Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Valentine's Day Craft Idea part 2

Here's a cute idea for the kids to make to put all of their goodies in. It's so simple, didn't take that long to do, but was a lot of fun. The best part is that it is homemade. I love to give things that are homemade. It makes the gift that much more special because you put thought and time into it.

We took a brown paper bag (lunch bag) and decorated it with hearts of different shapes and sizes, glitter, and personal message. These bags are also perfect to put the chocolate covered pretzels I wrote about in a previous blog entry,

You can then help your child fill the bag with small gifts and sweets and they can give it to their friends, or anyone else!!

What happened to English Grammar and Spelling??

So as an English teacher by trade, I think it's very important to teach kids grammar and spelling. As the mother of a junior in high school, I can tell you that schools no longer teach grammar or spelling. It is appalling and they might tell you otherwise, but I can assure you this is the new reality. I don't know why grammar has been forgotten.

I've noticed that teachers are so focused on having students write, write, write. They have so many writing assignments that it is mind boggling. However, most of these writing assignments have no purpose. My high school age daughter writes so much, but she has no idea why. Then, the teacher collects the writings and you never hear another word about it. My question is: How are the kids supposed to learn from their mistakes? The answer is: They don't. Kids my daughter's age don't have a clue about modifiers, run on sentences or even correct placement of commas, colons, etc. It's astounding.

Spelling is another issue. The idea with spelling is that you should let the child spell the way they think the word is, or how the word sounds. The idea is to encourage young kids to write, even if it's incorrectly spelled. I've heard teachers say that correcting kids too much discourages them. That practice might work fine when kids are in kindergarten or even first grade. Eventually, kids need to learn the correct way to spell. The problem is, by the time teachers start focusing on correct spelling, kids have already created hard to break habits. It is too late!

So my philosophy is teach them while they are young. Kids can take criticism and should learn early on the right way of doing things.

My older daughter is in public school and never learned how to spell, except when I taught her at home. Her spelling is not stellar unfortunately, but I did the best I could given the situation. The school was of no help at all. I would edit her writing and they would not. They would tell her "it's ok". No, it's not ok. It is embarrassing to see grown adults who do not know the difference between "there", "their" and "they're".

Since I homeschool my first grader, I have a golden opportunity to do things differently, better.
We work on writing everyday, and while I encourage her to write creatively, we do go over her writing and work on spelling and grammar.

She's known her long and short vowels since she was 3 years old. I taught her about "word families", words that rhyme also when she was 3. I was encouraged by her first teacher in preschool, who noticed that my daughter was very smart and learned things quickly. The teacher told me to really challenge her at home above and beyond what she learned in school. I immediately started to do that and my daughter loved it. She soaked up all of this knowledge like a sponge. And everything I taught was using games. I can't tell you how many word games we played. I never pushed her. I let her choose the games and we played. As a result, she was reading in kindergarten. By the time she got to 1st grade, she was already reading at a 2nd grade level. That's when we decided to homeschool and she's flourished. She's an excellent speller for her age.

On this journey, I strive to offer my daughter a well rounded education where she can explore her interests while becoming very strong in the basics of reading, writing, and math. I will always put emphasis on proper English. I think it is fundamental.

How do you feel about teaching English grammar?

Creative fun way to teach vowel digraphs

Using my last post as a segue, I wanted to share one of the fun things we do in homeschool to learn spelling.

Today we worked on the vowel digraph "ee". We've worked on that before so it was nothing new to my daughter. I found these phonics sheets on the internet at the link below:

These phonics worksheets are great. My daughter and I talked about the "ee" sound and how some words have the same sound but are actually spelled "ea". We decided to focus on "ee" phonemes only and tackle "ea" another day.

I actually printed two copies of the sheets. The first copy I gave to my daughter and she filled it out on her own with some guidance from me.

Then today, I used the second set of copies. I cut them into cards and I placed them on the floor randomly. I told my daughter to look through the cards and see if she could find words that rhymed. So, for example, she picked out "week" and "leek". She continued until almost all of the cards were in pairs. (there were some that did not have pairs, we left those aside).

Then, I told her to look at the cards again, because some of them could be grouped together into "families". She found "wheel" and "steel" and put them with "reel" and "eel".

Finally, I got a dry erase board and told her we were going to make up short poems using some of these words. She loved the idea and picked a pair of rhyming words and started to make silly poems.

We had a lot of fun with this lesson. It was relaxing, no pressure, more like a game. My daughter thrives on activities like these. I have found that they are the best learning experiences for her. She really retains what she learns.

I want to give credit to Margaret Adams who posted the vowel cards at Follow the above link to go directly to the page with the cards. I have to say that the website is a little confusing to navigate. I didn't get these worksheets by searching their website, but found them instead by doing a Google search which took me directly to this link.

Do you have any creative ways to teach spelling and grammar?