When I saw For the Love of Math's use of velcro-covered paint stir sticks to order fractions, I was excited. To encourage my son's love for presidential history, and learn a little about two of our country's most beloved leaders, I ran to the nearest Wal-Mart to buy two 5-gallon paint sticks (WHOA, they're big!) and some velcro.
While I printed, cut out, and laminated (with packing tape for durability) pictures of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and 14 milestones from their lives, my son read some great graphic novels about their lives.
I was so glad to find these at our library. The comic book presentation of the milestones in each of these gentlemen's lives made their history seem more contemporary (translation: less yawn, more cool). My son went into a reading comma with these two bio-graphics books! Mission accomplished.
When he was done, I handed him the two paint sticks covered in a strip of velcro (I put the soft side on the stick). At the top was velcroed the heads of Washington and Lincoln. (Download and print the timeline milestones I made here.)
Our milestone markers were all ready to be put in the proper order. No instruction was required. "AHHHH, timelines?!?! I hate timelines," he says. (sigh)
So I explained: "Decide which events belong to which president. Put them in order. Show me, and I'll tell you how many are wrong. But I won't tell you which ones were wrong."
[ZING] (That's the sound of the lightbulb going on.) Suddenly, these boring timelines were a game. He was in.
My son used what he'd learned to deduce which events belonged on the appropriate timeline. Then, I piped up with some questions to ignite the critical thinking more, asking questions like, "Lincoln was our 16th president. Do you think the country's states would have all been established by then?"
Even I have to admit this little activity was more fun than I'd imagined. I can't wait to use our velcro-covered paint sticks for other activities!