Friday, February 24, 2012

A Brother is a Friend God Gave You

I love that proverb.  The whole proverb says this:
“A brother is a friend God gave you; a friend is a brother your heart chose for you.” -Proverb
 I find that my children are both one to another!  My two little ones miss their older brother horrendously when he is away from us.  I often feel their pain when we go the two weeks between visitation.  The joy on all of their faces when DD walks into the house with his father is one that is beauteous. 

Tonight as I rounded the children up for our nightly routine I told DD to get off the computer to join us.  He immediately turned sullen.  I took a deep breath and told him that when we were done he could come back and play on the computer again (I wish he would read with as much gusto as he plays video games).  He huffed, but followed is younger siblings.

I chose to read The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin tonight.  DD's attitude slowly began to melt, however Chase said "Mommy I don't like this book!"  I learned that when he doesn't like a book one day that doesn't mean if I read it tomorrow he will still dislike it, so I had DD go and get another one.  That one Chase also insisted "I don't like that book."  I looked at him and said, "Fine, YOU go choose a book."  He hopped off the bed and ran to the living room.  He came back with  Berenstain Bears and the Baby Sitter by Stan Berenstain.  DD looked at me and said, "I'm going to read it to them."  Who was I to stop him!!!

Chase got into it immediately, and I loved watching his expression.  Luckily I had the camera handy!  I love capturing these moments on film. 

It took Emma a bit to get out the wiggles, but soon she was enjoying the story as well.

I love moments like these.  To see them snuggled up together reading warms my heart.  It is truly wonderful to see them as the friends God meant them to be!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Flexibility: Key to parenting and teaching

In the past month Donovan has been with us a total of five days.  Not really enough to do my Cinderella unit any justice whatsoever.  I have so many plans, but it isn't fair to him since reading is such a chore.  He wants his time with his father to be spent having fun.  I agree, I also think it is a time that he can experience learning from a different teacher (me and his father).  I have learned with Donovan (and my students from the past) that flexibility really is key to a productive day.  I've not given up on the Cinderella unit, just tweaked it a bit.  Each weekend he is with us we are still reading one of the versions, and discussing the book.  This summer he will be with us for six weeks.  During this time I will do summer bridge activities.  Right now I am reading the books to all three kids.  This summer Donovan is going to read the books on his own and we will do the activities and lesson plans I am working on.  This allows me two and a half months to really prepare a great lesson unit that not only includes reading activities but math, social studies, music, art and physical education.

Flexibility is such an important part of being human.  It is important for my son, who has Pervasive Developmental Disorder - NOS, and Sensory Processing Disorder.  I'm learning that for him to be successful I need to be flexible, but also teach him to be flexible also!  Have you ever noticed how when you are teaching at different times of the day your child or students react differently.  When I taught Spanish in High School I had six different classes.  The number of students varied, as well as the times of day.  I had the same lesson plans blocked out for each group of students, but no matter what lesson it was the kids drove the lesson.  I had classes that one lesson had to be broken up into two days, whereas that same lesson went over in half a class period and I had to come up with something creative to keep the students attention.

I love this quote by Clive Chung I found while reading today:
The ever-changing atmosphere of a classroom requires a cre­ative and self-confident teacher. It helps to project the image of a firm, calm teacher who can handle the varying aspects of the stu­dents and the school program.
This is true for me now as I plan activities to keep my two small children active instead of watching Little Einsteins all day.  I also use this technique when I am bone tired of The Very Hungry Caterpillar game (although I know I will have to play it tomorrow since Chase asked Heavenly Father to let him play the game tomorrow during his nightly prayers).

Tonight I learned a lesson in flexibility as we played with flashcards.  I first tried to have Chase identify numbers just by showing him one card and asking, "What number is this?"  He had this lost look on his face.  I changed tactics.  I put the numbers from 0-10 on the table.  I then asked him, "Where is the number 2?"  He walked around the table picking up random cards.  It then hit me, everything in moderation!  I put three cards in front of him and then asked him to give me the number 2.  He picked it out right away.  I left the other two cards down and added another.  When he missed a number I would point to each card, say the number, and have him repeat me.  I would pick up the cards, put one of the three back down with two new cards and start over.  It didn't take him long to go through all the numbers.  He was soooo proud of himself.  Emma wanted to play too.  She hasn't been working on identifying numbers as Chase has (he really has the number four and five down - he turns five this week).  I gave her a card that had honey pots on them (They got several Pooh learning cards this Christmas).  She would count each pot and look up at me expectantly.  Of course I clapped, and she giggled.  They both had fun learning.  I not only reminded myself on the importance of being flexible, I also learned to keep activities small and focused for Chase.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Activating Prior Knowledge

The kids played "The Caterpillar Game" and Chase made me smile when he landed on the spot where the caterpillar sleeps (you have to spin a moon before you can go again).  While he waited his turn he looks at me and says, "The caterpillar is sleeping in a tent.  A tent is a triangle (he uses his hands to illustrate).  When the caterpillar wakes up it will leave the tent and become a butterfly."  I said, "Your right, it will leave its tent.  What is the tent called?"  I pointed to the space of the board where the chrysalis was pictured.  He responded, "Cocoon."    Earlier in the evening Mia and Gavin were making blanket tents, so I could see where he was coming up with the tent idea.  It made me glow inside thinking about how he was able to connect two seemingly different ideas together.  He really does think outside the box.

Gavin practiced an important skill tonight.  He used what he knew about his environment (prior knowledge) to better understand the life cycle of the butterfly.  In comparing the chrysalis to a tent he could visualize a caterpillar going to sleep and wake up changed. Gavin activated prior knowledge, an important skill to obtain which enables comprehension when he is introduced to new ideas.  This is KEY to his future in building literacy.  As children encounter new ideas and different concepts as they read they will be able to take what they have already know and use that knowledge to build a better understanding of what they are reading or learning.

I"m always looking for good article on Literacy.  Teachervision has a great one on Activating Prior Knowledge if you are interested in reading more indepth.

Monday, February 13, 2012

An Extra Pair of Hands

Tonight I had an extra pair of hands to help me put down the kids.  Normally my husband is getting ready for work and leaves at 8pm Monday through Friday.  Tonight sickness has descended upon our family and he called in sick (didn't want to get anyone else sick).  I needed the extra pair of hands.  Chase's temperature was about 101 degrees and he was ready for bed.  Dad went into the room and turned off the lights.  "No, Daddy!  You have to read a book first."  Mommy was prepared, I came in behind him carrying The Biggest Snowman Ever by Stephen Kroll.  Emma follwed with her Tinkerbear, Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy.  Raggedy Andy belongs to Chase, and he immediately requested (okay, demanded) that she hand him over.  For a second I saw her mulish expression and thought we would have war, but nope!  She spied a gigantic bunny rabbit and insisted on holding that instead.  So here I am trying to read a book to the kids.  My hubby has Chase in his arms and Emma is just all over the place.  She just would not settle down.  I finally had the best idea ever!  I handed my husband the book.  I grabbed our little princess, her Tinkerbear, the huge bunny, and her Raggedy Ann.  I took her to her bedroom and picked up Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? by Dr. Seuss.  Interestingly enough she settled right down.  She even wanted me to read it to her again.  After I finished she took the book, crawled into bed and settled down.  Both of our kids got cuddle time, a book, and loves!  I'm so grateful for that extra pair of hands!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Goosie Cards

 OMGOODNESS!!!  I just found the best website called called Goosie Cards through a great blog Tots and Me.  She gives some great examples of how she is using these great cards  to teach her children numbers.  She used pictures of her own to depict the numbers, and included the numbers in Spanish!  What an awesome idea.

Since Chase struggles with learning vocabulary I think this is an awesome way to do that.  I have created power point presentations for him that have pictures of our family, he really identified with the pictures and I saw his vocabulary increase.  How much easier it would be to actually have cards that he can manipulate.

Not only that, but we are so far away from Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and cousins that this would be a great way to teach who's who in the family for all three of my children.  I can't wait to get ahold of these cards.

Love You Forever

Years ago, way before I was even married, I perused the children's book section of bookstores.  One day I came across a children's picture book that I couldn't quite wrap my brain around.  Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sheila Mcgraw had me creeped out, crying, and going "awwww" at different parts of the book.

It is the story of a mother's never ending love.  Each night she rocks her child to sleep and sings this beautiful song:

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living

my baby you'll be. 
Chase age One

The story continues on with the frustrations of toddler hood, pulling things off of shelves (if that doesn't happen at my house on a daily basis I wonder what is wrong with both of my little ones), run around like a crazy madman and make lots of noise, etc.  However each night she sings her little song as her precious toddler sleeps.

As her son grew into a mischievous nine year old, and a confusing teenager the mom found herself wanting to sell him to a zoo (my mom once said that to us six kids), or she felt like she was in a zoo.  BUT, each night she would crawl into her kiddos room, peek over the bed, and when she was sure he was asleep would rock him back and forth singing her song.  The pictures are really well done, but kind of freaky to see a woman sneaking into her child's room and rocking a teenager.

Finally her son is an adult, lives across town, and leads his own life.  However, every once in a while she breaks into his house through the window, crawls up to his bead and yup, you guessed it - rocks him back and forth singing her little song.  The picture of her driving with a ladder on top of her car is rather hilarious, and my four year old giggled when he saw this little old lady rocking her "big son".

Both my husband and I find it a bit silly, and disturbing that the mom creeps into her sons room, but at the same time I get the feelings that that image also emotes.  I know that every once in a while when the house is quiet and dark I will creak open the door and watch my angels as they sleep.  Every once in a while, when I hear of some horrible thing happening to another child I will pick up my baby (she isn't so much a baby anymore).  Okay I'll pick up my toddler and rock her.  (Chase is very hard to get to sleep, and stay asleep so I don't even try it with him, although sometimes I would love too.  DD is just way too big - I can't even pick him up anymore, and if I were to try he would probably wig out on me.)

I always start to cry the last three pages of the books, and get funny looks from my kids.  The mom is old and sick and she calls her son and tells him he better come visit her.  When he gets to her house she starts to sing the song, but can't finish because she is too weak.  This time he picks up his Momma, and rocks her back and forth singing:

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
my Mommy you'll be. 

I'm getting all teared up just as I write my review.  I want my children to love me like that.  I want them to know that I love them like that!  My husband and I had a discussion that throughout this man's life there were times when he wasn't really asleep when his mom came into his room.  He knew his mother loved him, even when he was driving her crazy.  He knew he was loved, forever, and like for always.  (as if this book actually happened in real life).
DD as a baby, see I love seeing them sleep

Aunt Kathleen holding Emma
Aunt Kathleen rocking Chase (She sure had the magic touch)
I love being a mommy, and I love my babies.  Even though there are some interesting (okay, creepy) parts to this book I read it to my kids.  (My mommy sent it too me in the mail last year).  When I read it before bedtime Emma sits transfixed, Chase repeats the song, and afterwards Emma asks, "Hold me, Mommy."  and Chase asks me to lay down with him, ironically as I sat writing this post he woke up and asked me to come lie down on the bed below him (he sleeps on the top bunk).  I walked in and his big brother was snuggled under a bunch of blankets next to him.  I asked DD why he was up there and he said "Chase asked me to snuggle him."  Sigh, I love when DD comes on the weekends.  It makes bedtime so much easier.

I love the sentimentality of the book, I identify with it, and so do my children.  It is one of their favorites, and although I think it is kinda weird to think of a mother sneaking into the window of her grown son's house, I know that the book is just trying to portray the love a mother feels for her child.

Have you read the book?  What are your thoughts?  Does it weird you out?  Do you think it is a good book to read to your children?  Does it make you tear up like it does me? 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Teaching To their strengths - Movement and Learning

I remember sitting in a classroom at Brigham Young University almost fifteen years ago listening to a brief lecture on Multiple Intelligence, a theory of learning proposed by Howard Gardner back in 1983.  I wish there had been more than fifteen minutes dedicated to this topic.  In the years since I have learned to look at each of my students and try to figure out their strengths.  When you have over 100 students each year that is a tough order to fill, but I tried.  I didn't always succeed.  But, I tried.  It is SO much easier to look at my own children and figure out their strengths and weaknesses. 

Children are unique and different, and so are the ways that they learn. Learning to read is a complicated process, because of this it is important that I find the best way to approach that process for all three of my kiddos.  Multiple Intelligence theory proposes that each of us has seven ways of learning.  We have all seven within us, however we are more proficient in some areas then in others.  Because of this, it is imperative that teachers/parents learn the strengths of their students.  This way we are able to build curriculum that has each individual child in mind.  

This week I started the process of assessing my two little ones.  I found a great source for this through TOT School.  I downloaded her assessment sheets and plan on using them to find out exactly what Emma knows right now so that I have an idea of where to go from there.  Tonight as I read to the kids before bed.  I chose to read Thomas's ABC Book based on The Railway Series by Rev. W. Awdry.  As we went through each page I asked Chase to identify the letter.  Some he got right off the bat, others he used pictures to clue him in, and then others he just looked up at me with his bright blue eyes and said "I don't know, help me!"  Too cute! 

This was the second time I went through to see what letters he knew.  The day before we played go fish with leap frog phonics cards. Before we began to play I went through the different letters.  He would trace the letters before he would tell me what they were.  We then started the game.   He either called out the letter or said a picture.  Each time he had to "go fish" he would actually pretend to throw a line, or he would go digging.  The game took twice as long as it should have because he was constantly moving - Which totally is something that a kinesthetic learner would do. 

Kinesthetic learners learn by doing, touching, moving.  Sitting at a desk for extended amounts of time are a form of torture for them.   Both Chase and DD are definitely in this category. Often children who are kinesthetic learners are labeled ADD and ADHD (I know my children have been - For Chase it is part of having PDD-NOS and SPD)  and assumed difficult to teach.  Chase is not difficult to teach he just learns differently – thus the importance of a small classroom.

I love taking Chase to The Little Gym.  It allows him to get the wiggles out, to build muscle control (another part of PDD-NOS), and they have learning themes that they work on, not just running, climbing, tumbling ect.  They are currently working on learning the alphabet and rhyming.  Last week the teachers hid letters throughout the gym and sent the kids to find them.  Chase of course game back with his letter. 

In class they also did a weird rhyme with "Hickory Dickory Dock" with the parachute.  Oh did he love this activity.  He loves to hide, and he spent most of the time underneath, crawling from one side to another. 

This week they had the kids rhyme the word hat while walking on the balance beam.  Chase doesn't like the balance beam, so I'm not sure how that one all went, but in the car I had him tell me some words.  It was such a neat experience to hear him say: cat, mat, sat, rat.  Emma just repeated the words after him.  Too cute!!