Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hickory Dickory Clock Book

To introduce the concept of telling time to my son, I decided to use the beloved children’s nursery rhyme Hickory Dickory Dock. I created three worksheets with a total of 12 handless clocks and each of the verses from the nursery rhyme on DLTK’s Growing Together website. Thanks to a little design finesse, I even made a cover page.

We started out the afternoon’s activity by reading Trudy Harris’ book “The Clock Struck One: A Time-Telling Tale.” In the book, I pointed out the clocks on several pages and explained that the long hand of the clock points to 12 and the short hand points to the hour.

When we were done reading, my son set about on the task of making his own book using the worksheets I’d created and cut apart. He drew the hands on the clock to match the time in each verse. (I wrote these out instead of using the numeral.) Then he put them in order. I stapled the pages together, he colored the cover, and voila! He had made his very own Hickory Dickory Dock book. Before he left the table, we read the book cover to cover.

Now, if I could just get that darn tune out of my head. (sigh)

If you want these worksheets and the cover page, download a four-page PDF here. I’m happy to share!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dice Roll Math

While shopping at a local store for teachers, I stumbled across some foam dice with numbers on them. I immediately snatched two up – one that had the numbers one through six spelled out and the other with the numbers seven through twelve spelled out.

I created a worksheet for my son with blanks for eight math problems – four addition and four subtraction. At the bottom of the page, I included the numbers one through 25 to help him with the equations.

As he rolled the dice, he had to sound out the words to figure out which numbers would be part of his math problem (have you ever noticed that eight is spelled so wacky?!?). I explained to him that when he did the subtraction problems, the bigger number needed to be written down first.

I also taught him how to use the numbers at the bottom of the page to count forward or backwards to complete the problems.

Like many of the other activities on this site, Dice Roll Math works on a number of skills: 1) reading since the numbers are spelled out (vs. numerals) on the dice, 2) addition and subtraction, and 3) printing (I’m hoping that my son’s 8s stop looking like the infinity symbol soon).

If you can’t find any of these dice to purchase at local retail stores, make your own (see my post on Story Dice for tips on how). And if you’d like a PDF of the Dice Roll Math worksheet I made, download it here; I’m happy to share!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Scrambled Story

At the beginning of the school year, my son couldn’t get enough of making his own books. He’d come home with scribbled-on scraps of paper stapled together, beaming with pride as he showed off the “book” he’d made at school. I cooked up this little activity to give him the same sense of accomplishment, but mainly just to coerce him into reading. (he he)

DLTK’s Growing Together website offers numerous printable story books for free download. Rather than simply give him the pages to color, cut out, and staple, I cut the words from the pages and mixed up their order. My son had to:

Read all the sentences and match each up with the appropriate picture.

Decide what order to put them in and glue them into the construction paper book I had stapled. (Coloring is optional.)

Lastly, re-read his new book.

This is a simple activity that you can pull together in just a few minutes. And if your child likes making their own books, this is a great way to foster that love while strengthening their reading skills.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Story Dice

Have I mentioned how much my son loves Star Wars? These days he seems to be nothing short of obsessed. To capitalize on his newfound interest, I decided to help him write his own Star Wars adventures. To make this less like a writing exercise and more like a game, I took cues from’s Fairy Tale Dice activity.

I used Styrofoam cubes purchased from a local craft store, covered them in construction paper, and added stickers from a Star Wars Lego sticker book. While I made a total of six dice, fewer would work just as well. You want to have at least three though:
1.      One with six different characters.
2.      One with six verbs (e.g., fights, rescues, captures, escapes, flies, and helps).
3.      Others can have enemies, places, or adjectives.

I color-coded my blocks (good guys and ships are white, bad guys and their vehicles are brown, and verbs are green). Once your dice are made, print some handwriting paper (I like the printable handwriting papers on

Now it’s time for your son/daughter to get rolling (forgive the corny pun). As your child rolls the dice, help them weave together the characters, verbs, and places into a story.

I was amazed the first time I ‘played’ this with my son! I wrote on the top of his first page, “In a galaxy far far away.” He kept wanting to roll more and soon had written “Han Solo and a Ewok rescued a rebel trooper from a battle droid.” That is quite possibly the longest sentence I have EVER gotten him to write at home. It was such a beautiful moment I swear I could hear a choir singing “Hallelujah.” Now each time we get out the Star Wars Story Dice, we add one new sentence to his story.

Tip: To make it seem more like a real book, put the pages into a 3-pronged folder.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pretzel Letters

Looking for a quick and easy activity to do during snack time? This is it.

I bought a big bag of stick-shaped pretzels to make trail mix for the kindergarten class’ afternoon snack and had TONS left. Since I always have our son do his after-school educational activities while snacking, I thought using the pretzels to make letters would be fun.

I printed out a page with the entire alphabet in capital letters and asked the question “How many letters can we make out of pretzels?” at the bottom. My son quickly realized that since the pretzels were straight, not every letter could be made.

When he made a letter out of pretzels, he circled it on the page. After he’d gone through the whole alphabet (and nibbled an enormous amount of pretzels along the way), he counted the number of circled letters on the page and wrote the answer to the final question.

Note: After doing this with my son, I had to relax the “don’t play with your food” rule.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Read and Search

To encourage my son to read, I picked up some simple books at our local library. I like the “Rookie Reader” books published by Children’s Press. They’re around 25 pages long, have 10 words or less per page, and often use repetitive words or phrases. My son’s reading has improved and he can read these on his own, which boosts his confidence. I like the vocabulary list on the last page of the books because it makes creating a word search a snap.

This week, I used the book “What Is Up When You Are Down?” by David F. Marx to create a customized word search with the book’s vocabulary list. I’ve discovered that you don’t need expensive software to do this (YAHOO!). I use the word search maker on the A to Z Teacher Stuff® website. What I like about this site’s free tool is that I can customize:
  1. How big I want the puzzle to be (10 letters by 10 letters).
  2. How large I want the font to be (14 mm).
  3. And the directions in which I want the words to be laid out (Forward words only, no diagonal words, up and down words).
Since I printed the crossword so large, I wrote the list of words at the bottom to save paper; it would have printed the list in 14-point font otherwise.

Knowing that he got to do a word search when he was done reading was just the incentive my son needed to read Marx’s book without whining. [Excuse me while I pause to pat myself on the back.] And when it was time to start searching, he didn’t even hesitate to read through the list of words to get started. This is a great activity to encourage early readers and help kids concentrate on how words are spelled, too.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Secret Decoder Math

I hated math. I know, hate is a strong word, but when I look back on my childhood struggles with multiplication, division, and later, algebra, the word fits. I’m like most parents that don’t want to see their child experience the same pain they did.

I designed this math activity to help my son have fun with basic addition. Let’s face it. A page of problems is boring for a bright child. For a child new to math, it’s daunting and frustrating. Secret decoder math provides a reward at the end – a message is revealed! Here are a few steps to get you started.
  1. Pick your message. Keep it simple with no more than 3 or 4 short words or words that are easy to sound out.
  2. To create your key, write down the message and then jot down all the letters used (some will be used twice).
  3. Assign numbers to each. These will be the answers, so make sure the numbers are large enough. For example, “Get a candy” has 8 letters (a, c, d, e, g, n, t, and y), a=4, c=5, d=6, etc.
  4. Write the corresponding answer numbers above the letters in the message. Then create addition problems for each answer number.
  5. Create a blank template with just the addition problems and answer boxes for your child. Include the key at the bottom of the page.
I’ve used phrases as simple as “Have a lollipop,” “Get a token,” “Time for snack,” and “A penny for you.” You could use any short sentence, even something as simple as “Good work, <name>.”

I love this activity because it combines multiple skills (reading, writing and math). My son, on the other hand, loves it because he feels like a secret agent. That's what I call a real win-win.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Catalog Scavenger Hunt

This week I stopped by a local store for teachers and while the cashier was ringing up some farm stickers requested by my son’s teacher, I noticed a stack of free Playmobil toy catalogs. While I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it, it was free so, of course, I took one. I’d find something to use it for, right!?!  After mulling it over, I decided to use one of the scenes from the catalog to create a scavenger hunt.

My son had to read the list of items, find them in the picture and circle each. Since he loves look-and-find books, he loved this activity. It was super easy and he didn’t even realize he was reading. <Insert evil laugh here>

You could easily replicate this activity with pictures from anywhere – magazines, coloring books, photos, etc.

Tip: If you're typing the list, use a font that most closely replicates the letters the way your son/daughter is learning to print them (for example, look at the "a").