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With the number of children who are functionally illiterate, I thought you might want to see some of the posts I’ve made on the site for one of my children’s pictures books.   These posts explain creative  strategies to motivate children to read.



(more to come)


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One great way to beat summer slide is to learn a new language.  When you learn a new language, you also learn a new culture, or at least part of a culture.  When you learn a new language, your brain is working hard, yet it is usually having fun.

Language is Music by Susanna Zaraysky

Find more tips when you read Language is Music by Susanna Zaraysky

These hints are provided by Susanna Zaraysky. (www.languageismusic.com) Susanna speaks seven languages (English, Russian, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Serbo-Croatian) with excellent accents because she learn languages like she learns music. She has also studied Hungarian, Hebrew and Arabic. After teaching English in Argentina, Bosnia and the United States, she realized how to make foreign language learning fun and easy through listening exercises and music.

About Learning a Foreign Language with Music

The radio, TV and You Tube are free. You can use them to get your kids to remember and excel with foreign languages.

Music engages more parts of the brain than language does. Use music to help you learn and remember your new language.

Just turn on your radio, relax and get in the groove of your new tongue. Paying attention to media in your target language introduces you to the phonetical and grammatical structure of your target language. After you get used to the melodies of your new languages, then you can insert the grammar and vocabulary. Listen first. Speak later.

Enjoy the learning process and you will learn much more.

Tips on How to Learn a Foreign Language Using The Media for free

1. Listen Carefully

Learning a new language means you have to change your key and tune. Dancing the cha-cha to waltz music is like speaking a new language, while still using the rhythm of your mother tongue. Let yourself take in the sounds of the language as though you were listening to a new piece of music. Even if you are just a beginner and barely know any words, you can still learn by listening. Pay attention to how people speak. Does it seem like they are reading a phone number or rattling of a list of numbers? Are they angry? Happy? Sometimes, you have to shut off your brain and inclination to interpret to analyze. Listen to the words spoken and to your intuition.

2. Relax and Just  Listen

Find music in your target language that you like. It does not matter if at first you do not understand the lyrics. You may start singing along without even knowing what you are singing. You are not only learning the rhythm of the language, you are learning new vocabulary.

Relax and close your eyes. Turn off the lights. Lie down or sit in a comfortable position. Do not try to understand the words, just listen. You might fall asleep or daydream. Give yourself the time to simply listen and not do anything else. Your mind needs to be calm in order to absorb the sounds. Your ears need no other distractions to let them properly hear all the high, medium and low frequencies of the language. Do this regularly.

3. As You Listen Write Down the Lyrics

Listen to music with the lights on, your eyes open and a pencil in hand. Write the lyrics of the songs while listening. You will have to pause the music and rewind or repeat many times to get the words down. Some words will be hard to write because they may be idioms or slang that you have not learned yet, but just write as much as you can understand.

Do not be frustrated with obscure words. Compare the lyrics you noted with the original song and see how well you were able to understand the song. Some CDs come with the lyrics inside the CD case. If you do not have them, look for them online on lyrics websites. Once you have your version of the lyrics and the original, you can see how much you were able to understand from listening to the song. Use your dictionary to translate the words you do not know.

4. Listen to the Radio in this New Language

When you start listening to radio broadcasts, the radio announcers may sound like they are emitting a stream or storm of sounds and not individual words. In time, you will hear familiar words repeated and will learn to distinguish them. You can actively listen to the radio attentively and take notes, listen to it in the background or just close your eyes to listen without straining yourself to understand.

5. Find You Tube videos in other languages

Go on You tube and find music in your target language that you like. Some videos even come with subtitles in the target language or in translation. Look for the lyrics of the song by doing a search online. Type in the name of the song and “lyrics”. The videos may also help you understand what the song is about. This is especially important for visual learners.

6. Watch TV Daily!

Let’s say you are learning Spanish. You have found a local Spanish language TV station in your area or you are watching the national Univision news. Even without knowing all the words, you will be able to get the gist of some of the news reports. The images and video footage of events already tell you what the news announcers are talking about. Tune into how they are speaking and the words they are using to describe the images on screen.

Even if you cannot watch TV all the time, it is all right to do errands around the house as you listen to the TV in the background. Think of the TV as background music like you would hear in a cafê or restaurant. Even though it is not at the forefront of your consciousness, your brain is still processing it and getting used to the flow of the language.

So go forth, turn up the music and turn on the language-learning!

You can find out more info about Language is Music online at:  http://www.languageismusic.com


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Ways to make money for Unemployed Teachers

I have been thinking about the experience of an unemployed teacher who will remain anonymous, but who submitted this post.  I woke up from a sleep, driven to make this post to assist him. The first thing that I did was to check out other blogs.  Bad news.  Here’s a typical result:  http://www.proteacher.net/discussions/showthread.php?t=21838. Perhaps after I write it and direct him to the post, I’ll be able to fall back asleep. I think I’ll post a link on that blog to this solution.  Perhaps my ideas will help them too.  Also, if you get a chance check out this site, which I started some time ago, but never kept up. Still, it might help you.

Get Your Hands on a e-book from which you can cut-and-paste and build a presentation that will get you job interviews

Perhaps, I feel this way because I went through a period of unemployment that lasted over two years.  I know what it feels like. I know the “take me or leave me philosophy” that I developed.  I know that I wrote my own survival manual.  In fact, I’m going to offer that manual free to anyone who is reading this post. However, please don’t give it away to others.  Instead, ask them to buy it from http://www.max-opp.com/ejs/.  It’s $19.00.  However, if you post a comment in reply to this site, I’ll allow you to download it for free.  (I know that I e-mailed it to you, but I didn’t receive a reply, so perhaps it was too big for your e-mail.)

Consider Being a Contractor

Check out http://www.Dice.com as an example.  You are like to find that you can market some of your skill sets for at least $30/hour.  (Assuming that you know how to build a small database with Microsoft Access,  or write a really good technical report.  Perhaps you need to position yourself as a Management Analyst or a Process Analyst.


If you can do tutoring over the web, that will be great.  You can do this on your own using http://www.DimDim.com, http://www.Webex.com, or http://www.GoToMeeting.com, or you can contract with one of the companies that use tutors.  Search for tutors and tutoring on this web site, and you’ll find some of them. There are companies out there that are looking for good tutors.

Prepare Lesson Plans, and we Will Market Them

This is a long shot, and it will take a while to get up to speed, but I’ll give you 75% of the gross profit (sales price less direct costs such as PayPal fees) assuming that I don’t have to spend a lot of time editing your work.  Look at the response that you sent me, below, and you’ll see why this is a concern.  If I have to spend considerable time editing (or hire someone to do this) then your payout would be lower.  I have the technology in place to allow you to sell these Lesson Plans and get paid immediately upon their sale.  Money will be deposited directly into your  PayPal account, and you’ll be able to spend it immediately.  It will take some effort, but you can do this.

Write a Book / Audio Book / e-Book and Earn Immediate Royalties

It’s possible to use FastPencil* to write and market a book, and there are other sources such as http://www.scribd.com, http://www.smashwords.com, http://www.lulu.com, which will enable you to make income from them relatively quickly. What I like about FastPencil is that you can actually turn your blog into a real book and/or an e-book.  RoughCutUneditedPreviewOfMaximumOpportunity (Note that this e-book has both live hyperlinks (most chapters) and text–see Chapter 7.)  This is just an example.

My experience is that if you can write a series of information-based books, you can make money quickly.  Novels, short-stories, and poetry are a crap shot.  It’s true that I’m doing a novel and book of poetry now (see http://www.Harmony123.com) , and I expect to make money from it, but it’s also true that I don’t expect to make any money from it for at least a year.  Also, it has taken me four years to develop a strategy that will enable me to make money from writing it.

Be a contributing author and/or Editor and/or Marketing Person for this site.

There will be no upfront cash, but I’ll share some of the revenue that comes out of this site with you, assuming that we arrive at a mutually agreeable formula in advance.  To see the revenue potential for a blog take a look at this series of articles on a child blog on this site.  I can suggest that you check out the Stump Markus Internet Radio show* to hear advice on how to develop marketing skills on the web.  I’ve been listening to Markus for about 18 months now, and I’m impressed. Caution:  As Markus would say, the hardest thing to do on the Internet is to make your first dollar.  After that, it’s not so bad.  That first dollar can take years.  (Ask me how I know.  :))  Here is a link to a [post that offers  one of his videos, http://max-opp.com/teachers/want-to-tutor-heres-how-to-launch-a-website-that-gets-traffic *


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Visit Lodingo for thousands of books for download

Visit Lodingo for thousands of books for download. (This is an affiliate link, but I'd appreciate your clicking on it. It costs you no more than buying without the affiliate. Obviously, I believe it the company, or I wouldn't let them sell my work.)

Check out my inexpensive audio book /ebook packages.  They work on .mp3 players, iPods, computers, and much more.

  • Monsterize Day -It’s like Sponge Bob, except it’s not under the sea. As friendly monsters exercise in strange ways we learn to count to ten, and have a great time. But, this story, and the associated book are not perfect. Sometimes the sound sounds strange. The book has comments: It asks you to check to see if what it is telling you is true. Why would the author do that?
  • Counting Monsters – Counting Monsters – In this fun story we encounter monsters riding bikes, going on hikes, playing Peek-A-Boo, rowing a canoe, learning how to fly and more. Children learn to count to ten by drawing and counting friendly monsters that do interesting things. This book is also appropriate for adults who are in nursing homes and hospitals as it is a great way to pass time.
  • One Hundred Monsters – 100 Monsters is Disney meets Sesame Street! It’s great fun! We encounter monsters in groups of ten stirring stew, morphing into trains, playing baseball and doing all sorts of strange things. It’s a great way to learn to count to 100 by tens. 100 Monsters is sure to foster discussions and learning. Two different readers perform two different versions of the book. The .pdf file includes both versions of 100 Monster.
  • Two to the Power of Zero is a great book for teaching geometric progressions

    Two to the Power of Zero is a great book for teaching geometric progressions

    Introducing Two to the Power of Zero – It’s Albert Einstein meets Monsters, Inc. A monster that can split into 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 and then return to 1 introduces the concept of geometrical progressions to very young children, in this entertaining story. Children are encouraged to draw their own illustrations for the story in the We-Drew-That edition.


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Target & Summer Slide

I received this e-mail frpm a representative of Target, and I thought I’d pass it along.

Target Logo - Target is involved with Summer Slide

Target Logo - Target is involved with Summer Slide

I wanted to bring your attention to an upcoming initiative by Target and the Search Institute based on helping avoid summer ‘brain drain’ on their kids this summer that I thought would be of interest to you and be a good resource to your readers.

Beginning this Sunday, May 16, Target will begin posting themed tips on their Facebook (www.Facebook.com/Target) for parents every week. Sample tips include

START THE SUMMER OFF “WRITE” – Kids who write well tend to read well and vice versa, which can be a powerful combination that can give your children a big boost in school. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, reflection is actually a big deal for little minds. By teaching young children to remember and evaluate their experiences each day, you’re developing their decision-making and problem-solving skills, plus you’re helping them (and you!) recognize some of the activities they love most.

What to Do: Work with your children on various projects, such as scrapbooking, writing a neighborhood newsletter and making a picture book.

GET OUT, GET ACTIVE – Sports and outdoor activities can help your kids stay healthy and fit, but they can also boost brain power. Children’s advocate Richard Louv says that today’s kids are suffering from NDD – Nature Deficit Disorder – because they’re spending so much time indoors. Outdoor play stimulates kids’ creativity. Plus, it’s been shown to improve their stress levels and their confidence with learning and social skills.

What to Do: Sign your children up for organized sports leagues or camp; take a nature hike; or grow a back yard garden.

FUN IN THE SUN . . . WITH BOOKS – Kids who read throughout the summer perform better in school, no matter where or when or what they read. Studies also show that when kids read for fun, especially books that match their reading levels and interests, they become better readers and are less likely to forget all the good stuff they learned during the school year. Kids who read frequently and have easy access to books have also been found to be more competent and resilient in risky situations.

What to Do: Start the summer with a trip to your local library; read outside by the light of the moon; and turn bits of nature into one-of-a kind bookmarks.

Also, check out The Monster on Top of the Bed (Ages 2-7) and The End of All Times (Ages 13+), both of which are written to motivate children to read. I wrote these books.


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Summer Skill Sharpeners

These ideas are suggested by Bonnie Adama, Elementary Mathematics Specialist and National Board Certified Teacher
visit her at http://www.MathGamesAndActivities.com

About Summer Brain Drain

skill sharpeners - pencils - sharp

Sharpening the mind is like sharpening a pencil. After you do it, it's easier to use. - Alan Jordan

Summer brain drain іѕ thе widely acknowledged loss οf academic skills whісh happens during the two to three months of summer vacation.  Studies cite anywhere frοm аbουt 2.5 months tο 3 months οf learning lost οr forgotten whеn skills аrе nοt being practiced.

Studies show that math skills deteriorate the most.  Children forget at least one month of math each summer, and that loss is cumulative.  Your child will forget about a year of math instruction over the 12 years of schooling.  Many οf thе computational skills whісh generally аrе nοt practiced over thе summer, аrе simply forgotten.

What can parents, who worry аbουt keeping their kids аt thе top οf thеіr game, do?  Involve your children in math that keeps their computational skills up and yet is engaging and fun!  If pleasure is not a part of what they are doing, neither you or the children will be willing to do it very much or for very long.

I’ve been teaching math to children for many years, and I’ve found that math games are, from a teacher’s and a parent’s point of view, wonderfully useful.  Math games put children in exactly the right frame of mind for learning.  Children are normally very eager to play games.  They relax when they play, and they concentrate.  They don’t mind repeating certain facts or procedures over and over.

Children throw themselves into playing games the way they never throw themselves into filling out workbook pages or dittos.  And games can help children learn almost everything they need to master in elementary math.  Good, child-centered games are designed to take the boredom and frustration out of the repetitive practice necessary for children to master important math skills and concepts.

Playing math games is even more beneficial than spending the same amount of time drilling basic facts using flash cards.  Not only are games a lot more fun, but the potential for learning and reasoning about mathematics is much greater, as well.  In a non-threatening game format, children will be more focused and retention will be greater.


When working with first graders, second graders, and sometimes even third graders, I have found that when asked, “How much is your number + 10 (e.g., 23 + 10)”, they struggle to know the answer and end up counting on their fingers. Counting on fingers is a good beginning strategy, but as children gain in number sense, fingers should no longer be necessary. The same is true if I ask, “How much is your number -10?”

A major learning goal for students in the primary grades is to develop an understanding of properties of, and relationships among, numbers. Building on students’ intuitive understandings of patterns and number relationships, teachers can further the development of this one aspect of number concepts and logical reasoning by using a math game - Tens and Ones.

Tens and Ones

What you need:
2 players

0-99 chart for each player (find one and download it from the internet or have your child make one using a 10×10 grid.

1 counter (button, paper clip, rock, etc.) for each player

1 regular die with instructions for rolling (following)

Roll 1 or 2 – +10
Roll 3 or 4 – +1
Roll a 5 – -1
Roll a 6 – -10

Each player places a counter on the zero on his/her own 1-99 chart. Players take turns rolling the die.

Player #1 rolls the die and moves his/her counter according to the roll on his/her 0-99 chart. Player #1 checks to make sure that player #2 agrees and then hands the die to player #2.

Player #2 follows the same steps as player #1 using his/her own 0-99 chart.
It may be visually helpful to have the child roll the die, leave the counter where it is and then count on using his finger. When he/she reaches +10, the player will then be able to see that he/she is exactly one row down from where he/she started. Then the counter can be moved to the new spot.

The winner is the first player to move his/her counter to 99. To win a player must land on 99 exactly. For example, if a player lands on 90 and rolls a +10 on the next turn, the player must pass, as there are only nine boxes from 90 to 99. Players may not move their counters past 99 and off the chart.


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That Crumbed Paper Was Due Last Week

Click to order That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week.

Ana Homayoun, author of That Crumpled Paper was Due Last Week suggests the following tips:

1. Schedule Study Hall Times – At the beginning of the week, have your children look at their schedules and schedule the times when they will work on their homework and related school work. In your home, set times that are distraction free for the whole family. Adults can work on their own work, and kids can work on their homework or getting organized.

2. Use a Kitchen Timer for Breaks - A 10-20 minute break can turn into hours if its not regulated. Kids need breaks, but keep them under control by using a kitchen timer and encourage kids to get up, walk around, go outside, shoot some hoops, get a snack etc. Then, when the timer goes off, they are back to work, with the goal of finishing their work faster to have more time to themselves at the end of the evening.

3. Create a School Supply Box – Has your child ever had a project where he or she seemed to spend 45 minutes to an hour simply gathering up all the supplies? Create a school supply box with a stapler, scissors, construction paper, file folders, extra dividers and binders, a three hole punch, reinforcements etc.

4. Avoid the Late Afternoon Sugar Crash – When kids come home from school, they have often not eaten since lunch – which is really early at many schools. They sometimes put every sugar-filled snack they can fit in their stomach when they get home, which leaves them experiencing a sugar crash come homework time – adding to crankiness. Instead, offer crunchy and healthy snacks like hummus and vegetables, tortilla and corn chips, almond butter and apples. Healthy, filling and delicious.

5. Be Proactive With Your Weekends – Like study hall on weekdays, have your kids schedule study hall/homework times on weekends – before Sunday evening so as to avoid the Sunday evening panic. Have them use the time to go through their backpack on a weekly basis, clean out any crumpled papers, make sure they have all their supplies, and work on any long-term projects.


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Categories Game Maker

Categories Game Maker - Get a 15-Day free trial and give it to your students.

Stephen Hughes, a science teacher in Pennsylvania suggests that science teachers download a 15-day trial version of his software and give it to their students to examine over the summer.  He does not expect the students to buy the software, but he says, “It’s one small thing that a student can do to prevent summer slide.”


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Recap on Summer Slide


Channel 5 video on one semi-controversial approach to Summer Slide

If you scan through the many responses that I received on this topic, you’re sure to find something that resonates with you.

Here’s a link to a  Channel 5, KSTP TV video about what the Stillwater School District wants to do.  What do you think?

Please let me know your thoughts, and I’m certain that the various participants will appreciate hearing your comments.

Here’s a link to look at all of the Summer Slide articles in one place.

Finally, here’s a video.  U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has advice to help students avoid the “summer slide” in academic skills that can happen during the vacation months. In a brief public service announcement prepared for the Web, he urges families to read together, visit parks and museums, and keep kids learning during the summer months.



P.S.  If you get a chance, visit  The Monster on Top of the Bed (a great resource for eliminating summer slide for ages 2-7 and Harmony123.com, a superb way to get ages 13+ involved in writing and reading.


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I’m not sure that I agree with your thoughts, but I certainly think it’s worthwhile to make this post. You’ve put a lot of effort into your Ning Network.  I know some teachers that would concur, and some that wouldn’t.  The same is probably true for doctors.  Let’s let our readers decide after they review your comments.

Hi, Alan

You know, I prefer to think that kids freed in the summer use a DIFFERENT part of their brains and perhaps even use that time to integrate and correlate all the information they had thrown at them during nine furious months at school.

It’s the whole creativity conundrum; we can’t define it, but we can certainly identify it. Opportunities to do something quite apart from the school-time left-brain focus can lift kids out of a rut and onto a broader plain where the details of schooling get spread out on a larger canvas.

If we were running our schools to take advantage of the WHOLE brain (a la Dan Pink’s _A Whole New Mind_) then kids would probably not experience the regressive effect to which you are alluding.

Here’s more about that connection, if you’re interested, in latest newsletter: Please refer specifically to article entitled “The Human Brain, Unplugged.” http://tiny.cc/SpinningWebsofMeaning

Of course, I’m all for reinventing our entire process of schooling and have now started a Ning network to that effect: www.ChangeTheSchools.ning.com. Thanks for taking a look!


Best wishes,
Patricia Kokinos
Ventura, CA

Comments by readers are invited.


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