Friday, April 22, 2011

Weather Unit Study-Helpful Video Resources

I wanted to share a couple of resources that worked really well for us these past few weeks during our science unit about weather.

The Magic School Bus books and videos have always been a big hit around here. A few weeks ago, we used The Magic School Bus Wet All Over to introduce the water cycle. The Magic School Bus Kicks Up a Storm was a good introduction to different weather vocabulary.

This week we watched a video to review wild weather. Stormchasers narrated by Hal Holbrook was a very informative 38 minute video (we watched it on Amazon Instant Video).

Why I liked it:
*The factual information was great, and many things that we had learned were reinforced with pictures and diagrams. I also liked the emphasis on actual work of scientists.

What I didn't like:
*The vast majority of the movie was appropriate even for my 5 year-old. I did fast forward through a 3-minute segment in the middle when a couple tornado survivors described their experiences. (It was a little intense.)

I always try to preview these types of things beforehand for language or violence. After some hit-or-miss experiences while teaching at home and in school, it just makes me most comfortable this way.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Life Skills--Sous Chef

It often seems easier to just do things for the kids instead of taking the time to clean up their food preparation "mistakes". (We've had a couple good puddles of milk and juice which stand out in my mind.)

I know that in the long run having them as helpers truly will save time.

At 5 and 7 years old they truly do seem more developmentally ready now to tackle more kitchen chores.

Ds7's new sous chef chore this week was learning how to peel vegetables. He did well and we didn't find any fingernail shavings in the dinner, either!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Magazine scavenger hunt

This is one workbox/center activity I've used for both my kids at various ages. It's intended to be on-task independent work for one child while I'm busy with the other.

I give the child an old magazine and an assignment sheet.

This is one of my less professional-looking assignments, but it gives you an idea of the types of things the kids are asked to look for.

I've used the activity to practice many subjects and skills. A few examples:

*math: adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing
*math: measuring, rounding to the nearest__
*language arts: finding words of a certain part of speech
*language arts: finding synonyms and antonyms, finding rhyming words
*geography: finding places mentioned on a map, answering NSEW questions about them
*science: finding creatures which are mammals, reptiles, etc.
*life skills: reading a recipe
*foreign language: cut out and label (in Spanish) at least___pictures

Sometimes answers are written on my assignment page. Other times things will be cut out of the magazine and/or glued.

I haven't used the idea while sitting in a doctor/dental office yet, but I suppose it would work there as well.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Into the Community-Visits to the Care Center

Dh and I take the kids to a local care center once every six weeks. We feel that it's valuable for them to be with people of all ages. It's also a little step toward being able to volunteer in the community.

The kids usually make art projects to give away. Sometimes it gets pretty busy for us and we don't have much chance to make things beforehand. These are good to make and keep on hand for those times.

I've been meaning to contact the activities director at the care center to see what other opportunities might be available to get the kids in regularly to visit, read books to the residents, or play chess or cards. Unfortunately I haven't gotten to it, yet, but this seems like a good time to take that on.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Following Interests

It doesn't happen every week, but I do seek the kids' input on interests they might have. I have a box on my organization list (see pictures in the post below) to remind me to ask the kids what interests they'd like to pursue for the week (or weeks or months) to come. We look for library books on the topic or plan time to do related activities.

Dd5 had various horse topics on her list for a couple of weeks. Next week she'd like to learn how to take care of cats. (This is so that someday when she "grows up and lives next to me" she'll be prepared.)

Ds7 delved into chess for a while. Next week he'd like to learn about teeth. Who knew?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Organizing Our Weeks - A Template

I enjoy looking at the ways other people keep their days and weeks organized. I thought I would post a picture of my weekly system. It helps me to make sure that each subject is covered during the week a certain number of times. It also serves as my lesson plan book where I actually write which lessons we're doing.

I post these on the refrigerator and use a highlighter to color each box when the lesson is completed. It's great for the kids to see their progress toward finishing our weekly goals.

These are the templates for ds7, grade 2.

This is the template for dd5, grade K.


-I use this for my most structured weeks of the year. We also slip in a week of unit study, literature unit, or other out-of-the-ordinary weeks from time to time. I still use the template to try and cover these subjects during the unit.

-In the beginning, I made a note of which assignments were done independently and which needed to be done with me. That way I could sometimes offer a choice. "Which of these three with-Mom activities would you like to do first?"

-I try to have one working on independent activities while the other works with me.

-I've been trying to experiment with using workboxes and this helps plan out the week.

-I've experimented with having weeks where the kids got to choose to do their assignments in any order. The first couple times we did this ds7 ended up with three or four math assignments left for the last day. I thought it was fine as a learning opportunity, but it was a little much for him.

-One of the negatives is that I have to plan it all ahead of time (instead of getting away with planning a couple days and then planning the rest of the week later) but it's definitely one of the positives, too--lots of work in one day's planning, but more time later in the week for other things I have to do/like to do.

-As the kids have gotten older I've had the chance to ask for their input in the planning. For now it's been input into music, art, some of the science, character education, community goals, and general learning. I haven't experimented too much with letting them help set goals for the other subjects.

-We've also experimented with working ahead at the beginning of the week so that we have some extra time for something special at the end of the week. I think that would probably work out better as they get a little older.

-It's a little small but it saves paper (hello, frugality/get out the bifocals).

Of course, things change from time to time and we try to be flexible and open to that as well.