Monthly Archives: May 2010

Summer Learnin’ Part I: Fractions in the Kitchen!

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by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

So, the kids are out of school. NOW what do you DO with them??

How about brushing up their math skills while having a blast in the kitchen? Cooking is one of the best ways to reinforce abstract math skills like fractions, greater than/less than, counting and measuring. So, go preheat the oven and grab the kiddos. It’s time to make something tasty while doing some summer learnin’.

The first step is to involve your kids in selecting a recipe that they’re motivated to make. Let them have a choice. (Choice is the best motivator! That…and chocolate. :) Below are some great online resources for children’s recipes…followed by a great recipe for blueberry muffins, just to get your creative juices flowing.

  1. ~ Includes a recipe index for kids, including children with special dietary needs. There’s even an auditory component, so pre-readers can listen to the recipe read aloud as they cook.
  2. Disney Family Fun ~ This site lists scores of kid-friendly recipes, all with photographs!
  3. ~ Cute site with some really yummy recipes, including some made for the good ol’ Easy Bake oven!

Berry Tasty Muffins

Recipe adapted from

Prep time: about 40 minutes


  • 1 c. flour
  • 1 c. oatmeal
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 c. blueberries, washed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. milk
  • ¼ c. vegetable oil
  • nonstick cooking spray


  • oven (you’ll need help from your adult assistant)
  • mixing spoon
  • 2 large bowls
  • fork
  • muffin/cupcake tin
  • paper muffin/cupcake liners
  • wire rack for cooling muffins
  • measuring cups and spoons


1. Preheat oven to 400° F (200° C).

2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, oatmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder.

3. Mix in blueberries.

4. In another bowl, break the egg and use a fork to beat it just a little bit. Then add the milk and vegetable oil, and mix.

5. Add egg mixture to the dry ingredients in the large bowl.

6. Using a mixing spoon, mix about 25 or 30 times. Don’t mix too much! Your muffin mixture should be lumpy, not smooth.

7. Line a muffin tin with paper liners or lightly spray with nonstick spray. Spoon in the muffin mix. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 of the way up.

8. Bake for about 20 minutes.

9. When muffins are finished baking, remove from muffin tin and cool them on a wire rack.

10. Enjoy your berry tasty muffins!

Serves: 12

Serving size: 1 muffin

Nutritional analysis (per serving):
136 calories, 3 g protein, 6 g fat, 19 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 18 mg cholesterol, 344 mg sodium, 86 mg calcium, 0.9 mg iron
Note: Nutritional analysis may vary depending on ingredient brands used.

This is part one in a multi-part series on Summer Learnin’ projects to do with the kids at home!



Filed under Math, Snack Time, Summer Learning, Uncategorized

Slimed!! A fun summertime chemistry project

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In Dr. Seuss’s classic Bartholomew and the Oobleck, oobleck is a green gluey slime that gums up the kingdom.

While our recipe won’t be quite as invasive as Dr. Seuss’s variety, it will still provide hours of entertainment and giggles for your children this summer.

Here’s how to make it!


  • water
  • corn starch
  • food coloring (optional)


1. Mix 1 cup water with 1.5 to 2 cups cornstarch. You may want to start with 1 cup of water and 1.5 cups of cornstarch, then gradually work in more cornstarch to achieve a thicker oobleck. You can begin mixing with a spoon, but you’ll probably switch to using your hands after a bit to get a more homogeneous result…plus, it’s more fun! Mix for about 10 minutes.

2. Mix in a couple drops of food color if you want dyed oobleck. And then enjoy your gooey goo!

The Chemistry Tie-In:

Oobleck is neither a true solid nor a true liquid. It is a type of non-Newtonian fluid called a dilatant.

The Literary Tie-In:

Read the Dr. Seuss original, of course!

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Filed under Academic Success, Reading, reluctant readers, Science, Summer Learning

Redecorate Your Classroom for FREE!

Hey, fellow teachers! I know that the end of the year is upon us, and right now we’re hardly able to think past finishing our cumulative folders and winding up our time with our kids. Before we know it, though, we’ll be dusting off the desks for a new school year in the fall! So, wouldn’t it be nice to get some classroom decor, books, games, study materials and furniture for FREE? Uh, yeah it would!

Here’s how: This summer, as you’re basking by the pool (because that’s what we do during our time off, right??), just e-mail a brief 300- to 500-word article to, sharing some of your favorite classroom ideas or lesson plans. We’ll post them on A Learning Experience and mail you a $35 School Box gift card! (We’ll even mail you a catalog and cover your shipping/handling if you don’t have a School Box near you). Best part? You can submit as many articles as you’d like, so you could literally score hundreds of dollars at The School Box.

For more details, click here.

Happy summer…and happy writing!

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Filed under Free Stuff!, Games

Capture it! Create a Yearbook for your Class

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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The year is winding down, and soon it will all be just a memory. Maybe you can already hear faint reprises of Cats playing in the background. (And, depending on how your year went, maybe that’s a welcome refrain!)

Regardless of whether you want to clone this class or ship them off to brighter (let’s hope) futures, closure is always a good thing, right? And there’s hardly any better way to achieve closure to a productive school year than through a yearbook! I’m not talking about the laugh-at-her-big-hair-two-decades-later kind. I’m talking about a handmade, class-made book that every student can treasure for years to come. One just about YOUR class.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Create the book. Start with a folder with brads in the middle- one for each student-and insert about 10 blank white pieces of paper (or clear page protectors with paper inserted, if you want to be a little fancy).

2. Photograph. Recruit a parent helper if you can. Pull students one-at-a-time into the hallway (or into a corner of the classroom, if you’re working alone), and snap their photo. Digital cameras are best because you can print the pictures cheaply only. Print a 4 x 6 of each child.

3. Assemble. Have the children glue their photograph onto the first page of their books. Under it, they should print their name, age, your name, year of school (third, etc.), and date. Students can personalize their yearbooks with drawings, stickers, glitter, etc.

4. Fill It. For all of the other pages, students can fill in other tidbits, such as: draw the classroom; list all of the other students (or you could provide a class list to insert); an “all about me” page with their favorite music, interests, etc.; a page to list their favorite subjects/topics studied and highlights from what they learned; a page to describe their best friends; a page about their families; and–of course–several pages for autographs and notes from their classmates. You could create templates for these pages to print beforehand, for younger students. As they fill in these pages, they’re also benefiting from a nice review activity and practicing their writing skills. Ooooh…more sneaky learning right at the end of school. Your principal would be oh so proud.

5. Summarize. A page from the teacher, typed up, listing favorite activities, field trips and projects to include is nice, as well: inside jokes, funny moments and personal milestones…whatever you think the children will get a kick out of remembering.

6. Autograph. Finally, set aside an afternoon to allow time for autographing and sharing their yearbooks.

Voila! A perfectly concluded year and a perfect end-of-year activity. “Memoriiiiiieeeeees….”


Filed under Classroom Community, Summer Learning, Uncategorized, Writing

Our Fave Mommy-and-Me Beach Reads!

by Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed.

There you sit, sand between your toes, enjoying the sun, the surf…and the fact that you can finally crack a book! To help you achieve beach Zen this summer, here are our favorite lit. picks—as well as award-winning books and activities to keep your kids engaged (and learning!) long enough for you to get past the first chapter.

Mommy Lit.

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

The basic plot seems trite: Girl steals best friend’s fiancé. But, with Giffin’s witty narration and relatable characters, you’ll actually root for the cheaters!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Told through letters written by a cluster of characters in 1946, this enchanting novel shares the story of Guernsey Island’s Nazi occupation.

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

The latest from Kinsella (Confessions of a Shopaholic), this is the tale of Lara, a girl who is visited by a fun-loving ghost from the 1920s. Kinsella-style hilarity ensues.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

An uplifting and compassionate tale about a Mississippi town in 1962, whose racial tensions are blown wide open when Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan publishes the stories of the town’s mistreated black maids. Soon to be a major motion picture from DreamWorks.

Kiddie Lit. (and Activities)

Summer Express, $14.99*
Give children a head start in school! Each workbook includes 100 ready-to-go, fun-filled math and literacy activity pages.

Hot Dots Flash Cards, $9.99*
These electronic, self-checking cards are great for reviewing math facts. And they’re (gasp!) lots of fun, too.

Carole Marsh Mysteries, $7.99*
Each adventure mystery in this series is set in a historical place, making history and geography really cool for kids.

Science Kits, $9.99*
These award-winning kits bring science to life with exciting, educational projects that have amazing results!

*Featured products are available at The School Box.

This article appeared in the spring issue of Little Black Dress/Little Red Wagon Magazine, page 26. Click here to see the original article, along with a printable coupon for 20% off one regular-priced item! (Coupon good through July 1, 2010).

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Filed under comprehension, Games, Parenting, Reading, Science, Summer Learning

Simple Activities for Young Learners

Fun Lacing Activities

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by Jennifer Petsche

There are so many skills and areas of development that children need to practice at an early age and progress with as they grow. Fine motor skills, bilateral coordination skills and visual discrimination are just a few of the essential areas parents and teachers need to ensure children exercise. There are many ways for children to develop these skills, but the key is for children to feel engaged and even to have some fun while honing these skills.

Lacing activities provide excellent hands-on play for this purpose. Children feel like they are playing with the colorful laces and cards, and they get a sense of accomplishment when they successfully lace through all of the holes!

What Lacing Teaches:

Pincer Grip. The simple act of holding a lace or plastic ball-tipped needle between the thumb and index finger helps a preschool-aged child develop her pincer grip. Developing the pincer grip is vital to future activities such as tying shoes and developing good penmanship. Learning to control their pincer grip will allow children to properly hold a pencil, crayon or paint brush when they draw and color, and eventually when they learn to write.

Eye/Hand Coordination. When a child holds a lace and fits it through a card, fabric or a peg, she is working on her hand/eye coordination. The coordinated control of eye movement and hand movement is vital for most activities children enjoy. When your child wants to play softball, build with blocks, play the flute, work on a computer and more, she will need developed hand/eye coordination to be successful.

Bilateral Coordination. Bilateral coordination skills, using both sides of the body simultaneously for different functions, is important for things such as tying shoes, typing, cutting food, doing crafts and more. When a child successfully laces, holding a lace in one hand and fabric or card in the other, they are working on their bilateral coordination, making their two hands work together toward a common goal.

Visual Discrimination. Whether her lacing activities include pegs and a pegboard or fun shapes and characters, a child will inevitably develop visual discrimination while lacing. She will begin to understand that there are differences in the shaped cards she is lacing—one looks like a heart, another is a circle or another may remind her of the family cat. She will understand that items can be similar or have aspects in common, but can be different. It’s important that she knows that, for example, while all cars are something to ride in, they can all look different. And, eventually, this will help her when she learns to read and write and distinguish differences between letters, such as “A” and “a.”

Lacing Activities to Try:

Lacing activities are abundant. Start with some simple shapes to lace, then move to dot-to-dot activities to add sequencing to your child’s skill set when they learn to start with hole #1 and then move to hole #2 and so on. Introduce your child to lacing puppets, allowing her to explore her imagination while developing important skills. Allow your child to practice her patterning skills, too, with a stringing peg set. She will enjoy creating a pattern on her pegboard using colorful pegs and laces, just like the pattern shown on the cards. It adds a whole new dimension to lacing!

Jennifer Petsche is an expert for Patch Products, which offers a wide range of lacing activities under the Lauri® brand, as well as high-quality, family-friendly toys, games and puzzles.


Filed under Academic Success, Summer Learning

Online Book Review Project

by Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed.

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Five years ago, incorporating technology into our lesson plans was  icing on the cake–a nice “extra” to add…if you had time. Today, however, we’re all realizing that technology is vital. We can’t merely give an occasional nod, anymore. Rather, in order to truly prepare our students for their technologically-ingrained futures, we need to be incorporating technology on a regular basis. Here’s a super-easy, authentic way to assign a classic book report with a modern, technical twist: do an online book review.

How it Works:

  1. Write a Summary. Read a book (or books) as a class, and after your study, have the students write a book summary. But here’s the catch: they can’t include the ending (it’s called a “spoiler” if they do). So, show them how to write a catchy beginning and a sound middle…and then end their summaries with a cliff-hanger!
  2. Gain Consent. Send home an online book review consent form, just to make sure that their parents are alright with them posting their paragraphs (anonymously, of course) on Click here for a printable consent form!
  3. Create an Account on Students will need to sign in, in order to write their reviews. The easiest and safest way to do this is for you to create an account (e-mail and password) beforehand, and then prompt the students to enter your e-mail address and password when prompted to do so on (You can always delete the account later.)
  4. Visit the Lab. As a class, go to the computer lab or use your school’s laptops–whatever works for your classroom. Students should take their finished summaries with them.
  5. Post the Review. Here’s how to post the review on
  • First, search for the book title. (Ex: Frindle)
  • Then, scroll down to ‘Customer Reviews’. You will see a button on the right of the screen that says, “Create your own review.” Click that.
  • Sign in, if you are prompted to do so at this point.
  • Click the age button: Over 13 or Under 13.
  • Rate the item by clicking the stars: 1-5 (Discuss what this rating system means with your students).
  • Title review (Discuss how to write a catchy title that encompasses the review’s main idea).
  • Students type the review in the space given.
  • They add tags. The tag should be the author’s name (i.e. Andrew Clements), the genre (i.e. “mystery” or “adventure”), or a summary word (“funny”). Again, another opportunity to discuss main idea with your students.
  • When finished, click “Preview your review”.
  • Instruct students to PRINT the preview screen. This is what you can grade.
  • Hit Publish after printing. Reviews will show up within a few days. And then students can send the link to grandma across the country, showing off that they have been officially published online!

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Filed under comprehension, grammar, Reading, technology, Writing