Metals lesson.


There are a lot of metals in the world. What makes something a metal? What makes them all unique?

There are a lot of metals in the world. What makes something a metal? What makes them all unique?

I used the free lapbook/notebook that can be found here as my basis for the lesson. I also added some stuff in. We aren’t a big lapbooking family. But I love it when people have the lapbooks put together because I can generally use some of the ideas to make our own lessons.

Here’s the link for the metals lapbook/notebook.

Preparation –

I simply printed out the lapbooking materials. I love looking through them and picking and choosing what I want to use.  I decided that for our quick lesson today we would use page 12 – it’s the introduction page.

First we sat down at the desks and I asked the kids what are some metals they know.

Answers: Gold, silver, bronze, copper, tin, lead, titanium, steel, and zinc.

Then I asked the kids what those items all share (Please compare them). I got some silly answers (We can find them all in a car), to some more serious ones  – they are all found in rocks or the ground; we can make them all take shapes, and they all conduct electricity.

Metals can be found everywhere. We found metals all over our neighborhood. Where can you find metals?

Metals can be found everywhere. We found metals all over our neighborhood. Where can you find metals?

Then Nicholas had to read the paper (page 12). He highlighted the words he didn’t know. We looked up the words on Google (he simply Googled “definition of…..”).

Next we pulled out our Periodic Table of Elements. On the back of the paper Nicholas had to write the elements that are also metals. It was fun to see his excitement at writing down all the metals – and their atomic number (that was his add to the program).

Finally, we went on a metal hunt. The kids took their videocamera and made a video of them going around the neighborhood finding metals. I thought that was fun. I gave them 20 minutes to find as many metals as they could. They really enjoyed running around and finding metals.


Science articles for the week.

The goal is to have your student read and write. Whether it is fiction or non-fiction, the goal remains the same. I use nonfiction for my son – he likes to read about science. Reading about science also exposes him to a wide variety of vocabulary words and interesting punctuation. He reads enough fiction on his own and with me during reading time.

In addition, he’s learning about random topics while reading non-fiction. He loves all things science, and so reading about science helps him learn even more about a topic he already loves. If he had to read about dance or ponies, he probably wouldn’t do it as often. Lastly, by choosing articles that I know he will like, I don’t have to argue with him about doing the reading portion of the work. Sometimes we still argue about the writing – but we never have an argument about the reading.

Here’s the list of articles we’ve been using:


The next batch of articles.

In case you need more inspiration for reading science related things – or your child does – here are the list of the other articles we have used over the past week.

Remember, the goal is to read and then write a summary. I’m always happy when Nicholas wants to talk about the article, but he always has to write at least one sentence to summarize the article – since I want him to practice writing. I often get a lot of push back on writing. But the deal is, he has to write the sentence before he gets up. Otherwise, the whole exercise gets started over with a new article.

Sometimes he wants to read three or four before he writes his sentence – and that’s okay too. But he has to write a sentence before he gets up – legibly and that actually summarizes the article. Not simply copying the title.

Here’s the list:

Color and ice.

We did a color and ice experiment. Or really, we played with tools, ice, and color.

Here's the bin before the kids started playing with the ice. Food coloring, water, pipe cleaners, and all our tools.

Here’s the bin before the kids started playing with the ice. Food coloring, water, pipe cleaners, and all our tools.

Here’s what we used:

  • A plastic bin to hold the ice
  • 2 plastic containers for water
  • Paint brushes
  • Food coloring
  • Knives and spoons
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Hammers (the ones we use with playdough)
  • Towels

All I had to do was put everything outside, and away they played. For 2 hours.

First, the kids grabbed the food coloring and made their water different colors. Then they dripped it on the ice. Then they rubbed the ice cubes together. They were shocked to find that the food coloring made the ice not stick together. They had previously made ice sculptures by using water to make the ice cubes stick to each other. But with the food coloring, the ice wasn’t sticking. Abby and Nicholas had a great conversation about it. I got to sit and listen to them. It went something like this:

N: Why won’t they stick together with food coloring? Mom?!

A: Maybe it’s too colored.

N: Maybe. Let’s see. Stuck two ice cubes together without food coloring. Then tried to stick two of the colored ice cubes together – and they didn’t stick.

A: See. I told you so.

N: Yeah. But I bet the colored water works.

A: No. Your colored water is too brown (Nicholas had made it all brown).

N: Tries with his colored water, and it worked. Ha Abby, I told you so.

A: Okay. But now my hands are all colored.

N: We can wash them later. Let’s smash ice cubes!

A: Okay. I get the pink ones.

N: They aren’t pink. They are just less red than some others.

Coloring the water and the ice was one of the first things they did.

Coloring the water and the ice was one of the first things they did.

I love listening to conversations like this. They have these amazing conversations where they are playing and discovering things, all without being led somewhere. They are simply exploring the world around them, and these lessons will stick with them better than any other lessons. When they do something that’s similar to this, they can simply flash back to the things they learned while playing. There’s a reason why kids learn best while playing, and why all we have to do – as parents – is present them with opportunities.

It’s really quite amazing to listen to the conversations that go on for hours about this. I imagine we will be discussing the ice activity as a favorite for days to come. My kids tend to get stuck on these things and request repeats. Next time, I think I’ll make ice cubes in different shapes and colors beforehand. Then I don’t have to give them food coloring and watch them color themselves, their clothes, and the patio.

So our AAR (after action report) went something like this (I ask the questions, and the kids give their responses):

What did we use?

  • Ice cubes
  • Hammers
  • Colors
  • Water
  • Paintbrushes
  • Hands
  • Feet
  • Knives
  • Sticks
  • Rocks (they found some in the back yard)
  • Leaves (they picked them off the plants and used them as decoration)

    Yes, we were in pajamas. No one wanted to get dressed. It's one of the great things about homeschooling -science and learning in pajamas.

    Yes, we were in pajamas. No one wanted to get dressed. It’s one of the great things about homeschooling -science and learning in pajamas.

  • Water

What did we do?

  • Played with ice
  • Made ice sculptures
  • Colored water
  • Painted ice
  • Smashed ice
  • Melted ice
  • Painted my feet (Abby)
  • Had fun
  • Mixed colors
  • Stuck ice together
  • Colored ice
  • Used a knife
  • Drilled holes

What did we learn?

  • Ice sticks with water.
  • Ice doesn’t stick with too much food coloring.
  • Red, yellow, and blue make brown.
  • Mixing colors makes other colors.
  • Colored ice melts into colored water.
  • Breaking ice is hard.
  • Smashing ice is fun.
  • Smashing smaller pieces of ice is easier than the big pieces.
  • Food coloring colors people too.
  • Water can melt ice in patterns.
  • Leaves can stick to ice.

What words describe our experience?

  • Fun
  • Smash
  • Color
  • Ice
  • Cold
  • Wet
  • Exciting
  • Loud
  • Crush
  • Drop
  • Multicolored
  • Friction
  • Melt

Hands on for August.

This week is the last week before vacation! We are headed out to a family reunion (yes, my kids still do work at vacation. It keeps them on a pattern, a routine, that helps ground them when they are in a place where everything else is different).

I’m gathering everything for August. It turns out that we might be on our own for homeschooling this year. I applied to a charter school like the one we used in Sacramento, but they are all booked up and don’t have room for us right now. So we are going to homeschool on our own – or I’m making plans for that.

In preparation, I’m working on our August curriculum. Nicholas has requested that we do more hands on things. I have a stock of science kits in the garage that we will work our way through, but I wanted something to do that’s more engineering – that will force him to think outside the box. So I found this great book called Tinkerlabs – it’s all about helping little inventors get inventing.

One of the best parts about this book is that Nicholas can read it himself. We will pick something to do on Monday. Then he has to make a list of what he needs and what we have. Tuesday we can shop, and the rest of the week will be spent doing the project. There’s a Home Depot, a Michael’s, and several parts stores right by us. I imagine that we can find most parts easily. And what we can’t find, we can use Amazon Prime to have shipped to us in a few days.

I’m super excited to get started on these projects. I’m also really excited that Nicholas is excited about his August plans. It’s always best in our house when the kids are excited about what they are doing.


The science articles.

We’ve been practicing reading and writing all summer. Some people have asked for the list of articles Nicholas is using as his reading and summarizing articles. So here are the latest articles we have been using.

Animal tracks.

Todays’s lesson is all about animal tracks.

We know the names of our animals in English (and German!), so it’s a fun lesson. The first part involves some worksheets. The second part is doing stuff.

Here are the worksheets we used:

These are four worksheets that have animal prints and animals. The fun part is that the kids have to look at the animals and figure out which tracks go to which one. We started with the last worksheet (the North American one). Then we went in random order. Each child got to pick one.

When the kids got stuck, I used some simple (very simple) questions to help guide them. Here are the questions:

1. Does the track have claw marks? Can you find animals with claws?

2. Is the track a big foot or a little foot?

3. Are you sure?

I love asking my kids “Are you sure?” The question forces them to stop for a moment and revisit whether or not they are sure about their choice. Sometimes it’s a simple yes answer. Other times the kids stop and reason their choices out loud to see if they are right. Regardless, getting used to making sure you are correct about your choice is a good habit.

Then we went outside. I laid out and taped down butcher paper. We put our feet into paint and made our own tracks. First we walked, then ran, then jumped. We looked at our tracks for each of the movements. The kids played a “same and different” game – what is the same about each of the tracks and what is different.

Lastly, we went on a track hunt. Our neighborhood has tracks  – mostly dogs and bunnies and cars. It was fun to go out and watch the kids looking around for tracks and trying to see if they could find anything new for tracks. Nicholas, my imaginative child, decided that the lines he saw in the grass were from a snake. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, but I certainly was laughing hard. He explained to Abby why a snake leaves a long line as a track. His explanation: It has no legs and slithers, like this….. (he proceeded to get down on the ground and slither).

I can’t wait until we go hiking and get to see more tracks. Maybe the kids will remember some of their lessons.

Our science article for the week: Saturn and moons.

This week, a discovery was made about Saturn – it might (or might not) be gaining a new moon (or two). It wasn’t so much a discovery as it was a list of possibilities.

Here’s the link to the article we used:

I know we use science articles most of the time. Here’s why: There’s always one main point to a science article.

In an article about other issues, the children might need to have additional knowledge. But in science articles, the knowledge is all given up front. This is especially true in science articles written for non-scientists (which is what the Wired and Slate science articles are). Nicholas can read the whole article and understand it – from top to bottom. There are not too many odd science words, and there are not too many complex ideas.

Science articles are easy to grab one main point, three supporting points, and then make one sentence that describes the article. It’s why we use them.

We also use them because that’s what my child is interested in. It’s best, when doing reading and summarizing, that the child actually like what they are reading. Everyone remembers a book in school they struggled to get through; mainly because they weren’t interested. Therefore, we use things Nicholas is interested in as reading topics.

Makes sense for us.

Rocks and minerals lesson.

Our newest rock and mineral lesson. It was great fun and had a lot of interaction.

Our newest rock and mineral lesson. It was great fun and had a lot of interaction.

We have a real love of rocks and minerals in our house. Lots of rocks are “found” for rock collections. When we go to museums, the kids pick up rocks as souvenirs. So we are back to another lesson on rocks and minerals. If you want to get the rock sets that I used for the lesson, they are linked to at the end of the post.

We learned a rock song. We watched this video on the three types of rocks from YouTube and then learned the song. Abby and Nicholas only took two times through to learn the song. I had watched it three times the night before, and written out the lyrics, so that we would have the right words.

Then we reviewed the rock cycle. I created a worksheet that had “fill in the blanks” in various spots. Nicholas simply drew lines from the words to their right spot. Then he cut the words out and glued them into the correct spot. It was a fun time. Abby got her own worksheet, but she simply colored in the blank ovals.

Then we worked on the difference between rocks and minerals. We watched another fun YouTube video. It was made for an older grade, but it was fun to watch and listen to. A great change from the traditional teaching songs you hear.

Next task was for Nicholas to read the cards I had made and sort them onto the “rock” side or the “mineral” side of the paper. I took the properties of rocks and the properties of minerals and put each on its own index card. I made a sheet of poster board (because there’s more to do!), and divided it into “rocks” on one side and “minerals” on the other.

Here’s the list of properties:

Rocks: Groups of one or more minerals, igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic.

Minerals: Inorganic, naturally occurring, crystal structure, definite chemical structure.

Next, Nicholas got all his rocks out and had to classify them onto the correct side – rock or mineral. It helped that they all come from boxes that tell you what they are – well most of them do. It was fun to watch him take the ones he doesn’t know and try and figure out whether they are rocks and minerals. He used his magnifying glass to look at all the rocks. He took his job very seriously, going through all the steps he could think of to identify the rock and minerals.

Here are the steps he took (and I guided him through). Sometimes he’d had enough exposure to rocks that he could get it right away. Sometimes he needed to take several steps. If he really wanted the name, we looked in our rock and mineral guide to figure out the exact name. I was happy with simply the class of rock it was.

  1. Does it have crystal formations? Are the parts that are showing regular formations?
    1. If yes – it’s probably a mineral and move onto the mineral questions.
    2. If no – keep going.
  2. What is the rock made of? Layers? Flecks of crystal?
  3. Does the rock float?
  4. How hard is the rock?
  5. What color is the rock? Is it many colors?
  6. Does the rock have pores?

*********Remember – most sedimentary rocks have layers and many components because they are rocks made from other rocks. Igneous rocks have pores or are glassy. All other rocks are metamorphic rocks! (This guide holds generally true).********************************************************************************

The next part was fun. Nicholas had to take the rock and mineral identification cards I made and put them onto the correct side – rocks and minerals. However, before he put them on the side of paper they belong to, he had to circle whether it was a rock or mineral, and if it was a rock, what type of rock it was.

Then we simply spent some time reading about rocks and minerals. Nicholas was reading to me and Abby from his  Basher: Rocks & Minerals: A Gem of a Book

Materials we had:

My lesson plan (available on TeachersPayTeachers). This includes the mineral and rock identification cards.

Rock boxes:

Educational Insights Igneous Rock Collection

Educational Insights Metamorphic Rock Collection

Educational Insights Sedimentary Rock Collection

American Educational Classroom Collection of Rocks and Minerals


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.

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