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Archive for curriculum

TEN TIMID GHOSTS – by Jennifer Barrett O’Connell

Picture book of the day - Ten Timid Ghosts


Halloween is one of my very favorite holidays (although I’m a holiday loving girl to begin with). So, I don’t know if I have forced my Halloween glee on Big A., or if I have just rubbed off on him, but it feels like Halloween central around our house. There are many decorations to be made, a party to plan, and of course, many super Halloween books to read. I just shared one of our very favorites (even Mr. Wizard loves it) as a Picture Book of the Day recommendation, so I thought I would add in a few of the activities that we have come up with to go along with this gem of a book.

A. and I are working hard to develop letter recognition and formation right now. On Monday A. actually asked me how to spell a few words so he could write them down. I was so excited about this because he has NEVER done this before. I thought this would be the perfect time to introduce a book writing activity that gave him the opportunity to write just one word on each page. He gets overwhelmed easily, so we will be doing this book over several days, and we are sharing the writing responsibility. A few of the words he is writing himself, and a few he is dictating to me. I made up this book as a School4boys rendition of Ten Timid Ghosts. I have left the pages black and white intentionally so that A could either color them in or use watercolor paint to add the color himself.  I am adding a few pictures of an example book.  I apologize that the pictures are awful, and that I did the first page myself.  The book is still a work in progress, so I didn’t have any of the finished pages that A. did to show you yet.  I promise to add better pictures with A. and his work as soon as they are ready!

Ten Timid Ghosts - homemade book cover Ten Timid Ghosts - homemade book first sample page


I am adding the template pages (including the cover) that I made for the book as a PDF.  If any of you might find it useful, feel free to use it. All I ask is that if you share it, please share the link to this post rather than the pdf file itself.

 Ten Timid Ghosts follow-up book


This book also lends itself well to many math activities. You could easily make addition or subtraction sentences with the ghosts. We are doing an activity with cardinal numbers (1), ordinal numbers (first or 1st), and number words (one, first).  To do the activity, print out the ten ghosts and the numeral and word cards.  Lay out the ghosts horizontally in either ascending or descending order.  Then have the child match the number and word cards under each ghost.  These could then easily be glued to paper.

Ten timid ghosts - math activity pic 2


Here is a PDF version of the activity if you would like it. Again, if you share it please share the link to the post. ;-)

Ten Timid Ghosts – number activity 


I hope Ten Timid Ghosts, or a related activity, find their way into your Halloween repertoire.  Happy Reading!

Tracy  :-)








Pink Bullseye - blog post pic


Goals for the School Year

I thought it was important to think through what my goals for School4Boys would be for the 2013-2014 school year. We started school (on a modified schedule - due to life happenings) two weeks ago, so no time like the present!! I have always started each year of my teaching by setting overarching goals. I find it very helpful to go back to these goals throughout the year to assess how they are being met, and to give our activities a tweak if things are not going the way I wish them to. I find that by articulating the goals on paper I am able to really think through what I am trying to do, to refine my ideas, and to keep me on the course I set. I found that writing my goals for the School4Boys school year was a bit harder to do than in years past. I think because there are no outside curricular demands, and the goals for the year are a wide-open blank page, I was a bit intimidated on how and where to start. Total freedom can be a bit scary,  but exciting. The great thing about homeschooling is that I could truly tailor the goals for the year specifically and exactly to be a fit for Big A.


  S4B Big Learning Goal 1. - Engagement

I suppose this is my biggest goal of the year. I think engagement is key to true learning, and to supporting the development of life long learners. It is also probably one of the biggest reasons we are homeschooling this year. I want A. to want to learn, and I want to create an environment that supports his enjoyment of and interest in learning. Out of all of the things I see happening to children at school, one of the most distressing to me is the way that schooling oftentimes teaches students to dislike learning. Not only is A’s engagement my biggest goal of the year, it may be the most challenging because it requires constant planning and evaluation of how he is responding to what we are doing.

♥  S4B Big Learning Goal 2. – Building Connections

This is a powerful way to learn. I want to help A. see the big picture of learning, and how things work together.

  S4B Big Learning Goal 3. – Depth Over Breadth

I believe that it is very important to learn something well, and to experience it deeply. This also means coming back to important ideas over and over throughout the year. I want to focus on allowing A. to learn deeply, and experience how that feels. I believe this will support his engagement. We will do this even if it means leaving some important things out this year.

  S4B Big Learning Goal 4. – Project Work

I want to focus on giving A. the opportunity to construct projects where he is encouraged to take responsibility for the planning of what and how he learns and how he demonstrates what he knows. I will then do my best to integrate multiple curricular areas of learning (math, science, literacy, the arts, etc.) into his projects, which will hopefully build engagement.


♥  S4B Big Learning Goal 5. – Going Out Into the “Learning” Community

I want to plan to take A. out into the world and support/mentor him in learning how to learn from the world around him. I will do my best to integrate our field trips into project work and learning at home. I want us to try to go on one field trip per week, and figure out the best ways to make them opportunities for learning without sucking the life/fun out of them. This will also help with the development of his social skills and comfort in social situations.

♥  S4B Big Learning Goal 6. – Social/Life Skills Development

This is a big and important one for us. I want A. to feel more comfortable and confident in peer social situations, and have better strategies for controlling his own behavior, anger and frustration.

  S4B Big Learning Goal 7. – Do More Sensory Activities

A. has NEVER liked sensory activities. The internet is filled with creative teachers and moms developing clever sensory activities for their children. When A was very young I would bring simple sensory activities out, and he would reject every single one of them. As he got older he became even more resistant. He didn’t like water, shaving cream, sand, pebbles, dry oatmeal, pudding, finger paint, anything, anywhere near him. I didn’t understand about sensory processing disorder at the time, but now I understand him a bit more. Because of his dislike of sensory experiences, I just stopped trying them, but now I know how important they are for his overall development (including fine motor development). This one will be tricky because he doesn’t like them. That he doesn’t like them is a bit of an understatement, but I will have to find a way to make them more palatable and engaging for him.


  S4B Big Learning Goal 8. – Do More Fine Motor Activities

A. also has never liked any academic fine motor activities. Drawing, cutting with scissors, coloring, writing with a pencil, pen, etc. Now that I know that this is largely the result of his motor planning difficulties, it makes more sense. I need to try to find a way to structure what we do so that he gets better at these fine motor activities, and that he wants to do them. I don’t want to “force” him into it, because that would pretty much be the opposite of supporting his engagement. This seems like a challenge.

  S4B Big Learning Goal 9. – Incorporate Little Z. and Little B. Into Our Work Whenever Possible

There are many reasons why this is important. First, I don’t want them to feel left out when I work with A. Second, I truly believe in the benefits of differently aged children working together. I think it pushes every child to grow in different ways. Third, I am hoping it develops stronger bonds between the three of them. It rocked A.’s world when the Littles were born, and he is still unnerved by them sometimes. Often we are doing two/three separate things as a family. As we do more work together, and he helps to mentor them, I am hoping their relationships become more collaborative. The Littles just turned 18 months old (holy cow), so they are starting to be able to participate with A. in similar types of activities, but in different ways. It does not hurt that they clearly love vehicles and books too (just like A.)!

♥  S4B Big Learning Goal 10. – Help A. To Feel Comfortable writing conventionally and drawing representationally

This is a biggie, but it will be very difficult to do.   A. is really struggling with this, and he feels very uncomfortable with both skills.  At this point (in early September) A. can write none of the letters legibly, and his drawings are still scribbles, but he can now reliably (within the last 4 weeks or so) make a shaky circle. His confidence in making any kinds of marks on paper is very low. He is self-conscious and nervous about his lack of writing and drawing skill. My biggest struggle for this goal will be to find a way to break the writing and drawing tasks into small doable pieces for him. Give him too much at one time and he will totally withdraw and feel like a failure (Unfortunately, I already found this out the hard way.)


♥  S4B Big Learning Goal 11. – Cover the Academics That I’m Supposed To Cover In Kindergarten

Oh yeah, there’s the reading, writing, math and science part too. I know it sounds funny, but this is my lowest priority this year. The reason I set “academics” as my last goal, is because the other goals are just more important to me over the coming year. I am not ignoring these other pieces though, and I will be highlighting what we are doing and why as the year progresses. As for goal setting… I am pulling from a variety of sources to develop my academic plans for the year. The first is the set of Common Core State Standards. There are many reasons I don’t like these, but that is for another discussion. They are now the law of most states/lands. As we live in Missouri, I will also be pulling from the Missouri Grade Level Expectations. I am using these documents as resources to help me plan for what is expected for kindergarteners. I have printed out the different curricular expectations (enough pages to fill a three ring binder) and I have highlighted, with different color ink, what I want to work on each of the four “quarters” of our school year. These have been helpful to me in developing weekly and daily lesson plans. I am then pulling from different professional books to support the learning goals.

Tracy :-)