abcteach blog

bakingMath is all around us! In order to lead an independent life, we need to use a variety of math concepts. That is one of the reasons why learning about math in school is so important. There we learn about the basics, such as shapes, matching, sorting, counting, multiplying, dividing, along with many other skills. Learning and using these concepts in a classroom setting is important, but even more important, is learning to generalize the use of these skills to everyday life.

Most of us don’t realize how often we are confronted with math-related problems each day. We use math to measure how tall we are, how much we weigh, and what size clothes and shoes we wear. We use math all the time in the kitchen. Math is involved when we prepare a meal, follow a recipe, measure ingredients, set the table, and while putting away groceries. We use math when we travel to and from school or work, when using a calendar, and even when we perform hygiene skills. Learning to complete math-related skills independently will enrich our lives and often makes life easier.

abcteach has a wide variety of teaching materials to help individuals learn and practice many of the skills that you need in everyday life. There are a variety of worksheets to practice counting, money, measurement, and time. Just head to the section or type a concept into the search bar and a number of choices will appear. For those who like more active learning opportunities, try the Family Activity Planners. These planners cover 12 different areas of interest and are chocked full of fun and creative ideas to teach not only math skills, but also Reading and Writing, Science, and Social Studies. Each area is divided into suggested age groups: Pre-K and Kindergarten, Primary (Grades 1 – 3), and Upper Elementary (Grades 4 – 6). The age ranges are just suggestions, so any activity that sounds as if it will be fun and interesting may be used for any age.

Helping students and young adults learn math while experiencing it is a great way for them to fully understand and remember the concept. Learning about measurement by wrapping a gift, or learning to measure perimeter and area by pacing off a room, gives measurement meaning and relevance. Learning to use money at a store or restaurant gives individuals experience with handling money, percentages (tips and sales), and budgeting skills. Time management and calendar skills can also be taught using hands-on activities. Filling a calendar with family and friends’ birthdays and special occasions is a great way to begin. Young adults can then learn to add medical appointments, meetings, and work or school deadlines. Checking your calendar regularly and independently and carrying out your responsibilities exhibits self-sufficiency and maturity – definite requirements for a successful, independent adult life!

Lots of other math-related skills can be taught and reinforced through hands-on activities. Remember to check out all the Family Activity Planners for more fun and functional ideas. You can also check around your home and neighborhood – I bet you’ll come up with ideas of your own! Most of all have fun with it. Learning when you don’t realize you are doing it embeds the skill and understanding of the concept more thoroughly, making use of it in the future easier and more likely!

Posted by Janie Quinn, abcteach Team

math girlsDuring this Mathematics Awareness Month, we have explored a number of different activities in our Eye on Curriculum series, from general teaching resources to preschool exercises and learning opportunities for homeschoolers. Let’s now take a leap into more structured activities for your students: Common Core Math.

Our first Common Core Math blog explored Operations & Algebraic Thinking, and Number & Operations in Base Ten. Some of the related skills that students need to master in those domains include counting in sequence, applying properties of operations, understanding multiples, and using place value to solve problems.

In this blog, we’ll delve into three additional domains: Numbers and Operations – Fractions, Measurement & Data, and Geometry. As with other sections, all domains scaffold with each successive grade, increasing the complexity of the skills mastered.

• Numbers and Operations – Fractions: Students must understand, recognize, express, and complete all operations of fractions.

 Measurement & Data: Students must learn all aspects of classifying, measuring, and working with time and money, geometric measurement, representing data, and interpreting data.

• Geometry: Students must identify, analyze, create, and reason with shapes, lines, and angles. Students will graph coordinate points and solve real world mathematical problems.

The following highlights are abcteach activities that you can use to reinforce skills from the Standards. We are constantly adding new and newly tagged materials to our Common Core section, so check back or let us know if you can’t find what you’re looking for. Also, be sure to view our recent blog on how to locate Common Core Standards.

 Poster Packets: Poster packets identify Common Core in student-friendly language. They can be used in mini-lessons, PPT presentations, portfolios, or as signs and handouts. Most poster packets also include checklists of each standard that can be used by students to demonstrate their mastery or by teachers at conferences (with students or parents).

Member Site

• Common Core: Math Standards Poster Set – Kindergarten
• Common Core: Math Standards Poster Set: Grade 2
• Common Core: Math Standards Poster Set – Grade 4

 Classroom Activities

Member site

• Flashcards: Telling Time – o’clock – Fun flashcards to use when telling time.

• Time: Board Game: Telling Time (grade 1-2) – This board game enjoyably teaches the telling of time to young students.

• Game: Fractions – Fun fraction games for lower elementary students.

• Interactive: Notebook: Measuring with a Ruler (kdg-2) – This interactive activity teaches measurement for lower elementary students.

• Fraction Manipulatives: Thirds (b/w) – This is one of several manipulatives that students can cut out and use to learn and practice fractions.

• Rules and Practice: Triangles by Angle – These activities are good for practice and review of angles for upper elementary students.

• Hands-On Math: Measure a Room (elem/upper elem) – Excellent real-world activity for upper elementary students.

• Worksheet: Origami and Geometry (elem/upper elem) – Creatively use origami to teach perimeter, symmetry, and triangles to upper elementary students.

• Rules and Practice: Perimeter and Area (upper elem/middle) – Great practice opportunity for upper elementary and middle school students.

Free site

• Math Chart: Volumes and Areas – Use this chart to help upper elementary students.

• Math Chart: Metric Conversions – Use this chart to help student with metric conversions.

As with all of our abcteach materials, our Common Core selection is there to adapt to your class and your personal teaching style. Use it in conjunction with other sections on the site, such as theme units, interactives, and abctools, to customize your students’ learning. If you’re searching for ideas or need additional resources, please be in touch. We’re here to help.

Posted by Kathy Butler and Lindsey Elton, abcteach Team

Since the wide-spread adoption of Common Core Standards across the U.S., abcteach has been creating materials, and tagging existing ones, to help educators and students meet the required guidelines. On abcteach, you can find these activities by navigating our directory system or by using our search tool. So how do you get started? Read on to find out.

Common Core Site Left Nav

Finding the Standard

First, you’ll need to find the standard that you’d like to address. If you don’t already have this information, you can visit the Common Core website. Click on Mathematics Standards or English Language Arts Standards.

Using the left sidebar (pictured left), navigate to the subject and grade level of your choice. Once you’ve made your selection, you’ll see a list of standards in that category on the right side of the page.  Peculiarly, the Language Standards are listed by subject first and grade level second, while Mathematics Standards are listed by grade level first and subject second. On abcteach, by contrast, you’ll notice that grade level always comes first, followed by subject.

Navigating on abcteach

On abcteach, navigating to the right section is easy. Click on the “Common Core Standards” category on the homepage (Under “Categories” on the member site or under “Explore Our Free Materials” for non-members), or follow these links: Members | Non-members. Once there, navigate using the subcategory list to either English Language Arts (ELA) or Mathematics, then to the grade level and subject of your choice. Find these subcategories links directly below the blue “Subcategories” bar. Below the subcategories, find the list of related downloadable materials, and click on the thumbnail or title to download the document.  If you’re comfortable navigating the abcteach directory to find standards materials, you can stop reading now and start exploring! If you’d like some advanced tips about how to conduct searches for materials that meet specific standards, keep reading.

Searching by Code

Returning to the Common Core website, you’ll see that each standard has an associated code like this:


You can use this code to search for a particular standard on abcteach, with the caveat that you’ll want to only use part of the code. On abcteach, you should search using the last bit of this code, namely everything after “CCSS.ELA-Literacy. This leaves simply:


When you search using this code on abcteach, you’ll find every document matching RL.3.1 (Reading And Literature, Grade 3, Standard 1). Go ahead and try this yourself. Head to (if you’re a member, use and type “RL.3.1″ into the search bar. You’ll see 7 results matching this particular standard.

Broadening Your Search

Referring again to our example, you’ll see that there are actually 10 standards that make up the Reading: Literature section for Grade 3. In our search above, we limited ourselves to only the first standard (represented by the “1″ at the end of the code “RL.3.1″). To view all matches on abcteach for this level (not just those for the 1st out of 10 standards), remove the last decimal point and number. Try searching for: RL.3

You’ll see that making your search more general has increased the number of search results to 27 documents. If you’re not getting the quantity of results you’re hoping for, just remember to make your search less specific. Let’s look at another standard code. This one is for Grade 4 > Operations and Algebraic Thinking.


Yikes. This seems kind of complicated. But let’s try to focus on the most relevant parts of the code. Cut out the standard prefix “CCSS.Math.Content.” and the suffix “.A.1″ (which refers to subsections A, B, and C of this standard), and search using:


This will include all abcteach materials that match subject 4.OA (4th grade, Operations and Algebraic Thinking). To drive the point home, here are more standards and the keywords you should use to search. Hopefully, you’ll see the pattern emerge in the list below if it isn’t clear already.

CCSS.Math.Content.3.MD.A.1   –>   3.MD
CCSS.Math.Content.1.G.A.1  >  1.G
CCSS.Math.Content.2.NBT.B.8  >  2.NBT
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.8  >  W.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.1  >  RL.K
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.2.1  >  SL.2

By now, you should have a good idea of how to find or search for activities matching specific Common Core standards on abcteach. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below and we’ll be happy to help.

pto_familyhomereadingThe following blog is one of the featured articles from our newest online publication, the abcteach Quarterly Digest. This quarterly member newsletter highlights creative teaching ideas, educator insights, along with ways to make the most of your abcteach membership.

Family Activity Planners
Project aides, classroom funding, math activity nights… oh my! The support that you receive from your PTA or PTO is a lifesaver for ensuring that your students get the proper balance of education, creativity, and fun each year. So how do you return the favor? With abcteach Family Activity Planners!

Parents are wonderful at loving and providing for their kids, but they’re not trained teachers (at least not all of them). So how can you help? By giving them easy-to-use, grade-appropriate activities that advance their child’s intellect. Our Activity Planner lineup explores a variety of everyday moments that can be transformed into learning opportunities for the whole family. Will you be out in the neighborhood, at the store, or in the yard? Learning awaits! Created by veteran educators, these packets give all parents, caregivers, and tutors a simple guide to reinforce core skills outside of the class. Each series is broken down according to grade and subject, and comes paired with supporting abcteach materials.

Below you’ll find a handful of planners and supporting materials to send home with your parents for weekend learning or the upcoming summer months. Are they not abcteach members? No problem! It’s all available in an easy pdf for you to print off or use electronically.

Fun at Home! Family Activity Planners

• At the Restaurant – Supporting Activities

• In the Yard – Supporting Activities

• My Neighborhood – Supporting Activities

• Parent Membership Discount Certificate - Share the great teaching resources at abcteach! Parents receive $10 off individual abcteach memberships. Promo code is good until 9/1/13.

The summer months are a time for fun, family, and friends, but they can also present wonderful opportunities to learn. When students are away from class, their educational skills stall. Keep their minds as active as their bodies this year with abcteach!

Posted by Lindsey Elton, abcteach Team

homeschool_guyswoodshopWhat math teacher has not been faced with the common student question, “How is this useful in the real world?” Math standards stress the need to relate skills to everyday life. Well-written word problems assist in this endeavor by presenting realistic scenarios for specific skills, yet they usually lack hands-on practice. As a homeschool parent/teacher, I spent lots of time teaching my sons math skills with pencil and paper; but I found that the greatest learning experiences came by bringing those skills into the real world.

By involving our sons in everyday tasks, hobbies, and projects, my husband and I were able to model and reinforce a variety of math skills. Our boys sharpened their addition and subtraction skills by helping us balance our bankbook. My husband credits much of his math ability to the time he spent with his own father, who would involve him in paying bills by asking him to solve the calculations. My youngest son and I often played “store” by pricing some of his toys and “purchasing” them with real coins. We took turns being the customer and cashier. The game sharpened his counting, money, and addition skills. As the boys grew older, carpentry and metalworking offered great opportunities to reinforce measurement and geometry skills.

Such learning opportunities are not limited to homeschool families. With a little planning, all parents can involve their children in such experiences. Begin by noting how you use math in your day-to-day life, then think of ways to involve your child in the process at his/her level. Here are a few suggestions:

• Involve young children in counting and sorting of anything from multicolored candies to laundry items. Help them to recognize geometric shapes in everyday objects.
• Cooking is great practice for fractions and measurements.
• Vacations or short trips can provide experience in calculating mileage and fuel costs.
• Grocery shopping can sharpen estimation skills if you have your child round each item to the nearest dollar as it goes into the cart. Keeping a running total on a notepad will give them a final estimate to compare at the register.
• Encourage children to budget and save money towards a specific spending goal. When the goal is reached, have them pay for the item themselves under your supervision.
• Home remodeling or do-it-yourself projects can involve students in measurements, geometry, budgeting, and cost estimates.
• Gather and chart data on weather temperatures, rainfall, sports scores, cell phone usage, video game stats, or auto maintenance. Create a growth chart for themselves, a sibling, or a pet.
• Include teenagers in discussions and calculations regarding mortgage, loan or credit card interest.  Having them assist you in tax preparation is good practice for their future.

Math reinforcement is just one benefit of involving children in such tasks. Parents who include their kids help them to build important life skills. It also creates an atmosphere of teamwork in the family, giving parents and children more quality time together. As a busy mom, I often found myself battling the excuse of “I can do it quicker by myself.” Yes, involving the kids always takes more time, but the educational, life skill and family bonding gains make it worthwhile.

Posted by Carol Welch, abcteach staff writer

The following article comes from our friends at The Preschool Toolbox. Co-founder, Darla Hutson, shares the step-by-step process on how to make make fun springtime math activities with your preschoolers and kindergarteners.

Pony Beads Kite Games for Math
Pony Bead Kites are a fun way for preschool and kindergarten children to learn basic math concepts in a hands-on way!

Pony Bead Kites

Materials needed: 2 blank foam, wood, or plastic cubes, permanent marker (for labeling the cubes), Wikki Stix or pipe cleaners (one per student playing), tape (if using pipe cleaners), assorted pony beads, small cups (cupcake liners work great), white paper, scissors, and crayons/markers.

Prior to the game: Label one blank cube with dots to represent the numbers 1-6 on each of the six sides (a game die can also be used). Label the second blank cube with either a (-1) or a (+1 ) on each side. Have each child draw a kite shape on a piece of paper, color the kite, and cut it out (the Kites Template linked below can also be used). The children can then tape the kite shape to the top of a pipe cleaner (if using Wikki Stix, no tape will be necessary). Set out small cups with assorted colors of pony beads for the children to use as counters.
*Note:  Supervise younger children closely when using small objects as they present a choking hazard.

To play the game: Introduce the game as a large group activity. After the introduction, the game can be played with partners or in small groups.

The children should take turns rolling both of the labeled cubes. The children must count the number of dots rolled on one cube and either ADD 1 or SUBTRACT 1 (as indicated by the 2nd labeled cube) from the number of dots shown on cube #1 (see photo above).

When the children have the sum of the problem (number of dots +1 or – 1), they must count that number of pony beads and place them on the kites. As the children gain confidence in rolling the cubes, counting the dots, and adding or subtracting one, ask the children to verbally explain the problem as they place the beads on their kites (for ex:  6 + 1 = 7, so 7 beads must be placed on the kite).

The game is over when the children reach a pre-determined number of beads on their kites or when one pipe cleaner/Wikki Stix is filled with beads.

Numbers 1-10

There are many variations of this game that can be played with your students. Five suggestions to enhance math skills are:

1) Label the kites with any numbers the children have had introduced. Ask the children to place the corresponding number of pony beads on the pipe cleaners (see photo above).

2) Label 10 kites with the numbers 1-10. Have the children work as a group to place their kites in the correct order – 1-10. Variation: Label the kites with the numbers 5-15 and have the children work to place the kites in the correct number order (starting at a number OTHER than 1).

3) Label 10 kites with the number 10. Have the children place 10 pony beads on each of the kites. The kites make great “10 bars” for counting to 100 by 10’s. For younger children, label the kites with various numbers for practice with skip counting by 2’s and 5’s. Hint: Print the Kite Templates below and laminate before cutting out. Dry erase markers can then be used to change the numbers/activities as required.


4) Write number WORDS on the kites. Have the children place the corresponding number of beads on their kites. It helps the children understand that the number name refers to a specific quantity of beads.

5) Write any basic pattern on the kites. Have the children create those patterns with the pony beads. For older children: Let the children use assorted pony bead colors to create more complex patterns.

Diamond Patterns to download and print for use with any of the suggestions above.

Kite Templates

Kites Roll, Count, and Color

Kites_Roll_Count_Color Kites Roll and Count

Materials needed: One file (linked above) per student, 2 dice per student, and crayons/markers.

Print the Kites Roll, Count, and Color file (linked above) for each of the children. Have the children roll 2 dice, count the total number of dots, and color the kite with the corresponding number. The children should continue taking turns until all of the kites are colored.

Variation for two players: The 2 players should choose to be either EVEN or ODD numbers. Have one child color kites for the EVEN numbered rolls and the second child color the kites for the ODD numbered rolls. If the EVEN player rolls an ODD number, no kite is colored on that roll. The ODD player would then attempt to roll an ODD number. If he does not, no kite can be colored in. Play would continue until all the kites are colored.

Whether your children are learning at home or in the classroom this spring, we hope the activities above will offer some creative inspiration! If you have additional suggestions for pony bead math activities, we’d love to hear about them. Leave a comment below to share with others!

Darla Hutson is co-founder of The Preschool Toolbox and has owned a licensed group childcare/preschool home for the past 28 years. Darla has a passion for creating environments and activities that help facilitate play and learning for young children. She writes primarily at The Preschool Toolbox but you will also find activities for kids, teachers, and families with young children at: Squidoo and Sixty Second Parent.

mathappimageWelcome back, April! The start of each new month means the start of a new Eye on Curriculum blog series. Each year, the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics (JPBM) deems April as Mathematics Awareness Month (MAM), so in its honor, our blog focus this month will be on math.

The 2013 MAM theme is the Mathematics of Sustainability (a fitting choice, as April is also considered Earth Month). According the JPBM site, “Humanity continually faces the task of how to balance human needs against the world’s resources… Mathematics helps us better understand these complex issues and is used by mathematicians and practitioners in a wide range of fields to seek creative solutions for a sustainable way of life.”

Your abcteach Eye on Curriculum posts will highlight math from a number of different audience angles, including preschool, home school, and special needs. We’ll share colorful how-to tips, great resources on abcteach, as well effective ideas for your class and home learning environment.

First off, here are a few key math sections and abcteach features to check out:

• Math – Browse our general math category for the skills and exercises that you need. You’ll find everything from basic addition and number concepts to time, measurement, problem solving and more.

• abctools Math Generators – Our abctools worksheet generators – including addition, fractions, patterns, and place value – allow you to personalize exercises based on your students needs. Each tool provides an answer sheet, formatting and clip art options, and the ability to create an infinite amount of like-skilled problem sets. There are over 50 free and member tools available.

• Interactive Math Files – Interactive files help liven up your math lessons while reinforcing your students’ learning. They come in variety of themes and skills, for students preK and up. No white board? No problem. Interactive files can all be accessed using your standard classroom computer.

• Common Core Math – The Common Core Math section addresses necessary elements and required math skills for students K – 6th grade. It reviews core domains, such as Geometry, Measurement & Data, Operations & Algebraic Thinking, and more. Also, don’t forget to check out our Common Core, Math Skills blog from veteran teacher, Kathy Butler.

• Math Magician App – Our Math Magician app is a fun and interactive way for your student or child to learn Common Core curriculum mathematics (1st – 6th grade). You and the magician will learn counting, addition, subtraction, greater than/less than values, multiplication, and division in a magical way…

We hope that these sections and the upcoming blogs provide support and inspiration to your April lesson planning. As always, please let us know what you think or what you need to make your classroom even more successful. Happy Math Awareness Month!

Posted by Lindsey Elton, abcteach Team

girl readingWhat do you feel when you hear the word ‘read?’ Are you an avid bookworm or an occasional browser? Have you always been this way? What are your favorite childhood memories about reading?

Reading Awareness Month is a wonderful time for children to create lasting memories and develop a lifelong love of reading. It’s also a great opportunity to involve family, siblings, and loved ones to share in the process (and perhaps rekindle a literary spark of their own).

The following highlights are group activities to do with your class, or school as a whole. They are a handful of favorite ideas from Nancy Elton and Sandy Kemsley: abcteach staff member, abcteach Founder, and both retired elementary teachers.

Family Read In
Family Read Ins were activity nights where students and their families came together to read. They usually took place in a gym, cafeteria, or any large room where everyone could comfortably sit and spread out.

The nights typically started off with our principal reading to the kids (we had a stage in the gym, so students could sit around her in the rocking chair). After she was done, students broke off with their families and began reading stories. Everyone was encouraged to bring blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals for the younger children. Whatever would make it cozy was invited. We also had food, juice, or hot chocolate so families could take snack breaks at their leisure.

At the end of the night, families received books to take home. Prior to the event, our library did a review of items that they were going to be replacing. These were then given to each family for their home book collection.

Book Fair/Special people
Each year we held a book fair that included a unique lunch activity. Students invited special people in their lives – parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. – to join them for lunch in the cafeteria. After eating, they would peruse the book fair, usually purchasing a story to have at home.

Feature Author
Some years we would dedicate months, a semester, or the entire year on a specific author. (This was usually a school-wide event, but individual classes could do it as well.) Beatrix Potter was a favorite of ours, so we reviewed The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Mr. Benjamin Bunny, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, and others. Class time was dedicated to free reading, and students were encouraged to continue at home. Other activities included:

• Lapbooks – Kids would decorate the cover with drawings, coloring pages, or a simple title. Inside materials included story diagrams and book reviews, or writing prompts covering the beginning, middle, and end of the story. You could also use materials from our Beatrix Potter book section.

• Reading Logs – This was a journal of the books that they read. They could write or use drawings for their review, then we would discuss the lessons that they learned. Shapebooks were perfect for these exercises.

• Buddy program – Staff discussed which student pairings would work best, and then team up older and younger students. The older child could read the book, or help the younger one do it and offer clarity with certain words or concepts.

Developing a Classroom Library
We developed a program for parents to donate books to the class. (This isn’t as much of a classroom activity, as it is an opportunity for parents and caretakers to help increase access to books and show their kids the importance of reading.) This process not only developed our library, but it also produced a sense of pride for both adult and student, knowing that their family had done such a good thing for the class.

Book clubs (like Scholastic’s Arrow and Lucky program) would visit our school, and parents could donate money to purchase new books for our classrooms. We also made book labels (i.e. special notes that were adhered to the inside pages) to send positive messages to current students and future readers.

Read Around the World
Our Read Around the World project involved multiple classrooms and grades. Each teacher chose a specific country and would read traditional or popular children’s books that were customary to that place. Other lesson plans incorporated themes from that country, so math, science, and social studies curriculum had exercises that uniquely pertained to a specific culture.

Parents also joined in the fun by attending classroom parties. They brought in traditional food, clothing, drinks, etc. so that children could literally/figuratively have a taste of different cultures.

Dr Seuss
Dr. Seuss was just an amazing author to cover. It was as much fun for the staff as it was for the students, and the activities were plentiful.

• Cat in Hat Day – Staff dressed up as the story’s characters (including our male principal as the Cat in the Hat).

• Green Eggs and Ham – After reading the story, students made the meal with the help of parents. This was usually a party activity. Other learning stations were set up around the room with word puzzles, shapebooks, etc. to entertain them while being able to practice their spelling, reading comprehension, and brainstorming skills.

• Oh, the Places We’ll Go… Students would create a passport and a suitcase out of construction paper. When they read a book, they would write a title and paste it on the suitcase. We would then put a sticker on their passport. The end products were a colorful document of their literary adventure.

• Key Ring Book Reports – Students were given a ring along with strips of paper that we cut out for them. On one side of the paper, they would write the author and title of the book they read. On the other side, they would write about their favorite part or character. Twice a week the students would divide into groups and share the paper strips on their ring. By the end of the month, they had a great collection of books on their ring. Suggestion: Have different colored strips for different genres; fiction, non-fiction, joke books, fairy tales, realistic fiction, etc.

• Dr. Seuss materials on abcteach

• NEA activities, promotions, and Read Across America program

Reading Awareness Month is important not only for it’s educational and future benefits, but also for the amazing journey that takes place in a child’s mind. The creativity, stories, and freedom to dream… Once that seed is planted, the blossoms can last a lifetime.

Posted by Lindsey Elton, Nancy Elton, and Sandy Kemsley; abcteach Team and abcteach Founder

The following article comes from abcteach friend and colleague, Shara Lawrence-Weiss. An educator, business owner, and dedicated mom, Shara provides us tangible examples on how parents can develop language skills throughout early childhood.

Shara: family readingWe know from countless research studies: language affects reading. Language is at the very core of everything we do. A language-rich home generally produces successful readers. So, in honor of Reading Month, I’ve listed out a few ways that you can help your child(ren) develop strong language skills.

Making Statements and Asking Questions
Kids love to hear you talk, right from birth. “Good morning, my love. How did you sleep?” “Let’s go for a walk now. I’ll put you into the stroller and we’ll go visit the park.” “Look at the bird!” “Do you see the kids playing and swinging? They are having so much fun!” Everything you say to your child is being taken in and pondered.

Research clearly indicates that music and literacy go hand in hand. In our home we sing, dance, memorize lyrics, sing in the car and at home and more. We love music and we play songs every single day. We move around to the music and we hold the baby (while singing and dancing) so she can enjoy the experience, too. All four of my kids love, love, love music.

Grocery Shopping
Talk while grocery shopping. “Let’s go to ________ today for some groceries.” “What shall we buy? Let’s look over our list.” “The eggs are on sale. Oh good!” “What fruit should we get today?” Point out store signs, as well, clearly speaking the words that you see.

Make Up Songs
Write your own songs. Kids really get a kick out of this and you don’t have to be great at it. I often make up songs while we are cooking, walking, or driving. Even at night, before sleeping, I make up silly songs that encourage my kids to laugh. I might make up a song about their pajamas, shoes, bed spread, school or pet dog – whatever!

Make Up Stories
A while back I began making up stories with my daughter. She said, “I don’t feel like reading a book tonight so can you just tell me your own story?” I made up a story about a princess who had many lovely dresses – who didn’t want to share. A kind friend helped her locate the dresses after they were stolen and that helped to change the cold heart of the princess (social emotional twist mixed with language development). Whatever your story is about, your kids will like the effort you made!

Make a point to read with your child(ren) every day, based on the family schedule. Kids love to know they can count on a book at night before heading off to dreamland. However, if your work schedule doesn’t allow for this, read in the morning or in the afternoon. Here’s an interesting side note: some prisons run a reading program for their inmates where they have the inmate read books from inside the cell. They tape record the reading and send that to the inmate’s child. Now that’s dedication!

Name Those Toys
When playing with your child you can say, “Oh look at the red ball!” Or, “Let’s play with those colorful Legos now.” Or, “Did you enjoy playing with that yellow truck?” Labeling items is one helpful way to foster language development. Take it a step further and build on your child’s Emotional Intelligence as well: “It made me feel happy to see you playing with that red ball.” Or, “Your sister loves that green frog, too. She likes to snuggle the frog when she is sad.” You may not always think your child is paying attention but I assure you – it’s true. Here is an example: I have four kids. Our youngest is 11 months old. She is already saying quite a few words, in her own way. We can understand the words, though, and we know precisely what she is saying. Every night my son runs over to hug me and I pat his head and say, “Love you!” It’s our ‘little thing.’ Last night he ran over to hug my leg while I was holding the baby. The baby looked down, patted his head and said, “Lub you!” She is paying attention to everything we say and do.

Leave Notes Around
I sometimes leave little notes around our house for my kids. In the bathroom we have a notepad attached to the mirror. I might write, “Good morning!” or “I love you!” I leave notes for my husband by the coffee pot and my kids see that. He leaves notes for me by the computer and the kids see that, as well. The term “littering the environment with print” applies here. Litter words and books around your home so your kids will see, often, that words matter to you.

A Second Language
Whether you choose Spanish, ASL, or Japanese, teaching your child another language is a fantastic way to build language skills. Speak a few words each day or week – make it fun! Use a CD or DVD to assist with the learning process, if needed.

Remember that articulation is a key factor in language development. If you want your child to speak clearly she/he needs to hear clear speech. Talk slowly and precisely and try your best not to mumble your words. When choosing children’s CD’s to listen to, articulation is a must. If your child cannot decipher the words being sung, inarticulate speech will follow.

If you suspect a speech delay or hearing loss issue, have your child assessed as soon as possible.

About the Author:
Shara Lawrence-Weiss has a background in education, early childhood, freelance, marketing and small business ownership. She is currently working as a Special Education Paraprofessional (K-5). Shara has four children of her own and is married to her best friend, Rick. They love collecting books, going for walks, spending time in nature, fishing, and playing.

Reading Awareness MonthWelcome to the latest segment in our Eye on Curriculum series. In honor of Reading Awareness Month, the March topic is Language Arts. As we did with our Common Core posts, this month’s articles will focus on curriculum discussion and classroom activities, as well as creative teaching extras, supporting sections on the site, and guest posts from abcteach staff and colleagues.

To start you off, let’s take a look at a few of our key language arts sections:

• Language Arts – When exploring this section, you’ll find a number of supporting sub-categories for students of all ages. They provide you with a variety of topics and activity types, and include core basics such as grammar, spelling, and writing. To find to the specific topic or worksheet you’re looking for, use our filter tool to search within each category.

• Reading – The Reading category is one of the largest sections found within Language Arts. Here you’ll see a broad selection of supporting items, including book report forms, first sentence prompts, phonics, reading logs, and more to pair with classroom reading, homework text, and other literature exercises.

• Book Units – Find your favorite! We’ve got everything from Amelia Bedelia to Beatrix Potter, Dr. Seuss, Berenstain Bears, Clifford the Red Dog, and other great classics. Each series has a compilation of puzzles, posters, report forms, vocabulary games and other activities to reinforce key skills and details.

• Reading Comprehension – Our Reading Comprehension section is broken down by grade clusters for easier navigation. The clusters contain fictional, informational, and holiday/seasonal stories, along with corresponding study questions to aid with comprehension. You’ll also find a functional text category full of recipes and crafts to do in class or at home.

• Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) – Our ELA section provides grade-specific worksheets, activities, and instructional posters that match the requirements for each skill domain. This is one of our newest sections, so check back for new additions. We are also working to classify materials across the side to align with their correct section number strand. Take a look at our last Eye on Curriculum blogs for a review and activity ideas for literature and informational text.

These are just a few of the many sections to support your language arts lessons during the month and throughout the year. Stay tuned for more great ideas as we explore other abcteach categories and classroom creatives. Happy Reading Awareness Month!

Posted by Lindsey Elton, abcteach Team

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