Thursday, November 10, 2016

Capital Letter Y

Yesterday in Capital Letters we had the first part of a two day lesson.

Y is for Yak

I used two beautiful books:

We started with the poem "Yak" by Jack Prelutsky. The illustration for this on page 67 of Eric Carle's book is perfect for the letter Y. (Highly recommended for the grade 4 Man and Animal MLB as well! This book of animal poetry is extremely handy because it has an index organized alphabetically by animal name, as well as by the first line of the poem.)

Then I explained that yaks need to have such shaggy hair because they live in Mongolia where it is very cold. And we read about Mongolia and yurts (yurt, happily, also starts with a Y) in the book about houses around the world. This book shows a photograph of the exterior of a variety of houses (Mongolia, China, Indonesia, India, Romania, Tunisia, Spain, Togo, Senegal, Bolivia), each followed by a drawing of the interior of the house with captions for different parts of the diagram. There is also a world map with small inset pictures of each house located by their countries, so that the child can get a sense of where these homes are located relative to each other. This book is also a must-have for the grade 3 Housebuilding MLB. Some of these books you can get now and use for years to come!

I told my student that yurts are made of thick warm felt, to keep the people inside warm like the shaggy coat of the yak keeps him warm, and I asked if he had ever made felt from sheep's wool. He hadn't. So I first showed him an unwashed fleece shorn from my brother's sheep Molly (I have several of these, which I am willing to sell to a homeschooling family studying grade 3 Fibers & Clothing... let me know if you are in need of one). He sniffed it and held it in his hands and felt the greasy lanolin.

Then I showed him some washed wool batting (these wool links are all to A Child's Dream Come True) and he experienced how different the clean wool feels; then I showed him a large basket heaped with dyed wool roving. I showed him how you can hold the roving between two hands and pull gently and the fibers will separate, but if you pull out just a thin strand and rub it back and forth on the flat part of your leg you can spin it to make a stronger yarn which does not come apart when you pull on it.

I showed him how, in fact, you can take a ball of yarn and look at it closely and see that "twist" where it was spun.

Then it was on to the wet felting lesson! We grated my favorite felting soap with a cheese grater, then added the curls to a large enamel basin of very hot tap water and swished it all around to make bubbles. A huge stack of towels was also nearby!

We felted long rope pieces and make felted wool balls. If he had been older (grade 3 Housebuilding) I would have had us take the time to make a felted model of a yurt but this didn't need to be so detailed. It was more to help him understand the process and to drive home the idea that it is cold in Mongolia and the yak needs that long shaggy coat to stay nice and warm... since we were about to transition into dressing up as a yak!

When my student tired of felting, we got out the enormous basket of dress up silks. I accumulated my stash of silks over many many years. My favorite vendor, though, is the Etsy store Beneath the Rowan Tree, if you're looking for a place to start. He chose his large piece of silk to hang over and be his coat, then requested horns. Yes, the horns are an important part of later remembering and drawing the Y shape (center line is the snout, with a horn on either side). I definitely wanted to focus on the horns as part of the costume. I had a few ideas but we settled on borrowing a knitted headband from a daughter (next time maye we could finger knit one as part of learning about wool/fibers in general) and taping two large straws on it from Zac's straw & cotton swab toddler activity bin.

Well, my student crawled happily up the stairs to the bedroom level to look at himself in the hallway mirror. Then he requested shoes for his hands. We found Becca's brown boots and he was overjoyed. He crawled all around the house. I built him a Yak obstacle course in the living room and he crawled around things and over piles of pillows and picked things up and rang a chime with its little mallet, etc. The EXCELLENT Resource Teacher's Developmental Exercise Manual by Association for a Healing Education ($24.95 at was my inspiration for this activity.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction

    The use of movement to teach academics develops sensory learning or helps with specific learning problems....

    Most of the activities are for general use for sensory enlivening or developmental movements. Some address more specific conditions equated with learning problems, and are presented here to augment your educational plan for a child. We realize that some of these activities actually represent the end of a process after a teacher has observed the child and then stries to determine what approach will really address the core of the child's challenge....

    Children love to move and experience the environment, sometimes with a verve that can be overwhelming. It is our task to direct this interest into activities that help them overcome the hindrances to their healthy development and encourage them to participate more actively in their learning. Our hope is that this manual will give you specific help and encourage you to develop your own activities.

The descriptions for these activities include the Purpose, Audience (recommended age group), Rhythm (how frequently to do the exercise), Materials, Observations (things for the teacher to look for), and Method. In addition, the pages have extra space for the teacher to take notes. I have listed the table of contents here; remember that this, along with almost all of my books, is available to my consulting clients as part of my Lending Library.

    Teacher Tips for Many Situations
    Blind Man's Bluff Forms
    Run, Hop Numbers
    Animals Out West
    Clogging Numbers with the Feet
    Form Drawing Homework
    Group Letters in Space
    Memory and Concentration
    Multiplication Table Forms in Movement
    Blind Walk
    Nature Creep
    20 Creeping Games
    Forms in Harmony
    Walking Speaking & Clapping Integers
    Movement and Form Drawing to Help Handwriting
    "Red Star" Right Hand Exercise
    Toes and Marbles
    Rhythm Stick Math
    Gingerbread Cookie with Physio Ball
    Zoo Exercises and Poems
    Crawling Games for Large Groups
    Touch & Handedness Circle Games
    Treasure Tray
    Snails Journey Foot Exercise
    Blindfold Catch & Toss
    Morning Playground Journey
    Ball Trick Toss-Bounce-Catch Game
    Forest Journey
    Copper Rod for the Feet
    Clay Work
    Star Walk
    Balance Beam
    Balance Work
    Form Drawing/Writing with the Foot

The audience for creeping games is listed as toddler to age 9, and the rhythm is listed at daily if possible for 10 minutes or more. We had great fun with the Yak obstacle course game! When he was ready for something more inward (always remember a rhythm of alternating contraction & expansion), we added Y to the main lesson book. We also used the Spiel und Holz alphabet puzzle pieces to review W, U, T, and B. I am pairing up letters into dyads which make sense together. I anticipate, but cannot promise, that the companion letter to Y will be H is for House. I think it will follow really well from the book about houses around the world. We only read the Yurt part and did not yet delve into the others. Specifically, I'm thinking about the illustration for H on the front of Putting the Heart Back into Teaching: A Manual for Junior Primary Teachers by Maher and Bleach.

I've written to Whole Spirit Press (who publishes Jamie York's books, among others) to see if they will look into bringing this incredibly valuable book back into print. I've gotten no response, so maybe someone else out there would also be willing to suggest the idea. The other book I'd love to see back in print is Roy Wilkinson's Teaching Practical Activities: Farming, Gardening & Housebuilding for ages 9 & 10. Oh, Whole Spirit Press... can you hear me?

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