Sunday, April 25, 2010

Clipping Coupons

A friend shared a GREAT idea with me and I want to pass it along. She doesn't have the patience to sit and read through the newspaper and clip coupons but she wanted to teach her children to be smart about money (plus, she wanted some real-life reading and math practice). So she told her girls that they would get to clip the coupons and she would pay them -- in cash -- all the money they had saved with their coupons. So if one girl cuts out a coupon for fifty cents off toilet paper, she would earn the fifty cents after her mom had finished shopping at the store. Mom's theory is, she would have planned to spend the money anyway. Daughter is now reading the newspaper and clipping coupons like crazy because it's worth it to her. And this mom (whose daughter is now all grown up) told me that her daughter watches her budget like a hawk and can pinch a penny like nobody's business because her mom taught her how to clip coupons.

Maybe I will try that with my three. It's great math work; it also gives them a reading task and ties in nicely with nutrition and meal planning. Not to mention the added benefits of Increased Responsibility Around the Home. You could give your child a coupon organizer as a gift. And (come to think of it), this task requires organization skills because you have to be able to find your coupons at the store. Alphabetizing practice, anyone?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Complete the Rhyme

Our read-aloud at bedtime here is Alice in Wonderlandby Lewis Carroll. One of the passages I read last night reminded me of our Poetry unit, where we focused on ending rhyme.

Can your child complete the missing rhyme? For help, have them count the syllables and figure out the rhyme scheme (you need four beats, rhyming with growl). My personal guess is "eating the owl."

"I passed by his garden, and marked, with one eye,
How the Owl and the Panther were sharing a pie:
The Panther took pie-crust, and gravy, and meat,
While the Owl had the dish as its share of the treat.
When the pie was all finished, the Owl, as a boon,
Was kindly permitted to pocket the spoon:
While the Panther received knife and fork with a growl,
And concluded the banquet by ---"

- by Lewis Carroll

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Friction Test

Our final study of Energy (Motion) came with an experiment to help students practice using a spring scale. This experiment, called Motion 7, was a total bust. I don't recommend it at all. Which doesn't mean that the nice people at NEED don't know what they're doing -- simply that it didn't work for my group. So tomorrow we are doing a variation. Here's my plan:

First, the students are to get in groups of two. This is because one person needs to be pulling on the spring scale and the other person reads the force. With their partner, the children are to list all the surfaces they can think of in or around the school that we could drag our block of wood across. (I simply went to the hardware store and asked for some scraps, then screwed a screweye into one end of each piece of scrap wood so that the spring scale can be hooked onto it.) Some example might be: tabletop, carpeted floor, tile floor, mulch, grass, blacktop

Next, they are to list the surfaces in order of how much friction they predict each surface will exert on the block, in order from most friction to least friction. This is the Hypothesis step.

Third, they are to work with their partner to test each surface TWICE and measure the amount of force needed to overcome friction and get the block to move. Obviously, they can't switch wooden blocks with another team halfway through, so they need to continue to use their same piece of wood.

Fourth, they are to analyze their data by creating a bar graph on graph paper. Each surface will have two side-by-side bars, one bar for each test on that surface. This will allow the students to compare the surfaces more easily.

Finally, they are to present the results of their data by rewriting their list of surfaces in the correct order of Friction, from most to least. And share it with the class.

Friction goes along with our discussion of Newton's First Law and Inertia.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Using Chalk Pastels in the Classroom

We are concluding Storybook Art but I wanted to share one last experience. This was my students' first time using chalk pastels and my first experience with teaching chalk pastels in the classroom. The book was Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count Onby Lois Ehlert.

First we read the story. Instead of using the first idea suggested by MaryAnn Kohl, I chose one of the alternatives -- to illustrate fish on deep blue paper using chalk pastels. I also let students use a single hole punch or a tack punch to cut out the fish eyes. I had a box of chalk pastels for every pair of children. I had several dry paper towels and a large pile of wet paper towels in the center of the table. I reminded the students about their experience using charcoal (from our illustrations in the style of Marshmallowby Clare Turlay Newberry). If you press too hard on charcoal, it will simply break. I told the students that the chalk pastels, as well, were very fragile.

I used some chalk on the blackboard to demonstrate Rule #1: Don't push too hard. I told the students that when they press on the pastel, it will make dust. Pressing harder doesn't make a darker mark, it simply makes more dust. They were to press lightly; then, using their fingers or the dry paper towel, they were to drag that dust across the paper to make a mark. They were not to BLOW on the dust! Doing this makes a huge mess on your paper and gets dust on your neighbor. Rule #2 for chalk pastels: Light then dark. Unlike some other art media they've used, you can't lighten something later by belatedly trying layer a light color on top of a dark one. Chalk pastels do not work that way. When you plan your ocean scene, use the light colors first and then layer the darker ones on top. I showed my students how to draw underwater grasses. This was something I learned in 7th grade and the ONLY thing I remember from 7th grade besides Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cryand Bridge to Terabithia

Finally, I told the students to use the wet paper towels to clean their fingers off when they were done. I let them loose and boy, what a success! My classroom was completely silent for over 20 minutes. The students were delighted with their finished work and we got a lot of compliments from other students in the neighboring class. All in all, a wonderful activity and one I will definitely do again.

A Happy Notice

Today I got a happy little notice in my staff mailbox which informed me that I had a For Small Hands credit of $123.75. So I am buying

Living Sunlight

Sunprint Activity Kit

Mosaic Squares Art Paper

Skin Tone Pencils

Can You Hear It?

Young Builder's Tool Set

Replacement Saw Blade

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Camping Trip

For my birthday I am going camping!

Savage River State Forest in Western Maryland

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pencils of Recycled Denim and Retired Currency

I just want to take a minute to give a shout out to the Modern Woodmen of America. They have a nice eco-awareness curriculum (FREE) and the FREE pencils which come with it, made of recycled denim and recycled retired U.S. currency are really cool.

Find more recycled pens and pencils here - made of car headlights, CD cases, cellular phones, kraft paper, newspaper, tire rubber, and more! Even 100% biodegradable corn.

Make a Static Wand

We are studying electricity this week in Energy and this is a great (and simple) experiment in static electricity.

You will need:
a spool of thread
a pair of scissors
a piece of tape
a table
a pencil
a styrofoam packing peanut
carpet or a piece of fuzzy fabric

I had students work in pairs. Using the scissors, cut a piece of thread approx. 5 inches long. Tape it to the edge of the table so that the thread hangs down. Thrust your pencil into the styrofoam packing peanut so that it sticks on the end of the pencil. You now have a "static wand." Rub the packing peanut vigorously on a carpet or piece of fuzzy fabric to charge your "static wand." Take your wand over to the table, hold it close to the piece of string, and observe what happens. Then take your "static wand" (you may have to charge it again) to other objects in the classroom and see what else you can attract to it. Keep notes in your Science journal.

Classroom Read Aloud

Our new classroom read aloud is Heidi(complete and unabridged) by Joanna Spyri.

Nothing bothers me more than classic works of literature which have been edited and revised to suit "today's audiences." Nonsense.

Since it was written so long ago, you can also find the text of this book online for free.

Here is the book we have:

Monday, April 5, 2010

Bedtime Read Aloud

Our new bedtime read-aloud story is

Lisbeth Zwerger's illustrations are wonderful; the book is unabridged, nicely laid out and cheerfully oversized so it's great for reading on your lap with children on either side, and contains pictures throughout. The girls adore it.

The Food Pyramid

I really dislike the new logo for the Food Guide Pyramid (now called My Pyramid).

They wanted to include Exercise as an important component of each day. This isn't something I disagree with, but the old Food Guide Pyramid was MUCH easier for kids to understand.

My daughter brought home her Food Pyramid poster from 4-H and there was nothing really very remarkable about it. Pretty basic -- her teacher drew a large triangle and then divided it into the appropriate sections. The bottom is the Bread/Grains group. Next up you have a portion for Fruits and a portion for Vegetables. Above that is Protein (eggs, milk, meat, beans). On top is Fats, Oils and Sweets, use sparingly. The phrase 'use sparingly' is inextricably linked in my mind with Fats, Oils, and Sweets. Which just goes to show you how much they drummed it into my brain when we were in school. They colored each section a different color and then Leah cut out pictures from magazines of different foods and glued them where they belong.

All of this was simple enough, and I recommend it to anyone doing nutrition with young children, but we accidentally took it to the next level by hanging it up on the wall by the kitchen table. This was at Leah's insistence. She suggested that it would help the girls pack healthy lunches for school each day and I agreed. Come to find out, my daughters spend every meal talking about the Food Pyramid. What they had for breakfast, what they had for lunch, what they had for dinner, whether they hit all their food groups, what they still need to eat in order to have a balanced day, whether they should have a dessert with dinner or whether they already had something sweet at lunch, and so on... I have NEVER had so many conversations about nutrition in such a short time frame. To tell you the truth, I'm getting rather sick of it, but it is so good for them to internalize that balance that we will keep the poster up. My friend gave me the simplest rule for nutrition ever, and that's the one I carry around in my head. Everything in moderation & eat mostly plants.