Saturday, July 13, 2013

Four Writing Skills You Can Teach Immediately Using Picture Books

In preparation for the some new parent workshops that I am offering this year, I've been examining specific writing skills that I teach using literature and children's books. With years of teaching behind me, I realize that I do this rather naturally now and sharing it with other moms requires breaking down the "how." So, as I was gathering my thoughts, I decided to give you a preview of writing skills you can easily teach using whole books! 

As well, comment on this blog and you'll be entered in a drawing for a children's book with directions on how to use it to teach your child. I will give away one book with teaching instructions for each of my blogs on the various grade levels (K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and high school) for the next two weeks. The drawings for all of the books will be at the end of July.
Starting with K-2, or pre-writing skills, my belief is that children shouldn't be pushed to create original written work before they're ready, which seems to be around 3rd grade for most children. However, pre-writing skills and copy work provide a solid foundation for when that original writing begins. Consider the following example as you teach your child using whole books:

What is a sentence? Use basic sentences from your child's favorite books to point out the essentials: 
  1. Sentences start with capital letters.
  2. Sentences form a complete thought.
  3. We know they end when there is specific punctuation (start with periods, then add question marks and exclamation points).
  4. Sentences have a subject and then explains what is happening to or about the subject.
Select several sentences from your child's favorite books. The sentences should be basic and easily understood on their own. Some examples include:
    • On Monday he ate through one apple. (The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle)
    • Snow had fallen during the night. (The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats)
    • People called her Miss Rumphius now. (Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney)
  • Have your child use these sentences for copy work. When preparing for copy work, you might want to neatly print or type up the sentence in a large font for your child rather than having him copy from the book. 
  • Discuss how points 1 and 2 are evident in each sentence. Point out the punctuation marks. Activity idea: As a next step for point 3, change the ending punctuation for each sentence and discuss how that changes the meaning the sentence.
  • Introduce the concept of "subject" and ask your child to tell you the who or what of each sentence (he, snow, people). Make sure your child differentiates between who and what, as this prepares him for the specific definition of noun which is taught later. Activity idea: Have your child underline/circle or highlight the specific subject. Have him use a different color or different method (underline or circle) to differentiate between who or what.
  • After determining the subject, discuss how the other words in the sentence explain the actions and give details about the subject. Activity idea: Have your child highlight in a new color or put a square around the words that show what the subject did (ate, had fallen, called). 
  • Discuss the structure of the sentence: most often, although not always, the subject will come before the action in the sentence. Activity idea: Write each word of each sentence on note cards. Mix the note cards up. You can do this for each sentence for beginning students or mix up the sentences for more experienced students. Have your child organize the word cards into the sentences. Initially, your child may need to look at the copy work in order to recreate the sentences, but the goal is for your child to complete the activity without the aid of seeing them.
You might feel compelled to jump into more challenging ideas (adjectives, phrases, etc.) too quickly. One of the greatest weaknesses that I see in homeschooling is that parents assume their children have knowledge and skills based on limited exposure, particularly learning skills in isolation. That is why I am not a big fan of workbooks for teaching writing.

Remember that mastery is your goal. You want to do this type of teaching with your child until you feel confident that he has the concepts. Once these basic types of sentences have been tackled and accomplished, use more challenging sentences. 

If you're interested in learning more about using whole books to teach writing concepts to your K-2 child, check out my upcoming workshops for parents at the CBB website.

God bless you as you teach your children!
In Him,

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Six Reasons Why Lapbooks Provide Excellent Writing Practice

I'm an organizer, but I am not super creative. The first time I saw a lapbook, my mind traveled to the many different ways they could be utilized with my children. I generally utilized other people's ideas and I've found so many! Check out the links at the end of this blog for some of my favorite sites for lapbooking and mini book ideas.

As my children created lapbooks from parts of speech to Victorian America themes and beyond, I realized how much the process was encouraging them to write. Now that my children are grown and I teach full time, I continue to appreciate the value of lapbooks. Even in my online courses, lapbooks provide a creative outlet for my students to practice writing, editing and higher level thinking skills. Consider these reasons to use lapbooks to improve your child's writing skills:

  1. Fun, fun, fun while learning! My younger students enjoy creating the mini books representing the various parts of speech. Older students often like the opportunity to be creative and write outside of ordinary assignments.
  2. They even work for reluctant writers! Lapbooks allow for shorter writing assignments making the process less stressful for reluctant writers. Using shorter, more specifically focused writing assignments more often can help every writer improve.
  3. Every mom can evaluate them! We love, as homeschoolers, to assign reports and papers, but we don't necessarily enjoy evaluating those assignments. I have had moms confess to having a year full of writing sitting in a box ungraded. Children need immediate feedback on their written work, otherwise what is the point? Most moms find that evaluating a paragraph at a time makes their job easier.
  4. Watch the writing grow! As your child writes for each section of the lapbook, he can see his writing grow into a full-fledged project. This often encourages children to write more.
  5. Lessons and editing opportunities abound! Since writing assignments with lapbooks tend to be shorter, they offer multiple opportunities to have your child learn writing and self-editing skills integrated with the history, science or literature that you're already learning. For example, if your child struggles with using commas, one writing assignment may be edited together with you demonstrating how to properly use commas. With the next short writing assignment, have your child edit his own writing and then edit together. Use one of the last written portions of the lapbook as mastery or evaluating whether your child is using commas (or any skill you choose) properly. No tests needed!
  6. Provide lots of organizational thinking practice! Organizational thinking, particularly with writing, does not come easily for all children. Often, parents assume their children have these abilities and don't focus on this type of instruction. Lapbooks naturally lead to organizational thinking as long as you work through the process with your child and don't just organize the lapbooks yourself. Discussing the information that should be included and how that information would be best organized provides profound thinking skills. You may soon find your child organizing and planning lapbooks independently! - Jolanthe actually made these with her children @Lapbooks We've Made. concrete ideas with core and elective ideas for a variety of ages. So many ideas and I love the photos...they inspire me! - Not a homeschool site, but a beautiful scrapbook idea that could be used for older students or moms. These provide wonderful memory makers! - Another Pinterest many creative ideas that are very "do"able. - this site even has how-to videos for creating mini books and lapbooks.

Be sure to leave a comment if you visit any of these sites, have a fabulous site to share or just want to share your lapbook ideas with other moms. Watch for my next post about specific writing skills that can be effectively taught using lapbooks.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Teaching Adjectives with a Wonderful Children's Book

More and more, I discover children who don't know their parts of speech or the relationships between words in writing. Many children can recite the definitions of the parts of speech and maybe even recognize them in isolation, but relating them to writing seems less obvious.Those of you who know me understand that I don't like to teach children skills just for the sake of teaching. I am all about the "why" do we need to teach or learn this? As a writing teacher, it's apparent to me that a full understanding of how words relate to one another creates a stronger writer. 

I came across a picture book this week that is ideal for teaching the relationship between nouns and adjectives. It's simple enough that you could use it for a younger child and fun enough to use with an older elementary student. Who knows? I might use it in my high school classes. :) I have used Dr. Seuss books in high school history and literature!

The book, The Woods, reflects a boy's imagination at bedtime. The adjectives are obvious enough that even younger readers can recognize them. They're so vital to the story that the value of adjectives in our language becomes a lesson in itself.

I used this book with one of my tutoring students. Using a simple chart I created, we pulled out the main nouns (bear, giant, cave, etc.). Then we went back through the book to find the adjectives that described each of the nouns. One wonderful aspect of this book is that there are several adjectives for each of the main nouns and the adjectives stand out in large and decorative fonts. Although a couple of the adjectives are repetitive, such as scary, we took the opportunity to discuss other words that we could use in place of the repeated adjectives. So, we dipped into synonyms while studying adjectives! Another way to use this book to teach about adjectives is to reread the story without any of the adjectives. Almost immediately, you realize why we write with adjectives.

The imagination of the main character appeals to many children and in the end, all of the scary creatures go to bed. The scariest character expresses how lonely he is and how he doesn't want to sleep alone in the cave. It provides a sweet story that is not commonly found in modern children's books.

Obviously, you can use any book to teach adjectives, but this book seems to be designed for just that job! If you'd like me to email you the chart I designed, just comment on this blog and make sure I have an email address for you. If you do use The Woods to teach your child adjectives or if you have another book that has worked for you, please share!

Happy Reading!
God bless,

Friday, July 5, 2013

Refer Your Friends! Save Money!

What would you do with an extra $100? Refer your friends to Classes by Beth and for every family you refer who signs up for at least one full year course, you'll receive a $25 discount up to $100. With the CBB registration deadline extended to the end of July, you still have time to save money! Easy ways to share CBB:

  • Let your FB friends and Twitter followers know that you use CBB classes. 
  • Share CBB with your homeschool group via email or at meetings. 
  • Post a CBB avatar or link on your website.
  • Like CBB on FB.
  • Recommend CBB on forums and chat boards, such as The Homeschool Lounge.
Also remember, every family that signs up for CBB classes reduces the technology fee for everyone!

Homeschoolers are more likely to utilize classes and curriculum recommended by family and friends! Thank you for all of your support as CBB grows and improves.

God bless!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Three Ways to Help Your Child Succeed at CBB

I know many of you are planning for the coming school year! God gave us the most amazing opportunities and responsibilities when He blessed us with our children. He also provides everything we need to raise our children in a way that pleases Him. Every year, I am inspired by the work that God does in the lives of my children and the children I teach. He is so good! Read on to discover how, working together, we can offer your child a blessed learning experience.

Whether you utilize the services of multiple teachers or just me, working together offers the greatest opportunity for your child's success. Specific ways you can work with me to make this a wonderful year for all of us include: 
  • Maintain Contact: While I think it is most beneficial for students to be responsible for their classes, especially high schoolers, it is helpful to know how to reach parents when needed. If your contact information changes, especially your email address, please let me know. Also, be sure that the email address you provide is checked regularly. As well, if I do email or call, please respond in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, I will do the same in respect to contacting you.
  • Keep Me UpdatedWhile I certainly don't need details, it's better to let me know if there's a family issue that could be affecting your child's work. The earlier I know, the more support I can provide for your child. It's more difficult for everyone if you wait until an academic problem presents itself.
  • Be SupportiveYour attitude toward the class will reflect in your child's attitude. The more supportive you are in your tone and actions toward my classes, the more confidence your child will have in me.
Many parents enroll their children in my courses to encourage them to become more independent learners. It's a great side effect of utilizing an outside teacher to work with your child. However, most students need some direction outside of class, especially if it's their first class online course. Ways that to help guide your child include:
  • Make sure your child has all books and supplies before they're needed. It's not unusual for my literature students to attend class without a particular book because a parent didn't order it on time. It's a very uncomfortable situation for the student and disrupts class. Please plan ahead to have the appropriate books ordered before they're needed.
  • Assist your child with time managementOnline students, in particular, may need help planning out their work schedule each week. Help your student develop a daily work schedule for my classes and others, then follow up randomly throughout the year for accountability. Few students naturally develop their own work schedule. Many procrastinate and end up rushing through work the day before class causing stress for you and them. Most of my courses include multiple components and the literature courses require time to just quietly read. 
  • Encourage your child to contact me, as needed. I encourage my students to email or call me the moment they struggle with an assignment or understanding material. I am always willing to assist students and stress that they should never wait until an assignment is due to let me know there's a problem. If your child comes to you with an issue, please suggest that he contact me for assistance right away rather than waiting.
  • Follow the calendar. One of the benefits of homeschooling allows us to be more flexible with our schedules. However, being aware of the school calendar, which may be easily downloaded and printed on the CBB website, can spare us all misunderstandings. Families take spontaneous vacations and when there's a family emergency, homeschoolers are often more available to help. If you do find that your child needs to miss class, please give advance notice and if possible, assist your child in staying on top of assignments. I tend to be very gracious in these situations because I appreciate the flexibility that we enjoy as homeschoolers. However, keeping me updated makes it easier on everyone. 
I am committed to praying for your children regularly throughout the school year. Praying for classmates and the teacher provides all of us a greater opportunity to truly succeed!

God bless you as you plan for the coming school year!