Young boys and girls grow out of their clothing quickly. So when you see a T shirt that is getting a little to short, it's time to make a Story Shirt!
Read a short book that has strong imagery or memorable characters. Tell your kids that if they read the book aloud to you (lend a hand if needed) their reward will be to use special markers (a lot of kids get excited when they are allowed to use Sharpies!) to design a T shirt based on their reading.
After your kids have finished the book, allow them to color the almost-outgrown T shirt however they'd like. Kids LOVE to detail and wear their own clothes. Let them wear the shirt for the rest of the night or save it for a trip out to your favorite park or play date.
It doesn't matter how accurate the drawing (especially on a t shirt) - the freedom to color on the shirt was just a route to get them reading. Praise them for the final product, even if Tim Gunn would object! And of you give your kids the opportunity to show off their shirts, you'll encourage them to read again, because there are always more shirts to outgrow!
If you prefer a blank canvas, go to the boys' underwear section of your local Target and pick up a multi-pack of undershirts, or visit AC Moore during a sale and stock up.
Don't forget your sharpies! A variety pack with 6 - 16 colors can be bought at any local office supply store.
Take a look around the house. Do you have a box of toothpicks or straws? Use them (you can cut the straws so they are just a few inches) to show your kids how you can make letters by arranging them in the appropriate shapes. After kids have mastered making letters, ask them to make simple words. If there are a few kids around, you can make it a race or see who can spell the most words. Kids love competition!
Part of comprehending books is being able to summarize what you've just read or seen. Some kids aren't ready to read and summarize a book, but they can summarize movies and TV programs.
After watching a film or program like Curious George or Thomas, work together with your kids to make a five page book about what you've seen. Divide your book into the five traditional story parts (Freytag's Pyramid) to make the act of summarizing more focused:
The Exposition: the introduction to the main character(s) and basic situation
The Inciting Incident: the introduction to the central conflict
The Development: how the characters and conflict develop during the rising action
The Climax: the highest point of suspense or interest
The Resolution: the event that ends the central conflict
Help your kids write labels or very short statements. Just remember to use THEIR words. It is up to them to summarize, not you! If they can't organize the story well, remind them how it developed.
For emerging readers, use short programs with very simple stories.
Does your child enjoy watching the same DVD over and over? Some children improve their vocabularies and understandings of new words and concepts through Repetition Mastery. But you can crank up the learning potential by turning on the subtitles. It's usually a simple setting on your DVD player, and many media players and tablet applications allow users to turn on the subtitles as well.
So next time your kids are watching Frozen for the millionth time, switch on the subtitles. Seeing the words they already know so well on the screen will help them begin to recognize those words in other places, improving reading and spelling.
Do you have a patch of yard that can be turned into a garden? Or a place to grow plants or vegetables in pots? Bring your kids to a garden store and offer to buy a few plants if they can read the name of the plant and the directions for care.
After planting them, give your kids a small notepad they can use to follow each one's development. Ask your kids to write full (but simple) sentences that are punctuated and have correct capitalization. You can use this opportunity to talk about proper and common nouns. You can also give advice about using adjectives to describe the growth your kids see over time.
Extend this activity by taking photos every few days with a digital camera or your smartphone. Show your kids how to email and print your pictures at home, or take them to a local CVS and use a printer kiosk. Prints are only about 20 cents each!
Is there a song your kids know by heart and sing over and over? Why not make a homemade book using the lyrics as the text?
Finding lyrics to popular songs is easy with a quick internet search. Copy and paste them into a document on your computer, including two to three lines per page. (Try to finish with no more than 10 pages.)
Sit with your kids while they illustrate the book. Tell them to match the words with images they think of.
But the images don't really matter - let them draw whatever they want. Because when it comes time to look at the book later, and read it together, you'll be focusing on the lyrics.
Your kids will already know how to pronounce the words, but by reading them on the page they'll start to connect sounds with spellings. Plus, you can be proud of the book you've made together!
Authors use several methods to develop the characters in their books. Some include how a character dresses, what the character says (or how it is said), and how the character interacts with others.
After reading a story, use old Halloween costumes or items from your own closet to ask kids to "become" the characters in a story. This works especially well with more than one child.
Have the kids create a new scene from the story (or a sequel) and act it out to demonstrate they understand the nature of the characters they just read about.
For extra fun, make and edit a video of the scene using Windows Movie Maker or an app like VideoShop.
Going out to the mall or supermarket? Make a list of the twenty sight words your children are struggling to recognize. (Be sure they are words you are likely to find at your destination.) As you shop, ask your children to look for words on the list. With each one found, give a reward of ten cents. At the end of the trip, give your kids up to $2 to spend on whatever they'd like. This is especially successful in places with a dollar section or clearance aisle.
For some children, writing is challenging because their fine motor skills need further development. Using Legos, finishing mazes, and using scissors are fun and easy ways to build dexterity.
Kids love to play with toys from familiar books and films, but some are really expensive! You can create your own with apps like Papercraft. Download and print 2D images that kids can cut out and paste together to make 3D shapes.
This app even works from a tablet or phone if you have a wireless printer. Let your kids try to follow all the steps themselves. They'll become more familiar with 21st century technology.
The game MineCraft is very popular today but the figurines kids can play with cost up to $25! Use Papercraft to design and create your own. You may have to help with some of the cutting and gluing, but encourage children to do most of the work. When they see their products they will be so proud! And, they will be developing strength in their hands to be able to tackle writing assignments later.
Help your children recognize common - and not so common - words and spellings by having Karaoke hour at home. There are tons of apps that can turn your smartphone or tablet into a karaoke machine. You may also be able to purchase one cheap! If you have YouTube, you can search for songs that have lyrics printed on the screen. Just use a spoon or toy microphone. And don't forget - model how to sing along. You should be participating, too!
It's okay if kids stumble or mumble. What matters is they are trying, and eventually, with repeated efforts, children will become experts at the words and be able to recognize them in other places.