My Dictionary is My Best Friend!

dictionary, collegiate, college, book

A classic dictionary, photo via Wikimedia Commons

“I’m very sensitive to the English language. I studied the dictionary obsessively when I was a kid and collect old dictionaries. Words, I think, are very powerful and they convey an intention.” Drew Barrymore
https://www.brainyquote.com

For those of you in 5th-8th grade, I hope you have your very own dictionary! I don’t mean a digital one. I mean a dictionary that you can hold in your own hand, turn the pages, mark it up, and carry it around with you. Get a dictionary to keep next to you as you study. Make it your constant companion and it will serve you well!

With a dictionary you can find the proper spelling of a word, what a word means, how to pronounce it, the part of speech that it is, and where the word originated. If you are looking for a good dictionary that will last you through the junior high years and into high school, find a Merriam-Webster’s Intermediate Dictionary. Also recommended is the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. (Try to get the most recent addition.) For a good thesaurus, try Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus. Both the dictionary and the thesaurus will become your best friends as you go through the year.

Also really useful will be a good atlas for discovering new places in the world. I like Rand McNally’s Goodes World Atlas, but look through a bunch at the bookstore or library until you find one you like. These three items will serve you well for many years to come!

While you are using the dictionary, why not make a dictionary of your own? Keep track of the new words you looked up or found while you were reading:

Get a notebook or put some lined paper into a binder. 

Mark a page with each letter of the alphabet leaving about 10 pages in between each letter.

Make a beautiful cover to your dictionary.

Start filling in those pages with the words and their definitions!

Enjoy learning new words~

 

 

Ready for Learning

Dictionary

Dictionary

Welcoming a new school year is exciting! Here in New England I think I can actually feel the excitement in the cooling air of autumn. Getting ready for a new school year can mean finding the best spot for studying, getting your supplies in order, and setting up your desk space. Setting up your own “work space” allows for you to separate work from play. Look for a quiet, comfortable space with few distractions, and good lighting. Looking ahead in the curriculum to see what supplies you may need is a great way to set yourself up for successful learning. Get out your favorite pencils, pens, crayons, and notebooks!

For those of you in the middle grades (ages 11-14), if you don’t yet have your very own dictionary and thesaurus, now is the time to find them! Both will become your best friends as you go through the year. Printed book versions are great to just have next to you as you read and write. With a book at hand you won’t be distracted by your device (computer, kindle, phone, ipad) and you can mark up the pages any way that you like! You can often find used ones at second hand book stores. If you are looking for a good dictionary that will last you through the junior high years, look for Merriam-Webster’s Intermediate Dictionary. Also recommended is the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. (Try to get the most recent additions.) For a good thesaurus, try Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus.

Also really useful is a good atlas for discovering new places in the world and helping you illustrate maps. I like Rand McNally’s Goodes World Atlas, but look through a bunch at the bookstore or library until you find one you like. These three items will serve you well for many years to come!

Have a wonderful beginning!

Flat Stanley

“People should think twice before making rude remarks,” said Mrs. Lambchop. “And then not make them at all.” ― Jeff Brown, Author of Flat Stanley

Author Jeff Brown created the beloved character of Flat Stanley as a bedtime story for his sons before it was first published in 1964. If you or your children have ever read the Flat Stanley books, then you will know that Stanley Lampchop had a mishap that made him famously flat. Rather than viewing his new physique as an unfortunate circumstance, this paper-thin boy turned his life into an amazing adventure of sliding under doors, flying like a kite, and traveling by mail.

In 1994, Canadian Dale Hubert created The Flat Stanley Project. He encouraged children to create their own Flat Stanley paper cutouts and mail them to friends and family members around the globe. His original idea was shared with his class of third grade students to help foster literacy activities and to introduce creative writing. Hubert also suggested that other teachers participate by hosting Flat Stanley visitors who arrived by mail. Now children (and adults) from all over the world are making their own versions of Flat Stanley from templates and mailing them to friends and family during their travels.

Photo Credit: Leslie Ann Daniels

I took The Flat Stanley Project a step further and photographed the bright cheerful faces of my local home school students. They then each created their own Flat Me. We had a great time creating colorful outfits and then sharing with friends and families by talking, tracking, and writing about their flat character’s journeys and adventures.

May 8 celebrates Flat Stanley’s fifty-third birthday. So, enjoy this world-famous story character by reading one of Jeff Brown’s books or creating and sending your own Flat Stanley or Flat Me to someone special!

Photo Credit: Danielle Drown
Photo Credit: Danielle Drown
Photo Credit: Danielle Drown

World Read Aloud Day

The Commission on Reading stated in a report, Becoming a Nation of Readers, that “THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ACTIVITY for building knowledge for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

This year, World Read Aloud Day is celebrated on Thursday, February 16. Whether your children are babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergartners, a primary school students or beyond, reading aloud provides a perfect opportunity to value the world of literature. It allows the child to become inspired and motivated to read independently, to strengthen reading and listening comprehension skills, and to learn new vocabulary words. It offers an introduction to new books and different types of literature that children might not discover on their own, such as the classics, poetry, short stories, biographies, etc. It offers the ability to use their imagination (and beyond personal experiences) to explore people and places from around the world, as well as events that occurred in the past or might occur in the future.

One of Oak Meadow’s primary focuses of the language arts in the early years is to build an appreciation for the richness of language, to emphasize the value of reading, and to attain strong foundational skills in reading. Reading aloud to young children is known to be one of the best reading readiness activities there is and lends a cozy closeness to your time together. You can read outside in a hammock, or under the table in a makeshift fort, or in a tree house. You can sit on the steps and read while your children are eating their snack. You can read anywhere, anytime. Read when your children are a bit too wild and need settling down, or when they are tired and just want to relax. Choose books that have themes your children are interested in and choose books that expose them to things they might not otherwise experience. Reading classic tales you remember from your childhood is a wonderful experience and often exposes children to language that has richness and depth that modern literature often lacks.

Story and book suggestions offered in Oak Meadow’s Grades K-4 language arts coursework, with intentions to form a foundation for rich and effective reading, include fairy tales and other archetypal stories, bedtime stories, poetry, tongue twisters, fables, folktales, world cultural stories and children’s classics. So now is the time to curl up with your little bookworms and celebrate World Read Aloud Day by reading books and sharing stories, not just on February 16, but each and every day!

It’s a POOH Day!

THE END
by A. A. Milne
(Now We Are Six)

When I was One,
I had just begun.

When I was Two,
I was nearly new.

When I was Three,
I was hardly Me.

When I was Four,
I was not much more.

When I was Five,
I was just alive.

But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

As part of the Oak Meadow language arts reading course in Grade 3, seven classics are offered: Charlotte’s Web, Little House in the Big Woods, Peter Pan, Pippi Longstocking, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the beloved Winnie-the-Pooh.

Anytime we travel into the Hundred Acre Woods with the whimsical Pooh Bear, we know there are many adventures that await us! So, let’s travel down time this week, and take a moment to adventure into the Hundred Acre Woods with that “silly old bear” and his highly characterized friends – the doleful donkey, Eeyore; the bouncy tiger, Tigger; the kind kangaroo, Kanga; Kanga’s baby, Roo; the fussy Rabbit; the wise Owl; and the shy Piglet.

650997d96e1296669bdeab34786882eeOf course, we cannot forget the boy character, Christopher Robin, because these story adventures started with the real Christopher Robin Milne, when his father, A. A. Milne, purchased a teddy bear for his son’s first birthday in 1921. More stuffed animals followed in the footsteps of Winnie-the-Pooh. Eeyore was next to come (as a Christmas present), then Piglet, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger arrived in this order as gifts from friends and family.

A. A. Milne became inspired to write stories about Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh and their woodland friends. The first Winnie-the-Pooh classic, illustrated by E. H. Shepard, was written and published in 1926; and on this Friday, October 14, Winnie-the-Pooh will be celebrating his 90th birthday! So Happy 90th Birthday, Winnie-the-Pooh! You are still one of the world’s most beloved icons of children’s literature!

winnie-the-pooh
PHOTO CREDIT: Illustrator, E. H. Shepard

How do you and your family plan to celebrate this splendiferous day? Perhaps by reading aloud a favorite chapter from Winnie-the-Pooh or a story or poem from one of A. A. Milne’s other books (When We Were Very Young, Now We Are Six, or The House at Pooh Corner). If you happen to be in New York City in the near future, there is a wonderful display of Winnie-the-Pooh and friends in the New York Public Library’s Children’s Room, You might even like to take a woodland walk with a red balloon, bake a cake for your own special teddy bear, or just eat a spoonful of honey from the honey pot!

Summertime Poetry Challenge!

A Summer Challenge! (For my Northern Hemisphere Friends!)

When I was in kindergarten, my school had one requirement in order to move on to first grade. Each child had to memorize ten nursery rhymes before “graduating” from kindergarten! I recall that this wasn’t such a hard thing for me to do since I delighted in the joy and rhythm of the nursery rhymes. Little did I know that not only was I enjoying the beautiful rhythmical patterns, but I was also building my memorization skills, my vocabulary, and my language comprehension skills at a very young age.

Memorizing a poem can just be so satisfying! The poem’s lines can come to you when you least expect it. Just this spring I saw a group of daffodils and the lines of William Wordsworth’s poem, “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud” sprang into my mind:

“I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze”

And truly, when geese fly overhead in the autumn at my house, I quickly say the first lines of Rachel Field’s poem “Something Told The Wild Geese”:

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go,
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, “snow.”

This summer, why not challenge yourself to memorize at least 6 poems? (You might also enjoy memorizing the lyrics to favorite songs!) You can choose some of your own liking, or try the ones listed on the Mensa For Kids website. There are 12 poems listed there and each one has an explanation of the idea of the poem, definition of specific vocabulary words in the poem, and then great ideas to help you memorize the poem more easily.

Writing a Biography

“When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”  George Washington Carver

A portrait of Marie Curie, taken about 1903 when she was awarded her first Nobel Prize. Credit: Public domain - See more at: http://www.livescience.com/38907-marie-curie-facts-biography.html#sthash.UKoZIRqm.dpuf
A portrait of Marie Curie, taken about 1903 when she was awarded her first Nobel Prize.
Credit: Public domain

I love reading biographies! I find it really amazing that people can do such constructive and creative things in their lives and in doing so make a huge impact on their surroundings. I found this interesting BBC website that has a “Famous People Index” which lists some very famous people from history. As I was scanning through and reading about the different people, it struck me that each entry is written in a way that I am often commenting on in a student’s writing about a person’s life and accomplishments. Why is the person famous? Where did he or she live? What did the person do? What time period did the person live in? Use the writing as a good model when you write a biography next time!

Let us know:

Is there a famous person you’ve especially enjoyed reading about?

What’s in a FONT?

Vintage Typography Fonts and ImagesThis year I had a student that submitted a research paper about the country of Japan. It was really well written, but I was especially taken by the font she used for typing her final paper. It was different from what she usually used. It made such an impression on me that I had to find out what font it was.

I was reminded of the 2005 commencement speech given by Steve Jobs at Stanford in which he spoke about how he came to learn about calligraphy and, inspired by that course, later developed fonts for the Mac. You can watch the speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc

So. I’ve been thinking how important it is to understand that each of the fonts one may use when typing actually COME from somewhere! They have a history! In my search for the history of one font I see all the time, every where I go, I discovered that there was actually a movie made about the font! You can view the trailer here: http://www.hustwit.com/category/helvetica/ (You can also purchase the whole movie.)

How interesting to know that certain fonts are used to impress the reader! So if I use comic sans for a formal research report, I’m pretty much setting a certain mood. In fact, I may investigate further what font this blog is typed in. (It isn’t possible to change it to another font.) I think I’ll also find out which fonts the Oak Meadow curriculum uses.

By the way, the font the student used was Philosopher. Next time you type a paper, think about the font you are using and what impression it may leave on the reader!

Enchanted

images-1

It seems as though every library shelf or bookstore shelf I see in the youth section these days is a retelling of a fairy tale. I LOVE THEM!

Maybe you’ve read Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Peter and the Star Catchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, or The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.

I’ve just gotten A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce and I’m looking forward to reading it. In 2009 it won ALA’s William C. Morris YA Debut Award. If you want to try some of these retellings, I’ve come up with a list for you. If you have some to add, please let us know!

Try these: Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix, East by Edith Patou, Breath by Donna Jo Napoli, The Door in the Hedge by Robin McKinley, Straw Into Gold by Gary Schmidt, and the Sisters Grimm series. Fans of Neil Gaiman may enjoy The Sleeper and the Spindle.

BOARD GAMES!

images-1

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” – Einstein

After the holidays, the one memory that lingers the longest for me is the fun my family had playing a board game together. There is something about sitting together, watching each other smile, laugh, grimace, and pout!

I’m talking about an actual game that has a board that one unfolds from a real box. I’m not talking about a video board game! I know there are some, but we played the real board game in which one can feel the pieces and move them with one’s own hand. I like a game with a lot of pieces that have to be set up before the game can begin. I also like a game in which I could choose to be two or three players, and I also like a game with a bit of intrigue! The games of Clue and Monopoly happen to be favorites of my family because they can take so long to play. We start a game and take a break for a snack or lunch and go back to it when we’re ready. Sometimes we even finish a game the next day.

A board game is a lot more than fun. It’s imagining strategy, thinking through moves, and creating logical outcomes. It is also practice for some important skills that we all use in our daily lives. We practice cooperation, we learn how to compromise, we work together through collaboration. Playing a board game with family and friends also gives us time to practice sympathy, compassion, and empathy with our fellow players. images-2

I’ve played so many fun games! I love Scattergories, Apples to Apples, and The Settlers of Catan.