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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.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing these ideas. I am definitely going to test them all when I go back to school next year! Mean while I will play with my kids at home!!