Friday, December 13, 2013

A New Literacy-Rich Home


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.
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!

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, everyone!

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.

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.

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.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Springtime Stick a Story

Here's an easy little DIY storytelling project to celebrate all things chirpy, tweety and springy: Springtime Stick-a-Story!

Kids can use the pictures and story words to tell their own spring stories. If you have a magnetic whiteboard, write words to complete the story. If you're working on the fridge or another non-writable magnetic surface, just place the pictures and word magnets, then tell the stories orally, filling in the details as you go.

Great for brainstorming new stories or retelling old ones!

Just print or make images and words, cut, stick and play!

A few tips:
  • Make sure your magnet roll is completely flat before attaching paper to cut down on paper creases. (As you can see, some of my longer pieces creased before I figured this out.) Printing on card stock also helps with this.
  • If you are planning to use with markers on a whiteboard, you may want to laminate the paper before attaching to the magnets so you can wipe off any stray marks.

Don't want to do magnets? You can print on adhesive paper to make stickers, or just print on regular paper to cut and paste on construction paper or in a blank book.

Have fun sticking some springtime stories!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Green and Lucky

Happy March! I love this month! Buds on trees, the smell of spring, the wearin' of the green, my parents' Reuben sandwiches, Easter, Read Across America week and Dr. Seuss!

Here's my lineup of green and lucky literacy ideas to try this month:

To Read...

To Do...

To Write...
I'm a big believer in teaching my boys to make their own luck in life. Hence, the Make Your Own Luck book! Here's a free printable if you want to make your very own luck book.  :)

What are your favorite ways to sow the seeds of literacy in March?

FYI: Book links are Amazon affiliate links.
Clipart: www.misstiina.com