Thursday, August 22, 2013

Story of the World Year 4 Week 1...

I always assign some kind of get to know you activity which is due the first day of tutorial. I always try to make the activity relate to what we are studying that year. For example, the first year they made timelines of their lives. The 2nd year they made a coat of arms since we were studying medieval times.  Last year they had a trunk pop-up and they had to illustrate and tell the class what 5 items they would've taken with them on the Mayflower if they were a Pilgrim.

I was really struggling with what to do this year. First of all, I am now teaching history to 4th grade-8th grade verses 2nd through 5th I've done in the past so I wanted something a little more age appropriate than a pop-up. Secondly, I've never really considered how war ridden the last century has been until I began thinking about teaching it!

During one of my insomnia brainstorming nights with the help of Pinterest I hit upon the perfect solution. Since we will be working our way all the way to modern times I wanted the kids to realize that they are part of HIS-story too. So, I decided to give them an assignment to research their family history. Plus, I really wanted them to make the connection that they have people in their families that lived through these events we are studying!!! I truly believe I fell in love with history by hearing my grandmother tell about how her dresses were all made of flower sacks or my grandfather tell about how on his way to Korea another soldier missed his birthday when they sailed over the International Date Line.

I found this great list of questions to use to interview your grandparents. I adapted it a little.

My kids are both in my class so one of they each interviewed a different great-grandmother. We all enjoyed spending time talking with both of them.

The kids all had to talk about their interviews for about three minutes in class. It was truly fascinating to see how many different places and interesting lives the kids' families have had! It sparked so many conversations and got us all excited about learning history! It was my favorite back to school activity ever!

The rest of the class was spent organizing our notebooks, passing out their timelines, and doing the map of Great Britain.

I was so blown away that I now have 45 students between my 4 classes, but the day went great and was really enjoyable. I'm excited about this year.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

First Day of School 2013-2014...

Well, after a ridiculously busy and therefore short summer the first full day of school was upon us.
The last few weeks I have been frantically planning and organizing to make sure it is a good year, although I could use about another month to plan and organize! I have also been trying to anoint all the plans and preparations in prayer because I finally understand that there is NO way I can do what I've been called to do, but I can do ALL things through HIM who gives me strength.
So far, my best idea has been assigning daily meal helpers. I have 4 kids and we are home 4 days a week (Thursdays we go to our tutorial) so I assigned a helper for 4 meals: breakfast, snack, lunch and dinner. They have to either prepare or help me prepare their meal and clean up after. It has been such a great help in the two days we've done it so far!
Sweet Sissy was my breakfast helper on the first day and was excited because pancakes are her favorite things to cook. Plus, her pretty smile makes cooking more fun :)

I usually do cinnamon rolls in the shape of their grade, but we also do that for birthdays so I thought I'd try something new this year- pancake numbers:

Thanks to our new morning schedule before these shining faces sat down they had their quiet time, wrote in their thankful journals (part of their quiet time), made their beds, brushed their teeth and hair (although I think Sissy skipped that step), got dressed and practiced piano or guitar. That's a successful day already in my book!

After breakfast and Bible study we come upstairs to the carpet. Today was a giant, important day- the first official day of kindergarten for my two babies! To me, when I think kindergarten I think calendar time. I got some great calendar printables in their notebooks, and we were ready to rock.

My other sweet kindergarten face. I had to document this moment because somehow in the middle of calendar time his arm got stuck in the chair! That sounds about right around here.

Since it is kindergarten after all there must be dance breaks. This one was to a Seeds of Worship song so it was doubly good.

I have workboxes set up full of learning games for the boys to pull out during the day. Will was all about the pattern blocks on this day and did them several different times.

Wesley loved the bears and figuring out they had to be equal to balance. I love his sweet smile!

Although Wesley pretty much knows all his upper and lowercase letters, I still have learning activities for him to practice them.
One thing I'm infamous for is saying we are going to do art and music at the end of the day and never get to them. I was determined not to let that happen this day at least. I've decided to spend a month, maybe even a semester per composer. So today we kept it simple and just listened to some compositions by Vivaldi. I had them draw what the picture made them think of as they listened. However, they thought it was more fun to use two pencils like a violin and bow and play along! 
Not counting the fact that during recess they rearranged my entire living room to make it into a "jail" for their Nerf gun war which made the biggest mess ever, this was really and truly a picture perfect day. Even Principal Daddy couldn't get over how stress free the teacher was when he came home. Of course, it was four o'clock and she was just finishing reading aloud a book about Patrick Henry, but he learned some new things as he listened so it's all good!
Never underestimate the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit.
The Maker of the Universe cares about me having a successful math lesson-
how amazing is that???

Reading Workshop Day 1...

When I was teaching public school my very favorite part of the day was our Reading and Writing Workshops. This year I want to make this our priority in our homeschool because if I can teach them one thing I want it to be to love reading.

Patricia Polacco is my VERY favorite children's author so I decided to kick the year off with a great book of hers about the importance of reading. I read them Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair. It's about a town that closes their library to put up a TV tower. It was a really sweet book, and I hardly cried! The kids love for me to read her books because they ALWAYS make me tear up. They think it is hilarious :)

Then we went over our notebooks. We probably have too many. I may have an addiction to notebooks :) We have spiral notebooks where we keep their list of books they read throughout the year plus a genre graph to see what types of books they are reading.

They also have a brand new Reading Response notebook.  When I taught school I always gave homework three nights a week to read for twenty minutes and write me a short letter about what they read. Then I would write them back, and we would talk reading. It was a great way to get to know my students. Since there are too many books and not enough time, I decided my kids could have some homework too. So, this year they will have to read for 20 minutes and write me a letter two times a week. I even put it at the bottom of their weekly assignment page so they won't forget.

The most important one is their Reading Notebook. This is where they take notes from our mini-lessons. We are using the same one they had last year so we can just review the lessons we did last year. I will try to post pictures of this soon.

So, we basically just reviewed all these and got to the best part- reading time. They read for at least 20 minutes but ideally 30 minutes a day. For the most part, they get to pick their own books. However, this year I get to pick a book a month that they must read. I tried to pick books they'd enjoy but were classics that I wanted to make sure they read. Sometimes they also will read their Sonlight history books.

We are experimenting with a reading log where they have to write down what book and pages they read each day. I'd love to have this information because I'm interested in increasing their reading speed, but we will see if it worth keeping up with one more paper.

Day one wasn't anything too special besides a great book, but it set us up for lots of great learning together this year!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Kindergarten Reading Workshop Day 1...

Since one of my main goals with the kids this year was to spend a lot more time reading and learning about reading I knew I wanted to include my two kindergartners in on that as well. I've decided to do a reading mini-lesson with them as well while the big kids are having their silent reading time.

It has been a long time since I have done or read about mini-lessons for kindergartners. I had some last minute planning panic as I sat down to actually plan mini-lessons for the first week. What should I teach my non-readers?  My master plan also included them having silent reading time on their own as well, so next I panicked if I would in the real world (as opposed to my favorite world- picture perfect planning family) be able to get them to sit and read quietly when they don't know how to read???

When I read up on the Daily 5 and from hanging out with my teacher friends, I knew that they had to build "reading stamina" so I would work them into reading a little longer each day. As I tried to picture what that time would look like a good reading instruction term popped into my head and mini-lesson #1 was born.

So, today I had them sit on the carpet and I very dramatically told them I had a book for them that they had never read before. I had the book turned around and told them when I turned it over they had to use their best reading thinking and make some predictions as to what it was about.

They were part of the opening Reading Workshop Lesson I did with all the kids where I read them Patricia Polacco's Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair. I reminded them how we learned in that book that "Books hold treasures and the key to unlocking the treasure is reading". Then I dramatically explained to them that this was their kindergarten year which meant that they were going to get the key to the treasure- learning to read. However, they don't have it yet so today we were going to learn one way to read which was reading by the pictures.

I turned the book over. It was If You Take a Mouse to School (I'd like to tell you I researched the perfect book for this lesson but really at the last minute I grabbed the first book I could find that I hadn't read to them yet. It was PERFECT!). They have read If You Give A Mouse a Cookie which worked out beautifully because they understood the flow of the story and were better able to make good predictions based on the pictures.

I told them we were going to "picture walk" through the book, and they were to tell me what happens by looking at the pictures. Then I literally made my two fingers walk across the book as we turned each page. They LOVED it!

After all their great predictions we read the book and talked about how well they predicted what would happen. Then I got my timer out and explained that now they GOT to go read quietly on their own. I showed them the timer and we counted out 4 minutes together. I laid out all the other books in that series and told them they could choose one of them or another book from their shelf.

Interestingly, Will grabbed three books but actually spent the entire time rereading the one we had done together. He's my very active child, but if you get him to buy into an activity there is none better. Well, I must have sold this well because he took his books to his table and didn't look up until the timer went off!

Wesley, God bless him, is going to struggle with the silent part of silent reading! He's my chatty kid. Well, one of two I should say (Big sister was in her room reading!). In his defense, he was sitting close to me and was just telling me about the book so it was good!

They read perfectly for 4 minutes today, and we will try 5 tomorrow. At the dinner table when they had to tell Daddy what they learned and what their favorite thing was they both answered "Picture Walking" for both so I'm counting Reading Workshop Day 1 as a complete success!