Let's face it, spelling as it has been traditionally taught is not only boring, it's fairly ineffective. Memorizing and regurgitating information rarely motivates kids to want to retain what they have learned. Unfortunately, even with many game-ified spelling curricula, this strategy of instruction seems dominant. Recently, Lady Chatterly completed her first grade level of instruction, and I was left scrambling for materials to use that would capture her imagination and inspire her to learn. Spelling is not usually something I emphasize in the early years, since kids learn language best by using it. That notwithstanding, Lady loves to tell stories, and needs to be able to get them down in a manner that does not always include me transcribing. Like her brother before her, she finds the physical act of writing painul and overwhelming. So, I searched for a spelling program that was interactive and fun which did not emphasize writing. The Letter Battle app is just what I was looking for. The storyline follows a plucky speller/spell caster who must travel to a distant fortress to recover a stolen amulet of power. Along the way, she must use proper spelling to defeat her enemies and gain life, weapons and skill levels. While I find the program a bit monotonous, she never seems to get tired of killing the bad guys with properly spelled words.
Earth Day Endeavors
We seem to have a neverending supply of "interesting objects" in our house all waiting to be transformed into something if not useful, at least different. So each Earth Day I try to take advantage of our bounty and let the kids create something fun. Lady Chatterly and I are calling our things sculptures, and Sir Talks A Lot, predictably, built something a bit more realistic.
After our craftventure, Lady decided she wanted to read Emeraldlicious by Victoria Kann. She's a big fan of the entire Pinkalicious series, and was delighted by the theme of being a caretaker of the Earth. After I read to her, she returned the favor by reading a book to me.
The Scholastic Word Family books are, as their title suggests, books which highlight a particular word family by means of a humorous or engaging tale. In this book, he kind-hearted Mr. Grump who has a knack for fixing things is called in by Katie to help her with an old stump that would otherwise go to the dump. Rather than see the stump become trash, Mr. Grump repurposes it and everyone is happy.
These books have helped Lady Chatterly to become an even more confident reader.
Raptors and Riparian Revelries: Science Day at the Wyoming Territorial Prison
It is rare that the weather cooperates this early in spring, particularly when there is an outdoor event to tempt the fates to misbehave. Today, however, we were fortunate that in spite of the sun disappearing for a while and the clouds spitting at us a few times, the weather held, and we were able to eplore all that the event had to offer.
After a brief visit with a very cute African cockroach, Lady Chatterly decided to learn all about how the shape of bird beaks is determined by their diet and habitat.
After having fun at the bird stations, we made our way over to a table of pelts and skulls. We saw beaver, badger, skunk, red fox, coyote, gray wolf, grizzly, otter, mountain lion, and ermine pelts, and marveled over how different the fur was on each one. In spite of our having had a rather lengthy conversation a few days earlier about trappers and westward expansion, Lady Chatterly found the pelts a bit boring and wanted to move on.
By this time, of course, the Wyoming wind was starting to pick up and the day was becoming a bit overcast. We made our way to the animal tracks table. Most of the animal foot models were in use, but Lady Chatterly was able to select the foot of a skunk to make a plaster impression. The wind almost whipped the paper from her hands, but she held on as the plaster was pressed into her paper circle and smoothed flat. Once her foot was pressed in to her satisfaction and she had been given her ticket to pick up her track at a later time, she was ready to speed away to the next event. Happily for me and my very cold hands, the next event was an indoor lecture on raptors sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program.
There were three birds featured in the presentation: an American Kestrel, a rough-legged hawk, and a barn owl. The kids learned all about how birds are defined as raptors, what made each of the birds at the presentation distinct, and about how and why each bird was rescued and then kept in captivity. At the end of the program, the kids were allowed to go to ask questions and explore some of the items brought by the group. One of the volunteers demonstrated the difference between a barn owl feather and the feathers of the other birds. Since owls rely on their hearing to capture their prey, they have to fly silently. All of the other feathers did indeed make noise as they were whipped through the air; however, the owl feather passed through the air without a sound. Lady was able to see talons, eggs, wings and more. The icing on the cake was that one of her friends was there, and the two held hands the entire time they asked questions and explored.
After warming up a bit, it was time to venture back outside. We have a tiny trickle of water here called the Laramie River which is as far removed from the rivers that I grew up with as a hill is from a mountain. However, the area offers wonderful opportunities for studying ecosystems as the plains meet the tiny river which itself meets a wetland environment. Lady Chatterly barely seemed to notice the cold as she clutched her scavenger hunt sheet in her hand and searched eagerly for scat, animal tracks, insects and the like.
We finished our outing with a quick stop at the last three stations. Lady made a pinecone bird feeder, made a handprint owl and dug a few bones out of an owl pellet while a disinterested man, who had clearly been standing in the cold for too long, pretended to care about her discoveries. "I'm sleepy too," she reassured him, patting his hand as he swept up the remainder of her pellet. And we took our leave after what had been a fantastic day.
Take a Chance on Math (Lady's title suggestion)
Lady Chatterly loves to roll dice. I'm not sure if this is because of the genetic legacy of her wonderfully geeky, game-loving, DnD master father or if we should be concerned that she might have a future gambling problem; but, for now, her love of dice is helpful, particularly for school. Here you see her doing a review of double digit addition using larger dice for the tens place and smaller dice for the ones. The nice thing about using dice for math is that if the child forgets an addition fact, s/he can fall back on counting the dots on the faces of the cubes.