Friday, December 13, 2013

A New Literacy-Rich Home


www.homeliteracyblueprint.com


Small Types is moving! Kind of. Technically Small Types will still be here with loads of goodies in the archives, but from now on I'll be spending my time over at Home Literacy Blueprint writing about simple ideas to build literacy-rich homes. So basically, it's still me writing about literacy, but in a newer, spruced up, better organized place in cyberspace. I hope you'll follow me!

At Home Literacy Blueprint you'll find...
  • Quick conversation starters to inspire kids to discuss and reflect on reading and writing.
  • Short activities to reinforce literacy learning at home, organized by skills and stages of literacy development so you can easily find ideas to try with your child.
  • Fun resources to extend and enrich literacy knowledge.
  • Ideas to help families incorporate literacy into everyday routines.
  • Printable “blueprints” of each activity.
I'm still unpacking but I'd love some company as I settle in!

If you've signed up to receive occasional news and freebies from me, you should still be on the list. If not, you can sign up right here. You can also click here to receive my new blog posts via email, or get posts send to your favorite blog reader. I like Bloglovin' best!

I also have a new Facebook page. Speaking of Facebook, if you like to keep up with your favorite bloggers on Facebook, keep in mind that you are unlikely to actually see the posts unless you comment or "like" comments on the page every once in a while. (It seems that Facebook only lets you see pages in your feed that you interact with regularly.)

Thanks so much for reading! I hope to see you over at my new digs!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fifteen Literacy Favorites for Fall

Happy fall, y'all! FYI, I don't live anywhere near the South and I know fall started like a month ago, but still...Happy fall, y'all!


Looking for some seasonal literacy fun? Here are my fifteen fall faves:
  1. Read Fall Ball, by Peter McCarty: This book is great for fans and non-fans alike. It's a simple, nostalgic snapshot of a perfect fall evening.
  2. Or check out this excellent collection of autumn reads.
  3. Make a Leaf Man: Go on a scavenger hunt and find some perfect leaves. Arrange them to create a leaf character and tell a story about his or her leafy adventures. Don't forget to read the story by Lois Ehlert.
  4. Make a fall-themed book collage. Gather several pictures and flat items and attach to your book. This is great way to practice categorizing! You could also write a sentence to explain why each one represents fall.
  5. Shape a fall story with a little imagination and a free printable.
  6. Make a fall-themed ABC book. You can use photographs like in the example, or draw your own!
  7. Paint letters on leaves!
  8. Make your own monster bookmarks, or print these.
  9. Find a yummy fall recipe and make it together. It's a great way to model how grown-ups use reading skills for everyday tasks. I'm making this one as soon as I stop typing!
  10. Or if your sweet tooth has already been overworked this season, you could just follow a recipe to make festive slime!
  11. Make a thankful wreath.
  12. Or a thankful log.
  13. Find some interesting fall pictures like these and use them as inspiration for writing or chatting. Try using the same picture to do three types of writing or speaking. (A story, a persuasive piece and an informative piece.)
  14. Find your favorite leaf and come up with reasons to convince someone why your leaf is really the best. Talk about how to make a persuasive argument.
  15. And finally, nothing says fall like a Pumpkin Spice Latte. Here's a way to justify the splurge!
Have fun reading, writing and leaf crunching.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Best of Back to School

Who's ready to head back to school? If you're a parent or a teacher (or both) I've got some ideas to help you get geared up for a super year.

For the teachers...
Christina Bainbridge has a cute link party happening right now. Lots of teachers are showcasing their favorite products, high school yearbook style! Here are mine:



Teacher's Pet: Our Class From A to Z
This set of classroom posters and printables is my teacher's pet because it's a cute and easy way to introduce and display your expectations for learning behaviors and classroom routines. (PS I still can't get enough of the owls.)

Most Likely to Help Your Students Succeed: Home Learning Notes
The key to success in school is an awesome home/school partnership. This packet makes it super easy for teachers to share Common Core aligned discussion topics and simple activities to try at home.

Best Couple: The Core at Home Literacy and Math Packs
My best sellers for the past year, these little parent guides are handy to pass out at the beginning of the year or at conference time to inform parents about the Common Core, and to help them incorporate the standards into home literacy and math routines.
 
If you're a teacher, be sure to stop by Teachers Pay Teachers tomorrow or Monday. Everything in my store and many others' will be 28%, with the coupon code BTS13!

Thanks to Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs for this cute graphic!


And for the parents...

Most Likely to Keep it Together: As I switch gears from summer brain to school brain, I need some help keeping track of the little organizational things I'm likely to forget. This back to school checklist is handy!

Best Looking: I always love a well-designed printable, and here are twelve of 'em! Perfect for back-to-school time!

Best Dressed: Well, this blog is about literacy not fashion, so my vote is for the best dressed notebooks! Have you seen all the ways you can cover a composition book? (I also have a free printable version here.)

Want your child to be Teacher's Pet? These back-to-school gift ideas might do the trick.

Finally, if you really want your child to be the most likely to succeed, (and who doesn't), we all know the best secret to success is to read lots and lots of books! Here are some great ideas for back to school books, plus a gazillion more topics for year-round reading fun.


Ok, go sharpen those pencils and get ready for a great year!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rockstar Authors


Does your family watch singing talent shows like American Idol or The Voice? My son had the idea to do a rockstar author competition.


We're reading several rounds of books by six of our favorite authors. After each reading session we vote one author off. It's SUPER hard for me to let my kids vote someone like Mo Willems off the island, but it's their game and they're reading, so it's all good.


We started by gathering books written by some of our favorite children's book authors: Peter Brown, Mathew and Jennifer Holm, Oliver Jeffers, Jon Scieszka, Dr. Seuss, and Mo Willems. The boys each picked two. To "meet" our authors, we watched some video clips and book trailers on YouTube. (Isn't Oliver Jeffers the cutest?) We made a little checklist to help us decide how to vote. (See above.) Then we read a book from each author, voted someone off and pretended to be authors and judges, delivering the results in a very dramatic "show" in the living room.



I'll be honest, the discussion and voting is really pretty random and subjective. (He's too old. I've read those books too many times. This book is about a bear and I don't like bears.) Also, we're comparing apples to oranges. (Beginner books, graphic novels, etc.) But that's ok. It's an authentic, kid-inspired reason to read and re-read some new titles and old favorites, so it's a success in my book.

So far, I'm sad to report that Jennifer and Matthew Holm got booted off first, followed by Mo Willems. (What?! Crazy, right?) Who will be next? Beats me, but I know I'll enjoy watching my young book critics figure it out.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Favorite Pins Friday



Hi friends! Just for fun I'm participating in a little Pinterest link party happening today at The First Grade Parade.

Here are my top five favorite pins of the week...







 1. The OK Book trailer: I love this book for teaching kids that it's ok to just give it try and not be perfect. In this day of competitive sports, competitive academics, competitive parenting, competitive Pinterest-ing... Sometimes it's nice to remind kids to be ok with just experimenting and having fun.

2. Teaching Lefties How to Write: As the mom of two lefty boys, I love finding ideas to make writing easier for them. I wish I'd known more about teaching lefties when I was in the classroom. Since I've been home with my kids, I've learned some great simple tricks. (For example, binding journals and packets on top of the page is better for new writers so their hand doesn't have to work around those annoying binder rings on the left.)

3. Collectors Book: I love a good bookmaking project and this one is perfect for summer vacations and adventures!

4. Twelve Things Happy People Do Differently: I'm trying to teach these to my kiddos. (-And live by them myself!)

5. Shut the Box Math Game: This one is FUN! Great for road trips and restaurants!

You can follow me as I pin my way though the week by clicking here. Be sure and leave your Pinterest link in the comments so I can follow you back!

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In other news... If you follow this blog, thank you so much!

If you were a Google Reader fan, I'm sure you know that it went away on Sunday, and you've hopefully moved your favorite blog subscriptions over to another reader of your choice. There are lots of readers out there to choose from. (I love Bloglovin' because the layout is great, and I can use the app to check my favorite blogs while waiting for my kids in the carpool line.)

If you're new here, or just popping by to check for updates, I wholeheartedly recommend following Small Types! :) Here's why:
  • You'll get quick and simple activities to help you build literacy skills at home. 
  • You'll get helpful free printables likes these.
  • You'll get notified of occasional deals and new products in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
  • Also, let's be honest. I've been known to take a week (or longer) off from blogging here and there. If you're following with a reader, or by email, you can automatically see when I post and you won't have to check. (Bloglovin' also has an email feature, so you can get notified when your favorite bloggers post.)
Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Peace in the House

Summer vacation has started like it usually does around here. Lots of relaxing, lots of fun and lots of sibling bickering. Does your family go through a transition time at the beginning of vacations? It seems like every year my kids need a week or two to get used to spending their days together again.


I generally just let them work it out, but this year I'm trying to facilitate the process a bit and introduce some new skills, so we can move more quickly to the peaceful, let's-just-get-along part of summer.

Last week, we kicked off summer with an awesome Be A Peacemaker e-course from Mariah Bruehl's Playful Learning Ecademy. It took us only an hour to complete, but gave us tools that will last all summer and way beyond. It's all about teaching kids to find peace within themselves so they can successfully manage little and big stress, and create more peace in the world. (-Or even just in their backyard. I'd settle for that right now.)


I'll be honest, not all of my little peacemakers were excited about participating at first. But once the kids on the video started talking, my boys were all listening. We watched the video together and talked through the questions. We completed one of the printables, but mostly we just used them as conversation starters. (The printables are fantastic btw, but since we're already doing summer homework, I wanted to keep this really casual.) The course is so well-done, and it gets straight to the point. My boys appreciated that they could get the message quickly and get back to playing. I was grateful to have a simple and effective way to get everyone on the same page about how and why we want to create a peaceful home. You could turn the class into a whole summer-long project, or just use it to get the peace rolling, like we did.

Although I've been a longtime fan of Playful Learning, this was our first experience with one of the e-courses. I'm so glad we gave it a try! Next up for my us... The Power of Put-Ups!

Here are some more ideas to help keep the peace this summer...

Read! Here are some books we like:
  • The Peace Book by Todd Parr. This author has a fun way of making big, important concepts very simple and straightforward for kids.
  • Amos and Boris, by William Steig. My favorite story about lasting friendship and making a difference through simple, thoughtful actions.
  • Red Cat, Blue Cat, by Jenni Desmond. Two very different characters learn to find common ground. (I have some characters in my house who could benefit from learning this skill.)
  • Too Tall Houses, by Gianna Marino. A great lesson in problem solving!
Act it out: 

This works really well with my four-year-old. When he can't find a way to manage real conflict, it's helpful to grab a couple of stuffed animals or action figures and have them solve a very similar problem. This usually gets kids laughing and makes the issue less personal, so it's easier to focus on correct problem solving behavior.

Visit the peace table: 

When my boys are really on each others' nerves, they get to pay a visit to the "peace table." They have to share a bench at our dining room table and talk through their issue. They can't get off the bench until they have a solution. My mom started this when my sister and I used to fight. It works because it reminds them that no matter how much they just want to yell and stomp off, real solutions come from actually sitting together and doing some hard work. Thanks Mom!

These are handy tools as we head into this summer filled with later bedtimes, less structure and brothers who all want to play with the same Lego.

So, How's it going at your house? Do you have any summertime peacemaking tips?

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This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Learning From the Walls


My mom always had this quote hanging in our kitchen growing up:

Without meaning to, I probably read it at least a million times before I became a grownup. While eating my Fruit Loops at breakfast, while "paying attention" as my dad tried to explain my algebra homework, while chatting on the phone, or just hanging out at the kitchen table. I spent a lot of time reading the walls in that kitchen, and over the years, I internalized the message. Anyone who knows me can tell you my own home is definitely more "playful" than clean.

We also had this hanging in bathroom:


Honestly, I can't say I've mastered that one yet. (In fact, I'm usually wildly dog-paddling and gasping for air.) But I'll always remember the words and I constantly strive to be a work hard and stay calm type of gal.

My early experience with reading the walls is the reason for the many not-so-subliminal messages hanging everywhere in my own home.  Sure, it makes cute decor, but really I hang them with high hopes that my boys will soak them up and carry them off into their own lives when they're big.

Letters, numbers and colors in my little one's room...



Simple messages and reminders...





Reminders about our beliefs and our traditions... (This one hung in my Grandparents' living room and I always loved it.)



And my greatest hopes for my boys...



To some extent, as my kids grow and my decorating tastes change the words will evolve. (ABC's and 123's will be replaced with more grown-up thoughts to ponder.)  In fact, I just purchased this one, this one is next, and I'm sure a few more of these smart thoughts will eventually find their way to a wall or the fridge.

Raising smart, motivated and inspiring kids obviously takes more than simply posting smart, motivational and inspirational quotes on the wall. Modeling those ideas in action is one of our many jobs as parents. (Although their house is very tidy now, my parents still play more than they clean.)

So that's my plan. With a few words on the wall and lots of time to practice and ponder, I'm hoping that at least a few of these messages will securely lodge themselves in my boys' brains before they head off to set up their own homes and raise their own kids.

I'm not the only person with this words-on-the-wall obsession. Which meaningful messages are you displaying at home? Do you post family rules? Lyrics from songs? I'd love to see 'em! If you have a link, post it in the comments and I'll pin some here.

By the way, sorry I haven't posted here in, like, forever. My absence has something to do with the quotes above. I've been busy just playing, holding my new sweet niece, heading back to my home town to help my sister launch her amazing 3rd book at our former high school, paddling like the devil to get some projects off my to-do list, and yes, even doing a bit of spring cleaning.