The Worth of a Challenge

If you give a child a fish, you feed him for a day.
If you teach a child to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.
But if you teach a child to learn, you feed him for a lifetime
and he doesn't have to just eat fish.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


We started off the day today with centers. Its always fun to mix things up and not start the day as a worksheet factory.

1. Reading fun with racing cars:  I went to the activity section of Making Learning Fun and loved the large assortment of stuff available. I would even call it a printables "wonderland". I found this race car activity that was very exciting and engaging to do. I tossed all the cards in a basket and then put out markers and the booklet that comes with it. It took no instruction for my child to figure out what to do. He read the cards and matched the correct car. Afterwords, he then colored the booklet with no problem. This is a great center for independent learning.

2. Counting Fish: I came up with this when Benji started to try to count past ten on his own. I found this is great for fine motor skills and counting and more. I just drew a simple fish bowl with marker on some cardstock and then gave him a sheet of small fish stickers and let him count as he placed them in the bowl.

3. Fish Addition (adding two): This is a super simple center. I just used laminated fish. I wrote the math sentence on one fish and the answer on the other fish and set them in piles. I gave unifix cubes as counters to help make the sentence. Just let the child do the addition and match the fish.

4. Chicka Chicka Sight Words: This activity also came from Making Learning Fun.
  I tossed the word cards into the basket along with some letter tiles.

I then had my child match up the tiles with the word on the cards provided.

Don't have letter tiles? No problem, just let your child use a dry erase marker on laminated cards. Or you can make these letters and just cut them into square tiles rather than circles.

Want to focus on vowels? You can have your child do a vowel sort before making their words
I found this card at Confessions of a Homeschooler.
Looking for more? just check out the links from todays posts, they are loaded with tons of fun and easy educational ideas.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My very first movie review!

Last night we promptly went to Target to get the movie Tangled. I heard lots of good things about the movie and thought my family would enjoy giving it a whirl. Everyone was so right. The movie was great. I wasn't sure at first how a "princess movie" would be received by my two boys, but they really enjoyed the movie about a "girl with lots of hair". The songs were wonderful and enhanced by the choicest of actors Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi. There is a moment toward the end of the story where I found my self not wanting to look knowing what was going to happens since I have heard this story when I was a young child. True to all Disney movies though, the movie does end "Happily Ever After". I did have one small rift with the movie and that is from the "step mother" who sings to Rapunzel "Mother knows best". I often say this to my boys, but just like the magic, it's all in the movies! I am certain this will be added to the long list of classics and will be favored for years to come.

Let's Paint!

I am actually going to branch out from the white walls of the classroom and paint. But I am not sure which color to pick.

The possible colors are:

  • Bright sunshine yellow

  • grassy green

  • splashy blue

I really like all three choices, so if it were your room which one of these colors would you pick?

Animal Classification: Enrichment and Extensions

We have been working very steadily on our animal classification and adding to our bulletin board(which is really the bi-fold doors to the closet)
Up to now we have learned

  • the difference between living and non living things
  • kingdoms of living things
  • vertibrates and invertabrates and how to tell the difference. 
  • we have also subdivided the animal kingdom into mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish
At this point we are having fun adding extensions to our learning with lots of fun activities.

We played with puzzles to learn all about the different animals

We played folder games. The top folder games I made from Primary Partners and the bottom one came from File Folder Fun.

These were the selections pulled for silent/independent reading.

We sang Kindermusic songs about the creatures in our backyard

We played with animals and their habitats

We sorted mini animals into their different groups

We did our math using a barrel of monkeys(besides who says you have to count beans!)

We played fish games. (These came from Nana!)

We read the book Froggy gets Dressed. (The boys love these books, they are simple and sweet and fun)
We used the materials from Kizclub to add to our reading experience.

These activities were so fun and my kids really enjoyed them. It was also a nice way to step away from worksheets for the day.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Let's make some music!

   Those who know me know how much I love to listen to music. It leaves an impression inside of a person. It can impact how a person feels, help generate ideas and much more. One of the Chinese symbols for the word "joy" also means "music". I find it amazing how music can indeed bring joy. In our home it often allows us to express how we feel without having to search for the right words.

      I like to implement music where ever and when ever I can, knowing how important music is. I often play music during free choice, seat work, book nook time and any other time I can. I also like to set time apart just for music. I have the children practice violin, but we also do spend time learning about music. Many people think you have to be an expert at piano or have a music background to have music part of their homeschool but that is just not true. Most people are good listeners and can help their children become good listeners too.

Things I include in a music lesson:

  • how to listen-Is the music fast or slow? Is it high or low? Is it quiet or soft? I often use a picture of a lion and a picture of a mouse mounted to a craft stick and have the kids hold up the right stick.
  • when and how to participate- using egg shakers or rhythm sticks to the beat of the music
  • moving to the music-moving fast or slow, etc. This would be a great time to use scarfs or ribbons or any other item to help exaggerate the movement. My boys especially love bouncing hula hoops.
  • recognizing notes on the treble clef and and what rhythm they represent.

 While you can pop in your favorite tunes and learn these concepts, we have been very blessed to be able to use Kindermusic books and Cd's for our little classroom. It is a great curriculum that I took Jacob to and am now using our materials at home for both children.
   Items that we use for music are

  • egg shakers 
  • animal shakers
  • bells
  • kazoos
  • harmonicas
  • beanbags
  • any kind of drum like instruments
  • sand blocks
 Not pictured is a game I made for the kids for music. I made it from white felt and put strips of black felt on it to make a treble clef. I then made little black circular bean bags to toss onto the treble clef. It is a great game for learning the notes. I also have different types of rhythm notes to put on it and have the kids make the rhythms using small instruments. It is a great game and was very inexpensive to make and has certainly enriched our learning experience. Most everything I found for low cost or made for low cost. It is worth every penny and I am never surprised when my kids are most excited for this portion of our learning day.


So break out those shakers and that Beach Boy music and groove with your kids and teach them music and that music is fun!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Place Value: made simple!

          We just learned place value to the hundreds and soon will work up to the thousands. But for now, we will be sticking to numbers less than 1,000.

          I knew this was coming and looked into a lot of different ways to teach this math concept. I checked out math u can see. It's a wonderful system, but you have to pay for those pricey math block sets and then you also have the issue of color memorization rather than number. ie. pink + red = ??? rather than the numbers they represent. I looked at the math manipulatives that they sell at the learning store and still, not only do you have to buy a class set, but you also have to pay a small fortune for it. Well, I found a way! I did find at Lakeshore a small student set that is meant as an add on to the class one. It was just a few dollars and had all the pieces we needed.

I purchased the set and went to work putting the concept together. First, you have to have a well established grasp of what 1,10, and 100 are. Once you know your child has that figured out(although most first graders should at this point) you can take your set and brake it down into piles of  1's, 10's and 100's. If you don't have a set, you can print off this 100's grid on colored cardstock and then cut it apart to create the pieces you need.

  1. Show how ten 1's become a 10. If you have more then ten you leave the "extras" in the 1's place. We had lots of fun trying to stack all the ones onto a ten bar. 
  2. Show how ten 10's become 100. Again if you have extras explain that you leave them in the 10's place. We then stacked them onto a 100.
  3. all of the new 100's go in the 100's place. 
  4. count each group and write the number above it.
  5. Say the name of the number reading from left to right. 

I found this was a very easy way to show the meaning behind these big numbers.

We found a great game to review the concept from File Folder Fun. I called out the numbers and my child put the chickens in the right shell.

St Patricks Day Fun

Lot's of fun to be had this March 17th. We made sure that we wore green shirts so we don't get pinched and then let the fun begin.

We did do-a-dot shamrocks from DLTK. Don't want to do a shamrock? They have lots of other designs to choose from including a pot of gold, a rainbow and more.

We played a game* where we rolled the dice and moved a green teddy bear from 1-20

We pulled out all of our green manipulatives and found different ways to express what was in the baskets using a piece of graphing paper.

We graphed: green vehicles

unifix cubes

teddy bear counters

linking cubes

Benji wanted to mix things up by adding orange ones....can you tell that is his favorite color!

We made necklaces with green beads

Again, Benji was not satisfied with just green.

We colored a snake and gave him beady eyes (I found the template here)

We made a St. Patrick's Day word wall*

We made a picture* to match our song we found at The Mailbox.

We played Pot 'o' Gold from File Folder Fun
 This is a great free file folder game that teaches nouns and verbs

We also did Shamrock Phonics to review some basic word families. You can find this one at File Folder Fun as well. They also have a color matching game and a place value game that fit this theme.

*These printables are all part of a wonderful download from Musings of Me. She had a lot of other activities in the packet, but alas, we did not have time to do them all. At least there is next year!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Free Choice!

          "In the Reggio Emilia preschools, however, each child is viewed as infinitely capable, creative, and intelligent. The job of the teacher is to support these qualities and to challenge children in appropriate ways so that they develop fully." 
 Louise Boyd Cadwell (Bringing Reggio Emilia Home: An Innovative Approach to Early Childhood Education)

  When Jacob was part of a charter where we used to live, in the middle of the class, they would break and let the kids have free choice. Free choice was when the kids would be free to pick activities that other wise would have been reserved for a learning center or some other time designated by the teacher. It allowed them to play with the items or mimic what they had learned in previous lessons. Most of all, the kids loved it. I fully recognize the importance of letting the kids play, pretend, and imagine them selves and role play with these items. I try each day to give free choice to our learning items as well as the centers. As you can imagine this is a wonderful time and so it is worth working for. It has become a motivator to my own children, that if they finish their lessons, they can have free choice before lunch time.

             I try to make certain that all the centers are available to them at free choice, and the biggest thing to remember is not to demonstrate anything unless a child asks how to do/use something and not to interfere with the play unless they are being unsafe and could hurt them self, another person or damage the materials in a way that was unsafe(ripping dress up clothes, tearing pages in a book, throwing toys, etc.) This is an exciting time as a teacher and parent, because you now get to see what your child sees. They will show us what their impression of how these materials should be used and played with. You also get to see them do "experiments". What will happen if I stack all the blocks? What will happen if I dig to the bottom of the sensory tub?

It is thrilling for the child to be the one deciding how they want to manipulate these learning items. I have  seen them try to teach each other the alphabet, sort things according to color and stack them end to end to   see how long a chain they could make and then measure it.

With this bin of play electronics (inspired by one I saw on confessions of a homeschooler), I have seen many very interesting vacations and phone conversations take place.

I have also seen skills displayed for me. I will never forget when Jacob pulled out all the geoboards for free choice and filled them all up. He wanted to make one of them into a clock.
He quickly spotted the error, that a clock has an hour hand and was missing the minute hand and fixed it.
He was so proud of his work and the accuracy he used and remembered from his math lesson about time.

What could be more fun for a child then being in charge of circle time and who gets to pick first for "Old Mac Donald"? During free choice I have seen an audience of stuffed "friends" be told to wait their turn.

Amazing adventures and wonderful displays are made. Most of all it is a huge boost to the self esteem of the child to learn while using these items, that they can indeed engage in a meaning way with them.

Favorite free choice items in our classroom are:

  • alphabet blocks/fun foam letters and numbers basket
  • view master story time center
  • sensory tub
  • do-a-dot art
  • math manipulatives of any kind
  • circle time materials(just watch out, I have seen the pointers become swords every now and then)
  • dress up and imaginary play items
  • file folder games
Malaguzzi, who was a former teacher in Reggio said,"Each child is unique and the protagonist of his or her own growth. Children desire to acquire knowledge, have much capacity for curiosity and amazement, and yearn to create relationships with others and communicate. "

To find out more about this way of learning search the web for Reggio Emilia and you will be amazed at how wonderful this technique can be.