Thursday, November 29, 2012

Faux Stained Glass Ornaments

I took an art history class eons ago that studied some of the most incredible cathedrals in Europe. While the professor prattled on and on about the flying buttresses and other architectural feats, I marveled at the beauty of all that stained glass.

When I saw Housing a Forest's "Stained Glass" Ornaments, the craft was immediately shortlisted to our must-do afterschool activities. (Stop by to see the amazing ornaments Tammy's kids made by visiting her blog here.)

I upcycled a 2-pound plastic strawberry container, cutting shapes out of the flat parts (top and bottom) and grabbed my beloved collection of permanent Sharpie markers. A little black construction paper and some yarn and we were set.

First, we read a little about stained glass.

We learned that stained glass is an artform that has been around a VERY long time - more than 1,500 years! We both found it fascinating that during the Middle Ages when few people could read, stained glass windows often taught the stories of the bible through the scenes they depicted, sort of like a big glass picture book.

Now it was time to create our own faux stained glass. I gave my son a few templates to choose from and let him get started tracing - first with permanent black marker, then with the colors. (Note: Plan to retrace the black lines after the colors have been added.)

When he was done with one ornament, it was time for another. I made one too! Both of us loved this craft and the results are beautiful!

I cut black frames for each ornament and we glued them with white school glue. To keep them in place while they dried, we added paperclips. A few hours later, the paperclips came off, a hole was punched, yarn strung through, and they were hung on our tree.

Stunning, I'd say!

Monday, November 26, 2012

DIY Newspaper [Writing and Reporting]

Writing is still a struggle for my son. Developing his ideas beyond simple sentences is agonizing for him. I cooked up a fun writing project in the hopes that we could get in some extra practice at home.

To set the stage for our project, we read a great book called Fairytale News. The book chronicles the son of Mother Hubbard as he navigates his paper route, dropping off newspapers to the Three Bears, crosses paths with Little Red Riding Hood, and befriends a newspaper-loving giant that lives at the top of magic bean stalk.

It was clever AND fun. Just the way children's fiction should be.

When we were done reading, I gave my son some background about newspapers: they share information about things that have already happened, are yet to happen, sports, area events, people in our community, weather, etc.

Now it was time for my son to make his own newspaper (well, just the front page). You can download the template I made here.

Download this blank template.
Print on two pieces of 8 1/2 x 11 paper, and tape together.

This was challenging for my son, but great writing practice that:
  • Snuck in a grammar lesson (e.g. headlines are capitalized, don’t forget punctuation, start sentences with capital letters).
  • Taught story development principles.
  • Encouraged creative illustrations. (Check out the picture of grandpa’s hand sneaking a cookie! HA!).

Extra! Extra! This project is perfect for struggling AND budding writers!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thankful Turkey Art

Living a grateful life is important to me. And I want it to be important to my sons. Because of this, I’ve come to recognize Thanksgiving as one of the most beautiful holidays. You gather with the people you love around a bounty of food, which many people in the world are not so blessed to have.

What a beautiful occasion – a whole day devoted to family, friends, and giving thanks!

To prep my kids, we made a family turkey (who was named “Super Turkey”). The boys and I colored its body, which I printed on heavyweight cardstock. Then my husband joined us and each of us wrote things that we are thankful for on feathers that were printed and cut out of fall-colored cardstock. (I dictated for our 3-year-old son.)

Download a 2-page PDF of these templates here.

We glued them on our turkey and a snapshot of the blessings our family has received this year was preserved for eternity. Among the things we’re thankful for: good health (only six treatments of radiation and then I’m done!!), family, love, ice cream, LEGOs, and football.

Gobble! Gobble! When I count my many blessings, my blog followers are certainly among them. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Spelling Race

Perhaps I should have titled this activity “Roll & Write Take 2.” We’ve been doing that little activity so much lately, I thought it wise to find a new spin on it to keep it fresh and fun.

My son has always been motivated by winning. When he was younger, we’d race him to the bath tub because it was the only way to get him in there at bedtime. Times haven’t changed. When I told him we were going to have a spelling race, he was excited.

Here’s how to hold a spelling race of your own.

Conduct a pretest with your child’s spelling list. This will clue you in to the words on the list that are especially challenging. This activity practices seven words.

Write the words your child missed in the lanes on the left side of the worksheet I made (download it free here).

Make the 1-7 number wheel. Print it on sticker paper, stick it to a piece of cardstock (e.g. empty cereal box), cut out, and poke a hole in the center. Thread a small paper clip through a brad and insert it in the wheel. Make sure the paper clip spins freely; it’s your arrow.

Race Time!
Playing is easy. Your child spins the wheel. Whatever number the paperclip points to, they rewrite the word that is in that lane. Now keep spinning and writing the words to see which spelling word finishes first. Write a “1” or “1st” after the finish line in that respective lane.

Continue to spin the wheel until every word has “crossed the finish line.” Each place (1st, 2nd, etc.) should be noted. If the wheel is spun and that word has already finished the spelling race, the child simply spins again.

The repetition of writing the words has helped my son remember their correct spelling and he truly loves the competition aspect of this spelling practice. Hopefully, your child will too!

Ready … set … spell!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Collecting Eggs (Making Subtraction Sentences)

At my son’s first trimester parent-teacher conference, among the few things my son could use a little extra practice on were math sentences. Huh? When I was in school those were called word problems. Well, now that I’ve dated myself, I’ll get on with it.

Here’s a fun way to practice that I made for my son. This will likely be the only time my son does “farm chores!”

WARNING! If you or anyone in your family uses a 7-day pill box, PLEASE make an adaptation of this game using small bowls, a modified egg carton, etc. No one in my home uses these to dispense medication; if we did, I certainly would not encourage my child to “play” with them as we’ve done here.

To make the game, I printed hen (and one rooster) stickers on sticker paper. I cut them out and added them to the lids of two 7-day pill boxes. Make sure that neither of the “chicken coops” has any of the same hens repeated.

Now fill the boxes with beads (aka eggs) of assorted colors and sizes. The seven-slot coop that has the rooster sticker should have less than seven beads in each slot. (REMEMBER: The rooster does not lay eggs; his slot should be empty.) The other coop must have more than seven beads in each slot.

Then, peel the sticker paper and adhere the hens/rooster wheel to a piece of chipboard (think empty cereal box) for sturdiness and cut it out. Poke a small hole in the center, thread a small paperclip onto a brad, and thread the brad through the hole, separating its “legs” at the back of the wheel. Make sure the paperclip spins freely; it’s your arrow.

Finally, print the Collecting Eggs worksheet and sharpen a pencil.

Download a 2-page PDF of the stickers, wheel, and worksheet here.

It’s time for your son/daughter to sharpen their math skills.

To complete the worksheet, your child will spin the paperclip twice. The first time, he/she will count the eggs in the first coop (the one without the rooster) that are under the hen the paperclip lands on. Spin again, and count the eggs in the second coop for the hen that the paperclip points to. Now answer the question. How many more eggs did the first hen lay than the second?

Keep spinning, keep counting, and keep making subtraction sentences!

Want a great hen-and-egg-themed book to read with this activity? Check out Dora’s Eggs. We loved it!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

“Minting” Our Own Coin

I’m pretty sure that my son is the only coin collector in the second grade at his elementary school. He finds money fascinating and since so much can be learned through the exercise of collecting coins (all the 50 states, the national parks, presidential history, etc.), it’s a hobby that my husband and I have encouraged.

I knew my son would go crazy for this coin craft. I was right.

Here’s the supply list:
1 sheet 6 mm craft foam (any color)
1 sheet of thin craft foam (any color)
A few sheets of dimensional letter stickers (we used foam stickers; thicker is better)
A silhouette-style photo of your child
Glue stick
Heavy-duty aluminum foil
Spray glue
Black permanent marker

Before we got started, we read a great book about money, narrated by a cartoon version of Abraham Lincoln. Did you know Honest Abe had a sense of humor? According to author Jack Silbert, he did! The book Honest Abe’s Funny Money Book is a must-read for kids interested in money. It contains:
  • A timeline of the history of money (e.g. 3,200 years ago, people in China used shells as money).
  • LOADS of historical facts (e.g. George Washington is on the quarter; he was the only president that was elected unanimously twice!)
  • Corny jokes, such as “What did the dollar bill say to the four quarters? ANSWER: I can change!”
Thanks to a little checklist in the book, we also learned the six things on every coin, including the phrase E PLURIBUS UNUM, the coin’s value, and the year it's made.

We were ready to make our own coin now!

I cut a big circle out of the thick foam. We cut out the silhouette of my son’s face, traced it onto the thin craft foam, and glued it in the center of the “coin.” Then he stuck on foam letter stickers. When my son was done decorating the coin, I took it outside and sprayed it with a can of spray glue (Remember: ALWAYS do this in a well ventilated area). Now we covered the “heads” side of the coin with a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil.

We gently rubbed the coin to depress all the areas of foil and outlined everything in black permanent marker to make it even more visible.

After the leftover foil was folded around the back of the coin, we trimmed it, leaving ¼ inch excess to cover the edge of the coin.

For the tails side of the coin, I sketched an eagle onto thin foam and an extra shield to put atop of it for added dimension. My son also wanted to add a banner. Cut out, glue on, add some more letter stickers, a circle of foil and VOILA! Our coin is almost done! Just shoot it with spray glue, smooth the foil down, and trace around the relief with marker.

I have it on good authority that this is the best coin to use for a heads/tails tie-breaker!