Arts/Crafts, Cultivating curiosity, Education, Homeschool, Parenting, Reading

Tools and Activities for Keeping At-Home Kids Busy

For those who have students home from school due to COVID-19, children’s book creators are putting together a number of resources to keep your students occupied and engaged. Aside from creator content, I am also sharing some of my favorite sites for kid-friendly activities and content. My goal is to keep this site updated as I find out about more.

Books, Education, Homeschool

Nonfiction PB Pairings: Reading the stories behind children’s classics

Top 10 Must-See Travel Destinations

I just finished two wonderful nonfiction picture books that reveal how two classic children’s books came to be. And that made me think about what fun it would be to pair these picture book biographies with the children’s classics in the classroom.

First up is FINDING NARNIA by Caroline McAlister, illustrated by Jessica Lanan (Roaring Brook, November 2019). In our schools, students read C. S. Lewis’s THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE in fifth grade. A magnificent companion, FINDING NARNIA is the story of (C.S. Lewis) and his brother Warnie, the imaginative world they invented as children, and how those childhood stories grew into the world of Narnia.

Next, MIEP AND THE MOST FAMOUS DIARY by Meeg Pincus, illustrated by Jordi Solano (Sleeping Bear Press, August 2019), explains how Miep Gies rescued Anne Frank’s diary when Anne and her family were taken by the Nazis. This book pairs perfectly with Anne Frank’s DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL, which our students read in 7th grade.

For younger readers, Melissa Sweet’s SOME WRITER! THE STORY OF E. B. WHITE (HMH, 2016) could be read alongside E. B. White’s CHARLOTTE’S WEB (approximately 3rd grade).

Finally, I’m looking forward to the forthcoming BEATRIX POTTER, SCIENTIST by Lindsay H. Metcalf, illustrated by Junyi Wu forthcoming in September from Albert Whitman. What a great book to read alongside THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT.

The takeaway: if your classroom is reading a classic work of literature with students, check your library to see if a picture book biography is available about the author. PB bios and classic children’s books are always better together.

If you have other great pairings, please share them in the comments. I’ll add them to the Pinterest Board I’ve started.

Arts/Crafts, Homeschool, Parenting

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?

Books, Homeschool, Writing

Schoolwide Ebooks Now Available

If you’ve been looking for a fun way to expand your student’s reading fluency, check out Schoolwide Zing. I have several leveled e-readers and articles that have just been published. Learn about the hairy, but harmless tarantula or the science behind a skunk’s stinky spray.

For a free trial, click here.

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Books, Education, Homeschool, Nature, Science/Math

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.

Homeschool, Writing

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

Homeschool, Reading

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.

Homeschool, Just for fun, Reading

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!

Books, History, Homeschool

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.

Homeschool, Science/Math

“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?