Sunday, January 30, 2011

Our first GIVEAWAY!

Mama J & I have decided to do monthly giveaways for our followers and readers. We would LOVE and APPRECIATE your help in spreading the word about our blog. Below are 4 simple steps you must complete in order to be entered in our drawing for our Valentine's Day giveaway!

1. Become a FOLLOWER of this blog by clicking FOLLOW on the right side panel of this blog.
2. Post our blog address on your Facebook page and a link to this blog.
3. If you have a blog yourself please add our button to your own blog.
4. Finally leave a comment to THIS post with your name so that we can make sure that you are entered into our drawing.



Three great educational books. Perfect for ages 1-6! 

Thanks for your support! You have until February 13th to enter. Our winner will be announced on Valentine's Day!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Books for Your Beginning Readers

Hi there! So I LOVE when I get questions from readers! We got a question saying "What books do you recommend for a beginning reader?"....So after much thought and searching....I came up with THIS list and a few pointers when selecting books for your new reader.

Questions to think about when choosing a book for your new reader:

1. What does the book look like?
Look for books with 20 pages or less (if you are reading it to her) or 20 words total or less (is she is independently reading it), that have illustrations AND text on each page. Sequential readers are a great option to start with. These books are labeled with "levels" such as "level 1" or "level A". A level 1  or level A book is generally for readers ages 3 to 6 and a level 2 or level B book is generally appropriate for children ages 4 to 8.
(Notice the level 1 on the upper right side of the cover).
2. Is the vocabulary appropriate for your new reader?
Skim through the book and look at the words. Are they too big or are they "foreign" in your child's daily vocabulary? It is great to have a few words that are new that can challenge your child; however, we DO NOT want to frustrate your child. Have your child read the first page or two to you and if she can read it fluently (with less than a few mistakes) then it is a great fit for her. However, if she can't get through the first sentence with out you helping her with almost every word, then it's too hard.
3. Will your child enjoy it?
You don't want to find a book just because it is on the perfect level but not very enjoyable. A key aspect of learning to love to read, is finding books your reader LOVES. This will keep him engaged and want to CONTINUE to read....which is our goal!

Also, find stories your child can relate to: going to school, meeting new friends, etc. Rhyming and rhythmic stories are engaging too.

Now for the LIST:
Any of the "I Can Read" books are a MUST when choosing books for your beginner reader. Some of the series include: Frog and Toad (my FAVORITE!!), Amelia Badelia, Dr. Seuss, Fancy Nancy, and Little Bear.
And the list continues....These are books both you and your little one can read together or to each other. Some books will be too difficult, but they are VERY engaging. It is just as important for YOU to read to your new reader as it is for your child to read to you. 

Have fun with these!

(Pictures and summaries taken from Scholastic).

Butterfly House

by Eve Bunting
After she saves a black creature from a greedy jay, a girl decides to raise it. With the help of her grandfather, the girl makes a home for the creature until it turns into a butterfly and must be set...


by Kay Thompson
Eloise lives at The Plaza Hotel on the top floor with her Nanny while her mother is away. She is very busy with her daily activities, although the hotel staff sometimes wishes she would do something else.
Eloise series

Kitten's First Full Moon

by Kevin Henkes
From one of the most celebrated and beloved picture book creators working in the field today comes a memorable new character and a suspenseful adventure just right for the very youngest. It is Kitten's...

Miss Nelson Is Missing

by Harry Allard
The unruly students in room 207 learn their lesson when a stern new teacher arrives.
Miss Nelson series

No, David!

by David Shannon
Five-year-old David is told "No" over and over again for the mischievous things he does. Very humorous pictures make this Caldecott Honor book a delight for young readers who always hear these...
No, David! series

Olivia Counts

by Ian Falconer
Count along with Olivia! Toddlers will join everyone's favorite piglet as they learn to count from one to ten.
Olivia series

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs

by Jon Scieszka
An irresistible "revisionist" retelling of the traditional tale will become a classroom hit. "Alexander T. Wolf endeavors to set the record straight, and he does an admirable job of it."...

And to continue this lovely list....

Recommended Authors: (Some of this list was also taken from Scholastic).
Frank Asch
Norman Bridwell (Clifford Books)
Marc Tolon Brown (Arthur Books)
Jan Brett
Eric Carle
Nancy Carlson
Caron Cohen (How Many Fish)
Donald Crews (Ten Black Dots / School Bus / Freight Train / Rain / Truck)
Doreen Cronin (Giggle, Giggle, Quack / Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type)
Jamie Lee Curtis (Today I Feel Silly and Other Moods / It's Hard to Be Five)
Dom Deluise (Charlie the Caterpillar)
Lois Ehlert (Growing Vegetable Soup / Waiting for Wings / Planting a Rainbow)
Don Freeman (Corduroy Books)
Gail Gibbons (Apples / Grizzly Bears / Bats / Panda Bears)
Kevin Henkes (Wemberly Worried / Owen / Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse)
Amy Hest (Off to School Baby Duck / In the Rain with Baby Duck)
Tana Hoban
Pat Hutchins
Jack Ezra Keats (The Snowy Day / A Letter to Amy / Dreams / Pet Show / Whislte for Willie)
Keiko Kauza "The Wolf's Chicken Stew" (GoodReads rating)
Robert Kraus (Whose Mouse Are You? & Spider's First Day at School)
Helen Lester (Tacky the Penguin)
Bill Martin
Mercer Mayer
Al Perkins (The Nose Book / The Digging-est Dog)
Anne Rockwell (Apples and Pumpkins / Clouds / Career Day)
Marilyn Sadler (It's Not Easy Being a Bunny / Honey Bunny Funny)
Shel Silversteen (The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic)
Peter Spier
Dr. Seuss books
Rosemary Wells (Max & Ruby, and Bunny)
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Mo Willems Pigeon books
Audrey Wood
Author of the Month

Whew! That was a long list! I hope you can use these authors/titles to help build your at-home library. 

Please let us know if you have any more questions! We sure LOVE hearing from you!!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Letter Cards and Pictures

There are ENDLESS possibilities with letter cards and picture cards. 
You can purchase letter cards and picture cards from any teacher supply store or I have seen them at the dollar store and grocery stores. If you'd rather not purchase them, you can easily make them by printing off pictures and making letters on a word document. Either way works great!

This activity can be effective for a wide range of ages/grades. Below I will give you some ideas of ways you can use this activity to help your child gain a better knowledge of letters and their sounds. This activity builds phonemic awareness; a key component of becoming a great reader and writer.

1. Match the letter to the beginning sound of the picture.
2. Play memory. This game is so versatile, easy and fun. I used it all the time with my first graders to practice vocabulary skills, spelling words, reading and writing skills, and math. You can play it however you want! Below is an example of matching the letter to the beginning sound of the picture. You can also match letters to letters (i.e. b and b) or letters to the ending sound of the picture (n to the picture of a hen). Have your child say the letter and it's sound 3 times when she turns over the letter card and have her say the name of the picture when she turns over the picture card. Have her do this each time she turns over a card so she is ALWAYS learning.
3. Verbal practice. You can simply point to the picture and have your child tell you the beginning sound it makes, or the middle, or the end, or all three!

4. Match the letter to an object in the house. 
(B for Book)
5. Writing. While you are cooking or cleaning or just hanging out with your child, have him write (on paper, with paint, on a white board, using magnets on the fridge) the letter of the beginning sound of objects that are around you. As you're cooking you might point to the Stove and ask your child to write the beginning letter of Stove. It is helpful to point to the object so your child can see and hear the word you are saying. For more advanced children, you can have him write the entire word, write the middle vowel, or ending consonant. You can always switch things up by having your child use different methods of writing (as mentioned earlier) to make it fun and exciting. 

Lastly, with any of these activities, you can switch roles and have your child be the teacher and you be the student! Children LOVE this and they continue to learn as they teach you! 

This activity can be adapted to children as young as 3 years old and up to children as old as 10...or older! Have fun creating new ways to help your children become better readers and writers, as they continue to LOVE to learn.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Results Are In

Thank you for taking the time to vote. We had 61 people vote. Here are the results:
Involvement at home with your child's education
  38 (62%)

Educational concerns (i.e.: with students/teacher)
  10 (16%)

Fun ways of teaching your child at home and on the road
  45 (73%)

Educational websites & resources
  23 (37%)

Volunteering ideas in the classroom
  13 (21%)

Challenging bright students
  24 (39%)

Teaching the basics: reading and math
  30 (49%)

Helping a struggling child
  19 (31%)

Dealing with faculty and teachers in the public school system
  14 (22%)

We are excited to address the following topics first and foremost:
1.      Fun ways of teaching your child at home and on the road.
2.    Involvement at home with your child’s education.
3.     Teaching the basics: reading and math

Indoor Fun

I subscribe to the Parents Magazine. It is a GREAT magazine, full of great advice, insight, and creative ideas. I was reading it yesterday and came across this article that I thought you might enjoy.

mother cooking with her daughter

The article is free to read if you become a member. It is FREE and EASY! I get great e-mails from them from time to time. What other magazines do you get that you enjoy reading and learning from? Please share!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Basis of Reading

I always get asked by moms when they should introduce books to their children. The answer is, as soon as possible! Some people thought it was crazy that I was reading to Owen when he was just 2 months old. However, research has proven that babies as young as 2 months can begin to focus on the words in front of them as well as listen to the reader's voice. Therefore making reading important as early as infancy.

Reading aloud is just as important as having your child read to you. As children listen to you read, they begin to pick up on words just by looking at the text. These "sight words" help build their vocabulary and their reading skills. In addition, children hear how your voice fluctuates as you read a story and they begin to mimic your voice allowing them to become more fluent readers. Fluency is the rate at which your child can read (words per minute). 

Now back to the babies. Read with them! Sit down and put your baby in your lap as you show him the book while you read. Point to pictures as you say the words. Use your voice to entertain him. Your baby will get used to sitting still while reading together as well as the "rules" of reading: i.e. holding the book the right way, turning the pages, etc. Your baby will also find it soothing to hear your voice, just as he did in the womb.

As your baby gets older (say around 6 months) let him hold the book and try turning the pages. I love putting books out as part of my one year old's "toys" so he can "read" whenever he wants to...and you know what, he does! We have tons of board books that are simple: one word and one picture. We also have touch and feel books which are awesome for developing his senses. I have noticed his vocabulary increasing as we read more often. We have included reading time into our routine as well. I began this ritual when he was just 2 months old. We read 2 stories (it's important to do the same amount of books each time) right before bed, every night. I of course also read to him throughout the day. We read signs outside, we read words we've made on the fridge with magnets, I show him the labels on food and drinks in our kitchen as we eat. Language is all around us and it's our job to subject our children to it as often as possible!
(6 months)
As your child gets older, you can buy books with CDs or tapes. Your little one can "read" along as he listens to the story being told. This is called a Read Aloud.  
Click Here to see The Very Hungry Caterpillar board book and CD sold on Amazon.
(9 months)

Make reading fun and adventurous early on and you will instill a life-long love of reading in your child.

There will be many more posts about reading in the future! As always, please feel free to leave a specific question and we'll get back to you.
 Happy Reading!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Teaching your toddler

Many of you moms out there have toddlers at home...not quite ready for preschool, but they still have the urge to learn. One of my friends has a 2 1/2 year old little one at home and she wrote me asking for ideas on how to keep him busy, engaged, and learning at home. I have been brainstorming these past few days and have compiled a list of hopefully FUN, ENGAGING, & FREE activities that you too can do at home with your toddler!

(at home or on the road)

1. When it's time to clean up toys or clutter make it into a game! Have some music ready to play (Mama J and I are working on a fun playlist of songs that you can sing, dance, and listen to with your kids. We will be sharing this soon!) Ask your child to sort his toys by shape, color, or size into different areas (baskets, spots on the floor, bins, etc.) Tell him that when the music starts you will begin sorting the items together. *You can make it into a race if your child is motivated by that or just have fun doing it together. After he has sorted the items ask him questions about the toys, "Why did you make this pile?", "How many things are in this bin?", or "What other ways can we sort our toys?".  This can be a GREAT learning experience and a fun way to clean up.

2. What child does not love to go on TREASURE HUNTS?! Take a trip to the park or even a ride in the car (really this activity can be done anywhere). Today we are going to the park with a 2 1/2 year-old Laura. I explain to Laura in the car that we are going to go on a treasure hunt for all different things while we at the park. This is a treasure hunt with our EYES & HANDS, that's all you will need! Sounds fun, huh? When we get to the park I proceed to ask her to find the following by running around and touching them with her hands and seeing them with her eyes.
1. Anything that is ROUND.
2. Only things that are the color RED.
3. Touch all the things in the park that are the shape of a square.
You get the idea. 

To make this game even more exciting you can switch up the body parts that she needs to touch things with. Or rather than use the sense of touch, use the sense of smell! There are SO many ways to make treasure hunts fun. 

Those are two ideas for now...many more to come! 

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Mama J here! Whenever I use the word "manipulatives" I usually confuse at least one person. However after using it every single day in my classroom, my first graders started using it themselves. Although it would sometimes come out as "manputives" I knew what they meant. :)

A manipulative is basically any "thing" you can use to manipulate. I ALWAYS used manipulatives in my classroom to provide a more hands-on learning experience. Research has proven that children learn much better through hands-on activities.

So here is an easy way to help your child work on writing, spelling, reading, vocabulary, math and many other subjects at home. First, I always like to have a place to "work" with our manipulatives. This is where your creativity comes in. It really can be ANYTHING! A plate, a white board, a blanket, a magnet board, a bowl, anything. This is your child's workstation. Now come the manipulatives. Once again, use your imagination! It can be any kind of food item (your child's favorite candy, marshmallows, raisins) or, marbles, magnets, pennies, shaving cream, etc. Now the activity: for example, for spelling you can have your child (instead of writing their spelling words a thousand times over and over) write their words using the pennies....and then have them add up how much money is on their plate! For a preschooler, have her practice making each letter of the alphabet on a different day/week by putting shaving cream on a surface of your choice, and then letting her use her finger to make the letter. After she makes the letter she can tell you what sound it makes and maybe think of a word that begins with that letter. I use manipulatives such as rocks to help my one year old with his gross motor skills. We put rocks from one bowl to the next and back and forth while singing the song "one little two little three little (instead of bubbles we say rocks) four little, five little, six little rocks, seven little, eight little, nine little rocks, ten little rocks go CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK (and we tip over the bowls of rocks).

Those are just a few examples of how you can use manipulatives with ALL ages and in many fun ways. If you need more ideas/options on how you can use manipulatives with your child, feel free to leave a comment with your question and I will gladly get back to you!

Have fun learning!

TWO is better than one!

I am so excited that my best friend has decided to write this blog with me! She is also an experienced teacher and a mother of a one-year-old boy! We are excited to share in this journey together and offer advice, suggestions, pose questions, write about topics that you (our readers) wish to read. In order to decipher between who is writing we will be referring to ourselves as Mama K and Mama J. Thanks again for your interest in this blog.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I think children do best when they have structure in their lives. Not all the time, but most of the time. The way to build structure into a child's life is through daily routines. As a teacher I learned quickly that students do best when they have structure and daily routines that are predictable. Most, if not all teachers have a daily routine in which they live by. From the minute the students enter the door of the classroom, to the final bell ringing at the end of the day, the routine helps the child to know what is expected of them. The same idea can be implemented at home. 

Two routines to live by:
Morning & Night
Already with my 4 month old boys I can see a pattern in their mood and demeanor on the days that we stick to our routine. When babies are thrown out of schedule it is easy to see and hear when they are unhappy. I have read several books on the proven fact that babies/children (and I believe people in general) are happier when they have a predictable routine set in place. So my advice to all parents is if you can have only TWO routines in the day make them first thing in the morning and before bed time. 

The key to a good routine is to try and perform the same tasks at the same time each day. Most parents have a morning routine that works well, especially when kids are in school because they have somewhere to be. Nighttime routines can be trickier for kids. Many children do not want to go to bed at their designated "bed time". Is this a fight in your household? Here is when setting up a FUN & CONSISTENT nighttime routine will help you.

Example of a nighttime routine for a 7 year-old.
  If your child's bed time is at 8:00p.m. Your nighttime routine should begin around 7:00p.m. Start by turning off the T.V. and any other stimulation. Have your child take a bath to help him/her calm down and get clean from the long day. Don't forget to have them brush their teeth. Next is P.J. time! Let your child pick out their P.J.'s and a few of their favorite books to read. Of course I am a HUGE fan of reading at night with your kids! Cuddle up to listen to your child read aloud in their bed, your bed, or with blankets on the floor (but NOT in front of the TV). This is where the FUN part comes in...ask your child to use their imagination and think of where they might pretend they will be reading tonight? Possibly in a dark cave (under the blankets with a flashlight), or at the top of a castle with the Princess (get out a wand and crown and wear them while reading), or in the forest surrounded by animals (bring out all the stuffed animals and have your child read to them as if it were his/her audience). Make reading time FUN and EXCITING! Then it's time for bed. Lights out every night at 8:00p.m. 

If your child knows that this routine will happen every night, then hopefully you can avoid the fight at bed time. Make it exciting and something to look forward to. Most of all be apart of the routine with your child. It's a great bonding time for both of you! You might even give them the chance to arrange the order of the tasks performed in the morning and at night so that they have some ownership to these new routines!

Please share your morning/nighttime routines with us below and ideas or questions you might have about your routines? What works well or what doesn't? 

Being the ULTIMATE teacher

I believe that a mother is truly the most important job in the world. Along with being a mother comes many other titles as I have learned in the past 4 1/2 months of my boys lives. The title of  teacher is one that goes hand in hand with being a mom. In fact, parents can be the world's greatest teachers. From the minute a child is born that infant depends on their parents/caretakers to nurture, care, and TEACH them the basics of life.

As I have been contemplating the purpose of this blog, I have had several ideas, thoughts, "a-ha" moments running through my brain. I want this blog to serve as a place where mothers (and fathers) can learn from one another and grow as we all strive together to be our child's greatest teacher.

Thank you to everyone who has commented and voted on the topics that they would like to learn more about. I appreciate everyone's support and look forward to this journey together. PLEASE always feel free to leave comments, suggestions, advice, or questions under the comment section. I hope that the comment section will serve as a networking tool for everyone who visits this site.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

How can I be involved in my child's education?

This is a question that many parents would ask me during my teaching years. I thought that this blog would be a great place for a once busy 2nd grade teacher to answer the many questions and concerns that you parents out there might have. This blog is intended to serve as a network to support those parents out there that are seeking answers and advice from an experienced teacher. I do not claim to know the best way or the right way of doing anything, but I do have a LOVE for teaching and for children and hope that my experiences can help you do the most important job in the world...TEACH YOUR CHILDREN!

In order to make this blog helpful to you please vote on the topics you would like to read more about. If you have any other suggestions I would love to hear them. Please post comments below.