Thursday, December 1, 2011

Teaching with the holidays in mind.

It's December 1 and around our part of the world it's getting colder, days are getting shorter and we're in the middle of the holiday season. Our second grader and kindergartner are both preparing for the visit of Santa and are still finding ways to not express being burned out on turkey leftovers. Believe me by now there have been many a lesson in cooking with left over turkey, and bones have been stored in the freezer to make a broth with on a cold day. Opportunities exist everywhere to teach math, delving into percentages when you pull out the digital scale to measure what you cook with.

Now is also a great time to learn about winter holidays and how they are observed around the world. A quick trip to the library will reveal many books on holidays and can lead to some creative reports about what your students have found.

If they are young children – art projects with pictures and cut outs can suffice for materials that will explain what they have discovered. If older students, don't limit them to reporting in written format, but encourage speeches, plays, songs – all these will help in retention of what has been learned and make the time pass a little more rapidly for you too!

Get creative and let us know what you've found...

Oh – and Happy Holidays wherever you are!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The importance of Arts in Education

In the last year I've covered a lot of academic territory, but what hasn't been covered is physical education related. The Arts stimulate minds and help strengthen the skills socially and emotionally, allowing for better communication and comprehension of all materials at hand.

My own children are dancers...where this gene for such gracefulness came from completely eludes me as I seem to have been born with two left feet and have the body of Roseanne Barr, pre-surgery. What I can say my husband and I both have is a great appreciation for Theater Arts, and on my side a bit of exposure to varied other performing arts, including painters, pianists and the symphony.

While I hope to never hear my daughter utter the phrase “One time at band camp” in the context it is used in our modern society, I will give her (and her brother should he continue down the same path) exposure to dance competitions, conventions, workshops, and as many classes as our pocketbook allows for. Both children have learned the history of the time of Classical Ballet they've seen performed, the political history of the era, and we've turned it into a lesson in geography and mathematics at the same time that they are off learning to plie, tendu, jete, shuffle-hop, buffalo and ball change their way across a stage.

While it doesn't have to be dance (in my case it worked out) I would strongly advocate that arts be included in your own student's education. It fits seamlessly into ours and provides extra physical education that is outside the realm of sports.

Give it a try – you might find your own child learns to express themselves better while learning things you never would have imagined too!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Teaching the difference of Memorial and Veterans Day

After I wrote the Memorial Day post here my mother asked me “So what's the difference between Memorial day and Veteran's day."

Doing a little research online revealed that the two days are very much the same, simply their roots are set in different era's – one began due to observance and memorial of those who made great sacrifices in the civil war and the second was an amalgamation of observance and memorial of World Wars I and II.

Per the Us Department of Veterans Affairs website:
History of Veterans Day
World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.

Thus began Armistice day...

Memorial Day began as Decoration day and over time grew to become the holiday we know it as, and in 1938 Armistice day became an official legal US holiday. This is a great opportunity for your older elementary aged student to cover history of the US, and have their own comparisons and discoveries as to how the holidays are similar but different.

Post World War II it became known as Veteran's Day – and a great activity would be for your students to trace the timeline of what twists and turns have happened over time and with laws to make the holiday we now know it to be.

Good luck and come back to share with us what you have come up with!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Autumn Migration

So back in the spring we covered migration and immigration - and how they are similar.

Well we're back to Autumn - and here we go - back to migration. So lets refresh for your kids. Migration of course is a long trip made by groups of animals, and they usually happen about the same time each year. The animals usually travel back and forth between two different homes in different regions, seeking a consistent temperature and climate to live in.

Migration isn't limited to birds - but to other animals, and here is a great opportunity for your students to put together a little study on what animals migrate, when and for what reason.

Examples include but aren't limited to:

Fish (Including but not limited to Salmon)
Polar Bears
Wilde beasts
Monarch Butterflies

So why do they do it, what is their motivation and goal? How do they figure out where they are going and where they will live? This is a great opportunity to teach use of the library and of course search engines on the internet. Don't let them use just one source for their information though...

Most of all have fun. Let us know what you came up with!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Poetry and the season

Poetry is a beautiful lesson to teach your students as it is comparatively painting with words... and the poem "October's Bright Blue Weather" is an exceptionally good picture of this month.

It was written by the American poet and Novelist Helen Hunt Jackson (1831-1885) was Born in Amherst, Massachusetts. Her father was a professor in Amherst College, however she spent much of her life in California. She married a banker in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she lived for a few years.

O sun and skies and clouds of June
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October's bright blue weather;

When loud the bumblebee makes haste,
Belated, thriftless vagrant,
And goldenrod is dying fast,
And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

When gentians roll their fringes tight,
To save them for the morning,
And chestnuts fall from satin burs
Without a sound of warning;

When on the ground red apples lie
In piles like jewels shining,
And redder still on old stone walls
Are leaves of woodbine twining;

When all the lovely wayside things
Their white-winged seeds are sowing,
And in the fields, still green and fair,
Late aftermaths are growing;

When springs run low,
and on the brooks
In idle, golden freighting,
Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
Of woods, for winter waiting;

When comrades seek sweet country haunt
By twos and twos together,
And count like misers hour by hour
October's bright blue weather.

O sun and skies and flowers of June,
Count all your boasts together,
Love loveth best of all the year
October's bright blue weather.

Take a this opportunity to point out imagery as used in the poem, what story does this tell? There is so much that can be broken out of it whether you are teaching a first or sixth grade child... Have fun and let us know what you and your students came up with.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pressing Autumn Leaves

So autumn is just around the corner, it's time for the last hurrah of summer, harvest fairs are happening everywhere and farmers markets are in full fall harvest swing. Autumn begins in the month of September, on the 23rd , which happens to be a Friday this year. Days are getting shorter, leaves are changing color – in my neck of the woods the Maple trees are starting to turn a magnificent shade of bright red, and while days are warm, the nights are getting very cool.

A great activity is to go on a nature walk and find leaves to press in wax paper. Bring home your selection of leaves and then take them to the table. Find the flattest and most colorful leaves to press and lay them out on one foot squares of cut wax paper.

Press them with a hot iron, with a tea towel under the iron, to keep the wax paper from melting entirely into the hot iron, and label with a sharpie and there you go – autumn artwork to last the whole year.

Please be advised and inform your students that no matter how much they see wild animals eating acorns, this activity won't work with acorns and that eating an acorn raw can be a very bad thing and lead to acorn poisoning.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Types of Sentences

This entry is geared to the homeschooler looking for curriculum material for sentences.

Sometimes we run blind – and the unschoolers just run...
So here's a little guidance to take or leave as you see fit.

Kinds of Sentences - first what are you going to explore. There is a world of learning out there available and it's all in your hands to guide. Lead your little learner to the lessons and watch them soak them up.

Fun to start with is of course,"Run-on Sentences." A run-on sentence is a sentence that runs into another sentence. Two or more parts of a run-on sentence can stand by itself. Interestingly, run-on sentences can exist in both short and long sentences. The length of a sentence does not determine whether that sentence is a run-on sentence.

Then you have to venture into "Types of Sentences" - will they be Declarative, Imperative, Interrogative, or Exclamatory? A great example that will get your little learner is as follows.
Declarative: My cat has fleas.
Imperative: If your cat does not get a flea collar it will get fleas.
Interrogative: Does my cat have fleas?
Exclamatory: My cat has fleas!

This is a great time to introduce punctuation to your little one who has not started to learn to use it.

Have fun and see what types of sentences your child/children can come up with - share some examples with us below!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Back to School financial pinch

So your classroom is put together, your walls are decorated, work stations are prepared for little hands to come tap at keyboards and your chalk board is the cleanest it's going to be all year.

It's hectic right now, and what your students don't realize is that for every bit of time you get in the classroom, you are spending more outside of it in meetings or getting ready for your influx of students – and on a shoestring.

My hat is off to the professional educator, as they do so much with so little. So parents, now is the time to find those lists at your various office supply stores and fill them. Even if you've already gotten your own child's needs covered, take a look and if you can afford to pick up extra pencils, notebooks, paper etc for your local school...go for it. Your local school teacher will thank you profusely as you might have just saved him or her from reaching into her own pocket to pull out needed supplies.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Getting to know your student - preparation for the new school year.

Getting ready to go back to school is hard after a summer of fun. That said you can prepare your child with some fun exercises at home. Whether your child goes to homeschool co-ops or public/private school they will be answering questions about who they are and other kids will want to get to know them. We keep a 3 hole punch, blank paper and little plastic 3 ring binders handy for our kids and put together books for their work. Doing this you can put together a little get to know me book that your child can fill in and illustrate with your assistance.

Material to include could have - but isn't limited to...

About Me

I like to (listen) (talk)

I write with my (left hand) (right hand)

Things I Do At Home

I usually wake up around _______.

I usually go to bed at _______.

Before I go to bed, I _____________________________________________________________________________.

My three favorite things to do at home are:

I brushed my teeth _______ time(s) yesterday.

Today for breakfast I ate _______.

When I need a quiet place to relax I go to _______.

Last night for dinner I ate _______.

TWO chores I do at home are _______.

If I were in charge, I would be able to watch _______ hours of television every day. This would include playing video games, too.

The last person to read me a book was
The last time I went to the library was _______
I like to read ______________ when I read. (circle one)
out loud silently slowly very fast

The last book I read was _______.


If the school cafeteria serves _______ I will be first in line, but if they serve _______ I will bring my lunch that day!


My favorite color is _______.

This is a picture of something that is my favorite color.


If I were a super hero, my power would be _______

When I grow up I want to be _______.

I am most like the cartoon character (write the name of a character) _______ from (write the name of show) _______

If I were a teacher for a day, I would teach _______.


This is a picture of my room. (leave a page for your child to draw a picture)

The number of people in my family is _______

Their names are:

School Items

What was your favorite thing to learn last year.
What do you want to learn more of this year?
How many students do you think are in our class? _______

Draw places you went this summer:
Four other places I went this summer were:
Draw the things you did this summer:
Draw the things you ate this summer:

Five other things I ate this summer ___.

I did something nice this summer ________.

I read _______ books this summer.

Animals I saw this summer were:


Here's to a(n) _______ year!

My autograph:

Friday, July 15, 2011

Escaping to where it's cool, wet and filled with loads of learning.

It's hot out, so now is a great time to study about where it's cool and wet out. The ocean. It's never too early to teach your kids about the ocean and Marine Biology.

Nearly 3/4 of our planet is water, salt water for the ocean. Depending on where you travel to, the ocean can be as different as you'll find differences on land.

Some places are lush and filled with plant life and reefs, filled with warm waters and animals that love that environment.

Some places are just so cold that you would think no life can be found there. However, much to our surprise life has been found there, and we have been making many new discoveries of life each year.

While it's not likely the Loch Ness Monster will turn out to be a Dinosaur still alive in Scotland, there have been other creatures once thought only to exist in myths found alive in the depths of the oceans.

Now when the weather is so hot, is a great time to take your students to the library to study about Marine Biology, and if you get a chance to make it out to an aquarium, don't miss that opportunity.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Independence Day

There are so many things to cover with the celebration of Independance Day. But if you are looking for topics to delve into here is a list of topics and people to look into.

New Taxes - Sugar and Stamp Act
No Taxation without Representation
The Boston Massacre
The Boston Tea Party
The Intolerable Acts
American Revolution - Who Had the Better Chance of Winning?
The Battle of Bunker Hill
The Colonists Protest
African Americans in the Revolutionary War
Treaty of Paris - The Revolutionary War is Over
Articles of Confederation
Valley Forge
Benedict Arnold
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Paine
Help from Europe
The Colonies
Colonial soldiers
Taxation without representation
The Stamp Act
The Townshend Acts
The Boston Massacre
The Boston Tea Party
The Intolerable Acts
Ethan Allen and Fort Ticonderoga
George Washington
James Armistead Lafayette
John Adams
General John Burgoyne
King George III
Martha Washington
Nathan Hale
Paul Revere
Samuel Adams

Some of these things may be a little more mature in subject manner than others, but with a little creativity you might be able to put together something whether art oriented or even maybe a field trip if you live near the original 13 colonies to connect your students minds to the subjects at hand. If it's there reach out and use it – you don't know how lucky you are.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The History of Fathers Day

It just took one person to create Fathers Day.

A young woman named Sonora Dodd came up with the idea in 1909 after listening to a sermon about Mothers day in church.

Her father was a Civil War veteran who had lost his wife when she had his sixth child, and he gave his all to raise their new baby and five other children alone. As an adult the true impact of her fathers hard work hit, and her girlhood idea started to take form. Sonora's father was born in June, so she chose to hold the first Father's Day celebration in Spokane, Washington on the 19th of June, 1910.

The holiday had grown so wide spread that President Calvin Coolidge, in 1924, supported the idea of a national Father's Day. President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation in 1966 declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father's Day. It took until 1972 for President Richard Nixon to sign it into law permanently and there you have it – both the history of fathers day and something truly positive to remember Richard Nixon for.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Dreaded Book Report

The Dreaded Book Report...

So book reports are often heard to be true pains in the rear... but there are some interesting figures that can be done for Biographies and Autobiographies, and if you've not introduced the idea of what each is now is a great time! A great way to do it is to connect the dates to the birthdays of the person being read about. So here are some June Birthdays and some even have titles for the individuals celebrating on that day.

June 1 - America's favorite country bumpkin, Andy Griffith (grades 5-6)
June 3 - Josephine Baker (grades 6-8)
June 5 - Adam Smith (grades 6-8)
June 5 - John Maynard Keynes (grades 6-8)
June 6 - Cynthia Rylant (grades 4-6)
June 6 - Diego Velázquez (grades 4-6)
June 8 - Frank Lloyd Wright (grades 5-7)
June 9 - Dickie V, Dick Vitale (grades 5-8)
June 10 - Judy Garland (grades 5-6)
June 10 - Hattie McDaniel (grades 7-8)
June 11 - Robert Munsch (grades 4-6)
June 13 - Luis Walter Alvarez (grades 5-7)
June 14 - Harriet Beecher Stowe (grades 4-5)
June 15 - Edvard Grieg (grades 4-6)
June 15 - Erik Erikson (grades 5-7)
June 17 - Taking the World by Storm, Venus Williams (grades 6-7)
June 18 - Chris Van Allsburg (grades 5-7)
June 19 - Moe Howard (grades 4-6)
June 26 - Babe Didrikson Zaharias (grades 5-7)
June 28 - Esther Forbes: Love of the Past (grades 5-6)
June 29 - Slim Pickens (grades 6-7)
June 30 - Ed Yost, Father of Modern Hot Air Ballooning (grades 5-6)

Your students should find someone from this list easily... Have fun!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Memorial Day

So once upon a time Memorial Day in the US (Celebrated the last Monday in May) was called Decoration Day. It began after the Civil war to honor people in the military who died fighting for their cause. History reports state that the event was started by freed slaves who found Union soldiers buried in mass graves, and re-interred them into individual graves, then put an arch over the grave yard. Such an action at the time was very daring and had to have a level of difficulty that is near unimaginable in this day and age.

On May 30, 1868 the former slaves were reported to return to place flowers on each grave, honoring the Union soldiers and the sacrifice they made. Flowers laid, there was a grand celebration in their honor with parades, picnics and patriotic song. And with that a new holiday was born.

The official place of Memorial days beginning was in Waterloo New York, called Decoration Day the celebration grew year after year until in 1882 it was changed to “Memorial Day” and included the honor of men and women who died for our country in other wars preceding the Civil War.

After World War Two it became a national holiday with the passing of a federal law.

This holiday is very dear and important for our remembrance of the sacrifices that gave freedom to our nation. This is a great time to have your students report on heroes and heroines in history who fought and made sacrifices for our present freedoms.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Escaping the indoors, Migration and Immigration

Are you tired of the rain yet?

I am too.

But it's a great time of year to get out and explore nature with the kids (providing it's not rainy.) Mark those plants you've been watching grow and talk about how the birds are coming back – migrating. There are wonderful lessons to be taught about migratory animals and when you've covered that, how about Immigration and the history of how America was settled.

Topics easily covered -
Reasons people immigrated.
Angel Island
Why people changed their names.
How did they immigrate?
Ellis Island
Why did/do Immigrants come here?
How do you become a citizen?
What challenges do Immigrants face?
Finding Religious Freedom.
Illegal Immigration
Who were the first Immigrants in North America?

This all can leave you with many hours of lessons about migration, both animal and human and it becomes more than a history, citizenship, or science lesson alone but also allows for a greater spectrum of schooling and a bit of analytical thought thrown in for good measure. If it's not enough for you however you can cover the mathematics of it as well... how many people immigrated per day through Angel Island and Ellis Island a month, week and day, and what percentage came from which continent and country.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Learning Lessons from the Earth

Like last months Earth Hour, the coming of Earth Day is a great way to teach about recycling, the environment and create an awareness about energy usage and pollution.

Around here a favorite thing to do is the garbage walk. Bring gloves and garbage bags, but take these things to your favorite park and walk the edge of the woods with your kids. Pick up stray bits of garbage that have either been littered or blown in on the wind... This helps teach an awareness of the growth and cycles of the Earth, plus what leaving all that mess about does to it.

As plants are growing more and the planet is greening up – at least here in the northern hemisphere, this is also a good time to take out the string and ruler and mark the growth of the plants you looked at last month.

If you have Willow trees near – now is a great time to mark a spot on a low hanging branch to watch and record it's growth as well, and then use that as a spring board for teaching how Willow trees need water in abundance and that they can be used as a marker for not only the volume of water in the ground but for the quality of the water. Granted it can not be used as the only marker, but is a good indicator of the water being healthy if the tree is healthy.

What lessons do you let nature teach your students (other than 'leaves of three, let them be')?

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools Day

This has been a great day for us to teach following directions. Your preschooler to grade two kids might not get it, but third grade and up will learn well from it.

A favorite activity of mine is to introduce the pop quiz with instructions at the top and questions at the bottom. Usually the questions are a step up in difficulty from what my students are at presently but they do have merit in reinforcing skills learned or introducing items to think about.

The top of the quiz is what really matters. Be clear and concise in directions, but include that they must be followed. Then limit that the only thing that truly needs to be answered is the student's name and date...

Those that put the name at the top as well as the date have followed instructions, and pass... the assignment is an extra credit, vs content as normally included in the grade book. Those that do not pass do not negatively impact their grade for the class, they just don't get the extra boost. No matter what, you are introducing the concept of analysis of their materials to the child, and that in of itself is a lesson that no grade can be given for – it's simply priceless.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Earth Hour and Fancy Nancy

At 8.30 PM on Saturday 26 March 2011, lights will switch off around the globe for Earth Hour.

Teaching the children about ecology and caring for the planet is pretty important around our parts... as I am sure it is with yours. So we have some simple and fun activities that we are leading up into Earth Hour here in our schoolroom...

For the younger elementary set we're reading Fancy Nancy: Every Day Is Earth Day by Jane O'Connor. Fancy Nancy is a big hit around here and the independence of being able to read has made it a treat for quiet time for both adults and children.

The description is as follows:
"After learning at school that “every day is Earth Day,” Fancy Nancy takes her lessons home. After espousing rhyming “green rules” to her family (“Dad, don’t waste water. Get clean, but stay green!”), Nancy ramps up the eco-enforcement, and minor mishaps result: Mom loses work, for example, when Nancy turns off the computer to save energy. The story’s messages about balancing environmental enthusiasm with tolerance and common sense bring fresh angles to this well-paced installment in the consistently strong early reader series. As usual, the exuberant line-and-wash illustrations amplify the story’s sense of messy, creative fun. Grades K-2."

So have fun with it, introduce book reports, and use the literature unit as a spring board into other areas of study. We sure will!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cabin Fever

Ok, so here in New England we've had ENOUGH of the snow and cold weather. In January and February we got more snow than we've had in years for the state of Connecticut, and my kids were all going crazy from it.

Keeping little minds busy and engaged is a bit of a task at times but not entirely impossible. Math can be taught from the book, but on a warm day get out and take advantage of the break in the weather and use Nature to teach things like Math and Science. At this point there are plants starting to peek through the soil, and fun can be had with string and a ruler.

Find your small plant or flower outside, then measure it's current growth. Make notes, and when you do have to go back inside, use your library or the internet to learn more about the growth rate. While Elementary age children might be a little young to estimate growth progressions and calculate them, it is well worth it to introduce the concept to them and make it a game to guess how fast the plant will grow.

What activities do you do when your students have cabin fever?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Valentines Gifts...

Every where you turn these days there is an advertisement for jewelry from some expensive jeweler somewhere. My question is WHO really can afford to drop a large amount of cash on a necklace shaped in a heart these days? I don't know about you but our family budget just doesn't have that in it for my husband to shower me with those gifts, and my children have riffled through my jewelry box so many times that I'm not sure what's still there at this point and what's made it into a little ballerina jewelry box because it's pretty.

Kids can be like ferrets ya know.

So for Valentines day the project was hand made Valentines for parents, made with Glitter, Construction paper and glue.

I came home from running errands to discover my living room a mess with cut paper everywhere and two of the happiest kids plus a very self satisfied husband. He had directed the children in how to make construction paper valentines, helped little spellers – in fact he turned it into a great way to help reinforce the spelling list for our first grader and used it to teach our preschooler how to spell his name.

Now I have to tell you that this is a Valentines day I'll remember far longer than any other gift I could get.

Did your kids do something special for Valentines day that you will treasure for life too? Share it in your comment!

Monday, January 31, 2011

February planning

So here we are with February knocking on our door and there are things we can note and use in curriculum planning...
  • 100 days of school
  • Groundhog Day
  • Presidents Day
  • Black History Month
  • George Washington
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Music
  • Sports
  • Valentines Day
  • Chinese New Year
  • Winter Olympics (although not this year)
  • Blizzard Cooking

So many things to look at - but to start at of course is Groundhog Day. A quick trip to wikipedia reveals the following: Groundhog Day is a holiday celebrated on February 2 in the United States and Canada. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, it will leave the burrow, signifying that winter will soon end. If on the other hand, it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly "see its shadow" and retreat back into its burrow, and winter will continue for six more weeks.

But there is more to it than that of course, and a brief bit of research between the library and the Internet, and your students can learn about holidays celebrated about the world in February, and the symbols (birthstones and flowers etc) and all sorts of other things that can make a cold month not seem so stifling.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Boxing day sales netted a treat.

So given my kids dumped milk on my netbook and my regular computer bought the farm on Christmas Eve, I was scouring the net for a new laptop... as it's hard to put together a lesson plan for online schooling without the computer to do it on.

Taking advantage of the Google Search engine I scoured high and low, and ended up with a rather promising lead that led me into a big box electronic store on Boxing day.

Holy cow, that was more painful than Black Friday. People were lined up early to get the steals and deals, and I just wanted the best bang for my buck - which may or may not have been the computer they advertised. Fortunately being prepared, coming early dressing warm and knowing that you may not get precisely what you want helps. For me - I wasn’t looking at a system that was advertised as the door buster special, so it helped infinitely. My system was still on sale and I found something I really would like.

Moral of the story, do not bring your kids to this. First of all, they will ask why Santa exists if all these people are returning presents. However if you are looking to teach them about consumerism, as well as economics and how to be thrifty - this might be something for an older child or early teen.