Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Vocabulary Practice for Read Aloud Books

I've tried tackling vocabulary from the traditional "Schooly" way with workbooks. I suppose it worked fine enough. But I always found that many of the words were too easy or irrelevant to my daughter's life.

So then I tried using a more organic approach to vocabulary and gleaned my vocab lists from our reading, both silent and read aloud. I would plug these words into spelling city dot com (most of that site is free but you can pay for the extra goodies). Again, that worked for a while, but quickly became tedious and boring for her. She keeps me on my toes, I'll give her that.

Then I tried just giving her a list of our words from reading and then asking her to choose four or five to look up in the dictionary. HOLY MOLY! It was like pulling teeth. She apparently doesn't heart the dictionary just yet.

Well, then I decided to try something new. I'm not sure how this idea came to me, but I'm glad it did because it seems to be working (so far). I wrote each vocab word on an index card with a sharpie. Then I hole punched the upper left corner and put all the cards on a ring. I then read through the words with her several times so she would know how to pronounce them and would recognize them while listening to the book.

I handed her the dictionary (YIKES) and asked her to listen for the words on her cards as I read aloud. When she hears a word from the list, she has the option of writing down her own understanding of the word's meaning given its context in the book, or looking it up in the dictionary. I suggested that she write down the page number that the word appears on in case she wants to go back and read the word in context later.

As we began it was fun, but I quickly realized the dictionary was actually much more of a nuisance than a help. Stopping to look up the words slowed us down and interrupted the flow of our story. It was much more fun and productive to have her infer the meaning from the text and write down her own definition. If she had trouble with this, I would then have her pull out the dictionary. Or if we were anxious to read on, I'd just give her guidance until she arrived at the correct definition. Thus we remained on friendly terms with the dictionary and kept our story rolling.

I should mention that I only give her vocabulary words from a few chapters at a time. I don't give her all the vocab words from the entire book. She'll have several sets of words on separate rings by the time we finish the book.

So far...it's working. I like having the words on separate cards and gathered on rings. I think it will make it easy to have fun review games at the end of the book. I'm envisioning vocabulary memory games or matching games. I like this better than workbooks, straight dictionary work, or resorting to online vocab practice. Asking her to do anything online simply leads to endless dawdling and game playing. ICK!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Better Than Christmas!

Does anyobody else out there love to order curriculum as much as I do? Or am I the only one that gets a long-lived natural high out of selecting the perfect set of studies for each child?
And when it all comes to the door (I'm an online-shopping-kind-of-girl) and I get to open it with the kids and smell that new book smell, and flip through the materials imagining all the great lessons we'll have....AH...it relaly IS better than Christmas.
I love to see the kids eagerly paw through the piles of books and materials to see what lies in store for them in the coming school year. Of course, I have to keep a few surprises up my sleeve, just to keep things interetsing for all of us.

I don't have all my stuff ordered yet. And only a very small portion of it has come to the house so far. But the anticipation is making me giddy. You may be wondering just what curriculum I've selected that is causing all of this "Christmas In July" type joy.

Here's my list for Third Grade Girl:
Lang ARts: Paths of Exploration at geomatters dot com. This looks like fantastic stuff. The rewviews are terrific. I'm ordering because it accomplishes my goal of giving my children a solid understanding and love of American History without beating it over their heads, while at the same time providing a flexible/adjustable and very thorough lang. arts program using living books. I love that it effortlessly creates a portfolio for the student as you go. This actually includes a little science and obviously some history as well.
I'll be supplementing the grammar with G.U.M Drops and spelling with Spelling WOrkout.
Also, at the end of last year someone introduced me to Ignite your Writing, which you can download at CurrClick for ten bucks. It's fantastic! Short,fun, clear writing assignments that my daughter doesn't hate! All for ten bucks.And there's an advanced version also. We'll continue with that next year too.

Math: We used teaching textbooks grade 3 last year. IT started off well, but got very boring for her. Sheresorted to using JUST the book because she got really put off by all the online demos, cheering monkeys, and "silly" games. SO this year we're going the no-nonsense route and using Saxon Math. I got the books used from a local second hand homeschool curriculum store.

First GRade GIrl:
Math: We're nearly done with RIght STart Math level A. I'm sure we'll go on to level B since she's loving the program and doing very well.

Lang ARts: We flew through the K year of Sing Spell,Read,Write and we're now about 1/3 of the way through the first grade portion. We'll keep on chugging there. My only misgivings about this phonics program are the following: I don't like the sequence. Looking ahead, I can see that it is going to really throw a lot at us all at once, while in the beginning we were bored with endless reptition of simple concepts. Also, we don't really "sing" much with this program as the title would seem to indicate.The teacher's manual says to start each lesson with asong, and end each lesson with a game. But so far, only a couple of songs have been introduced (and they all sound alike to me). And the games....where is theinformation on how to play the games and at what point they should be introduced? I find it all a bit confusing. I just kindof make use of the games as I see fit by looking at the materials and guessing where they best fit intomy lessons.BUt Icertainly don't play the same ol' games every time.
If I could choose again, I might go back and do the K12 grade 1 phonics program with her. It worked very well for my oldest, althoughit was very visually bland. I loved their letter tiles, built in review, and predictable, consistent sequence. I disliked their spelling however! I guess you can't have it all, right?

My kids do History, ARt, and Science all together. EVen the preschooler boy.
So here's a quick rundown of those subjects:

Art: Harmony Fine Arts. It's a very Charlotte Mason approach to both art appreciation and art "lessons" as well as music appreciation. Can't wait!

Science: We're doing something new this year. We'll be using Noeo (sp???) Biology Level 2. I think I can tailor it to all ability levels.

History: Wow, we loved Story of the WOrld level 1 so much last year that we only got half way through the book! We spent a lot of time on each chapter. So we'll just pick up where we left off and move on to Book 2 when we're ready.

There you go. Sounds simple enough right? I'll add more later about ideas I have for poetry next year...and I finally have had a successful idea for helping the kids learn vocabulary from our read aloud books. That's for another post as well.