Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Fun-Time Phonics! Review

We received Fun-Time Phonics! from The Critical Thinking Co. to review. It's a 300+ page curriculum to help children ages 4 (Pre-K) to Grade 2 learn to read. It focuses on phonics and because it's targeted to younger children, it uses colorful images on every page to help children connect pictures to letters, sounds, and words.

$39.99 book / $19.99 download
One of the great features of Fun-Time Phonics! is that classroom copying is allowed, which also applies to homeschool families. So you can use one book for multiple students. We actually didn't end up making copies, mainly due to the fact that we don't have a color printer, but we used clear dry-erase sheets to put over the page when it prompted the student to circle, color, or write on something. But most of the earlier activities simply ask you to point to the correct answer. For the most part I worked on Fun-Time Phonics! one-on-one with my kids. Bean whizzed through a quarter of the book in the first two weeks that we had it, but after that she reached the point where she was learning something new and began to pace herself to one lesson per day. Munchkin has stuck to one lesson per day, but this is the first reading curriculum we have used that he has shown positive interest in, so we are very happy with his progress! 

There are many different types of lessons that can be found in Fun-Time Phonics! The first few activities focus on Phoenemic Awareness (beginning and ending sounds, rhyming, putting sounds together, short vowel sounds), then Alphabetics (short vowel letters, consonants and co-articulation), Beginning To Read, and at the end, Words I Can Read.

In all, there are 100 activities. However, 100 activities doesn't necessarily mean that this curriculum only covers 100 days of lessons, because in order to move on to the next lesson, each student should first master the current activity they are on, because each lesson builds on the previous activities. So while some activities may only require a day to master, others might take two or more days to work through. We have always preferred child-paced learning and loved that this curriculum allowed them to set their own pace.

We really liked that the beginning sounds activities used pictures and words to match the sound. The kids primarily focused on the pictures at first, but after choosing their answer, we would go through each word and point to the first letter, make its sound and then say the word.

The vowels seem to be the hardest part for Munchkin to master. He knows all the vowels, but he has difficulty with their sounds, like short and long A. So we have spent a lot of time going over these lessons with him.

We aren't this far into the book yet, but Bean has flipped through to look at future lessons. She tries to name what the pictures are, and sometimes finds it difficult to figure out what the word is meant to be, despite the red arrows pointing at the image. Generally I try to have her figure out the image first and if she can't, I'll tell her what it is.

We took the first words list and made a set of flash cards out of them. The front of the flash card, the blank side, shows the word in big letters, while the lined back side of the card has the word written at the top. Bean practices to write these words on the lines, but only after she has mastered reading the word.

Bean prefers the lessons where she can circle or write on the answers, while Munchkin prefers to point out his answer. This curriculum has worked out for both of them and they are always eager to work on their "fun phonics." I love that it appeals to both of them, and they can work independently or with help.  

I would absolutely suggest using Fun-Time Phonics! for beginner readers, for both homeschoolers and public school students. We loved having the book form, because it was easier for the kids to use on their own, and it made it easier for me, not having to find a color printer to make copies. But for a classroom setting, I would suggest using the digital version to make your copies, since the pages in the physical copy do not come out, so it may be difficult to make perfect copies of them. But as the teacher, I'd always want a physical copy on hand to refer to and use to plan future lessons.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Eat Your Math Homework Review

We received Eat Your Math Homework from Ann McCallum Books to review. It's a super fun book with a collection of math recipes and lots of interesting math facts. Ann McCallum also has two other homework eating books, one for science and the other for U.S. History, along with a few math themed books. We look forward to checking them out! Eat Your Math Homework is intended for children in Pre-K to 2nd grade. It covers fractions, Fibonacci, geometry, Tangrams, probability, tessellations, variability, patterns in nature, and more!

We have always enjoyed taking our math lessons to the kitchen, since cooking has so many mathematical properties. Whether you're measuring flour for cookies, cutting carrots into quarters for salad, reading a temperature, or setting a timer, you're learning math. There are numbers everywhere in the kitchen. From the time on the stove, to the temperatures on the dials and thermometers, to the measurements on the measuring spoons and cups, to the stick of butter. Numbers are everywhere. 
We have a handful of recipe books for children, but they don't go into the math side of cooking. We do however have a handful of board games that feature food and math. We use those when we don't have any recipes planned, but for the most part, everyone prefers math when it involves eating their problems. My 4 and 5 year old absolutely loved reading Eat Your Math Homework. It's the first book they owned that isn't a math workbook, but is still all about math. Each section has a little math story, then it goes on into the recipe, what type of food to use, and talks about the math facts. 
For the Fraction Chips, we turned to an old favorite recipe. Cinnamon Sugar on baked tortilla chips, dipped in strawberry salsa. We used the tortillas to learn about fractions, by using a pizza cutter to slice them into fractions. We started with a package of a dozen tortillas and used each one to represent a different fraction, with a few extras to munch on while they used the rest to learn math. We created all the fractions in the book, with help from flash cards that showed the number fractions and the written word for each to match them. 

I actually remember a few times in school when a teacher brought in food for math lessons, to incorporate some hands on learning. Those kinds of lessons always stayed with me, and I love that my kids are learning so much in the kitchen about math, all from a handful of fairly simple recipes. The food used in Eat Your Math Homework are all types of food you would probably already have at home, so it was really easy to make most of the recipes, with the ingredients already on hand. You'll find recipes for snack sticks, pizza pi's, trail mix, and even Tangram cookies (Bean's favorite!). It's a really good mix of different types of food, so there's something to appeal to everyone. And if particular ingredients bother you, you can easily find substitutes.

Eat Your Math Homework is a great book, even if you don't actually use it for homework. It would make a great addition to any homeschool or school classroom, and would even be fun gift for children who either love math or cooking. We plan to pick up Eat Your Science Homework and Eat Your U.S. History Homework as part of Munchkin and Bean's Christmas presents. We usually do an equal mix of toys, clothes, and new learning supplies. Our advent calendar is always a collection of 24 new books, so these two will be among them.

Extra fun homework books: Eat Your Science Homework and Eat Your U.S. History Homework.

Children's math stories: Rabbits, Rabbits Everywhere: A Fibonacci Tale and Beanstalk: The Measure of a Giant.


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