Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Make a Collage...or Découpage with Words

A fun summer activity you can do with your kids is to make a collage or découpage project. To make this education, you can use snippets from old encyclopedia, discarded (and tattered books) from the library, magazines, your own calligraphy or written out words, Word Art for Microsoft Word, or anything else verbal. This can be useful for vocabulary words you are trying to teach, examples of foreign words (a French vocabulary table top, e.g.), words of a certain word family (the -at words, e.g.), or just a hodgepodge of words that sound good to you.

Learn how to découpage at

This can be very versatile if you make multiple word collages to fit the size of your table and then put a sheet of glass overtop of that. Then you could even use a washable marker to write on the glass -- cross of words that were learned (great for goal-oriented learning), write out definitions, or silly comments / messages among family members.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Building Vocabulary + Activities with a Word Log

As your students are in the thick of bulking up their vocabulary, going through Sequential Spelling (or any other spelling program), or going about their normal routines, consider keeping a word log. Write down the words that your student (or have them do it) does not know: the meaning, how to use it correctly in a sentence, when it would be an appropriate word choice, etc. We are not focusing on spelling here.

So, as they read their pleasure reading books or encounter other unknown words in any of the contexts listed above, they or you write the words down in the log. From this log, you can do all sorts of activities:

  • Spot check the student for meanings days or weeks later.
  • Use the vocabulary illustration worksheet (PDF) to have the student draw a picture of the meaning (silly or serious) with the definition. Creating a more personal connection with the word (deeper encoding) aids in memorization.
  • Make flash cards.
  • Have the student make stories/poetry/prose using X number of these words.
  • Use these words for handwriting exercises + discussion of meaning.
  • Have the student look them up in the dictionary and/or thesaurus
  • Other. Send us your other ideas.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Kindle in the Classroom

By Gloria Goldsmith

AVKO's materials are available on Kindle.

I have read several articles in the last few weeks about the use of Kindle for general classroom learning and how they may well change our educational establishments, both in public schools and schools of higher learning.

The possibilities for Colleges and Universities to adopt the use of Kindles initially are greater since technology usage is higher among college students and they are always looking for an inexpensive way to snag the required texts for classes. The cost for a textbook versus a Kindle download is about 25 to 32% cheaper for the student and the savings to the environment means less paper used and printing required, so less energy used. That seems positive.

Some school districts have already been calculating the savings in textbooks that is possible. Schools are waiting with bated breath for the price of the Kindle to lower enough (dramatically) that it would make the acquisition of a few thousand feasible for their school district.

Some of the newest models, Kindle DX, and Kindle 2 have been criticized as less classroom friendly, which seems odd (heads up, manufacturer), since school district purchases would be a boon to the bottom line sales numbers of this newer device and could be the very trend that could make them inexpensive enough to become a mundane back-to-school expenditure.

What are your thoughts of this newest trend?

Here are a couple of articles voicing some other opinions.

There are several articles at this website,

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Teaching Handwriting and Vocabulary Through the Backdoor of Spelling

Many children need help with their spelling, especially if they have problems with dyslexia or other learning disabilities. Additionally, many children need additional help with handwriting. And, teachers are always looking for new ways to bolster their students' vocabularies. However, students can very easily feel infantilized or bored by repetitive exercises, busywork, copywork, and exercises solely devoted to one of these areas. For these reasons, AVKO recommends that short lessons be given. Further, we recommend that lessons serve as double-duty as much as possible. We call this teaching through the "backdoor."

Sequential Spelling is organized in clumps of 4 lessons, where 2-4 word families are taught in each clump. In those 4 lessons, the base words remain the same, but the various derivative forms (declentions) are taught in lessons 2-4 of the clumps. Instead of just teaching each of the lessons "in a vacuum," you can take advantage of the repetition to teach the other facets of language arts: handwriting, vocabulary, keyboarding, dictation, etc.

Teach the first lesson normally. You want the first lesson to be undiluted. Some handwriting practice, vocabulary learning, etc. will occur naturally because of the repetition of the word family patterns and the exposure to new words in their sentence context. We want the students to focus on just spelling the words the first time; let them do what they do automatically.

For the next lessons, you can instruct your student to focus on something additional -- making the strokes of the letters neatly, learning the vocabulary, typing speed and accuracy (you can have them type the words instead of writing them out), etc. As you progress through the lessons in the word family clump, you can divide their attention more as they will require less attention paid to the spelling.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Homeschool Depot -- the Craigslist for Homeschooling Curriculum!

We just learned about this great new website that allows homeschoolers to buy and sell their used homeschooling curriculum. It's like the Craigslist for homeschooling curriculum. Here's a little promo e-mail that we received about it:

Dear Homeschool Families,

Do you happen to have some homeschool curriculum or resources that you no longer need? Do you need additional homeschool curriculum or resources and wish to purchase it pre-owned at a greatly reduced price?

If so, wouldn’t it be great if there was one single place where homeschool families across the nation could get together to buy and sell each other’s resources?

As a homeschool family ourselves, we think this is a great idea. In fact, we have taken the first step to create such a place. It’s an online access point called We developed it is a safe place for homeschool families to easily buy and sell resources and materials directly from other homeschool families.

We invite you to visit, sign up for free, and try it out for yourself. Just click on the logo below or type “” in your web browser…it’s that easy!

As you join the "Storehouse Community" we hope that we can help you connect, share, and save as good stewards of God's wisdom and knowledge.


The StorehouseDepot Team

2972 Columbia St.
Suite #5448
Torrance, CA 90503
Where Homeschoolers Click!

Follow-up from Josiah (Featured student in To Teach a Dyslexic Video)

We recently heard from Josiah about his latest academic success. Josiah worked with Don McCabe at the AVKO reading clinic in Birch Run for a few weeks and was featured in the AVKO video "To Teach a Dyslexic." We are so proud of him! Here's his e-mail to Don.

Hello Mr. McCabe. This is Josiah Holland. I hope this E-mail finds you well, and I hope you still use this E-mail address. I would like to tell you that I have graduated from Harding University with a Bachelor’s Degree in General Studies. Also I would like to thank you for teaching me some of the basic reading and writing skills needed to complete my education; without them I probably would not have even been able to get into college. Hopefully we can stay in touch.

Sincerely Josiah

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Using Spelling to Teach Reading

We just received this great testimonial for Sequential Spelling that emphasizes an important benefit of the series: its ability to teach reading ability (decoding) through the "backdoor" of spelling. Because of the patterned approach, which is emphasized by the use of color to break the words down into their constituent patterns, students will start to spontaneously do this themselves when they attempt to decode new words. They will see the patterns in words they aren't even learning through the course of the spelling program. This is truly powerful! And, this is all without having to drill on phonics, nonsense words, or choral readings.

This is the second AVKO Sequential Spelling book I've bought. We're just finishing the first one, and I have to say, I'm really impressed. My son has dyslexia and has a terrible time reading. Before we starting the Spelling One book, he could barely read at all. After finishing the first book, his reading has improved dramatically. I was truly amazed. I didn't get the spelling book to help with his reading, but instead because I liked the way it taught spelling. And he is learning to spell and doing great at it, BUT, the book also helped him with reading. - Sue M.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Less is sometimes more…

by Guest Blogger Rebecca Messmann of

I just finished writing an article for our hometown newspaper discussing the craze of “less” in our society. We have several examples of “things” that jump out at us insisting less is more: The Twitter 140 characters or less to describe your day or your moment. The book “Not what I was planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure,” that asks us to describe our lives in just six words. Cell phone texting that eliminates vowels and punctuation and gets the message across in the least amount of words as possible on the smallest contraption that is still readable.
Yep, we are being inundated with messages that tell us less is more and often I advocate that this is crazy, that we are teaching our children to stifle themselves. We are limiting their potential, limiting their creativity, and on and on. I can really get on a soap box about it.
Then, as always, there is something that brings me back down to earth and reminds me that sometimes less really is more. That is what has happened with the whole left and right thing at our house.
When my oldest son was a baby I kept a running monologue of what we were doing. “Ok, Baby, we are going to the kitchen, we go down this hall and turn left into the kitchen.” As he got older I would point out the horses on our left and the cows on our right (we lived in Texas, after all). Now, I give him directions; turn right at Nicole’s house, left at the school to get home. Then one day I asked him which is left and he raised his right hand.
Frustration, anger, more frustration, it is a simple thing is it not to tell your left from your right? It is the foundation for getting yourself anywhere, for reading a book, for driving a car, it is the foundation for goodness sake and no matter what I do, how much more I do neither of my boys can consistently show you left or right correctly.
I have tried; honestly, I have tried everything under the sun to teach them left from right. Then the other day I noticed that other kids were wearing these really cool looking bracelets. I had my own private “Eureka” moment – I bought two bracelets and placed them on each boy’s left wrist. Bingo! Problem solved with the least amount effort. Ask my boys which is left and which is right now. Go ahead, I dare you.
Don’t be afraid to use a simple, less complicated method to get our dyslexic kids to learn – sometimes less really is more.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Community Learning Centers

There is no single way to homeschool. Several parents got together in Winnipeg, Manitoba to create a Learning Center for their homeschooling community. Sharing activities and knowledge weekly in small to medium sized groups offers learning programs and social opportunities. Parents and students commit to cooperative responsibilities and assist in running the center. The Learning Center can be a place to share science, art, friendship, resources and give and receive support. Read an article by the parents (also included are student's writings about their experiences) who have organized their own Learning Center.

-Gloria Goldsmith