Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top 10 Posts from SpellOutloud in 2011

Wow, another year is almost finished! It was fun taking a look back into the blog archives reading some of my older posts. It's always a treat to see what makes the most-viewed list each year. Here are the Top Ten Blog posts from 2011 on Spell Outloud according to Google Analytics:

1.  Names of Jesus Advent Chain 
2.  ABC Letter Box 
3.  Pretend Play: Ice Cream Store 
4.  Learning Telephone Numbers Printable 
5.  Human Body: Learning About Bones 
6.  Our Valentine Colors 
7.  Cool Ice Cream Craft 
8.  Cupcake Mini-Unit 
9.  Garden Fun Project for Kids  
10. Human Body: Learning About Blood

And my favorite because it stretched me to write this: Do Toddlers and Well-Ordered Days Mix?  



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Scratch and Sniff Ornaments

As I expected, my little girls have loved smelling the stickers in The Sweet Smell of Christmas book. I remember doing the same thing when I was a kid. I thought it would be a great idea to mix the scratch-and-sniff idea along with our Names of Jesus advent chain study. So I gathered supplies so that we could make our own scratch-and-sniff Names of Jesus ornaments to put on our tree. I thought this would be a wonderful way to remember all the names of  Jesus we have learned during this month while also being a keepsake.

Names of Jesus ornaments printables from Bible Story Printables
Various flavor packets of Kool-Aid
small containers

Mix each packet of Kool-Aid with 2 TBS of water and stir. Print out your ornaments on cardstock or watercolor paper.

All of my kids---ages 13-3yrs. old enjoyed this project. The Kool-Aid paint works just like watercolors. 
The kids took their time and even experimented with mixing colors. After the pages were dry, we cut them out and tied string through the top to hang on the tree.

They turned out beautifully! When we scratched them, we could get a faint smell. So it doesn't work as well as the scratch-and-sniff stickers, but it was sure fun to paint with Kool-Aid!

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

What is Christmas?

Today's book is What is Christmas? by Michelle Medlock Adams. I picked up this board book as a way to discuss various Christmas traditions with my young children.

Summary: Using rhyming patterns and colorful illustrations, this book shares various Christmas traditions such as putting up a Christmas tree, seeing Christmas plays, Santa Claus--but are those what Christmas is about? At the end the author shares that all these traditions are fun but Christmas is about the birth of God's only Son.

This is a cute, little book suitable for toddlers and preschoolers. It allows parents to talk discuss with their children the various traditions and that those things are fine, but the real reason we celebrate is because of Jesus.

After we read it, I printed out the shape cut-and-paste Nativity Sheet from 2 Teaching Mommies. She had so much fun doing this activity. We hung it up in the front room for all to see.

This book went perfectly with Why Do We Call it Christmas? DVD from What's In the Bible.You can see a sneak peek below.

I can't believe there's only 8 more days until Christmas! I am enjoying reading these special Christmas books with my kids each day. Which books have been your favorite?

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Cookies

Today's book is Christmas Cookies by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Though not a traditional Christmas book, this book fits in the season by explaining abstract terms and vocabulary often used during the holidays.

Summary: Who knew that baking cookies could lead to explaining abstract holiday vocabulary? Ms. Rosenthal uses the theme of baking to define words such as anticipation, tradition, disappointed, celebrate, appreciative, and more. Each page is beautifully illustrated and is a wonderful way to introduce new vocabulary to children.

I enjoyed reading this book with my children. It was a wonderful way to talk about concepts such as selfish, thoughtful, gratitude and more. This is not just a book for young kids either. The descriptions paired with the fun illustrations are a great way for children to visualize the word meanings.

"Gratitude means taking a minute to look around the table and be thankful for all the people and all the cookies."

Of course, after reading this book baking cookies is the perfect way to talk about some of the concepts again! :)

My 5yr. old received her great-grandmother's apron for her birthday. We talked about how we can wear our special aprons each year as a tradition.

Lil Sis said she wants to be a chef. So Big Sis helped her make her own batch of Christmas cookies. Lil Sis was appreciative that Big Sis helped her!

They all got to decorate and eat their own sugar cookie too.

Some of the kids also designed their own Christmas Cookies using this Christmas Cookie Coloring Sheet. We would have glued them onto paper plates, but we ran out. So we arranged them onto real plates for now. :)

What's Your Favorite Christmas Cookie?

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Donkey's Christmas Song

Today's book is The Donkey's Christmas Song by Nancy Tafuri.

Summary: A shy, little donkey is afraid that his bray is too loud and will scare the little babe in the manger. All the other animals welcome the little one with their song. Finally the babe looks at the donkey. The donkey lets out his loud song and the baby laughs.

This is a cute rhyming book perfect for toddlers-K. The simple illustrations capture children's attention along with the rhyming text. Each animal makes their "song", which children enjoy saying too (the cow moo's, the dove coo's, etc.)

After reading the story, my little girls went to their Nativity set and had all the animals greet baby Jesus with their song.

I was reminded of one of my favorite childhood Christmas movies while reading this book-- Nestor, the Long-Eared Donkey.

This movie told about Christ's birth in such a simple way, and Nestor always made me a little teary-eyed. I was captivated by the story, the emotion-- and there is just something about the Arthur Rankin Jr. animation that fascinated me as a kid. Do you remember these movies? Please tell me I'm not the only one that old--lol! :) I have this on my to-do list for this Christmas season-- watch Nestor with my kids.

What has been your favorite Christmas book so far this season?

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Learning How to Read with All About Reading

I recently got to check out the new All About Reading Level 1 set. We have been using All About Reading Pre-1 and All About Spelling, so I was excited to see what this new level contained (Make sure you read all the way to the bottom for a special announcement!)

What is it?

All About Reading Level 1 contains
1. Teacher's Manual
2. Student Packet (includes Activity Book)
3. Run, Bug, Run! reader  
4. The Runt Pig reader
5. Cobweb the Cat reader 
(you can download samples of each element at the website)

In addition, a Reading Interactive Kit will need to be purchased, but will be used for all reading levels (so it is a one-time purchase). There is a Deluxe kit or a Basic kit to choose from. Items can also be purchased individually.

How it Works:

There is a little prep-work when you first start this program. There are phonogram cards and word cards that need to be torn-apart and filed. Then there are magnet tiles that need to be assembled. I did all of that while watching a Christmas special. It wasn't difficult at all.

All About Reading Level 1 is geared toward beginning readers. Students who know their alphabet and sounds and who are just starting to learn how to put the sounds together to make words can use this level. If you aren't sure if your child is ready for formal reading instruction yet, use this Reading Readiness Checklist to help guide your decision.

When you are ready to start, the Teacher's manual walks you through everything you need to cover in a lesson. It tells you what you need and what to say. It is very easy to follow and understand.

This program is a multisensory program. Children will learn through sight, sound, and touch.In the photo above we learned a hand-motion to go along with short /a/. My daughter is pretending to hold an apple while saying the short /a/ sound.

Then she worked on sounding out words with letter tiles. Don't you love our pizza pan? LOL! I do have a dry-erase board that we use for our magnet letter tiles but I was teaching in the kitchen that day and used what I could find. :)

After we used the tiles, we did the activity page in the student book. I like that the activity was focused and was not just a "time filler" as some worksheets can be. From looking ahead, many of the activity pages have a hands-on component-- match words to pictures, create word flippers, play as a game etc. I would consider these "active worksheets".

Then 20 minutes of reading books with mom! I actually do this throughout the day. Read a book for 10 min. after lunch, and read some books before bed.

What I Thought:

If you are like me, one of the first things I look at is the price. Yes, this program is a little pricey, but I believe it is worth it. Here's why:

* All the materials in this system are top quality. They did not take any shortcuts creating AAR materials. The 3 readers that are included are hard-back readers. The teacher's manual is well-written and easy to follow (no teacher-ese lingo).

* There are no gaps. I don't have to worry that I'm forgetting to teach some component of reading. It is all covered.
  • Phonological Awareness
  • Phonics and Decoding
  • Fluency
  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension
* It is multi-sensory. Some children learn better by hearing. Others by seeing. Others by kinesthetic (tactile) learning. This program teaches to all those learning styles. This allows children to process the information in more than one way and remember it better.

*You'll get the "Go Ahead and Use It" one-year guarantee. You have one full year to try out AAR. If you find that any of the curriculums do not meet your needs, simply return the materials at any time within one year of purchase for a full refund of your purchase price, no questions asked.

All About Learning Press is letting me give away 1 All About Reading Level 1 Kit and 1 Deluxe Reading Interactive Kit!

This giveaway runs from 12/9 - 12/13. Enter via Rafflecopter. If you are reading this in a reader and don't see the form, please click over to the site to enter.

Disclosure: I was given a free kit to review. I am also an affiliate. The opinions are my own.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Birth of Jesus Bible Study

There are so many fun activities and studies to do at this time of the year that it can be a little overwhelming to choose. So for our Christmas studies this year, I've picked easy-to-implement activities that focus on Jesus. We learn a name of Jesus each day via our advent chain, we usually read at least 1 Christian Christmas book each day, and this week we did Grapevine's Birth of Jesus Bible Study together.

There are two versions of The Birth of Jesus Bible study:

Multi Level {ages 7 and up} Birth of Jesus..
Children and teens will travel back to the first century for a fresh look at the events surrounding the birth of Jesus! The timeline of the Nativity will come alive through the Bible study of the characters and events surrounding the birth of Jesus. On this journey students will map the travels of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.

Beginner {ages 5-7} Birth of Jesus…
Preschool and kindergarten Bible students will saddle up their donkeys and take an unforgettable journey back in time to discover the amazing events that surrounded the Nativity.

I loaded the teacher's guide onto my iPad this time so that I didn't have to print it out. I love that! Everything you need to teach this study is in the teacher's guide. It is so easy to implement. We gathered up our dry erase crayons and table top dry-erase board and started our stick-figure study.

Each child has their own set of colored pencils and their own student pages (this is separate from the teacher's manual). They draw a stick-figure in a certain color to help them remember the key components of the Bible passage.

I give my littlest ones a piece of drawing paper so they can participate with us too. This was my 3yr. old's drawing of Mary.

We enjoy doing these stick-figure studies. Even my older kids enjoy them. It's hard to find things that work well for all the ages I have at home, so I've very grateful for these joint learning opportunities. This is our second Grapevine study (You can read what I thought of The Life of Jospeh Grapevine study) and I'm deciding what our next one will be.

Use the coupon code Advent11 to receive 20% off any non-sale item from now through December 31, 2011!

If you want to win a free study, head on over to:
1+1+1=1 's blog (ends 12/11)
Mama Jenn's blog (ends 12/10)

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey is another family favorite. This picture book has a message applicable to all ages. When I read this to my children, all of them ages 3-13 were engaged with the story.

Summary: Mr. Gloomy Toomey as the children called him, was a sad, grouchy man. He was however, the best woodcarver in the valley. A widow hires him to recreate a special manager scene and also asks if her son can watch him carve the set. Creating this creche starts a process of healing for Mr. Toomey. A heartwarming story of healing, kindness and peace that Jesus brings to hurting hearts.
There are so many things to talk about after reading this story. The illustrations and the storyline are wonderful. One of the discussions we had while reading this was talking about virtues. The topic came up after reading,

"“Do you every stop talking?” asked the woodcarver… “

And the widow tells her son that the woodcarver has the virtue of silence. In what instances is silence a virtue? What other virtues are displayed in this story? (kindness, patience, being attentive). At this point I realized that our We Choose Virtue Cards would come in handy. I pulled them out and we went over what being kind, patient, and attentive meant.

I also found some wooden animals in my craft stash. We read the descriptions in the book again and talked about how hard it might be to create figures out of wood. For a fun activity, have your children try to recreate the animals using clay or PlayDough based on the descriptions in the story.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The First Christmas

Today's book is The First Christmas by John Wilkie illustrated by Jodie McCallum. This is an iPad app book by PicPocket Books.

Summary: Written from the perspective of Mary's donkey, the rhyming text tells about Christ's birth. It starts on the journey Mary and Joseph had to take to Bethlehem and ends with the visit from the Magi.

This is the first book I've downloaded from PicPocket Books. I loved that it told the story of the birth of Jesus and I thought the illustrations were adorable. We have another book that is illustrated by Jodie McCallum (which we will be sharing later.)

The book is narrated by a young girl, and while she reads, the word she is saying turns to red. I like this feature for it helps beginning readers "read" along with the story. If you touch the animals in the story you can hear them make noises.

For a book extension activity, I pulled out the Nativity cards I printed from 1+1+1=1 last year. Once again we read the story and then matched our little people animals to the cards. My 3yr. old and 5 yr. old had fun trying to teach my 1 yr. old the animal sounds.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

The Berenstain Bears Trim the Tree

Today's Book is The Berenstain Bears Trim the Tree by Mike and Jan Berenstain. We read this book on our iPad but you can also purchase a traditional copy.

Summary: A cute lift-the-flap book perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. The Berenstain Bears work together to decorate their Christmas tree.

The traditional book and the Trim the Tree iPad app from Oceanhouse Media both have lift-the-flap features! What I like about the ipad app is that it has three different modes to choose: Read to Me, Read it Myself, and Auto Play. For my little girls, I use this like a listening center. They can listen to the book on their own--which they did multiple times.

To promote reading in young children, individual words are highlighted as the story is read and words zoom up when pictures are touched. You can see in the picture above that she just lifted the flap to reveal a kitten, and when she touched the kitten, the word appeared. The narrator also says the word name too.

Since the book was all about Christmas tree decorations, I thought it would be a perfect time to work on our tradition of decorating wooden photo ornaments. Each child does one each year to hang on our tree. I usually have my younger kids use markers to decorate the ornaments since they usually create less of a mess this way and have more control over where the color goes.

I love looking at the photo ornaments each year, seeing how each child has grown up in just a year's time.

Do you have any Christmas ornament traditions?

Click to see more Christmas books

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas in the Manger

I just think the illustrations in Christmas in the Manger are too cute! This sturdy and cute board book is perfect for babies through preschool and was our book of the day.

Summary: The simple, rhyming text and cute illustrations are a perfect way to share the Christmas story with very young children. First the animal are introduced, then the shepherds, wise men, Mary and Jesus.

I don't plan on doing crafts for every single book we read this season, but if I have an idea, I go with it. I was inspired by the illustrations in this book and had so much fun coming up with a craft. The characters were simple yet cute. So I looked around my house and found some simple objects to use for our craft.

"I am the baby
asleep in the hay,
and I am the reason
for Christmas Day."
~Nola Buck

Isn't this the cutest Bottle Cap Baby Jesus? I have complete step-by-step instructions over at The Homeschool Village today. :)

Today is the last day of our group 5 Days of Christmas series. I hope you have had some time to visit all the blogs and see their awesome Christmas posts!  Well we would love to see your favorite Christmas craft, activity, or other Christmas-related post too! Pick your favorite one, add a link back here so others know where to join in, and share!

Please stop by and visiting my other 5 Days of Christmas friends!

A Slob Comes Clean - Getting Your Home Company Ready
Feels Like Home - Christmas Traditions
Somewhat Crunchy - Christmas with Dairy Allergies
Spell Outloud - Children's Books
Mama's Learning Corner - Children's Crafts
Many Little Blessings - Edible Gifts
Sunflower Schoolhouse - Decorations
An Oregon Cottage - Christmas Cookies
Catholic Icing - Wishing Jesus Happy Birthday
The Traveling Praters - Traveling
The Homeschool Classroom - Gifts Kids Can Make
Mama's Laundry Talk - Laundry Gifts

*P.S. Even though this is the end of the 5 Day series, I will continue to "try" to post a book a day during the month of December! I've also added a Christmas Book page to help keep everything organized.

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