Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mapping My Neighborhood

We took a little field trip to the park up the street, and mapped the neighborhood on the way.  What I liked about this lesson:  It encouraged Sophie to pay attention to street signs, street names, and reinforced what she had learned previously about street numbers!

Lesson:  Mapping My Neighborhood

Objective:  Child will create a map of her neighborhood, identifying streets, street signs, and determine what is deemed important to include on a map.

Materials:  A piece of paper.  Pencil.  Book to write on.  Water and sun hats - it's hot out there!


  1. Instruct child that you will be creating a map of your neighborhood.  Tell child that not everything is included on a map - only important things.  Brainstorm about what would be 'important' enough to put on the map of  your neighborhood.  (Sophie at first thought that the flowers in front of our house were important, because they make seeds to grow other plants.  So I had to reinforce that what is 'important' for a map are things that help us find our way.  Do flowers help us find our way? No.  But street signs do.)
  2. Draw out the basic route you will be taking.  I drew our street, and the street we would be walking up to reach our destination, the playground.
  3. Start out on your walk, stopping when you come across something that needs to be added to the map.  We added each arterial street as we passed it, and labeled them.  

We added street signs.  We added our house and a friend's house. We added the fire station at the end of the block.  And, of course, the playground itself.  

Monday, August 29, 2011

Introducing Place Value - Tens and Ones Game

After introducing the place value chart (PVC), we mixed it up a little with a fun 'game'.

Lesson:  Place Value Game

Objective:  Child will recognize the value of digits in two-digit numbers.

Materials:  PVC chart.  Base-10 blocks.  Squares of paper with 1 - 20 written on them.  White board.  Dry erase marker.


  1. Review place value by filling in the PVC chart, from 1 to 20.  Let child be the 'teacher', and tell you how many ones and 10s to put in each place.
2.  Draw a PVC chart on the white board.  Shuffle the number cards, and instruct child to pick one.  

3.  Guide child in re-writing the number on her white board PVC chart.  

4.  Say, "How many ones are in your number?  How many tens?"  Instruct child to count out the appropriate number of one units and 10-sticks, and place them on the PVC chart.

5.  Have child pick another number card, and repeat the process.  

Oops!  If she makes a mistake (and even if she doesn't), have her re-count the units in order make sure she got it right.  Practice self-check habits now, so that they will be instinctive later on!  (Algebra, anyone?)

Oooo, that's better!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Introducing Place Value - Tens and Ones (pt 2)

I'm debating as to whether Sophie is ready for this, or not.  I am beginning to think it might be a little over her head - either that, or she's decided she doesn't want to do it, and is resisting me.  That's the problem with schooling your own child - the parent/child dynamics sometimes get in the way!  (Hence, the pouty face in the pics)  I've decided to press on for a few more weeks, however, and see if she 'gets it'.  If it continues to not sink in, I'll move on and come back to place value when she's a little older.

Lesson:  Introducing Place Value - Tens and Ones

Objective:  Student will recognize the value of two-digit numbers

Materials:  T-Chart from last lesson.  Base-10 blocks.  Writing utensil.


  1. Review from last time, filling in your chart from '1' to '10'.  
  2. Instruct child to count out 11 one units.  Line up a 10-stick next to the units.

3.  Point out that the 10-stick is the same as 10 one units, and substitute the 10 stick for the one units.  

4.  Put the 10 stick in the 'T' column, and the one unit in the 'O' column.  Say, "How many tens do we have?"  When child answers, "1", put a 1 in the 'T' column.  Say, "How many ones do we have?"  When child answers, "1", put a 1 in the 'O' column.  Then recount to reinforce that you do have '11'.  

5.  Repeat the process, going up to 20.  

Notice the better attitude in the last picture!  We quit at around 13, and came back to it later.  It's still a pretty advanced concept for her, I can tell, but frankly, it's good for her to be challenged.  Most things come pretty quickly to Sophie, and it's good for her to not understand something, and have to press through the frustration in order to figure it out.  I'm walking a fine line here between challenging her, and pushing too hard.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

'B' Book

One of the things I want to do with this blog is share what other people are doing with their kids.  This is a guest post by my wonderful friend Ami (visit her blog here).  Ami is mom to an ever-increasing brood, now numbering at 8, with four of those kids at home.  Whew!  She also lives a double life, as her alter-ego, our town's children's librarian.  Shhhh!  Don't tell.   

My five-year-old started Kindergarten at the local two-room schoolhouse this week. Eleven kids in his class - which covers kinder, first and second grade! Not quite home schooling, but in some ways the best of both worlds. I still miss home schooling sometimes, though – especially at this time of year, when parents are coming in to the library where I work, happily discussing there plans for the year and selecting materials for their first big projects.
Fortunately, I have a 5yo excited about school, and a precocious 18mo who is already counting and naming colors (the wrong ones, usually, but they are color words), so I can continue the fun at home without having to worry about burn-out.
Kinder at the moment is all about letter sounds, with the class spending 2-3 days on each one. That lends itself so well to a million different activities that I had to rein my thoughts in a bit. My goal was to reinforce the letter sounds as well as letter recognition, and to keep things personal and fun. We (meaning I) decided to make a ‘book’ for each letter – just printed pages put in a 3-ring folder – and then incorporate the letter into our regular activities as much as possible. Here is a bit of my son’s “B” book:

big boy reading a book

baby brother

blonde-haired, blue-eyed beast with bruises, bumps and blood (nice of her to help us out this way, wasn’t it?)

brains and beauty


For our first book, I did a lot of coaching while we walked around the house looking for “B” items. As we go through the year, I’ll expect him to come up with all the examples himself. For right now I want to give him the general idea and make it fun, not work. He did come up with the blood for his sister, and I suggested the rest of the caption. I couldn’t resist!

Of course, it needs to become as much his work as possible, as soon as possible. He wrote the title on the cover (simply, “My B Book”), and circled all the b’s on each page. Last night, when we did the letter “C”, I also had him pick one word to copy. Eventually I will just print the pictures and have him write the words himself.

The book completed, we sat down to supper:

BBQ beef on burger buns with baked beans

That night at the fair at the fair, then, we looked for things that started with the letter "B" (bunnies, babies, boats, and our friend's black bull), had the letter "B" on them, or were brown, black, or blue.

I have to warn you, this can easily get stuck in your head. Daddy and I kept stopping suddenly to point and exclaim to each other, "Backpack! Big ball!", or to tell our teen, "Bad boys are banned!" (She was less than amused. Or should I say, she finds our babbling boorish.)

Some other simple letter activities:
  • Cut out or draw a large version of the letter, and see what you can turn it into with a little artistry.  For example, the open part of the capital "A" can become the mouth of an alligator. There are lots of websites such as with templates to steal. 
  •  Make a separate shopping list of items that start with that letter, and put your little learner in charge of finding those in the store.
  • Take a letter walk – as we did at the fair, look for things that might start with that letter. Bring a camera and take pictures to add to your book. Adjectives can be helpful here!
  • Go through an old magazine and cut out all the “B”’s. Glue them on a paper at random, or into an outline of the letter.
  • Write the letter in shaving cream foam, sand, the dust on the back of the car, wherever.
  • Glue beans, macaroni, whatever, to an outline to create a tactile letter.
  • Blow bubbles for the letter “b”. Make a marble maze for “m”. Try to find one surprise game or activity like this for each letter – maybe end with it, and keep them guessing as to what it will be each time (their guesses may give you inspiration if you are stuck!)
  • Check out – fantastic free web site that starts with the alphabet and moves up to reading stories, with activities included. Easy to use for those just learning to maneuver the mouse.
  • Play with your food! In addition to eating things like alphabet soup or Scrabble Cheeze-Its (love those!), you can push your corn into an “L” shape, or bite your sandwich into a “C”.

Don’t try to do all of these with every letter, though, or your learner will burn out. Find one activity you do with each letter at the start (like the book), then throw in different other things each time to keep it new. Don’t feel like you have to go in order through the alphabet, either – consonants with only one sound (b, d, m, etc.) are of course easier to learn. If you are sounding words out, you won’t want to wait two months to get to the letter “t”! You also don’t have to teach every sound of a letter – short vowel sounds are fine to start with, as well as the ‘hard’ sounds of “c” and “g”.

Speaking of burnout, I’m always looking for more ideas, so I’m hoping to see some good ones in the comments. Let’s brainstorm together!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Introducing Place Value - Tens and Ones

After a week of practice with the Base 10 blocks, Sophie had skip counting by 10's down.  It's now time to move on to place value, or, the understanding of what's in between 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50.

Lesson:  Introducing Tens and Ones Place Value

Objective:  Student will recognize the value of digits in two-digit numbers.

Materials:  Paper.  Glue / tape (to connect papers if you need a longer chart).  Crayons/markers/pen.  Base 10 blocks.


  1. Draw a T-chart on a piece of paper.  Label one side 'T' and one side, 'O'.  Explain to child that the 'T' stands for 'Tens', and the 'O' stands for 'Ones'.
  2. Instruct child to count one unit, and place it on the 'O' side of the chart.  Ask child, "How many ones do we have?"  When child answers, "One", write a '1' next to it (I wrote in a different color, so it would stand out).
  3. Instruct child to count two units, and place them on the 'O' side of the chart beneath the 1.  Ask child, "How many ones do we have?"  When child answers, "Two", write a '2' next to them.  
  4. Instruct child to count three units, and place them on the 'O' side of the chart beneath the 2.  Ask child, "How many ones do we have?"  When child answers, "Three", write a '3' next to them.  

5.  When you get to 10, instruct child to count 10 units.  When she does, ask, "How else can you show, '10'?"  Get a 10-stick, and line it up next to the 10 one units.  Agree that they show the same amount.  

6.  Discard the 10 one units, and say, "This is one 10.  It doesn't go in the Ones place.  It goes in the Tens place."  Move the 10-stick to the Tens column.  

7.  Ask child, "Now how many ones do we have?"  Write a '0' in the Ones column.  Ask, "How many tens do we have?"  Write a '1' in the Tens column. 

By this time, Sophie was tired out.  She saw that we had just written, '10', but it was a new concept, and shut down on me.  I stopped the lesson here, and will continue repeat the process several times this week until it's easy for her to change from one units to 10-sticks.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sorting Colors

Keeping Xander busy while I'm doing school with Sophie is proving to be a challenge.  He likes to have his crayons out, but doesn't like to color.  "Mommy, color that one for me.  Now color that one for me.  No, not THAT color!!  THIS color."

I noticed he will spend lots of time just shuffling his crayons around, so I decided to do a little sorting activity with him, as Sophie worked.

Lesson:  Sorting Colors

Objective:  Child will create groups of colors that are the same shade.

Materials:  A piece of paper.  Crayons.


  1. Draw an oval on the paper.  
  2. Direct child to put all the blue crayons in that oval.
  3. Draw another oval on the paper.
  4. Direct child to put all the green crayons in the oval.
  5. Repeat with different colors. 

A fun activity for Xander but, I have to admit, it lasted about 2 minutes.  

Mapping My Street

Had I been a classroom teacher, this would have been the lesson when I herded my children out of the classroom to map our school building.  However, since we're learning at home (Me: "Xander, what did you do at Sunday school today?"  Xander:  "No, I homeschool."), we mapped our street instead.

This lesson turned out very well - Sophie enjoyed it, it was a chance to get outside, and it drove home the concept of street numbers for her.  A useful bit of information for life skills.  It also made her really think carefully about how her map was oriented, and where to place each 'house'.

Lesson:  Mapping My Street

Objective:  Child will create a map of her street, showing the houses and street numbers.

Materials:  A sheet of paper.  Pen.  Construction paper, cut into 1 inch squares.  Glue.  A hard surface to write on (book or clipboard)


  1. Before you go outside, explain that you are going to create a map of your street.  Draw the street down the middle of child's paper.
  2. Walk to the end of the street.  Stop and observe the first house.  
  3. Glue a square (representing the first house) on the paper.  

4.  Instruct child to observe the house again and find its street number, then write street number on the corresponding square.

5.  Instruct child to observe the house across the street.  Glue another square in the appropriate place, corresponding with this house.
6.  Direct child to observe this house's street number, and write on the corresponding square.  
7.  Continue the process down the street.  

... And maybe stop to say hi to the friendly puppies on the way!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hands On Mapping

In order to make the concept of maps more concrete, we made a map with electrical tape on the living room floor today.

Lesson:  Make Your Own Floor Map

Objective:  Child will understand that a map is a pictoral representation of a real place.  

Materials:  Masking or electrical tape.  Scissors (optional).  Dolls, dollhouse furniture, Legos, blocks.  Construction paper.

  1. Review the concept that a map represents a real place.  Revisit the maps from the books you read, and the map you made of your room.
  2. Using masking tape, outline a large square on the carpeted floor.
  3. Ask child to direct you in where to block in each room.  "What room do you want to add first?  Where should it go?"  Suggest doors, windows, and halls as necessary.  
  4. When the map of the house is completed (it probably won't look like the floor plan of any 'real' house), encourage child to furnish the house with dollhouse furniture, or make his own out of Legos, blocks and construction paper.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Concrete and Teacher Led, Abstract and Student Led

There are two sliding scales to keep in mind when planning units.

1.  CONCRETE leading to ABSTRACT

You always want to start with the concrete when introducing a concept.  This means:

  • Start with something the student already knows (for example, in a map unit, map the student's room, or your classroom)
  • Make it as hands-on as possible (when introducing addition, use counting bears, beans, rocks, pieces of fruit ... anything the student can touch and move with his hands)
Slowly, as the student starts to master the concept, move into the abstract.
  • Go from using manipulatives (hands-on materials), to paper-and-pencil activities
  • The discovering and thinking should move from an outward process (the child interacting with his world) to an inward process (the child internalizing concepts)
A good example of going from concrete to abstract is how we generally teach children to read.  We start with teaching letters, usually their names.  We use letter magnets, cards, and over sized letters.  We then move into a mix of concrete / abstract thinking, as the child starts to sound words out, slowly running her fingers along the letters in each word as she says each one's sound.  Finally, when the child is proficient, she is reading completely in her head, with no outward signs or interactions.


When first introducing a concept, the teacher is the expert.  Our goal, however, should be to gradually shoulder the student with the responsibility of the 'knowing'.  In the end, the student has full ownership of the concept and should be able to teach you, the teacher.  

At first, 
  • The teacher introduces the new information
  • The teacher does most of the facilitating work, allowing the student to focus on grasping the new concept
Eventually, the teacher begins to back off, allowing the student to do most or all of the work independently.  I like to pretend to 'forget', or to 'make mistakes' at this stage, to allow the student the opportunity to take ownership in his learning.  

This is a sample of a flow chart I kept at my desk while teaching.  Lessons at the beginning of your unit should have activities from the 'knowledge' and 'comprehension' sections.  Move through the chart as you progress through the unit.  You should be asking 'synthesis' and 'evaluation' level questions by the end of the unit, and your student should be able to produce work from these categories.  (Thank you to for the flow chart!)


Useful Verbs
Sample Question Stems
Potential activities and products
What happened after...?
How many...?
Who was it that...?
Can you name the...?
Describe what happened at...?
Who spoke to...?
Can you tell why...?
Find the meaning of...?
What is...?
Which is true or false...?
Make a list of the main events..
Make a timeline of events.
Make a facts chart.
Write a list of any pieces of information you can remember.
List all the .... in the story.
Make a chart showing...
Make an acrostic.
Recite a poem.


Useful Verbs
Sample Question Stems
Potential activities and products
Can you write in your own words...?
Can you write a brief outline...?
What do you think could of happened next...?
Who do you think...?
What was the main idea...?
Who was the key character...?
Can you distinguish between...?
What differences exist between...?
Can you provide an example of what you mean...?
Can you provide a definition for...?
Cut out or draw pictures to show a particular event.
Illustrate what you think the main idea was.
Make a cartoon strip showing the sequence of events.
Write and perform a play based on the story.
Retell the story in your words.
Paint a picture of some aspect you like.
Write a summary report of an event.
Prepare a flow chart to illustrate the sequence of events.
Make a colouring book.


Useful Verbs
Sample Question Stems
Potential activities and products
Do you know another instance where...?
Could this have happened in...?
Can you group by characteristics such as...?
What factors would you change if...?
Can you apply the method used to some experience of your own...?
What questions would you ask of...?
From the information given, can you develop a set of instructions about...?
Would this information be useful if you had a ...?
Construct a model to demonstrate how it will work.
Make a diorama to illustrate an important event.
Make a scrapbook about the areas of study.
Make a paper-mache map to include relevant information about an event.
Take a collection of photographs to demonstrate a particular point.
Make up a puzzle game suing the ideas from the study area.
Make a clay model of an item in the material.
Design a market strategy for your product using a known strategy as a model.
Dress a doll in national costume.
Paint a mural using the same materials.
Write a textbook about... for others.


Useful Verbs
Sample Question Stems
Potential activities and products
Which events could have happened...?
I ... happened, what might the ending have been?
How was this similar to...?
What was the underlying theme of...?
What do you see as other possible outcomes?
Why did ... changes occur?
Can you compare your ... with that presented in...?
Can you explain what must have happened when...?
How is ... similar to ...?
What are some of the problems of...?
Can you distinguish between...?
What were some of the motives behind...?
What was the turning point in the game?
What was the problem with...?
Design a questionnaire to gather information.
Write a commercial to sell a new product.
Conduct an investigation to produce information to support a view.
Make a flow chart to show the critical stages.
Construct a graph to illustrate selected information.
Make a jigsaw puzzle.
Make a family tree showing relationships.
Put on a play about the study area.
Write a biography of the study person.
Prepare a report about the area of study.
Arrange a party. Make all the arrangements and record the steps needed.
Review a work of art in terms of form, colour and texture.


Useful Verbs
Sample Question Stems
Potential activities and products
Can you design a ... to ...?
Why not compose a song about...?
Can you see a possible solution to...?
If you had access to all resources how would you deal with...?
Why don't you devise your own way to deal with...?
What would happen if...?
How many ways can you...?
Can you create new and unusual uses for...?
Can you write a new recipe for a tasty dish?
can you develop a proposal which would...
Invent a machine to do a specific task.
Design a building to house your study.
Create a new product. Give it a name and plan a marketing campaign.
Write about your feelings in relation to...
Write a TV show, play, puppet show, role play, song or pantomime about...?
Design a record, book, or magazine cover for...?
Make up a new language code and write material suing it.
Sell an idea.
Devise a way to...
Compose a rhythm or put new words to a known melody.


Useful Verbs
Sample Question Stems
Potential activities and products
Is there a better solution to...
Judge the value of...
Can you defend your position about...?
Do you think ... is a good or a bad thing?
How would you have handled...?
What changes to ... would you recommend?
Do you believe?
Are you a ... person?
How would you feel if...?
How effective are...?
What do you think about...?
Prepare a list of criteria to judge a ... show. Indicate priority and ratings.
Conduct a debate about an issue of special interest.
Make a booklet about 5 rules you see as important. Convince others.
Form a panel to discuss views, eg "Learning at School."
Write a letter to ... advising on changes needed at...
Write a half yearly report.
Prepare a case to present your view about...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Counting By 10's With Base 10 Blocks

I love, love, LOVE Base 10 blocks.  So simple, so diverse, so easy to use from beginning counting all the way up to multi-digit multiplication and division.  It follows that I LOVE my library, because it provides a set of Base 10 blocks patrons can check out - free!

Lesson:  Skip Counting By 10's

Objective:  Child will identify groups of units of 10, from 10 to 100.  (two 10's are 20, three 10's are 30, etc)

Materials:  A set of Base 10 blocks (1's and 10's).  Sticky notes.  Marker / pen.


  1. Review that 10 one units equal one 10-stick
  2. Write '10' on a sticky note.  Child matches one 10-stick to the sticky note.  (If you put the sticky note on the table 'upside down', it will stand up facing you like a little flag)
  3. Write '20' on a sticky note.  Child matches two 10-sticks to the sticky note
  4. Repeat the process until you get to 100.  
  5. Keep reviewing as you add each number, encourage child to guess what comes next.  Point out the pattern:  '10' has a '1', and uses one 10-stick.  '20' has a '2', and uses two 10-sticks.  '30' has a '3', and uses three 10-sticks, etc. 

And here's how Xander kept himself occupied.

One 10-stick was the bad guy.  It kept knocking all the other 10-sticks off the table.  

One last observation:  I love that none of us has to be really dressed in the morning before we start school. Sophie's garment of choice (in case you haven't noticed in the last posts) is a bathing suit.  Xander goes by the philosophy of less clothing is more.  And I just like having less laundry to do at the end of the day.  

Mapping My Room

For the 'extra' subject this month (i.e., not math, reading or writing), we're doing a map unit.  I had an inkling Sophie would be intrigued by the concept, once she grasped it.

I started out reading two books that have a simple map in them.  Sally and the Something, by George O'Connor is a new favorite we discovered last summer, and it has a simple map on one page showing the path Sally travels from her house to the swamp.  Fancy Nancy, Explorer Extraordinaire, by Jane O'Connor has a fabulous map of Nancy's neighborhood.

Here are some books I wish we could have read, had they been available  (hint, hint, Ami):

  • Me on the Map, by Joan Sweeney.  This amazing book starts out with a map of the little girl's room, and expands her world with each subsequent map.  It 'zooms' out, showing maps of her house, neighborhood, state, and finally the world.
  • As the Crow Flies:  A First Book of Maps, by Harvey Stevenson.  Follows a crow's journey from the mountains to the sea, mapping in simple, bright, clear illustrations the farms, villages and towns it flies over.  
  • My Map Book, by Sara Fanelli.  I. Love.  This.  Book.  Illustrated with the crayon drawings of a child, each page is simply a 'map' of different things in a child's world:  my room.  My body.  My dog.
We talked about the things the maps in the books showed.  I pulled out Xander's car map rug, and we looked at the map printed on it.  Then we took some construction paper, scissors, and glue into Sophie's room and made a map of it.

I drew the shapes, Sophie cut them out (fine motor skills), and glued them in place, after we discussed where on the map they went.  Then she added some extra details with a marker (you can't forget kitty!).  

Sophie was so enthralled with this concept, she then drew her own map of the walk from our house to the nature trail down the street.  Notice the rocky part, and the bridge right after it (the red stripes).

Even the car map rug is getting a lot more use!  Love tricking the kids into learning by playing.  Waaa ha ha.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

And We're Off!!!

If you're reading this, it means you've followed me over here, to my homeschooling blog.  Welcome!

Sophie and I launched her homeschool year today.  As all the other kidlets started public school, I just thought it was appropriate.  Sophie's still only four, so with that short attention span in mind, I've decided to start off with about 1 1/2 hours of school each morning, and see where we go from there.  Here's what I'm planning on covering over the next month:

Count to 100 by 1's.
Count to 100 by 10's.
Build a solid grasp of 10's and 1's place value.

Work on phonemic awareness (the ability to segment and blend words).
Introduce some basic digraphs.
Read for fluency.

Write letters to various people in order to reinforce sentence structure, forming lowercase letters, and fine motor skills.

Social Studies / Science:

Thanks for stopping by.  I promise I'll post again soon with pics and more about what we're doing, and how it's working for us.  Wish us luck!