Screen Free Week

Dear Readers,

On April 30-May 6, we will be participating in Screen-Free Week 2012. Screen-Free Week is a nationwide event celebrated by schools, families, and other civic and community groups each year.  During Screen-Free Week, millions of children and adults pledge to spend seven days screen-free.  Instead of watching TV or playing video games, they tend to read, play, think, create, get physically active, and spend more time with friends and family.

Studies show that children who watch less TV are more likely to read well and to be physically fit.  Turning off screens also allows for more family time.  Each week, children spend more time in front of a screen than they do in school!  Screen-Free Week is a great way to jump-start our kids into more reading, learning, and active play. 

Many parents choose to join their children in forgoing screen-based entertainment all week long and engaging in other fun activities.  This kind of support is the best thing you can do to ensure that your child will have a successful and beneficial experience.

Here at the Educators’ Spin On It, we believe in the power of parenting with purpose and have pledged to turn off our screens for the week and make even more meaningful connections with our children, spouses, friends, and community members. Because of this, no new posts will be added to the blog during this time.  We will be reading, gardening, getting caught up with the mending, playing board games, going on field trips, and just having fun with our kids!

We would love to have you join us in this 7 day challenge.  Admittedly, this 7 day challenge may be difficult for some families.  We urge you to consider modifying the challenge to meet your family needs; it can be “just when the kids are awake," or it can even be just TV vs all screens, or it can be just for 3 days.

We have created a packet of 4 printable activity checklists to help you with ideas on activities to do with your families this week, a reminder note to print off and tape to your screens, and a certification of completion - all FREE with one download here.

Enjoy your week,

Amanda and Kim

What kindergarten writing looks like - a year of student samples


My daughter is 5 years old.  As a former kindergarten teacher, the writing at this stage is my absolute favorite.  I find great joy in "seeing" progress through writing and I have tried to take pictures of her writing samples to create an online portfolio of her work, meaning, a post here on the blog that I can look back at and see how far her writing has come.  Although my daughter struggles with some vision and fine motor issues, her desire to write and creative imagination help her to be a successful writer.  She is just an average kindergartner with an amazing passion and zest for life.  Since she was 3, she has spent almost every day of her life writing something; a letter to Grandma, a grocery list, recipes for food and more recently, stories.


I am Snow White.  I am raccoon.  I am deer.

Writing Samples and Standards of a Kindergarten Student

Here is a sampling of her writing for parents who may be interested in knowing what a kindergartner can and should write like.  Our current standards require kindergartners to
  • Draft writing by drawing, telling, or writing about a familiar experience, topic or text; that is appropriate to the topic, audience, and purpose.
  • Edit for correct use of end punctuation, including periods, question marks, and exclamation points.
  • Edit for correct use of knowledge of letter/sound relationships to spell simple words.
  • Produce, illustrate and share a finished piece of writing.
Their end of the year portfolio states that they must write a paragraph about a given subject with a topic sentence and three supporting sentences.  Gone are the early stages of writing continuum's that I was taught to use with early writers.  Kindergartners now have higher expectations in writing.  Although I feel that not all children may be developmentally ready for these tasks, I would like to believe that with strong parent support, our children can meet (or come close to meeting) these expectations.  Can my daughter meet and exceed all these new standards and assessments - I hope so, but realistically, I know that she is not currently quite at the stage of writing that these standards require.  Although her thoughts and ideas are expressed with creativity, she writes with energy and uniqueness, and she uses "lively" word choices, her conventions and spelling need some more attention!


 Hot chocolate is hot.  Salad is green.  But my favorite thing is ...

Order
Ravioli, ravioli and soup, soup, vanilla, water, milk, juice


Christmas was great.  I liked what Nicholas gave me.  It was a dog.


The book is Hannah and the Seven Dresses.  She does not know what dress to wear.  The fourth dress has ruffles.  She put black pants on her birthday.


I do not like to get a shot. It hurts a lot. Oweee.

This is the first time that we start to see speech bubbles.  In my kindergarten classroom, I would encourage reluctant readers to use speech bubbles.  Many kids find them interesting and motivation to write in.  She is using longer sentences in her writing now - 8 words in this one - with no adult prompting.  She is capitalizing and spacing on her own!  You can't see it, but after the Owee is an exclamation point!


This bee is a special bee.  It pollinates roses.  It has wings like a butterfly.

We try to change up our writing so it does not get boring.  Writing can and should be fun and interesting.  After a visit to an art festival where we talked with a local artist, I did a directed draw activity with her to make the bee and she wrote her sentences afterwards.  I really need to explore mediums other than markers, crayons, and colored pencils when creating a picture or illustration for our writing.  Research has shown using art before writing, especially with water colors help improve creative writing, as the colors flow and change, creating new thoughts and writing directions.  It is something for me to work on doing more!


Once upon a time, there was an old woman.  Her name was Emilesa.  She was poor.  (My Thing)

We have found that as the year of kindergarten progresses, the teacher asked for more specific writing tasks such as book summaries or using 3 specific words of the week.  The more specifications included, the less my little one wants to write and the more she craves creative writing.  This was a little story that she wrote a few days ago after writing a book summary for her school homework, a letter to her Grandma, and 2 other stories.  She sat for hours (her choice) just writing.  Those are the days when I am so very thankful that we do not have a television!

So what are your thoughts on Kindergarten writing?

Are you a teacher?  
  • Are the expectations in your school and ours just about right?
  • Do you think we are on the right track?
  • How can parents better support their children's writing development?
Are you a parent? 
  • Are you kids enjoying writing? 
  • Do you think they are getting enough "time" writing?
  • How can you help to facilitate an improvement the quality and quantity in their writing?

This week we ate a rainbow


This week,we have been working on developing his fine motor, one-to-one correspondence, matching, color identification, expanding vocabulary and the focus or theme of the week has been eating a rainbow!

What?  Eating healthy with your kid teaches all that?  Well, YES!

If you are an avid reader of our blog (and we are so glad you are!) then you know that we believe in the power of gardening, healthy eating, getting our kids in the kitchen and much more. My 29 month old has been gardening like crazy with me in the last 2 weeks as we prepare our warm season crops.  The cool season crops are starting to fizzle and our daily handful of snow peas have become a scattered one or two a day.  He eats much less fruits and vegetables when they are from the fridge and not the garden.  It is the perfect time to amp our eating habits!

My kids really do eat healthy and we talk about food often.  I would even consider my kids foodies - they know what they like, how to make it, and are not afraid to try anything.  BUT, my toddler's vocabulary and interest in "academic" concepts is very low.  So I thought that if I combined the two, he may be better able to make the connections!  He is NOT one to learn a concept by using flash cards, he is one that needs to experience it through a meaningful real-life situation and have this experience repeated over and over again!


We started off on Monday going through one of my gardening seed catalogs and taking about the names of the fruits and vegetables (vocabulary!) and their colors.  Then, we picked out one or two pictures for each color of the rainbow.  My 2 year old needed help cutting the pictures out from the big pages, but I made sure that he was able to cut one or two sides per picture!  (fine motor) I then let him glue the plate  (more squeezing for fine motor) and tried to convince him to glue the edges, not just a big puddle in the middle!  When he was done gluing, he picked up the pictures and put them on the plate.  As he did this, we played a game of , "What color is this?" or "What is this vegetable."  (repetition is key!) We talked about how important it is for our bodies to eat a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables.


He must have understood, because he immediately took it to our pretend kitchen and said, "I cook healthy for baby," He put wolf in the highchair and gave him the plate of fruit and veggies.  Then, took the pitcher and said, "Pour cup of water."  Now he is not only hearing the concepts, but teaching his stuffed animals - I LOVED IT and it was all his idea! (Why didn't I think of that?)

We re-read the book, Rainbow Bunch each morning along with some other fruit and veggie books.   The Rainbow Bunch is a rhyming story that helps young children to understand why we need to give our bodies healthy food… and what can happen when we don’t! My 5 year old was able to read the text independently and my 2 year old was content to snuggle in and talk about the book with me.  I emphasised that eating healthy helps us to be strong and learn in our discussions!  The illustrations are just delightful and I enjoyed how each character dressed in different colors to represent the rainbow. Both of my kids liked the facts at the end of the book as much, if not more than the story.


Then, to really have the concepts sink in, much of our time this week centered around this "Today I Ate a rainbow Chart."  I was a little worried that we had one chart and two children, but I just assigned each kid their own shape for the week.  (It comes with at least 4 for those of you with more kiddos)  My five year old got the concept immediately.  By day 2 she was independently putting her shapes up after eating.  Her comment after dinner the second night was, "Wow, I didn't eat a blue or purple fruit or vegetable today.  Do you think we could have frozen blueberries for desert???"  Of course, I didn't mind!

My tot on the other hand wanted to shove the magnets into the space between the fridge and freezer.  I first talked to him about the chart and how to use the magnets.  For him, I am having him match the fruit or vegetable in his hand with the corresponding circle.  For example, we had tangerines for our snack.  Afterwards, we came to the chart and I handed him a tangerine. "We just ate a tangerine for snack. Do you know what color the tangerine is?"  Because he was not able to answer, I gave him choices, "Is is blue or orange?"  (pointing to the colors on the chart as I said this) If he said orange, I repeated, "That is right, the tangerine is orange."  For the first couple of days, I modeled (or showed him) how to match the correct circle color to the fruit.  Then towards the end of the week, I had him show me which color circle matched the fruit (or vegetable) and move it hiself.  He really struggled with matching the circle color to the fruit color and then placing the circle in the correct color place on the chart.  We did a lot of

I do (I model or show him how to do it)
We do (We do it together)
You do (You do it on your own)

This teaching strategy gave him the support he needed to be successful with this task.  We may continue this chart for another week, because I feel like he is really starting to make the connections between the color words and the foods he is eating.  Yippee!!! Because I have been using this chart with my 5 1/2 year old AND my 2 1/2 year old, I can honestly say that it takes a lot of teaching and parenting time with the younger child.  I think that this time is time well spent if it can get my children started with healthy eating habits.  I would recommend this for any parent who is trying to make sure their children are eating healthy, like a little extra eating challenge, want to encourage their children to try new foods, have a picky eater or just want to spend more time talking with their children about good eating habits.

And our day would not be complete without this adorable song about Eating a Rainbow!

We received the Book and Magnetic kits for review from  Today I Ate A Rainbow!TM, but the thoughts and opinions are entirely our own! We encourage you to check out their website, there are so many other resources provided for parents that the kit did not contain but is so worth your time! 

We've attached a few of the helpful links for you here. 
Rainbow Activities Links on The Educators' Spin On it
Let's Eat a Rainbow Ideas from Little Hands that Cook with Books
Healthy Eating Made Fun For Kids!
Don't forget to stop byToday I At a Rainbow to buy your kit today! 

Thanks to Janet at the Rainbowplate.com for sharing with me another adorable song about eating a rainbow. It is available for download here for $1.00.

The Carrot Seed Activities

For this month’s Virtual Book Club we’re reading The Carrot Seed by Ruth KraussThere are so many creative ways to explore this book.  



You will discover we’ve included activities from the kitchen, the garden, reading, math, science and playtime.  There are so many ways to integrate this story for hours of fun! 




Activities for The Carrot Seed



Carrots In the Garden

First we’re starting in the Garden.  Do you want to grow carrots with your family?  Here’s our post about How to Grow Carrots.  We’ve created a Printable Carrot Pack that includes 14 pages of learning and discovering with your family.

In the Kitchen with Carrots

  • Carrot Playdough
We made orange playdough for our carrot activity.  My 5 year old daughter and I found a playdough recipe online and then she wrote down the ingredients so we could find them in the kitchen.  Once we gathered the ingredients she measured and mixed.  We used a no cook playdough recipe so that she could be involved in most of the making of it.  

Truthfully it didn’t exactly work out so we ended up having to cook it anyway but at least she was able to mix everything together on her own and watch how Mommy problem solves to make something work.  She really enjoyed the process of how to make playdough orange. 
  

Reading, Writing & Science with Carrots





Math Fun with Carrots 

  • Carrot Fact Families
  • Carrot Fractions




Playtime with Carrots

  • Playdough Carrot Fun
  • Carrot Sensory Box


Crafts

If you would like to participate with us in the Virtual Book Club hosted by Toddler Approved and Mommy and Me Book Club  for The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss please link up your activity below.  We encourage you to stop by the other participates to see how the had fun with The Carrot Seed, you just might be inspired. 


Previous Virtual Book Club
Resource of Books with Activities: Love Books

This post contains an affiliate link to amazon. All opinions are my 100% own.  

Snapshots of Parenting with Purpose: The Importance of Daddy Reading


Our children get report cards. Employees get reviews. As parents you may not get feedback from others on your parenting. We would like to take some time here at The Educators' Spin On It to celebrate the moments you share with your children that deserve recognition. We would like to give you positive feedback on your parenting experiences and share your story with others for inspiration!
This week's Snapshot of Parenting with Purpose was inspired by Deb at Learn with PlayShe shared with us her husband and how much she knows it's important for him to be involved with story time too. 


 She writes to us,
"I believe that in order for kids (especially little boys) to develop the best relationship with books and literature for the future, it's important that they have Daddy (or other males) read too. 

Myself and my husband have both made it a priority to read to our kids daily since they were born and love to see the excitement and enthusiasm that books hold for our daughter.


As a teacher I know all too well that boys are typically less inclined to read of their own free will and even less so, the older they get. Hopefully by creating a literacy-rich environment as well as showing our son not only the wonder and joy that books hold, but also that males love reading too, he will also develop the same relationship with reading and literature as his older sister.

And... for all the Dads out there, there's not much more that melts a mum's heart, than seeing Daddy reading with the kids." Debs @Learn with Play


Our Spin On It
We love when Dads get involved with their child's reading, when both parents are actively involved and working together for the children amazing things can and will happen.  As a father, having your child observe you reading and listening to you read stories is a key element to lifelong successful readers.  Research has shown time and time again that children who are read to frequently before the enter Kindergarten will have higher vocabulary skills, will become better readers and have better academic success. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading aloud to all children over the age of six months. For best results, read to your child every day for at least 30 minutes. How do you plug in reading for 30 minutes?  It's definitely something that both parents have to do together to make sure it happens! 

Here are some fun ways we've shared discovered to encourage you child to have books in their daily routine and in a fun way.  

Tips on Reading with an Active Baby or Toddler
Creating book stations
Front Facing Bookcase
Love Books Exchange
LOVE BOOKS page filled with Books and Activities

Last week we shared a story about a father actively engaged in their sons every moments and purposely doing special projects together.  It's so important for your children to see both parents working together to provide these opportunities.  I know some of the biggest complaints is not enough time.  Here are a few reading spots that are favorites and some spots you might not have thought of. 

Where can you read together?
  • reading corner
  • kitchen table
  • highchair
  • bathtub
  • playground
  • parent pick up line
  • bed
  • chair
  • backyard under a tree
  • library
  • front porch or backyard porch
  • siblings practice time
  • tent indoors or outdoors
  • pretend boat
  • restaurant waiting for a table or food
  • car, bus, metro, train
  • on a road trip
  • on a airplane 
  • at the airport
  • online video chat with grandparents or other family members  
Here's a Printable Checklist for you too!  

 All Families are Unique

On are different note... we know that all homes are unique and that there are single parents too.  It is totally possibly for any parent to do this on their own too.  If there is a way, involving a grandfather or uncle at times as an option that might be helpful too if you're concerned.   They most important thing is that books need to be in your child's life from the very beginning and that your child needs and adult to read and read and read with them to become successful readers and great thinkers!   Something to think about....sometimes a special book could be a good transition item from home to home for little ones too. 


We LOVE BOOKS!  
If you need ideas on some more literacy based activities for your kids, stop by and check out our Link-Up of Books and Activities that relate to them. If you have a specific post that highlights one book and an interactive project or activity that goes with it, feel free to link it up too!  There are some fantastic ideas linked up already! 

Send us your story at theeducatorsspinonit@gmail.com

For more Snapshots of Parenting with Purpose

A Very Hungry Caterpillar Teacher Appreciation Party


Do you have a “very special teacher” that you want to celebrate?  Here’s a fun way to engage your child and their classmates into celebrating their teacher for Teacher Appreciation Week or an End of the Year Celebration.  All the caterpillar themed projects can be created in stations in less than an hour.  Encourage the teacher to sit back and enjoy while the students create keepsakes for the teacher’s classroom.  Grab some parent volunteers and let’s go have some fun! 

 
  • Create a Handprint Caterpillar Class Sign
Using green and red paint have student place their handprint onto a long sheet of paper to create a class caterpillar to hang up for the teacher.  Premake the lettering and the caterpillars head with construction paper. 
  • Create an Accordion Style Caterpillar Card
Make a Thank you card for the class by cutting out large green circles and then cut out smaller circles with their personal pictures on them.  The same head in on both the card and the class sign.  If you don't have time to get a picture made of each child, just have each student draw a self portrait. 

  • Create Caterpillar Magnets
Using green and red pom pom have the student glue the head and body onto a clothespin.  Then attach two eyes.  Before they begin attach a magnet to the back so they can hang it on the fridge at home to remember the special party.   Premake a set for the teacher.
  • Create a Caterpillar Pointer
Using the extra pom poms create a teacher pointer to help the teacher read stories with and use for teaching reading.   

  • Class Book Signing...The Very Hungry Caterpillar  by Eric Carle
As a class buy The Very Hungry Caterpillar for your child's teacher and then have all the student write their name at the front of the book for a book signing.  You could include a class photo attached inside too. 
  • Make a Class Book Very Hungry Caterpillar Book
What a fun way to remember a school year that to be presented with a book of personalized teaching photos from your own classroom.  Here are some suggestions for what to include but the ideas are endless as to the special things your child's teacher does with the class. 
A Very Special Teacher by ______ Class
On Monday  ____ read us a story.
On Tuesday ___ taught us to write.
On Wednesday ____ helped us count to 100.
On Thursday _____ took us to the playground.
On Friday ____ sang songs with us. 
On Saturday _____ was writing her lesson plans. 
On Sunday _____ was a very special teacher all year long! 
Thank you _____ for all your hard work and dedication! 

If you don't want to take photographs you could always have each student create their own personalized page and create a book from it. 
  • Have a Very Hungry Caterpillar Snack 
While you're present the book basket and listening to the Class Caterpillar Book you can enjoy a little caterpillar snack.  Cupcakes shaped like a caterpillar are fun!  You can also create a caterpillar from sandwiches.  You can retell the story by cutting up fruit and poking holes into the fruit just like the story using straw.   
  • Make a Bean Bag Toss Caterpillar
Plan an extra station for little hands that finish early and are waiting to switch stations. Draw the foods from the Story onto a large sheet of cardboard and have them try to get the bean bag into the holes.
 
  • Collect Books as a Teacher Gift to Build a Very Special Class Library
If parents want to buy something special for the teacher, encourage them to participate in a book basket to help build your teacher's classroom library. They don't necessarily have to be new, garage sales and used bookstores are a great resource. When you present the basket attach one red and 3 green balloons to it so it looks like a caterpillar. We attached thank you notes to the balloons too! 
  • Need more The Very Hungry Caterpillar Ideas? 
Check out our Pinterest Thematic Units Board and Party Board . 
Explore the World of Eric Carle here
Coloring Activity here
Activity Booklet and Poster here
Want Eric Carle to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to your child or class?  Click here

Hope you enjoy your "Very Special Caterpillar Party" with your child's teacher and class!  At the end of the party the Teacher will have a basket full of books, a teacher's pointer, caterpillar magnets for her board, caterpillar thank you card, a personalized book about the school year, new copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar signed by her students and some delicious Caterpillar Themed Snacks.  The kids will love it and and so will the teacher, what a special way to say thank you!  
Here are More Teacher Appreciation Gift Ideas from The Educators' Spin On It

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