I Believe in Cursive

cursive handwriting

Almost every year, I develop a new learning theory that is not based on research or educational best practices of any kind. It is simply an opinion based on my experiences with students. This year’s theory relates to the deterioration of spelling skills and the de-emphasis of handwriting instruction– cursive handwriting in particular. I partially blame e-mail and texting for the spelling problem, but I think the fact that schools do not demand better penmanship is a larger contributor to the increase in poor spellers I see every year.

I suspect that students spell better when they spend time learning, practicing, and using cursive handwriting in the elementary grades. Cursive connects letters together creating a muscle memory between your hand and brain. Your brain will then remember common letter connections, patterns, and rules and subconsciously guide the hand to order letters correctly more often. Try to spell your own signature with a different letter order. It is difficult to force your hand not to put the letters of your name in the correct order. Your hand is on auto-pilot to write the name correctly. Students can achieve the same success with common words and common spelling patterns if they correctly write them in a connected way on a daily basis.

Here are a few activities I am asking my students to complete this year. They work well at school or at home to reinforce the correct spelling of the words we use most often and the patterns that repeat frequently. If you are looking for a new way to study for that weekly spelling test, have your child practice writing the words in cursive.

cursive handwriting spelling patterns

Make a list of words that a student often misspells. Have the child write the word in his/her best cursive multiple times. Provide a sample to copy, so the letter order and letter formation are correct.

Group words that have similar letter patterns and write the portion of the word that is the same in all words multiple times. For example, if the student has a handful of words in a list that end with the letters le (settle, riddle, struggle), require the student to write the letters le together 5 times or 10 times or 10+ times.

I watch my students’ papers and track the cursive letter connections that are hard to form. M and n are particularly tricky because kids want to add an extra “hump” and don’t see that the hump is actually a connector piece. O is also hard to connect to the next letter because it ends “high.” Letter pairs like os and ol are challenging. Compare the difficult connections with misspelled words and make a list of those letter groups. Practice writing the letter pairs together correctly.

cursive handwriting connections

Always provide a sample with the correctly formed letters. Sometimes, this is the hardest part because my own cursive handwriting is adequate at best. I have tried harder this year because I need my students to be able to use cursive more effortlessly, so I can prove my theory.

I will admit that I completed a mini Google search about handwriting and spelling. There are articles here and there that support my theory (ha, I knew I was right). While I also have my students complete a lot of keyboarding and typed writing assignments, I think there will always be a place for handwritten documents. If you have read any of my letter writing posts, you know how I feel about handwritten thank you notes! Does anyone else have an opinion?

To purchase cursive handwriting practice pages at my TeachersPayTeachers store, CLICK HERE.

Grown Up Kid Food

chicken nuggets bite

TheRoomDad was reminiscing about the days when I used to prepare delicious meals most evenings. That was before we had children, and I was trying to impress him. Fast forward to today. I only get excited about preparing food for parties and school snacks. If it is bite sized food, snack food, or party dips, I am all about it. Otherwise, I don’t want to be bothered.

One recipe that I have not used in awhile is something from my childhood– a recipe for homemade chicken nuggets. They may seem like kid food at first glance, but they actually have a slightly more sophisticated taste than your average chicken nugget, and I used to make them for TheRoomDad. It is a recipe adults and kids enjoy. I was gracious enough to dust off the family cookbook and make the chicken nuggets last night. I was going to say how much healthier they are than a box of nuggets from the freezer section of the grocery store, but then I remembered that the chicken is dredged in melted butter before being coated in seasoned bread crumbs. Enjoy!

chicken nuggets ingredients

Ingredients

  • 2-3 boneless chicken breasts (or 1 pkg of chicken tenderloins, ~1 lb.)
  • 1/2 c. Italian bread crumbs
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 t. dried basil
  • 1 t. paprika
  • 1/4 t. thyme
  • 1/2 c. melted butter

Directions

  • Cut chicken into 1 1/2″ squares. If you are using the chicken tenderloins, cut each piece into 2 or 3 nugget-y pieces. The tenderloin can also be left as is to make a chicken strip.

chicken nuggets assembly

  • Mix dry ingredients in a shallow dish.

chicken nuggets coating

  • Pour melted butter in a separate shallow dish.

chicken nuggets melted butter

  • Dip chicken pieces into the melted butter and then into the dry mixture to coat.

chicken nuggets bread crumb coating

  • Arrange coated chicken pieces on a jelly roll pan (baking pan with a lip).

chicken nuggets covered

  • Bake at 400 degrees about 20 minutes or until browned and chicken is cooked through. If you are using larger chicken pieces, you may need to turn once while baking.

chicken nuggets cooked

It’s Fate

tangle of knots

During one of our icy snow days, I read a new book called A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff. It wasn’t the best book I have ever read but what did stick with me were the connections between the characters. The quirky characters rent rooms in a run down building without knowing they all have a relationship to each other. As the book progresses, little clues are revealed that help the reader solve the mystery about how the characters’ lives intersect. By the end, we know how and why the characters were meant to be together.

Holes

A Tangle of Knots made me think about other books I know that have this fate element to them. Books that weave character stories together to create a clever puzzle of relationships. It is a little bit like a modern (and shorter) version of Great Expectations by Dickens who always intertwined lives so cleverly. Here are the books I like that have an element of fate or destiny or secret connections.

  • The Candymakers by Wendy Mass
  • Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
  • Remarkable by Elizabeth Foley
  • The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford
  • A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
  • Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
  • The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

I just ordered The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech, which I think may belong on this list too. Can anyone confirm?

destiny rewritten

Comfort Food

taco soup and tortilla chips

It is dreary here today. We are on the fringe of all of the icy weather, so we have had solid rain with some icing. It means that bridges are closed, and school was cancelled. What do you do on a day like this? Cook soup. Since I was in my pajamas when I had this brainstorm, I sent TheRoomDad to the grocery store for Taco Soup ingredients. Not only is the soup delicious on a cold day, it is also the perfect soup for eating dinner in front of the TV and watching winter Olympics.

taco soup

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs boneless and skinless chicken breast
  • 4 to 6 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 32-oz. chicken broth (sometimes I use an additional 16-oz. can)
  • 1 4-oz. can mild chopped green chiles
  • 1 16-oz. can yellow corn (I like shoepeg corn)
  • 1 16-oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 16-oz. can light rd kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 16-oz. cans diced tomatoes (drain 1 can and leave juices in 1 can)
  • 1 package original taco seasoning mix
  • 1 package dry ranch dressing mix

Toppings

  • grated Mexican cheese blend
  • sour cream
  • tortilla chips

taco soup prepping

Directions

  • Trim any fat off the chicken breasts and cut in half. Put halved chicken breasts in a large soup pot with chopped onions, garlic, and 32-oz. chicken broth.
  • Simmer until meat shreds (about an hour or so). I take the pot off the heat and with two forks, pull the chicken apart in the soup pot. If it is not pulling apart easily, cook longer.

taco soup shredding chicken

  • Add all other soup ingredients through the ranch dressing mix.

taco soup adding ingredients

  • Cook another hour or two on low heat. If you would like to thin the soup at all, add some more chicken broth.
  • Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips.

Notes

  • This is a great crock pot recipe. Put the chicken, onions, garlic, and broth in the crock pot on low in the morning. At the end of the day (about 3:00) shred the chicken. Add the other ingredients and cook a few more hours on low.
  • The longer it sits, the better it tastes!
  • Freezes well.

taco soup bite

XOXO Valentine

tic tac toe valentine assembly

I had zero inspiration for Valentine’s cards this year. Last year, I planned the Matchbox Valentine months ahead, but no lightning bolts were happening this Valentine’s season. It is with heavy heart that I must admit that I completely lifted our Valentine’s cards idea from Pinterest. Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss love them, so maybe it is not such a terrible thing, and they were easy to make in bulk. I would like to thank Kim at 733blog.com for posting the original Tic Tac Toe Valentine’s card idea.

I created a 2-column template in a Word document (link in the materials list below). I inserted a table in the document and removed the borders to build the tic tac toe board. The part I find clever about the card is the “XOXO” part at the bottom. It is a traditional closing on a card as well as an homage to the Tic Tac Toe game. Yes, I know that detail will be lost on the 1st and 3rd graders who will be receiving these Tic Tac Toe cards Friday.

tic tac toe valentine supplies

Materials

tic tac toe valentine template

Directions

  • Print the cards in color on white cardstock. My template prints 4 to a page. Rather than burn out my printer, I used FedEx Office for this job. The color print and cardstock paper is much better quality than what I could print on my home printer.
  • When I picked up the print job, I stayed at the store and used their paper cutter to make sure the card cuts were consistent and even. It was a lot of cutting because I needed to cut all edges, not just down the center. This was a tedious part of the process. The finished cards are 4 1/2″ tall x 3 1/2″ wide.
  • Sign the bottom of each card after the XOXO. We used bright colored Sharpie pens in reds, pinks, and purples.
  • Put one card in a clear bag.

tic tac toe valentines filling bags

  • Add 4 M&M’s of one color and 5 M&M’s of another color to the bag with the card. Make sure to insert the M&M’s on top of the front of the card. Here is an interesting little tidbit– there are hardly any white M&M’s in the Valentine’s M&M’s mix. The majority are red (isn’t that the poisonous dye color?), and the two shades of pink have about an even amount of each. We dumped out the whole bag of candies and sorted into color piles before assembling the Valentine’s treat bags. A 12-ounce bag of M&M’s made ~37 Valentine’s bags (9 M&M’s per treat bag).

tic tac toe valentines assembly line

  • Seal the bag. I used my 4″ x 6″ ziploc bead bags from Michael Crafts. Clear gift bags with a twist tie or curly ribbon would be cute too but more time consuming to close securely.

tic tac toe valentines finished