Friday, December 6, 2013

What Works this Week - Dec 6th

So, what is working for us this week?  (Hm, seems like I'm just talking about different programs - but hey, they are working for me....)  This week - what is working is - All About Spelling, along with ANKI.

Yes, this isn't a Charlotte Mason method of learning.  In Charlotte Mason, spelling is learned through a progression of Copywork, Transcription, and then Studied Dictation.   Studied Dictation starts at about age 9 or 10, so often CM students seem behind in spelling when compared to students of other methods, including public school.  Many CM students just blossom in spelling when they start Studied Dictation - but a few don't.

When Delta turned 9 last year, we tried to start studied dictation.  I came to realize though that I had tried to skip the transcription step though, as Delta struggled with it - and of course the studied dictation was a disaster.  Even the simplest words seemed too hard.... we moved back to transcription but even that was too hard.

This took me into looking for alternatives.  I tried out a couple of different things, including some older public-domain texts.  But still, I saw no sense of spelling at all.  In doing research, I came to realize that Delta might have dyslexia, even though he was reading fairly well.  (He is struggling a bit with reading as well.)  It was actually the All About Spelling website that clued me in that poor spelling could be a sign of dyslexia.

I don't have any examples of Delta's early spelling mistakes - but they were right out there.... even with 3 letter words.  You couldn't see how he came up with them at all.  Here are some examples of dyslexic spelling from another website (longer words) just to give you an idea...

"... for example substance spelled 'sepedns', last spelled 'lenaka', about spelled 'chehat', may spelled 'mook', did spelled 'don', or to spelled 'anianiwe'.
Yes, although we were working on easier types of words - that was what I was seeing in Delta's spelling and attempts to write.

I might have put things off for another year, trying to move the copywork up to transcription - but Delta was aware of his inability to 'write' from other activities, and was frustrated and feeling badly.  He was asking me to teach him to write.   I decided to try All About Spelling.

We got All About Spelling, Level 1 last January or February.  I started both Delta and Echo (who had a few similar symptoms, although she was younger).   At first I used one method to track cards - I used a pencil and lightly wrote their initial when they started a card - and when it could be moved to mastered I put a small star sticker in their colour on it.  (Of course when they both had it mastered, it also moved into mastered.)  I did their lessons separately, so they could progress at their own rate.   This was working "ok", but I decided to use ANKI instead.

I've written a blog post about using ANKI previously, but briefly it is a smart flashcard program that tries to determine the optimum time to show you the flashcard to give you the best chance to remember it, while not showing it to you too often and wasting your time.  It provides for more review than All About Spelling, and I can have the same "cards" for the kids.  I can use my tablet, or the computer, or even use the internet on my phone - they all sync together.

The change has been remarkable.  Delta has finished level 1, and is a little way into level 2.  He gets the words he has learned through the program correct most of the time - but even better, he gets similar words correct too.

Generally how we do a lesson - I set a timer for 15 minutes... that is how long we do a day.   We start with the review words using ANKI and using tiles.  The number of review words can be as low as 3 or 4, in which case we move on, or could be larger like 20 or 30, such as on a Monday (reviews build up on the weekend) and/or when we have added new words after a 'step' (about 10 new ones for each step)   If there is a large number of reviews, we will do the reviews for 5-10 minutes, depending on the child's focus.

After doing the reviews, we proceed to working on the steps.  Generally we have some phrases (or sentences) to write - but we might just be up to writing the new words on paper.   If it is writing the words, then we do all of them, and that is generally the end of the lesson (we may do a few more reviews if there are still some.)  If we are up to writing phrases or sentences, then we will do from 3 to 6 of those.  If there is still time left, I may start teaching the concepts in the next step - leaving the rest of the phrases or sentences for the next day.

So in general, we do reviews, some writing, and some working on the next step.  When we get to the new words in a step, those are added to the reviews, and the 'review' portion of our lesson is a bit longer - until ANKI is showing those words as learned.  It generally works out that we are ready to start the writing portion of a step nicely after completing the writing portion of the previous step.

It sounds more complicated than it is - but it did take me a while to work out the working on the next step while doing the writing part of the previous step.

On Fridays we do a spelling bee with the "More Words" for each child (also added to ANKI).

And - how do I know it is working?  Delta is more likely to write things now - not long things - but stuff up on the white board, or in a drawing.  He sometimes asks me how to spell a word - and he does at times spell incorrectly - but he is willing to try.  He spells so much better than he did, and I think his reading has improved as well.  Echo is spelling better as well (she hasn't quite finished level 1).

I don't know if we will do ALL the levels of All About Spelling - but for now it is working great!

Still Working For Us

SkedTracker - working great - more work is getting done each day since we started!
- Sassmannshaus Violin - although they don't argue to do practices first anymore.... expect an update soon!

Not Working For Us Anymore

Children's Miracle Music - well, I just use this now and then anyway.... it works as a once-in-a-while item.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Timeline Binder Pictures

I have had a number of people ask me about the timeline pictures I have created.   If you are doing Ambleside Online, or a similar program, you may find mine useful.  But I feel it is best if you can create the ones your own student would like.

So, here is my process.

I use Avery Design Pro software to easily make all my timeline pictures the same size.  It is free, and I think they have it for various types of computer.

When I open it the first time, I chose to design the project from scratch.

Then I selected template 5214, as it makes a nice sized picture. (Each timeline picture is on a label.)

Then I use the buttons on the Left to add my text and images.  I find the information and pictures usually by doing a google search...  Leave the MASTER label blank, unless there is information you want on EVERY picture.

I often copy one label to another to make new timeline pictures.  This helps them be consistent.  I also rename the tab for the label (right click) and organize them in the order I will likely need them next year.  For an AO Year, I have them organized by week.  For Artists/Composers/Authors, I organize them alphabetically.  For other things my kids ask for, I organize them chronologically.  It works for me - but do whatever works for you.  (I also have things in separate files, as our original single file got too large to work with easily.)

For printing, I often need to note down the tab numbers of the specific pictures I wish to print.   Of course, sometimes I just one the current one.  Double check that you are not printing an entire sheet of the same label - and I usually do a Print Preview before doing the actual printing.

Finally, we print on regular paper and cut them out.  If you were doing a whole year ahead, you could actually buy the Avery Labels... but as I'm only printing out a handful at a time (and often from more than one file), that would be a large waste.  The scrap paper is used for protecting our timeline binders while gluing, or for colouring/drawing.

If I get people interested in my actual design-pro files (instead of the pdf's I've made available) let me know and I can look at adding it to the link above.  Otherwise - I hope that some people take the plunge to making their own!