Compound words activity.

Nicholas spread the words out on the ground before he was willing to put them together.

Nicholas spread the words out on the ground before he was willing to put them together.

We’ve been working on compound words in our house. Compound words are when two words are put together to make a new word. Nicholas sometimes thinks phrases, like “play ball”, are compound words. Then he writes them as if they were compound words. Which is a problem. So I decided we’d learn the difference between a saying and a compound word.

I made a list of compound words that we could use, and cut some of the pocket chart paper into half. I wrote half the compound word on one side, and half on the other. Then I gave Nicholas the set of papers and asked him to make words.

We put up the “definition” of the compound word on the pocket chart. Nicholas had to read it out loud – which he does with such lack of enthusiasm. But then came putting the words together.

He made words that I didn’t have on the list – but that were compound words. Then he realized he had words left over that didn’t fit together so he went back and changed them.

Here’s the list of words we used:

It was a bunch of fun watching him do it. We have another set of words to do later this week. We shall see if he, in his writing, starts using compound words properly.

Christmas tree and snowman review.

This week we are just reviewing things we have already done. It’s a great week for that. We also spend  lot of time cooking and making Christmas decorations and gifts. It’s fun for all the week before Christmas. Not to mention afternoons with friends.

To help Abby review her letters we do a Christmas tree and snowman review. Nicholas does his math and parts of speech review with them.

Reviewing letters and numbers.

To review letters, I print out the outline of a Christmas tree/snowman onto cardstock. Then I take colored paper and cut out circles. I draw circles on the tree/snowman page. Inside the drawn circles I place capital letters. On the cut out circles I place lower case letters. She has to match them.

I also have her draw a letter on a circle and match it to the letters on the tree/snowman.

We do the same thing with numbers.

When she places the numbers/letters onto the tree, she has to say their name/sound.

It is a simple review activity that she loves.

Reviewing math facts.

This works the same way as the letter game. I print out the outline and draw circles on it. Inside the circles I put numbers. On the circles I cut out, I put math problems – addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Nicholas’ job is to put the right math problems on each number. He likes to race, so I time him. There are always more math problems than there are circles. When he finishes one, we can re-do it as much as he wants. I have baggies for each math operation, and a tree for each operation. It keeps it organized.

Reviewing parts of speech.

We have also been working on the difference between a noun, proper noun, and verb. So I did the snowman for his parts of speech review. Each circle on the snowman has: noun, proper noun, or verb written inside it. The bag is filled with circles with different words on them that are different parts of speech. I even through in some bonus ones – like pronouns – to make sure he doesn’t just try by guessing. He actually has to recognize what is what, and then do it. It’s a pretty awesome game.

Benefits of review.

Review has its place. You need to know the parts of speech in order to write well, and you need to know them cold. To do higher math, which is what we are working towards, you need to know your math facts down cold. You can’t spend time figuring out if 4×3 is 12 or 15 when you are working algebra problems – you just have to know it. Review helps solidify this knowledge.

Reviewing with games is even better because the kids don’t recognize they are confirming facts – they just know they are having fun.

Mammals lesson.

We are headed to the Oakland Zoo on Friday with Grandma, so Thursday’s lesson is all about, “What is a Mammal?”

A mammal has a couple of characteristics – and I’m only listing the ones I expect my son to know.

  1. Mammals have hair.
  2. Mammals nourish their young with milk.
  3. Mammals are warm blooded.
  • Fastest mammal (also the fastest land animal): the cheetah (60-70 mph = 97-110 kph)
  • Slowest mammal – the sloth (less than 1 mph, or 2 kph)
  • Biggest mammal, biggest animal that ever lived on Earth – the blue whale
  • Biggest land mammal– the African Elephant
  • Tallest mammal – the giraffe
  • Smallest mammals – the pygmy shrew (weighing 1.2-2.7 gm) and the bumblebee bat (weighing about 2 gm)
  • Loudest mammal – the Blue Whale. The second loudest is the Howler Monkey.
  • Smallest newborns – marsupials (pouched mammals, like the kangaroo)
  • Smelliest mammal – the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis)

So now what to do with the information – I know, a test! So I wrote down the characteristics of a mammal on some Post-its (I love Post-its). I put the numbers 1, 2, and 3 up on our white board. Nicholas had to name off the characteristics and put it on the white board. He knew he got all three when there were Post-it’s next to each number.

Then we did a mammal word search.

And we drew an elephant.

And we went and played around on this wonderful page about mammals.

We also went through our animal stickers and made a collage of “mammals” and “non-mammals.” It was a simple piece of paper with a line down the middle and he had to put the pictures of mammals on one side and non-mammals on the other. Abby did this one too – although I let Nicholas tell her where each of the stickers went on her page.

Lastly, we did some matching. I wrote down the facts about mammals (from the bullet points above) and printed out pictures of each of those mammals. Then he had to match up the fact with the animal. We pasted those onto some construction paper so he could make a poster out of them.

Lastly, we went to the Oakland Zoo’s webpage and wrote down the names of all the mammals he wanted to visit. So that will be our guide while we are visiting the zoo.


Book reports.

I always hated having to do book reports as a kid. But as an adult, I realize they taught me about how to read an summarize books. They also ensured that I was reading. To pass on the reading and summarizing skills, I decided to make a book report form.

I want to make sure that my kids understand – from a young age – that each book has a title, main character, plot, and conclusion. To incorporate my children’s love of art, I also made a “your illustration” box at the end of the book report form.

They don’t have to report on every book that they read, but they do have to report on one book a week. My oldest has to do the book report mostly on his own. I help him with words he cannot spell. I ask guided questions if he gets stuck on what he’s supposed to do. But I do not do it for him.

With Abby, I simply ask her the name of the book. She goes and finds the book and tells me it is “This one.” Then I point to the title of the book and we say it together. She then just colors in the rest of the page while Nicholas does his book report.

Here’s a link to the book report form. It is free, you just have to download it.

Spelling and reading: Week 2 day 1 and blocks for Engineering.

After the hard work of spelling and math was done, we headed over to our blocks for some engineering - although Nicholas just thinks he' having fun building things.

After the hard work of spelling and math was done, we headed over to our blocks for some engineering – although Nicholas just thinks he’ having fun building things.

Today is Day 1 of our second week in spelling.

Our spelling words for this week are:  map, chair, table, desk, sink, bathroom, bedroom, stairs, car, and pool. For the first week of spelling, click on this link.

Last week’s spelling words went really well. The progression from writing and saying to the actual spelling test went really well. We even managed to get a 100% on the spelling test. And I didn’t help or coach on the spelling test. So that was a nice treat. Nicholas was also super proud of himself when he finished the spelling test and got a 100%.

We did our math for the day (we are still reviewing our addition and subtraction from 1-12). We are going to be done reviewing at the end of this week and moving on. He finished the first day of spelling, and we did some “reading the clock” practices.

We have a few more items on the agenda for today: A science experiment about making balloons travel, cooking, measuring the chair legs in the house, German, and some engineering. We also have our physical activity. Abby and Nicholas have to vote on it, and today we ended up with bike riding for a little bit followed by basketball at the park.

But we had to make a pit stop and do some blocks. My kids got special treats when they visited their grandma and aunt yesterday – one of the treats being some planes from Planes. So we had to make an obstacle course for them to go through. Blocks were making the course, and we had a ton of fun.

We practiced how tall we can build things, making arches and bridges, making things work together, and building paths. All of these things can be worked through in an engineering lesson, or you can just build and let the kids learn by trial and error. So the block building was a blast.

I have to prepare some special handouts for our trip to the CA Academy of Science tomorrow. That way the kids feel like I put some effort into the trip too.

Our 12 week spelling program.

spell 1

I was never the best speller and hated spelling. With the advent of spell checker, I really dislike spelling. But spelling is important because it helps with reading and comprehension. I developed our spelling program based on how my active children learn things the best. I’ve included the “directions” to the spelling program in this post. Each week, as we do our spelling, I’ll include the list. Or you can view the link at the bottom of the page and get the whole program and letter tiles.


1. There are 12 spelling lists containing words in random orders. They are words the kids might, or might not, know on sight.

2. There are letter tiles in the back pages that can be printed onto card stock and cut out to use to make words. Or you can invest in Scrabble tiles.

3. Once your child has mastered the words, move onto the next list.


1. Read the list of words with your child out loud. Then spell them out loud.

2. Use the letter tiles and make each word with the list next to your child so he/she can use it to help them.


1. Have your child read the words, help them when necessary.

2. Make the words with the letter tiles – keep the list near by if it is needed.

3. In their spelling journal, write each word twice.

Day 3

1. Have your child read the words.

2. Call out words from the list for your child to make with the letter tiles.

3.  Put the list next to the spelling journal and write each word 3 times.

Day 4

1. Point to the words in random order and have your child read them.

2. Call out words from the word list for your child to make with the letter tiles.

3. Write each word in the spelling journal 4 times.

4. Give a practice spelling test where you ask them to write words as you say the words.

Day 5

1. Have your child say all the words on his/her spelling list from memory. If they have trouble, help them.

2. Give a practice test with the letter tiles – you call out a word and they have to make it without your help.

3. Give a real spelling test in their spelling journal.

4. Grade the test. Words that they missed go back and write 5 times then test again later in the day.


If your child did fine with all the words, move onto the next spelling list. If there are a few wrong, you can move on and add the missed words to the next list. If less than 70% were correct, repeat the steps the next week.

Here’s the link to our 12 week spelling program. It will be available for free week by week on the website, or you can go to the link and it is available for $2.00. It includes directions and the letter tiles you will need to make the words.

Spelling list #1

Nature #2 – Rainbows.

It isn’t that this is the time of year for rainbows, it is just that this is a fun lesson for older and younger kids. It can be adapted for any age group. If there are younger kids, you can have them learn the colors. For older kids you can discuss and use prisms to show how light moves to make a rainbow. Best of all, you can pull out a hose and use a mist feature to create rainbows.

For the first time we made lap books. I know lots of people are fans of lap books, but after this experience I’ve decided I’d rather just make posters. Lap books can be a good way to corral all the “stuff” about the various things. But I’m teaching my kids to use iMovie and I’d rather have them make posters, hold up the posters, talk about the posters, and merge all that into a movie. Regardless – here’s how our lap booking went:

1. For the front I used a picture of a rainbow. I made Nicholas write the word “rainbow” under his. Abby just had to color the rainbow (which Nicholas did too). Here’s the link to the rainbow picture we used:

2. My kids love watching stuff on the computer. It makes them feel awesome. So we watched two clips on rainbows. Here’s clip 1, and here’s clip 2. Clip 1 is more fun while clip 2 is more scientific.

3. Next we did a rainbow counting puzzle. This puzzle was above Abby’s level, but below Nicholas’. To make it harder (for Nicholas) I not only cut the puzzle vertically, but horizontally too. The kids got to glue it together (this was the top inside page of the lap book.

4. For the last inside page of the lap book, Abby and Nicholas did two different things. Abby had to do this puzzle. I had cut everything out. She had to stack it all together. Then we stapled each set into the back part of the lap book. Nicholas had to do something else. We spent some time reading this page on rainbows. I wanted him to pay attention to how the white light hits the water, then refracts back to our eyes as a rainbow. He got a blank piece of paper and had to draw a diagram. That was an interesting thing to do. After that, he insisted on creating a movie about the rainbow, so we did.

5. For the back page of the lap book I took a plain rainbow coloring page, that had the colors in German, and had them recite the colors and then color in the rainbow, or der Regenbogen.

After this was all done, we went outside and played with the prisms to make rainbows. We also stuck the mister on the hose and made rainbows. Then we came inside and ate fruit loops because they are rainbow colors.

For reading/writing practice Nicholas wrote all the rainbow colors.  We also did more addition – we are working on having the 3’s as memorized as the 1’s and 2’s. We also had to read books today, and my kids chose all the Dr. Seuss books in the house. So I made Nicholas share reading time with me. He will read if he thinks we are reading for fun. But when he things we are reading for “school” he refuses to read. Silly child of mine.


Ocean animals: Review and wrap up.

Nicholas likes crawling through a sea turtle's shell.

Nicholas likes crawling through a sea turtle’s shell.

We are finishing sea animals with a quick review today and moving on. I made a crossword with one of those random crossword generators. The great thing about crosswords is that they can test knowledge, teach spelling, and work on handwriting all at the same time.

Here are the clues I used for the crossword:

Octopus: Has 8 arms
Coral: Groups of small organisms that make a reef
Water: What the ocean is made of
Jellyfish: Has long tentacles and no bones
Waves: Movement of ocean water
Ocra: Black and white whale
Kelp: Anchored in rocka and grows in forests
Dolphin: A smart mammal that swims in pods
Walrus: Likes cold water and has lots of fat to keep it warm
Fish: Swims in schools
Sand: Found on the bottom of the ocean


Our next set of lessons is going to be on the 5 senses and finishing our orchestra lessons. At any given time, we have two themes going on so I get to choose between the various themes to make things fun. Also, I get to find various worksheets. I like making my own worksheets, but I also don’t like reinventing the wheel.

What else are we doing?

We are working on math out  of the 2nd grade textbook and practicing place values.

For writing and reading we are working off these worksheets on He likes these sentence worksheets because they give a topic, and help you draw the animal at the bottom. I also print one off for Abby and she writes all over the page, tries to draw the animal, and tries to trace the letters.

All of our art projects this week will be Valentine’s Day themed. We will be writing valentines to our family and friends, and making wonderful pictures to decorate with.

Tongue twisters: Moses supposes his toeses are roses.

Moses supposes his toeses are roses!

Moses supposes his toeses are roses!

Today’s lesson was on tongue twisters. My kids memorize things very fast when they repeat them. I decided we would work on tongue twisters because they have great literacy concepts in them. We not only can work on learning fun things to say (because who doesn’t like to sell sea shells by the sea shore), but they also learn rhyme, alliteration, meter, pace, and annunciation.

Our first lesson is: Moses supposes his toeses are roses. Here’s the link to the worksheets we used.

Once again, the worksheets are free. I would love it if you leave feedback on the worksheets, but they are free to download. I haven’t found a good file sharing program that lets me upload things to the blog to share, so for now we use the website. It is free to join, and there are tons of great ideas on the website for all kinds of lessons.

My kids had no problem reciting the tongue twister. After I read it the first time, we had to read it again and again. It was a lot of fun to watch them learn the tongue twister. We had Abby riding her new pony in the house and trying to say it. Nicholas preferred to jump from tile to tile while reciting it. Then we settled down and did the work sheet.

I handed them red markers and said we needed to circle all the “t” sounds. We used a blue marker for the “r” sounds and a green markers for the “m” sounds. We then had to find rhyming words. Nicholas looked at his piece of paper with the tongue twister printed on it and said, “Nothing looks the same at the end.” So we recited it again, and put circles around words that ended with the same sounds. It was easier for him to do while looking at the paper and saying the words.

My kids made some interesting illustrations to go with the tongue twister. Mostly because they don’t draw very well right now. But they tried. I like to write the stories they tell me about their drawings on the back, and then keep them. But for this project, I’m starting a binder with their drawings. I put the tongue twister and drawing back to back into a sheet protector and then into a binder. I’ll keep the binder as we study various rhymes, poetry, and tongue twisters this year and they can see it at the end 🙂 It will be a great keepsake.

We reviewed out +1, +2, and -1, -2 math  facts. I want to make sure we have these basics down before we move forward.

Christmas season here we come!

We made wreaths for the fromt hall as part of our art time. Who knew a 4 year old could be taught to use a law-heat glue gun?

Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. It is only topped by any occasion on which I have a babysitter and my husband and I get to go out. Even those occasions don’t last for a month, so Christmas is really a nice season for us.

We are working harder now than we were in October. The routine has gotten easier and as the kids have gotten more used to the routine, the routine has gotten even easier. They know that sometimes we break routine – like when we go visit grandma – but normally they know they have to finish their school work before anything else happens. We have two sets of work: Practice work and lessons. Our practice work is the hands on practice of math worksheets and writing. That work is done before we go anywhere. We finish that work by 8a. The lesson gets worked into the day somewhere – that is my responsibility.

We have a few things we always enjoy more at Christmas. Art is always more fun when it gets displayed – and I display all my kids’ Christmas craft projects. I consider it an investment in disposable decorations. They make it, we display it, we dump it and make new stuff next year. Some exception are there – like the wreaths Nicholas made this year. But mostly we create, dump, and make new again next year. It saves on storage space.

The lessons this month won’t be all Christmas all the time  – that’s not fun for us. We like a variety of lessons. But the art time and cooking time – those are Christmas oriented.

We made candies today. Candy has a lot of science in it. I love this website that explains all the science behind candy making.  We did the caramel lesson today. It turned out okay – better than my caramels normally turn out. I can’t wait to work our way through the rest of the recipes. Tomorrow is marshmallows!!

Do we still do our normal stuff? Yep. Math and writing are done everyday. To save myself a bit of a hassle I got a writing workbook and a math workbook. We are just working our way through them this month so that I can focus more on our fun things and planning – this month can get so hectic.

Happy start of the Christmas season!

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