Tag Archives: home schooling

Countdown to Christmas! {3 creative ideas}

by Diane Burdick, Ed.S

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Kids love counting down to Christmas. After all, it is one of the most exciting times of the year! But just how do you get ready for the season? If your answer is simply x-ing out the days on a calendar, might we suggest a few fun crafts to add to your classroom Christmas tradition repertoire?

Santa’s Disappearing Beard

Santa's beardThis idea, found here, is super simple to make!

1. Create a long Santa beard from lined paper (like notebook paper).

2. Add a face from construction paper.

3. Then clip off one line’s worth of the beard each day.

The shorter Santa’s beard gets, the closer you are to Christmas. Not only will kids enjoy snipping Santa’s beard, but it helps them visualize the length of time left before Christmas.

Merry Muffin Tins

merry muffin tinsMaybe instead of a traditional counting down calendar, you want give tiny gifts too. Sure, you could spend lots of money on a container, but consider repurposing something you already have around the house — a 24 count muffin tin — into the perfectly portioned gift container. Thanks to Heartland Paper for this ingenious idea!

1. Cut out circles of heavy paper (such as scrapbook paper, or cardstock covered with wrapping paper) slightly larger than the muffin tin openings.

2. Decorate each circle with a number for each day leading up to Christmas.

3. Attach a small magnet to the back of each circle, and cover each opening with the decorated circle.

4. Place a small trinket or piece of candy in each opening.

5. Display the new muffin tin calendar on the table, or tie a ribbon through the hole in the top of the tin and hang on the wall.

Chinese Takeout Containers

Chinese takeout adventIf you’re the type of person who loves to give gifts all season long, then garland made from numbered and decorated Chinese takeout containers will give you the perfect opportunity to tuck away gifts AND count down to the Big Guy’s arrival.

1. Purchase empty boxes at the craft store or online, and decorate each box with a number and bits of fabric or festive paper to make it look more Christmasy.

2. Fill each container with goodies— such as candies, freshly baked cookies, crafts or small toys.

3. Line up the containers on the fireplace mantle or clip to a piece of rope with clothespins for an enticing display.

This idea is courtesy of JustSewSassy.com. Find affordable containers in an array of colors here or here.

Any way you choose to celebrate the countdown to the most exciting day of the year, we hope you’ll find time for all the joys this season has to offer. 

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Fostering Text-to-Life Connections through Common Summertime Activities – Part II

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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Making connections between a text and a reader’s life is an important part of reading comprehension. The more young readers are encouraged to relate books to their own experiences, the better they’ll be able to access prior knowledge, make predictions, infer cause and effect relationships, and synthesize meaning. And, the more readers practice making connections, the more natural this critical reading skill will become.

So, why not use summer to practice making authentic text-to-life connections? It’s easy. Just pick a book and read it before, during, or after an activity with a similar theme. Before you begin reading and also during reading, ask prompting questions like:

  • “Have you ever done this?”
  • “What was your favorite part about _____(fill in experience)___?”
  • “How do you feel when you’re ___(with Grandma, at the beach, camping, etc.)___?”
  • “How do you think the character is feeling now? How would you feel in this situation?”
  • “What did we do next when we were ____(experience)__? What do you think the character is going to do next?”
  • “How was this like our trip? How was this book different?”

To get you started, we shared a list of books that connect to visiting grandparents and going to the beach in Part I of this series. Now, here’s a list of books that connect to camping, flying on an airplane, and making something creative out of an empty box!

Summertime Activity:

Camping!

The books that connect to the activity:

S if for S'mores

S is for S’mores: A Camping Alphabet, by Helen Foster James

From what to pack, to where to go, to what to do when you get there, S is for Smores: A Camping Alphabet takes readers on an A-Z trail exploring this outdoor pastime.

Canoe Days, by Gary Paulsen

This gorgeous picture book is by the award-winning outdoor youth novelist of Hatchet. Here’s the publisher’s review: Opening this book is like sitting down in a canoe, taking up a paddle, and gliding out into the summer beauty of a hidden lake. In this picture book that is as refreshing and inviting as a perfect canoe day, a fawn peeks out from the trees as ducklings fan out behind their mother. Ruth Wright Paulsen’s sunlit paintings and Gary Paulsen’s poetic text capture all the peace and pleasure of a day when water and sky are one.

Summertime Activity:

Going on a picnic!

The books that connect to the activity:

The Picnic, by Ruth Brown

This delightful book narrates a picnic from the perspective of the animals that live both on top of–and under–the ground.

The Bears’ Picnic by Stan and Jan Baranstein

Oh, silly Father Bear! That’s not how you pick a picnic spot! In this bear-errific misadventure, Father Bear leads the family on a quest for the perfect picnic spot…but ends up trying out quite a few subpar spots (train tracks, dumping ground, mosquito swamp) first.

Summertime Activity:

Turning an empty box into a house, or castle, or race car, or ship, or….

The books that connect to the activity:

Christina Katerina and the Box, by Patricia Lee GauchChristina Katerina and the Box

If you can get your hands on a copy, DO IT! This imaginative book was my favorite growing up (and judging from the many reviews on Amazon.com, I wasn’t alone), and now it’s a favorite for my own young readers. Christina likes nothing more than the promise of an empty box. So, when a new fridge arrives at her house one summer day, Christina quickly claims the box. She pulls it into her front yard where it becomes a castle, club house, race car, and ballroom floor. It will inspire countless hours of imaginative play with your own empty boxes!

Other Summertime Activity Books:

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Filed under Academic Success, Critical Thinking, Home Schooling, Parenting, Reading, Summer Learning

10 Ways to Fight the Summer Slide, Part II

This is Part II in a two-part series on keeping skills sharp during the summer. In Part I, Kristen Thompson shared five stellar (and easy to apply!) ideas. Here are five more that are sure to make keep your child happy…and learning. 

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Five More Ways to Fight the Summer Slide

by Kristen Thompson

Tips one through five were shared here. Here are five more ways to keep your student on their toes (and lovin’ it) during the next couple months.

  1. Utilize Summer Programs. Take your children to summer library and bookstore programs. Most will post them online, but you can also request a calendar of events. Many libraries really crank it up a notch during the summer and hold fabulous, free activities and book clubs for students.
  2.  Be Choosy about Summer Camps. Consider registering your child for summer camps that encourage kids to use their minds on science projects, exploration, creative writing, music and art.
  3. Train the Brain. Use the summer to strengthen your student’s cognitive skills through one-on-one brain training to improve memory, visual and auditory processing, attention, and logic and reasoning. A core of strong brain skills will help them head back to school with the tools to succeed at learning in any subject. Unlike tutoring, which focuses on academics, brain-training addresses the root causes of any learning struggles. (For more information on brain training, see www.learningrx.com.)
  4. Get Musical or Lingual. Encourage your child to learn an instrument or another language. Studies have shown a strong correlation between “Arts” and “smarts.”
  5. Pick the Right Books. Learn how to choose age-appropriate books for children and teens. Reading is Fundamental has a great brochure that offers basic tips on what to look for. Your local librarian can also help you select books for your child’s interest and reading level. According to Scholastic Parents Online, reading just six books during the summer break can be enough to keep a struggling reader from falling behind.

A Final Note of Wisdom

Research shows that ALL young people experience learning losses when they don’t engage in educational activities during the summer.

“It doesn’t have to be that way,” says Dr. Ken Gibson, author of Unlock the Einstein Inside: Applying New Brain Science to Wake Up the Smart in your Child (www.unlocktheeinsteininside.com). “Think of it like this: The brain is like the body. If you exercise it, you improve it, but if you let it sit idle, it’s going to lose ability.”

To avoid the summer slide, Gibson recommends brain games and exercises that build cognitive skills, the underlying skills needed to learn.

And don’t assume that your kids will roll their eyes when you suggest ideas to keep their brain skills strong all summer. More than half of students surveyed say they want to be involved in a summer program that helps them keep up with schoolwork or prepare them for the next grade. Besides, unlike abdominal crunches, exercise for your brain is actually FUN!

Kristen Thompson is a parent, former teacher, and also the director at LearningRx Kennesaw, a center that specializes in helping learners of all ages and stages reach their full potential. LearningRx is located at 3420 Acworth Due West Road, Suite B, Kennesaw, GA 30144. 

Parents can request a free five-page Summer Slide Guide from LearningRx that includes dozens of brain-building games and exercises, as well as tips on how to incorporate brain building into daily activities. For the free Summer Slide Guide, simply call the Kennesaw LearningRx center at 770-529-4800 or the Atlanta-Buckhead LearningRx at 404-252-7246.

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a long way from Legos: the latest, greatest building sets {and how to use them in the classroom}

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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Legos and Lincoln Logs used to rule the roost when it came to building sets. Not so these days, my friend. Magnets, gears and pulleys make today’s building sets more engaging–and mind-bending–than ever. Whether you’re looking for sets for a classroom, birthday gift, or just a rainy day, here are our top picks for kiddie-approved, creativity-inspiring building sets, followed by some ways to incorporate them into your classroom.

Gears, Gears, Gears!

The fun Gears, Gears, Gears! sets allow young builders to construct buildings, vehicles, factories and the like. There are a variety of sets, from beginner to themed kits (like this cute Movin’ Monkeys set), but all are interchangeable. Sets include spinning gears, pillars, connectors and cranks to set creations in motion–plus interlocking plates for limitless building.

Magneatos

I first discovered these magnetized balls, rods and plates when my son received a Magneatos set from his Popi. Three years later, they’re still a favorite. No wonder why Magneatos have garnered so much praise: recipient of 2005 & 2006 OPPENHEIM AWARD WINNER; featured on NBC’s Today Show and Featured in MONEY magazine; recipient of Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award (Top Honor); recipient of Oppenheim SNAP (Special Needs Adaptable Product) Award Winner.

Thistle Blocks

Thistle Blocks are an oldie but goodie– a cousin to the Bristle Blocks from my own childhood. Guess what? These stick-to-each-other squares, rectangles and rods are still tons of fun. 

Flexiblocks

What set allows children to build movable bridges, creatures, vehicles and reptiles all with the same blocks? Flexiblocks! These wonder blocks, shown below, can be configured into a limitless variety of critters and formations: a boredom buster for sure. 

In the Classroom

Here are three ideas for using building sets in the classroom to encourage critical thinking and creativity, while practicing  hands-on geometry, public speaking, measuring, graphing and writing.

  • Hold a Building Challenge.

Break students into groups or pairs. Give each group the same number of blocks (or have pairs bring in building sets from home) and set the clock. Give the groups 15 or 20 minutes to build. Then, have each group present their creation to the class. The class can vote on which structures win Most Creative, Most Impressive, Most Blocks Used, Most Movable, etc.

Skills utilized: critical thinking, cooperative learning, oral speaking/presenting

  • Create (and Write About) a Fantasy World.

Allow students (individually or in small groups) to build a fantasy world with sets of blocks, including buildings, creatures, people, vehicles, bridges–whatever their imaginations hold. At the end of a set building period (around 20-30 minutes), students will then write either fiction stories, descriptive narratives or poems about their fantasy world, explaining what it looks like, who lives there, and how life works within the world of their imagination.

Skills utilized: critical thinking, cooperative learning, writing, grammar

  • Have a Race and Chart the Results.

Lots of building sets have circle or disk components that make great wheels. Allow students to build vehicles and then hold a race. Make predictions about which vehicle will go farthest. Create a starting line with tape, line up students two-at-a-time to race their creations. Then, use a ruler or yard stick to measure the distance traveled. Chart or graph the distances as a class on a piece of a bulletin board or chart paper. Be sure to note which are creative and aesthetic, even if they don’t go the distance! :)

Skills utilized: critical thinking, predicting, math, graphing, measuring, comparing/contrasting

For more great building sets, click here and here and here.

Build on!

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Filed under Activities, Art, Centers, Critical Thinking, Parenting, School Readiness, Science, Summer Learning

Live History: A Creative Project

by S. Parbhoo

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Teachers, you all know that teaching history can be a challenge. After all, with Facebook and reality TV in kids’ lives, history just seems so…yesterday! Nothing can bore a kid faster than the idea of textbooks, note-taking and unit tests. But, there is a better way!

Here is a research project that will not only foster kids’ creativity, but will also put them into the driver’s seat of their own learning about the past. It’s called the Multigenre Research Project, and while I designed it for Middle School, it could easily be adapted for upper elementary or high school, as well. Here are the steps to complete the project:

Read a Historical Novel or Biography

Students should choose a book that is set in the historical period that the project should cover (as decided by you, the teacher). Both historical fiction and biographies cover “real life” historical issues that people lived through. It’s important that kids begin their historical journey by walking in someone else’s shoes; they’ll need that perspective later in the project.

Choose a Topic

After reading, kids should choose an important topic or social issue covered in their book: What important facts jumped out? What struggles did the main character go through? For example, was the book about children during the Civil War? Was the book about soldiers who fought during the Revolutionary war? Keep the topic narrow.

Explore the Past

Now is the time to find out all there is to know about the topic. Use the Internet to find articles, videos and pictures about the topic. The more knowledge kids have about their chosen idea, the better they will do in the next step.

Become a Historical Character

Here comes the really fun part! Let kids jump into the time machine of their own minds and create four to five creative original pieces. Kids should write (or draw or sing or act) from the point of view of someone in their historical era. Some ideas for them to think about:

• Write a poem or short story as an historical character

• Create a timeline of the era

• Record a video or original song as a character from the era

• Create an original magazine from the era

• Write a letter to a prominent figure of the era

• Draw a picture of a historical person from the era

Package It Up

Finally, kids will package up their work in a super creative way that fits the topic. For example, if the project was on American Soldiers during World War II, creatively package the pieces in a knapsack or backpack. If the topic was on families during the Great Depression, kids can frame drawings, poems and letters like family portraits on a display board. And Marie Antoinette findings, for example, could be fittingly collected in a jewelry box (or cake box!). The ideas are as endless as a student’s imagination!

 

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Filed under Academic Success, Activities, creative writing, History, Reading, Teacher Inspiration, technology, Writing

Does Music Make You Smarter?

By Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed.

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The nursery rhymes your mom sang to you when you were little. The hokey pokey at a childhood birthday party. The song you jammed out to while driving your first car. The first dance at your wedding. The nursery rhymes you now sing to your own children. There’s no denying it: music is a powerful part of our lives. But…can it actually make us smarter?

Research says yes. While loud, cacophonous music has been found to–of course–be a distraction and impediment to learning, music done the right way provides a slew of academic benefits. Here are just a few:

  • Body-Mind Integration

When playing a musical instrument, singing a song or learning a dance step, children experience a unique melding of mind and body. In the brain, this means that neurons are firing away, brain activity is moving across both hemispheres, and sensory integration is occurring. So, how does this equate to the classroom? Sensory integration (using and interpreting the senses simultaneously) is crucial for reading, writing and math.

  • Spacial-Temporal Reasoning

Spatial-temporal reasoning is the ability to visualize spatial patterns in one’s mind. It’s a skill needed for engineering, architecture, art, science, games and math. So, how do you improve spatial-temporal reasoning? Through music, according to the MIND Research Institute. MIND did a study where children were engaged in a series of computer games involving math problems; simultaneously, they received musical keyboard training. What researchers discovered was further proof of the “Mozart Effect”–the idea that listening to a piano sonata enhances spacial-temporal performance. Why? Music has a structural pattern that mimics math: listening to patterns and symmetries in music aids in concepts like counting and fractions. The takeaway? Music makes kids better at math.

  • Social/Behavioral

Music has also been found to aid in mood improvement. This concept is a simple one: happy music = happy kids. Calm music = calm kids. Wild music = wild kids! Students take social cues for appropriate behavior from the music they hear.

Incorporating Music at Home and School

So, music is clearly beneficial. Now, how can you easily incorporate it into your classroom and home?

  • CDs: An obvious answer is the good ol’ CD player. Play songs in the car, when your children are your captive audience. One rule: You control the dial! You may even be able to sneak in some Mozart here and there.
  • Instruments: If you are able to provide music lessons for your child (and if they’re willing to participate), lessons are wonderful, especially during the formative elementary and middle school years. But, if formal lessons aren’t in the cards (or budget), opt for some simpler alternatives, like a tambourine, rhythm sticks, or a hand drum.
  • Music Programs. There are also several stellar, research-based programs out there specifically designed to combine music with learning. One of the best is Rock ‘N Learn, a series of over 50 CDs and DVDs that uses music (like really fun, hip music) to teach everything from division to phonics to Spanish. Not only does Rock ‘N Learn set concepts to a catchy tune (read: aids in memory), but it also makes learning very positive for children (read: fun). The CDs and DVDs are affordable, too, ranging from $10-$20 each.

The moral? More music = more learning. Now that’s worth singing about!

Sources: Keith, Kimberly. http://childparenting.about.com/cs/k6education/a/mozarteffect.htm

MIND Research Institute: http://mindresearch.net/cont/programs/prog_stmm_desc.php

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Filed under Academic Success, Math, Music, School Readiness

A Learning Experience

Know what I love? The community and fellowship we achieve by sharing ideas for working with children. Whether we’re educators, parents, or both, we have a common bond: our passion for imparting the best to children. That’s what A Learning Experience is all about…and you are a vital part of this community.

For those of you who commented on our articles in the past few weeks, a big special THANK YOU goes out to you. We love (love) seeing how your thoughts add to the original articles. It’s amazing what we learn when we put our heads together.

Thanks to all of you, A Learning Experience continues to grow…and, most importantly, continues to stand out as an authentic resource for creative ideas and inspiration. I hope you keep joining us here and sharing your wisdom!

And, if you’d like to submit an article for us to publish on A Learning Experience (which scores you a $35 gift card to The School Box and a nice little addition for the ol’ resume), simply e-mail a 250-350 word article to editor@schoolbox.com. Articles on a variety of educational topics are always welcome!

Warm regards,

Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.
Editor of A Learning Experience

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Filed under Motivation, Teacher Inspiration, Teaching

Summer Learnin’ Part 2: Library Scavenger Hunt!

This is Part 2 in our series on engaging (and easy!) Summer Learnin’ ideas. To read Part 1 (Fractions in the Kitchen), click here.

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by Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed.

It’s hot. The kids are bored. And you’re at your wits’ end. You need a fun activity to pass the afternoon, and you’d prefer one that’s educational…and FREE, right? Well, we’ve got a ringer for ya. Take your kids on a library scavenger hunt! Here’s how it works:

  1. Print this list (click here for a printable version) of books and items to find at the library.
  2. Head to the library and help your kids scour the shelves for all of the items on the list.
  3. When they’re done, they can check out the titles that interest them.
  4. If they successfully find all of the items on the list, reward them by letting them check out a DVD, too. Now you have free entertainment for tonight after dinner!
  5. Leave the library, feeling proud of yourself for providing a summer learning opportunity…in air conditioning…for no cash. You go, Super Mom.

Do you like this idea? Do you have your own good ideas for summer activities? If so, e-mail them to editor@schoolbox.com. If we publish them on A Learning Experience, you receive a $35 School Box gift card!

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Filed under Parenting, Reading, reluctant readers, Summer Learning, Uncategorized

Educational Programs at Tellus: Northwest Georgia Science Museum.

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by Anastasia Teasley

“It’s one thing to read about something in a book, but to actually see the bones of that dinosaur, the bones of that sea creature, to see that old car, to touch a geode — that adds dimension to our classroom instruction that we could never replace.” AJC interview with Peggy Cowan , Cartersville City School System

Museums have been a timeless solution to branching beyond the classroom walls, making science and history real in a child’s life. Tellus Museum offers programs for students, and even home schoolers and scouts, to benefit from the number of educational resources they have at hand.

Field Trips

Tellus has developed age- or grade-specific programs for field trip visits. Their Web site provides in-depth descriptions of the programs for each level, as well as the correlating activities that go with the theme of that program. The programs start at the Pre-K level, and extend through college-appropriate programs. Schools are provided with a number of program choices, depending on the level. Each program correlates to specific curriculum needs based on the Georgia Performance Standards.

The choices available to schools revolve around Tellus’s four galleries. It’s Alive, hosted in the Collins Family My Big Back Yard Gallery, for example, looks into insect life with younger children. Pre-K and Kindergarten children spend time in the gallery and in a lab, as well as singing and dancing in a theater and exploring other kid-approved biology topics. More advanced topics in other galleries include matter (which, of course, includes experimentation with liquid nitrogen), energy, magnets and galaxy studies for first through fifth graders. High school and college students can dive into topics like alternative energy, geology and periodic table programs. These programs run between an hour and a half to two hours, and each student takes home a souvenir of their day at Tellus!

Programs and scheduling can be found at http://www.tellusmuseum.org/education/fieldtrip.htm.

Home School Programs

Two Tuesdays a month, Tellus opens its doors with special programs designed specifically for home school students. The programs are suited for all ages and touch on a variety of science topics. The Web site features a table with schedules of each program. Like the field trip options, programs range from mineral testing to magnets, weather and more! To view the program options for your home school student visit http://www.tellusmuseum.org/education/homeschool.htm or call 770- 606-5699.

Programs for Scouts

Tellus Museum provides unique opportunities for scouts to get their hands on science…and earn a badge while they’re at it! The museum lays out specific requirements for a scout’s badge or pin and then demonstrates how to fulfill that requirement. Boy Scouts attending the Farming for Fuels event on November 7th will earn their Energy Merit Badge. Also in November is the Night Sky event for the Girl Scout Council (juniors through ambassadors). This program fulfills requirements in meteorology.

Next year’s schedule has already been posted through the month of April. In January, Webelos and Cub Scouts can earn their geologist activity badge or pin, and in March, Brownie Girl Scouts will be able to achieve their Science Wonder badge. There are other events posted online, and Tellus encourages scout councils to check their website periodically to find their upcoming events: http://www.tellusmuseum.org/education/scouts.html.

Educational Outreach

Rockin’ Rollers is a program designed for outreach outside of Tellus Museum. Educators at Tellus have put together themed roller suitcases containing special “touch friendly” hand specimens for the classroom. The suitcases are designed to teach students mineral, fossil and rock identification. Teachers can check out the suitcase for a week! To reserve a suitcase (with a $50 refundable deposit per roller), call Kerry Cornwell at 770-606-5717.

Adult Education

For adults wanting to expand their educational horizons in science, Tellus offers a lecture series featuring special guest speakers. The lectures are included in the price of admission, and topics in the past have addressed gold in Georgia, geography of the Grand Canyon, and the construction of Tellus’s grand dinosaur skeletons! Speakers have included biologists, paleontologists, geologists and other professionals from a variety of backgrounds.

The next lecture will be “Treasure Hunt”: The Search and Recovery of the S.S. Central America featuring treasure hunter Lance McAfee on Thursday, November 5th at 7pm. For current information about the educational programs at Tellus, check out www.tellusmuseum.org.

For a printable copy of this article by Anastasia Teasley, click here.

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