Saturday, August 31, 2013

Talking Flashcards

When trying to learn vocabulary, whether it's for a language, math, or tests, like SATs, a great way to practice is by using flashcards. Today's technology has taken us to a whole new level.  We can now create interactive flashcards right on the internet. Most kids like using the internet, some prefer it. And most can figure out how to use software and websites very easily. It's almost second-nature. Well, SpellingCity is an easy-to-navigate site that we use to create our own flashcards. These online talking flashcards help the kids practice spelling, learn definitions, the use of the word in a sentence, part of speech, antonyms and synonyms.  As an added bonus, you can even print the flashcards.

My son is using the math flashcards for Geometry this year. Last year he used them for Algebra and Latin. My older daughter uses the SAT vocabulary lists. My youngest daughter uses it for science. SpellingCity has vocabulary lists for books. If I can't find one for the book she's about to read, then I create a list for her. This helps her with reading comprehension as she reads the book because she's already familiar with the words that would otherwise be new to her. Because she's been practicing these words with the flashcards, she knows the definitions.

There are vocabulary games or parts of speech games online that my kids often use and enjoy, but the advantage to the SpellingCity flashcards is that we can create our own vocabulary lists. This is particularly helpful when studying for unit tests, a particular lesson or preparing to read a selected book.  

What do you use to study vocabulary?  What works best with your children?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Materials and Mixtures

Teaching kids about materials can be so much fun. We can really get creative with this topic.  And any time we make a subject fun, kids remember what they learned. It's all about retaining.  I still remember one of my grade school teachers passing a box around the classroom with an item inside. We couldn't look or feel inside the box. We could only shake it to guess what was inside. He also passed around a bag with another item inside. This one we could put our hand inside to feel the item, but we couldn't look inside the bag. I remember being afraid to put my hand inside for fear of it being a bug or something of that nature.

We have a game called Ned's Head. It's a little weird, but it does the trick in teaching the kids how to guess what an item is by just feeling for it in Ned's plush head. It definitely is strange sticking one's hand in Ned's ear or nose to get to the item and then guess what it is.  I think my son enjoys it more than the girls do. It helps them understand that it's not just the sense of sight that can help in learning about materials, but we can use our other senses of touching, smelling and listening. In the box I mentioned that my teacher used in our classroom, just by listening as we shook the box, most of us guessed that it was a washer in the small box. It didn't sound as heavy as a quarter, but it sounded more like a small washer.

As we study materials and mixtures in science, we learn to identify what items are made of, like wood, plastic, cloth, metal.  We have found this to be a bit tricky at times.  We'd find an item that looked to be wood, but in closer inspection found it to be plastic.  This happened with our daughter's doll house. It was plastic that had been painted over to have the appearance of wood.

Studying mixtures online at Science4Us allows the student to sort mixtures by materials and properties, compare mass and identify types of materials, and deconstruct mixtures using a variety of materials. An online science program can add a new scope to learning science as it engages a child in fun interactive activities.  And because we don't do science every day of the week, I've found a fun way to cover a little bit of science on the off days with online science games.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

How To Use Word Search in Homeschool

I love word games. I also like puzzles.  My mom used to do crossword puzzles, but now she enjoys playing Sudoku.  She carries around a book of Sudoku, and she'll play it on her free time or while she's waiting in line at a checkout.  As a little girl, I did the same, but with Word Search. While my mom likes numbers, I like words. Word games help me exercise my aging brain, but they also helps me with homeschooling our kids.

I often create Word Search or word find puzzles for my kids.  I find it's a great way to practice spelling and vocabulary. These are word games that we can create using our own word list or lists already created for our use.  The kids can play them on the computer, but we've also printed them.  I like to bring something educational to do when we're waiting at the doctor's office or at our speech therapy appointments.

I've also used Word Searches when studying foreign languages. A couple of years ago I taught Spanish in a co-op.  I had to find a way to give the kids a little homework to keep the Spanish words fresh in their minds before I saw them again the following week.  The word searches were a fun way for the kids to practice their Spanish vocabulary at home.  I'd usually give them at least two to take home. Another good use for Word Searches is math vocabulary.

As we prepare to get back to school, I'm getting our resources together.  I'm trying to find ways to bring some creativity into our homeschool.  If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Choosing a Language Arts Curriculum

Choosing a Language Arts program can be overwhelming. There are so many things to consider that encompass Language Arts; things such as phonics, grammar, reading comprehension, vocabulary, writing.  You can choose to use different curricula for each subject within Language Arts. You can choose to supplement a curriculum that doesn't cover everything with another workbook or curriculum; for example a spelling curriculum. You can also choose one curriculum that covers all the subjects listed above.

Once we've taught a child how to decode words or sound them out, the next step is to help them to improve their word recognition, which leads to better fluency. This is followed with reading comprehension. I want to nurture my child's love for reading.  So it's important to me that my child enjoys the program or curriculum I choose.  My child is a visual learner; so I need to take that into consideration. Another way I nurture that love for reading is to read with my child and to let my child see me make time to read for fun and relaxation.  There are times I read to my child and end on a cliffhanger to be continued the next day. When they were learning to read, we would buddy read for at least 5 minutes each day. I would stop occasionally to point out things in the pictures or in the story. I would ask them questions. Sometimes I ask what they think is going to happen next. 

There are ways we can supplement a curriculum, whether it covers the subjects or not that can be fun.  Playing games is one fun way to supplement and reinforce what they're learning from whatever curriculum we choose. We have board games such as 4-Way Spelling, Bananagrams or Silly Sentences, to name a few.  Two of my kids love board games as much as I do.  My youngest daughter also enjoys playing vocabulary and spelling games online.  Making lapbooks, flipcharts or flip books are creative ways to supplement.

With my older children I changed our Language Arts curriculum several times throughout the years.  Sometimes we learn by trial and error.  As it often turns out, our oldest child was our practice child.  She's still managed to do well, though. However, I'm happy to say we've found a curriculum that we haven't felt the desire nor the need to change. Our Language Arts program covers all the topics I mentioned.  It engages my daughter and holds her attention.  So although one can say we supplement because we play games and read a lot, it's not out of necessity, but because we enjoy reading and  playing games.  The fact that it reinforces spelling, grammar, vocabulary and reading comprehension is just an added benefit. What kind of Language Arts curriculum have you tried or are considering?