ABC Mouse

I was excited to be offered the opportunity to explore an educational website called ABCmouse with Paige and be able to share my experience with you! 
ABCmouse was developed by a team of educators especially for children ages 2 through 6.  It is a comprehensive site loaded with learning activities to address reading, math, science, social studies, art, and even music!

You begin by selecting a teacher avatar for your child along with creating an avatar to look just like your child.  
Paige had a lot of fun with this! 

You then go on to choose the Learning Path for your child.  There are six different curriculum levels.  Preschool (levels 1 and 2), Pre-K (levels 3 and 4), and Kindergarten (levels 5 and 6). Each Learning Path provides a series of lessons where the child is guided from one lesson to the next.  They are set in different environments, pine tree forest, mountains, beach, etc... with activities to correspond with each environment.  The activities include books, art, puzzles, games, songs, and even printables.
As a parent or teacher, you can also build lessons with specific activities to customize the child's learning through Guided learning.

Paige can also choose the activities she wants to do on the website through Independent learning.  Outside of learning path she can do visit the farm, zoo, classroom, library, etc...  Even if she decides to go off of the Learning Path, each activity on the site has one or more learning objectives.  

Here are some of my favorite points about ABCmouse:
~  It is very easy to use for both adults and children alike.  I especially liked the mouse/pointer tutorial for children who are not familiar with using a mouse.
~  You can set up the account for up to 3 children with a parent account.  
~  You can track the progress of each child individually and create individualized lessons.
~  Creating the avatar that looked just like Paige along with an avatar for her teacher was lots of fun.
~  There is a ticket reward system!  After each activity is completed, the child earns a certain number of tickets.  They can then use these tickets to "shop" for decorations for their room and other things.
~  The child can save their favorite activities to revisit them in the future.
~  There is a Basics area that allows the child to practice their foundational reading and math skills.
~  The activities are fun and engaging.
~  The site is child safe.  There are no ads or links to external sites, providing a safe learning environment!
~  It is okay for the child to explore the site independently, not always sticking to the learning path because each activity on the site has one or more learning objectives.  

When I asked Paige what her favorite thing is about ABCmouse, she said:
"I like to go shopping (with the tickets she has earned) for furniture for my room, fish for my aquarium, and just shopping."
(I think she takes after Mommy here!)

I also learned that for a limited time you can set up a FREE classroom account for up to 40 students if you teach in a public or private school!
Click on the picture below to learn more!

Thank you ABCmouse for this opportunity!

Introducing Letters and Sounds-Mnemonics

This is my third post in a series where I share with you my favorite activities and methods to expose our little literacy learners to the letters of the alphabet.  If you missed my first post about how much I love alphabet charts, you can click here.  If you missed my second post where I discuss using the letters in the child's name, you can click here.  This post will discuss my favorite way to incorporate sounds 
using mnemonics.

A mnemonic is a device used to aid in remembering something.  When it comes to the alphabet, the mnemonics are the pictures that begin with the sound made by the letter.  These pictures provide the children with a type of connection to the letter sound as they add it to their memory banks.  
For example an "apple" for the letter "Aa", a "bed" for the letter "Bb", and a "cat" for the letter "Cc".
  I feel lucky that our school adopted a set of universal mnemonics that are displayed consistently in every primary classroom.  We have a very talented retired teacher in the district who sat down and drew the pictures to go along with each letter.  I have these mnemonics up on my classroom wall, in an alphabet chart, and on flashcards. As I introduce each letter in my small groups, I reinforce it by saying the letter name, picture, and sound.  
For example, "A, apple, /a/".

There are so many wonderful letter-sound picture cards out there that can serve as mnemonics.  Here are links to two of my absolute favorites.  Each one uses a good, clear primary font and the picture that corresponds with each letter is very simple and unambiguous for children of all backgrounds.

Annie from The Moffatt Girls

Angelia from Extra Special Teaching

A resource that I love to use that incorporates mnemonics is the LeapFrog Letter Factory video.
Have you seen it?  LeapFrog has introduced the letters in a multisensory manner by allowing the child to attach the letter to its sound by a movement or action.  All of the letters are inside the Letter Factory training to make their correct sounds. They are each in their own rooms as Tad the Frog is introduced to them.  For example, all of the "C's" are shivering because they are "C...C...C...cold".

After each letter is introduced, they sing a simple song with a cute little tune that is easily picked up by children:   "The A says /a/.  
The A says /a/. 
Every letter makes a sound.  
The A says /a/."

I posted about this little video here when I was first introduced to it.  My daughter loved it!  I also found these awesome printable letter cards to go along with the mnemonics used in the movie on a blog called, Running With Scissors.  These letter cards are drawn by hand, didn't they come out beautiful?
I actually recommend this video to all of my parents to use as an additional tool at home to support their child's letter-sound development.  It is fairly inexpensive and can be purchased almost anywhere!  

What do you do to help your little literacy learners connect the letters of the alphabet with their sounds?

Plinko Anyone?

Have you ever heard of the game Plinko?
(I immediately think of The Price is Right, what about you?)

Well, have you ever thought of combining Plinko and Phonemic Awareness?  I sure hadn't but Lakeshore has!  They created an engaging game to help your little literacy learners develop their ability to isolate initial and final phonemes along with producing rhyming words!  

Their Phonemic Awareness Plinko game is a cute game that sits right on top of a table.  It includes 90 illustrated wooden chips with pictures of single-syllable words.  The players take turns dropping a chip and watching it drop down, bounce off the pegs, and then land into one of three categories:

Say the beginning sound
Say a rhyming word
Say the ending sound

Paige loved playing this game.  In fact, the first thing she wanted to do this morning was play the game!  She loved watching the chip fall down into one of the three slots.  In addition to the saying the beginning or ending sound she also named the letter that produced the sound.
I am always looking for fun ways to engage the children as they practice strengthening their foundational skills and was thrilled to be able to give you my honest review this product.  I would definitely recommend it and look forward to using it with my students!

Introducing Letters and Sounds-Names

This is my second post in a series of posts where I share with you some of my favorite activities and methods to expose our little literacy learners to the letters of the alphabet.  If you missed my first post about how I use alphabet charts, you can click here.  

In addition to using alphabet charts, I also like to reinforce the 
letters in the child's name.  

Many of my kinderkids come to school without the ability to recognize their name, let alone know that their name is comprised of letters.  If this is the case, I begin my instruction with name recognition.  As they improve their ability to recognize their name in print, we move on to learning about the first letter of their name, and then the remaining letters.  We talk about the names of the letters, what they look like, and the sounds they make. 

Here are some activities that I have done to help expose children to the letters in their names  (since I am not in school for two more weeks, my daughter had some fun practicing with her name to show you some of the activities):

~  Use or make tactile letters.  I create tactile letters using glue!  Write or print out the name first and then trace over it using  the glue (regular Elmer's glue is fine).  Then let it sit out overnight and the next day the child is able to feel the letters in their name.  As the child traces over each letter, reinforce the name of the letter.  (Adding sand or glitter may help with texture.)  
Here I printed out Paige's name using a font called, "ABCPrint".  You can download it to most computers for free here.  The top picture was just after I traced the letters with the glue.  The bottom picture shows the glue dry on the following day. 

~  If you have a group of students, you could identify the first letter in their names.  Then use the alphabet chart to put the names in alphabetical order.

~  Talk about and count the number of letters in their name.  If you have a group of children you can compare the length of the names and even graph them.

~  Write the first letter (or any of the letters) on an 8 X 10 piece of paper and have the child use a DO-A-DOT marker to trace over letter.  Ask the child to say the letter name and/or letter sound each time they push down with the DO-A-DOT.
Here Paige is practicing her P, saying, "P, /p/" each time she pushes down and makes a dot.

~  Go through magazines and cut out the letters in their name.

~  Match letter tiles, foam letters, or letters cut from an index card to a visual model of their name (or place the letters in the correct order). 

Because Paige is practicing using the proper case when writing her name, I gave her two sets of letters-an upper case set and a lower case set, using only the letters in her name.  She then had to choose the correct letters and place them in the correct order.  I also had her name the letters of her name in order and again randomly.

~  Sing the letters in their name.  Depending on the length of the name I have used the songs, "BINGO", "Happy Birthday", etc...

~  Find the letters in their name using Scrabble Cheez-Its.  They then eat them (the funnest part of course)!

~  Complete a sort: letters in name vs. letters that are not.
Paige used some foam sticky letters that we had.  If you keep scrolling down, you will find a FREEBIE for this activity!  There is a place to write the child's name if he/she needs a visual model.

~  Write the student's name with a highlighter and have the student practice tracing the letters with a pencil to write their name.  If the student is more advanced than this, he/she can rainbow write their name.

~  Use Highway ABC Cards.  Have the child pick out the letters in his/her name and use a car to drive over each letter.
You can find the Highway ABC Cards here.

~ Write letters of name on a paint stirrer (or even an index card) and again on individual clothespins.  The child clips the clothespins to the correct letters to spell their name.

~  Use playdough or bendable wax sticks (like Wikki Stix) to form the letters.

~  Use different writing utensils and materials to practice writing name (paint in bags, chalk, water on chalkboard/concrete, shaving cream, play dough, colored sand, salt trays, etc...). 

Here Paige is practicing forming her letters using some blue finger paint that I added to a Ziploc baggie.  I made sure to remind her NOT to use her fingernail!

All of these activities can be differentiated depending on the child's exposure to the alphabet.  For example, some children need to view a visual model of their name, other children are ready to do it without the visual model.  Some of the children are ready to form the letters, other children need to continue to identify the letters.  Each activity is geared to providing the child with multiple exposures to practice naming the letters.  Throughout each activity I reinforce the name of the letter and sometimes the sound it produces.  

For taking the time to read through this entire post, I wanted to share a FREEBIE with you!  If you click on the picture below, you can download the Letters In Name sorting sheet for free through my Teachers Notebook shop.  I also included some letter tiles to use with it. 

Thanks for bearing with me through this long post.  I would love to hear how you use the names of the children to reinforce alphabetic skills!


Back to School Events

There are a lot of things happening over at Teachers Notebook that you don't want to miss!  Starting today through August 13th, Teachers Notebook is having their Back to School Bonanza Sale!

I have listed all of my products 50% off!!  Click on the picture to the right to head over to my shop!

Another exciting happening is the Back to School Teaching Expo.  It is coming on August 25th!  This is a fabulous way to earn some professional development hours at your own leisure, while sitting back in your own home!  (Once you view the presentations you are able to print out a certificate of completion to present to your school!)   

Right now, if you donate $10 you will receive a FREE ticket for yourself and that donation will also send 2 other teachers to the expo for free! 

This $10 donation, is half the regular price of a single ticket!  So you will be saving money, getting a ticket for yourself, and helping out two other teachers in the process!  How awesome is that!?

There are some great authors set to present.  In fact, my best bloggy friend will be presenting and I am super excited to see her presentation on Reading Success!

Will I see you there?

The Big Apple

This weekend I headed down to the Big Apple to meet some of my bloggy friends and fellow TBA Authors!  Although the New York City is only a 3 hour drive for me, I do not go there often.  It is intimidating to me and I am petrified of driving in NYC traffic.  But I did it, I did it!!

Many were in NYC to attend the BlogHer '12 conference and we all met for dinner.  Those who were attending the conference shared some tidbits they had learned.  Otherwise we spent the time chatting and eating!  
It was so very nice to meet everyone in person!  
My hubby came with me and was very supportive about driving down to meet people we've never met before!  He is shy and reserved like me, so I was happy to have him by my side because I definitely had some butterflies fluttering around in my tummy.  It was my little one's first trip to the NYC and she had a blast both in the city and socializing with everyone at dinner!!  (She on the other hand, is a little social butterfly!)
Did you know that when you attend a BlogHer conference you get logs and lots of free stuff (swag)?  Well, although I ended up not being able to attend the conference, I came home with the very best swag of all!  

This swag was made with love by my bloggy friends!  
(Thank you Hadar and Teri!)
And look how awesome these pens are!  
They say, "TBA Author and proud of it!"  
(Thank you Leslie!!)

Okay, now let's have some fun.  
Do you recognize all of the ladies in the first picture?  
Here we go, going from left to right:
Leslie from KindergartenWorks
Erica Bohrer from Erica Bohrer's First Grade
Hadar from Miss Kindergarten
Tamara from Teaching With TLC
Angela from The Cornerstone
Crystal from Kreative in Kinder