Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Vocab Wall

This replaces the word wall from a year ago.  10 minutes a day of reading (starting with 3 letter word cards) really adds up.

On the right is the list of 10 words from Vocabulary Workshop, First Grade, Unit 1.   While my younger son many not pick up all of the words, my older son is learning the nuances of definition in this list.  In the bottom right is a picture that distinguishes run, run away, and flee.

I subsequently added a knight to distinguish brave (knight fighting dragon) from bold (Spiderman just swinging at nothing).  We've been adding synonyms as they come up.

The list on the bottom left contains some other lame website's top 150 words used in 4th grade (common core).  This is a reference to motivate us.  I asked older son to randomly check off things he knows, but this is a painful, ineffective process that I tried again.  I'm going to order the rest of the series and start my older son on 3rd grade Vocab Workshop.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Executive Function Overload

Last night we attended the Chicago Children's Theater.  They put on the Whale and the Elephant in collaboration with Redmoon Theater.  Redmoon Theater is known for it's puppets, although most of its performances are for adults.  I once saw Redmoon's Tempest at the Shakespeare theater.  It was eerie, complicated, and many other adjectives.

It's hard to find good children's theater, where the age of the audience is respected.  Chicago Children's Theater is good children's theater.   Combine this with Redmoon and it's over the top.

Theater is in the top 5 of cultivating EF skills.  A certain gifted program in Chicago takes the class to the theater many times in the first year.  For this reason, my 8 year old whispered to me that he was bored until the story picked up.  He came around.

My 4 year old sat silently for 80 straight minutes of intense amazement during this performance.  In addition to a great story and great singing, there were mechanical puppetry things coming out of suitcases, a bicycle contraption turning a big roll of paper with a story on it, and puppet silhouettes on screen.  Afterward, the staff provided a silhouette screen and craft paper.

We woke up this morning and hung a white sheet in front of a bright light.  Then made some silhouette marionettes.  Then acted out various stories with singing and dancing.   This delayed our Saturday morning math and vocab, but it's well worth it.

I forgot about the EF impact of theater.  It might be on the top of the EF list for 4, 5, and 6 year olds.  Tacking on a follow up activity (puppetry, stage building, making costumes or props) doubles the impact.

And, since my blog is devoted to passing a certain exam in a few months, I feel obligated to point out EF Skills = High scores on cognitive ability tests.

Here is our homemade version of the Elephant and the Whale.  Materials include a white sheet, a table lamp with no lampshade, hangers, string, some cardboard or craft paper, and lots of imagination.  I made a little flap so that if you pull the string, the little man's mouth opens.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Vocabulary Workshop

I've found the most awesome workbook for gifted kids.   It's called vocabulary workshop.   Last month I warned you that I was going to try it as a supplement to our off season curriculum.   I struck gold.

As you know from reading Chapter 2 of my partially published free online book, vocabulary is the single biggest factor to academic success, not to mention certain tests.  That is why the SAT has so much vocabulary.   This test is used to predict success in college.

I got the red (first grade) and purple (2nd grade) books.  My son is slightly younger than that, so I don't expect him to pick up and retain everything.  But I expect him to be engaged and have some fun.

The first grade book introduces 10 words per section.  Each section starts with 3 pictures and an online narrator (of voice-over quality) reading a story that uses the 10 words.  The words can be discerned from the picture usually.  Then there are 6 pages of picture based exercises that follow.  We listened to the online narrative, and my son completed the 1st two pages of exercises with less help than usual.  So far so good.  Then I printed the 10 words and posted them on the fridge for my wife.  Lesson 1 was a big hit.  We now know coward, bold, sneaky, stare, grin, and 5 other new words.

The second grade book has less pictures and more exercises.   The text from the online story is printed in the beginning of the chapter.   Plus, for both grades, there are online games.  I hate to go online, but it makes a course so much more appealing to my son when he can do something on the computer.  I don't blame him.

To introduce this course, I bought Lucky Charms and Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries.  I don't think my son ever remembers having sugar cereal in the house.   I did this once for his older brother during hard core test prep.  So this is indeed a big day.

I tested my older son on the second grade version (last unit), and even though he knew most of the words, it was a big help in teaching him to articulate the definitions, and definition subtleties.   Outside of the vocab words, for kids in first onward, most of the content is at the appropriate level, and the kids can complete the work themselves.

These books are the difference between the 90th percentile and the 99.9th percentile on the 2 tests at the end of grade school that really count, not to mention the SAT.   I expect my child to crush the question type that gives us the most trouble (classification) because of this.

For those of you not worried about tests, you should be, but this is still the difference between success in school and success in reading, and the alternative, which is underutilized potential.

Here is my chart for which book to start with.   I think each book can take 12 weeks, but I'm thinking of just one or two books per year.   This year I'm going to do 2, but the next book will be 3 years advanced, so we're going to go slowly.

I bought these on the VocabularyWorkshop.com site.  I am breaking my policy of not promoting a particular publisher, but there is nothing like this on the market.  [I will do a thorough search in the next few weeks and give you alternatives if I find any.]

GradeReading SkillsColor 
PreKFirst Grade LevelRed
KindergartenFirst Grade LevelRed
1st GradeFirst Grade LevelRed
1st Grade2nd Grade LevelRed
1st Grade3rd Grade LevelPurple
2nd GradeGrade LevelPurple
2nd Grade3rd Grade LevelPurple
2ndt Grade4th Grade LevelGreen
3nd GradeGrade Level, 4th grade levelGreen
3rd Grade5th grade levelOrange
4th GradeGrade Level, 5th grade levelOrange
5th GradeGrade Level, 6th grade levelBlue
5th Grade7th Grade levelNext Series