Friday, January 31, 2014

Phase change fun with hot chocolate and marshmallows

My kids and I have started a new tradition of enjoying hot chocolate between baths and dinner.  This week we have taken some time to notice what happens to the marshmallow after it goes into the hot chocolate.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Stuffed Animal Bumper Cars

One of my goals for the rest of this school year is to do more fun projects with my kids.  Participating in the Virtual Book Club for Kids is a great way to motivate myself. This month the club featured books by Laura Numeroff. We read, "If you Give a Pig a Party."

My children were curious about the bumper cars, since they have never ridden any. I don't expect that we'll have the opportunity to enjoy bumper cars any time soon, so we made some bumper cars, for their stuffed animals.

I told them each to pick 3 animals, then design a car for them.  They had a great time searching through the project materials saved from our clean trash to design their cars.  

When each of the stuffed annals had a car, I demonstrated how bumper cars ram into one another. 

I think this activity connects nicely to the Next Generation Science Standard:

K-PS2-2.Analyze data to determine if a design solution works as intended to change the speed or direction of an object with a push or a pull.*

I tried to ask some questions about different sizes of cars impacting each other differently and collisions with different speeds. They tried out a few different kinds of collisions,  but were not interested in pausing the fun to reflect.  Maybe next time, they made me promise to save the cars for another day.

Click here to check out more great activities to go with Laura Numeroff's books.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Color Word Printable and Activities

Recently, we hit a bit of a wall with reading. When I asked my son what we needed to read, he said, "Real books." Fortunately there are plenty of great easy readers at our local library.  These books use lots of basic sight words, and repeat the tricky words and sounds, so that my child can master them within the context of that book.   Several of these books center around colors, so I developed a lesson around color words that emphasizes vowel combinations.

An activity we have loved for some time is acting out Hap Palmer's "Parade of Colors" from "Learning in Two Languages" with colored scarves from the craft store, so we started our lesson with some music.  

Next, I instructed my children to lay the scarves out all over the floor.  I handed them the black and white color word cards one at a time, and instructed them to put the correct word on the correct scarf.  A few of the vowel combinations needed some review, so we did that along the way.

When they had finished, I told them to check their work.  They matched the colored word cards to the right scarf, and double checked that the letters on each card matched.

We have done this activity twice so far, and I expect it to be useful at least once more.    Some of the books we are reading with this unit are Pete the Cat, I Love my White Shoes,  One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish,  Alice in Wonderland, A Colors primer.

If you would like to give this or a similar activity a try, you are welcome to download theses simple, free color word cards.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What to do with a box: Nature Museum

  We were living on an island up in Washington a couple years ago, when my sister gave my son a copy of  Animal Habitats by Judy Press.  This book information and some crafts to go with each of the common North American habitats.  I consider myself craft challenged, so this was a great gift, especially since she sent quite a few of the materials with it.    We worked with water habitats right away, and as we moved around the country have made a collages featuring our local habitats in each new home.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Pressure, force, and fluid: soda in the straw

Whenever we have eaten out during the past few months, my three-year-old has chosen to entertain herself by trapping her drink in her straw with her finger, lifting it up,  then letting it fall back into the cup, over and over.

Of course the question quickly becomes, "Why does the soda stay in the straw when it is lifted out of the cup, but fall back in when I slide my finger away?"

The quickest solution is to answer in terms of a vacuum.  The drink can not flow out until air flows in to take its place.  

This answer points to the concept of pressure.  The pressure of the air pushing up on the drink is equal to the pressure of the drink pushing down on the air.  This is surprising.  No wonder three-year-old checks the result over and over. The liquid is more dense than the air, and yet it cannot fall down!

Since the air and the drink in the straw are static,  not moving, compared to one another, each must be experiencing balanced forces. Obviously, the sides of the straw provide balanced forces in all horizontal directions. We are worried about the vertical forces.  The drink is  being pulled down by gravity and pushed up by the air (There are some other forces at play, but I am ruling them negligible, do you agree?) The air is being pushed down both by the weight of the drink above it and by its own weight.  What is pushing the air up?

All the other air in the world!  Well not quite "all", but quite a bit of it. Think about putting a lid on a cup filled just slightly too full.  As you press down on the lid, the force is transfered from liquid particle to liquid particle.  Finally, the particles near the straw hole are forced up and out the opening. The force applied to the lid has changes directions as it transfers through the liquid, and actually results in upward movement.

The same thing is happening in the case of my daughter's straw pulled out from the cup.  The weight of the air above, all of it up to outer space, is pushing down on the air in the cup just above the drink. Because the air is fluid, the downward force of the weight of the air also pushes it up into empty spaces, like the straw.  
My three-year-old's finger is in the way of the  air above the straw, so it can not push down on its contents.  However, if she removes it,  the weight of the air above the straw pushes both the liquid and the air trapped above it out of the straw.

If you are familiar with fluid physics, feel free to comment on my solution.  Did I miss anything?  Does any one else get stumped by their pre-schooler's questions?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Egg Carton Skip Counting with Printables

This activity addresses several different skills.   For kindergarten purposes, it most directly addresses the Common Core objective CCSS.Math.Content.K.CC.B.4  Understand the relationship between numbers and quantities;connect counting to cardinality.   However, it is also preparation for multiplication, and a fine motor exercise.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The science of fluids: fun in the tub

Yesterday was one of those yucky days when our apartment complex's kids space floods, and it gets really hard to enjoy any time outside, so I thought it was time for an activity I had been saving.

I put a selection of squeeze bottles and pumps on the edge of the tub, and invited my little scientists to do some experiments.

For quite a while they were happy just dumping and pumping.    Then, they spent a long time trying to figure out the best way to fill up a water balloon.

They learned that as you pour water into a balloon, the balloon will expand, but only to a point.  Beyond that point, you have to force the water into the balloon in such a way that it makes the balloon expand.  Pressure, limits: those little pieces of intuitive knowledge can be so valuable later on.

Of course, they spent some time blowing bubbles, too.

From a science perspective, it was a great opportunity to let them say, "What if?" and then find out.  

 I have been saying, "No", "Don't touch" and "Not so hard!"  more than usual lately.  The teacher in me feels guilty.  After all, I know that they are only trying to understand and manipulate the world around them, things I really want them to do, and do well.  The homemaker in me feels like I am barely surviving as it is.  This activity was a great remedy for that situation.  They could squeeze, dump, and blow bubbles to their hearts' content without creating more work for me.  They loved it, they were learning, and I was relaxed.

What fun ways have you found to focus your children's natural curiosity recently? 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ending the holidays with Thanksgiving

Back in November, as we kicked off the holiday season,  kid bloggers and pinners were publishing and passing thanksgiving ideas by the handful.  Today, my kids and I ended our holiday season with our last big event, thank-you note writing.

The long list of relatives and loved ones who generously showered love in the form of great toys, books, and clothes do not expect thank-you notes from my kids.   However, I think it is a helpful holiday tradition.  The things come into their lives so fast, it would be easy for them to lose the connection between the gift and the giver.  I want them to understand that this gift came from someone specific.  I want them to understand that they owe something to that someone who bothered to give something of value to them.  That "something" is gratitude.
So, we went back over the list of gifts they received during the Christmas season, and I tried to coach them to tell each giver why they liked the gift.  Some of the notes were enlightening, some will probably bring a much needed laugh.  Some of our family are walking through tough situations.   (By the way, do you have good tips for prompting kids to say something meaningful in this situation?  I would love to try them.)

I think it is good composition practice, and I counted my son's signature as his hand writing practice for today.  Hopefully, it was more though.  Hopefully, it was a lesson in Thanksgiving.

Thanks for reading.  This blog helps me be a better teacher and a better mom by causing me to slow down and consider what I do each day.  Those of you who take the time to read it motivate me to be my very best.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Pre-school developed counting practice

Not only is this activity great fine motor and counting practice, it's a sure winnner with my pre-schooler.  How do I know?  She came up with it!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Skip counting by 2's: A visual kinesthetic activity

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!  Ours was full and happy.  Today, we jumped back into school, even though I felt a little under-prepared.  Within the next two months, we are planning to move (again, just a couple of miles this time) and welcome a new family member!  Obviously, I am on the look out for ways to make learning fun and easy for all of us.  Please post in the comments if you have a great resource to share.

One of my friends gave us a copy of Life of Fred Apples,  by Stanley Schimdt which we enjoyed twice, and just before Christmas, Life of Fred Butterflies arrived in the mail.  My kids find the books hilarious, and my son is really motivated to do the exercises at the end, in order to earn the right to progress to the next chapter.  The Schimdt jumps right in with counting by fives in Life of Fred Apples.  Now in Life of Fred Butterflies, he is asking for counting by twos.  This is a second grade  skill according to Common Core, and a little tricky for my five-year-old.  I came up with this exercise to make it more concrete.  

The only materials needed are a measuring tape and a bunch of clothespins.  Before we got started I read, Penguin Pairs:Counting by 2's  by Amanda Doering Tourville which we had borrowed from our local library.  After we finished, I directed my son to begin with two and put a clothes pin on every second number.   He went to work eagerly.  As he worked, I asked, "What's that number?"  If he was not sure, I helped him get the correct name which helps us work toward our kindergarten level objective of being able to name all the numbers up to one hundred. (CCSS.Math.Content.K.CC.A.1).

When he finished, he was so proud he insisted on taking a photo of his own.  

Later, when we came to the related question in Life of Fred, he referred back to his number line.

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