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video experiment

April 6, 2010 · Filed Under Uncategorized · Comment 

See if this works.

Watch live streaming video from thelearningnook at livestream.com

Get into class for just $49!!! Enroll between now and May 1 to take advantage of this outstanding offer.

Novel Motivation

February 22, 2009 · Filed Under Uncategorized · Comment 

As a tutor, a big part of my job is engaging students’ minds and getting them in gear for learning.  It flies in the face of standard wisdom, but one way to do this is through novelty.  My office is jammed with unusual trinkets and oddities, like dice within dice, two-foot pencils, and light-up pens.  My clock runs backwards, and I often use a timer shaped like a whistling tea kettle. 

My novel toys serve larger purposes.  The students that I see are often uncomfortable, especially at first.  The novelties help me to break the ice with new students.  The kids become intrigued, and I’ve got a foothold in the door to conversation with them.  In tutoring, it’s really important to build a relationship with students in order to see the greatest success. 

The oddities are also great rewards.  A surprising number of students will work to earn the privilege of using a two-foot long pencil or a pen shaped like a fingerbone.  I use the promise of simple pleasures like these to coax many reluctant students into time on task to assist remediation. 

Finally, yes, I have to admit that sometimes the trinkets are a bit too distracting.  That’s OK, though, because many of my students are struggling with most of their academic experience.  They come to see me because it’s fun to be here, even though we work on difficult skills.  Part of the fun is being distracted occasionally by a pen with popping dice on top or by dice that are only a quarter of an inch across.  They are amused, even for a few moments, by that clock that runs backwards.  And when those barriers of stress are broken down, I can often reach the minds that are trapped by feelings of failure and inadequacy. 

So, yeah, if a parent comes into my office (which I discourage!), they are often taken aback by the array of weird stuff they see laying around.  They sometimes wonder how in the world students actually get work done here.  But my track record speaks for itself.  Students that I work with succeed.  Kids who couldn’t read before learn to read.  Children who were once reluctant writers gain skills to frame paragraphs.  Youngsters who were afraid to try math skills become comfortable.  Novelty helps!


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(c) 2009 Sandra Fleming

Great Game for Spelling

February 2, 2009 · Filed Under Uncategorized · Comment 

Have fun and practice spelling at the same time!~  Try Bookworm right on your browser or do a free download. 

Bookworm plays much like the commercial game of Boggle-a grid of letters to search for words with consecutive letters that spell words.  The longer words that you can make, the higher your score will go.  It’s great practice with phonics because you can look for spelling patterns like -ought and -ight, as well as sensible blends and digraphs like ’sh’ and ‘cr.’  Give it a try!


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(c) 2009 Sandy Fleming

Math Corner: Add a Bit of Magic

July 29, 2008 · Filed Under Uncategorized · Comment 

Sometimes children need a bit of help to see the magic in mathematics.  If you like numbers, it’s magical the way they form patterns and follow rules.  It’s fantastic the way you can bend them to your will and get them to describe the world around you.  But if numbers are scary or boring or incomprehensible to students, they may need some additional motivation to begin to enjoy math.

This is where magic, as in sleight of hand, comes in.  Because numbers are so very predictable, there are many magic tricks, card tricks and mind reading tricks that rely on properties of numbers.  Some are quite easy to learn and to demonstrate, and if you choose your moment wisely, can be great motivators for your children or students. 

Here’s an easy one:  Choose a number between 1 and 20.  Multiply by 2, then add six.  Divide by 2.  Subtract the original number.  You can astound your audience by announcing that the answer is 3.  It’s always three, no matter what number was chosen to start with.  You could even seal the ‘prediction’ away in an envelope for added mystery.  Older students, once they try the trick, can be challenged to write an equation for the process, or to explain why the trick works.

You can get alot of mileage out of math magic.  You’ll want to give it a try!  Here are websites and books to help you:

Stunning Friends with Math Magic

Carnival Math from Funschool

Math Magic Tricks

Gnarly Math

And from Amazon:



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© 2008 Sandy Fleming

Writing Corner for July 13, 2008

July 14, 2008 · Filed Under Uncategorized · Comment 

Today, how about trying a paper bag story?  Get a bag that you can’t see through, and put five to ten small household items inside.  These can be nearly anything that’s not dangerous to handle or pick up without looking, like packages, paper clips, pencils, books, calculators, apples, or socks.  Players will all need something to write with.  Start a story off on a piece of paper with some scene-setting:  You know, give the characters names and maybe set up a problem for them to solve.  Now, pass the bag to the first player.  He or she draws an object out and must work it into the story.  You might want to set a certain number of sentences or words that need to be added by each person.  Pass the bag along and let the next player choose an object to work into the story, and keep going until the bag is empty and your story draws to a close with a sensible resolution.

Here’s a sample to try if you need some help getting started:

In the bag, put a paper clip, a spoon, a piece of soap, a piece of fruit, a playing card, a small ball, a checker, a piece of string, a tissue, and a ribbon.  Start with this story:

Jerry was bored.  He looked around his room, but he couldn’t see anything interesting to do.  He decided to take a walk around the block to see what his friends were up to.  Jerry grabbed his jacket and headed out.  Next door, his neighbor, Mr. Townsend, stopped him.  He said, “I’ve lost my …..” 

Now pull an item from the bag and begin the game!


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© 2008 Sandy Fleming



Water Play for Young Ones

July 8, 2008 · Filed Under Uncategorized · Comment 

On the next hot day, you can occupy your young child with just a bit of water and imagination.  Try these fun ideas!

  • Use water to “Paint”.  Arm your kids with an old paint brush and a bucket of water.  Allow them to paint the water onto sidewalks, lawn furniture, or even your house or garage.  The water will make a satisfying color “change” and the kids will be happily occupied for quite a while.
  • Give young children lots of containers and a little bit of water, and they will pour and mix for quite a while.  These skills are important for motor development and also help build foundations for science concepts.
  • If you’ve got the time and patience for dirty play, try mixing the water with dirt to make mud.  Experiment with different consistencies.  What does it take to make pourable mud?  How about moldable mud?  Stirable mud?  Does one kind of dirt work differently than another?  How much mud and water does it take to make mud?  (I swear I had a kid who could make a gallon of mud from a few drops of water and a couple of grains of sand…).
  • Try some water experiments.  How long does it take the sun to warm the water?  How long does it take ice cubes to cool it?  Does the water feel the same to hands and elbows and toes? 
  • Use a straw and CLEAN water to try spraying water as far as possible.
  • Have a water Olympics: hold contests for biggest splash, longest drink without a breath, most water held in the hand, and similar competitions.
  • Use a flexible straw and CLEAN water with two bowls to try siphoning from one bowl to the other.
  • Can you build a water-powered gizmo from tinkertoys or household items?  Try for something where pouring on water moves something or causes something else to happen.

Have a wonderfully wet time!


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© 2008 Sandy Fleming

Hello and Welcome!

June 25, 2008 · Filed Under Miscellania, Uncategorized · Comment 

I’m excited!  This is the very first post in the Learning Nook.  I’m planning to build a stellar education site that will provide parents, homeschoolers, and teachers with information about learning.  I also hope to showcase my writing and professional products, as well as services that I offer related to education and learning. 

I’m putting a more detailed biography in the About section, but briefly, I’m a special education teacher, private tutor, and a writer.  I live in Michigan with my husband and rapidly growing-up daughters, a couple of dogs and cats, and a nice corner of rural life.  When I’m not teaching or writing, I’m working on starting a local literacy organization, volunteering with Girl Scouts, helping with church things, reading fantasy fiction or mysteries, or making music.  I abhor housework, and my home is never quite as neat as I would like.  So if you come to visit, you’ll find a lived-in place with generally with lots of clutter.

How about you?  I’d love to make new friends!  Leave a comment and a way to contact you, and I’ll try to respond.  Leave a blog or web address, and I’ll try to visit.  Head on over to the Learning Nook Forum and see who’s hanging out.  Ask questions, give answers, make friends and find support.

And most of all, please stop back again soon!