Monday, November 26, 2007

More school ideas

Our daughters' conferences a few weeks ago and I received some good information from their teachers. I previously posted some writing tips, now here are a few more I found in another information packet.

This packet was for parents of middle schoolers:
  • The article pointed out that middle school students have to juggle multiple classes and multiple chunks of homework. However, they are still learning time management and time past the "present tense". They suggested, to "sharpen those skills" by asking the child to "estimate how long it will take to run an errand and get home."
  • One paragraph stated that "bouncing quickly from one subject to the next" can be difficult for some students, especially if multiple classes give homework on vocabulary. It suggested that the student may "run out of linguistic gas". For this the article instructed parents to (when the student isn't swamped with homework) have him/her review their notes. Then, using different color index cards for each subject, jot down the different terms used in each class. This way, during homework dealing with these words, the correct cards will be at hand.
  • One of my favorite suggestions, to help students to be "better wordsmiths", to write the numbers 1 to 10 on separate slips of paper and drop them in a hat. Have the child write ten sentences about a favorite thing (ie sports team, or band). But before they write, they must pull from the hat. If the number nine was drawn first, then the sentence must be nine words long; if the number three is picked, the sentence must be three words long. "It only takes a few of those exercises until they don't need them anymore."
  • The article also says that most middle schoolers have given up the minute-to-minute "what I did at school today" conversations in lieu of "nothing". They say, instead of asking the child as soon as they walk in the door what they did at school, ask them 20 minutes before bedtime, and a sleepy middle schooler is more likely to chat. :) My oldest used to tell me all about her day, the whole 10-15 min. walk from school was her talking... not anymore. Not a word. I've even tried more than "What did you do at school today?" I have tried: "Anything weird happen today?" "Did anything cool happen today?" "Did anyone unusual get in trouble today?" "Who did you eat lunch with today?" Nada, zip... Scary how the doors of communication close... This is not good for a worrier like me.
In another packet, we received some tips on encouraging math and the enjoyment of it:
  • Make math hands on; have kids make their own games and puzzles.
  • Take math outside; walk around outdoors and study patters of seashells, pine cones, spiderwebs, etc.
  • Take math on vacation; enjoy shapes and patterns of landscapes.
  • Encourage kids to keep a sketchbook and observation notebook to write or sketch about what they see.
  • Make charts and graphs with your children, such as rates of growth, weather, school sports, household task completion or donations to charities.
  • Encourage interest in architecture such as drawing plans for rooms, houses or gardens.
  • Keep sport stats.
  • Play with codes, such as sending an affectionate message in code or have them write you a note in code.
  • Take math into the kitchen, dividing recipes, measuring, cutting apples, etc.
  • Make math a holiday event; make a mobile or mosaic or cut our stars or snowflakes. Talk about balance, symmetry and measurement.
  • Throw a math party; map a treasure hunt or shape a cake into numbers.
  • Encourage math activities, without necessarily using the word math. This makes some kids nervous.
  • Encourage students with verbal ability to see the connections to math; ie poetic meter, or palindromes.
  • Don't rush in. Don't solve the problems for the children, let them work at it.
  • Don't be reluctant to expose children to difficult concepts.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thankful Feather Turkey

I have mentioned in the past that we do Thankful Feathers to celebrate Thanksgiving: We send out "thankful feathers" to our close friends and family with a letter reminding them how thankful we are for them, and a few specific things each family member is thankful for. We send them out in the first week of November, and hope for them to be returned by Thanksgiving. As these feathers come to us, we read them as a family and remember all we have to be thankful for. Sometimes we get caught up in the busy-ness of the holidays and skip right over the Thanksgiving to get to Christmas. At our house, those feathers coming in the month of November helps. We have had paper mache turkeys, white board turkeys, and paper turkeys (as well as others I can't remember) to display these feathers. We've been doing this since 1998 so, we've had quite a variety. Well, I saw a model magic (fast drying clay by crayola) turkey on the crayola site, I think, so I planned on trying one to hold the feathers this year. Our local store was out of the clay, so I thought I'd try a gourd that my dad had grown, but had been dried last year. I sanded it, painted it, sculpted a bit of model magic (we had a tiny pack) into a waddle and feet. Here's the finished product.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING! (If you celebrate. :))

Friday, November 16, 2007

Writing Exercises

My youngest daughter brought home a creative writing booklet by bic writing instruments to encourage creative writing in children. Their article said, " 'art' is nothing more than playing with color, form, sound, movement, or words." Also, "Creative expression helps with academic success and enlivens our world." I thought this booklet had some great ideas that I would love to use them at home and in a classroom, as well. I thought I would share some of my favorites. As I read through these, I also considered that these would be fun ways for children to practice using their spelling words, too, in these same writing activities, but using a certain amount of their words from their spelling or vocabulary lists.
Some of their writing prompt ideas:
  • Use old family photos as writing prompts. They can write what they see, and this may also trigger topics such as what their own daily life is like, smells from their childhood kitchens, tastes and more.
  • Grab paint chips from a paint selection area and have the child write a story or poem using one or all of the imaginative paint color names.
  • Use a cookbook or recipe for inspiration. The story can talk about the food, what occasion it was made for, who the guests were, or a silly story about what happened after the guests ate it.
The booklet also stated that children should become comfortable writing, and these ways "help them to realize words can come naturally":
  • Bubble Trouble: sticky notes cut into circles and placed on family photos, magazine pictures, or newspaper articles for the child to fill in with what they think the people are thinking or saying.
  • Caption Action: Cut out newspaper cartoons and leave off the words. Encourage the child to make up their own version.
  • Quote catcher: Designate a small board (bulletin, chalk, white/wipe-off) in a central area and encourage family (or class) members to post their favorite quotes. The "simple exercise of writing another's words teaches kids how well-written words flow."
Be a writing role model (as a parent or teacher):
  • share/write your story, try to get family members to participate, as well. I try to do this in my scrapbooking.
  • write notes to your child. I also try to do this, and when I student taught, I did this for the students, as well and put them in their desks, in their journals, etc. to let them know I thought they were special, as I try to do for my own girls.
  • Keep a journal and have your child see you writing in it.
  • Encourage written thank you notes. I don't see too many people doing this... but I do it. Even things that aren't tangible gifts. For instance, my daughter got more one-on-one time with the piano teacher yesterday and the teacher took special time to teach her a fun, new song: Over the river-a Thanksgiving tune! My daughter had so much fun! So, I sent the teacher a thank you note today. I truly feel it is a dying art.
  • Use a dictionary and keep several handy around the house.
  • Be encouraging, not critical of your child's work.
  • Limit television and computer use and listen to "books on tape when driving so children can begin to hear well-written language."
Their last section in the booklet was "Word Surge"... to expand word wealth.
"Research indicates that the number of different words a child is exposed to in the early years is a key predictor of future reading and academic success."
  • Word of the weekend: post a word of the weekend on the fridge and challenge each other to slip it in casually to conversation over the weekend. The first person to do so gets to pick the following weekend's word. (could do word of the week for a classroom)
  • Play word games like Scrabble, crossword puzzles, etc.
  • Vocabulary Vertigo: Write child's weekly words (spelling, vocabulary, or make up your own themed list) on bright, colored index cards and tape them to the ceiling over their bed (or reading area in the classroom!) Decorate them with stars, planets, etc. and expand your child's linguistic galaxy.
  • Ransom letters: Have your child cut up old magazines and newspapers. They can choose big, fun, bold fonts, or words, pasting them together to write letters, "stories or phrases with eye-catching appeal. "
They also had a list of other tun writing websites:
Mad libs
Create a Play
The Story Starter
Magnetic Poetry for kids, online
Word of the day
Online dictionary/thesaurus, word games, etc.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Desk decoration

Desk decoration
Originally uploaded by jkhenson
This one is small, but quick and fun to do.

Girls' frames

Girls' frames
Originally uploaded by jkhenson

Frame for in-laws

Frame for in laws
Originally uploaded by jkhenson

Frame I made for home

Frame I made for home
Originally uploaded by jkhenson
I didn't continue getting Christmas things out yesterday because I had more pressing chores to do. I did, however work on some decor/crafts with my two daughters today. We spent about an hour today working on these frames. I saw the idea on Ali Edward's blog, and it's a simple way to include my girls in crafts. They don't have school today or tomorrow due to teacher/parent conferences. We had both girls' conferences last night and they were great! We're very proud of them. Back to the craft, we worked on these this morning. The small white frame and brown frame together, are theirs. They liked picking out papers, chopping and gluing. :) I made the black frame for our house and the other small brown frame for our house. Then I thought I'd make one for my in laws, as we are going to their house on Saturday. Thought I'd take it along.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I always grumble that the stores are putting out their decorations for Christmas, before Halloween. However, this year I saw on Ali Edward's blog that she thought she'd extend the season. I thought about this and we don't put our decorations up until Dec. 1. Then we visit my parents right after Christmas, so those decorations are taken down on the 26th. So, as I walked through a local craft store, I saw the silver ornaments (see upper right) and loved them. However, we get ornaments as gifts about every year and have a ton, so what to do with them? Wreaths were 40% off, so I got one, brought it home and put it together in about twenty minutes.... now to get the rest of the decor out... although I have far too much to be doing today!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Short Run

Yesterday the winds were between 20 and 30 miles per hour. I was being blown off the bike path! I thought to myself, "I only have to do a couple... I could turn around now." Then the thinker said, "But this is what we'll be running in all winter, now that we're training for a spring marathon." So, I got almost five in, a short run, but with the wind it felt much longer. And "stink"... I'm doing a spring marathon. :) I normally hope for a hard winter, snow days, playing and shoveling... but hmmm, now I'm hoping for a mild winter. :)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Cold Weather

Cold weather makes me want to bake. I want to bake homemade breads, cookies, get the jump on Christmas cookies-to bake and freeze... but I have no oven. I can't even make garlic bread, or quiche to go with dinner... I miss my oven. I can't wait until the new one arrives.
A related note: I'm contemplating baking multiple loaves of quick breads for neighbors, instead of cookies, this Christmas. We get plates of cookies, we all give plates of cookies. How about a loaf of zucchini bread, a loaf of strawberry bread, a loaf of pumpkin bread... and what for the fourth? I have a "fa la la la latte loaf" or eggnog loaf that is good. Or the old standby of banana. Anyway, nicely wrapped, something different?
Back to missing my oven and baking... Any good recipes I can dream about?

Saturday, November 03, 2007


Started the day by sleeping in a bit late (8:20 is late for me), then running almost 7 miles. I went for a run in the cool air, and didn't take my watch for the first time in months. Ran for fun. I felt the fatigue of a marathon less than two weeks ago and it still felt good. I committed myself to doing the Cinci. Flying Pig in the spring. I have heard winter training is much, much harder... And I need to add in hills.... but I've decided it is my next goal. Glad to have a goal.
Then I ate, showered, daily activities, then headed to the running store to resign with my marathoner in training group.
Watched my football team win, then headed over to the hubby's parents' house for a wonderful dinner and family time. Was great, as hubby's grandparents were in from out of town and it was so great to see them. Got a few good pictures, too.
All for now. Hope your weekend is going well!

Friday, November 02, 2007

First Grade and Friday

Well, the day of substitute teaching in first grade flew by! I really enjoyed the class and all we did: we talked about pumpkins! We made books, wrote "How To Carve a Jack-O-Lantern", read pumpkin stories, made a paper chain of order words (first, second, third, etc.) and more! I am feeling like I need a nap on one hand and on the other I can hardly wait to go scrapbooking tonight! I can't wait to get started on a scrapbook gift for my in laws! :) I hope they aren't reading the blog lately! :)
In other news, my oldest signed up for "Jazz band" at school and will start practicing next week. I enjoy jazz music so I'm interested to hear them. I hope she follows through and practices the necessary amount... so far, for regular band, she has been lax in bringing home her horn to practice... hopefully that will improve.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Miles Logged and Halloween

Halloween was last night and my oldest, who is twelve, didn't trick-or-treat. She stayed home and gave out candy, as well as helped out with neighbors' smaller children. She did go to a Halloween party over the weekend and dressed as a bat, with wings, fangs and black clothing. She had a great time! My youngest went as a bunch of grapes: purple clothing, green face paint for the stem, some leaves in her hair and purple balloons sewn all over her upper half. She got many compliments and a neighbor said she should pop her balloons and go back out again as "raisins". :) We like to put together costumes, rather than buy them.
I subbed a few days this week, tomorrow will make three. I'm headed back to first grade to a class I did last week. I enjoyed them immensely, so I look forward to the task.
I have ran four times since the marathon, totaling fourteen miles. Nice, easy runs. It's been windy, and I don't like running in the wind. Although, it's been nice to get out running. A few days the schedule didn't allow it.
The husband's grandparents are coming down for the weekend so I look forward to that visit. As well as scrapbooking at a nearby store tomorrow night. Have to get working on some gifts for Christmas! I also have to mail out the thankful letters soon, too!! :)
That's all for now. Anyone else trying to post every day in November? :)