Friday, April 26, 2013

Miscellaneous Activities! :-)

Hard to believe we are wrapping up our K12 curriculum!  I have no concerns about most of the students finishing by the end of May.  Actually, my 4th grader will probably be finished in the middle of May.  Amazing, considering we had a late start...but he doubled up and worked really hard!  So that means he, and most of the other students, will get to do more "fun" Ms. Amber planned school work until school is out.  :-)  I'm looking forward to do some planning on my own!

This is definitely a Misc. Post.  :-)  Just random things we've been doing this past week or so.

Rush Hour
EVERYONE has been playing this!  Even my preschooler loves putting the cars on the board according to the card and then "drives" them.  Doesn't really play the game but great for him anyway!  My goal recently is to purchase strategy games when I can.  I think they are great for kids and I realized we didn't have that many.  So in the last month we have acquired Blokus, Tetris Link and Rush Hour.  Othello is another one we have around the house that's great for encouraging strategic thinking.  Any other suggestions for me?

1st grade Language Arts
A simple way to add a little substance to a lesson.  I found the flower pattern at  1st grader wrote his words from the introduction lesson onto the petals of the corresponding flowers.

Spring is definitely on its way! 
Yeah, it's a typical MI spring...beautiful one day and freezing the next.  And yes, we've had snow and ice mixed in with that rain...but the kids are really starting to spend more time outside.  That's great all around!

Art3: South America-Ponchos!   
Simple representation of a poncho.  We cut the v for the next first and she made printed patterns around the whole paper.  Then we folded.  Definitely a project she enjoyed the process of.
And speaking of printing... 
A 2nd grade lesson was to make these prints in response to a lesson in African Architecture and Cloth.  They were talking about Adinkra Cloth.

And 'tis the season!  Multiple children have plants or plant cycles happening in science.  

 We have a few of these bags on our sliding glass door! 
An oldie but a goodie!  New tips I came across this time.  K12 suggested we soak the beans in 1 C. water and 1 Tbs. of bleach to help keep the beans from molding.  (That doesn't stop the paper towel from molding though!)  This year we stapled across the bottom of the bag as you can see.  This gave the children a place to set the beans and kept the beans from falling to the bottom of the bag.  I also did not tell the children which way to place the bean so we've had some great conversations about germination/roots and gravity!  Also, we had some beans sprout within 24 hours.  I'm sure it was because we soaked them.

 Another oldie but goodie.
I mentioned something about doing a carnation like this and the 2nd grader said, "We did celery like that last year!"  So they were all excited when I said we could do it again.  Their "I wonder" question was "Will the celery turn purple at the top?"  Well, it did turn dark at the top.  We couldn't decide if it was brown or purple  (because of the green celery and the primary + a secondary color idea). The celery was getting pretty unappetizing after the 2nd day so we tossed it.  They were suitably impressed about how quickly started changing colors.  Within minutes!

I had a 4th grade student reviewing adverbs and a 1st grade student being introduced.  The 2nd and 3rd graders have ran across them also.  So, we decided to start our morning off with a game of Bingo.  :-)  The boards I created were actually covered with verbs.  Then when we put a marker on a word we came up with as many adverbs as we could that could go along with it.  A nice intro/review.

 We FINALLY got our piano tuned!  
This man was awesome with the kiddos!  You can only see 3 kids' bodies but there's a preschooler over there on the other side you can't see and this was only after lunch.  Before lunch all six kids were surrounding him.  He patiently answered all their questions and even asked a few himself to get conversation started.  What a neat experience for the kids!

 Bead Snakes
I have three students with poor fine motor skills.  I like to slip as much fine motor in as I can get.  This is one of the activities we had going.

Fractions and Decimals
Hard to see but what she did was to write the fraction using numerator over 100.  Then we simplified the fractions down slowly but surely.  She was struggling with this concept of simplified and equivalent fractions. Then we added the decimals.  She seemed to have "got it" by the time we were done.  The very first time  we did this she created a house.  Neat idea but that included half squares.  Oops!  That doesn't work for what we wanted to do.  Then the 2nd time she made a "quilt block" and every color had the exact same number of blocks colored in.  LOL  That didn't work either.  So this time she just did a random pattern.  That worked!  :-)

1st grade writing!

Art 3
What a neat project!  First she created an animal (jaguar) on (and out of) a manila folder.  Then she did some crayon rubbings and then she did some prints.  She made a BUNCH!  :-)  We will be doing this again for sure!
Black crayon worked best!

Math: Measurement
You can get this guy free at

In Science3, the children were learning about moon landforms. We decided to experiment with making the moon on a paper plate.  I mixed up a batch of glue and shaving cream to make puffy paint and away they went.  All the kids enjoyed exploring with this.

End product:  The children who were not making moons--their end products were more like moons.  :-D  The older two-well, they had a nice smooth moon.  :-)  So we learned that we don't want as much of the mixture if we want to see all the landforms.  Live and learn!

Monday, April 22, 2013


One of our whole group art lessons came from Art2. Weaving!
Many 2nd grade lessons have turned into whole group lessons because they are easily adaptable for the younger kiddos and the older kiddos just plain enjoy them.  Also, since neither the 3rd and 4th grader has used the K12 curriculum before, this is kind of a way to fill in the gap a little more.  The 2nd graders and I can easily summarize the lesson as we work.  :-)
With a little bit of help (not any more than I gave the 1st and 2nd graders), my preschooler was able to do this project too!
 An "extra" that the K12 lesson added to this "oldie but goodie" project is to wrap yarn over a tp or paper towel tube and print over top of the weaving to make it look more like cloth.  :-)
Some did...
 Some chose not to...which was a-okay!
Great for color review---meaning at the school-age level, cool/warm/complimentary, etc.  I love their color combos!  It did take us a bit longer to do because I changed to whole group at the last minute and hadn't asked them all what colors they were going to use.  Then one of my paper cutters decided to not work well and so it was only me cutting strips vs. having my 4th grader and I cutting strips.  But it all worked out!  They turned out nice.  Wish we had a way to have lamintated them.  They would have made great placemats!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Writing with Transitional Words

One of the things I learned early on with this school at home adventure is to NOT assume a student knows something.  The K12 curriculum is lovely, I definitely recommend it.  However, I would love to have taken the children from Kindergarten or 1st grade.  There are days where we are really only backtracking and teaching from the get go whereas K12 assumes they already have worked with the topic (because they would have if they use K12 the previous years).  Not that K12 should be different, it shouldn't be.  It does a lovely job a reviewing and going to the next level but I've found that we have to introduce it and work with it a bit before we move onto the next level.  :-) It gives me just a little insight of what happens to a student when they transfer from school to school where the standards and scope and sequence is different.  So, I really do not have a problem with Common Core.  I think it would be good that nationally the schools are following the same set of standards.  However, that will take several years (if ever) to get to that point...but the thought behind it is right!
One specific area that I see a gap at every grade level is in writing.  I find that I often review my 1st grader's lesson with the kids up to grade 4.  Yes, that's right.  They really haven't had any formal learning for writing, even up to grade 4.   Today was one of those days where we did a whole group 1st grade lesson.  Language Arts1: Transitional Words.  (We also did whole group measurement review and metric system introduction so the 3rd grader could do her work.  But I was amazed still what I thought they would/should have known but didn't.)  Anyway, back to L's 1st grade language arts lesson.  It focused on the transition words first, next, and last.  We went a little beyond that.  First off I provided them an Oreo cookie to enjoy, right at the end of lunch time.  Then I pulled out the white board and we brainstormed transitional words.  Then I challenged them to eat another Oreo (yes, they had their fair share complaining for some reason!) but really think about how they eat them.  Then each child verbally used transitional words to tell me how they each ate their Oreo.  They had recess and when they came in most of them created an Oreo project.
4th grader
3rd grader
1st grader
2nd grader
Simple, yes?! They absolutely loved it!  Seriously, isn't that funny?!  Oh the simple things.  Of course it probably had something to do with eating Oreo cookies when I never have those in the house...and getting to use the metallic permanent markers. :-)  As you see, we happened to talk about the various types of Oreos that are available now.  Pink for Valentine's day, green for St. Patrick's Day (actually I think we can get those year around now), orange for Halloween, etc.  So we got some variety of color for the inside frosting.  There was also a little friendly debate about what color the cookies actually are.  :-)  So, they got the option of brown and black paper.  And for those that had additional steps...they just created double stuffed oreos.
Totally Terrific in Texas has a nice little reference sheet for those kiddos that need a little help revising and broadening their vocabulary.  :-)  You can get it here.
There are several ideas out there on the web such as a face with a balloon and the kids telling the sequence of how to blow a bubble (gum).  My 4th grade suggested we do this again but with a hamburger.  Really, the possibilities are endless for a sequence craftactivity.  I really hope to do more of this next year. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013


We had a required "no Internet" day last week because for whatever reason we used a lot of it and was on the verge of going over our limit, even after boosting it once that month.  So on a whim I turned a 1st grade project into a whole group project and I'm so glad I did!  They turned out lovely...they all enjoyed this very simple project!
 3rd grade

preschool and 1st grade 
2nd graders
 4th grade
We took two sessions to complete.  The first day we splatter painted.  Oh boy.  Since I was only going to do this with one kiddo I hadn't prepared a splatter paint box.  Needless to day I'm still cleaning paint off my kitchen walls and appliances.  Oops!  Note to self, no matter how deep your kitchen sink is, don't do it there.  :-D  We also did the owls on the first session.  Great way to get those kids to "fill the paper".  Watered down some brown paint so it would resist their crayon details.  Then second session they created branches or fences, a moon, and any other details they wished.  I love how each are different.

This is not my original idea.  I came across this picture somewhere when I was browsing google images and do you think I can find it again?  Nope, sure can't.  This was just my take on their picture.
So, how we got started on this project.  In the LanguageArts1, they read a fictional store and then do a bit on a related nonfiction reading.  To make it a bit more interesting I've been incorporating a little paper craft or painting to go along with it.  Here is an example of the goat one he did.  He's also done a dinosaur and a bear...but the goat one was handy.  On the right he does the project on the left I staple the nonfiction reading and his nonfiction reading response page.  Simple...that's necessary around here with 6 kiddos!  But it allows for the child to take a little more pride in his work.
What happened this time was that I hadn't explored with the sizes of the owls and found out after the fact that they really needed the 12x18 background so we can't arrange it like we did on the other nonfiction projects.  We'll just attach his pages to the back of this project vs. having the story and response sheet side by side.
You can download the nonfiction response sheet here if you would like.
Next year I hope to incorporate more "hands-on" extras in all subjects.  K12 is a good curriculum but there is a lot of a paper-pencil activities.  I'd like to tweak that a bit for next year.  :-)
Side Note:  During the project, L., he first grader, was telling us what he had learned about owls and one of the little facts about owls he learned was that their eyes look straight ahead.  So an adaptation was the ability to turn their head almost all the way around.  So later they are all looking at each other's owls and one of the 2nd graders piped up and said, "Mine is the only one that is realistic."  After asking him to tell us more, he pointed out the eyes.  His were the only ones looking straight ahead.  :-D 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Habitat Dioramas

Both our 1st and 3rd graders did a bit more of an "in depth" study on habitats and the other students touched on animal habitats and animal adaptations somewhere along the line.  So we finally got around to doing dioramas for habitats over spring break!

Grade 3- Temperate Forest
She actually had a lot of various animals here.  We had great conversations about the food chain.  :-)  The kids found her baby foxes very cute.  Painted marshmallows! Creative use of real sod for her ground! 

Grade 1:  Ocean
Sand at the bottom, neat "wallpaper" on back.  Hanging fish.  Well-enjoyed by all!
Grade 2: Desert
Wispy cotton ball clouds, glitter glue sun, oasis, snakes, hard to see behind the Styrofoam cactus but he has a bean mouse.  He has little critters round the inside of the box also.    Sand paper bottom.  Mountain range with shadow.  :-)  His main animal was the he had the mouse as the snake's prey and he wanted the hawk to be flying as if it was ready to snatch the snake.  So the snake's predator was the hawk.
Grade 4: Rain Forest
This is a fun age to do dioramas with.  They really need no assistance and their imagination is great!  He went outside to find rocks.  Saw some things at a dollar store that he thought would be great.  Use moss for the bottom,  Back in the corner is a plastic snake and there are bean eggs in the nest.  He made a nest for the bird on top of a towel tube...neat!
Grade 2: Polar
Creative use of the marshmallows!  He told me he found these animals in a workbook he had at that! 
We were going to have the preschooler make up a savanna "sensory" tray on the day of the presentations but our presentations came sooner than expected, due to having a "no internet" required day due to data usage limitations.  So it didn't get done.  Oh well.  'Tis the way it goes.
Writing2 has a presentation, book review, and research units and we are tying all three of those units into this project.  Fun stuff! 
I tried to get pictures of each child doing their presentation but, as usual, only a couple pictures actually turned out.  Why is that?  They look decent on the camera and I get them on the computer and they are blurry, etc.  Lighting, setting, etc are all the same.
Anyway, most of the children did well and enjoyed "presenting".  The 1st grader had a bit more difficulty with it but that comes with practice.  This is something else I'd like to do more of next year.  Creating visuals for their lesson and having them present them to the rest of the group.  This was perfect for the younger grades and reinforcing how to ask questions.  Yes, one would think that this isn't so difficult but the children here had the same difficulties that I saw happening in the K-2 classrooms in brick and mortar.  :-)
We had a lot of fun with this!  Next up...our whole group Owl art project!