Monday, July 28, 2014

Early Reading Assessments

I told you last night that I am a DATA DORK!  
When it comes to assessments, I long for some good data!  I love studying the results so that I can apply teaching strategies, based on that data, in our homeschooling program. 
It's a great way to reflect on your own teaching as well.

 As a Kindergarten - 5th grade Reading Coach, I went through intense training on proctoring and interpreting assessments.  

During this time, I would assess students on many different reading (skill) levels.  Our main goal was to find that "missing link" and work with teachers to move forward with student-specific differentiated instruction. 

With that being said, I pulled a few Reading assessments for my own kiddos.  

Today, I assessed both of my little learners using an Letter Knowledge assessment from this resource.
Using this assessment will give me a baseline and also identifies what I need to teach /focus on over the next few months.  

Before the assessment, I already knew J could recognize his letters (upper and lower) and need to confirm that due to our recent time off from homeschooling.  I was unsure about his Letter Sound knowledge when it comes to short and long vowels.

Here's a peek of what the completed assessment for J looks like.
I showed him this page.  He used a pointer to track his left-to-right reading progression.  I also assessed him using a lowercase page (not pictured)

Here is my data sheet and notes.

Based on this data, I need to review long and short vowel sounds for J.  There is NO reason for me to spend weeks/months on a Letter of the Week.  He doesn't need that.  
But he does need to become stronger with those vowel sounds because that might hinder his decoding during his independent reading.

My plan is to create a Phonemic Awareness/Phonics Workbox for him next week that reviews these vowel skills.
I am planning a few other reading assessments throughout the week.  
(Please leave a comment or email me if you are interested in what those might be for my 5 yr old)   

Because N is 3 1/2 years old, I needed to alter the delivery of assessment.
If I used the letter sheet above (that I used with J), that would be to overwhelming for this little guy!  So this is what I did:
I used lower and uppercase letter cards.  I explained to N that we were playing a letter game so I could see how smart he was.  
I showed him one card at a time, then made piles to help me record me data later. 
First we did Letter Recognition for upper and lowercase.  
Then, I asked him if he could play one more game using his letter sounds.  
And he was excited about that!
I didn't push assessing him on the 3rd column on the assessment record sheet which is "word that begins with that letter".  We will come back to that tomorrow.
Keeping it simple and not overwhelming was key!

Once again, if you have any questions, feel free to email me.

Assessment is important!  When done effectively, it can really guide your child's instruction!

Happy Learning with your Little Ones. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Our schedule - as of August

We've taken an good month or so off from structured learning.  And with the new school year coming soon, I needed to reflect on our last year and prepare for this year.  

How did I start?...With our daily schedule.  

If we were to send J to school outside of our home, he'd be in Kindergarten.  So I wanted to create a schedule for us that would reflect that...but just has our sweet, homeschooling twist!

This is a SLOPPY COPY of our schedule...yes that's a coffee stain on the paper!: 

Did we jump right into this schedule?  Absolutely NOT!  We would have all freaked out...especially after taking some time off.  I am a BIG fan of gradually releasing!  It gives me time to see what works and what doesn't.  

2 weeks ago: 
I learned very quickly, that N (my 3 yr old) would rather get his calendar done first, before playing/Curious George comes on at 8am.  So I penciled in 7:45am for Morning calendar for N and Daily Learning Notebook for J.  It works beautifully, because MiniM can eat his breakfast (and most importantly, BE CONTAINED!) while the boys get that done.  Plus, MiniM is actively listening to us count, sing the days of the week and such.  

Sounds busy?  Yes it is...I'm not going to lie:0) 

Last week:
I tried "Circle Time" 2 ways.  
One way was in our living room with Mason "out and about!"...yep, that didn't go well. 

So the next day, I combined snack and Circle time...Perfect!  Mason is contained in his highchair, N&J are snacking and enjoying a great read-a-loud.  We were able have a mini-book club!  

This week:
I'm adding our 30 minute "Reading Block".  I haven't planned reading lessons for this week.  I am using this block of time to assess both boys, 1-on-1, on their Reading skills and strategies.  I am a DATA DORK so this week hold LOTS of excitement for me!  Once I have this data, I will be able to plan what I need to teach or reteach.

Next week:
If all goes well, we will add our Writer's Workshop block.

**No Math block?  I incorporate J's Math within his workboxes (future blog?) plus Daddy works with both N&J during the evenings.

Is this what our everyday looks like? Most of the time...but not always!  Life happens and we have to adjust. Or learning might happen differently and we have to adjust.  Ahhhh...the joys of homeschooling.

Happy Learning with your Lil Ones!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Our Learning Room - est. 2011

As our 2014 homeschool year is about to start back up after a month break, it got me think'n...when did I establish "our Learning Room"?  
When did we start tot schooling that led us to this amazing journey of homeschooling?  

So I went on a picture search to help me remember.  I couldn't believe what I came across!  These sweet boys are going up FAST...and we've moved ALOT!

Our first Learning Room evolved in a great house in one of my favorite neighborhoods.

Big J was 3 and lil N was just a tiny boy!  We held a weekly tot class at our home.  Kids and Moms would come over to learn and have fun.

This is me, Big J and a friend doing a sorting activity in our Learning Room area...April 2011.
After a few months, Big J was ready for more than a foldable Lightning McQueen table.  So my inlaws scored a few desks from a local public school garage sale.  And this is what our Learning Room upgrade looked like at the time.
June 2011

We were using our sliding doors as a ABC/word wall...yes, in our undies!

Nixon had his little area on our fridge.

All good things come to an end...after years of many memories at that home, we moved houses in
September 2012.  

At the time, I was in LOVE with our new house and new neighborhood.  It was a 4 bedroom which meant...a WHOLE room for just Learning!!!  A Dream Come TRUE, right?  

 Wasn't it so cute and perfect?!  But it really wasn't practical for our family.  My kiddos were/are little and this room was 2 rooms away from our kitchen/living.  I found that learning didn't happen freely while I was washing dishes or prepping for a meal.  I missed our Learning Room in our me crazy!  I am a BIG fan of kids reading, playing with stamps, glueing, cutting with scissors all while I'm cook'n.  
After that discovery that 4 bedrooms (for us) just wasn't what we needed...
And my wish came true!  
We moved houses year more kiddo later! MiniM joined us in July 2013! 

Here's our Learning Room (in the eat-in kitchen area) at our August 2013 home.
Little did we know, we'd move AGAIN!  This time it would be to another State!  
This is our current Learning Room.  
January 2014
January 2014
 I just switched things up and added some flare to our Learning Room!  My best motivator is a crawling 1 yr old that is discovering EVERYTHING.  I needed to re-think what we used and what we didn't.  Plus, the excitement that this "newness" has created in me and my children is super cool!  

August 2014

So if you homeschool or not...find a space in your home where learning can happen!  Lay out baskets of learning toys for your little learners.  Provide them baskets of books along the baseboards in your living area.  PLAY will lead to learning...I promise!

Be sure and "like" our Facebook page.  I post daily there.  

Happy Learning with your Lil ones
Psalm 128:3
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine Within your house, Your children like olive plants Around your table.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Successful Solar System Thematic Unit

It took us a good month+ but we DID it!  We created and learned about our Solar System!  And these 2 are still enjoying and asking for more!

We started with planet Earth and the Moon because that is something they can relate to at such a young age.  After that, we spent 1day per planet.  That morning, we'd read about it from our personal and library books, quick chat, make it, then let it dry.  Then late afternoon, we'd come back together and "share the pen" to write a 1 sentence fact about that planet.

 Just thought I would do a quick picture blog to share it with you.

We started with making the moon and our Earth using blown up water balloons, strips of tissue paper and watered down glue.  
We "shared the pen" to write facts about each planet.

Then we hung the planet (once it was dry) along with the written fact on the ceiling.
We used our 1979 Kitchen light as our "sun", then hung each planet as they were made.

N made an Asteroid Belt and was SO proud that he did it all by himself.

Hung the Asteroid Belt above the door frame to separate "rock planets" from "gas planets"

And the song!  Makes my heart smile when my kids learn through singing.  It's from Dr Jean CD (my hero as a 1st grade teacher!)

Here's a link for the lyrics.  
Planet Song by Dr Jean

Here's Mr 3 yr old performing it:

This lesson reminded me to find what your kids are interested in and Go With It!  
Happy Learning with your Lil Ones!

Our Unschooled Week in Welly

We had been pushing hard at home for a good 4 weeks. We finished up our BraveWriter Arrow book, Sarah, Plain, and Tall . We completed ou...