sermon, so instead of highlighting the words, I thought he’d like to color in the o‘s (OT words in yellow and OP words in pink).  This was also a great way to continue working on his fine motor skills; which he has yet to master.

Spelling with LEGO Letters

MBug (11 months) gets up many mornings around 4 or 5am to eat, but then goes right back to sleep.  During such a feeding one morning last week, I was contemplating how I could combine ALuv’s obsession with Legos and my love for teaching reading.  As I mulled over how this could be done, an idea popped into my head.

Learning Objective: Child will manipulate Lego pieces to spell words and identify their “shapes”.

Since ALuv has a HUGE bucket of Legos (we easily have over 3,000), I knew he wouldn’t miss a handful of them!

Material Preparation:

1.  I collected the Legos.  My two “helpers” assisted me in pulling out the needed Legos.  Okay, so they really built cars while I did all the work, but good help can be hard to come by these days! 🙂  (If I’d only been as organized as Carisa, this would not have taken so long.)

2.  I sorted the Legos.  The Legos on the left side of this picture are for the short consonants, such as c, m, n, v, etc.  The red Legos in the middle are for vowels, and the Legos on the right side are for tall consonants (b, d, t, l, etc.) or consonants with a “tail” (p, q, j, etc.).

3. I wrote the letters on the Legos.  I placed all the Legos with the bumps facing to the right and wrote with an Ultra Fine Point Sharpie (permanent); which I found at Target.  So far, only the q has smudged; the rest have held up very well.

Here’s a picture of my finished blocks in ABC order.  If you’ll notice, I also included a red w and a red y for when they act as vowels.

One awesome thing about this is that the b, d, q, and g will not fit together if they are turned the wrong way, so it helps to limit their confusion.  I did, however, write all the b‘s on yellow blocks, the d‘s on light green, and the p‘s on white; just to solidify their differences.

Lesson Plan:

1.  We sorted the Lego letters by “shape” (short letters, tall letters, letters with “tails”).

2. I modeled how to click them together correctly so that the letters retained their “shape”.

3. I called out Word Wall words (sight words) and he built them.  These are the words he made: and, can, go, look, like, off, is, stop, the & you.

Once we got into the lesson, this reminded me of the Reading Rods I used in the classroom with my Kinders and 1st graders (only cheaper!).

Variation & Extension Ideas:

I knew NJoy would want to be right in there with us, so I made some letter blocks for him out of the Duplo blocks–upper case on one side and lower case on the other.  This way MBug could safely play, too, while ALuv’s smaller Lego pieces stayed on the table.

naming his letters

Worksheets are not my thing, but ALuv enjoyed spelling the words so much that I created a couple of worksheets for him on A to Z Teacher Stuff.  He did this one as independent work the next day.  He totally LOVED doing this!

For the worksheet, he had to: 1) Look at the words at the top, 2) Build the words with Legos & 3) Write the correct word in each word shape puzzle.

Craft Time!

I’ll be honest—I am not a huge fan of crafts.  The poor students in my classroom rarely ever did a craft unless it fulfilled other teaching objectives.  I didn’t do crafts for craft’s sake as some other teachers did.  Even with our MOPS crafts, you’ll usually find me at the table talking with the other moms as they do their craft (except for the day we did teaching trays…boy, that was right up my alley!!).  In general, crafts and I just don’t jive.  But when I made the choice to teach ALuv and NJoy at home, I knew I’d have to sacrifice my “craft strike”.  So I sneak in a craft every once in a while, but I still try to incorporate other skills as well.  This week, we made springtime flowers from DLTK’s website.

I was drawn to this craft mainly because it incorporated some fun fine motor work:

coloring & drawing (NJoy also reviewed shapes and colors)

spraying with water

Now our playroom looks like Spring!

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