Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Baby Girl Nursery: DIY Dresser Project

Since our basement renovation is complete, I can finally focus on our sweet baby girl's nursery. This is a simple dresser project, but I am pleased with the outcome. I started with this old dresser.


It's amazing what a difference you can make with just a little time, paint, and accessories…


And the finished product looks like this…


I added this dainty shelf liner for just a touch of detail inside, and it may quite possibly be my favorite part. 


All in all, I'm very pleased with this little dresser! Baby girl's nursery is off to a good start! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Basement Renovation: Complete!

I am so happy to share that our basement renovation is officially complete! This has been such a big project, and we are so happy to be living in a renovation-free home at this point. :) Please take a few minutes to view this video and see the room-by-room transformation.



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Interrogative Sentences and How to Teach Them: Resources for Young Learners

Teaching the different types of sentences can be quite challenging, especially with young learners. I have found that, despite the use of numerous chants or cheers, and copious amounts of writing practice, many students find it difficult to conceptualize different types of sentences -particularly interrogative sentences. Exclamatory is easy -and fun! Declarative sentences are reliable. Interrogative sentences are challenging. We can tell students all day to pay attention to whether or not a sentence is asking a question, but those of you who teach little ones know that this instruction does not register much understanding at first. Add to that the complexity of reading with respect to prosodic features (aka… paying attention to punctuation and phrasing), and this process can become quite complex for young or struggling readers. 

So these are a few techniques, tips, and resources that I have developed along the way to use with my students. Some of these ideas are my own modifications of instruction I have learned elsewhere (from training or other teachers); some of them are entirely my own. In all, I have found this to be helpful for my students, so hopefully there's something here you can use in your class as well!

To begin, I do explain to my students that interrogative sentences ask questions. To help them better detect those questions when they are not quite to that level of understanding yet, I provide an easy tip: look for a key word at the beginning of the sentence. We call these our question words, because I have them displayed on a large, oversized question mark in my classroom. The concept is simple: if a sentence begins with a question word, it should end with a question mark. I tell students to check our question mark for the first word of the sentence. If they find it, they know that sentence will need a question mark at the end. At first, they depend a lot on our wall reference. Over time, with continued instruction, they develop a better understanding of what it means to ask a question, and they need the reference less and less. 

I will say that the collection on my question mark is not an exhaustive list; there are several missing. These are just some of the most common ones I knew my students would encounter. You may choose to display many more -or less- on your own!
As we continue practicing with these sentences, I begin to implement practice with expression while reading. Look at the sentences below. We began with nothing but the red words. No end marks. First, we read the sentence. We examine the first word (circle it in blue), and the students hunt for the words on our large question mark. If they find the word on the question mark, we then add our own question mark at the end of the sentence. Tip: I keep a fly swatter on hand, and the student that finds the word first on the question mark gets to "splat" it with the fly swatter. 

Next, we talk about how we read sentences that end with a question mark. I model reading a sentence that ends with a period. I draw a straight, flat line under that sentence to represent the tone in my voice, as it does not change. Then, we revisit our interrogative sentence. I read the sentence again, drawing a different black line, which will rise with the last word. Students follow along, watching the line I draw and listening as I read. Then, they practice reading the same way. We do this for every sentence. It's a tedious process, but really, the students love it. I think the lines help them better visualize the changes in their voices as they read. Tip: Add a kinesthetic element to this activity by having students move their hand in a straight line as they read, and then raise their hands as their voices rise toward the end of the sentence. 
For continued application, we play a game of "Mark It!" This is my adapted version of a game known as "Alphabet Prosody" in the text Fifty Nifty Activities for 5 Components and 3 Tiers of Reading Instruction. This activity is a great way to practice fluency with prosodic features while also reinforcing alphabetic knowledge. In "Mark It!" students have to apply what they know about punctuation marks to read letters of the alphabet with expression.

Creating this activity is simple: use popsicle sticks to make a set of alphabet letters as well as several sets of punctuation marks (. ! ?).
To play, each student draws five alphabet letters and five punctuation marks. The student arranges his/her letters and punctuation marks in any pattern or order. Then the student reads each letter with expression according to the punctuation mark that follows it. Each student draws new letters and creates new patters to continue the activity as long as desired.

My students love this activity. It is such a fun way to reinforce the expressions associated with punctuation, and since you only use letters of the alphabet, the reading component of this exercise is not intimidating for young or struggling readers. 
If you don't want to use popsicle sticks, I have an alternate, ready-made version of this activity as well as multiple additional resources available in my new TPT product Writing & Reading Interrogative Sentences: Resources for Young Learners  now available in the Tally Tales TPT store.

See the images below for a quick preview of the goodies available in this new product!



Monday, October 6, 2014

On the Menu: Homemade Applesauce

Those of you who have followed me here for a while know that I am a fan of easy recipes. This one is among my favorites for fall. When the air turns crisp, this is a perfect way to warm your tummies and your home with this tasty homemade applesauce. Pull out your crockpot, ladies; this applesauce will fill your home with a natural fragrance of autumn.

Ingredients:
8-10 apples
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter
cinnamon (as desired)

Directions:
(1) Chop the apples into slices or chunks. (I don't even peel mine; I just dump them in and let them cook until they fall apart!)

(2) Add water, sugar, and butter.

(3) Sprinkle cinnamon on top. I don't even measure it; I just sprinkle on a good amount. 

(4) Cook on high for four hours (or low for six hours). 

As you can tell from my picture, I literally throw it all into the crockpot and just let it cook. You just can't go wrong with something so simple! Enjoy!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Now Introducing: Mr. B. D. Eyes *A Handwriting Freebie!*

Hello, friends! I know, I know; I am well behind on my blogging. We have been too busy lately with house renovations, nursery preparations, and back-to-schooling. However, the renovations are drawing to an end, and I feel like I have a little space in which I may share a few snippets with you. I will share the house outcomes soon, but today I have a sweet little character to introduce to you (and hopefully, your students/children as well!)

Years ago, a friend shared the concept of Mr. B. D Eyes with me. He did not really have a specific, identifiable image. He was simply a character that I taught my students how to draw whenever they struggled to remember how to write their b's and d's correctly.

These letters are so often confused, and students well beyond the primary grades will often transpose b and d when writing. At the time I began using Mr. B. D. Eyes with my students, I was teaching third grade. Since then, I have used this fellow with students from Kindergarten up to fourth grade.

The process is simple:
1. Write a b.
2. Write a d immediately beside the b.
3. Draw eyes within the centers of the b and d.
4. Complete a face around the letters, adding eyebrows, a nose, a mouth, hair, etc.

I have often encouraged my students to draw Mr. B.D. Eyes on the top corner of their papers for tests or any written draft. At any point during writing, they simply have to touch the letters in their little illustration as they say (or think) "Mr. B. D. Eyes" to remember which letter faced which direction.
Oftentimes, students love adding details to this character. My kiddos have always been quick to create their own versions, and consequently, Mr. B. D. Eyes has developed many faces over time.  While I have made a printable version of this character for you to download for free and display as a reference, students will enjoy the opportunity to elaborate on this design and really make him their own. At its core, this is a fun, personalized way to reinforce basic letter formation for students of all ages.

Here are a few examples of Mr. B. D. Eyes, as drawn by some of my students this year.




If you are interested in introducing your students to Mr. B. D. Eyes, you can grab my free poster printable, now available in the Tally Tales TPT store here