Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Coolest Clock Ever

Friends, can I just tell you I have found THE world's coolest clock? I was in my colleague's classroom the other day and as the clock struck the hour, I heard a little bird song.  My eyes darted around the room looking for the source. What?!--A bird song clock??  Yes, she shared, this clock chimed every hour on the hour with the genuine song of a different bird.  I was awestruck! Made a mental note.

Later that night, I looked up "bird song clock" and to my surprise, a very popular retailer had them.  I ordered one online, and ours came today!! I am planning to write numbers on the outside of the dial, and as my very musical children and I learn about the different birds, we will be quietly reinforcing another skill:  familiarity with the positions of the clock numbers.  I predict that this clock will put my 3- and 5-year-old on a natural fast track to understanding analog time-telling.  What a brilliant concept, really, this idea of attaching information to the hour spots! I wish I'd had something like that to anchor my learning when learning to tell time!

I'll plan to check back in to report how my kids respond to the clock. But just wanted to case anyone is interested... :-)

Yours in the adventure,

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Mind of the Seeker

Today, I'm reflecting. Sitting here with my 3-year-old, who's home from school recuperating, and looking through through this seek and find book.  We'd purchased just three of them last week, in order to take my kids' love of that format in Highlights Hive Five and Puzzle Buzz to the next level. It's really interesting what I observe in my children when we engage with these books, and I wanted to post about it while the ideas are still fresh.  There are several ways I think these books can aid the work of parents and educators in producing hard-working thinkers and scholars.  Look and find books--or seek and find, or whatever they may be called--will just be called "seeker books" in this post, just for the sake of ease. Allow me to explain:
  • Seeker books give children who are not yet readers, authentic opportunities to confidently interact with books. If you think about it, turning pages is accessible to all. But confident, reader-led interaction? This is the domain usually reserved for "real" readers (who understand the printed code) OR for kids confident in inventing text based on pictures. 
  • There is an unspoken assumption about the job of a reader that emerges from studying these books.  Their whole purpose is to cause readers to find pictures that are purposely obscured or made challenging.  What is the reader to take from this?  "My job as a reader is to dig out hard things from the text in order to get the prize." Isn't that exactly the message we want our readers to have about their engagement with printed text? 
  • It's amazing the kind of focus that kids put into finding these images. Of course, you have to.  It wouldn't be Where's Waldo?, for example, if Waldo were jumping out at us.  But I am inspired by the kind of detailed searching I see my kids doing.  I have been intrigued by this idea for some time, so much that I decided to see how they could benefit my school.  Late last year, I asked my principal to let me initiate a school-wide time of fun reading prior to teacher pick-up in the mornings.  The goal was to bridge the space between home and the classroom with light reading such as poetry, magazines, graphic novels and seeker books.  Graciously, she said yes, and I was able to purchase a few thousands of dollars worth of fun reading for students.  My theory?  Training our eyes to pay close attention to detail in images translates into attention to detail in text, as in, looking past the first letter, looking at parts in words, and all of that other stuff we pull our hair out trying to get readers to do.  (No, I've never read research that there's a correlation between these two. It's just my theory.  But it makes sense to me! I'm sticking with it.  I like the work I see learners doing...)
  • I watch my children taken on initiative when using these books.  After the satisfaction of finding a picture, they'll declare, on their own, "I'm gonna look for THIS!" pointing to their next conquest and setting off to find it.  As a teacher and literacy coach, I can say that initiative in taking problem-solving action while reading is a real challenge, particularly for struggling readers.  But the success of one find fuels the desire for more success, and the child takes the lead!
  • I've noticed that in a really non-assuming way, seeker books give me an opportunity to teach strategy to my children.  Today, I showed my daughter my use of process of elimination.  We wanted to find a brown bunny image wearing a blue shirt.  She got to watch me take my eyes to (only) each brown figure, then move on if the second criterion of the blue shirt was missing. Valuable strategy lessons there, with few words exchanged!  I'm like my mother. I love lessons that just teach, without announcing themselves loudly.  Thanks, seeker books!
  • Looking into the future, I envision my children and those I teach being all the more solutions-minded, seeing themselves as problem-solvers who can figure tough things out.  I have not yet seen my kids cry or throw a fit because they can't find something (or at least I don't remember that happening), and I admire them for that. I think these seeker books help to build up mental toughness and stamina. 
  • The other thing I like about these books is that there is room to graduate up in complexity, without the task getting old.  For example, when my kids were at about 18 months, we did books like the one below to the left, then moved on to Highlights Hello, High Five and Puzzle Buzz. Now, my younger one is on to books like the Pooh book below, whereas my 5-year-old is intrigued by Waldo and I Spy.  Different levels for different ages.  And can I tell you that in my school, students at K-5 love the task?  They don't outgrow it! :-) 

  • Finally, I love that my little ones feel confident in taking Mommy on in a challenge:  We will be looking for a picture and either I will challenge to beat them, finding it first, or they will arise to take me on first.  Either way, this is the kind of competition I think is fun and not harmful, where we push each other to stretch our wits and skill with speed.  And even when we're trying to beat each other, we are in all ways still becoming a team.
So there you have it, friends! Lots of value, as I see it, in these little simple books.  Seek on, seekers! :-) 

Love & light,

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Multi-Modes & Layers, for More Engaged Players

So, here's another one of the shortest blog posts ever.  Documenting this journey so those who track with me for the long haul can follow my progression.  But no wordy post today...just musing.

So, I attended the Vital Smarts Influencer training the other month, and as the video below will explain, one of their big things is using multiple sources of influence to attack a challenge.  This morning I was watching something about Orton Gillingham--a training I also have received--and their big thing is using multiple modalities to help learners understand language. Multiple paths. Multiple modalities at once. Multiple sources of influence.  It's starting to make sense...much of what we have been doing has given too much credit to one source or the other at any given time. Our best hope is to martial many sources into one effort for max effect.  Ok, I get it! To be continued...

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Adventures in Academic Language (Part 2)

Well, here we are! My 3-year-old said the other night, "I like summarizing now, Mommy!" It worked! I slipped in that academic language on her in a context of fun, and now she gets it! Summarized a book quite nicely for me the other night.  This stuff is easier than I thought--if we're intentional and embed it in fun...
#thatisall #shortestpostever  :-)

Love & light,

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Adventures in Academic Language (Part 1)

Friends, I have stumbled upon a GREAT way to teach important academic and testing language to pre-schoolers so that they will be cumulatively comfortable with and sufficiently exposed to it by the time their high-stakes testing shenanigans begin! Here it is: weave the terms into regular, everyday life in normal and fun ways.
Sooo, I confess there is quite a bit of Claire Huxtable in me--this "let the re-cord show" kind of precise, lawyer-like way in parenting. At times, it is sheer hilarity! :-) But this past summer I realized that I could use it to my advantage in teaching my youngsters the importance of letting their actions match their words. I realized that using the word "evidence" was a PERFECT way to both get them used to that term and give myself a springboard for using it in lots of ways down the road. "It's not that I'm saying you're not telling the truth," I'd tell them. "But the EVIDENCE makes me think..." Here's an example of how I used it.
Sonny (just ate dinner and claimed he was beyond full): Asks for a snack
Me: You CAN'T be hungry, because that's not what hungry people do! HUNGRY people don't get rid of their food, and then ask for more! The EVIDENCE does not show that you're really hungry!" Totally natural way to introduce the term, and a principle to boot!
Tonight I just discovered a different example. My 3-year-old finds it hilarious when, instead of re-reading a book they love, I give a super-boiled down version. With very few words, I hit the first page, middle section and "the end." She cracks UP!! Tonight it hit me: What if I just put a label to that? So tonight, I said innocently, "What?! I just gave you a nice SUMMARY!" Of course, she went on to show me the right way to read it and to urge me to follow suit...and I did...or at least Daddy did. But the exciting thing was, I learned something new about the beauty and ease of introducing academic language. I will keep chronicling this process as I learn more and more revelations unfold... #tobecontinued