Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Using Audible Narration for Struggling Readers (And a List of Super Discounted Audiobooks to Get you Started!)

My favorite way to use our Kindles for school is Audible Narration. This feature allows you to listen to an Audible audiobook while reading along in the ebook. This is human narration, not the electronic "read to me" stuff. While reading, the ebook highlights the words as they are read, allowing kids to easily follow along. It also keeps your place in both the ebook and the audiobook, allowing you to switch back and forth.  (Don't worry if you don't have a Kindle, the feature also works with the free Kindle app on your tablet, phone, or computer.)

For struggling readers, this is amazing! Not only can they independently read books they would otherwise struggle with, but they also get a huge boost in their reading skills by following along. Without the highlighting feature, my younger kids can't follow along with an audiobook because they aren't able to keep up with the reader. My older kids (12 and 13) still enjoy following along with the book, but it's especially nice for those kids who are just reaching fluency in chapter books- that stage where reading is hard work but their brains are hungry for harder books. I use it most successfully with ages 7-10 or so.

If you have a struggling reader, using an Audible Narrated school book or free read can help advance them into fluency. I also use Audible Narration to budget my read-aloud time, knowing that following along with narration helps them get all the benefits of actually reading the words (such as spelling, grammar, and punctuation exposure, as well as better focus by using several parts of the brain at once. Visit this link on the AmblesideOnline website to read more about why your kids shouldn't be listening to all their books once they can read well.)

Along with Audible Narration being a great thing in general, buying the Amazon e-book first often gets you huge discounts on the Audible book- in the case of free classic ebooks, the audiobook is often just a few dollars! If you have ever purchased any audiobooks, you know that is a great price for professional narration.

Are you ready to try Audible Narration?  Here are some cheap Audible Narrated books from the AmblesideOnline booklists for you to try:

(The price on these sometimes changes, I've put off purchasing only to find it priced higher when I come back for it. They were around $1-$3 or so when I wrote this.) 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

5 Different Kinds of Mapwork

1. Filling in Black Line Maps

This is probably the first kind of mapwork we did, because it was the only kind I had heard of when we started. It just consisted of drawing and labeling blackline maps as we learned about them in our books. It was probably the least effective mapping we did simply because there wasn't anything to really engage the kids and not much review- the names had little if any meaning to them. I now know that the key to using blackline maps for map drills is review- they need to at least talk about the areas they have already filled in, and even better would be to fill in the map more then once. It might work much better for older kids, mine were basically pre-writers and readers when we started and thus it wasn't very meaningful for them. Drawing little pictures was a much better idea that I started when I realized I needed something different.

2. Map Drawing
One thing that we have done is create a map over several weeks or months- usually this goes along with a specific book. We draw it carefully, adding to it every week. We add our own artistic touches and details and label whatever we know based on the book we're reading. These are especially enjoyed by artistic children who see it as a chance to create something beautiful. Children who don't enjoy drawing and writing or who just want to do it and get it done will probably not find a detailed map as enjoyable. As far as remembering what they were learning about, this worked best for my most artistic child and didn't do much for my other kids. They were just doing it to get it done, rather then investing their minds deeply. 

3. Bubble Map

After spending several years working on detailed artistic maps my kids were ready for something new. I realized that they were getting a good idea of the "big picture": continents and features of different places, but they weren't learning things like country names very well. They still struggled with some of the common European countries that they kept hearing in their history books. I don't remember exactly where I got the idea for these maps, but I call them bubble maps because the idea is to draw as many countries (or states) as you can in an certain area, without worrying about the exact borders or shapes. The idea was to get a mental picture of where France is, related to somewhere like England or Italy. They drew as many as they could in five minutes and labeled the countries with their initials (again the goal wasn't anything precise- just a mental image of where each country is). Each week we added some new countries until they had a good idea of the principle locations. We did this in a general way first, focusing on the areas they needed to know most, and then we did it along with Halliburton's Marvels of the World- after drawing the bubble map they would draw a small sketch of the features we had read about in that part of the world. This meant that as long as we were reading about an area, say South America, we were mapping some of the features over each week on each new bubble map. That was very helpful for them. 

4. Map Drills

Seterra Online is a no-frills drilling game online that I heard about on the AmblesideOnline Forum. It's been great for the kids to be a bit more independent with their drills and learn some things they hadn't focused on before (like states that weren't really featured in any of their school books.) I have my kids work on one thing for about five minutes, and then they can do something of their choosing (Caiden likes the planet drill) or a review. It's worked well but some kids find it boring after a few months. You can play free online here, or buy the app. 

5. Mapping Find-it Page

I created these when I realized Abby was completely unaffected by all the mapping she had done. Although the different things we did with the other kids had worked for them, she was still lost, quite literally, when looking at a world map. Even though we had been mapping England, Asia, the US, and Western Europe a lot, she didn't have the slightest idea where any of them were located in the world. I created pages where each week she draws, colors, or labels a map. It has four tasks a day and they are all a little repetitive- going over the same countries/continents repeatedly because she needs the practice. I focused on places in her books and principle names she will hear. Recently I found even with the repetition I built in she's still struggling with some place names so we will just keep doing the few sheets I made until she really knows them before we move on. 

Other options: 

This app is fun for kids, as they answer questions correctly and try to collect all the states. It does have a lot of reading, so hold off until your kids are reading the names well. Some of my kids loved it, others didn't as much, but it's worth looking at especially for a change of pace from paper based map drills. Learn more here.

Although this card game also involves the Capitols, it's in a more integrated way- no trivia knowledge is required as all the info is on the cards or maps in front of you.  I think I will start using this more with the older kids as their map drills, maybe once a week. The game takes longer then 15 minutes for us so we won't use it all the time. Learn more here. 
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