Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Teaching Kids About the Plant Life Cycle

Although school might be out for most people right now, you can still use the summer garden to help teach your kids about the plant life cycle. Try growing beans in a cup, or plant some partially grown plants — like tomato plants — in your garden to show your kids the circle of life, er plant life. Check out THIS ARTICLE on how homeschoolers, non-schoolers, parents or teachers can teach kids about plants.

Consider starting your own herb garden, just buying a few potted plants to encourage the little scientist to get interested in plants. Use the summer months to let them journal about how the growing plants change. Check out the book "Get Growing" by Louis Walker for into integrating even more plant projects!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Map Skills & Our Trip to the Zoo

Few things are as fun as a family trip to the zoo. Although just observing the animals, and telling your child where they are from might educational enough, take the time to incorporate basic life skills with your children by handing them a map of the zoo.

Map skills may be seen as passé, what with GPS devices in cars and on cell phones; but basic map skills-knowing which way is north or south, and learning how to recognize landmarks- will help children throughout their entire life.

Take, for example, a recent trip my family of took to the Atlanta Zoo. My children were very excited to see the panda bears, (see the Zoo Atlanta Panda Cam here ) thanks in part to an episode of “Curious George”, that they wanted to see the pandas straight away.  The problem was that the pandas were nowhere near the entrance. Sure, we could have asked one of the friendly staffers how to find the pandas, but it was just as simple — and fun — to read the map and find our way around the zoo.

Try teaching your children about reading maps with these simple steps in mind:

Step 1- Teach your children how to hold the map correctly.
Although maps are traditionally held with North being held upwards, maps of locations such as zoos should be held with the way you are traveling pointed upwards. Introduce directional terms to your children such as “north, south, east, west” and “right and left” or “before and after.”

Step 2- Recognize important symbols.
Some common locations such as bathrooms, first aid stations and eating areas are fairly universal symbols and frequently pictured in blue and white. Teach your children about other symbols on maps, such as trails or roads, grassy areas, and bodies of water such as streams of pools.  Make sure to point out safe places to meet up if you were to become separated. 

Step 3- Find your location on a map.
Teach children to look for landmarks that will help them determine where they are. It’s simple to find where you are when you start using the map at the beginning of your zoo trip, just look for the place labeled “entrance.” But if you find a map half way, or decided to start using it later you’ll need to be able to identify landmarks to know where you are. Show your children how can find your location by noting that you are to the “right of the zebras and left of the lions” or just “south of the kangaroo exhibit.”

Step 4-Don’t forget to have fun!
Although larger city maps may have a legend or scale to show you how far distances are, zoo maps aren’t always drawn to scale. Have children estimate how many penguin waddles or kangaroo hops it will take to reach the next exhibit. And of course, let your children waddle, hop, and skip to their heart’s content.

On our outing to the zoo each of my three children asked to hold their own map, and (like the avid explorers that they are) they held on to the maps dutifully on the entire trip. Throughout the day I heard them telling me and each other things such as “gorillas are just ahead” or to “look to the left and you’ll see the tortoise.”

Yes, the zoo may be fun in and of itself, but teaching my children an important life skill is just as exciting to me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Learning About Gladiators

While the Russel Crowe box-office hit "Gladiator" might be too graphic for the kids in your class to watch, it can surely give you as the teacher some great ideas on how to teach your students about Romans and the culture during the times of gladiator games.

GladiatorsSo go ahead, watch the movie as an excuse for teacher research, then snatch up some of this cool Amazon goody to help your classtime. Be sure to check out THIS ARTICLE for activities too!

Friday, May 20, 2011

We Found a Robin's Nest!

A few days ago noticed that a bird had been squawking by our front porch lately, but didn't really think anything of it until I saw the bird quickly fly from the bush but then stayed close by and watch me.

It was then that I noticed the bright blue robin's eggs!  What IS is about robins? Is it their bright red chest or their tiny, bright blue eggs that attract us so much? The kids are SOOOO excited about newborn chicks that have hatched! "They're so adorable!" they my kids all said. (Honestly, I was surprised the windows didn't crack from the high-pitched voices they were using!) They've all taken to calling momma bird "Mrs. Robin" too, which I think is hilarious. I'm not exactly when the chicks hatched, but they're at least 3 days old now, and are still little grey fluff balls.

Observing the mother bird, and the baby chicks is providing a great science activity for the kids. I'm even considering buying THESE cute note-cards to commemorate the event with the kids. Check out the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife for interesting facts on the beautiful birds.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Vacation Printables

Travel Auto Roadtrip Bingo Vacation Game Family I SPY Set of 3I'm getting ready to go on vacation, and wanted to keep the kiddos occupied while we're on the 6 hour long trek.

Thanks to MomsMinivan.com my kids will be quieter because they'll be busy with fun activities such as travel bingo, connect the dots and tic-tac-toe. I haven't decide if we'll be using stickers to block out the bingo squares, or if I'll just let the kids mark over squares with pen, either way. My three kids will be busy looking out the window, instead of jabbering to me.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Kindergarten Plant Activities

Kids love to learn about plants, and I mean really, who wouldn't? They're colorful, they grow and so many of them smell... as one of my kids would say "de-LISH-ous!"

Encourage your kindergarten students in a love of all-things-plants with THESE fun, inexpensive and educational plant activities.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Teaching Circle & Stick Writing

CHART MANUSCRIPT ALPHABETWriting skills can be a difficult thing for some children to master. Trust me, my youngest is a "lefty" and I struggle helping him hold the pencil correctly. However before your child can learn how to properly write in manuscript/ circle and stick/ ball in stick, he'll need to be able to form basic round circles and control his lines to make them more straight and less squiggly.

Practice making the basic shapes, such as tracing circles and lines and zigzags before you even hand him a sample paper with letters to trace. Then help him "see" how the different shapes work together to form letters. For example, the letter "a" looks like a circle with a stick connected to it on the right.

Read THIS ARTICLE for great information (and resources down below) or check one of the Amazon books or charts geared towards teaching writing.

Teaching Kindergartners Subtraction

If you're looking for some tips on how to enhance your math lesson to kindergartners read THIS ARTICLE for information on how to bring subtraction to life.
I've written about some fun things such as singing sons, using pizza or pie, using flashcards, doing the opposite and more.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Basketball Skills- Kindergarten Style

Lifetime Youth Portable Basketball SystemSo this is part 2 in my love of Lauren (and Basketball) articles, but you'll have to admit I've been silent on the blog lately.... been busy trying to wrap up the end of the homeschool year.

THIS ARTICLE by Lauren gives basic info on how to teach both dribbling and passing skills to kindergarten-age kids. Show them how to do the skills yourself, and then allow them to practice with a partner - and in an enclosed area, unless you like spending a lot of your time chasing errant balls. Consider getting an adjustable basketball hoop for your family so the kids can grow into the hoops and enjoy the toy for years to come.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

How to Pass a Basketball- Kindergarten Style

Diane B. here.... although Lauren T. wrote the article we'll be highlight, I couldn't help but write about it. Firstly, I love basketball, and so do my kids. Although I play well enough, I was struggling converting my head-knowledge of the game into words on how explain the concept to the kiddos. No more, thanks to Lauren's ARTICLE HERE. She gives step-by-step instructions on how to explain the skills simple enough for a caveman... or kindergartner to play well. (One of the secrets is to use a basketball appropriately sized for the kids. GREAT tip that I just didn't think of, I thought a bigger ball would be easier to handle, but it turns out the ball is too big — and heavy — for the lightweights.

Investigative Science Activities

Photo from: renjith krishnan
Jazz up that science class with fun activities that show scientific principles in-action! Follow the tips in THIS ARTICLE for science activities on subjects such as surface tension, magnetism, bending light and density.

One of the experiments even involves eggs — and we LOVE eggs around here!