Fall is a cozy season. It’s the season of turning leaves 🍂🍁, of imaginary forests and fairy stories, of bundling up with mugs simmering cider for long meandering walks, of collecting pinecones and spying animals readying for the long winter nap. Most of all, fall is the season of gratitude! And this means GIVEAWAYS!
TWO, to be exact…
Recently we stumbled upon an amazing trilogy of board books created by artist and speech pathologist, Tabitha Paige, CCC-SLP designed to help little ones celebrate one of our very favorite things—words! These delightful stories will jump start the young child’s vocabulary and introduce them to early language concepts!
Spatial Words: Follow along with Little Fox as he plans a surprise picnic for his friend Owl in A Trip to the Farmers Market.
Quantity Words: Follow along with Little Hedgehog as he helps his friend Squirrel search for missing acorns in A Trip to the Forest.
Colors and Counting: Follow along with Little Rabbit as she gathers wildflowers to cheer up her friend Mouse in A Trip to the Wildflower Meadow.
We love that this little set that captures the magic of language and offers practical tips for this most important pre-reading stage. Mostly we love that these books do this the beautiful way! These stories are a perfect opportunity for older siblings to read aloud to younger siblings.
Puzzles are a perfect way to snuggle in to the coziness of fall. When we stumbled upon this puzzle, we thought: “HOW PERFECT!” Celebrating two of our favorite things, words plus the best technology when it comes to writing—the humble pencil. This promises to be an activity the whole family (and extended family too) will enjoy.
It thrills us this time of year to know that many students have completed (or are close to completing) the first of their six CORE Blackbird & Company ELA units and are brainstorming ideas for the Section 5 culminating project.
To celebrate this season, click through here to download a FREEbie Section 5 Planning Worksheet.
Section 5 is the week when students get to step outside of the rhythm of reading, contemplating, and journaling and create a project to celebrate the story’s wonder! This project is a throwback to a Blackbird and Company limited edition “Section 5 Kit” tied to City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. We provided the box, a lightbulb shaped jar, black paint, glow-in-the-dark paint, paintbrush, Sharpie, and left the rest to the student’s imagination.
Earth is, of course, being ravaged by a series of apocalyptic events known as the Disaster. Light is one of Ember’s most important resources. Without light, the city will cower in complete darkness. Around the clock darkness. Not good. It is this terror of darkness that drives the story. So when the great lamps that light the city begin to flicker, Lina and Doon have a quest set before them. With blackouts and shortages someone needs to take action! Why not our twelve-year-old protagonists?
But we stop here because the purpose of creating a culminating project is NOT to retell the story, but rather to advertise. That’s right, advertise. The culminating project should share JOYbites from the book that will inspire others to pick the book up and fearlessly enter the world of the story.
For this Section 5 project, the student decorated the outside of the box with juicy words and quotes from the story, painted the inside of the box black represent the problem facing the people of Ember, and poured the glow-in-the-dark paint into the light bulb. Ultimately the little project is an amazing advert!
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!
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.
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).
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:
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.
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.
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.
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)
And stay tuned for special poetry to be announced this winter.
Welcome to Blackbird & Company! If you’re looking for a fun and inspirational language arts program, we have everything you need. Whether you are in a classroom, a homeschool, or an independent study program, we want to empower you, encourage you, and give you confidence to Take Flight and begin the adventurous journey of literacy with one of our Grade Level Collections.
Would you believe me if I told you that I wrote my first poem when I was six years old? Even when I was in elementary school, I wrote little illustrated verses almost every week. I’d be too embarrassed to share those verses here, but even before I turned seven, writing was my natural outlet for my emotions.
Writing has been to me what reading is to Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird: natural, unconscious, without translation. Breathing. Even when I don’t have the time or inclination—or even when I feel discouraged with my writing—I’ll sense the urge to write poetry as if it were an urge to find air while underwater.
Flash forward from the six-year-old Constance to high school sophomore Constance.
I met Kim sometime after finishing my freshman year of high school—she was Mrs. B. to me then. She was the first writing teacher of mine whom I actually admired. I still remember meeting her for the first time, showing her a couple of my poems, and being stunned by how her suggestion to change one word revolutionized the tone of an entire stanza.
Kim introduced me to the world of submissions, and helped me get published and recognized by various literary journals and contests such as the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards. More importantly, she taught me to value the workshop environment, and constantly championed my decision to become an English major in college.
So that’s where I find myself today—a sophomore English major at USC. My writing-related dreams include studying poetry in Paris, interning at Poets and Writers, Inc., and using my love for words as a human rights lawyer… but that’s all still in the air.
The only thing I can tell you right now that is substantially relevant is that writing, to me, is like breathing.
Constance Chan has interned for Kim since 2011 and has helped develop curriculum with Blackbird & Company Educational Press. Her writing has been recognized by domestic and international journals and contests such as the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards and USC’s Undergraduate Writers’ Conference. She is an English major, human rights minor, and Thematic Option Honors student at the University of Southern California. She is passionate about imagist poetry, breakdancing, and leftover Chinese takeout on those days when you don’t have time to cook dinner.