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Monday, December 23, 2013

Teaching With Socks! How to Help Children Learn by Using Everyday Objects. (Part 3)

Socks?  Teaching with socks? Yes!  Socks can be a valuable teaching tool.  Here are some ways you can use socks to teach your child(ren) at home or in your classroom.

Estimation-Fill a sock with several objects. Have your child look at the the sock and estimate how many items are in the sock without feeling it.  Spend time discussing what you observe about the sock.  Is it full?  Is it bumpy?  Does it lay flat?  Ask how these observations affect your child's estimate.  Dump out the objects from the sock and decide whether or not your child wants to change his/her estimate based on the new visual knowledge.   Check by counting the objects.

Grouping-When counting the objects group them into 2s, 5s, or 10s.  Discuss why?  Come up with some reasons together as to why this might be helpful.  You can repeat these activities with items in the other sock.

Skip Counting-Empty out the sock drawer and count the number of socks in the drawer by skip counting.  Discuss how a pair of socks is two socks and that pairs are even numbers.  Wouldn't it be odd to wear only one sock?

Even and Odd-Determine if a number is even or odd by thinking about friends with socks.  You can have the socks out to visualize the problem.  You have five socks.  Is that an even or odd number?  How do you know?  Model how to take the socks and group them into pairs or two.  You end up with two groups of two and one left over.  If you gave your friend one sock to wear wouldn't that be odd?  If you have a remainder of one it's odd.

Problem Solving-See the example above.  Here is another way you can teach your child problem solving.  You have 17 socks.  If you wore a pair of socks a day, how many days would it be before you ran out?  Model how to group the socks into pairs of two and look to see if you have any incomplete pairs.  Discuss how each pair can be worn on a day and how the single sock would be odd so move it off to the side.  Count the remaining eight pairs and have your child tell you that it is for eight days.  Eight pairs is sixteen socks.  The one sock left over can't be worn by itself that is hwy it is eight days and not nine.  What if there was one more sock?  Then you have enough socks for nine days.  How do you know?  Explain, explain, explain.

Categorizing-When you are folding laundry have your child group the socks by color and make pairs.  If there are several pairs in the same color group, have them compare sizes and designs.

Measurement-Measure items around the house in socks rather than feet.  Explain how this cannot be a standard unit of measure because not everyone wears the same size socks.  Measure items in baby socks, child socks, and grown up socks.  Discuss what you find out.

Addition/Subtraction-In each sock put the numbers 0 to 9 (or however high you want to practice).  Have your child reach in each sock and take out a mystery number.  Add the two numbers together to get an addition sentence.  Use the three numbers from the addition sentence to write a related subtraction sentence.  4+5=9, 9-4=5  Compare both number sentences and determine that 4, 5, and 9 are in the same fact family.  Write out two more (different) number sentences using the same three numbers from the fact family.

Language Arts
For all of these activities you can have your child write down the question and their prediction or you can record data.  They can even just write about the activity you did and rate it Green-I learned something new and I was very interested.  Yellow-I learned something new and was bored.  Red-I didn't learn anything.  The next day look over the color rating and have your child explain how he/she came up with the color.  If it is yellow, have your child give examples of what made him/her bored and then have them come up with a way to learn the material that would be interesting.  Children can have wonderful ideas.  Sometimes we need to stop and ask for their input.

Cause and Effect-What would happen if you wore your socks in the pool?  What would happen after you got out of the pool?  Why?

Read Socks for Supper by Jack Kent..  Click on the image if you want to order it from
Discuss if the book took place long ago or today?  Discuss what socks are made out of in the story.  Research how socks are made.

Compare and Contrast-Compare and contrast an old pair of socks and a new pair of socks.  Use as many adjectives as you can to describe each pair.  Go to or use a thesaurus to add even more describing words.

Write a Story-Write it from a sock's point of view.  (Author's Purpose-to be Funny)  What genre?  Fantasy-This could never really happen. Read your story aloud and record it being read using your phone/iPad.  Create drawings to go along with your story by using a your computer's paint program or take photographs using your camera or phone.  Practice using technology and publish your story by typing it on the computer.

Write a rhyme/song that can be recited when looking for socks or putting on socks.

Put alphabet pieces (magnetic letters, letters written on paper, scrabble pieces, anything) and reach in grab five and write in ABC order.  You can do the same with spelling words, vocabulary words, sight words, you name it.

Make a list of as many words you can that rhyme with sock.

Trace a sock and cut out a pattern to make a sock book.  In the book, draw settings where you wear socks and where you do not (not in the bath, at the beach...)

Senses-Put a mystery object in the sock and have your child use his or her senses (see, here, smell, touch-not taste) to predict what may be in the sock.

Come up with safe science experiments using socks.  A fun one is to see what a sock can hold.  Pour water in the sock.  Does it stay or does it go right through?  Pour sand into a sock, rocks, sugar, crayons, etc.

Which socks are the stretchiest?  Compare old socks.  

Again, the possibilities are endless!  Please share any ideas you may have on how to teach with socks. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Think out of the "Box." How to Help Children Learn by Using Everyday Objects (Part 2)
The cereal box is a powerful tool for teaching in so many ways.  Here are some ideas:

  • Explain the difference between a rectangle and a rectangular prisim
  • Circle all the shapes you can find on the box and write a list to record what you found.
  • On a different day repeat the previous activity but then transfer the information into a Venn Diagram (two circles that intersect/overlap).  Write the shapes that were on both boxes in the area where the circles overlap.  That shows what was the same on both boxes.  Write what was different in the other areas.  (I will have to upload a photograph on this in the future.)
  • Discuss how rectangular prisms can stack and slide but not roll.  Test it out.  
  • Compare the size of the rectangles on the sides of the box to the front of the box.
  • Trace the box to make a large rectangle and then draw a picture using shapes you found on the box.
  • There are endless adding and subtracting activities that you can do with the contents of the box but today we are focusing on the box itself.  Count the parts of the box (edges, faces, and vertices).  Basically count the sides and the corners.  Compare boxes.  Are the results the same?  Why or why not?
  • Write an addition/subtraction story based on the picture.
  • Count all the letters on the box and subtract the vowels.
  • Add certain letters (preferably the easy to read large letters) together to make math problems.  For example ___C+____E=_____             3C+10E=13
  • Measure the box using spoons, what's inside the box, or any other household object.  
  • Cut the box apart to make counters for math problems.
  • Cut on the lines of the box so that you have several different sized rectangles.  Move them around to form a new picture.
  • Cut the box open and color the inside to make a pattern.
  • Cut the box open, cut in strips and create a number line.
  • Use the inside of the box to make a game board.  Use the scraps for game pieces.
Reading/Language Arts
  • Go on a vowel and consonant hunt
  • Write down a list of words or letters on the box and then put them in ABC order.
  • Circle all the three letter words on the box or the __________ on the box.
  • Look at all the colors used to make the picture on the box.  Write a descriptive sentence using color word.
  • Write a story about the contents of the box.
  • Use the box as a book cover.  Staple pages inside.
  • Empty the box and put in word cards.  Shake it so that words fall out.  If you can name the word you get to keep it.  If not it goes back in the box.  
  • Use the box to store books inside.
  • Make a diorama using the box.
  • Paint the box.
  • Draw a picture and then cut it apart to make a puzzle.  Practice putting it back together.  Don't draw a picture just cut apart the one provided and put it back together.
  • Cut out a rectangle and turn the box into a picture frame or even a shadow box.
  • Gather several empty boxes and build a box house.
I will definitely have to add more to these lists.  There is just so much that can be done with a box!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

You "Can" Teach! How to Help Children Learn by Using Everyday Objects (Part 1)

"Can" you believe I am about to write a post about teaching across the curriculum using canned food?
This post is the first in a series of posts about how to turn cheap, everyday objects a into powerful teaching tools.  For over a decade I have been an elementary school teacher.  This series will primarily relate to families and teachers who teach toddlers all the way up to second graders.

My daughter is not even two years old but she and I play games with these objects and she doesn't even know she is learning.  It's FUN!  That is how I feel learning should be most of the time.  Sometimes you just have to buckle down and study but most of the time kids learn more through real world experiences that are connected to a strong emotion.

Speaking of powerful emotions...BAM! BAM! BAM!  I "accidentally" knock over a few cans as I am unpacking the last bag of groceries.  My daughter is startled and says "uh oh."  AHA-This is a teachable moment...I have her attention.  "Sweetie, I'm sorry I startled you with that loud sound.  If the kitchen floor was carpeted it would be a softer sound. Want to see?"  That is the beginning of teaching loud and soft which are contrasting sounds.  They are opposites.

At this point you can take off in many different directions.  You can continue to explore cause and effect (COMPREHENSION-READING) by exploring how we drop the can. (What happens when we hold it sideways, upright?) (SCIENCE-Hypothesis/Predicting) You can try it on each surface and this could lead to MATH if you pull out a ruler and measure how far it rolls/bounces/moves.  "Ooooo let's record this so we can share it with (fill in the blank) when they get home (WRITING).   I hope you see where I am going with this...

If I were to write out the scenario for each example this could be a book in itself.  Each activity is cross curricular.  I am not going to write this out as a dialogue between my daughter and I either because each concept can be adjusted to the age.  Now remember my daughter is not yet two but by being excited and thinking aloud I am modeling for her.  I am introducing these concepts to her.  I am NOT expecting mastery.  I might bring it up the next day to try to teach retelling by saying "Oh I better be careful when I put this can away.  Do you remember what happened yesterday?  The can tumbled (VOCABULARY) to the floor because gravity pulled it down (SCIENCE).  It made a loud sound.  What did it sound like? --- That's right.  Oh...and then we ... and... and ... Guess what?  I just noticed that as I put the can away I am stacking it.  If I lay it on its side, it will roll out and crash to the floor."

Don't get me wrong - THE DIALOGUE between you and your child/student is key!  It's full of questions and answers.  You guide the child to the answer or you model how to answer.  Please let me know if you want more examples on how to do this.  Can you tell I miss teaching while I'm on leave?

Lessons to teach with just a can or two of green beans (or any kind of canned food).

  • Cause/Effect - Dropping the can, pushing the can.
  • Compare/Contrast-The sounds of the can on different surfaces or even banging on the can with different objects (spoon, popsicle stick, tooth pick).
  • Movement-Sliding versus rolling and how by adding force changes it's speed and direction
  • Math-cylinder is made up of two flat circles and a curved face.  It has three faces (2 circles and the curved side).  It has two edges.  You can trace around the edges to make a circle.  Compare and contrast the 2D plane circle shape to the 3D solid cylinder. 
  • Go on a cylinder/circle hunt in the living room.  Draw/Record what you find.
  • Curved/Straight Lines
  • Heavy/Light -  The can is heavier when it is filled up with food and lighter when it is empty.  
  • Examine different size can sort the cans in the cupboard by size
  • Measurement-You can measure each can's length, the diameter of the circle, the circumference around the can.  You can measure how far the can rolls, slides or how tall a tower is that you build.
  • You can explore how to build the tallest tower.
  • Make a musical instrument by using different size cans as drums or by emptying the can and putting something inside and shaking it.
  • You can turn the empty cans into pencil holders and reuse them or come up with a list of ways an empty can can used. 
  • You can paint the cans and sort objects into them.
  • You can peel the label off and do a word or letter hunt by highlighting or circling what you find.  
  • It can be made into a game where you set the empty cans at a distance and throw a cotton ball or a crumpled piece of paper into the can.  Each can can have a different point value and then you can add up the points.
  • You can discuss the different food groups on the can and sort the cans into each group.  

Okay that's it for now...I will try to add more later.  Please share any ideas you may have for interesting ways to teach with canned food.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Ornament Idea - Upcycling Junk Jewelry

I am exploring ways to relax and one of my former hobbies was crafting.  Now that I am on leave, I have time to do this again.  For some reason I have become extremely interested in vintage costume jewelry and have purchased some pieces.  

This week I have combined both hobbies by creating these handmade ornaments.  I have a couple listed on eBay but there is no need to purchase one when you can make your own!

For these particular ornaments I purchased clear glass ones with a subtle design on the outside at Big Lots.  I then went through my broken jewelry looking for chains, loose beads, earrings without a match and Voila!  This is the result.


For student gifts you can always purchase clear plastic ornaments and junk jewelry at yard sales, thrift shops, eBay, or even ask for donations.  I used a hoop earring for the hook, just think of the possibilities...decorative ribbons, yarn, braided thread.  You could even add sequins and glitter for some holiday sparkle! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Elementary Reading Center- Boggletastic! - Using the Boggle in the Classroom

Okay, as you may know already, I am on a leave of absence from teaching first grade due to my fibromyalgia flaring up.  So naturally, I am thinking about school and ideas are swirling.  One night I looked over at the Boggle game sitting on my dresser and a gazillion center / learning station ideas popped in my head.

Here are a few:

Alphabetizing Ideas

Four Corners
Each person gets a letter from the corner and the team has to put them in ABC (alphabetical order).

Four Lines
Each person alphabetizes a line

Super Challenge
Alphabetize all the letters

Word Work

Lucky Letter
Whichever letter is in the top left corner is the lucky letter.
Kids can make a list of words that start with that letter, end with that letter, or have that letter.

Rhyme time
Find a words in the mixed up letters and then write a rhyming word to go with it.

Challenge Rhyme time
Same as above but then write the rhyming words in a sentence and illustrate it.

Boggle Dictionary
Have a binder with paper in it by the game.  When kids find words in Boggle, they add the words to the Boggle Dictionary and draw or write to explain what the word is.

Title Time
Find a word in the Boggle game and then create a book cover with the word in the title.

Language Arts

Find a Noun
Shake up the letters and look for a word that is a person, place or thing.  Record on the noun sheet. Shake and repeat.  Extension ideas- After you find five nouns, put them in ABC order.  After you find ten nouns write them on index cards and sort them into categories (person, place, thing)

Find a verb and act it out.  Record your verbs on a verb hunt sheet.  Draw a picture of your teacher doing the action!

I will try to add more to the list as ideas keep coming. Please share any ideas you may have.

Feeling Blue

It's after midnight and I'm up, again...

I'm missing my kiddos and co-workers.  I've been on leave for a couple of weeks due to my Fibromyalgia flaring up.  Stress does that.  I can't say that I'm relaxed but I am not breaking out in hives everyday.  BIG Improvement!

It breaks my heart every time I let my mind wander over to teaching.  I miss the children.  This year I had such a wonderful, dream class.  They were so sweet and eager to learn.  I am confident that the teacher that took my place is proficient and kind hearted but I still miss them.  It is amazing how attached you can get in nine weeks.

I'm not sure what the future will bring.  I try to think ahead and feel blue so right now I am living in the moment.  Learning how to cherish the subtle small things in life we take for granted in the daily grind.

My uncle is gravely ill and does not have long to live.  I am choosing to focus on the moments with him now.  I do not want to think of the future, nor dwell in the past.  This is so hard.

Between the limitations of my body and the limited time with my uncle, I am learning an important lesson in life.  I have always been a planner and I have always looked ahead but sometimes you have to look and enjoy the second.  Find joy, spread joy, spread love.

My teacher neighbor was/is an angel.  As a going away gift she gave me a special magnet with a beautiful saying, "When the caterpillar thought its world was over, it became a butterfly."  Change is hard, tremendously hard.  This mantra repeats in my head and offers comfort.

Every year I read the Blue Day book to the kids.  It is a wonderful resource in teaching the children how to cheer themselves up.  As a teacher I always aimed to empower the children.  I want them to take charge of their learning and find strength in themselves.  If you haven't read this book.  I HIGHLY recommend it!

Suddenly, I don't feel so blue...