To The Tune of the Teacher

"Reading Comprehension and the The Power of Prior Knowledge"         by Mrs. Sipe  3/1/13

Are you exposing your children to the world? Why would this be important for reading comprehension? Let's say your child's class encounters a story whose setting is at the beach. If your child has been to the beach then they would be able to see, hear, smell, and feel the beach through the words of the story. They can do this because their brains have stored away the experience of being there. This is called prior knowledge, the ability for the brain to make connections.  On the contrary, students who have not had that experience would not be able to feel the hot sand, smell the salt, hear the waves, or see the sea gulls through the words of the story. Which kid has the advantage? 

Now, from your perspective: Let's say you are asked to read an article about the molecular composition of polyethyline polymers which are used for the purpose of plastic packaging. Chances are, if you have never seen or made polyethyline polymers, and you are not familiar with the scientific world of plastic production then you would find the vocabulary of the article a bit daunting, and the concepts of the story would seem equally as challenging. The same thing happens to children when they encounter a subject they are not familiar with.

So what can you do? How can you instill prior knowledge? Not everyone can take off and start traveling the world. Prior knowledge can begin in the home! It can happen in the little things we say and do with our children. Two simple things that come to mind are cooking, and gardening. Both are scientific concepts. Both are great springboards for hands-on learning! Let your child be involved in as much as possible in everything you do. Try to incorporate a rich vocabualry in your conversations. For example, instead of saying, "Clean that mess up!" Say, "Let's clean this up before it dries into a sticky residue." Do you see how you can boost their vocabulary?  You, as a parent should to be aware of teachable moments for your child. Remember, you were, and still are their first teacher.

"What Legacies Will You Leave for Your Little Lambs?"                    by Mrs. Sipe   3/4/13

I have to thank the adults in my life who have made me capable of the simple things I enjoy in my freetime.

Let's start back in the mid 1970's.  My aunt grew roses, lots of roses!  She would use them to elegantly decorate her house for the fancy parties she use to have.  I don't remember if I was told to help her, or did I just wander over to her house out of boredom from the long hot summer.  Mind you please, that wandering over to her house meant crossing 2 big fields, through the woods, past the pond where I would often have to avoid new mama cows and their babies from my uncle's large herd of black angus cows.  No doubt, when I got to her house.  I would find her in that rose garden.  Soon, I would be tediously picking off diseased blackspot leaves, or worse mulching with dusty straw.  No, I did not like it.  It was hot and buggy, and oh those thorns! But I Iiked her and that was enough.   Fastforward about 40 years now and I currently have 48 rose bushes in my rose garden. I love them and I guess in my heart I grow them for her.  The icing on the cake came once when my youngest son who has now outgrown the fun of the rose garden, use to take my hand and say, "Come on Mama, let's go check on the roses."

My daddy use to go to junk shops and buy these little tables.  He would bring them home and refinish them in his shop down at the barn. He was good at it, never rushing the multiple steps it took to end up with a beautiful table with a surface smooth as glass.  Well, guess what?  I just finished an old table we use to  have from childhood, and there is another one on the deck that I hope to finish by next weekend. It keeps me off the couch and  "doing something constructive" as he would often say.

My brother and sister are avid runners.  I guess it was them, and the climbing number on the scale that got me around the track 54 times (3 miles) at the church.  I stuck with it and eventually ran a half marathon.  Wow!  Yes, lazy little ole me who once could not even run to the mailbox! What a sense of accomplishment!  Truly good for the soul!

Roses, running, and refinishing furniture... Here's hoping that your children have positive role models in their lives that will one day motivate them into becoming productive people. 


  I'm in there somewhere.                           The first blooms always look the best.                       A couple of more hours and I'm done.


March 7, 2013    

Parenting With Fire is a back to basics, common sense approach to raising children.  I came across it at a sidewalk sale in front of Books-a- Million.  The title got my attention.  While reading it I caught myself several times thinking, "Yeah, that is so true!"  I sometimes pick it back up to refresh my thoughts on parenting with fire!

Take a look at these excerpts:

"I consider it to be the parents' job to help preserve our children's emotional translucense so that they don't grow up to become brittle, insecure, emotionally inaccessable adults.  We should treat our children with reverance and respect, not to tease them or rob them of self-esteem."

"When parents invest time and attention in a child, that child feels valuable and worthy, but a child who feels secondary in his parents' hearts will always feel secondary in their own life."

"Our families are supposed to provide us with a sense of contentment, strength, support, and pride, not stressors that we escape from. I hear over and over again that parents have had it with the endless battles, the nagging and worn down and wrung out that they give in to their children's insatiable appetite for too much TV, DVDS, and violent video games."

My favorite:   " My mother made adulthood look like an honorable state.  I think no greater tribute to her than to honor her by emulating her actions as her son, in order that my own children see my example and feel inspired by it."

If you would like to borrow this book, please let me know and I'll be glad to send it home with your child.


"Music Sets the Mind in Motion"                 March 17, 2013

Oftentimes we will listen to music in class. It might be when we are writing stories, or during math such as working with patterns, or geometry. Keviyah's favorite is Canon in D by Pachelbel.  It is a beautiful classical piece that is sure to soothe the soul. Whenever I click on itunes, she will request, "Play Canon in D!" Interesting enough, that even elementary students have an appreciation for classical music.  When the scales and chords of that beautiful music play across the classroom you can see the students slip into their own worlds, deep in thought using their math manipulatives as they reinforce ongoing mathematical concepts.  Here it is if you would like to listen to it:  Other favorites include soft Chinese music (from our unit of study), Kermit the Frog's Rainbow Connection, and all the School House Rock songs!

What does the research say about music and the mind?   Read on... "When children exercise cortical neurons by listening to classical music, they are also strengthening circuits used for mathematics. Music, says the US team, "excites the inherent brain patterns and enhances their use in complex reasoning tasks."

And while you're at it, don't forget to put on some tunes for yourself while working around the house.   My favorites always make pushing that mop, or hauling that laundry back and forth a little easier. Music can uplift the spirit and free the mind!  Gospel, rock, hip-hop, and pop... Celebrate music!