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Regardless of your style of teaching, you often need just the right worksheet or activity. Often, your brain just can be taxed anymore. That is when you need a really good place to go for fresh ideas, or ready-made worksheet to save you some time. The site, http://www.abcteach.com, may be just what you need.

 

For $40.00 a year or $70.00 for two years, you can have access to over 35,000 printable worksheets on various subjects and grade levels. You have access to clip art for any type of classroom project or decoration. You also can find activities and templates for projects like book report forms, research note card forms, etc. You won’t find any annoying advertising either. There is also customer service available to answer your questions and give tips. Whether you need a learning center, or research project, or just a practice worksheet, you can find it on this site, and it is growing every day with more and more resources being added.

 

As part of the TOS Crew, I received free access to the site for about a month. For myself, I was unable to access most of the site, since I am almost totally DeafBlind. I was disappointed because I was looking forward to browsing the site. I had to get sighted help to get any help at all from the site. Accessibility is great for sighted users, but those who need screen readers will be unable to make sense of the page for the most part. I know the main page has 104 links that are recognizable to the screen reader, but I can’t seem to get to them or know what they are. It reads “Your online resource for children’s Education and thousands of free printable worksheets and activities plus over 35,000 pages of worksheets… Then it skips to a series of links in the highlighted Directories under “Sandy’s Picks.” Many of the links are icon links made of graphics, and there is a table with a graphic that contains the links. A screen reader just can’t access that at all. I hope the owners will work on the accessibility of their site. I have many parents of hearing/sighted children who are blind and deafblind themselves. They like to work with their children just like other parents do. These parents need resources, too. If you can access the resources with sighted help, you will find the .pdf format files are open to the accessibility options allowed by Adobe. Of course, that is only suitable for hearing blind because Adobe forces you to use their text to speech program. This program doesn’t allow access to a screen reader that allows braille access. Therefore, I can’t recommend this site for my blind and deafblind parents. Sighted parents will find it quite user-friendly, though.

 

If you need worksheets or activity ideas, this site will certainly give you a lot of help. Check out the ABCTeach site at http://www.abcteach.com for more information.

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I recently was sent a box of delightful, little animal figures. Schleich, a German company, makes figures of many different kinds. They are great for toys or teaching materials to enhance a child’s mind about just about any subject from medieval castles to farm life to Indians on the Western Frontier to the boundaries of your imaginary world of unicorns and Smurfs.
These figures are a very realistic and durable. I love the textures and fine details of the artwork that was put into each animal. The animals are all natural colors as found in true life. Ripples of muscles, strands of mane, and scales of armor are all intricately molded into the hard, but rubbery material. These figures are not the cheap plastic that you see so often in toys. The designers even took the time and effort to disguise the seam made when the two halves of the models were put together. Details are so intricate that you can easily see them in motion like the croc snapping his jaws down on his prey or the elephant swishing those huge, smooth ears to throw off the biting flies. The colors are so vibrant that the cat’s green and yellow eyes almost seem to glow that eerie glow when the light hits them. The catalog or web site you can find pictures of the over 500 products they sale. The medieval and fantasy figures are among my favorites. The elves are painted so beautifully that they seem more like an artist’s rendering from a magazine that a toy figure. I only found it strange that they all had wings. I know of no fantasy game, magazine, or book that has winged elves. They were beautiful, but I wish they had a few without wings. In addition to the figures, there are also background elements for more interactive play for many of the sets. The company also states that more will be coming out soon in their effort to make their products have even more educational value.
I commend the company for taking the extra effort to create such fine products. No matter if your children are sighted or blind they will enjoy seeing, touching, and creating their own worlds with these figures. You can see more of their beautifully crafted products at http://www.schleich-s.com. The products are also sold at stores like Toys-R-Us and Target with prices ranging from about $2.50-$5.99.

There are two important things that I want students to learn when I teach them. First, I want them to learn to love reading and learning. Second, I want them to learn how to learn, so they will continue it for their entire lives. From those two things, everything else from the alphabet and numbers to concepts of gravity and democracy will fall into place. Curriculums should be written from that stand point. The Five in a Row curriculum series by Jane Claire Lambert does that.
Using good books to weave a plan of learning and fun is the design of the Five in a Row series. The books are carefully chosen to present, as the Lamberts explain, “close family relationships, personal triumphs, and persevering in times of trial”. Activities and discussions are laid out to present how to read and critique books which blends into learning about many subjects through the adventures of the characters.
The method is the most important factor of this curriculum. It is imperative that a parent read each book to the students each day of the week. I love this time of closeness. The students do, too. The modeling I do while reading is important for the children. They get to hear how to glean meaning from the words by the inflection in my voice and the pauses for commas and the stops for periods. They hear my enthusiasm in my voice. They feel the love for the words and the life within those words. Also, hearing the story each day and then doing activities and discussing different aspects of the story or how it relates to another subject like math or science reviews those aspects as many as four times.
The layout is simplified to allow even beginning homeschoolers the ability to succeed in the unit study format of Five in a Row. There are five main subjects used in the units to allow activities to be used in a five-day format. Teachers can choose from many different activities in each subject or even do them all and choose when during the week to do the lessons. Sample lesson plans are provided to help the teacher organize, but it isn’t necessary. Many teachers just check off in the book the activities they wish to do with their students. All of the books used in the series can be found free at the public library making this an easily affordable curriculum to use at any age level. I need braille to read to my students, but I have plenty of time to get the National Library to send me via download the braille text for each book. I often purchase the book and print the braille on overlay plastic to glue with clear glue to the page. I can read the story in braille as my students read the print and look at pictures. This keeps me actively involved with my students’ learning.
There are many levels to the Five in a Row curriculum covering ages 4-8. Each level can still be used for a family of multiple students in that age level easily. The authors even suggest hints for using activities with younger and/or older children. The appendix has the copy sheets for the activities in the book as well as that sample lesson plan. Story disks which are round circles with story pictures on them which can be cut out, colored, and laminated are used in many activities such as geography where they place the story disk on areas of the map such as the water areas found around the island of Nantucket where a story you read takes place. That is a wonderful way to remember about lakes and oceans and other geographical features. You can purchase a set of these on their website if you prefer things pre-done, too.
A teacher will find the series quite complete for ages 4-5 or 6. When you feel your students are ready to introduce phonics or formal math lessons, the authors help you integrate the subjects easily into your day while still seeing the benefits of the unit study series.
The authors have other series for ages 2 thru high school. I have personally used most of them and found them to be very fulfilling and intriguing. There are also additional unit studies for all levels that can be purchased inexpensively on their web site. Check them out at http://www.fiveinarow.com. Unit studies are a great way to teach a lifelong love for learning. Five in a Row and all the other age levels from this author are an easy and wonderful way to accomplish this important goal.

Have you ever felt like your student needed a new thinking cap? I know I have with mine. Things that seem so simple to me, and I thought should have been even to them, just wasn’t getting through. Did they outgrow their caps? Well, I wish it were that simple. The Critical Thinking Co. might have some help, though. They have work texts designed to get your student thinking in the right directions.
The series called Building Thinking Skills has levels beginning, primary, levels 1 and 2, and level 3 in two books of figural and verbal taking the student from beginning levels to analogies in a spiral methodology. The texts build from level to level on shapes to food to animals to occupations to vehicles to buildings to analogies. Beginning and primary is completely based on figural analysis with level one beginning with figural and building to verbal analysis and response writing. The initial two levels use rich colors and color photography to show objects for the exercises. Levels 1 and above use crisp gray scale drawings, charts, and line art. Students find these tools easy to transition through as their thinking skills strengthen. Each level uses numerous types of exercises to focus on each skill and category. Even analogies are introduced and built upon in easy formats for each level making it simple for students to understand what an analogy is and how to complete them properly.
As supplements to your curriculums or as a stand-alone unit set during your day, this series should guide your students well in building their critical thinking skills. I guess we found a way to stretch those thinking caps after all.
Check them out at www.criticalthinking.com where you will find numerous other fine resources to round out your curriculum.

Great fun is to be had while learning about the greatest story ever told. The One 2 Believe Nativity figurine set is a beautiful tool for young children and even adults  to play and learn about the Christmas story. The play set is boldly colored and made of durable, but slightly flexible plastic. Preparing to present it to my seven year old DeafBlind student, I took each piece with my own hands and felt each piece carefully. Without working eyes and ears, I was an ideal testor for this activity. I only see some colors, so the variously colored pieces grabbed my attention. I ran my fingers across each piece feeling any tactile information that I could. I readily could tell the purpose of each figurine with the various outlines of a shepherd’s crook, treasure box, crown, headband, ram’s horn, and even Joseph’s beard to distinguish him from Mary. Aftewards, I did my best to act as a young DeafBlind child just learning how to access the world and banged the pieces on the table, yanked the star hard, and dropped the pieces onto the hardwood floor. Nothing broke, chipped, or bent. Some others of The Old SchoolHouse Crew have reviewed that they had pieces break, but those might have had defective plastic from manufacturing such as an air bubble inside a piece making it easy to fracture. Fortunately, I found the set to be quite durable.

Upon presenting it to my precious student who I love almost as much as my own, I signed in ASL with his hands laying on top of mine the pupose of each piece. He shuddered with excitement as I signed and placed gently in his hands the baby Jesus. He signed, ” Jesus, baby” gleeming with delight. As I was touching his hands to “read” his words, he raised  to his mouth the  hand with Jesus cradled in it and kissed it gently. Together, we signed the story of Baby Jesus and placed the pieces in the stable and around it as we went.  We signed the colors of each piece and practiced the signs for angel and mama and Daddy and learned the new signs for shepherd and king. This sweet child was enthralled in making the scene come alive.

As you can see, the nativity was a success. Several of my other students who are older also found the set enticing. I left it on the table as they entered. They all went straight to it and began to look and play with the pieces. I used it as an opportuntiy to teach signs to my non-signing students and learn if they believed in Jesus in a non-threatening way. My school is Christian and most of my homeschoolers profess to be Christian, but not all of my on-site students do. The nativitiy became a great witnessing tool as well as a learning tool. The One 2 Believe Nativity is a great way to put Christ first this Christmas in a world that is becoming so commercialized and secular.

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