Monday, 31 January 2011

Letter F: F is for Frog: Magnet Page

Download the file from here

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Science Sunday: Hyacinths

One of the problems with teaching children about growing plants is that it takes so long that they have lost interest way before anything appears.  I think this is why you get the ubiquitous cress seeds on cotton wool in every preschool in the world.
This time of year the shops near us are full of bulbs and so we invested in a hyacinth bulb in a hyacinth jar so that we could do something a little different.  In just four days it went from no roots at all to this:
A is in charge of his "little beauty" and checks it about 100 times a day. Now all we need is the flower to appear.
Science Sunday

Nocturnal Animals Word search

I created this to use with one of the books we are looking at for stART which is about light and dark.  Since A is doing this topic at school I made this word search for him and R to do.
you can download the pdf for yourself from here

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Letter B: b is for BIG: Magnifying Glass Matching Game

B found one of our magnifying glasses this week and has been constantly wandering around with it glued to one eye.  I wanted something for our "big and little" theme so when I found this cute matching game via this post at Attached Mama that used a magnfying glass I knew it was the one for me.
The idea is pretty self explanatory - examine the little pictures with the magnifying glass and match to the bigger pictures.  There are basically three themes covered, animals, transport and fruit so you could separate them into themes and make three separate file folder games if you wanted to.
Needless to say B loved it!

Spelling Game: Roll-Write-Keep

This game is an adaptation of the spelling activity used by most schools (at least all the ones we have attended in the UK and elsewhere) called "Look,Say,Cover,Write,Check"  The student is given a book with columns in; in the first column is the word they are learning to spell; they look at it, spell it out loud, cover it up again, spell it from memory, uncover the original and compare (usually this is done several times for each word).  As a method for teaching spelling this is quite effective.  As a method for teaching spelling to A this is just another thing that does not engage him for more than 30 seconds if you are lucky.
Whilst pondering how we could get him to engage with spelling I came across this game to teach younger children to read sight words.  It's called Roll Say Keep.  The players roll a dice , pick the corresponding word from a gameboard, say it, if they say it correctly they get to keep the card, player with the most cards at the end is the winner.  I thought it could be adapted to solve our problem.
So here is our blend of the two things to teach spelling; and best of all you can endlessly adapt it to the words YOU want to learn.

Number of players: 2 or more

You will need:
1 die
1 gameboard
Words for spelling written on pieces of cardstock
Pencil and paper for each player

How to play:
All players roll the die, highest number goes first, play continues clockwise round the table.
Place one word card face down on each space on the gameboard.  Place the remainder of the word cards face down to one side.
The player rolls the die and turns over the corresponding card. They then have to read the word and spell it out loud.  The card is then turned face down again and the player tries to spell it on their paper.  The card is turned back to check the spelling.  If it is right they keep the card; otherwise the card is turned face down again and remains on the board.
Fill any gap on the board with the next word card, face down of course.
Next players go.
Continue until all the words are used up.
Highest number of cards is the winner.

VARIATION: for children in different years (like me!) have a gameboard and a set of words each, take turns as before but they will each be learning words chosen for their ability.

BTW if you are puzzling over which words to include and your child is following the National Curriculum either at home or at school (i.e. the UK curriculum) this leaflet by the National Literacy Strategy outlines what kind of words will be encountered year by year based on the Programmes of Study up to Year 6.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Science Sunday: Bubbling Volcanoes

Not very original I know but R is doing about Earthquakes/Volcanoes etc again and needed a model of a volcano for her homework so we dragged out the old papier mache volcano with the bicarbonate of soda/vinegar larva.
To make the volcano itself we took the side of a large cardboard box as a base.  In the middle of this we stuck an upside down yogurt pot and then another pot on top (this will hold our bicarbonate of soda etc later).
At this point cue the scrunched up newspaper and masking tape to build it up into a volcano shape around the pots.
Next comes the boring messy bit.  Layers of newspaper and glue.  Although there are recipes for making your own flour and paper glue (just use Google you will get hundreds) I prefer to use a watered down PVA glue.  You can buy two litre containers from building merchants where it is sold for sealing bare plaster walls before decorating - the last container I bought was when A was born and he is now 7!  To use add roughly equal amounts of water and glue so that it looks like milk.  This saves a whole lot of faffing about boiling/mixing/cooling and if you need to spend several days making your model (and lets face it it is not the most interesting thing in the world to do all day) it doesn't start to stink!
Once all the paper was dry R painted the model.

To make the bubbling larva.  Put some bicarbonate of soda  (also known as baking soda and has the formula NaHCO3) into the yogurt pot. Carefully pour in vinegar (with a little washing up liquid) that has been tinted with red/orange food colouring.  You should get a bubbly mixture that goes down the side of the volcano.  Of course since R wanted to do this at school we had a trial run first before she had to do it in front of her classmates with an identical sized pot to see how it would go.  Just a note don't use baking powder for this experiment -although it contains bicarbonate of soda as an active ingredient it doesn't work so well as the pure thing.
For those interested in the chemistry part vinegar and bicarbonate of soda is an acid:base reaction.  The bubbles of gas are carbon dioxide.

Science Sunday

Monday, 24 January 2011

Cooking for Kids: Gruffalo Cake

Since B didn't have a "proper" cake for his birthday, just some brownies, it was felt generally that he was owed one. A and I found this recipe for a Gruffalo Cake on the official Gruffalo website.
Here is our version:

Unfortunately the intended recipient although he loves the Gruffalo story and the Gruffalo's Child even more thought it was "scary" and wanted it in any other room than the one he was in :(

Learning Resources:sandpaper letters and numbers

Recognising letters is a precursor to learning to read.  Most of the letters that you read are lowercase so why start with uppercase letters? "Been there, done that" as the saying goes.  Yet whenever you see letters written down in learning materials it is always the uppercase letter that is displayed first - interesting convention huh? No? Just me then.
Anyway after a bit of a false start I have started again with B and learning letters (he just wasn't interested last year).  This time however I decided that it would be a good idea to take a leaf out of the Montessori book and use sandpaper letters for tracing with his fingers.
Now as you can see from here these things come in around $20 (or more) for each case (or here for UK customers at £25 per case).  Way too much for most budgets I suspect but it is fairly simple to make your own.

  1. First get some fine grade sandpaper - after all I want texture but not to hurt his fingers. 
  2. Then you need to get something to mount your letters onto.  "Proper" Montessori letters are mounted onto wood but then they are designed to be used day in and day out by lots of kids so I decided that thick card would do. I didn't have any mounting card (the kind used for mounting pictures in frames) when I went to look.  I have a feeling it has been used by the pink sparkly kid for drawing and making her own books out of... so instead I recycled some of the double thickness corrugated cardboard moving boxes we still have kicking around with coloured paper stuck on the front.  Not so pretty but it will do.  Choose the colour of your backing card carefully - again "the real thing" uses different colours for vowels and consonants.
  3. Print your letters out using a sans serif font (that is a font without the "twiddly bits" like arial, comic sans or d'nealian).  A font size of about 400 point will give you letters of about 4-5 inches high depending on the font you use.  Cut these out.
  4. Stick these onto the back of the sandpaper sheets -saves on fiddly tracing ;)  .  Flip the letter over before you stick on the back of the sandpaper, forget this at your peril or all the letters will be mirror image!
  5. Cut each letter out using a craft knife (you can get cheap ones from discount stores  - sandpaper will ruin your scissors!) and stick onto the card rectangles.

Whilst we were at it we decided to make a set of numbers too.

 Let the learning begin!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Outdoor activities: Painted Pots

One of the problems with living in a rented house is that you can be limited to what you can do of  any permanence.  Add the fact that we are having to move at the beginning of July (despite the fact we will have only been in this house for about 11 months) and you begin to think "Whats the point" if you aren't careful. One of the things that the older kids are really missing about the UK is our garden.  Every year we make a point of getting them to grow something of their own choice (A has chosen carrots every year so far and has already announced he wants to grow carrots in the new house).  This year we haven't wanted to plant anything that they would be attached to and so make the move harder but they have both requested that we go to the garden centre and get some flowers to grow.  This project is therefore something of a compromise.  We painted cheap terracotta pots and used them for seasonal plants from the local supermarket, nothing too permanent there and we get to see the flowers before we leave.
Everyone really enjoyed the painting bit.

Letter C: c is for Car: Magnet Page

c is for car magnet page to download from here.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Letter P: p is for panda: Magnet Page

Simple panda magnet page for download from here.

Letter L: l is for Ladybird: Magnet Page

Just what it says on the tin.  Click here to download.

Number Recognition meets StArt: Postman Pat at the Seaside and a Posting Game

Postman Pat is a perennial British children's character that has travelled round the world.  He started off as a stop frame animation puppet on BBC Children's TV and of course the merchandise (like books) followed. Sadly nowadays although Postman Pat is still being made, like Bob the Builder and Fireman Sam, it is now computer animation.
We have a treasury with about half a dozen Postman Pat stories and have read them all this week. In the Seaside story Pat helps bring the beach to the village green with a lorry load of sand; it rings a few chords with us as one of the things we miss about the UK is that we can't have a day out at the seaside.  Alongside our favourite stories we all worked together to make a posting game for B.

First we made some cardboard box houses each with a number on the door.  Each has a letter box slot in the top, decorations are a family effort.
The letter themselves are cheap envelopes. These we stuffed with pages from a magazine and draw on a stamp.  B then posted the letters into the correct house.  We did the numbers 1-10 but you could use bigger numbers with older children.  This could be used with any postman story or even a community helper theme.
For what others are doing inspired by books go to A Mommys Adventures and StArt

Monday, 17 January 2011

Science Sunday: Hot and Cold Air

This experiment was one inspired by my daughter R who requested a balloon experiment with the balloons left over from B's party.
First we took one small balloon that was blown up to the size of a baseball.
Experiment 1:We put it in the freezer overnight to see what would happen.
What did we think might happen? (Hypothesis): R has seen things put into liquid nitrogen at school that shatter so her original hypothesis was that it would freeze hard.
What did we see? (Result): The rubber of the balloon remained soft but the balloon got smaller.
Experiment 2: Then we thought of something else. we put it in a sink of hot water
What did we see?(Result): The balloon got bigger
What did we prove? (Conclusion): When the molecules that make up air are cold they're together, when they're warm, they're far apart.
Posted by mum and R

Adventures in Mommydom

For more science inspiration head over to see Ticia at Adventures In Mommydom

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Calendars for FREE!

Along with most of the world one of my New Years Resolutions is to be more organised with my time and resources.  One of the things I needed therefore was at least one calendar or planner and preferably FREE to download.  Now this is something that I usually resolve to do every year and every year the diary/calendar/planner is written in for the first few weeks or so and then abandoned as I find it gets taken down off the wall for update, buried on the desk under papers etc etc etc and I go back to using a spreadsheet.  The web however is full of lovely examples which maybe this year just maybe I will use properly (who am I kidding ;) )
Here are a selection of my favourite links that I found for if you want your own:

HP create centre - customise with your own photos

canon has lots of calendar-  not just the hang on the wall photo ones; crafty paper sculpture ones, triangle ones, desk ones,

my free calendar maker does good plain utility ones allows you to upload your own photos as well.

Uh oh, now I have more excuses!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Maths:Times Tables

R has reached the stage where she is fluent in about half her times tables and has discovered (as most people do) that repeating tables infinitum is BORING!  It is something that the National Curriculum in the UK insists that you know how to do in your head and so she was told off for using the fingers trick to work out her nine times table :( , only one thing for it practise, practise, practise...
In order to help her (and to use with A at a later date) we printed off some times tables matching cards.  I got them from here but you could easily make your own.

BTW you do have to register to download the resources but it is (and they are) FREE!  If you have older children and fancy spending an afternoon or evening depleting your printer ink supply check out the hundreds of resources available.  I particularly like those contributed by bevevans22 who is an ICT teacher who specialises in SEN materials age 4-12.

Anyway back to the matching cards. How do we plan to use them? Match the answer with the question.  Snap - one player has the answers the other the questions.  Memory pairs matching game.  Flashcards.  I'm sure we will think of more as time goes on.

N.B. For those who are wondering what the heck I mean by the fingers trick here it is and it works for the nine times table up to 9 x 10.
Hold your hands out in front of you so you can see both hands with your fingers "up".
Imagine that your fingers are numbered 1-10 from left to right.
Fold down the finger that corresponds to the number you want to multiply by nine.
The fingers that remain standing on the left of the "gap" give you the number of 10's in the answer.
The fingers that remain standing from the right give you the units.
for example, assume the sum is 5x9.  With your hands palms down the fifth finger from the left is actually your left thumb so you fold this down.  This leaves you with the first four fingers on your left hand standing so the answer is 40 something, counting from the right you have five fingers standing before the "gap" which gives us five units so the answer is "45".  Magic.

Letter A: A is for ant:Counting Ants in a nest

Following on from making our anthill for our ant theme we counted raisin ants into a nest.  This is just the plastic insert from some mincepies destined for the recycling bin but you could use a muffin tin if that is all you have at hand.  I cut some circles of paper and wrote the numbers 1-6 on them and glued them into the bottom.  The idea is a simple one count out the "ants" to match the number.  The tray could (and probably will) be reused to fit any theme and of course for more accomplished counters you could use a 12 hole tray.

Did this work with B, the anti-number boy?  Well, as usual, the answer is no!  Still, I love spending my afternoons picking up raisins from the floor (doesn't everyone?) and since it is plastic the tray didn't do any damage when it was flung across the room at his brother ;)  Never mind, undeterred we will try again tomorrow!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Letter A: a is for astronaut: magnet page

Making Learning Fun has a magnet page with an astronaut for capital "A".  If you want a lowercase "a" as I do here is our version to download.

Letter A: A is for Ant and Anthill

Simple letter A craft idea.
Tear some sandpaper into a sort of hill shape and glue to paper.
Use raisins (or in our case sultanas!) for the ants.