Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Keeping dictation shorter

I have the hardest time keeping my children on task during our Riggs dictation. They can turn a 10 minute spelling or phonogram test into an hour if I let them. I admit that I’m easily distracted by the youngers and can tend to lose track of time so I’ve been on the hunt for a free timer program that would help keep us on track, but the ones I had used would always restart at zero and I wanted one that would let me restart back to 30 seconds after each phonogram or word as the case may be. I finally found what I was looking for! :) It’s called TimeLeft and its basic version is free.

imageI chose to keep it down to its bare bones and do without the title, headers, play/pause and restart buttons. This allows me to have a very small timer which remains on top of all windows, but which can easily hide in less used parts of my screen. There are easy to remember keyboard shortcuts for start (ctrl+s), pause (ctrl+p), and reset (ctrl+r).

Here’s how I use it. I get the timer window active, press ctrl+s to start it, then say the phonogram or word that is being tested on and press ctrl+r to reset it back to 30 seconds (or however much time I’m allowing for each item). Then if they beat the timer, I say the next thing and press ctrl+r again. If they don’t beat the timer and it dings, they leave that space blank (and subsequently get it wrong) and we move on to the next phonogram/word. They really don’t like having to skip one so they try real hard to beat the timer.

Is it a D or a B?

I’ve seen several other helps to remember the difference between a lowercase b and d. Here’s my own take on the ol’ “D vs. B” beginner reader quandary. Click here to download.


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Our Workbinders distilled down from Workfolders which are a spinoff of Workboxes…

Ok, I could not think of a decent title, but the point is that my Workbinders are inspired by Jolanthe’s Workfolders which are derivative of Sue Patrick’s ubiquitous Workbox system.

I tried traditional workboxes a couple of years ago with Geo and they went well with the downside of taking too long to load each night. I always felt like I was forgetting something. It was enough to make me go slightly batty. I took a year off from workboxes and this year decided to give them another try after reading about Jolanthe’s workbox twist and revision. It seemed like it would work so well with the Gs so I set off to imitate it (please feel flattered, Jolanthe).

I saw the folders that Jolanthe said she got from Wal-Mart, but they were a bit more expensive than these tabbed pocked folders by Avery.


My math failed me and I bought 3 packs not realizing till later that I’d only need 6 dividers per kid if I wanted them to have 12 pockets. I ended up with a bunch extra but it didn’t turn out to be a bad thing after all as you’ll see.

I decided not to do a separate weekly grid for all the tabs, my kids would just lose them anyway.



Instead I put 12 velcro dots on the inside cover of the flexible poly 3-ring binders that I have the workpockets in. I put one tabbed divider (from a pack of these, again from Avery) in front of the pockets and I put more velcro dots on both sides. The front side is for their completed activity/subject cards and the back is for extras or activities/subjects that aren’t assigned on that given day. On the right tabbed divider you’ll see a smaller (older) card which says, “I’m ready to work!” I made (and had laminated) a lovely school clock-in / clock-out setup , and they just don’t use it :( So this way it hopefully will still give them the idea that before they get started on the other stuff they should “clock-in” in their workbinders at the very least.

I had originally thought I would use all 3 dots on each pocket for the subject, a place for them to match up the subject card from the front cover of the binder and an extra one for a “with mom” card. But since it’s easier for them to just move them from the binder cover to the tabbed divider, we’ve just been doing that. It also makes it easier for me not to have to hunt down the cards on several different pockets.

Like Jolanthe, I have a week’s worth of assignments for each subject that gets assigned, then in the evening, all I have to do is to reload the front cover with the cards for the next day and we’re good to go. I only put papers or very small/thin books in their workfolders and the rest of their books are in their “workboxes” (I love our Trofast setup by the way!). 


I put workboxes in quotes because I’m not using them in a typical workbox way in that the boxes aren’t numbered, but have labels for their category. So, for instance, I have Geo’s reading books in one box, Gigi’s in another. Geo’s reading comp. and grammar books share a box. Their workbinders share a box and my teacher’s books get their own box. It’s nice because the kids know where to go to get the things they need, they know exactly what’s expected of them from their workbinders and my job of refreshing them each evening is a breeze.

Oh, and the extra pockets? I made my own workfolder and in it I put my daily routines, weekly schedules, monthly calendars, my little notebook for jotting down things I don’t want to forget, our Keys for Kids devotional, reward stickers, a knitting pattern, memory verses, and whatever else I want to put in there. It has helped me get a lot more organized too and that’s always a good thing.