Friday, 10 June 2011

Pipe Cleaner Sight Words!

These are pictures of this week's multi-sensory way to learn sight words. The new words introduced this week have been 'how' and 'can' as we are following the order in '100 sight word mini books'. Eve really enjoyed choosing pipe cleaners and it made her really think about the letter shapes as she now had to make them out of bendy wire instead of writing them. The idea came from 'Success with Sight Words' From top to bottom we have 'how', 'you', 'with' and two thirds of 'can'! We played with them for a while and played around with mnemonic ways to help Eve remember 'how'. She had chosen tiger striped pipe cleaners to make it from so I asked her what she'd say if a tiger bit her..... "ow" she said straight away and then when I asked what it began with she said 'h' 'ow'..... 'how'. It was much more fun to remember them this way and she had a big smile all the way through!

We fetched them out the next day to play with and Eve very easily remembered the words, including 'how' after a small prompt about tiger bites! It was fascinating to watch her arrange the letters into the correct order.... spelling them as well as recognising them! Such a result compared to six weeks ago!

I am linking this to 'word play', visit 1+1+1=1 to see more word play ideas!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Writing in Riddles!

This week's creative writing project came up after Eve read a non-fiction book entitled 'What am I?'...... it gave descriptive clues and then you saw that it was a black cat. Building on another of the ideas that my mum had given me, I planned out this activity. I was more careful this time not to pile too much pressure on as I had with the pumpkin writing two weeks ago.

I made four simple strip books by cutting an A4 piece of paper into six strips and stapling one end, then writing the riddle a page at a time. I made two examples that followed the same format and that used some of the sight words we have been focusing on! They went like this:

What am I? How can you tell?
I am....... as tall as the trees!
I have...... a very long neck!
I can....... see a very long way!
I like to eat...... leaves.
I am a......... (Giraffe)

What am I? How can you tell?
I am...... pink and elegant.
I have........ wings with black tips!
I can...... snooze on 1 leg!
I like to eat....... yummy shrimps!
I am a ........... (Flamingo)

Eve read one and I read the other and she loved them, guessing straight away of course. I deliberately included words that she can't yet decode, such as 'like' and 'snooze' and 'eat' as preparation for next week's planned assault on vowel digraphs!!!

I had prepped two strip books for Eve, by writing out the format and the dots then adding lines for her to add her descriptions. She jumped straight in, these are her riddles:

What am I? How can you tell?
I am....... black.
I have........ wings.
I can..... sleep upside down!
I like to eat........ bananas.
I am a....... (Bat)

What am I? How can you tell?
I am....... gray.
I have........ big ears.
I can....... stomp.
I like to eat...... nuts.
What am I?

I had decided before hand that after the pumpkin writing, I was not going to correct Eve's spelling. As it happened however, she chose some words that required support such as 'upside' and 'down' and 'bananas'. She was so much more relaxed this time though that she welcomed talking through the process of how to spell them, and quickly identified how many syllables each word had and seemed to know 'segment' them into 'spellable' components. When she made an error in which letter came next I reflected back her choice as part of the whole word and she was giggling and trying again..... such a pleasure to see her having fun doing it. She is usually sooooo hard on herself and gets really frustrated by mistakes.

I was also able to prompt her regularly to use a tripod grip and I was thrilled with how beautifully formed some of her words were. I had not even considered that Eve would have leaped forwards so much without having been asked to do any creative writing since our first attempt. It is really exciting and has motivated me to plan more fun ways to get Eve writing!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Montessori in Action!

This is Faith sitting on my Mum's knee demonstrating the Movable Alphabet to her. The card is one from the CVC set from Sparklebox that I posted about in May. When Mum asked Faith what the ant was, Faith replied "A tarantula" - what an answer, which she then proceeded quite calmly to spell out with the wooden letters as if she was really writing 'ant' after all. I just loved it.... and I think that Maria Montessori would have done too!! I should also point out that Faith only became interested in knowing letter sounds and using the alphabet about ten days before this picture was taken!!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Pumpkin Planting Creative Writing

I have been wanting to encourage Eve to do some creative writing for a while now but wasn't sure where to start so....... I picked my lovely Mum's brains (retired infant school teacher and educator extraordinaire........ if I could have been assured that someone like my mum would have taught my girls they may very well have gone to school but I couldn't so they didn't!!!).

Anyway.... Mum suggested trying writing instructions as a project and I thought that planting pumpkin seeds might be a good place to start as most of the words were within her spelling capability. Let's just say that it was a learning curve for both of us!

I had not appreciated how difficult the task would be for her! For starters she had to remember to punctuate with capital letters and full stops, to keep her letters sitting on the line and to leave a gap between words. Then she had to remember all the letter formations and create them whilst keeping in her head the next letter she wanted to write. She spelled the words out fine, but then lost them again when she put pencil to paper which she found really frustrating. She also struggled to remember the sentence that she wanted to say and so after writing two words was floundering at what to put next.

Eve has wonderfully creative language and expression verbally and wanted to write huge long sentences that sounded beautiful but weren't practical for a first try. I therefore helped her to simplify them but then felt that perhaps it wasn't creative writing as such as I had modified her words! perhaps it was more 'writing for a purpose'. On the bright side it helped her to think about the task in hand, which was to write five simple instructions to help someone who had never planted a pumpkin seed before to do it. Talking through the sentences together helped her to see how explicit she might need to be, for example instead of 'water it', she needed to say 'water the seed'.

I was also greatly impressed with her natural spelling. I thought she would struggle with 'water' but she pulled all of the sounds out correctly and I was really pleased for her as we haven't done a lot of 'spelling' as such, so she isn't well practised with techniques. One thing that I think I fell short on was in 'not correcting her' as I did correct her. for example, she knew how to spell 'the' but wrote it down as 'e-h-t'. When I pointed it out she got really upset and I think that I shouldn't have mentioned it as it will come as she writes more and more.

So over all..... It was a slightly fraught process for us, but I learned a lot to put into practice next time, and Eve was proud of the finished results! I think for next time I will model more and correct less. I'm also going to start a dictionary system for her so she can keep a record of words she uses regularly, as well as sight words she knows and a letter formation prompt sheet to provide a bit of security around her that she doesn't have to remember everything all at once!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

A Break Does You Wonders Sometimes!

Eve picked these beautiful flowers and foliage from our garden for me....

We didn't intend to take a break..... lessons were planned but we all needed to not do school for a week! For starters, I had a deadline to get my Montessori 3-6 years teaching practice file completed and posted by Friday 3rd June, involving 5am starts and 11pm bedtimes! For seconds, we all had funny viral symptoms and Dewi and I felt exhausted and lethargic and the children were just 'not right'. School is never very productive when Eve isn't on top form and I am not superwoman and cannot do everything so we took a break!

I got my file completed and posted by 10am Thursday 2nd and by then we were all over the virus so spent the morning with friends at a country park, and then the afternoon chewing the fat with some home ed mums I met a few months ago! On Friday the hot sunny weather returned so we made our first trip of the season to Tettenhall paddling pool. Paddling pool doesn't really do It justice to be honest, it is HUGE, and about 80cm deep in the middle, surrounded by lovely grass and big mature trees for shade. I had invested in a camping chair to sit in and spent my time shuffling backwards into the rotating shade of the trees, whilst sewing! The girls had requested dolly swimming costumes so I cobbled two together from an old swimming costume of Faith's. A fairly Frankenstein effort truth be told but the girls were happy with the outcome!!

The funny thing about taking a break from school is that I have had loads of solid ideas about educational activities and plans that have been pottering around in the back of my brain for ages. They have just come to me one after the other and I can't wait to get going!

The other amazing thing is that Eve has begun to spontaneously pick up a book and read. She read to Faith in the car on the way back from a swimming lesson and then read all the way from the car to the door, then into the kitchen! She made some leaps that I have been waiting for, such as putting in a sensible guess at a word when she can't work it out, tackling some huge words and splitting them up into syllables. I was so blown away and happy for her. Her bed is always full of books and I often catch her looking at them after 'lights out' but haven't the heart to tell her off as I love it that she does this.... I always used to and I don't want to squash the secret joy of clandestine reading in bed! I found her another book of the type that she had read to Faith and when I gave it to her she said 'oh Mummy, it's just perfect!'..... I smile every time I think of it!!