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Phonics for Reading AND Writing

Let’s talk phonics for reading AND writing?

Yes. That’s what I said.

In the August issue of National Review’s Special Issue on Education, there is an interesting article about the science of reading. In “Casualties of The Reading Wars” by Dale Chu, asserts a profound truth in the midst of the phonics vs. whole language argument: learning to read is work.

Being the mother of 4 children (now thriving adults), I possess all sorts of memorabilia. A personal favorite is a scrappy little book where I collected words and phrases my little ones used as they were in the midst of learning to speak. The invented word yesternight is a personal favorite, “Mommy, remember the story we read yesternight?”

Children learn to speak because they are surrounded by spoken language. Children are able to create meaning from all sorts of spoken fodder, as is the case here. Using the yester of yesterday and replacing day with night to create a sophisticated descriptor with apt specificity, came to my 3 year old with no lesson at all! Genius!

But contrary to the proponents of whole language, “easy” is not how children learn to read. This article points this out articulately: “To crack the code of how the spoken word connects to the word on the printed page, children need explicit, systematic phonics instruction.”

I will go one step further. This code cracking that demands explicit, systematic phonics instruction applies to BOTH learning to read AND learning to write.

Every word we speak is made up of bits sound sound bites called phonemes. There are only 44 phonemes that enable us to read and write every single word you can imagine! When words are in print, these 44 sound bites are called graphemes. Systematically introducing children to these phonemes and giving them ample practice reading and writing graphemes is the road to literacy. What saddened me about this article is the fact that learning to write was not mentioned once! I read articles about literacy often—I’m kind of nerdy that way! Rarely do these articles address the interconnectedness of phonics instruction for reading and writing.

When a child reads, text is being decoded—basically translated into sounds that carry meaning. When a child writes, sounds that carry meaning, again the very same graphemes, are being encoded to the page. Reading enables the child to gather knowledge. Writing enables the child to craft and share ideas.

This said, I agree, we need to provide explicit, systematic phonics. But there is nuance involved in explicit, systematic phonics instruction. The 44 phonemes that are the building blocks of the English language need to be introduced in a wonderfully playful way. Think of it like this, every word you can imagine is made of some combination of one or two or three of the 44 pieces! Think “rooster” and “lemon” and “shelter” and “croon” and on and on and on. This should be awe inspiring. Should land you in the realm of wonder! When you are teaching your students to read and to write, the goal is to guide them on a journey to this realm, NOT the realm of rote, where memorization masks wonder!

Here are some Tips and Tricks to pack in your knapsack:

1.  Tap into the cognitive ability of your students and give them tools (metacognitive skills) to have at the ready, not material to memorize. For example: bl makes a sound that is part of the word blue, blackberry, blunder (write these for your students to read). Can we think of others together? Let’s write a list. Have students copy the list. As you introduce phonemes, provide opportunity for students to read AND write. If your student is in kindergarten or 1st grade and using our Hatchling curriculum, this approach is built in! If your child is older, and needs remediation with phonics for writing, check back this spring because we have something new in store!

2. Use a pencil. Always use a pencil. Through the 12th grade use a pencil! This technology is the best tool to establish literacy.

3. Establish the tradition of “work is GOOD”! Over the years I’ve had the privilege to encourage parents and teachers alike who have students weary and discouraged with the work of reading and writing. What I say to them is this: Pack an imaginary knapsack with all the books you enjoyed as a child, and use these stories to remind you that language is full of wonder, is wonderful! Pack the knapsack with hope, and happy, and hurrah! Pack it with a reminder to self that reading and writing is not an easy task, but is is a GOOD pursuit. Pack it with this phrase: Yes! Yes YOU can!

 

~Kimberly

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Back-to-School with Pages!

Our live online sessions meet once a week for five weeks to dive deep into great stories. Each week our exceptional instructors will lead discussion of the reading and offer insight to inspire students to think deeply about the story’s action. Conversing and thinking about books is a terrific spark for original ideas, and original ideas motivate students to write! After the video gathering, your student will submit weekly writing and receive individualized written feedback from the teacher.

Space is limited to 10 students per group. Price includes curriculum.

Enrollment is OPEN click through here!

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Pages Sessions for K & 1st Grade

We are excited to offer two sessions each for students using Hatching to kickstart the school year. Our teachers will help your students get started on the rhythm + routine of learning with Hatchling Volume 1 or Hatchling Volume 2. These 1-hour sessions will be filled with fun activities using the multi-sensory approach to primary learning. Our teachers will walk students and their parents (who are encouraged to join) through activities that can be incorporated each week to solidify happy ELA learning. Cost is $30 (curriculum is not included).

Kindergarten Dates

1st Grade Dates

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Let’s Zoom our Hatchlings into School!

If you a parent or a teacher using Hatchling Volume 1 (Kindergarten) or Hatchling Volume 2 (1st Grade), have we got a Zoom for YOU!

Join us for an informational session where we will be sharing strategies, inspiration, and downloadable FREEBIES! There will be time for you to ask questions of our Pages teachers and time to cheer each other on. May this informational (FREE!) session help you feel empowered to step into 2022/23 with pep in your step.

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Ready! Set! Pages!

It’s never too early to think Back-to-School.

We are excited to release our Pages 2022/2023 schedule  very soon.

With a bit of help from our wonderful online teachers, kick off the school year with a spark of inspiration!

Here is how Pages classes work:

  1. We will offer 4 5-week sessions this coming year across all five of the following levels—Earlybird, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, and Level 4. There are two ways to purchase. If you already have curriculum, you can pay for the class only. If you do not have the curriculum, purchase the class and the curriculum in one click.
  2. Online class links will be sent via your Pages teacher once you are enrolled and set with curriculum. Classes meet on Thursdays or Fridays for an hour per week.
  3. Pages teachers will offer inspiring information each week that will help students dive deeper into the sory at hand. Teachers will offer individual feedback and strategies to improve writing. Our online classes include a robust weekly discussion.
  4. During the Kickstarter Friday Sessions in August, we will offer one 4-week class to help Storymakers get the writing started. We will offer another 4-week class to inspire students utilizing students utilizing Tools of Style (books 1-4) and Operation Lexicon (books 4-12)
  5. And stay tuned for special poetry to be announced this winter.

Let’s take flight together! Please let us know below which session you’re interested in registering for here.

All meeting times are PST. Following is a sneak peak (links to be posted on our website soon):

Session 1

Thursdays – 9/15, 22, 29, 10/6, 13
Fridays – 9/16, 23, 30, 10/7, 10/14

Thursday:

9 – 10:15

A. Earlybird – Fall Stories

B. Level 2 – Twenty and Ten

10:30 – 11:45

Level 1 – The Year of Miss Agnes

1 – 2:15

Hatchling for Parents (9/15)

“Welcome to Kinder & 1st Grade

Hatchling V1 (9/22, 10/6)

Hatchling V2 (9/29, 10/13)

Friday:

9 – 10:15

Level 3 – The Westing Game

10:30 – 11:45

Level 4 – Skellig

Session 2

Thursdays – 1/5, 12, 19, 26, 2/2
Fridays – 1/6, 13, 20, 27, 2/3

Thursday:

9 – 10:15

Earlybird – Leo Lionni

Level 2 – Inside Out and Back Again

10:30 – 11:45

Level 1 – Rickshaw Girl

Friday:

9 – 10:15

Level 3 – Out of the Dust

10:30 – 11:45

Level 4 – Boys in the Boat

Session 3

Thursdays – 2/23, 3/2, 9, 16, 23
Fridays – 2/24, 3/3, 3/10, 17, 24

Thursday:

9 – 10:15

Earlybird – Paul Galdonne

Level 2 – Rascal

10:30 – 11:45

Level 1 – The Poet’s Dog

Friday:

9 – 10:15

Level 3 – A Wrinkle in Time

10:30 – 11:45

Level 4 – Howl’s Moving Castle

Session 4

Thursdays – 4/27, 5/4, 11, 18, 25
Fridays – 4/28, 5/5, 12, 19, 26

Thursday:

9 – 10:15

Earlybird – Paul Galdonne

Level 2 – Pablo and Birdy

10:30 – 11:45

Level 1 – The Iron Giant

Friday:

9 – 10:15

Level 3 – The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

10:30 – 11:45

Level 4

The Book Thief

Kickstarter Friday Sessions

8/5, 12, 19, 26

10 – 11

Storymaker

11:15 – 12:30

Operation Lexicon & One True Sentence Introduction

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A Different Kind of Schedule

Summer is here!

Enjoy the view!

This can mean different things for different families. Some families may be part of the regular brick and mortar school. This means no longer having to wake up early and rush out of the house. Other families who homeschool, summer days may look similar with a few more beach activities or road trips added into the mix. For some summer may mean just more open-ended time with warmer weather!

What we have noticed in my family is that there is more downtime, less plans, more togetherness.  Sometimes summer starts out rough with a little restlessness. I’ve learned through all the different seasons with my children, that I’m better with a schedule. I like to know what to count on when. I like to communicate this to my children.

Recently I read a blog post that talked about two things that really hit home:

1) being intentional with those we love, and 2) creating a rhythm of the day.

So how do we be intentional?

The author talked about deciding how you want to feel and looking at what’s going to get you there. This is really a family discussion and reflection. Intentionality might be scheduled downtime each week or each day. It might be quality time spent together. It might be read aloud storytime.

In our family, my children really appreciate time alone with my husband or me. Especially as they get older, they really want time to talk. For my son this usually involves some kind of activity; walking the dog, bike riding, gardening, or doing yoga. For my daughter it’s cuddling up on the couch or in her bed sometimes with a really amazing cup of coffee. For my very youngest it is playing pretend or reading books together. Sometimes it’s enjoying a delicious snack. My husband and I need time too, so we have been taking walks together, watching a show and doing a regular date night with another couple. These are all things I now put on the calendar along with the kid’s regular swim day. And the beauty I’ve discovered is that you can still leave things loose and open ended while having regular routine.

What about Rhythm of the day?

Take a moment and imagine yourself in yesterday.

What feels easy?

What feels hard?

How could it flow better?

When my kids were little and done napping the hours of 4-6pm were always the hardest. We all felt a little pent up and crazy. This is when I started taking walks. At the time we lived right next to a small zoo we could walk too. We would get there right before 4pm, when they stopped letting people in. We would walk around the zoo the last hour it was open, and it was when the animals were the most active. We would walk slowly and watch all the animals come alive.

As the kids got older this rhythm changed. We no longer had that pent up feeling, but we did have a window when we all needed quiet time. Our 4-6pm moved to 3-5pm. I always hit a tired slump at 3pm, I had the same slump when I was working full time. I saw it in my kids too. I started mom’s reading corner during this time. It’s a corner in our living room that my favorite part of the house. I sit in a cozy corner of the couch, soft pillows and a knitted blanket. My favorite art is on the wall, my bookcase straight ahead. Next to the bookcase are a wall of glass windows and doors. I see outside to our beautiful backyard see the fruit trees and I can hear the birds that started a nest there. I just started siting there one day. We have moved over the years, but it has always been a consistent comer, my view just changed. My kids at first didn’t know what I was doing and would come asking me for help or for an activity. I would gently set my book down and say, “This is my quiet reading time.” It took time and consistency but my children started finding their own quiet reading spots. My son Liam would be in his big wide chair in the corner of his room. My son Grady would be on his bean bags talking out a story as he looked at pictures and watching his hands become characters. My beautiful Ella would be cozy in her bed. Sometimes they would join me on the couch and we would cozy up in my corner. This rhythm worked for us and still does on our long summer days. We can hit the ground running and know that we have a place and time to rest. And when we miss it, it becomes even more special. My corner hasn’t changed but my stack of book has, and the pile has grown. I often start one to three books at a time, my minds retreat.

The third and last tip, I gleaned, was running the “I’m bored” experiment. I would hear this a lot from my children, especially over the summer when things felt slower. I never knew what to do when I heard this. I didn’t want to preach. I had often heard growing up “Bored people are boring people”. I didn’t believe this was accurate. I didn’t want to create a list of activities, that all would be shot down! I did want them to be heard and I did want them to find something they could be wildly creative with! So here is the suggestion, just listen, acknowledge and walk away. It might be something like this, “I’m bored”. You respond, “Oh, I hear you”, then excuse yourself to the bathroom or to get a glass of water or make a quick call. Give them time to sit in their boredom and see what it leads too. You might be surprised and so might they!

We live in a society that is always running, always busy. The more activity the better! We become human doers, not creators. Sitting still with ourselves helps us to really feel, to become in tune with ourselves and others, and to create beauty. That quietness might feel like boredom at first to those of us on the go, but maybe it’s really peace. I think that’s a good place to be. I hope your summer is filled with connection, rhythm, rest, play, adventure and most of all peace!!

 

~Clare Bonn

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Let’s Talk Struggle!

writing

During the last Pages session we explored Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamilo. The author’s journey continues to be on my mind. I am inspired by her resilience. Resilience, I am sure, makes her a courageous and successful writer. In the last week of the Pages class, the writing prompt for the rough draft was, “Write a story about yourself that you would like to tell someone someday.” This prompt leads to unlimited possibilities! As I read each child’s submitted rough draft, I realized they all decided to write about a struggle they experienced. That made me reflect on the books we have read for the Pages class this past year.

During our first Pages session we read Fish In A Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  This is a school story focusing on a new Teacher, Mr. Daniels, and 8 of his students. Like any classroom there is diversity—race, culture, socioeconomic status, intelligence, personality, family life, and more. The main character, Ally, struggles in school and is ultimately diagnosed with dyslexia. The author’s own struggle inspired this story. She was never officially tested for dyslexia growing up, but struggled with reading and self-esteem until she reached middle school, when she experienced her own Mr. Daniels who cared and inspired. Lynda has written two other books, both highlighting characters with struggles and how they successfully made it through to the other side.

Kate DiCamillo openly talks about her children’s books being a little sad. Her characters demonstrate how we readers can survive trials such as suffering or loneliness. In the end there is always a seed of hope, that ultimately things will work out. I mentioned in my previous post that Kate moved to Florida from Philadelphia when she was 5 years old due to chronic pneumonia. What I didn’t mention was that her father who was a dentist who had a practice in Philadelphia and never left. He visited over the years but kept his life and practice in Philadelphia. Opal, the main character in “Because of Winn-Dixie”, struggles throughout the book with understanding why her mom left her when she was 3 years old. Opal has no contact with her mother and is filled with many questions and a great longing that we readers feel deeply.

We as human beings are drawn to struggle. We see struggle every day in the world. We see it in the people around us. Reading about struggle helps us see our own and other’s struggles in life. Writing about struggle can help us figure out the world around us and the workings of ourselves as well. I have heard writers say “we write what we know”. I like what Lynda Mullaly Hunt says, “I think I tend to write what I’d like to know—things I long to understand but don’t.”

It takes courage to look deep within and write our struggles for the world to see.

It takes resilience and a long list of related traits to add hope to any struggle.

Struggle is part of our human condition; sharing is how we relate to each other. When we share our struggle in stories, we see the similarities in our humanity over our differences. There is always the thread of hope in struggle. The question is not whether there is hope but how we get there.

Keep writing courageously! I will get to the other side, understanding my struggle a little bit better, knowing I am not alone, that hope is waiting for me. Hope for me does not guarantee happiness, only the knowledge that things can be better or different then today. And that I believe, is enough.

~Clare Bonn

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Flourishing an Idea

Mozart Season Bundle

Aesthetics is a set of principles that inform the outcome of a work of art. Aesthetics taps into that part of our being that connects with beauty. Last spring, after reading The Mozart Season,  knew the section of the story that would inspire the most creativity. I know this because I have seen it here, and here, and here. And when readers stumble upon this three-page passage, well, Section 5 happens.

As the story goes, when Allegra and her mother’s friend, Diedre spend an afternoon in the Rose Garden, well, music happens. Nestled atop a hill in the park is a silvery aluminum sculpture. There are tall columns and arched columns, smaller columns and water uniting them all.

“It was Diedre who started the song. She began slowly, BONG bong Bong bong with her knuckles on the three big columns, walking between them.”

Now I’ve seen some fantastic creative responses to The Mozart Season (some that have won awards), but when this past year, one of my students finished the book and brought in her Section 5 project to share, I marveled that, yet again, it was in response to this specific music-making passage.

And the project she brought in was not only “nique” (as Allegra and her friends would say), but also a perfect opportunity to share some tips to elevate the Section 5 project artistically.

With a cardboard box, some discarded bottles, aluminum foil, a few scraps of notebook paper, one green marker, Scotch tape, and a pitcher of water, my student made a musical instrument! While I have seen many musical instruments (even musical compositions) inspired by this little section of The Mozart Season, this one captured my imagination. Think “don’t judge a book by its cover” for a moment. This homely little project surprised me with rich sounds made from filling the bottles with different levels of water and blowing gently across each the neck. Oh! I was simply tickled, “My favorite Mozart invention so far!”

But the poor dear was in desperate need of a makeover. So I gave the maker a simple lesson.

So following is the simple make-over:

BEFORE

 

  1. To begin, if you are going to use a box (and boxes are a great way to begin), always paint the box! Give yourself a blank canvas upon which you can build your idea. A coat or two of gesso or acrylic paint will do just fine.
  2. Use more than one art medium. Here for example, using green marker and green paint on both folded and crumpled paper makes the viewer read ‘foliage” more clearly.
  3. Give the reader an anchor to the book where the idea originated by posting quotes around the project.

You don’t have to be an artist to make your idea beautiful. And, think about it, ideas are meant to be appreciated. So, go on, beautify.

AFTER

One last thought… There is a trend in all sectors of education to discount the reading of pure fiction. This is not wise. This quiet little story is, in my opinion, powerful proof why we all need to read across many genres, read all kinds of stories. Every time I’ve led students through this purely fictional story set in a very real setting (the competition that Allegra is working toward is a real competition that happens annually in Oregon), they read a few pages and groan. But by the time they get to the end, they have a deep appreciation for the rich story and significant fodder for their creativity to unfold.

~Kimberly Bredberg

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Let’s Talk Section 5

Each and every Literature + Writing Discovery Journal (the core of our language arts offering) sets aside a week to create and celebrate.

Don’t wait until week 5 to begin thinking about your Section 5 idea!

Why not start imagining during Section 2?

Make a plan.

During Section 2, begin brainstorming. Download our free planning worksheet to begin brainstorming. Write down your ideas and, since your Section 5 will include a visual component, create small sketches demonstrating different ways you imagine your idea might take shape and what materials you might utilize.

During Section 3, choose the idea you like best and make a full-page sketch with labels that will help you prepare.

During Section 4, gather all the materials you will need to complete your project build.

After all this, when week 5 rolls around, you will be prepared to focus on creating a meaningful project. A project that you will surely be proud of for years to come. Check out our Student Project Gallery to be inspired. Send us photos of your completed project so we can add it to the gallery to inspire others.

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Never Give Up!

One of the things I love about teaching the Pages classes is the opportunity to read and learn right alongside my students. I am endlessly amazed at their insights. There is never a class when they don’t point out something I did not see or interpret another way. This is the same thing I loved about homeschooling, watching the light come on in my children’s eyes as they discussed a great character in a book or a line they were chewing on!

I started out this last Pages class as I usually do, discussing the author. This session we are reading, “Because of Winn-Dixie”, by Kate DiCamillo, which happens to be her first published book. Kate has led an interesting life. She was born in Philadelphia but moved to Florida when she was five due to health problems. She had chronic pneumonia as a child and was often hospitalized, which gave her plenty of time, (you got it) to read!

What I loved most about Kate’s story was the realness in her struggle to become a writer and the resilience it took to get her writing into the “right” person’s hands.

After graduating with an English degree and working lots of odd jobs, Kate ended up following a friend to Minnesota at 30-years old. She started working at a book warehouse (not her dream job). She also started waking up at 4am before her shifts to write two pages every day.—a habit that Kate has kept to this day. After four years she started submitting her books to publishers and received 473 rejection letters. Let me say that again, 473 rejection letters! That number has had me thinking and talking with my family and my students.

How would it feel to receive 473 rejection letters?

Would I personally give up?

Throw in the towel?

Would I think I don’t have anything of value to say?

And the answer I keep coming to is: I think I might. I am not sure my ego could withstand that number—473!

Resilience is simply the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. To really go deeper, what are resilience skills? This is the list of traits that appeared when I looked it up:

Self-confidence.

Optimism.

Flexibility.

Responsibility.

Patience.

Problem-Solving.

Self-awareness.

It made me think that this is the list we should hang for ourselves to remind us of what is needed to push through the hard, ego-breaking experiences and get to the other side.

I am glad that Kate picked up that list and continued to submit her writing. Because of Winn-Dixie did finally get into the right person’s hand. It made it through sitting on one of these people’s desks while they were on maternity leave, only to be found again when the person returned and was cleaning her desk.

On top of this, her story went through multiple rewrites before it was published. Kate DiCamillo’s path to success was not an easy assent but more of a difficult and sometimes brutal climb. Gone are my assumptions that writing just comes easy to some. What replaced that thought is the thought that those who get to the top of the climb embrace that list of resilience skills and are courageous in using them.

Kate DiCamillo has gone on to publish 25 novels and has sold over 37 million copies. Four of her books have been turned into films and she is one of only six authors to have won two Newbery Honor awards. She spends 12-15 hours a week writing and 35-40 hours a week reading. I don’t know about you, but I will keep my resilience list hanging, right next to my pencil and paper. I will keep a warm cup of tea right next to the book I am reading. I choose to make it courageously to the other side, one page at a time.

~Clare Bonn