Individualized Road Trip Travel Folders for Kids

Road Trip Travel Folders for Kids, https://literatelives.wordpress.com/This week my daughter, son-in-law, and grands left on a road trip. To help keep the kids entertained on the way I prepared a travel pack with items for the whole family and for each individual child. (I know; they have tablets with movies and video games, but even those can get old after a few hours)

Travel Folder Contents

For the family:

  • hidden picture books
  • decks of cards

For each child (in a sturdy report folder with brads and pockets):

  • a bag of stickers to decorate their folders, or in the case of the younger grands, themselves
  • 4 coloring pages each
  • 2 scavenger hunt / paper games each
  • 2 Mad Libs
  • a book
  • a pen
  • a mechanical pencil

A Little About Some of the Items

Stickers:  1) to be used to individualize each folder (and exercise their creativity),  2) as I said, the younger kids enjoy putting them on like Band Aids (and just manipulating them is good for developing fine motor skills),  3) all of the kids could use them to make collages on the blank sides of the papers in their folders (another exercise in creativity)

Coloring Pages:  I tailored each coloring page selection to each child’s skill levels and to the trip itself (coloring provides more fine motor skill practice, eye-hand coordination, and self soothing skills). For instance, they were traveling to my parents’ house, and my parents have hummingbird feeders outside their dining room window, so I found pictures of hummingbirds for the kids to color. Also, my mom plans to take them to see the musical Beauty and the Beast, so I found free, on-line, Beauty and the Beast coloring pages to print out for them. (Note, I did not pack crayons. The grands already have plenty of those, so I did not want to burden my daughter with still more.)

Scavenger Hunts:  For the older kids, I created a grid of boxes lettered A-Z. The objective? While riding, hunt out the window for objects that start with each letter and write the name of the object in the boxes (providing observation and spelling/guess-and-go practice). For our pre-kindergartner, the scavenger hunt was similar, except it was for items that fit the basic shapes and colors (thus sharpening her skills at identifying basic shapes and colors). Alas, no scavenger hunt for our little guy.

Paper Games: For the older kids, I printed out a sheet with “supercalafragilisticexpialadocious” written across the top and instructions to make as many words as possible using only the letter in the feature word. These can be made with any word or phrase, for instance, at first they were going to travel the coastal route through the redwood forest, and I planned on making the word “Redwood National Park.” (Note: this activity builds vocabulary, and spelling skills.) Our pre-kindergartner loves mazes so I found a free one on the internet for her (another good builder of eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills).

Mad Libs:  I photocopied six fill in the sheets out ofVacation Fun Mad Libs and put two in everyone but the toddler’s folder. (As a Language Arts teacher, I loved Mad Libs for building student knowledge of the basic parts of speech, and my students loved hearing the crazy results of their word lists.) I figured one of the older kids could whisper what type of word was needed in our pre-kindergartner’s ear, so she could still ask the family for each word, and likewise her helper could help her write down the response.

A Book: Again I made sure each book was the appropriate skill and interest level for the older kids (so they can work on maintaining and building their reading skills). For our pre-kindergartner, the book I picked was a folktale I had already read to her.. Therefore, she could look at the pictures and, as she turned the pages, tell herself the story (thus developing verbal and narrative skills). For our little guy, since he got cheated in terms of activity pages, I included 2 board books–one of which features cars and trucks, some of his favorite objects.

It took me way longer to prepare these things than I had anticipated, but it was a labor of love and worth the time. When done, I gave everything to my daughter to dole out along the way as necessary.

Your Turn

I really enjoyed preparing personalized entertainment folders for each of my grandkids. Furthermore, it occurred to me not everything I packed was just for kids. Next road trip with my husband, I will definitely bring along the Vacation Fun Mad Libs .

What do you pack for road trips? If you have children, or grandchildren, what do you include for skill building? What about entertainment? Please share using the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!

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Savoring Summer: Today It Felt Like Summer When…

Savoring Summer: Today it Felt Like Summer When...; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesSummer… It’s both a “kick back and relax” and “have a blast” season. We celebrate it by eating ice cream sundaes, vacationing to the max, and having fun, fun, fun, except–

Not everybody lives by an academic calendar. For families with no school-age children, those whose children attend year-round school, those not employed in the field of education, and those dealing with serious medical or life issues, summer may seem to bring little variety to their days beyond the natural changes of the season–longer hours of daylight and hotter temperatures.

Therefore, it’s easy to feel like you’re missing out. I know, because that is how I was beginning to feel this year.

Savoring Summer

In the midst of my own little pity party, a contrarian voice piped up in my mind:

  • What about the bar-b-que at your daughter’s house?
  • What about the individual birthday breakfasts and shopping trips with your grandkids?
  • What about going out garage sale-ing with your husband?

The Fix

One afternoon last week, my husband and I found ourselves sitting out at my daughter and grandkids’ pool. The temperature was perfect–warm, but perfect in the shade. A gentle breeze rustled the leaves overhead. The air echoed with the shrieks and laughter of children, and our grands were showing off just for us.

Now this, I thought, feels like summer.

And suddenly my whole conundrum about feeling cheated and left out of summer dissolved like morning fog from an ocean beach. I wasn’t missing summer; I wasn’t paying attention to summer.

Today It Felt Like Summer When…

That evening, I jotted in my journal:

Today it felt like summer when we sat with Genny and watched the girls swim at their swim club.

Then I wrote:

Yesterday it felt like summer when I woke up with the sun and opened the downstairs windows to let the cool morning air inside.

The next day, I wrote:

Today it felt like summer when, after my nap, I went out front wearing a short skirt and top, and flip-flops to talk to hubby who was watering our tomato plants.

In the following days, I wrote:

Today it felt like summer when we reserved our train tickets for our trip to visit Mom and Jim.

Today it felt like summer when I prepared travel activities for my grands who would soon depart on a California vacation.

Today it felt like summer when hubby and I walked in Waterfront Park after evening church.

Thus I discovered that I, too, am enjoying summer, only I had not been savoring it.

Your Turn

What about you? Are you struggling to get that “summer feeling” that we see in commercials, T.V. shows, and movies? Do everybody else’s summers seem more “summery” than yours? I challenge you to complete one sentence each day:

Today it felt like summer when…

I’ll do it, too. Here’s the one I wrote this morning:

Today it felt like summer when I finally painted my toenails a pretty shade of cotton candy pink.

Please share a sentence or two from your own summer “savorings” in the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!

Map Journal: Travel Journal Fun

My husband and I have been dreaming of going on a road trip for a long time, and so, I’ve been eagerly pinning information about keeping travel journals on my “Journaling and More” board on Pinterest

Map Journal: Travel Journal Fun; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/One pin in particular, a map journal, looked like so much fun that I decided to make one for a trip taken a few years back just for the sheer pleasure of making something.

Why Keep a Travel Journal?

Keeping a travel journal is a great way to capture memories of your travel experience while they’re still fresh. It also provides a great means to look back and remember your journey.

For children, in addition to the reasons mentioned above, a travel journal provides a fun way to exercise literacy skills during the season of the infamous “summer slide.”

What Materials do You or Your Kids Need to Make a Map Journal?

  • a map–I downloaded mine on the computer, but if I were really on a trip, I know I’d want a big map that shows the complete trip from departure, to destination, to return home.
  • marking pens, a variety of colors
  • stickers
  • scissors–to cut pictures out of travel brochures for use on the map
  • glue stick, tape, paperclips, bradsm (whatever will make things stick)–to attach pictures to the map

Now What?

As you travel, after each stop along the way, take a few moments to record the experience on your map. What you note could be as pedestrian as gas prices and restaurant reviews, as lyrical as descriptions of what you experienced and saw, as imaginative as posing some “what-if” questions or dreaming of a return in the future.

My Map

My map is a memory of a trip, from the perspective of a child, that I took with my mom and her best friend to a beach town we had been visiting since me, my siblings, and her children were kids. We met up with family and friends there, then mom and I spent a few days at my aunt’s house in Carmel. The trip is a special memory because only a few years later we lost our beloved friend to cancer.

Map Journal: Travel Journal Fun: https://literatelives.wordpress.com/Your Turn:

Do you have a trip coming up? Will you or your children make a map journal of your journey? If you do, please use the box below to post a picture of your creation/s.

Have you ever kept this, or any other type of travel journal? Do you have any tips for us newbies? Please share. Let’s encourage one another.

Summer Literacy and Fun: Some Blasts from the Past

Summer Literacy and Fun: Some Blasts from the Past; https://literatelives.wordpress.comIt is nearly mid July. Are you firmly launched into a joyously literate summer?

I have enjoyed taking my grandkids out one at a time and engaging in wildly interesting conversations. We’ve also crafted together (supporting fine motor skills needed for writing, keyboarding), played cards (supporting mathematical literacy), and of courser read together. Yea Yea’s little library is a hit with our little ones.

Are you looking for ways to nurture both literacy and family fun? Here are three posts from previous seasons that are worth a second look.

Books and Hobbies; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesBooks and Hobbies

While originally a January post, Books and Hobbies  is well worth a second look in the summertime. Hobbies bring joy, pleasure, and a sense of accomplishment to life, and help to build students’ basic skills. Summer, with its long days, vacations, and more open schedules, is a perfect time to enjoy them.

 Dining Out–Family Literacy Exercise and Fun; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/dining-out-family-literacy-exercise-and-fun/Dining Out–Family Literary Exercise and Fun

This post was inspired by a Fourth of July meal at a favorite family restaurant, however the practice it presents is one that can be useful and enjoyable in any dining-out setting, and is another great way of preserving family memories.

Summer Reading: Let's Make a List; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesSummer Reading: Let’s Make a List!

This post reflects on the stunning loss of reading skill students experience every summer and proposes a list of places in which to fit reading into your student’s summer life. After you read, please insert your own ideas for great places to read with your kids.

Your Turn

What are some ways you have nurtured literacy in your family’s life? Please use the comment box below to share. Let’s encourage one another!

The Best Book of Spring 2018

The Best Book of Spring; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/The summer solstice has passed, and so I thought it’s about time I posted my best read of Spring. For a long time I debated between several books, then I finally chose one, then in early June I picked one up that knocked all the others out of first place. Therefore, since I didn’t recommend a new book each month, I’ll recommend the first “first place” book, then the one that undeniably was the best read of Spring.

Almost Best: The Illuminator

This is a work of historical fiction by Brenda Rickman Vantrease. I found both the setting and the characters fascinating. The novel takes place in fourteenth century England, where Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible into plain English is outlawed, Dame Julian of Norwich has retreated to a hermit’s cell, and people of the Jewish faith are shunned and persecuted. The main characters live near Norwich, and Dame Julian actually plays a supporting role in the story!

However, the novel belongs to Lady Kathryn, a struggling widow who takes in a manuscript illuminator and his daughter as lodgers in her home. As their families mix, religious controversy mounts, and a peasant’s revolt brews, both she and her newfound companion struggle to fulfill their responsibilities to their children, their church, and society while trying to grab hold of just a little bit of happiness for themselves.

It is a gripping tale.

The Best Book of Spring; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/Best Book of Spring 2018: Six of Crows

This is the first book in a fantasy duology set in Leigh Bardugo’s “Grisha World.” (I  read and raved about her first Grisha trilogy in What I’m Reading Now: Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow & Bone.)

Six of Crows  takes place after the events of the Grisha Trilogy and is set outside of Ravka, the nation previously featured. Because of this, I was not sure I even wanted to read it; I had loved the original trilogy so much. However, as soon as I dipped a toe in the water, Bardugo captured me as swiftly and completely as she did with her first series.

To say Six of Crows  is a “heist” story would be like saying “Lord of the Rings” is a quest story. The world, the individual settings, the characters, and the stakes make it so much richer and deeper than something to which you can simply assign a label .

It is the tale of six damaged, gang affiliated, ragamuffins from the “dregs” of “Ketterdam” society who set out to save the world and win a fortune. Each has his or her own reason for wanting the money, reasons firmly rooted in their hurts and in their pasts. Each is terribly lonely; yet yearning for community, they are terrified to commit. However, in order to win their fortune, even to survive, these six very different individuals must trust each other unwaveringly with their very lives.

I hated every moment I had to put it down!

Your Turn

What was your best read of spring. You don’t have to limit yourself to just one book; I certainly did not. Use the comment space below to provide author name and title, and please, tease us with just a little bit of what the book is about. Let’s encourage one another!

The Surprising Benefits of Writing by Hand

the surprising benefits of writing by hand, literatelives.wordpress.comLast week, as I worked endlessly on my school computer sorting files, typing out procedures, and making preparations for leaving my job (a job my boss, colleagues, and I had pretty much invented as we went along because it was an entirely new position for our building), I yearned to curl up in a cozy chair and journal by hand (instead of on the computer as I usually do).

So this week, when I had a chance to catch up on reading some articles I’d been saving for a long time to enjoy, one in particular, The New York Times’  What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades,” from June of 2014 caught my eye.

What I read impacted me powerfully, not only as a writer, but also as a grandparent and nurturer of literacy.

Some of the Findings of a Variety of Studies:

  • Writing by hand activates more regions of the brain than keyboarding.
  • Young children who learn to write at the same time they learn to read, learn to read more quickly.
  • People generating ideas in print or cursive, generate more ideas than those using a keyboard.
  • Students who take notes by hand, rather than by keyboard, are better able to understand and remember the information from lecturers and other auditory sources.

The Implications for Me

  • I have always written out the rough drafts of stories, poems, and novels  longhand and will definitely continue to do so.
  • I also print out the work I want to revise and revise in pencil on paper. I will continue to do so.
  • I will start to vary my journaling practice between computer and paper, depending on my mood and the nature of the thinking in which I want to engage. I can always scan in what was written by hand if I want to keep everything together.

The Implications for My Grandparenting Style

I had been thinking a lot about ways to have fun with my grandkids this summer. We live just fifteen minutes away, so activities like picnics and craft projects have always been high on our list. However, just because we live nearby does not mean we cannot write to each other. This summer I will write to one grandchild each week and enclose a card and self-addressed stamped envelope to encourage them to write back. (Why not write to all of them once a week? I do not want this practice to become overwhelming or a burden for them, or by familiarity, to lessen the delight in getting a hand written letter now and then.)

The Implications for This Blog

As the creator of Literate Lives , I will encourage you, my readers to sometimes put pen or pencil to paper, and to ask your children or students (come fall) to, now and then, do the same.

Your Turn

What do you think about this information on writing by hand? How do you want to incorporate this practice in your, your kids’, or your students’ lives? Please use the comment box below to share. Let’s encourage one another!

 

The Best Ereads of Spring: Reflections on Parenting, Reading, Writing, and the Mind

The Best Ereads of Spring: literatelives.wordpress.comI had the opportunity to do a lot of reading this spring and so accumulated a lot of candidates in by “best ereads of the season file.” Finally I narrowed them down to these six reflecting on parenting, reading, writing, and the mind.

Hello, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Graduation

In Parents: Let Go of Graduation Nostalgia, by Jennifer Grant, the author chronicles her resistance to the nostalgia and even grief that can accompany a child’s graduation. With the premise that yes, our years of parenting were magical and significant, it is wise to savor where we are, perhaps even with younger siblings, and the opportunities that will open up for us and our graduates as they move into their adult lives.

Reading and Family Life

These next two articles celebrate the fun and health benefits of a reading life.

In How to Make Reading Fun: 25 Ideas Kids Will Love, by Jean Reagan. Reagan includes innovative ideas like having your child read a wordless book to you, reading a book which might include words or names you find difficult to pronounce, and much, much more.

For those of us with an overactive sense of guilt about the time we put in reading, Andre Calilhanna‘s Can Reading Books Lead to Better Health?  is a refreshing antidote. With headers that include, “Increases Longevity by 23%” and “Reduces Stress,” lovers of reading can throw guilt out the window and indulge in their favorite pastime with a clear conscience.

For Fiction Writers

First of all, for fiction writers, here is an excellent article by Dash Buck, Three Writing Exercises for Better Characters, which I would have titled “Three Awesome Writing Exercises for Better Characters.” It made me want to try them right away. (And isn’t the illustration, Butterfly Book by Rick Beerhorst beautiful!)

For writers working on planning and story structure, The Triangle of Structure for Writers, by Sarah Sally Hamer, is informative and provides a handy 3-sentence fill-in-the-blank exercise for crafting an effective inciting incident.

A Quiet Mind

One of the issues I struggle with is quieting my mind. Unless I am reading, writing, or–okay, I admit it, staring at the television, it ceaselessly ruminates, reflects, remembers, worries, plans, and imagines, which in reasonable quantities is, perhaps, a useful trait for a writer to have. Running out of ideas is definitely not an issue. However, resting and simply enjoying the moment is. Therefore, I connected immediately with and was inspired by Mindfulness and Memory, by Pamela Moore. Even the image chosen to accompany the article is deeply soothing, and the active form of mindfulness she describes is something that feels so much more doable with a busy mind like mine.

Your Turn

Have you found any great articles on the web? If so, please use the comment box to share them with us (include author and title or web address, please). Tell a little about why you liked it. Let’s encourage one another.

Wonderful Words: The Well-Lived Life

Wonderful Words: Living Well, Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesI love words, love our wonderful language, and love when people employ them both well. This spring included many trials. Here are a few of the quotes I collected that inspired me to not only live this season, but to live it well.

A laugh a day puts wrinkles in the right places.
~Liz Curtis Higgs, a chapter title from Only Angels Can Wing It

 I am ever grateful to Liz Curtis Higgs. Both her fiction and nonfiction never cease to inspire me.

 There are things in life you’re not in charge of, but you are in charge of you. When you accept that, your brain changes. And every time your brain changes, you grow.
~ Michael Fitzgerald, high school teacher, Edutopia

My favorite part of my master’s level, Education Psychology class was being introduced to brain-based practices for learning. Information about how our marvelous brains, thanks to neuroplasticity, continue to learn and change throughout our lives both inspires me as a teacher and gives me hope as a human being.

The long-lasting fulfillment we desire comes from living a life of purpose, meaning, compassion, and altruism. It comes from being there for others, helping where we can, loving one another despite our differences, and making others smile. Yes, follow your ambitions, dreams, and professional goals…. They can bring great satisfaction and even meaning. But remember what also leads to your deepest happiness…. A life well lived is a life in which you have shared an abundance of love, and…the greatest aspiration to have is to be a wonderful person for someone else.
~Emma Seppala, Ph.d, Psychology Today

In a season of contemplating my own mortality, this really spoke to my heart. I love, reading, writing, crafting, drawing…, but even more, I love investing in the lives of the people God gave me to love. It is with great joy that I recover my strength and with delight that I contemplate new ways of living and loving well.

Your Turn

Do any of the quotes prompt thinking on your part? Or is there a quote about life and living that you savor? Please, share using the comment box. Let’s encourage one another!

Characterization Reading Response Exercise

Characterization Reading Response Exercise; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesReading fiction and reflecting on, writing about, and discussing what has been read is a great way to build reading comprehension and other reading skills, as well as deepen understanding of the various elements of fiction.

For the writer, it is a way to learn the craft by examining and analyzing the practices of others.

Read

Read a novel or short story for fifteen to twenty minutes.

Reflect

Think about what you have read.

Write

  • Make a list of things you like about a character in the story.
  • Pick one trait from the list and explain why you like it.
  • Explain how this trait contributed to your liking of the character.

Share

Share your response with your reading partner, partners, or as a comment here.  If you share here, please remember to include the title of the book and its author. Your “response” could prove intriguing enough that someone else might like to read that book as well.

Building Pre-readers’ Literacy Skills

Read a picture book that contains a storyline together.

Ask

Ask your pre-reader which character they liked best. Once your pre-reader has identified a character, ask what he or she liked best about that character.

Discuss

Enjoy a lively “book talk” with your pre-reader!

Your Turn

How did it go? Please share any of your actual responses, observations, or comments. Let’s encourage one another!

Kristen Lamb and How to “Diagnose” a Writer

Kristen Lamb & How to “Diagnose” a Writer: https://literatelives.wordpress.com/I love Kristen Lamb’s Blog. She is one of my favorite bloggers. A post from last month (Diagnosing a REAL Writer: Do You Have Terminal Inexactitude Syndrome?) had me laughing out loud. Please, go and read it. I can wait.

Is Writing a REAL Job or a Mental Condition?

As she muses whether or not writing is a real job (spoiler alert, it is) Lamb considers that perhaps writing “may be a mental condition” which she labels “Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome” and describes as “a compulsive need to tell stories.” Then she lists the symptoms.

Do I Have Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome? Do you?

T.I.S.” in Youth

Of the 6 symptoms Lamb listed for children and young adults, 4 definitely would characterize my childhood, and even my life after:

  • “Preferred reading books, writing stories or drawing dragons 74% more than sports”—although I would have to change that percentage to 100.
  • “Had a 300% greater likelihood of being found in school library when compared to non T.I.S. peers”—This was particularly true during high school. It was so much easier than attempting to socialize! (As an adult I have, more than once, served as a library volunteer, and am now the “librarian” on my one room school site.)
  • “Displayed a 92.4% chance of ‘royally sucking’ at Dodgeball (data is inconclusive about skill level or simple desire to be ‘OUT’ so as to return to reading Goosebumps)”—Again, for me, the percentage would need to be raised to 100. Also, since I never willingly played Dodgeball (the only occasions when I did were for P.E.) there was, alas, absolutely zero chance of getting back to a book when ‘OUT’.
  • “Demonstrated early addictive behaviors with office supplies. Parents who suspect their child might have T.I.S. should look for noticeable pupil dilation when shopping for school supplies”—My favorite toy as a child was my size 64 box of Crayola Crayons. To this day, I love browsing stationery stores, the school supplies sections of stores, and the paper and art material sections of crafts stores. I love paper, notebooks, journals, index cards, glitter gel pens, mechanical pencils, and Prismacolor colored pencils.

Am I a Writer?

According to Lamb, “a primary symptom of T.I.S. is that writers angst over what makes them ‘real.’” Yup, I have been guilty of that and so have many of my writing friends.

Of Lamb’s 8 diagnostic questions, I confess to having committed 6:

  • “Display visible signs of distress, pain, and at times, explosive violence when shown sentences such as… Their are no more donuts in the brake room’”—Yes, I confess these kinds of errors can make me crazy—but only when committed by people I do not know and love. I am grateful for any communication from any of my friends and loved ones and would never, ever mentally edit their writing.
  •  “Exhibit significant cognitive-tactile impairment when texting (refusal to employ ‘ur’, ‘IDK, ‘BRB’ or even the seemingly innocuous ‘lol’)”–Yep. See the next trait.
  • “Insist on using full sentences and proper punctuation”—Yeah, guilty. However, I have begun to have fun with emoticons. I particularly enjoy hearts, kittens, flowers, and suns.
  • “Can become agitated with certain trigger words such as bae, turnt or fleek”—My biggie is the news media’s abuse of the word “troop” when they use it to refer to a single individual.
  •  “See nothing wrong with discussing rates of body decomposition, history of guillotines, The Black Death, or bot flies at social functions involving food”—my most recent exploration for the novel I am working on was figuring out when rigor mortis sets in, and when it goes away, however I have not had opportunity to discuss it at a social function.
  • “Are known to choose mates based off vocabulary, intellect, appreciation for Monty Python, and ability to operate, repair, and set up laser printers (leading to an abnormally high ratio of writers choosing engineer ‘types’ as partners)”—Now this one is only partially true. My guy, while being a math teacher and our home “technical expert,” also likes music and books similar to what I like, is one of the kindest, most thoughtful, and trustworthy people I know, and is simply an awesome life partner; I would have been a fool to let him get away!

 My Conclusion

I definitely have T.I.S. (Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome). Not only do I have it, I embrace it. I love to write; it helps me make sense of the world. And I love to write fiction because it’s just, plain fun.

Your Turn

Do you struggle with T.I.S? Well, there’s no better way to deal with it than to write. So, tell me, what are your symptoms? What are your joys? Please use the comment box, below, to share your thoughts. I am so eager to hear from you. Let’s encourage one another!