Thursday, November 24, 2016

Review: WISE Guide Enrichment Activity Worksheets N-Z by Elizabeth FitzGerald, M.S.

We currently have students in sections N, U, and W, and a beginner in Steps 6 & 7 of Spell to Write and Read. I am also teaching a group of second and third graders using SWR methods at a homeschool co-op this year.

My Review in a Nutshell:
So far this resource is a good thing for us; it is challenging both my students and myself to a greater understanding of the English language. Our students are asking for these worksheets! I believe they like the intrigue of putting their knowledge to work. I soon plan to purchase the A-M volume for reference and review.

None of these books pictured are published with coil bindings,
I had that done after I purchased them. 
Note: I will refer to the curriculum, Spell to Write and Read, as ‘SWR,’ to its Teacher’s Manual as ‘SWR Teacher’s Manual,’ to the WISE Guide for Spelling as ‘WISE Guide,’ and to WISE Guide Enrichment Activity Worksheets N-Z as ‘Worksheets.’

The Content:
The contents of these Worksheets are well integrated with the scope and sequence of Spell to Write and Read; they are not for stand-alone use. A few times, I even opened SWR Teacher’s Manual and the WISE Guide to make sure the “why” I was thinking was correct before explaining it to my student.

Even though this is my sixth year teaching SWR, there are times that I freeze up while teaching a reference page because I feel a need to follow the script in the SWR Teacher’s Manual. I’m afraid of leaving out a step or saying something wrong. These worksheet pages reinforce what is taught on the reference pages, but without a script from which to work. For me, this relieves the pressure and allows me to use what I know (and look up what I don’t) to explain the concepts being practiced.

Students are asked to apply multiple rules that would not necessarily be matched together without spelling enrichments. Therefore, I can see the value of this resource for all types of students. Average students, struggling students, and advanced students will all

  • excel further with more practice.
  • grow with opportunities to converse about concepts outside of dictation with now familiar words they learned during dictation.
  • profit from synthesizing their knowledge to complete the tasks.
  • benefit from “real world” applications of their spelling and grammar learning.

Furthermore, I believe this resource is an excellent tool for students who naturally memorize words by sight—even advanced words. Their eyes and brain seem to glaze over while they go through the motions of dictation during which they write the words correctly so a teacher may falsely believe they are mastering the concepts. In completing these worksheets, these students will interact with their spelling words to prove and strengthen their understanding.

The Structure:
These Worksheets are a timesaver! We had previously not been doing many of the enrichments along the bottom of the WISE Guide. When we did, they were done in the students’ Everything Else Book. I would need to give not only instructions on what to do, but where to write the words on the unformatted page. Mrs. FitzGerald has streamlined this process. And now, it is even easier for visual learners since they may read the directions along with, or to, the teacher.

This is a terrific tool for multi-level teaching. The other day, three students at three different levels were ready for enrichments. We all sat at the table together. I explained the instructions to the first student and asked her to complete the first two lines while I started the next student, and so on. I went around the table checking work, encouraging, correcting, and explaining. It worked quite well. This was one instance for which the Post-It tabs mentioned below proved helpful!

I made a note to myself to read all the teachers’ notes on a particular worksheet before beginning it with a student. On page 170, the teachers’ notes say to read the spelling list U-1 in order while the student listens for the beginning sounds of the words. It’s even in bold. I did not read that before I started, and therefore chose to give the words randomly so they are in a different order than when written in the Learning Log. This created some confusion for me. I was reading them off the worksheet answer key, but didn’t want to read all of one category in a row so I was trying to randomize them. About the third word I started lightly pencil marking the words as I read them to avoid reading them again. About the fifth word, I noticed the teachers’ note to read the words as they occur in the WISE Guide. If I had taken one more moment of preparation before jumping in with my student, it would have saved me from the confusion of which words to read in which order. It also would have saved you from having to read and try to understand this paragraph. So, read the instructions for the teacher as well as those for the student—before engaging your student! (That should be a given, but apparently, some of us *ahem* need reminding.)

I appreciate that this resource is packaged as it is, with the teachers’ key being printed and bound and the students’ worksheets as a pdf. The author could have chosen to publish both editions electronically. If that were the case, I would probably have loaded the teachers’ manual on my iPad from which to teach. However, with a printed copy in my hands, I can jot down notes about things I want to remember to do the next time I use the page. For example, I drew a red star on page 170 next to the instruction to read section U-1 in order.

Making it Work Better for Us:
The Post-it tabs in my WISE Guide for the different sections we are studying are still working out magnificently. Some people choose to tab all the sections like an external, visible index. I prefer to simply tab the ones we are working on, moving the tab as a student advances. I have a different color for each student. And I used tabs of the same colors to mark the corresponding places in the Worksheets.

I put the pdf of student worksheets directly on my computer for quick and easy access. No finding and fumbling with the cd to access the file.

Questions and Recommended Improvements:
I would like to know how to guide students to form derivatives that are real words without giving away the answers. I encountered this dilemma previously, and now again with page 223 of the Worksheets. It can be disheartening to a student to fashion a page of derivatives from spelling words and prefixes and/or suffixes only to be told they aren’t real words. I tried to soften the blow by saying words such as “associator,” “resourcism,” and “architecty” could be used in very creative writing. In the “How to Use These Worksheets” pages, the author writes, “Students will need your help determining if a word they’re building is a legitimate English word.” She suggests using “a good dictionary or online resource,” but does not go into detail about how to do so. Perhaps this is a topic for an advanced seminar.

I hope in a future printing Extra Attention words might receive a footnote with a reference to where in the SWR Teacher’s Manual and/or WISE Guide an explanation may be found. For example, “starring” and “starred” on Worksheets page 34 are listed as “1-1-1 words needing extra attention” on page 158 of SWR Teacher’s Manual, which are examples of a type of advanced challenges to consider two pages back. I did not remember the particulars of those derivatives needing extra attention so my sweet student sat waiting while I found the explanation.

I would suggest splitting the one pdf into several different files to make accessing the desired section more efficient. Perhaps using the chart on page 64 of SWR Teacher’s Manual would be a good way to divide the document. If I were working with one student, this may not be a problem because my computer reopens pdfs to the same location as when closed. But with students at different levels, it is mildly annoying to scroll back and forth over one hundred pages.

I experienced some difficulty opening the cd on my computer. I think it may be a problem with the optical drive as it would spin up but not recognize the cd at all. I put it in my husband’s older computer and it worked nicely. I ended up emailing the file to myself so I could load it on my computer for more efficient access.

Keeping the cd in the pocket inside the front cover makes the front cover stiff and difficult to thumb through the early pages. But it’s a minor detail hardly worth mentioning and definitely would not keep me from purchasing the package.

LITHBTH Educational Services (, Elizabeth FitzGerald's website
Back Home Industries, home of Spell to Write and Read by Wanda Sanseri
Morning Star Learning, another excellent resource for SWR information by Britta McColl

I received this publication at no cost in exchange for my published opinion, which was influenced by no one.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

How Often Should a Sewing Machine be Serviced?

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Monday, February 29, 2016

Morning Reflection

This drop of rain glorifying God reminded me that He created me to glorify Him. As this drop of rain will soon fall to the ground no more to be remembered by its place, soon (though not for scores more years, Lord willing) I will perish from this earthly home and in a few generations will no more be remembered by this place. All the more reason to reflect Him so that His truth will be passed on through the generations. This tent is for a moment. He is forever.

Psalm 103:14-16, 17-18

Friday, February 26, 2016

My Attitude Toward Blogging

If you look at the dates of my posts, you will see that I've had this blog for a few years. Sometimes I post a lot, sometimes not very often. Sometimes I get really excited about an idea and it consumes me until I've written and rewritten and rewritten and rewritten and published it. If you could see behind the scenes, you would see several draft posts as well.

There's a part of me that wants to post on a regular schedule. But blogging is only one of my hobbies besides my full time jobs of wife and mommy and sister. And those jobs have priority. I used to worry a lot about my neglected blog, thinking I'd never have readers if I didn't have regular updates.

But then I read this post by Sarah Mae. (*Disclaimer)

And I came to the conclusion that I won't do the same thing. I don't want to be so popular that I feel like I have to be accountable to a fan base. I won't get so busy with my blog or anything else online or in real life that I neglect my God, husband, children, or family. I will pay attention and live and breathe and drink deep and grow in wisdom so that as younger women come behind me I will have something more than fluff to share with them. That said, I'm not going to the extreme of giving up writing and publishing. I'm just not feeling guilty when real life takes precedence over blogging. And if you like what I write, I hope you'll check back once in a while. You know, every other year or so when I happen upon a new recipe.

*Disclaimer: This link is not an endorsement of everything thereat. :-)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Here's the Wonton Soup Recipe You Asked for, Mom

Hi Mom,
I thought I would put my soup recipe here just in case we ever get a Bountiful Basket Asian Pack again. I'm sorry I don't have any pictures for you. Maybe you can take pictures of your results and I can add them in.

Day 1: Broth Prep.

In a big pot, I put the following:
a couple chicken necks
trimmings from Zaycon chicken
one stalk/bunch lemon grass (the other went into the freezer)
six halved garlic cloves
a couple inches ginger
a medium red onion
1/4 cup-ish apple cider vinegar
water. Don't forget the water.

I simmered it from the time I put all this together until I remembered to turn it off, I added water as needed. When I went to bed it was too hot to put in the fridge, so I put a lid on it and set it outside on the deck. It was already 38 outside and the forecasted low was 25. Perfect.

Day 2: Finish and Eat!
I brought the pot in from outside at breakfast time. There wasn't room for it in the refrigerator, so I set it on the stove to simmer more. Plus, it would be warm and ready to strain when I was ready for it. This time I added one of the peppers. Only one. I think I felt the heat in the finished product, but it wasn't spicy at all.

I decided I wanted the soup to be ready to eat at 5. So, at three, my kitchen helper of the day and I began. Yes, it took the whole two hours. And that was without major interruptions as the littles were napping the whole time!

Strain the broth.
Set on stove to simmer-boil.
Cut large carrots in diagonal slices; add them to the pot.
Cut celery hearts; add them to the pot.
Slice red onion; add half of it to the pot. Freeze other half.

Meanwhile, cook chicken breasts. I started these on the stove in a lidded frying pan. Then I needed that pan and burner for the bok choy so I switched them to the pressure cooker. I added some soy sauce on top of them to flavor the meat.

Meanwhile, mince three-four garlic cloves. Set aside.
Grate two-three inches of peeled ginger. Set aside with garlic.
I wanted to add these toward the end so the flavors wouldn't mellow too much.

I found this miso soup recipe that has bok choy wontons in it. I didn't follow it exactly, but here's kind what I did:
Heated coconut oil (odorless).
Sauteed minced garlic until about half brown.
Added bok choy. (I don't think my ribbons would be called "thin" and I left in the stalks.)
Sprinkled with soy sauce.
Tossed to coat.
Put on lid.
Checked every couple minutes until it started looking cooked.
Realized the leaves would be over done before the stalks were softened.
Transfered most of the stalks to the pot of broth and veggies still simmer/boiling.
Removed bok toy from heat. Added toasted sesame oil. Tossed to coat. Let cool a bit.

I think I added the waiting ginger and garlic just before we started putting the wontons in.

To make the wontons, we set a wrapper on the counter.
Wet the perimeter with water.
Added a couple teaspoons of bok choy.
Folded the wrapper in half, matching the edges.
Folded the wrapper in half again, purposefully not matching the corners, but leaving them askew.
Pinched the "seams" to seal well.
We placed them in the simmering pot one at a time as we finished.

By the time all of this was in the pot, it was evident there was no room for the chicken! So, we put that in our bowls and ladled the soup over the top. Delicious! It was worth taking two days to make this. I lasted two days worth of meals!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Almost Farm Pizza Night

olive oil, sea salt, flaked salmon patties, garbanzo beans, sliced apples

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Squash-ish Pie-ish aka Squash Piefflé

Yeah, so I'm not exactly sure what to call this dish. But, it is delicious. So delicious, this is the only picture of it I was able to get.

And also so delicious I wanted to record the recipe so I can make it again. I feel like I've said that before. Bonus: It's cow-dairy-free!

We were given a huge squash. I don't know the name of it. I would say it was the size of a pumpkin but that would not be helpful as those come in all sizes. It was about the size of a basketball. Wait. Those are various sizes too. A big basketball. Probably a bit bigger. It was pale green with white-ish "warts." Hansome butchered and baked it for me then I took it from there. He hinted at a pie. I was thinking soufflĂ©. So, I came up with something in between. I was thinking a graham cracker crust would be easy, but I wanted easier. So I just used whole graham crackers to line the bottom and sides of a baking dish. (The ones from Trader Joe's that are smaller, thicker, darker, and coated with sugar on one side. I don't remember what they are called. Hansome took out the recycling and I don't want to go dig through the mini-dumpster outside in the dark.)

The squash itself was quite sweet, sweeter than a butternut squash. I probably could have used even less sugar. I mixed it up with some other stuff and added a crumble topping. I used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer for the filling because the tough fibers of the squash get stuck on the mixing attachment instead of in my teeth. This became our "second dinner" at six yesterday because Hansome was hungry and ready for dinner at four. The kids were too. I guess we must have had a light lunch. This dish was so tasty that it was hard not to eat too much! We decided to save most of it to eat this morning for an easy breakfast before Bible class so we wouldn't stuff ourselves last night. This morning I kept forgetting to put it in the oven and then ran out of time to warm it up. Guess what? It's good cold too!

Squash-ish Pie-ish

Trader Joe's Graham Crackers 

Cooked squash, pumpkin, or yams (red garnet are my favorite): enough to fill a two quart casserole
1/2 cup "white" sugar (I used evaporated cane juice from Costco)
2 eggs
1/2 cup melted Tropical Traditions Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil (I used "odorless" this time.)
1/2 cup Almost Farm goat milk
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. sea salt

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup Bob's Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1/3 cup melted Tropical Traditions Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil
1/2 cup rolled oats (usually I use Bob's Red Mill Thick Rolled Oats, but we are currently using up a bag of "regular rolled oats" from WinCo. If I were using the thick rolled oats, I would break them up in the blender or coffee grinder first before using them here.)
nutmeg to taste (or cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cardamom, pumpkin pie spice or Almosta Farm's "Everything Should Taste Like Dessert" Spice or your favorite combination of these. Simply nutmeg was very nice though, and that's probably what I'll use next time too.)
optional additions: shredded coconut, chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease/Oil your 2 quart baking dish. Line bottom and sides of baking dish with graham crackers. (I cut them lengthwise to fit the sides.) If you are using the last of them, go ahead and dump the crumbs in too.

Into a mixing bowl combine the filling ingredients until well mixed and smooth. You might want to break up and beat the squash by itself for a bit first.

Pour over graham crackers and smooth the top flat. My batter was a pudding consistency. (Of course, pudding can be different viscosities so that doesn't help much. Sorry.)

In a small bowl, mix the topping ingredients together. Sprinkle onto the filling. 

Bake 40 minutes. Let it rest for a while once you take it out and it should set up. Enjoy!

Did you try this recipe? What did you think?