Thursday, March 28, 2013

Medieval Kingdom Card Game


My son has developed a love for non-fiction, and Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House Fact Tracker (or Research Guides) have been a new favorite. When my son was reading the Knights & Castles book, he paid special attention to the hierarchy of people that lived in the Middle Ages, recording in a notebook the feudal system from King down to serf (peasant). 

His interest sparked an idea.

What if I made a card game of some of the people in the Middle Ages, and players would have to put them in order from the lowest person in society (i.e. prisoner) to the mightiest and most powerful (i.e. the king)?

With a week of isolation ahead of me due to radioactive iodine treatment, I seized the opportunity to make the illustrations for eleven game cards. 

Here's a diagram of the illustrations and the individuals' "rankings" in society.


The game is played similar to Skip-Bo Junior, a favorite in our house.

Download and print a 12-page PDF of these game cards here.

How to Win
The first player to play all of the cards from their stockpile is the winner.

How to Play
This is a two-person game. The dealer deals 10 cards facedown to each player; this is their stockpile. The top card is turned over (i.e. face-up) and placed on top of the rest of the cards. Next, the dealer deals three cards in three separate piles to each player face up next to the stockpile. The dealer does this with each turn.


In the playing area between both players, four kingdoms can be started. These four kingdoms, which are essentially piles, are played on by both players and must begin with a No. 1 card (the prisoner) or a Wild (Jester) card, played face up.



The youngest player looks at the three cards in their "hand" (those dealt face-up by the dealer on the table) as well as the one card on top of their stockpile to see if they can begin a new kingdom or add to an existing one. The player plays all the cards that they can, even those that may be revealed from under another card that was just played. For example, if there is a No. 2 (peasant) card face-up as one kingdom, a player can place the No. 3 (apprentice) or Wild (jester) card on top of it from their hand, as well as any other cards they may have to play.


If the card from the stockpile is played, the card underneath is turned over. It's the next player's turn when a player can no longer play any cards from their stockpile or hand.

NOTE: The card on top of the stockpile may not be moved to the player's hand, even if all the cards in one pile of their hand have been played.

Remember, each time it is a player's turn, three new cards are dealt on top of the existing hand from the last round of play. Once the new cards have been dealt, the player can take their turn.


When a kingdom has either been completed with the number cards 1-10 and/or a mix of wild cards, the pile is turned over and removed from the playing area, so a new kingdom can be formed in its place.

If the dealer runs out of cards and neither player has played all the cards from their stockpile, the piles of old kingdoms can be reshuffled to continue play.

My son and I had loads of fun playing this game. He was thrilled to see his notes come to life and the hierarchy of cards supported what he'd learned from the Magic Tree House Fact Tracker about various people's places in Medieval society!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Scrabble Math Spelling


If you've surfed Pinterest any time in the last six months, I've no doubt you've seen these marvelous little tiles. You can download them (like I did) from Jimmie's Collage. I printed two copies onto magnet paper (you just run the magnetic pages through your printer) and cut them out.

Use a metal surface and have your child use the tiles to spell the words from their spelling list. Warning: There's no "w" on the print-out; either use the "m" upside down or use a "blank" tile.

Once the word is spelled, add up the numbers on the tiles.

My son loved the challenge of seeing which word would add up to the highest number.

"Experiment" was the winner on his list with 22. WHOA!

Look at his face. No caption is necessary.

Want to extend the math lesson? Have your child put the words in order from least to most points. How many more points did the winning word have vs. the losing word?


This activity was great fun for both my boys. I read the word from the spelling list. My oldest son spelled it out loud and my youngest son and I hunted for the letters. The second-grader got great addition and spelling practice. My preschooler got a lesson in letter recognition. No wonder this idea has gone viral! I'm putting this in our regular rotation for spelling practice.

Monday, March 18, 2013

First to 50 (Fractions of Groups Game)


There's nothing like a parent-teacher conference to inspire new deceptively educational games. That was the case with this activity. My son's teacher mentioned that fractions of groups was on the lesson plan for the final trimester and that it can often be a struggle for kids.

Here's the little game I cooked up to help my son master this skill.


Not knowing how much he'd need to be challenged, I created one card game with three levels of difficulty. (Click on the level or the cards below to download a 3-page PDF of each.)

Level 1 is the easiest with a grid of squares, with the representative fraction of them filled in.

Level 2 provides the same visual cues (a grid of squares) that Level 1 provides, but the representative fraction of squares is NOT filled in.


Level 3 is the most challenging. There are no visual cues to help players. They must think through the problem in their heads.


How to Play
Playing is simple. Get some glass babbles (those flattened marbles from the craft store floral department) to use as a manipulative. One by one players take turns, turning over the cards in the deck (print 2-3 copies of the level of your choice or mix them together) and solve the problem. 


If the player answers correctly, they get to take the number of babbles in the answer. Colored cards have high-number answers.


But, wait, there are some "Put Back" cards in the deck!! If a player gets one of these cards, when they solve the problem, the answer is the number of babbles they must return to the "draw" pile of babbles. If they don't have enough, they just put back all that they have.


How to Win
The first player to get 50 babbles wins (or if you're having tons of fun, play until 100 like my son and I did). Encourage players to put their babbles in groups of ten to make counting them easier. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Run-On Repair [a Grammar Activity]


My son has been known to forget end punctuation. Hence, the run-on sentence occurs. To give him a little grammar lesson on why run-ons are bad, I grabbed a roll of register tape and an Easy Reader Level 1 book.

I copied the words from the book onto the register tape omitting end punctuation and capital letters. I stuck with a fairly short book, as the text gets kind of long regardless.

When my son got home from school, I was ready with the register tape, scissors, pencil, and the stapler. Before he did our language arts activity, though, I pulled out a Grammar Tales book to help me explain just why run-ons are so troubling.


This is our third experience with a book from the series and The No-Good, Rotten, Run-On Sentence didn't disappoint. It's the story of Kevin Crabtree whose great idea for a story became the longest run-on sentence in the history of writing (okay, I might be exaggerating just a bit). The first sentence ran and ran, right off the page and all over town.

Finally, after many feeble attempts to catch the sentence, dear Miss Bartlebine comes to the rescue with her red pencil. The ridiculously long run-on was finally tamed into perfectly polite sentences with punctuation or by adding words like but, yet, for, because, or and.

Now it was time to apply what he'd learned. 

I handed him the run-on story I'd copied and reminded him that sentences contain both subjects and verbs and always have complete ideas (i.e. no fragments). 



He worked his way through reading the register tape, stopping to analyze where adding punctuation would make the most sense and capitalizing the first word of the new sentences. 



Snip! He cut the register tape into shorter sentences that we kept in order and stapled together when he was done.


This was a fair amount of reading since it often required rereading passages again and again until fixing the run-ons made sense. My son hung with it and when he was all done, I had him check his work by handing him the book from which I'd copied the text.


He did a GREAT job!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Quilt Square Fractions


This idea has been bumping around in my head for entirely too long. I'm thrilled to bring it to fruition. If you know a child that loves tangrams, this is the activity for them.

I made a paper quilt square and added some lines for guidance. Then I made several of the shapes that could fit inside, printed them on magnet paper, and cut them out.

I also made 0-9 magnets. Now it was time to "play."

I tacked the quilt square up on the refrigerator and told my son to fill in the quilt square to make a pattern. I reminded him that he could leave spaces empty so there would be white shapes in his quilt square.


Download this template and the shapes and numbers you need here.

When he was done, I asked him questions like, "how many of the triangles are pink?" and "how many of the shapes are squares?" To answer, he used the number magnets to make fractions.

I challenged him to reduce the fractions whenever possible (for example, 8/16 is the same as 1/2).


TIP: Make this game mobile (think road trip game). Buy a metal clipboard!

Personal note: An uber-sweet blog follower emailed to ask me about my health. I'm happy to report that I'm doing great. My breast cancer did not require chemo and I'm a few months out from radiation. So far, my body is adjusting well to the hormone-blocking meds to prevent recurrence.

Unfortunately, the PET CT scan which was done to check if the breast cancer had spread, also revealed a suspicious spot in my thyroid. While unrelated to the breast cancer, a biopsy confirmed papillary carcinoma in late January. I'm healed from the total thyroidectomy, and am on a low-iodine diet waiting for my body to be ready for radioactive iodine - hopefully in the next week or two. Afterwards, I'll go on synthetic thyroid hormone medication.

I'm fortunate that both cancers were stage 1. And more importantly, I'm blessed with an absolutely amazing support system and am glad that despite all the anxiety and doctor's appointments, I've been able to continue working with my sons (and blogging!!). Thanks for hanging in there with me through all this, followers!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Snacktastic Spelling Review


A pinner once commented that they loved my LEGO minifigure spelling activity but the prep was pretty extensive. She's right. That's not exactly the kind of activity you throw together five minutes before your kid gets off the bus with the spelling test looming the next day. However, this idea is precisely that kind of activity.

It's one of my quick, go-to, oops-we-haven't-practiced-spelling-yet-this-week kind of activities. Five-minute prep is something this mom appreciates. Not to mention that I can start chopping veggies for dinner while reading the words on the list to my son. (Sometimes multitasking is just as important as spelling tests!)

Quick Prep
Since my son often studies for spelling after school, there's usually a snack involved. But you can certainly do this activity without food. Grab a piece of paper with a grid (download some large-scale graph paper here). Write each of your child's spelling words in the empty grid, one right after the next so each immediately follows one another. Keep them from overlapping but have them wind around the page, starting in the upper left corner.

SPELLING WORDS IN ORDER: farmer, worker, mayor, television, electric.

Make sure the last letter of the last word is on the grid's perimeter. Write the name of a snack (e.g. string cheese) next to it. Write a few other snacks around the grid's edge in various places.


Fill in the empty boxes in the grid with other letters, being careful not to put any of the letters in the spelling words adjacent to the words.

Spell Away!
Now read the spelling list in the same order and have your child draw a line from one box to the next, spelling the words. 


When they reach the end, he/she will find out which snack they're having!


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