Summer Plans

Yowza! I looked at the calendar and realized there are less than three weeks left in the school year. It’s time to start planning for at-home summer fun.

  • First up? Makerspace. The kiddos recently expressed an interest in having their own robot lab. Right now, this has included scavenging parts from the garage (old training wheels and wood, for example) and toting around their toolboxes. I think we could build an outdoor makerspace using tips I found here.
  • Random Acts of Kindness. We are brainstorming ideas for ways that we can be kind to others, especially people outside of our own family/friend circle. We’ll put strips of paper in a jar so we can pull out one or two ideas a week.
  • In fourth grade, my gifted and talented class did lessons based on DRAWING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BRAIN. I ordered the book several months ago and hope we can all do the lessons together.
  • Writing and Reading. Of course! We’ll set aside time for everyone to write and read. Here’s a great idea for DIYing a journal. Also, Barnes and Noble is offering a free book for students who compete a reading journal. Download it here.

What are your summer plans?

Perfect Picture Book Friday: FROM SEED TO PLANT

Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Fridays are back. I missed the boat last week, but I wrote my post early this week so I wouldn’t forget.

TITLE: From Seed to Plant

AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Gail Gibbons

PUBLICATION INFO: Holiday House, 1991

ISBN: 978-0823410255

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 5 and up

GENRE: nonfiction

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“Most plants make seeds. A seed contains the beginning of a new plant.”

Gibbons moves through a plant’s life cycle, showing children how seeds are formed through pollination, how they are dispersed, and how they grow into new plants.

THEMES/TOPICS: nonfiction, educational, nature, science

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Cooper was working on a plant life cycle project for school this week, and we checked this book out from the library. Gail Gibbons is a nonfiction favorite in our house. She uses beautiful drawings and simple writing to explain science concepts in a way young children can understand.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

  • The book has a “Seed to Plant” activity in the back using bean seeds. It’s a different take on the classic bean sprout in a baggie activity used in many preschool classrooms.
  • We’ve also done seed collections before to spark discussion about the different types of seeds and how they are scattered. You’ll find that activity…here.
  • Finally, for older students, you can try the plant life cycle project that Cooper’s class did. Students had to collect five different types of seeds and draw or collect pictures that showed the seedling, mature plant, flower and fruit. They had to label each stage, and I had Cooper draw arrows so he could see that the whole cycle is a circle. I’ll blog about our project next week.

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

Summer Fun Toolkit: Animal Research Writing

One of my favorite blogs is Mrs. Clancy’s Joyful Learning in KC. She does writing workshops with her kindergarteners and provides templates on her site. That way you can help your budding writers at home.

I’ve been using some of Ms. Clancy’s ideas to harness Cooper’s curiosity and keep his writing skills up to snuff this summer. Right now he is working on Animal Research Writing. His book is called BLACK JAGUARS. Here is his first page.

Jaquars

Summer Fun Toolkit: Sight Word Bingo

My kids love Bingo, especially if we use Goldfish, M&Ms or another tasty treat for our markers. I made Bingo cards from Cooper’s Kindergarten sight words, so he can keep up with them all summer long.

Click on the photo below to print out the cards. Make sure to print an extra sheet, cut out the pieces and put them in a bag or bowl to draw from.

SightWordBingo

You can also build up your child’s repertoire of sight words through DK’s Silly Sentences game, for ages 4 through 7. It’s currently Finley’s favorite game. We play it almost every day.

Mad Lib Magic

IMG_2740_2We are big fans of mad libs in our house. For Cooper’s Star Wars LEGO birthday party, I ordered mad lib books for the goody bags. The mad libs have been a big hit with the Curious Kids, especially on road trips.

As a mom/teacher/writer, I love that mad libs help the boys recognize parts of speech. To complete the mad libs, they have to know what adjectives, verbs or nouns are. They are getting practice with sentence structure all in the name of fun.

Here’s a MadLib (MS Word) I wrote for a special Star Wars fan, Renn. Learn about Renn and his galactic battle with epilepsy here. May The Force be with you, Renn!

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Tutankhamun

Author/Illustrator: Demi
Publication Info: Marshall Cavendish, 2009
ISBN: 9780761455585
Source: Library copy
Intended audience: ages 9 and up
Genre: nonfiction, picture book (64 pages)
Themes/topics: Egypt, mummies, world history
Opening and synopsis: ”King Thutmose IV, who ruled from 1419 to 1386 BCE, was the great-grandfather of King Tutankhamun. As a young prince, Thutmose IV had many brothers and half-brothers who wanted to seize the throne.”
Illustrated with stunning images, this book places King Tut in his cultural and religious context. Demi tells of Tut’s ancestors, his life and tomb. Tut emerged as pharaoh at an interesting time in history. Inspired by Thutmose IV’s vision, Tut’s father, Akhenaten, did away with worship of traditional Egyptian gods in favor of monotheism. When Tut came to power, political strife ensued as two regents wrestled for control. After Tut’s death, his ultimate successor tried to erase Tut’s family from history forever. But he couldn’t destroy Tut’s hidden tomb.
Why I like this book: As obsessed as my three-year-old is with mummies, we actually knew little about King Tut’s life. Although the story line is far too advanced for preschoolers, Demi’s images can be appreciated by all ages. She’s gilded many of the images, conveying the wealth of ancient Egypt and the pharaohs.
Resources/activities: 

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

“Little Kid” LEGO Robotics

Fun times at LEGOLand

“Are you aware of this?”

That’s how my friend Brenda introduced me to the wonderful world of “little kid” LEGO robotics, officially called the Jr. FIRST LEGO League (FLL). While I wasn’t aware two months ago, I am now knee-deep in this new adventure, which introduces children ages 6 to 9 to teamwork, problem solving and simple machines.

Here’s how it works. Anyone can put together a team: a school, scout troop, YMCA, homeschool organization or neighborhood group. Teams have two to six members and meet once a week for six to eight weeks to work on the year’s challenge. This year’s challenge is called “Super Seniors.” Teams will work with a senior citizen partner to explore how one piece of technology has changed during the partner’s lifetime. The team builds a LEGO model of its finding using one moving part and a simple machine. Then they create a poster about their work.

If your child has any aspirations to join FIRST LEGO League, which promotes science, engineering and technology, Jr. FLL is a wonderful introduction. And it’s not too late to join this year’s challenge. Registration is now open for new teams, and the season runs through April. That gives teams plenty of time to complete their six weeks of work.

Are you interested in starting a team?

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Mummies, Pyramids, and Pharoahs

Title: Mummies, Pyramids, and Pharaohs

Author/Illustrator: Gail Gibbons

Publication Info: Little, Brown and Company, 2004
Intended audience: preschool and up
Genre: nonfiction picture book
Themes/topics: ancient Egypt, geography, world history, civilizations
Opening and synopsis:
“One of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations began about five thousand years ago, in the land of Egypt. For the next three thousand years the Egyptians were ruled by kings called pharaohs. While he was in power, each pharaoh was believed to be Horus, the son of the great sun god, Re.”
Gail Gibbons provides an age-appropriate overview of ancient Egypt including social structure, religious customs, and, of course, mummies.
Why I like this book: Have I mentioned that my three-year-old is obsessed with mummies? Our visit to The Getty Museum, with its Roman mummy in April made an impression, and we’ve been reading books about mummies ever since. Gibbons’ book, which we’ve read approximately 100 times, is the clear favorite. Gibbons is a prolific nonfiction writer. Her picture books are perfect for preschooler audiences.
Resources: This book is a wonderful way to explore ancient Egypt. Online resources abound, so here’s just a few. The British Museum has wonderful mummy collection. Check out the museum’s young explorers’ online explorer to learn more about ancient Egypt. National Geographic has a lesson plan for grades three through five, here. The site also has fun games, including “Tomb of the Unknown Mummy Game.” Kids become Egyptologist to explore the tomb and solve the mystery. The site also has a Day in the Life brainteaser/quiz game for children. Scholastic boasts several lesson plans with Egyptian themes. For grades six through twelve, educators can find lesson plans on PBS. Really, opportunities to extend the learning from this book abound.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday will be on hiatus until September 7. I’ll be taking a bit of a blog-cation over the next month, but I’ll return with more book reviews in early August.
Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

Summer Fun Shortcut: SHOW ME HOW!

Who doesn’t love summer days: lazy mornings with no school routine, no plans, no commitments? Oh, wait, that can be an at-home parent’s worst nightmare. Life always seems easier with a little structure and a planned activity or two, even if it’s just a jaunt to the park or a splash in the pool.

If you find yourself casting about for a little summer routine, look no further than Vivian Kirkfield’s Show Me How. This ingenious guide pairs 100 classic picture books with related crafts and recipes you can easily do with your child, which helps build self-esteem. The picture book recommendations are arranged around six themes. For example, the section “I Am Really Mad Right Now!” includes books like Where the Wild Things Are and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, which help children learn how to express their feelings. The other themes are: “I Can Do It Myself!,” “I’m Special!,” I Love You and You Love Me!,” “I’m Afraid!,” and “Tell Me One More Story, Please!”

Reading “Where the Wild Things Are”

We road tested a few of Kirkfield’s book suggestions and activities. We read Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963), in which Max is “sent to be without his supper” for acting naughty. In his room, he creates a world where the wild things are and becomes king. Kirkfield pairs this book with a bookmaking activity. She provides directions for helping your child write and illustrate his or her own picture book using clippings from old magazines. She also includes the recipe for delicious “Wildly Spiced Apple Muffins,” which Cooper and Finley helped me make — and gobble up — for breakfast. Yum!

Our second book was Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans (1939), in which little Madeline has an appendectomy. Ouch! Kirfield suggests making get-well cards and sending them to someone who is ailing. Cooper decided to make a get well card for one of his imaginary friends using construction paper, markers and stickers. The accompanying recipe is Sweet Wheat Bread, since Madeline and the girls at her school eat bread with each meal.

This book is recommended for children ages 2-5, but I think it works for children up to age 7. Children ages 4-7 would probably get the most out of the activities and cooking experiences.

As a bonus, Kirkfield includes her own recipe for a successful day, which she used as a teacher with pre-Ks and kindergarteners and as a day-care provider. She provides a loose structure that includes times for eating, reading, music, crafts, free play and cooking.

Kirkfield is mom, grandmother, a former teacher and a former daycare operator who practices what she preaches. Her blog, Positive Parental Participation, is a great resource for teachers and caregivers of small children.