As a teacher of writing, I delight in helping children find their voice, tell their story, and claim their rightful place as a young author. I've found writing conferences to be a key part in developing student skills. Sitting shoulder to shoulder, the student and I can work together to revise and polish a piece in preparation for publishing. Not a "quick-fix" or a means of grading - these conferences aim to do what real authors do: work with a reader/editor/colleague to improve writing.
Marcus offers a behind-the-scenes look at the famous work of several beloved authors. Bruce Brooks, Lois Lowry, and Gary Paulsen are included, among others. When students and I write in the margins, draw arrows to move text, and rework word choice to improve fluency, I tell them we are hard at work- just like the great Judy Blume:
And... when a student's paper is messy and their handwriting is hard to read: I assure them that Bunnicula started out the very same way, so they must be doing something right.
Writing is not easy. It is not neat. It's hard work that takes practice and risk. But... when students and I read their writing together, I also find writing to be incredibly rewarding -- because that's what real authors do.
For his 10th birthday, my son received his first “electronic” gadget. Grandpa gifted him a Kindle!
Watching my son learn how to operate this e-reader, I immediately saw that this device is a natural stepping-stone to a phone, which will certainly lead to a tablet, and then transition into a laptop that he will take to college – EKKKKK!!! (Sorry. Every day that my babies get older, I panic at the thought they’ll someday leave me. Of course, occasionally, I panic that they won’t.)
With this birthday gift, came money from my sister to purchase a Kindle cover. At first, I thought we’d just head to the nearest tech store to buy a cover. However, my son and I soon learned that local stores only carry the covers made for the latest-and-greatest Kindle Fire. That meant we had to turn to cyberspace for a bit of on-line shopping.
I thought perhaps we could log-in to Amazon and make a one-click-purchase, but that idea didn’t work as well as I had planned. There are a zillion options on Amazon!
So... I took this opportunity to teach my son how to navigate through the Amazon "product reviews." It wasn't long before he was flexing his skills as a mindful consumer.
During the process, we had many-a-conversation about:
1) Free shipping (with purchase of $25 or more).
2) Reviews that offer only glowing reviews about every aspect of the product. (“Mom, do you think the seller posted this review themself?”)
3) Nasty reviews that can’t find a single redeeming quality with an item. (“Five people loved this cover, but this person absolutely hated it! Which is correct? Or are they all?”)
4) Confused reviews that go on and on about a product – although not the actual one detailed in the listing.
5) Seller ratings.
6) Return policies.
7) Price comparisons (considering individual delivery and included accessories).
Overall, the online shopping experience was a great lesson for my son. He used critical thinking and decision making skills AND in the end, purchased a durable, reasonably priced cover.
Of course, never one to miss additional opportunity for reading and writing – I then asked my son to post his own review. You can read it here (under SillyMom)!
I’ve always loved the building of vegetable 'faces',
but Hanoch Piven has expanded the fun
to a whole new level of art.
This summer the neighborhood kids and I joined the fun.
First we read Piven’s great books:
Then we created self-portrait poems:
This week my family battled cholera, ate 28 lbs. of salt pork, and lost a keg of gunpowder when our wagon overturned in the river. Not to worry – all this occurred in the virtual world. My boys and I have been playing Oregon Trail.
Those who are older may remember this classic game from the bulky Apple computers that sat in their elementary school classroom. The computer software (now updated and Windows compatible) follows the original idea and continues to give elementary school aged children a glimpse into the hardships endured by settlers. Game controls allow players to choose supplies, routes, and even travel companions. A trail guide provides information about forts, landmarks, and wildlife along the trail. Carry too few supplies and risk hunger and low morale. Carry too many supplies and the oxen might not be able to haul you and your gear over the mountains. Unknown dangers lie ahead and winter snow is the enemy.
My sons have tried a variety of strategies in their adventures so far. One boy likes to keep his supplies low, and use the extra cash to pay for ferry crossings at each river. My other young adventurer likes to take a large wagon and carry extra supplies to trade along the trail. As the momma, I’m just thankful that failure means having to restart the game, rather than facing actual life and death situations. My hat goes off to the real moms who blazed the trail to this gorgeous state.
Added extension: Check out these Oregon Trail books that entertain and educate young readers.
Dear Oregon State Treasurer,
Thanks for sending the goody bags for my growing readers. The boys love their cute book marks.
I know the contest deadline is fast approaching. I hope many families participate!
NW Kid Chaser
It’s time again for the State Treasurer’s Reading Investment!
For this Oregon based program,
K-5 students keep a reading log and earn entry in a drawing
to win a $500 Oregon College Saving Plan scholarship.
Required reading includes children's books
about money, finances, and banking.
The deadline is March 18th.
Students can submit multiple entries.
Look closely at the front cover of this Mad Libs book.
It’s the “NEW” party game circa 1958.
My sons received this last Christmas
(Thank you Cousin Kristin!)
and the fun has lasted all year long.
For those of you unfamiliar with these classic word games,
it goes a little something like this:
Players generate a list of prompted words …
Part of the body: ankle
These words are then entered into a prewritten story …
Beauty Advice: If the skin on your ankle is purple and scratchy, massage it gently with a chair.
This, of course, is just plain silly – which is perhaps why
my kids love it. I swear my five year old just waits for
the prompt of “part of the body” so he can shout
intestines at the top of his voice. Slimy has also
become his favorite adjective.
Last month's snow day brought a gaggle of neighborhood
kids into the house. They all stripped off coats, hats and mittens and then played Mad Lib for almost an hour.
Laughter erupted throughout every new round of
hilarious noun/verb/intestine confusion.
New or not: that truly is a do-it-yourself laugh kit!
My husband recently brought home this cookbook and I discovered several yummy new recipes waiting inside. This one (in particular) is fast, easy and a hit with my boys.
Cheese Straws submitted by Jeryme English
1 cup grated cheese
1 cup flour
1 Tbs or more of butter
Water to mix
Combine ingredients, roll out on floured board sprinkled with salt and cut into 4” long and .5’ wide strips. Bake in a hot oven for about 8 minutes or until golden.
The contributor of this recipe is obviously a good cook – you can tell by the vague directions: “cheese,” “sprinkled,” “hot oven.” I went with parmesan, a shake or two, and 400 degrees. I also made my five year-old in charge of dough rolling, straw cutting, and (what do you know) taste-testing.
Twist the dough strips for
a fancy-smancy look! YUM!
Travel guides are my version of potato chips. I sit on the couch as I watch TV and devour one after another. I skim; I scan; I photocopy maps, and make lists of notes. I gather more info than needed about our travel destination and I love every minute of it. While I own several guide books (mostly gifts from my wonderful family), I also hit the library anytime I am planning (or dreaming) of our next big adventure.
Later this year, we are taking a trip to Orlando and so planning has begun. To prep, I created a travel folder with everything we’ll possibly need. In life (and travel) I like to be organized. My husband would call this the understatement of the year – but he reaps the rewards of my obsessions and so isn’t complaining.
Each section in this handy (albeit not stylish), inexpensive accordion file holds reservation confirmations, tickets for park entry, maps, and tidbits of info I’ve gleaned from travel guides (text and online). Most large cities have online trip planners, so it is easy to use public transportation to get from here to there with pre-printed directions. All this pre-planning helps our trip go smoothly and without unneeded delays (as wiggly boys do not enjoy delays).
As a mother, I also am strategic in packing. Everyone carries a backpack on the plane with their own toys, snacks, extra-clothes. I also pack single serving snacks in our suitcases so that we are never without food (hunger equals grumpy in this family). Grouping kids’ clothes in zip lock gallon-sized storage bags is also an easy way to stay organized as the family lives out-of-a-suitcase for the duration.
I’d love to know other traveling Mommy tricks – please share!
Do you model for you kiddos?
I do. I should. I may have gone too far.
No; I’m talking Victoria Secret modeling or Naomi Campbell phone-throwing modeling. I’m talking about ‘modeling’ as in letting children see you do the very things that you hope they will do. This includes chewing with your mouth closed, crossing at the light, cleaning up your own messes, and reading!
It is so easy to get so caught up in the routine of reading the latest Clifford book to your child at bedtime that you never pause to read your own novel/stories/magazines.
I read a ton to my kiddos. (Yes; ton. I’m sure that’s the correct measurement.) However, I also make sure we have time to read individually - while we’re together. My oldest dives into a chapter book, my youngest looks at the pictures in his Magic School Bus Collection, and I dive into the reading I find interesting. With my five year-old on-hand this doesn’t last too terribly long, but it’s a start. I aim for 20 minutes: It’s reading time at the Obery house – let the modeling begin!
This stack includes all the books I’ve attempted
to digest this past month.
Like I said, I may have gone too far.
I hope to dial it back a bit in the coming month, but truly don’t regret a single turned-page. My kids see how much I love to read, write, and learn. If that becomes their reality as an adult - they can jaywalk all they want – I’ll be a happy Mommy!