Post Tagged with: "five-minute ideas"

In-car literacy activities

carHere are some good ideas to help boost your child’s literacy without leaving the back seat. (Them, not you. You’re driving. Hands on the wheel!)

The post also has ideas for apps and in-car activities for kids.

From Scholastic.

+Continue Reading

Must Pop Words – great game for literacy, typing skills

must pop words enterHere’s a smart, fun game that’s great for literacy and for improving typing skills.

In Must Pop Words, letters – inside bouncy balls – fall down and accumulate at the bottom of the page.

You have to type words using the letters. Every word you type erases those letters. If the letters pile up to the top of the page (which they will inevitably do) you lose.

Little tasks like, “create a word ending with e” or “create a six-letter word” let you earn extra points.

The balls bouncing around and the cute penguin who sticks his head in every once in awhile make this a signature Bart Bonte game – one of a series of elegant, fun games you can find on his website. (In my opinion, Bonte is the best casual game designer on the Internet.) Enjoy!

Play Must Pop Words here.

+Continue Reading

Rory’s Story Cubes – simple, elegant literacy fun

Rory Story CubesHere is a simple, elegant, wonderful game that’s great for:

• Story-building
• Fostering imagination
• Putting events in sequence
• Inspiration for writing a story
• Staving off boredom while you’re waiting at a restaurant
• General all-round silliness.

There are nine dice. Each one has six simple pictures. For instance, a happy face, a magic wand, a tree.

You use the nine images to build a story.

For instance:

I was happy when I found a magical tree.


The magician used a tree to make his wand. It was a happiness wand.


I “wand-ered” over to a tree, where I stopped and smiled at my own pun.

The great thing is that there are no wrong answers. And all kinds of possibilities.

Rorys Story Cubes box

Rory's Story Cubes come in a compact, efficient little magnetic box.

You can use as many or as few dice as you want. You can ignore some. You can make the images mean just what you want—even if that wouldn’t be someone else’s interpretation of the picture.

And you can get as silly as you want.

Rory’s Story Cubes are portable and stored in an elegant little magnetic-closure case. We bring them to restaurants and roll them while we’re waiting for the food to come.

Rorys Story Cubes app

The app sells for $1.99.

If you’ve got a few kids in your group—even if they’re very diverse in terms of age or interests—it’s a great way to keep them occupied. And laughing.

There’s a great back-story to this game. Rory originally invented his cube game for companies to foster creativity and teamwork. He has since come up with a number of different versions, including a version with just “action” pictures (verbs), one that’s about voyages, and a smart phone app.

Rory’s story cubes sell for about $15 and they’re available at most toy stores or online at the Rory’s Story Cubes website.

+Continue Reading

Draw a stickman.comYour kid will love this.

You draw a stick figure, and the website brings it to life.

There is a literacy component, because the site takes the stickman through a plotline. You’re given instructions like, “draw a key in my hand” before he can open a locked box.

Kids have to read and understand the instructions, and then figure out how to fulfill them.

(So like life.)

There’s plenty of action to keep kids interested in the story. I won’t spoil it for you, but think dragon, fire, flood… cartoony, though, not scary.

And throughout it all is a very quirky sense of silliness. For instance, at some point the site itself catches on fire and detritus drops on the dragon’s head. Stuff that kids love.

After you’ve finished the scenario – a couple of times, likely – take a look at the gallery. People have done some pretty incredible “stickmen,” like Steve Jobs, Gandolf, anime and other really inventive characters.



+Continue Reading

Fun online Hallowe’en “differences” game

Terrific Hallowe'en - differences gameTerrific Hallowe’en is an easy, fun and speedy online game.

The goal is to find the differences between the two, similar-looking pictures.

You click on each thing that’s different. It might be a missing leaf on a tree, a missing house in the background, or a different-coloured tie.

When you spot the five differences, you get a new pair of images. There are three levels: Easy, Medium and Hard (which you can’t unlock until after you’ve finished Medium).

The game is timed, so you can’t just sit there staring. However, if you do take too long it flashes you a hint – well, it shows you a difference. Not really a hint.

It’s a good way for kids to really look at an image, and think about “same” and “different.” It’s also good for hand-eye co-ordination, since you have to click right on the difference.

Small kids can play it with an adult, by just pointing to the screen with their finger. And the Hard level is perfect for older kids, who won’t be bored.

+Continue Reading

Silent E

Here is a great video that teaches what Silent E does. (Spoiler alert: For one thing, it makes a hug huge!)

Thanks to, who brought this to my attention via a tweet.
Their website is fantastic – it’s a collection of videos that kids just gotta see.

And if you’re in the mood for something slightly more modern…

+Continue Reading

Fun online spelling bee

Oxford Spelling BeeThis one’s for kids who are already good spellers and who think spelling is fun. (To me it’s a no-brainer, but I have to remember that not everyone reads the dictionary for fun.)

Anyway, that kid will appreciate this great online spelling bee from Oxford. It’s fast and it’s fun – and it’s challenging.

Go to the Oxford Spelling Bee site.

Choose British English or US English. Then choose your level, from Tricky to Fiendish, and then click Start.

Warning – Fiendish will require you to spell words like gymkhana and belligerent, one of which I got wrong (Does the word not look better to you with one l? Look: beligerent. Oh. OK, that looks wrong.)

The website reads the word in a lovely British accent, so make sure your computer sound is turned well up. You can hear the word again if you want before you try to spell it. If you get it wrong, you get an X. If you get it right, you get a checkmark. Each category goes up to 15, and at the end you get your score.

I love that they start with “Tricky” as the lowest level which implies that if you get one wrong in that category, well, it was tricky. (It’s not you, it’s me, Oxford is saying.)

You can work your way through the levels, and you can do a level again to try to get a better score. When you do that, the words change so you can keep playing over and over again.

Now I’m feeling a bit belligerent about my score so I think I’ll go work out in my local gymkhana. Wait – with my horse. (I just looked it up.)

+Continue Reading

Literacy opportunities are everywhere

Mandarin oranges signYou don’t always need books to help your kid read better.

When my son and I go for a walk, there’s always something weird, funny or unintelligible to read, correct or figure out.

Example. We went on vacation and on the buffet we saw this sign. (Click on the picture for a larger image.) I called my son over and showed it to him – I didn’t say anything. He said, “hey,  that should be Mandarin!” And together, we showed the buffet lady and we all laughed about it.*

It was a great opportunity to get a bit playful with words, while at the same time showing my son the way to approach typos (and the people who make ’em) – while it can be helpful to point out someone’s typo,  it’s not cool to be judgmental or become some kind of self-appointed “grammar cop.”

Another time we were playing some miniature golf. As you go around the course, sometimes you have to wait for others to finish their hole. Rather than just wait, I would point to a sign and ask my son to rearrange the letters in the sign to form new words.

OK, it sounds nerdy, but it’s actually a pretty funny game because you wouldn’t believe some of the stuff kids come up with! There are no “rules” to the game – you can use all the letters, or just some of the letters – you can even add some letters if you see a phrase you’d like to create.Mini golf sign

The idea is just to take signs that you otherwise might not pay any attention to, and create new meaning from them

The next time you’re out with your kid, even if it’s just walking to school, take a look around you at all the reading possibilities. Every little bit helps.

*If you have a kid like mine, you’ll know immediately why a sign that says “mandrain” is hilarious. Even the buffet lady thought that one was funny – and then she immediately removed the sign.

+Continue Reading

Test your Potter fan with these clues

Harry Potter, magical quills; image: www.pottermore.comWe’ve all been missing Harry and the Gang, of course, which is why we were so excited to see the new website, Pottermore.

Getting Kids Reading has qualified to be an early, beta-tester of the new Harry Potter site.
That means we’ll be able to bring you an insider’s view of all of the magical outpourings of J. K. Rowling’s imagination, a month or so before the site is open to everyone in October.

(There are one million other beta-testers, incidentally, so we’re not exactly letting our special status go to our heads.)

They chose the beta-testers through a special contest. For one week, asked a question a day to elicit a clue which we then used to “find” a magical quill.

Test your little Potter fan and see how many he or she would have gotten correct!
Here are the clues they asked:

Day 1 Clue
How many breeds of owl are featured on the Eeylops Owl Emporium sign? Answer: 5

Day 2 Clue
What is the number of the chapter in which Professor McGonagall cancels the Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff? Answer: 14

Day 3 Clue
In the Gryffindor versus Slytherin Quidditch match, in Harry’s third year, how many points is Gryffindor leading by before Harry catches the golden snitch? Answer: 60

Day 4 Clue
How many students take part in the Triwizard Tournament during Harry’s fourth year? Answer: 4

Day 5 Clue
What is the house number of the Headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix in Grimmauld Place? Answer: 12

Day 6 Clue
How many chapters are there in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? 
 Answer: 30

Day 7 Clue
How many deathly hallows are there? Answer: 3

The image of the magical quills came from the “Pottermore Insider’s Blog,” which magically disappeared after I clicked on it. OK, maybe I’m not so much “magical” as I am “technically incompetent” – but my point is, I’d love to know who the artist is. These are beautiful. And, clearly, magical.

+Continue Reading

QR codes – reading fun for the whole (nerdy) family

QR code GKreadingOK, this is a great tip but it might be a bit… er… nerdy. But then, so am I. And so is my kid, who wears it like a badge of honour.

You’ve seen these QR codes, right? They’re on ads, posters, marketing material. Maybe you never knew what they were.

They’re like bar codes, but readable by anyone with a cellphone. You take an app like RedLaser (iPhone or Android) and scan the QR code, which reveals a hidden message, website, phone number, URL, etc.

So I was thinking it would make an excellent scavenger hunt to get kids reading.

You create some goofy, fun, positive or even utterly meaningless messages and print them out. Then you hide them around the house and give your kid your phone. Hilarity ensues. Well, maybe not hilarity – but certainly reading.

One scavenger hunt game could include messages like, “Look under the couch” and then the QR code hidden under the couch would read, “Look in your left shoe by the door,” and so on until the kid finds a new book on his pillow or something.

Or you could print one up and stick it in your kid’s lunchbox (his friend has a phone, you know he does). Now your kids kind of cool and you’re the cool mom who know about technology.

If you’ve never tried reading a QR code before, download the app and try this one I just made up:


You can make up your own QR codes at Kaywa. Or even better, have your kid make some up.

The idea for this post came from this smart and funny blog I’ve been following for years, Ironic Sans (if you know your typography, the title is funny).

+Continue Reading