April 13, 2015

Booking Across the USA with George Ella Lyon

For Booking Across the USA this year, bloggers are sharing a children's author from their chosen state and an activity to go along with it. For Kentucky, I chose George Ella Lyon.

George Ella Lyon grew up in the mountains of Kentucky. She writes for children and adults. She has a great website you can visit to learn more about her and her works.

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For our activity, we chose All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon. This book is a great introduction to the water cycle for young elementary students.

After reading the book, it was time to talk about water in our lives. What did we use water for? We brainstormed and made a list of all the ways we use water each day - from brushing our teeth and boiling macaroni to watering our plants and making sure our pet rat has enough to drink.

Here are some questions to ask your kids about their water use:

What do you use water for? Make a list on the board.
Where does your water come from? Explain the different ways people get water around the world.
Does your water cost money? Talk about how water is treated and delivered to our homes.
What happens if it doesn't rain where you live? Talk about droughts and desserts.
What happens if your water is dirty? Talk about pollution and keeping our water clean.

After discussing how important water is in our lives, we did some experiments to further explore the water cycle.

We boiled water and watched the steam rise up into the air. We talked about the water vapor in the air around us and what humidity means.

Then we put a glass of ice water on the table and observed how beads of water were collecting on the outside of the glass. We talked about condensation and rain.

We also watched a Magic School Bus video about the water cycle to further understand the things we had observed. They also have a great Magic School Bus book for kids who want to read more.

Then we played with water!

We painted with watercolors. The boys loved watching how the water moved the colors around and mixed them up.

We explored sink and float. The boys gathered items from around the house. Before putting an object in the water they would guess if it would sink or float. We made piles for both groups.

We talked about water displacement by dropping glass marbles in a cup and seeing the water rise.

And we made boats out of air dry clay to see if they would float. We talked about how boats can float because the water the boat pushes away weighs more than the boat. It took a couple tries to get the right shape boat so it would float.

We even got out our ice shaver and had a shaved ice treat.

Other things we could have done but didn't:

- drop jelly beans (and/or other food) in water and watch them dissolve
- explore how to make ice melt more quickly by using salt, a hair dryer, their hands, or chopping it into smaller bits
- "paint" outside on the ground with water and watch the water evaporate!

Hooray for water!!

There are some other great books by this author too. A couple more favorites are The Pirate of Kindergarten and Trucks Roll.

Be sure to check out the rest of the posts about authors from each state over at Growing Book by Book! 

March 25, 2015

Elementary Easter Egg Writing Activity

This game is perfect for motivating reluctant writers and encouraging creativity!

Christopher hates writing. His fine motor skills are not great, spelling does not come naturally to him, and rules for capitalizing and punctuating keep slipping his mind. So whenever it's time for writing there are lots of tears.

Except when we play this simple game.

To play, you will need some easter eggs which have been prepared with numbers inside them. You will also need paper and a couple of pencils. Players take turns picking eggs then adding that many words to the collaborative story.

I went first. I drew the number 8. I wrote "Once upon a time, in a dark forest, ". Now it was Christopher's turn. He opened up the number 4. He added the words "a dragon slept in". (I knew it would be a dragon. He always writes about dragons.) I opened up an egg and found the number 8. (How come I keep getting big numbers?) I wrote "a pile of dirty laundry. Suddenly a loud "

"Mom!" he yelled. "That was supposed to be a cave! Not a pile of laundry!"

And that's one of the reasons this game is so fun for him. He loves when I add silly things or when he has the chance to add silly things.

While we are writing, I am helping him remember when to capitalize, where to add punctuation, and how to spell. It is great practice for him, but he doesn't see it as writing practice. He sees it as playing a fun game with his mom, making this the perfect way for him to learn.

Tips for using this game with your children or in your classroom:

1. Play for a set number of turns or a set number of minutes so there's a clear stopping point. You can always come back and finish the story the next day.

2. Use mostly small numbers for beginning writers so they don't get overwhelmed trying to think of 12 words to right. Bigger numbers work well for older kids.

3. Play with more than 2 people, making the story even more fun. Use smaller numbers so everyone gets plenty of turns to add to the story.

4. Use different colored pencils for each person so it's easy to see at a glance who added what parts of the story.

5. If you don't have plastic Easter eggs lying around, instead roll dice (affiliate link) to determine the number of words written.

6. Have the children draw pictures of their favorite part when done writing to further develop fine motor skills.

I hope you have fun writing your own silly stories!!

March 18, 2015

The Chore Olympic Games

This is a fun way to teach kids how to do chores around the house.

This activity works great to teach kids how to do chores and let them practice in a fun way. You can have kids compete against each other, or your family could invite another family to compete, or it can be used with a church youth group. I used this with the activity day girls in my church (ages 8-11).

To begin your chorelympics, divide the kids into teams. Let them come up with their team name and color a flag. Play some music and have them march into the room and take their seats.

With any of these chores, some kids will need instruction and practice before competing. You can either do training right before the event or have a separate training time.

Here are some ideas for events:
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1. Sweeping - Spread bits of paper around the room. Make a square out of tape on the floor. When you say "go" the kids will start to sweep their pieces of paper toward their square. First team to sweep their area clean wins.

2. Sock Matching - set out one laundry basket for each team. Spread single socks around the room. When you say "go" the kids try to match and fold the socks and get them in their basket. The team with the most matched and folded socks in their basket wins.

3. Table Washing - teach the kids how to scoop crumbs into their hand while washing a table instead of pushing them onto the floor in this game. Spread bits of paper on a table. Give a child a dry rag. Start a timer and see how quickly they can wipe all the bits of paper into their hand. Add penalty seconds for each piece of paper that falls on the floor. You can either have the team choose one child to participate or let each child have a turn and combine their scores for the final score. Whichever team has the lowest score wins!

4. Towel Folding - This can be a more creative competition. Choose music all the kids will know (I used "let it go") and give the teams a few minutes to work out their routines. The idea is to fold the towels while dancing. The girls had lots of fun with this one! They were tossing towels in the air and catching them while spinning and being very graceful. Kids will be judged based on how neatly the towels are folded and on their dance routine, just for fun. I let the kids who were uncomfortable dancing sit this one out and just cheer on their team.

5. Toy Sorting - You will need buckets and lots of toys on the ground. Assign each team a toy category (such as cars, dolls, blocks, etc . . .) then see which team can pick up their items and fill up their basket first. Or you can have one team go at a time and do all the categories, and just time how quickly they get things picked up. Add penalty seconds for things put in wrong baskets.

6. Bed Making - You will probably need to be home for this game. Teach the kids how to make the bed nicely, then see which team can do the best job in the shortest time. Bonus points for artful pillow arranging.

7. Table Setting - Teach the kids how to set a table. Set this up as a relay race. Each team has a box with items needed in it. (You will probably want to use plastic dinnerware). When the whistle blows, the first player grabs out the placemat, runs to put it on the table, then runs back and tags the next player who runs over to the table with the plate, and so on. Which team can get their place set first?

This list is longer than what we did at activity days. I only got through 3 activities in the hour, but the girls had lots of fun. At the end they each received a gold medal made from a candy necklace with a chocolate gold coin taped on.

You can make up games for chores you have your kids do around the house, such as mirror washing, toilet cleaning, mopping, etc . . . Once the Chorelympics are done you can continue the fun each chore day by checking their work and giving them a Chorelympic score and see which child rates the highest, or give your whole family a score and track your progress as a family to see if you can improve your house cleaning score from the week before.

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