Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Counting Cards . . . for Re-Doable Counting Fun!

My older kids, in elementary grades, were doing math work pages and other written schoolwork.  My young 3 year old was just beginning to learn his numbers, and I was looking for a special activity in number recognition, for him.

Thinking it would be fun for him to place number tiles to match with pictures, I made up some pages with pictures of items in groups . . . and a blank square near each group, for placing a number tile.

And it worked!  This activity was one of my young kids' favorite ones. The picture pages were passed down through several children, and it gave them something special to do for school-- just for them-- and just like their older siblings, they were doing "math pages."

Because we had a variety of different pictures, a very young child could go through them, doing one each day, and then start over again in random order-- so these pages could be continuously used for quite a while.

Later on, I redrew the pictures (our originals were getting worn), and made a set of these full-color pages that can be printed out (onto card stock); it is called Counting Cards, and is available either by itself, or in a preschool math bundle (along with Preschool Math: Number Tiles).

Here are some examples of the picture pages; there are 15 different printable pages:

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Watery Pointillism

I helped with a recent art project in my granddaughter's third grade class.  We were making "waterway" pictures, showing a stream or river (or waterfall) and scenery/background of some kind around the waterway.

We also learned about James Seurat, and the art technique known as "pointillism."  Using lots of little colored lots (pointillism) to make the water areas made them really stand out -- the rest of the picture was done in black line art.

Here are a couple of samples I made:

For making the dots, oil pastels worked very well; the colors were vibrant, and it was fairly easy to make small dots; but this same idea might also be done using color crayons.

Here are some of the many wonderful pictures the kids created --

This river was still in progress when the photo was taken . . .

and here is a waterfall . . .

and another waterfall --

I like all the animals, insects, and creatures of all kinds in this one, by my granddaughter:

Here is one more picture; in this one a stream is joining a river . . .

Pointillism worked out very well for making the watery parts of these art pieces.  Maybe we'll try out some partial pointillism pictures, for other things, too . . .  

Monday, February 16, 2015

World History Shorts -- a middle school history framework

When studying history, it's really helpful to use a "framework" or backbone type of resource-- some people choose a book series, such as Susan Wise Bauer's The Story of the World, or Joy Hakim's A History of US, for this.  They read aloud, or assign reading, in these books to provide a continuing, overall story, and supplement with historical fiction and other resources that greatly enhance and enrich the total learning experience.

While reading aloud is wonderful, and both of the series mentioned above are well-written and interesting for either group reading or individual silent reading, there are situations that may come up where a certain child needs to do his own history studies, at his own pace and level, and doing a lot of reading just does not fit into his/her learning style.

This has happened several times in our own family's homeschool journey, and we were thankful to have found a great resource that has world history broken down into short, easy-to-read vignettes, just to cover the main events in chronological order.

It is called, World History Shorts (volume 1 and volume 2), by Kristina M. Swann, and published by Pro-Ed/PCI Publishing.

Volume 1 covers ancient history (Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, Greece, Rome) and progresses on through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, ending with Japan's culture in the 1600's.

Volume 2 begins with the Scientific Revolution and Age of Reason, and covers major wars and politics as well as the Industrial Revolution and other social/cultural changes over the time period of 1600's through the 21st century (ends with the concept of terrorism, with the Twin Towers attack).

What I liked about this resource is that not only does it provide a short reading selection (one page-- about 6 paragraphs) for each topic, but it also has copy masters for reviewing the material; each topic has one page with info to read, one page with multiple choice questions, one page with a crossword puzzle, one page with a map or chart activity, one page with suggestions for extension activities that use writing, and one page with a short quiz.  This turned out to be a "perfect" fit for older kids (middle school) who were wanting or needing to do much of their work independently.  They could get an overview of world history, supplemented by reading some historical fiction (also independently), with very minimal direction/help needed from me as a teacher (just giving the assignments and looking over their written work was all that was required).

I found that the review pages could be assigned in different ways, depending on the situation-- for some kids doing one topic per week was a good pace, others might cover the same material faster-- there are six pages per topic, but we usually did reading on one day, then combined some of the other pages on 2-3 other days.  Because all these pages were about the same topic, the student's attention was brought back to what they had read about on the first day, helping to retain the information.

I liked that this history study resource included all parts of the world -- not just Europe and the United States, but also topics on some Asian countries, Latin America, and Africa.  It truly gave an overview of world history, and also the information was presented in a fairly "neutral" manner regarding politics and religion; the readings didn't appear to be slanted strongly in favor of certain ideas.

When I purchased this 2-volume set many years ago, it was only available in printed form, which meant I had copy masters and needed to make lots of copies . . . but now this resource is available in ebook format, as well, so you can have computer files that are printed out (and this takes no space on a shelf!) which is very convenient, as everything in these sets is presented in work page format (there is no actual book to read).

With our younger kids, we did lots of history related read-alouds, and there are many great series and individual books for this.  But when some of our older kids desired or needed independent world history materials, we were really happy to discover World History Shorts !

Note-- for some more curriculum recommendations, please see the "links" page at Gentle Shepherd: LINKS

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bugs in the house . . .

Here are some felt bugs I've been making . . .  some have pin backs and some have magnets. Their legs are made with crochet, and the eyes are small beads.

This one is a curtain climber . . .

This one likes to stay on the refrigerator . . .

Besides being around the house, these two are also up in my Etsy shop, Fuzzlemania.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Super and Simple Primary Grades (Creative) Writing

Do you sometimes wonder what assignments to give your younger students for writing? After all, they are just starting to gain proficiency in doing handwriting and spelling, and if you tell them to "write a story" they may look up at you with a blank stare.

But, on the other hand, asking them to "tell" you a story will probably produce a lot of imaginative ramblings.

What I found worked the best in our own homeschool was to give a topic (so there is something to focus the creative energy toward), and listen to my 1st or 2nd grader tell about it while writing down the words.  Then, over several days, the young student would copy his own story over, using nice penmanship.

I set up a whole series of topics, so it was easy to just pick the next one after finishing a writing piece.

And now, this extensive list of topics is part of a small ebook about how to teach writing in the primary grades.

There are some other creative writing ideas, too, and a writing journal template printable. These ideas are for 1st and 2nd graders, PLUS a section for 3rd graders. There are some sample pages up on the Gentle Shepherd website, HERE.

So if you're looking for an easy-to-use creative writing program that gives great results and can bring much joy to both the creators and to you, this small idea ebook may be just what you're looking for . . .

Friday, January 9, 2015

Winter Trees -- Paper with Accordion Fold

I wanted to do a craft project with 6-year-olds that would be winter-themed, fun, and not very complicated . . .

So in thinking about this, I envisioned some paper evergreen trees, all joined together like they are part of a forest.  The idea of a paper doll chain type project started to form . . .  and this is the result . . .

To make it look snowy, I used spatter paint, with a toothbrush, brushing it over a plastic needlepoint canvas --

The tempera paint I used needed to be watered down to make it fairly thin, so it would spatter through the holes more easily.  However, I did find that the holes tended to clog up with paint, and when there were a lot of clogs it worked really well to just blow the paint out (bending down close to the plastic mesh and blowing fairly hard).

Using the plastic needlepoint canvas was much less messy than if I had just flicked the paint off the toothbrush, as it directed the spatters to go directly below the canvas.  So I was excited to see how well this method worked :)

Now back to making the trees . . .

The first step is to cut a long strip of paper; I tried out some different sizes, that's how I got some of the different trees in the photo above.  Those ones were cut using strips of regular size paper (colored typing paper, construction paper), in different widths.  I also experimented by cutting some really big ones, using strips from large size construction paper.

As you can see, after the folding, cutting, and painting was completed, these large trees stood up more successfully when the center one was folded out, as in the picture above . . .

When making a group of paper trees, the way to fold the paper is just like when cutting a paper doll chain, or making a paper fan -- it is an accordion fold. Look closely at the top photo of small trees, to see how this looks; you have to be sure to start cutting on an outside edge, not on a folded edge.  

When doing this project with kids, I made a pencil mark for where their first fold should be, and they took it from there . . . they did the folding, then I drew a pencil line in the shape of a zig-zaggy evergreen, along one end piece, and they did the cutting.  It was kind of hard to cut through many layers of construction paper, so sometimes help was needed.

This did turn out to be a really fun project-- there is an exciting "surprise" when you undo the folded and cut paper and see how there is now a whole set of trees!  And adding spatter paint was another hugely fun activity . . .

Maybe you'd like to make a winter trees paper forest of your own; if so, try using this accordion fold technique!

What other accordion fold crafts have you tried?  How did they turn out?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Make Big Paper Bugs -- FREE pattern!

Making BIG paper bugs was a recent project . . .  I did this with a class of first graders. They had been studying insects, so putting paper bugs together by using three insect parts (head, thorax, abdomen) plus legs and antennae fit right in, and helped to reinforce what they'd been learning.

It was great to see the variety in colors and insect types of the resulting big paper bugs . . .

Also, I was glad that the pattern pieces I'd come up with worked so well, and wanted to make the paper bug pattern available to others.  So here it is!  The pattern pieces are in a short PDF ebook called Paper Insects Project, and it is up as a freebie on the Gentle Shepherd educational materials website: 

Please feel free to share this link with others who may like to have a ready-to-go pattern for making HUGE paper insects :)