Friday, August 26, 2016

Sight Words and Phonics: Both Have Their Place!

You have seen my posts that shower love all over the "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" DISTAR reading program for homeschooling reading needs.  Most of you know that we created supplementary reading worksheets that go along with this program and you probably even know about the link to the bundle in our store which bundles all these activities together.
 It's right here:

But today I want to talk to you about sight words.  Which...(ahem),...are not included in the "Teach Your Child to Read..." book at all.  So, I'm giving fair warning:  I'm going against the grain on this one because I think teaching sight words does offer tremendous value, and I will share why.

My son finished TYCTR roughly around lesson 75 or so.  He had the skills he needed by then to move into reading the books that are marked at levels and are generally referred to in the library system as "Easy Readers".  I prefer reading actual books because it allows kids to experience their skills first hand in books.  After about two weeks of reading an Easy Reader to me each day, my son stopped saying, "I can't really read yet" and began going through his bookshelves in order to find the day's book that he would read out loud.

But even with a stellar phonics program there are some words that phonics will not help us sound out.  And this is why we choose to do work with sight words.

There are some delightful games involving sight words that you can find online.  These kinds of games are excellent for introducing your youngster to the new words or for playing around with the words after they have been introduced to offer repetition.  Here are a few fun games:

Here's an online independent Bingo game with sight words:

Here's another online game called Sun Attack that features more than one set of words:

And Pinterest offers a wealth of ideas for helping your child to remember words:[]=sight%7Ctyped&term_meta[]=words%7Ctyped&term_meta[]=games%7Ctyped

But here's what we do: 

Each day, I give my son a sheet that is made up of either two or three of Fry's sight words.  These are the top 100 words that are most commonly used in our language.  Many of them are words that are not phonetic at all.

 We go over the words together.  I don't expect my son to know how to sound out "what" or "have" properly since those words don't follow our language rules well.  So I have explained to him that possibly, long ago, some of these words were able to be sounded out phonetically but language changes.  So we memorize many words so that we know at a glance what they are.  This will help our reading fluency. Then, my son goes through his word sheet.

First, he colors in the letters.  Next, he practices decoding the words.  After that he writes the words out, and then completes the cut and paste activity.  

It's a helpful way to go over new words with repetition in a way that isn't too painful (hopefully).  Lastly, we write each day's new words down in his word journal, and each day, after completing our Word Work, we read over every one of the words again.

Many of the Early Reader books that your child will find at his or her reading level are chock full of these very sight words.  So, just a little time spent each day on these words will find your child's reading fluency improving.

I love our phonics program and... our Word Work bundle.  You can purchase the first 25 words to try it out here:

Or purchase our Word Work Bundle, the first 100, for a dollar discount, right here:

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Gilgamesh, Here We Go!


I'll level with you:  I don't like the story of Gilgamesh.  I know, I know, it's history, and it's our first known fairy tale, and it covers this interesting tale of platonic friendship and the search for immortality.  But I don't like it.

 I'm just one of those peeps who likes my fairy tales to follow this established model:  a clearly outlined bad guy, a clearly outlined good guy and the bad guy "gets his" in the end with some clearly delineated justice.  No wonder I teach small children:  they love justice, too.  

I wasn't looking forward to Chapter 8 in Story of the World, which covers the Epic of Gilgamesh.  And so, my mind automatically went the way it usually does in this kind of situation.  I thought: "I'm probably not the only one out there who has trouble with coming up with extra stuff for this one!"  

So I decided to attempt to do something to make it more interesting for me.  Because the truth is that if you are interested in what you are teaching, you will inadvertently pass that love on to the kids you teach.  I decided it was time to draw and make something {AWESOME} to color.

So, this post is to introduce our latest History Activity, a mini Graphic Novel that distills the Epic of Gilgamesh for younger children.

With three illustrated comic book style pages and one extra page, this will supply a fun activity for you and your child to do together as an extra or supplemental activity.  The "graphic novel pages" cover an introduction to our main character, the tyrant Gilgamesh, and the gods' displeasure with him.  In retaliation to his cruelty to the weak, the gods make Enkidu, a wild man, to be the enemy of Gilgamesh.  The two end up fighting an epic battle and decide to be friends rather than enemies.  I was going to end our little graphic novel there.

But then, I got to thinking.  Some kids who are studying Gilgamesh may be ready for something a bit more challenging and fun.  So I drew one more page, that takes the Epic to its next chapter.  This page has text, and empty cells.

 For the artistic child, I decided to offer this additional activity where they can draw the images for the story themselves.  What fun, huh?  To practice being a comic book illustrator?  I would have loved that when I was in middle school.

But here is how we used this product in our classical homeschooling study:

 First, I stapled together all the printed out pages above, just like a comic book might be.  Next, we read Chapter 8, and when we got to the Story of Gilgamesh, I handed my son this mini comic so he would have pictures to look at during the story.

Next, we started coloring it, using our colored pencils.  I was allowed to color some, too, since there was a lot to color.  We also read through our comic book version of the story, which just slightly differs from the version in Story of the World.

I think the real victory of learning accomplished is witnessed from my son's question once he was done for the day:  "Mommy, can I put this in my bookshelf in my room?"

Absolutely, Kiddo.  Absolutely.

And that, my friends, is a successful study of Gilgamesh.  Here's the link to this super mini graphic novel in our store:

Now for those of you who are teachers in a middle school set-up, how would you use this with older kids?  What are some great ideas for using the graphic novel in a Ancient Mesopotamia Unit Study?  Please share your ideas in the comments!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy one of our posts on Ancient Egypt:

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Hammurabi and His Code

Here we are at Hammurabi's Code and reading all about his code.  I really like how "Story of the World" includes some of the actual laws.  Only nine, though.  There were certainly a good deal more than that.  However, nine were quite enough.

After reading each law, we talked about whether it was "fair" to the mind of my 6 year old.  The one that really appalled him (and rightly so) was "If a doctor operates on a patient and the patient dies, the doctor's hand will be cut off" and he also had strong opinions about laws that involved "accidents", for the consequences seemed to him to be rather severe, in that case.

So, he was more than ready to come up with some of his own laws, that would be even better than Hammurabi's.  We wrote them on lined paper first.

When you work with kids, you find that their viewpoints of the world are naturally tinged toward their own ideas of justice.  Justice does matter to them.  But they have their own ways of handing it out.  This is obvious, but I will mention it anyway:

Don't laugh at your kids ideas here.  Keep a straight face.  Listen, and let them write their own ideas down.  They certainly don't have to "get it all right" on this activity.  Sure, you can talk it over, to confirm what they are really saying, but try not to direct it too much.  You might even be surprised at the good sense they show.

Also, if they get tired out with writing, help them along.  When they are this young, the idea is to let this be an enjoyable task which helps them experience creating their own laws.  As you might be able to see, I took over the writing for him at number 4. 

Did I chuckle over this with my husband later, when my son couldn't hear?  Yes, I definitely did.

But, do you see #4?  I did not lead him into that.  He came up with the idea himself.  I supplied the words "city-state" and "enforce", but his plan was to have someone (he said judge) to be in charge of each city to make sure everyone else followed the laws that he put in place.

With number five, you'll probably chuckle, as I did.  I think he was trying to offer mercy to those erstwhile murderers, by giving them an extra month, and at least that was more than Hammurabi offered.

Speaking of offering, I want to share this Stone Tablet that I created for this activity with you.  It's in my store, in a Free Product that has Glimmercat posing in a Sumerian crown with Hammurabi's carved stele held close:

It contains a total of 4 pages:  this cute cover, my usual Read-Me copyright page, this nice stone tablet printable:

And a suggestion page for how to use it.

This packet is yours for free download, right here:

If you wish to print it out...go for it.  And if you would be willing to share a picture of YOUR finished product in the comments, that would be absolutely lovely!

Here's my son with his finished Code and a pretty proud smile over his finished product:

If you enjoyed this blog post, check out one of our activities for studying Ancient Egypt, here: 

Making Papyrus Activity: