Ocean review.


We have -on and off – been reviewing ocean animals and the ocean habitat. We are headed to Santa Barbara soon- and the beach- so the ocean will be visited.

To review what we have learned, and see what they remembered, I pulled out our fish stickers, paper and crayons.

They got their paper and were given the following directions:

1. Draw the ocean floor.
2. Draw something else that is at the bottom of the ocean.
3. Draw something that grows in the ocean.
4. Place the stickers in the correct places.

So then they were given stickers that are: fish, starfish, sea horses, and sea turtles.

Next, I have them the stickers first and then had them draw a picture that showed where all the animals could live (backwards from the first set of instructions).

It was a fun review. The kids even showed that they retained some of the prior information.



Toddler Tuesdays: Counting.

Legos work great for learning numbers and counting. Especially because they come in so many different colors.

Legos work great for learning numbers and counting. Especially because they come in so many different colors.

Kids learn numbers a bunch of different ways. For a while, Abby has been counting correctly to 4, and then skipping around after that based on what number she likes saying. “Nine” comes in after four a lot – mostly because she likes pretending she’s saying no while counting (Nine is no in German).

I figured it’s about time to get her counting “correctly” – or at least being able to do it when she needs to. She likes to play and learn. So I thought this Lego activity would be great.

Here’s what we used:

1. Lego Duplos

2. Construction paper with squares/numbers written on it.

Set-up took me all of 3 minutes to write the numbers and boxes on the construction paper. The longest part of the set-up was finding a piece of non-blue, pink, or purple construction paper. The kids really like to use those colors, so I didn’t want to use them for “school.”

Anyways, I sat Abby down with the activity and gave her these directions, “Place the right amount of Legos in a tower on the right number.” We practiced the first time through, then she wanted to do it again, on her own. I made sure to break up the towers from the previous time, then she did it again.

As is a theme when I get an activity together that she likes, she did it A LOT. She really liked breaking up the towers too. She would count backwards from whatever number she had to zero, and then say, “Bye-bye tower, until later alligator.”

So that was our lesson for Abby today. It was a great lesson.


Materials for our angle lesson.

Materials for our angle lesson.

It’s time to learn about angles.

What you are going to need:
1. Some construction paper.
2. Protractor.
3. Something to “hunt” with (we used a video camera – but you can also draw or take pictures).

It’s a simple lesson. We worked on four types of angles: acute, obtuse, right, and straight.

First, the lesson:

An acute angle is an angle that is less than 90 degrees. An obtuse angle is more than 90 degrees. A right angle is exactly 90 degrees. A straight angle is 180 degrees – or a straight line.

Then the practice:

We drew straight angles using the flat edge of the protractor. I didn’t care which direction they were drawn. But when he was done, I asked him if they were all straight angles and why. Nicholas correctly said that they were straight angles because they were lines – and exactly 180 degrees.

Then more practice:

We drew the 90 degree angle next. Then the obtuse. Then the acute. Sometimes there were mistakes at the end. Then we had to erase the mistakes and make them correct.

Then the measuring:

Once we were done drawing, I had Nicholas measure each angle. Just to verify that he was correct (or at least that’s the reason I gave him). What I really wanted to see was his number recognition and learning to use a protractor.

Now the hunt:

Once we had learned about the angle and reinforced the lesson with our drawing and measuring activity, we went on an angle hunt. Nicholas took out his video camera and went around the house and yard and found angles. He made his own song while he was hunting. Then he would find angles and say, “I found an angle and it is an __________ angle.”

We went on this hunt for about 10 minutes. Then he wanted to watch his video. Then make another one. Then watch it (do you see the pattern?).

It was a fun lesson and we had a blast.

This week we have goals!

This week we have a few goals for school time:

1. To finish math before lunch every day.

2. Do something with grammar every day.

Did I mention we get distracted by Legos? All of us do. We build stuff with them, use the for math, and then keep building.

Did I mention we get distracted by Legos? All of us do. We build stuff with them, use the for math, and then keep building.

3. Science project every day.

Needless to say, I picked the first two goals and my kids picked the last one. Abby wanted to add, “Play princesses every day,” so I added that to her worksheets, but it’s not really a goal of mine.

I’ve generally found that giving Nicholas a list and letting him pick the order of things is the way to go. Except for math. He loves math. He will do math for hours. I do mean hours. So I need him to finish math and then move on to things. So what happens is he waits and does HOURS of math all at once – generally in the afternoon – then he complains about having no time to play and having to finish his school work all at once. Well kid, that’s what time management is about.

Now, since he’s five, I’ll cut him some slack and make myself be his manager. So the goal is to finish math by lunch. Then he won’t be “rushed” to finish everything. This is from the same kid who can – and has – finished ALL of his work inside of 2 hours when I told him he had to finish or he couldn’t go to grandma’s house. Rushed – ha.

So we made goals for this week. I’m not sure how they will hold up.

Once again, I find myself shorting grammar and social studies because we like science and math better. So I’ve added the requirement of doing one BrainPop that I pick out – and I always pick out a humanities one – before he can delve back into science. At least he’s getting something more than plastics, radioactivity, DNA, robotics, and computer programming.

Adding grammar to our week is something else I want to do. He reads – a lot. I made him his own reading nook, and he goes there to read whenever he wants. Nicholas knows I’m not going to stop him from reading – so sometimes he goes there to hide out too. But he’s getting stuck with some grammar issues. Like capitalization and punctuation. So we are adding one “grammar” activity to the list. Even if it is simply a set of four sentences and he has to add the right punctuation at the end.

I want to say a big “Thank you” to http://www.education.com for their worksheets – I don’t have to do my own. I simply search their grammar worksheets. I don’t like to waste time I could spend with my family doing worksheet creations, so I simply use other people’s stuff. Easier and sometimes even better.

So those are our goals for this week. We shall see how they turn out.

Place value.

Sometimes learning the same thing with cutting and pasting is better than writing it. It's the activity of moving the numbers around to place them in the correct column that helps my son remember what goes where.

Sometimes learning the same thing with cutting and pasting is better than writing it. It’s the activity of moving the numbers around to place them in the correct column that helps my son remember what goes where.

Place value is important. When you are learning to do multiple digit addition and subtraction, place value becomes essential. In multiplication and division, place value is even more important. We have finally reached the stage in math where not knowing place value can really mess you up.

Nicholas has been using the Khan Academy 4th grade math program. We work on one skill until it is “practiced” and then move onto the next skill. It generally takes us two days to get to the “practiced” level in a skill. We’ve been through carrying and borrowing, and now they have us on 3 and 4 digit math programs with carrying and borrowing. Learning place value is all part of that.

Our place value lesson started out because we had an exceptionally bad math morning. Nicholas would do the math problem correctly on paper, and then enter it backwards online – and then be shocked he was getting it wrong. I tried to teach him place value right there (he’s good with his ones and tens – anything higher had become a problem). That didn’t work. So I called a halt to the whole process.

I went onto http://www.education.com and found a few place value worksheets. We did those. Then it was lunch time. During their lunch I made our cutting and pasting place value activity. I wrote out 6 numbers with 4 digits on a piece of paper. Then I wrote out the numbers in random order on another sheet of paper. Finally I made a grid on a third sheet of paper with the labels, “ones, tens, hundreds, thousands.”

After our reading time (which always happens right after lunch) I got out the activity. Nicholas had to cut out the numbers from the page, then assemble them in the right order on the grid. He had to use the first page, with all 6 numbers that I wrote on it, as a guide to make the correct numbers.

He’s pretty methodical. So before he did anything he cut out all the numbers. Into various squares and rectangles. Because he’s good at procrastinating (he gets that from me) he sorted them into piles. Not number piles, but whether the square/rectangle was cut well enough. Then he proceeded to trim those in the unacceptable pile until they were acceptable. The numbers were then ordered from smallest (0) to largest (9). Then from largest to smallest. Finally he got to work when I said no more trampoline until we were done with our place value lesson.

It’s clear he learned the lesson because he did it on his own. Correctly. The first time. While i was helping Abby with her piano lesson. All of this was a surprise, so I figured he actually learned it.

It became clearer the next few days while we were doing math that he had learned place value. I’m so excited that was a one day lesson. Now we are going to have to tackle the decimal points and numbers larger than thousands. But he has the basics for now.

Toddler Tuesdays: Color matching.

I saw these great ideas for sensory bins over on Pintrest. I finally joined Pintrest (which is a HUGE time suck for me).

Our color sensory bin.

Our color sensory bin.

Now I find bunches of ideas there and can’t wait to do them all except…..well…..we don’t have time to do them all. I’ve decided I have to stay away from Pintrest unless I’m searching for something specific. At the end of the article, there will be links to several places to see what they use as sensory bins.

Abby is a little above the age for a strict sensory bin. So, instead, I made her one with a purpose.

Here’s what I used:

1. A tin casserole pan

2. Pompoms of various colors

3. Index cards and markers to write the color names

4. Tongs

Let’s talk about the tongs: Abby got to pick them out. Since I let them pick out their pencils, I decided to let her pick out her tongs because she’s going to have to use them. She picked out a super basic pair. She liked the shiny silver ones. So okay.

When we went to use them, she got frustrated easily. Tongs aren’t easy for kids to learn to use. It’s a new way to use their hands and focus on how to move their muscles. It’s weird, because she doesn’t get frustrated with scissors nearly as much. But the tongs frustrated her. So she used them for 5 minutes and then used her hand.

Here’s how it worked:

1. She had to get all the color cards out of the bin, say the name of the color as she pulled it out, and then we set them down on the floor next to her.

2. She used the tongs to pull out pompoms, and matched the pompom to the right card based on color.

3. Nicholas was a bit envious of her doing this, so he did it after her – but he did it in German and had to say not on the color, but whether it was a big, little, or medium pompom.

4. She wanted to do it again, but faster. So I started timing her. She wanted to beat her time each time she did it. Let’s just say, this took up a whole hour with her repeating the bin several times.

That’s how our hour went. It was a great hour for her because she got to do something fun, while learning, seeing how letters make words, and reviewing colors. She also got to use muscles she doesn’t normally use (with the tongs). It was a really good activity for her to do. It made me excited to make more bins. Plus, it was something just for her. it wasn’t something that Nicholas had done before, or that Nicholas was doing and she just got to do as well. Instead, it was focused just for her.

I put it away after two days of doing it. I figure two days is enough, and she can practice something else. Now to use all these wonderful links and make more sensory/learning bins.

Links to more articles on sensory bins

50 Sensory Bin Ideas

Play Create Explore Sensory Bins

7 Simple Sensory Bins

30 Sensory Bin Ideas


Learning to use the Periodic Table of Elements.

Learning to use the Periodic Table of Elements is important. But it can be more fun than simple memorization of where things are an their classes.

Learning to use the Periodic Table of Elements is important. But it can be more fun than simple memorization of where things are an their classes.

Nicholas has a serious science bent. He loves science books (Sir Cumference and the First Round Table (A Math Adventure)). He’d rather read a book about science than a fiction story everyday. And mostly I indulge him in his reading habits because I think that reading is important – so long as you are reading I’m not likely to make a fuss. Because of this, we tend to do a lot of science lesson.

From my classes in science, I know how important the Periodic Table of Elements is. The Periodic Table can tell you the configuration of atoms, how reactive they are, and a who bunch of other things (like whether they are a metal or non-metal). Nicholas likes to learn about science, so we spent some time with our Periodic Table out.

To make the lesson fun, I wrote down the clues on cards. I had the following “clues” written for him:

1. Find three noble gases.
2. Find the heaviest element.
3. What element is Na?
4. What is the atomic number of…. carbon, oxygen, lead, chlorine, californiaum, uranium, gold. (each one had it’s own card).
5. Find two metals.
6. Find three non-metals.
7. What are the atomic numbers for the elements that form life? (N, C, O, He. H)
8. What element is first on the table?
9. Find me an element whose symbol isn’t part of it’s name.
10. Find me a really reactive gas.
11. Find me two man-made elements.

Nicholas then got the cards, had to read the cards, and then answer the cards. He wrote the answers down on the cards. He really enjoyed this activity.

Then we had to do it again. He made me pull the “find me a metal” and “find me a non-metal” cards out of the pile. I let Abby pick each one up and read it to Nicholas (since she had memorized the cards), and we went around an around on metals and non-metals for a while. Then he wanted to memorize the noble gases – so he made a song to remember them.

It was a great lesson because (1) he rally enjoyed it, and (2) it involved all of use, and (3) it took on a life of its own. That’s how you know it is really a good lesson.

Animal classification.

Classification of animals by what they eat.

Classification of animals by what they eat.

For this lesson we used the Smethport Pocket Chart Card Set Life Science. These are pocket chart cards that have animals and life cycles as cards. They also have index cards for herbivore/carnivore/omnivore, the habitats that animals live in, what class of animal they are…..a bunch of different ways to classify the animals. What’s great is that the back of each animal card has a small blurb about the animal, and then has little circles on the bottom that tell you what classification if belongs to (so the wild animals have a wolf’s head and the domestic animals have a pig- and so forth). The little circles are discreet. My kids didn’t realize they were there until we got stuck on an animal and I had to look at the back of the card to find out what animal it was.

I decided we were going to do two classification: Class of animal and type of food it eats. So we set up the classifications on the pocket chart first, and I pulled out all the animals. The kids worked together to put them in the right spot. Abby sometimes got things wrong, and Nicholas was quick to correct her.

Then we pulled it all down (well the kids did) and I put up the index cards for what an animal eats. These were trickier for the kids. Nicholas wanted to put various animals as herbivores when they were omnivores, and sometimes he was shocked at what a carnivore was. He was surprised that some varieties of frogs and lizards are carnivores and not herbivores.

Classification of animals by type of animals

Classification of animals by type of animals

Why did we do this? Because it is more fun than simply reading a book or drawing lines between the animals and circles of their classifications. Also, it forces the kids to read and see if they can identify things from what they know.

For instance: Some of the animals on the cards have pictures that show their teeth. Nicholas has learned – in the past – that carnivores need sharp and pointy teeth. So when he was confused, the first thing he did was say, “Abby, let’s look for sharp teeth.” He started to think logically and go through steps he knew. I never had to prompt him to look for a way to figure out that class or type of food an animal ate. I sometimes had to help correct him when he got things wrong, but I let him try and figure it out on his own first.

When the black bear came up as an omnivore, he raced to the computer and Googled, “What does a black bear eat,” because he was sure bears were all carnivores. After all, they have sharp teeth and eat fish. Now he knows betters – since Google is such a better resource than mom. It was a great activity.

%d bloggers like this: