Visual Aid for Question Words

When I taught K-2nd grade, many children had a difficult time determining which punctuation mark to use at the end of a sentence. To help make this easier to understand, I taught my students and my own children these questions words to help them differentiate between an "asking" and a "telling" sentence. 

I recently created an updated version.
Click here to grab a copy for yourself. :)

You will need to print it on landscape orientation.
This poster looks great laminated so you can reuse it again and again.

Please note:  The visual aid above has the most common words that are located at the beginning of sentences, but may not include all of them. I also use this poster with older children and just use the terms "declarative" and "interrogative" for types of sentences.


What in the World is a Wordle or a Word Cloud?

I realize I have been out of the teaching loop. Maybe it's because I have moved three times in two and a half years or I've had two babies in the past year and a half that have kept me quite busy. I can barely find time to take a shower some days, let alone research new teaching tools. So as I was surfing the web during one of my rare moments of free time, I came across the word "Wordle." I wondered what in the world is a Wordle or a Word Cloud?

I researched Wordles on-line today, and I am excited to share with you my recent discovery. A Wordle is a tool that generates  “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends. By the way, there are postings literally every second in the gallery.

This is an AMAZING tool that teachers are raving about on-line. Word Clouds can be used for:

Describing a person or a literary character

Making pages of words that begin with each letter of the alphabet for an ABC book

Writing a book review  

Writing descriptive adjectives 

Describing a vocabulary word  


Practice typing spelling words

Studying key points for an exam


Making an all about me report
Listing attributes and traits

Summarizing a lesson

Making art from words in a favorite Bible verse

Creating fun thank you and greeting cards for friends or loved ones. I like this Christmas card created by a church.

I am planning to make a word cloud for my children with descriptive words that expresses each child's individuality. Here is Conley's.

Another cool feature is you can copy and paste text into the word box and a word cloud will automatically be created. For example, enter text from a historical document or a famous speech. I just copied and pasted 1 Corinthians 13.
Here is a word cloud of President Obama's 2010 State of the Union Address created by CSPAN. Notice how you can get a quick overview of a speech by looking at the words repeated the most (in larger font).
I just entered my website address into the Wordle program, and this is what was created using the most common words on it. How cool is that! 

Not only do I plan on using these word clouds in homeschooling, I am going be making word clouds with my children and framing them for teacher's gifts and Mother's Day gifts this year. How unique!

CLICK HERE to have a blast! 

Some helpful hints when using Wordle:

  • The more you type a word in the list, the larger it will appear in the Wordle. If you want one word to appear much bigger than the other words, type it three times in your list.
  • You can keep words together in Wordle if you use a tilde (~) mark between words.
  • You can select the number of words you want to appear in your Wordle.
  • You can right click a word on your Wordle to remove it.
  • You can choose the directionality of the words and even make posters using this tool. I plan on making a visual aide Wordle, and I'll share it with you on my next post.
  • The same single word won’t appear twice even if you type it twice in the word box.
  • Wordle’s default setting removes numbers. If you want numbers, go to "Language" and uncheck “Remove Numbers”.
  • You can’t make it into a specific shape but you can round corners, pick fonts, and colors.

Here are some other programs that I found that use word clouds-

This site is developed for children to use:

This site gives you more options than Wordle and even lets you choose your shape.

Here are some examples:

I hope you have as much FUN as I will making word clouds!

Staying Sharp

This guest post is contributed by Alisa Gilbert.

Think back to the moment when you first decided to take your child out of school, and teach them from home. At that point there were probably a few common reasons for the move. Now that you have begun to settle into this new lifestyle, it is important not to forget those original reasons, and to reflect on the new ones you have become more aware of. As we begin to hear about the tragic events that are taking place within school systems - from bullying to the children who are falling behind - there seems to be a slippery slope taking place. By educating your child at home, you have the opportunity of creating an environment that can help them better understand the material being presented. Everyday before your class time begins you should remind yourself of the main reason you are doing this. It is your responsibility to keep the focus on academics, because it can be easy to want to cherish these childhood moments and get off track. However, the education is what is most important in this situation.

Teaching can be a fun experience - you just have to be creative in your ways. Having theme days where you challenge your child to find the best outfit they have for specific day i.e. bright-color Wednesday. By creating these themed dress codes, you take your child out of their pajamas and into an outfit that can remind them through out the day that it’s learning time. Transform your workspace into an area that is fun and insightful. You want to remove the resemblance of a living room, and give your child their own personally designed classroom where they can see all of their great work hanging from the walls. Keeping the focus on academics can present its challenges, but it is necessary to further the education. 

However, no matter what you do in order to keep the focus and attention on the work that needs to be done, always leave room for change. There may be times when your child is not grasping the concept of a particular subject. In these instances it is important to alter the way you are presenting the information until they understand it. Adapt to their learning style instead of pushing your own method. Remember that by teaching from home you have given yourself an enormous amount of flexibility. There is no school budget that restricts you from purchasing a different, more insightful book for your child to learn from. Lunch and recess do not always have to be at the same time everyday. It can be easy to start going through the motions, and forget the reasoning behind your decision to home-school. And this is that moment every morning where you remind yourself why you’re doing this becomes important. By doing so, you keep yourself focused and motivated, which directly benefits your child. This is about them, and giving your child the chance to learn in a safe place, and not have to worry about the pressures a standard public school can bring.

This guest post is contributed by Alisa Gilbert, who writes on the topics of bachelors degree.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id:

Trying My Best to Embrace Change

Just last weekend, my husband and I were walking around a Borders bookstore. This particular Borders is a very large bookstore that is in a prime location. It offers a great selection of books and is only a few years old. When we were there, I told my husband that it upsets me to see brick and mortar bookstores suffering in business due to the electronic reader's growing popularity and people ordering books on-line from Amazon, one of the largest book retailers.

Tonight on the news, I was surprised to learn that Borders, the 40-year-old retail chain that helped define the age of the book superstore, filed for bankruptcy. I didn't expect the large bookstores to begin closing so soon! I just shook my head and wondered who and what would be affected next.

Most people are now well aware of the book retailing industry's challenges. Bookstores have undergone a significant transformation in the last few years and have gradually been losing their prominence. Unfortunately, we can make a pretty good prediction about the future trend of books.

Now don't get me wrong. I am a loyal Amazon customer. This is an extremely busy season of my life right now, and I appreciate the convenience of shopping from home. I am very grateful I do not have to load up the diaper bags and double stroller in between my two babies' nap and feeding times while homeschooling my older three children to make a book purchase. That's a lot of work!

Last summer, E-books hit the mainstream and for the first time, they consistently outsold paperbacks. The CEO of Amazon said that milestone came sooner than they expected.

Then last month, Amazon revealed that E-books outsold hard cover books. According to a recent report from the Yankee Group, it is estimated that the market will almost double every year until 2014 with popular electronic readers, such as the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes and Noble Nook.

As an author/publisher, I should be ecstatic. In the future, there may be no more shipping books, replacing damaged books, refunding returns, and paying large costs upfront for printing. There should also be larger profit margins, which is wonderful news for all authors. (The profit margin is so low for most authors that you probably wouldn't believe me if I told you.)

As a former public school teacher and an advocate of eco-friendly initiatives, I am thankful that schools are beginning to transition to becoming paperless in most subject areas. Schools are one of the largest contributors to landfills. Every few years, all the textbooks from every public school in our nation must be replaced with updated editions. This creates too much waste- solid waste and a waste of taxpayer's money.

Not only will landfills grow at a less alarming rate, but fewer trees will be cut down as the need for paper diminishes. The world’s forests will continue to grow while providing cleaner air.

In addition, the majority of E-readers weigh just over 10 ounces and can hold over 1,500 books. By comparison, the average textbook can weigh several pounds. I am certain high school and college students will gladly welcome E-readers in place of toting heavy backpacks on their shoulders.

There are also many other benefits of using E-readers, such as less physical storage space needed, the instant downloading of books, and the much lower costs (after purchasing the electronic device). A person can now have a number of books at his disposal anywhere he goes. Another bonus is that the font size can be changed, which aids in reducing eye strain.

As a mother and an avid reader, I am still having a hard time embracing this new technology even with all the advantages mentioned above. I enjoy watching my little ones anxiously choose a book to read from the bookshelves in our home and from our local library. I can't imagine cuddling with my children to read a bedtime story from an electronic reading device. Call me traditional but I like to hold a real book and turn real pages.

I like to wrap up books for special rewards and birthday gifts for my children. Do I wrap the receipt of an E-book order? It's just not the same.

The only thing constant in life is change.
(And God's love)

Valentine's Candy Graphs

Using conversation hearts is a fun way to practice graphing skills. Give your child a small box or a handful of conversation hearts. Have him count and graph how many of each color heart he has. Click HERE to print off the worksheet for this activity. (I printed only the first page of the graphing worksheet.) After your child is finished, he can eat a yummy treat. My kids love this graphing lesson!

Your child can also use the hearts to create patterns or stack the hearts and see how many he can stack before it falls over. This activity is good for counting and fine motor skills.

Click here for 12 ways to use conversation hearts for FUN learning activities.

Have fun!

Valentine's Dice Game

This dice game is a variation of my absolute favorite dice game to practice multiplication facts- Circles and Stars. For Valentine's math, I call the game X's & O's since those letters represent hugs and kisses.

Roll one die and draw that many O's on your paper. Roll another die and draw that many X's on the inside of each circle. Write out the multiplication sentence to go with that problem. Have your child count the X's in each circle for the total. For example, two O's with three X's in each O equals six X's. (2 x 3 = 6) Take turns rolling the dice and illustrating the number sentences. I usually have each player roll ten times. Have your child add all the products (total amount of X's) each person has with a calculator to see who wins.

The example below has stars instead of X's.

2 x 3 = 6

Valentine's Tissue Paper Art Project

These hearts make beautiful decorations to display. A former neighbor of mine has even kept her son's heart up year-round for 8 years because she loves it so much.

  • Cut a large heart from cardboard (a gift box will work) or cardstock.
  • Cut small squares of multi-colored tissue paper.
  • Pour 1/4 cup of concentrated liquid starch, such as Sta-Flo, into a cup.
  • Place the squares of tissue paper where you would like them on the heart.
  • Dip a paintbrush into the liquid starch and paint the squares of tissue paper.
  • Be sure to cover all of the heart with the liquid starch.
  • After the heart dries completely, cut the corners of tissue paper hanging over the edges of the heart.

    I usually punch holes into the hearts and thread them to hang them up. If I have several hearts to hang, I'll make a sign that says, "Our Hearts Belong to Jesus." Enjoy!