Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Making Lady Liberty’s Torch

I cannot imagine what it must be like for immigrants to see the Statue of Liberty on their journey toward U.S. citizenship. To help my son understand all that Lady Liberty symbolizes, we read a few great books.

The first story, a fiction book by Eve Bunting, did an amazing job of talking about the symbolism of this great landmark. (It was hard for me to get through the book without choking up.) A family takes an annual ferry ride to Liberty Island 
at the request of the grandmother to commemorate the Statue of Liberty's birthday with a picnic.

When we were finished, I pulled out Marion Dane Bauer’s Ready-to-Read Level 1 Wonders of America book. Unlike the first book, this easy reader talked about the history and construction of the statue. My son was amazed to read that American schoolchildren donated dimes and nickels to buy the pedestal on which Lady Liberty stands!

After reading, we made our own version of the Statue of Liberty’s torch. I got this idea from Judy Press’ book Around-the-World Art & Activities.

What you need:
An empty paper towel tube
A small disposable cup
Aluminum foil
School glue and gluestick
Orange construction paper
2 toothpicks (optional)
1 flameless tealight

Cut a hole in the bottom of the disposable cup, the same diameter of the paper towel tube. Have your child slide it down the tube (1). Then, poke toothpicks in an X configuration through the top of the paper towel tube (2) about ½-inch down from the top of the tube (this will be what the tealight sits on). Clip off the ends of the toothpicks that are sticking out. Add school glue to the ends to secure them.

Tear pieces of orange construction paper. Glue the jagged paper to the inside of the top of the tube for the torch’s flame (3). Now, cover the tube and cup with glue, wrapping wide strips of aluminum foil over the entire torch (4). When the glue dries, add the flameless tealight to the top.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Telling Time Printable Card Game

Before my son’s last playdate with his best buddy, I must have answered “what time is it now, Mom?” and “how much time before he gets here?” a zillion times. (sigh) Finally, I reminded him that he could tell time, too. 

I had to jog his memory about which hand told the hour and minutes, but otherwise, he patiently counted by fives around the clock to tell the time in minutes.

To develop his time-telling skills even more, I made a time-telling card game based on Old Maid. I created 33 cards, 16 of which are analog and digital clocks with the same time and 1 dead battery card.

Download the game cards here.
After printing on cardstock and cutting them out, we were ready to play! ... Well, almost.

First, we read Telling Time by Jules Older, who did a MUCH better job of identifying digital and analog clocks and explaining each hands’ function on the analog clock than I did.

After we’d finished the book, I shuffled and dealt the entire deck to my son and I. (The cards won’t divide evenly; that’s okay.) When my son had all of his cards, I told him to lay them out so I could help him find the digital and analog clocks with the same times. I did the same thing with my hand and those matches were set aside.

Then we held our cards and picked one card from each other’s hand, alternating turns, matching the clocks and putting the pairs aside. The objective is not to get stuck with the dead battery card. The player left holding that card is the loser.

My son LOVED playing the “Time is Running Out” game I'd made and, with each game we play, seems to be getting better at reading the clocks.

Remove the dead battery card from the deck, and play these other fun children’s games:
Go Fish!

Friday, November 25, 2011

From Phonics to Words with Slide Cards

Have you ever known you needed to do something that no one else knew about, but you still felt guilty? That’s how I’ve felt about posting this activity for months now. Literally months. This should have been my very first post ever. These slide cards are the most useful activity that I’ve ever created for my son.

He did a great job learning phonics in kindergarten. But blending those phonics into words was a little more challenging for him. At the kindergarten curriculum meeting, the teachers shared a nifty little trick to help early readers blend the sounds they learned. Thankfully, midway through the year, I hadn’t forgotten it.

First, I made a few of these … then a few more … and more and more, at my son’s request. I don’t know what the cards were called that the kindergarten teachers shared, but I’ve dubbed these amazingly simple things ‘slide cards.’

The basic principle is that by showing a child one letter at a time, they are able to concentrate on the sound it makes before they see the next letter/phonic. It’s easier for them to blend the sounds gradually rather than 1) feeling overwhelmed and giving up or 2) guessing the word.

Simply download and print the first 15 cards (5 pages) on cardstock, flip over and download and print the next 15 (5 pages) on the back. Then grab 15 regular-size security mailing envelopes and seal them all. Now cut one of the short ends off of each. Insert one card in all the envelopes and you’re ready to work with your son/daughter on blending sounds. Just pull the cards out slowly and make sure your child says the first sound before revealing the next letter. When they’ve blended all the letters/sounds together, reveal the picture and watch your child’s face light up with pride!

TIP: It works best to print the cards so that the type on the back is upside down. That way you can simply flip the card over and immediately practice the next word, without having to reposition the card in the envelope.

Now allow me to apologize for not sharing this activity sooner. Until I switched to new design software, I could not share the original cards I made for my son. I hope a few of you will find these PDFs (or just the idea) to be as helpful as we have.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

OJ Carton Lantern & Paul Revere’s Ride

There’s something to be said for a legend … and a great poem … and transforming junk into a craft. The combination of these three things puts this activity among my favorites.

My son’s class of first graders is learning about early America, the Declaration of Independence, the flag, etc. So when I saw Phyllis’ post over at All Things Beautiful, I knew a lesson in Paul Revere’s ride would fit right in with the history my son was being exposed to at school.

It’s been ages since I read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. I did remember the line “One if by land, two if by sea,” though. And I had a sneaking suspicion that my son would light up (pun intended) at the idea of using lanterns in a church tower as a signal.

I was right.

Before we got crafty, we read Longfellow’s poem. The book I chose has amazing illustrations that practically have readers holding their breath with suspense, feeling the damp night air, and hearing the whinny of Revere’s horse.

When reading, I stopped periodically to put the poem in layman’s terms for my son. Despite the complex language, he was engrossed.
When we finished the poem, I gave him an empty orange juice carton and told him it was time to make a lantern similar to the ones used to signal Revere.

First he traced some rectangles on each side of the carton. Then he cut them out. Lastly, he covered the lantern in black duct tape.

I punched a few holes in the lantern on opposite sides.

To make the “glass,” he cut some pieces of vellum paper and I glued them into three of the windows with a few dots of low-temp glue. We left one window in the back open.

Then I had my son thread wire through the holes and twist it together on the inside of the lantern for a handle.

All that was left to do was add a flickering flameless tealight! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Add and Subtract with Roman Numerals

My son’s class is working on telling time. His homework assignment one night was to find and count the number of clocks in our home. He also had to draw one of them. Of course, he chose the clock with roman numerals. This got me thinking. Maybe he’d enjoy learning about roman numerals. And thus, this activity was born.

Our library had an amazing book that was both fun to read and extremely helpful (I never learned roman numerals so I was totally clueless). 

From David Adler’s book, I made a cheat sheet for my son translating the values of each numeral.
I = 1
V = 5
X = 10
L = 50
C = 100
D = 500
M = 1,000

Then, I made a game board and playing cards. I laminated the board to use over and over with a dry-erase marker.

Download a PDF of the game board, playing cards, and cheat sheet here.

The game board has a reminder about three important rules:
When the same number is repeated one after the other, the numbers are added.
When a larger number is followed by a smaller number, the numbers are added.
When a smaller number is followed by a larger number, the smaller number is subtracted from the larger.

Since my son is only in first grade, we did not use the “D” (500) and “M” (1,000) cards I made; I’ll save those for when he’s ready to add and subtract larger numbers. After reading the first half of Fun with Roman Numerals (the more you read, the more complex the combination of numerals becomes), I placed three cards on the game board and asked my son to write their values underneath with a fine-tip dry-erase marker.

To start, I placed the cards in descending order by value so no roman numeral was followed by one that had a higher value. Doing this meant that the numbers would always be added. I gave my son a 1-100 numbers grid for help when he needed it. Once he had the answer, he wrote it at the bottom of the game board. We cleared the dry-erase marks on the board with a paper towel.

Gradually I added different cards, progressively making the addition harder. Eventually, I placed a numeral with a higher value in the middle or at the end, so my son would have some subtraction practice. This tripped him up at first, but eventually he caught on and began thinking about whether greater than/less than numerals should be added or subtracted.

Teaching a first-grader roman numerals was tough but my son loved it. Now he can not only read our kitchen clock, but also will be able to tell me what number Super Bowl it is this year!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

This Family is a Bunch of Turkeys! [printable book]

Yep, you guessed it. That's me as a turkey. HA!
We’re a goofy family all right. My boys love to be tickled and my husband and I still love to act silly (despite our ages). So what could be more perfect than turning each of our family members into a turkey?

That’s precisely what my son did.

When he came home from school, we read 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving, a clever book about saving some lovable turkeys from their fate as Thanksgiving dinner. After a few laughs, we got down to business.

I gave my son pictures of each member of the family and some coloring pages I’d whipped up. He read the text on the cover page, “This family is a bunch of turkeys,” and immediately chuckled. (This was gonna be fun.)

Download a PDF of the book pages here, cut vertically, and get ready for a whole heap of silliness!

Next he filled in the blanks on each page, telling why each of us is a turkey and why he’s thankful for us. Then he colored each turkey, cut heads out of each of the photos, and glued them on the turkeys.

It was up to him whether to add googly eyes, glasses, horns, etc. to the photos. At first my son was satisfied with the turkeys as is, but the next day, we all had glasses and earrings. (What will I look like tomorrow, I wonder?)

When all the pages were complete (starting with the cover and ending with my son’s turkey), I added a small folded scrap of construction paper over the pile of pages at the top and stapled it for a spine. Voilá!

This was super fun! (Silly activities always are.)

A blog post from And That’s Family was my inspiration. Stop by for a visit and have a laugh. I did!

Oceans, Continents, and Directions, Oh My!

When I purchased a subscription to National Geographic Kids magazine for my son, they sent us an inflatable globe. He has been fascinated with it ever since it was filled with my husband’s hot air.

All on his own he began asking me to name a country for him to find. Of course, I didn’t hesitate to honor his request, even writing some of their names down so he could find them easier. When he had trouble, I found myself saying things like, “Look in North America,” “It’s a country in Asia,” or “First find Africa.” Each time, all I got was a blank stare. My son didn’t know the seven continents!

This activity is meant to fix that.

To start, we read a great book that shared information about the terrain, location, peoples, and animals on the Earth’s seven different continents.

Afterwards, I gave my son a printed map of the earth with no labels. I had written the following on the bottom:
North America – green
South America – brown
Europe – purple
Africa - yellow
Asia – red
Australia/Oceania – orange
Antarctica – blue

I asked my son to identify the continents from memory and color each according to this key. He remembered North America, South America, and Antarctica but needed to review Bobbie Kalman’s book again for a refresher to label the others. (And all the little islands off the coast of the continents, which continent do those belong to? We definitely needed the book’s map to answer those questions!)

When my son had color-coded all seven continents, I added their names and had him draw a compass rose on his map. Then I gave him directional clues to help him label the oceans. I said things like “The Pacific Ocean is west of North America” and “The Indian Ocean is south of Asia.” (I helped him with the spelling until all five oceans were added.)

I could tell he was proud of himself. At bedtime, I told him he had five more minutes to look at books before it was ‘lights out.’ He asked to look at his new map instead!

Our continents activity was inspired by a blog post over at 2 Love Learning (if you haven’t stopped there, do!).

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Kente Cloth-inspired Pattern Practice

AB, AAB, ABC, ABB … if you’ve ever worked with a child on patterns you, no doubt, recognize these. Frankly, I think some of the traditional pattern-practice activities are a bore [yawn]. I wanted a fun way to keep my son engaged as we worked on creating and recognizing patterns. When I stumbled across a picture of Kente cloth (fabric woven by the peoples of Ghana, Africa), a light bulb went off.

To start our activity, I Googled Kente cloth and clicked on “images.” I showed my son all of the different pictures and told him we were going to replicate the look of Kente cloth with an art project. He was game.

Earlier in the week, I had my husband cut two rectangular blocks of wood the same size from a 2x4. (If you replicate this activity, don’t feel like you need to use wood. Anything that is hard, shaped like a rectangle, and could get paint on it would work.) I cut lots of cardstock rectangles from five colors of cardstock in the same shape as our blocks of wood.

Then, I had my son wrap the two blocks of wood in yarn. I tied the two ends together on the back of the blocks, he applied acrylic paint with a sponge brush, and stamped the yarn prints on two different colors of cardstock. My son was blown away at how cool these homemade stamps were. (Okay, who am I kidding? I was too!) I got the idea here.

When he had stamped eight blocks of each, we moved on and began making our patterned blocks in the following configurations:

Each strip of our Kente cloth would have blocks with one of these patterns. I cut the cardstock rectangles into horizontal or vertical strips and my son glued them on. When he’d created two or three blocks with the pattern we were making, we glued our blocks onto a big piece of paper in an AB pattern, alternating with the stamped blocks.

This took a long time and a lot of thinking. My son, who isn’t normally the patient type, stuck with it until all four strips were done and glued onto our plain paper. He was captivated by how the patterns all came together!

When it was done, I had him explain the meaning, symbolism, or significance of his Kente cloth design by completing a custom-made handwriting sheet I created. I had to smile at his explanation: the cloth he made commemorates losing his second tooth!

Download a PDF of this handwriting paper here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Write Like An Egyptian

When my son and I got to the sixth chapter of Mary Pope Osborne’s book Mummies in the Morning, a light bulb went off in my head.

The third book in the Magic Tree House series takes Jack and Annie back to ancient Egypt where a ghost-queen asks for their help translating some hieroglyphs.

With a big plastic tub of card-making stamps collecting dust in our basement, I seized an opportunity to put them to use. First I picked 26 small stamps, one for each letter of the alphabet and stamped a key.

Then I stamped a “hieroglyphic” message for my son. Just like in Pope’s book when the code led the two young children to the Book of the Dead, the message my son decoded would reveal a hidden treasure under his bed (an inexpensive toy concealed in a brown lunch sack). I also made a blank sheet so he could stamp his own “hieroglyphs” for his Dad to decode.

Before my son started to read and write like an Egyptian, though, we read the First Facts book Hieroglyphs by Kremena Spengler.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Making a Miniature Totem Pole

My favorite of all the Native American art is made by tribes in the Pacific Northwest. The transforming masks, button blankets, and totem poles are absolutely incredible! This activity is an effort to give my son his own appreciation for these peoples and their incredible crafts and legends.

Before my son began creating his own miniature totem pole, we read much of the “Carving the Pole” chapter from Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith’s book Totem Pole. This excerpt explained that totem poles are like signs that help pass on legends and stories from generation to generation.

The book is written in first person, from the perspective of a young boy in the Tsimshian tribe, whose father is a wood carver. David explains to readers how his father first makes a drawing, then transfers the drawing to the cedar log before he begins carving.

We looked at the drawing in Hoyt-Goldsmith’s book of the pole David's father planned and then read the meaning of the figures being carved.

Next I gave my son sets of totem pole figures printed from onto brown craft paper (I cut postal mailing paper into 8 ½- by 11-inch rectangles and fed it through our printer to replicate the look of wood). My son selected six drawings, added color to some of the details and then we cut them out.

Now I asked him to look again at the picture in the book of the carver’s drawing and told him to move his cut figures around so they would stack vertically well. Next I cut several ½-inch vertical slits in the bottom of a paper towel tube and placed this end of the tube inside another tube, so they would look like one long pole. Next, he applied glue to the back of each figure and placed it on the pole until it was complete.

We looked at pictures of the pole raising in the totem pole book and raised our own pole. To secure in its upright position, I applied a bead of hot glue to the bottom of the pole and set it on a small piece of corrugated cardboard.

Download a PDF of this handwriting paper here.
Lastly, I gave my son a piece of custom-made handwriting paper and asked him to tell me the story of his pole. His story seemed to take inspiration from “The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” It began, “The eagle went to catch the frog. The frog went to catch the fly …” Very clever, huh?

Not only is his pole pretty cool, but he learned about another culture’s art
and got a little creative writing practice in at the same time! Fun!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Multiplication with Eric Carle’s Zoo

I like Eric Carle’s books. Way back when my son was a toddler I ordered 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo from a Scholastic book order, expecting to love it as much as Brown Bear, Brown Bear. Imagine my surprise when I opened it to find no words. Not a single one.

At that age, my son enjoyed identifying and counting the animals on each page. And let’s not forget about that adorable little mouse. What a joy it was to point him out!

As my son grew older, the book was ‘read’ less and less. Until last week, it was collecting dust on the shelf. I realized then that it was a perfect book to practice multiplication.

I whipped up a two-page worksheet to accompany the book. It asks questions like how many hippos do you see (2), how many teeth does each hippo have (8), and how many teeth do both hippos have (2 x 8 = 16).

Download this 2-page PDF here.
My son went page-by-page answering the questions, first counting the number of animals on the page, and then counting the particular body part (tail, legs, eyes, etc.) that each animal had. Then he answered each multiplication problem, using skip counting (by 2s, 5s, or 10s) when possible.

He had no trouble whipping through the 10 problems, and was SO proud to remember the rules when multiplying times 1 and 0.

He really enjoyed this activity. I really enjoyed reconnecting with Eric Carle’s charming book.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Twist-a-Letter Word Maker

Educational toy stores take a close second behind book stores on my list of favorite places to shop. When we were shopping not that long ago at one downtown, I spied a little toy that I just couldn’t get out of my head. Just because its price tag was higher than I was willing to pay, doesn’t mean I wanted to deprive my son of the experience it could provide. I don’t know what it was called, but I’ve named my DIY version the Twist-a-Letter Word Maker.

What you need:

  • 1 ¼-inch plastic PVC pipe, cut with a hacksaw to about 12 inches long (costs about $2)
  • An empty paper towel tube
  • 1 sheet of sticker paper
  • 2 rubberbands
  • A 1-inch by 8-inch strip of heavy-duty laminate (I used a scrap from another project)
  • Exacto cutting blade
  • Fine-tip black permanent marker

TIP: Take your paper towel tube to the home improvement store with you. It should fit very snugly over the pipe. If it doesn’t, you haven’t found the right size. My hubby kindly cut ours, but you might ask if an employee at the store could cut yours while you’re there.

Once your PVC tubing has been cut, slide the paper towel tube over it. Now print the PDF I made with letters on it onto a sheet of sticker paper; cut the columns of letters where indicated. Keep the strips in order. Wrap the end with the excess paper first, so the end of the strip with the letters closest to it overlaps the plain paper. Wrap the first strip around the paper towel tube next to the tube’s left edge.

Carefully use an Exacto knife to cut the paper-towel tube right next to the edge of the sticker paper you just applied. Once it has been cut, add the next strip to the remaining piece of the tube. Make sure the letters are right-side up. Continue to use the strips as a guide and cut until all the lettered sticker columns have been applied to the tube and cut into rings.

Now draw an open rectangle (mine was approximately ¾-inch by 6-inches) with permanent marker in the middle of your strip of lamination. Place this over the top of your lettered rings on the PVC pipe and use rubberbands on either end to hold the lamination in place. Now you can rotate the lettered rings and align them inside the rectangle to make words. All that’s left to do is hand it over to your child.

Set the timer and let the word-making begin!

I gave my son seven minutes to see how many words he could make. When the timer went off, he had 10 words on the page.

Next time we “play” with the Twist-a-Letter Word Maker, my son can work on beating his 10-word score! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

DIY ‘African’ Mask & Printable Book

In college, I volunteered as a docent in a museum that had an incredible collection of African art. Some of the other docents avoided that gallery like it was cursed, but I loved parading groups of adults and children through there. My art history classes had taught me enough to help me explain the art in a way that people could relate to. Once you understand it within the context of your own life, customs, and society, its beauty and craftsmanship are especially inspiring.

I hit the library to see what wonderful literature could help my son relate to African masks and how/when they were worn. Um … well … it wasn’t exactly a successful trip. While I’m sure someone has written amazing books paralleling African art and traditions with our own North American customs, my library didn’t have any of them. Not to be discouraged, I made my own printable book.

This book shows where in the world Africa is, and draws comparisons between Western theatre, Halloween, and superheroes and the masks of Africa. Feel free to print the book I made; Download the first three pages, flip over the stack of papers and download and print the second three on the back. Reorder the pages, fold in the middle, staple on the fold and share with your child(ren).

Use a plastic milk jug as a mask.

Earlier in the week, I shared with my son the one book I did find at my local library: Carol Finley's The Art of African Masks. We looked at the book's pictures together.

Then, I told my son we were going to make a mask and asked him to identify shapes for the eyes and mouth. Once he showed me what he liked, I cut an empty gallon-sized plastic milk jug in half, and used an Exacto knife to cut out eyes and a mouth in the shapes he’d identified.

The eyes were cut on either side of the jug’s handle (which serves as the nose). Then, I used a paper punch to add holes, where I would tie elastic cord later. I painted the jug beige using Krylon Fusion spray paint for plastics. (In hindsight, the paint was probably unnecessary.)

Decorate the mask.
After we read and completed the printable book I made, I handed my son lots of different bits and bobs to use to decorate his own ‘African’ mask (e.g. a dried-soup bean mix, ric-rac trim, dried pasta, raffia, buttons, etc.). We worked together to add the embellishments; I placed lines of low-temp glue wherever he instructed.

He added elbow macaroni around the eyes for eyelashes and ric-rac hair, taking his time to get it just right. He sorted the beans. He made AB patterns with the pasta. And he did those things without my suggestion! I was super impressed with the final product. Once the glue had set, I tied elastic string around the back so he could wear it. I thought the mask was done.

I was wrong.

For the next two days, he continued decorating the mask – now with permanent markers. I loaned him my Sharpie collection and watched as the mask I already thought was amazing became EVEN MORE incredible (see the picture at the top of this post).

He loves his new ‘African’ mask, even wearing it occasionally when we play card games or watch TV. I did have to draw the line at wearing it during dinner though (even with it pushed up on his forehead).