Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Box Cars and One Eyed Jacks

If you have never hear of Box Cars and One Eyed Jacks, you do NOT know what you are missing.  BCOEJ is a hands on game based approach to practicing math and literacy skills.  Dice, playing cards, dominoes, and letter tiles are used regularly in this program to reinforce skills already taught.  About 5 years ago the principal at my school brought in the owners of Box Cars and One Eyed Jacks to our school for a workshop.  It is by far the BEST professional development I have had, ever.  It is practical and exciting.  The kids love the lessons.  I was extremely lucky because our district full on implemented BCOEJ  the next school year so I got a whole kit of dice and letter tiles to use in my daily lessons.  I have had the privilege of having Jane and John Felling, the owners, come into my classroom and teach lessons.  I have helped at a conference that John was presenting at. 

I think one of my favorite things about BCOEJ is that they make it so easy to differentiate based on student ability and the students never realize they are doing something different from the other students.  It also lends itself really well to Guided Math, which I have not quite been able to master daily in my classroom. We do guided math occasionally.  I teach first grade and my math block was placed right after my guided reading block and the students have a difficult time going from reading centers to math centers and staying focused.  We do it when we can.  Hopefully next year my schedule is set up differently and I will try again. 

Anyway, the whole reason for writing this post was to talk about my adorable 4 year old and my mommy guilt!
 My daughter is unable to attend preschool and this is something that I have struggled with for two years now.  I don't think I will be okay with this until she begins kindergarten in the fall and I know she is doing well.  She is a smart cookie, she knows her letters and her sounds and counts to 13, skips 14 & 15, and then gets to 20 (who needs 14 & 15 anyways right?).  She has a great vocabulary.   I know she is going to be fine, but there is that little nagging voice that every now and then gets me thinking that she should be in preschool.  I would have totally sent her to preschool if I had a way to get her there.  She has an awesome daycare provider, who she loves, that has been amazing the past four years.  Natalie gets social interaction there and we work on academics at home.  This is where Box Cars comes into play.  I swear, my four year old knows exactly what to do to push my buttons and lately doing "school work" at home has become more of a chore and less fun.  It has been a constant struggle to get her to sit down and focus on the task at hand.  I do realize she is only four, but I am talking two minutes in and she is pretending to be a cat licking her arm clean.  We took a break for a week or two and I did some searching on Pinterest on how to get her excited about learning again, while all along, the answer was sitting on my desk at work.  I had an epiphany one day last week when I got a new student who desperately needed to work on letter formation.  I picked up my Box Cars kit, got out my letter dice and made a game for her to play to practice forming those letters.  That is when it hit me!  I will borrow a letter dice and play this game with Natalie.  BEST.  IDEA.  EVER.  Not only is she back in the swing of things with doing "school" at home.  She is BEGGING to play!  I'm talking "Mama, if I clean the toy room can I play the dice game?"  Music to my ears I'm telling you!  The game is so simple, basically the child rolls the dice, and writes the letter.  I brought home an uppercase die so she can roll an uppercase letter, but then she writes the lowercase letter.  The more she is seeing both forms of the letter, the better!  When a letter reaches the top of the graph, that letter wins.  To save paper, I give that letter a sticker and then we keep playing.  This game is great for letter formation, and letter recognition.  Of course, the teacher in me, throws in "and what sound does that letter make?"

Here is the letter die I brought home:
This is an uppercase one, but they have lowercase dice as well.  The star is wild, so of course that is Natalie's favorite thing to roll.  You can order them on the Box Car website for $1.50 each, but there is a minimum purchase requirement of $23.95.  I would have no problem spending $25 dollars on their website, but if you wanted to just get the letter dice and nothing else, I found a four pack of the lower case letter dice on Amazon for $4.80 plus shipping
Here is a picture of Natalie playing roll it and write it:
A few variations of the game:
*Play with number dice:  you can get thirty sided dice with the numbers 1-30 and ten sided dice on the Box Cars website and on Amazon as well.  Our local teacher store also has them available.
*If you are unable to purchase the alphabet dice, use one sided flashcards.  Put the flashcards in a coffee can or other container and have the child draw the cards out.  (I have some paid and free sets in my tpt store here)
I have the Roll it and Write it public on my google docs.  Hopefully this works!  Click here to view, print, or download!  If you try to to retrieve the doc, and it doesn't work, please let me know!

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