Monday, December 21, 2009

Excellent Short Biography of Alfred the Great

Benjamin Merkle makes Alfred the Great come alive. I knew very little about the “White Horse King” before reading this biography. Although, I'm not a fan of the retelling of ancient battles, these were interesting and led to the proposition that Alfred was more than a warrior. I didn't realize until I read this book how wide spread the Viking incursions into England were and the part Alfred played in keeping the Saxon heritage safe.

I found the description of Alfred's innovations in learning and in the defense of his country very interesting reading. Clearly what Alfred was able to do and the success he achieved say that his innovations were extremely important. Apparently we are the beneficiaries of these practices today.

I was particularly fascinated by his conversion of Guthrum. While it may seem incredible, it appears that Guthrum did indeed embrace Christianity and become an ally of Alfred. It's an excellent example of how we should treat our enemies. I found the devote part of Alfred's character the most interesting in someone living in that time period. It must have been a great temptation to deliver the fatal blow and be done with it, rather than wondering whether Guthrum would be true to his pledges.

Altogether an excellent read about a time in history that I, for one, little understood.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Teaching Toddlers to Read by Kathy Sempke

Learning language skills starts at birth. Children are naturally interested in mimicking sounds and words. In fact, children develop much of their capacity for reading in the first three years of life, when their brains grow to 90% of their adult weight. When parents sing, talk and read to their kids, brain cell links are strengthened and new ones are formed. These links are the basis for the development of all language skills.

Reading aloud to your child helps him to learn the correct way to read. By hearing you read the words on the page and sound them out, he learns that letters make words, and words make sentences, and sentences are how we communicate with each other. There are many activities that will make reading fun, and help to keep the toddler engaged in reading.

  1. Use musical instruments to create suspense, or silliness.

  2. Have the children act out what you read

  3. Use a prop bag to illustrate parts of the story.

  4. Ask your child questions about the story. Reading comprehension is one of the hardest things to teach a child if it doesn't come naturally to him.

  5. Do a fun activity after you finish the book that relates to the book in some way. For instance, if the book is about a tall person, make your own stilts using metal cans. Punch two holes on either side of each can, near the bottom. Measure a piece of rope so it is the appropriate length for children. Thread one end of the rope into each hole and secure with a knot.

  6. Reading to your child on a regular basis will give him an appreciation and respect for reading. If reading is important to you, it will become important to your child.

  7. Here's a fun sight word game called, "Stinky Cheese." Cut triangles out of yellow construction paper. On 20 triangles write sight words that you want to practice. On 5 triangles write "stinky cheese." Put the triangles in a sack and shake them up. The toddler pulls out a triangle. The child reads the sight word on his cheese. If he chooses "stinky cheese," he holds his nose and says, "Stinky cheese!" in a silly voice.

  8. Toddlers also learn quickly with hands on activities. Make clay out of flour, salt, and warm water. Form a large A, small a, and apple out of the clay. After the letters and apple dry have fun painting them and practice the letter sounds by singing silly songs. Take turns thinking of a word that begins with that letter/ sound. For example: say "A is for a a a a aaaaligator." You'll be surprised what words the toddler will come up with. Your toddler will be proud of the letters he makes and will want to show them to everyone.

  9. Another great way to teach a toddler letter sounds is to make a personalized book. Take a photo of the toddler with food that starts with each letter of the alphabet. Paste the picture on top of an 8"-11" piece of paper. Under each picture with large letters write, Aa Brian eats an apple, Bb- Brian eats a banana, Cc- Brian eats a carrot, etc.

  10. Most toddlers are physically active and love to move. Take advantage of this natural trait by moving to short rhymes that introduce letter sounds. Kathy Stemke’s book, Moving Through All Seven Days, inspires movement as children learn about the days of the week. The lyrical rhymes also teach them how to spell each day! The activities at the end of the book are designed to reinforce the concepts as well as give impetus to movement exploration.

Book available on lulu:

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