Teaching Graphs

I’m not going to begin to put an age level on this lesson because I’ve sort of lost all realistic memory of when is the “right time” to do this type of activity.  SO, I’ll say that if you think it might be time for your child, you might be right!

Graphing is so much fun.  And it’s even more fun when you add in a technology element and work with your child to set them up in Excel or Numbers!  I have a Mac, so our work was done in Numbers.  The first step before creating any graphs, however, is to collect data.

I came across this insect survey free on TPT and thought, somehow I have to make this work for Becca even though there isn’t a class full of kids to survey!  Enter social media.  I polled Facebook through my page (thanks to several friends and family members who shared my post!) and we received over 30 responses!

tally sheet

As I scrolled through the responses, I would read them out to Becca, and she learned about making tally marks.  She would mark the sheet, and then once we had recorded all of the answers, we counted the marks and I wrote how many of each insect had been “favorited” by our participants.  Making tally marks was a new experience for her, and she wanted to circle the groups of four instead of making a line through them for five to group them together.  Cody and I were both there for this lesson, and we had to explain to her that this isn’t something you can do however which way you want – to make tally marks, this IS the way to do it.  No other options.  She wasn’t real sure about that, which I dealt with again with her when we did our second grouping of data, which I’ll talk about later in this same post.

So, once we had the numbers for our insects, I pulled up Numbers and immediately set up a little data table.  She read off the insect names to me and how many of each one.  Then she decided what title we should put on our table.  I knew that I wanted to teach her about pie graphs AND bar graphs (she has seen some bar graphs before, but it’s been a while), so I first put the information into a pie graph, and she was immediately intrigued – she helped me select the colors that she wanted, and was very pleased.  She started asking questions about what % means… and I skirted around it by simply saying, it’s what part of the whole group it is – sort of like fractions.  She said “oh” and was actually content with that.  No doubt  percentages will be entering our math time very soon.  Then I let her select whether she wanted a vertical or horizontal bar graph, and she selected the color.  She decided that she needed some pictures of her top favorite insect to make it look a little “happier,” so I pulled up Google images, and had her type in “butterfly.”  She selected the image and I showed her how to save it.  Then she also saved a dragonfly and a ladybug.  I showed her how to import her photos into the document, and once I got them the right size, she dragged them to where she wanted them.  I had her tell me about her graphs and typed her words onto the “poster” as well.  We printed it out on card stock, and she was so proud to show her daddy!

becca w graph
Left: she typed in the words to save it to my computer, and was quite frustrated wanting to know what crazy person put the letters in the wrong order on the keyboard! HA!

Then, a couple days later, we colored Easter eggs with some dear friends.  And we had ALL. THESE. DANG. EGGS!  What to do with them all?  So after she had spent a good amount of time sticking butterfly stickers all over them, we sat down and made a tally of how many eggs we had of each color, and I had her draw a bar graph on paper so she would have the physical concept of what the bars show.  We talked about how “this is what three orange eggs look like in real life, and this is what they look like in tally marks, and this is what they look like on a bar graph!”  She said “that’s cool let’s put them on your computer.”  Hey, what can I say?  It’s really fun to make “graph posters” on Numbers!  So, for ease (and because it was almost bedtime) I pulled up her previous file, renamed and saved it as a new file, and then had her tell me the new data to type in.  She was quick to notice that I needed to change my titles on the data table, and told me what names I needed.  Instead of types of insects, I needed colors of eggs!  She decided this poster needed different graph colors, and of course it needed Easter egg images.  We also edited our text, and in about 7 minutes, we had a whole new graph poster about our Easter eggs!  We printed it and she was so excited again to show it off to her Daddy!

eggs

This is a super simple way to get your child talking about Science and Math AND to incorporate the Technology aspect of STEM as well.  Don’t have a computer or experience with Excel/Numbers?  No problem!  Drawing on paper can be awesome as well – you could draw on copy paper, cut them out, and post them onto a large sheet of construction paper!  Clip photos from magazines, or illustrate yourself with paints and markers!

I’ve noticed since doing these graphs, Becca is much more interested in Math again – not shying away from addition and subtraction story problems, and excited to count and sit to learn new math concepts as well.  Remember – Math HAS to be FUN!!!  Make it that way!

insect survey

egg graphs

Our Penguin Unit

Throughout this post there will be a variety of links.  Some will be to other websites or files for you to download.  All sources are credited where necessary.  There will also be affiliate links which will be denoted with (aff link).  When you choose to click on these links to purchase items, I make a tiny % of the sale profit off of that item.  That goes to helping keep this blog alive.  Thank you for your purchases.

So of course this blog post wouldn’t be complete without a little bit of back story.  I’ve said previously that I’m great about setting goals, but not so great about putting the nose to the grindstone and actually making them happen.  But this year that is going to change!  Because I’ve switched my focus from super long term objectives, so short term monthly objectives.  Especially when it comes to school at home.  Becca’s love for learning is voracious. She keeps me on my toes at all times.  She constantly is begging for more activities, more books, and asking more and more and yes, more! questions.  Since having her own dictionary and LOTS of other non-fiction reference books in her room the questions have backed off a little bit, but not entirely.  She just can’t learn enough, fast enough.

I used to stress out thinking that homeschool needed to look like me sitting down with her all day and actually doing instruction time.  All day.  Boy doesn’t THAT sound like a nightmare with a child who has SPD and has to move ALL. THE. TIME.  Except when she doesn’t because she needs to be wrapped tightly in a blanket and suck on her finger.  But then this fall I read a book that truly changed the way I think about homeschool.  I realized that what it looks like for somebody else isn’t going to be what it looks like for us.  And that is OK!  (Thanks again to Alicia Michelle from Your Vibrant Family for your encouragement and support every step of the way!  I believe I CAN do this homeschooling thing as long as I have to!  Which I not-so-secretly hope is not very long!!)

Anyway, I discovered that I can plan a STACK of activities for Becca and we can sit down and do them in an hour, or an hour and a half.  And then we are done.  I’m now realizing – that’s ok!  We go at her pace, I tell her what activities we’ll be doing, and she selects which order we do them in.  She gets to take breaks between them if she so desires, and play with learning games, engineering materials, etc.  (All of her breaks are STEAM breaks of some sort.)  When she is done, we take a STEAM break (want some STEAM activity ideas?)…  Then we get back at it.  All the while, Brother can play in his room on his own, and is perfectly content since it’s no more than an hour and a half time block.  (Yes, I am blessed!)

So back to those goals – I decided that it was time to do a thematic unit from start to finish.  And actually finish.  So I gave us two weeks.  Which was a perfect time frame.  She goes to Mother’s Day Out a couple days a week, and we often don’t do “school work” on those days, though sometimes we do.  Just depends.  I like having the flexibility to let her be three and a half, while also letting her brain be whatever age it happens to be that day.

learning about penguins

So the past couple of weeks we have been learning about penguins.  I first told her we were going to make a mystery picture to find out what we were learning about.  Granted, this took a little bit longer than her attention span, but I kept it exciting for her by asking her which block to color next, and we traded off who colored and who read the letter/number combos, and who found the right block to color.  We got to a certain point on it, and the light bulb came on!  “We’re gonna learn about penguins!  Like in my Magic Treehouse Book Eve of the Emperor Penguin!” (aff link)  She was so excited she was literally jumping up and down in her chair.

We sat together (she often sits in my lap while we do school) and talked about all she already knew about penguins (which was actually a good deal) and then we both came up with some questions we wanted to answer about them.  I wrote down what she dictated to me on one of the graphic organizers, and then we talked about another way to organize our thoughts – with flaps.

graphic organizers

She really enjoyed the flaps, which I cut from one file and attached onto another.  (Hey, teaching is all about getting creative, right?)  All of the files I used will be linked in a list below.  All were found on teacherspayteachers.com as freebie files.  Later in our study, we talked about how we can also organize our thoughts into a web format.  She decided that for her, she prefers flaps as her method of thought organization.  She especially liked having the definitions of the penguin vocabulary words behind a flap, so that she could easily just flip and see the one she wanted to see.

coming soon

You might have seen this picture if you follow my page on Facebook.  This was one of her favorite parts of the unit of study.  I modified her old Antarctic Habitat Box to be just rock salt and white rice (less messy), and she not only got to have free play time with the penguins and their blue activity tray (aka water), but she also used the penguins (want to get your own set? Click here – aff link) and her penguin word bank sheet to sort and classify them.  We pulled a few prey and predators from our ocean habitat box as well.  She enjoyed acting out the food chain in her habitat, pretending the penguin ate a fish, and then a leopard seal ate the penguin.  Morbid?  No.  Not at all.  She is fully immersed in how the animal kingdom functions.

penguin reference guide

Then, we took all of the worksheets we completed and compiled them into a book.  She drew her version of a penguin on white card stock paper for the cover, and I even stapled onto the back cover her story book that she dictated to me.  Not only does it serve as a mini-portfolio of her work, it’s also a great reference guide for her in the future.  She is so proud to have it on her bookshelf in her room.  (And she took it to Mother’s Day Out to show her teacher and coordinator!)  We also wrote on the back cover the title and author of the two reference books we used (Penguins by Emily Bone, and Nat Geo Kids Reader – Penguins aff link).  We also listed the YouTube video we watched to learn more about a crèche, and the fabulous online resource of the New England Aquarium, where we saw amazing penguin pictures (we found them when searching for “molting”) and learned more about penguins in captivity.  It was important to me that she start learning the importance of sighting her references when she does research.  We didn’t go into formal sighting rules, just listed them so they are credited and we could go back to them in the future.

And now, to give more credit where credit is due, here are the links to the files that I used from TPT.  Again, they were all freebies, so I can share them with you, but please realize that these are NOT my creations – each creator has a page within the file that gives her credit for her work.  And each of these files is WONDERFUL!  I’m so thankful for a resource like TPT to find fabulous content for our projects!

Penguin Mystery Picture Graph

Penguin Word Bank 

All About Penguins

Flip Flap Fun

Penguin Pre-Writing Fun

Did you like this post or find it helpful?  Please comment and feel free to share on social media!  I’d love to see how you’ve used these ideas to help your own students!  Follow my Facebook page here.  Check me out on Pinterest here.  And now also on Instagram!

Christmas Activities

I debated about how to do this post – if I should put everything separate so it doesn’t seem overwhelming, or just put it all together.  I decided it’s easier to reference later if it’s all together… and honestly, if I wait on some things until later, you have less time to do them with your kids!  So… get ready.  I’m about to bombard you with a bunch of fun ideas – the first several will be great for even your little toddlers, and the rest will be geared toward your older kiddos.

Many of these activities I have stored in little plastic bags and all inside a storage box (in fact, the same box that once held our Apple Activities).  But a couple of them are ready at the window any time one of the kids wants them.  The great thing about the activities in the box is that while Becca is working on her activities, she can select something from the box for Gray to do, to appease his desire to do what she is doing.  She can also interact with him on his activities, and I love watching the tender moments they share (which usually come right before a snatch-grab-cry-scream fest HA!) together when working on a project.  If you have a toddler and an older child, you know how hard it is to find something they can both do either together, or to keep the little one occupied while the older one does something different.  This box of activities seems to be my best effort yet in this department.. and is about 80% effective!   So, here we go!  Let me know if you try any of these with your kids!  I’d love to see you share pictures on my Facebook page, as well!

sticky window

The Christmas Tree Sticky Window is super simple to make – just draw a Christmas tree onto a piece of clear contact paper, and then attach it to your window with tape – so that the sticky side is out.   Then, cut various shapes out of felt or other fabric (so that they won’t adhere permanently) and let your kids decorate the tree over and over again!  While Becca enjoyed this activity at first, this is definitely a Grayson favorite.  He LOVES standing at the window and moving the shapes around.  Of course, he also loves to carry the shapes all over the house and leave them random places…

shape identification

This felt Christmas tree was a busy bag I made a few years ago at a MOPS meeting – simply by cutting shapes from various colors of felt.  It’s a great activity for the kids to do together – Becca loves to tell Gray the names of the shapes and their colors.  She likes to make patterns of ornaments – he likes to throw them in the air and watch them rain down around him.  Either way, they are happily occupied.

writing coloring

In an effort to provide activity for Gray AND Becca in the same box, I have a couple of Christmas coloring books and some blank paper that either of them can enjoy, but I also have magnetic Christmas words that Becca can spell, and then write in her bare book (I found a bunch of them in the Target dollar section at one point this summer!).  She also has two rhyming word wheels that she can practice with and write the rhyming words in her book.  Gray loves that he’s “writing” with crayons while Sis is writing too.  He feels so big and important, and it shows!  We just have to watch that he doesn’t run around with a crayon sticking out of his mouth… he has that tendency.

geo shapes

We have some really fun building materials – you could use anything you have laying around – Legos, Duplos (for your little hands), building blocks, marble runs, whatever you  have.  Challenge your little ones to build a Christmas tree out of the supplies provided!!  Looking for more STEAM Engineering ideas?  Click Here!

reading retelling

We have a play Peanuts nativity set (affiliate link – thank you!) available on our low window sill for Becca to retell the Christmas story anytime she’d like.  Gray also enjoys playing with the characters, and he loves to sit and listen to her act out the story.  I also provided in her Christmas activity box Jan Brett’s Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Friends (affiliate links – thank you!) books – along with a tiny stuffed ginger baby that she can read the books to, and then use to re-inact the stories.

christmas treeNot an activity for Brother, Becca LOVES making Christmas trees of various designs using green popsicle sticks, red buttons, white pom poms, and one gold one for the star on top.  She has come up with some of the coolest, and also weirdest designs.  Some look like trees, and some, well… don’t.  But she is having a blast, it’s a great sensory activity for her that really allows her imagination and creativity to go wild.

fine motor

Becca struggles with some simple things like getting dressed, and in order to strengthen her hands and fingers to work on those little things like putting on socks and shoes, I try to find lots of fine motor skill practice activities for her.  I had some green colored pasta leftover from one of our habitat boxes, and also have some little Christmas jewelry pieces that I put in some little containers and let her string onto pipe cleaners to make bracelets and necklaces.  She LOVES it, and it’s great practice.  I even made an extension to this that stays in her room for holiday play – mini ball ornaments that she can string onto pipe cleaners.  It’s fabulous for her, and I’ve seen just in the past couple of weeks her fine motor skills making some great improvements!

star math

I programmed several index cards with a variety of patterns and addition/subtraction/multiplication story problems, and had her use these little star cards to solve them.  She even said “I wish all math was fun like this!”  So we’ve started using the star cards for other kinds of math too.  You could use anything you have around the house – scraps of paper, fabric, cut pipe cleaners, Legos, Duplos, crayons, etc.  Hands down, using manipulatives makes math more fun!  (And Mr. Gingerbaby even got involved in the math, too!)

more math

Becca has always struggled with seeing the importance behind having any numbers beyond 20.  She can count to 100 now with ease, but just really doesn’t see the point.  But she does love a good challenge, so I cut some 100s grids into lots of funny pieces, and she really enjoys putting them together.  I also took her sensory box from last Christmas and stepped it up a notch.  She loves playing with it with her balance.  She has discovered that the shiny and matte ornaments do not weigh the same as each other.  She has weighed the cookie cutters that are also in the box, and loves to scoop and pour the rice/split peas into and out of the balance.  She gets so excited when she makes them equal, and loves trying new combinations to see how much she needs to equalize if one side has more ornaments, etc.  I love seeing her creativity come out in this simple hands-on sensory activity, and I love to see her enjoying math.  She’s measuring with her measuring cup each time, and getting better at recognizing the values, etc.  Seeing her enjoy math is so good for me – I’m not a fan of math at all… so I try hard to make it really enjoyable for her so that she will love it.

What Christmas activities do you have going on in your house?  We are also doing daily advent activities, reading lots of Christmas books, and watching lots of special Christmas shows.  I’m hoping we can get out to look at Christmas lights sometime soon as well.  It can be such a crazy time of the year, but when we remember to stop and focus on the Reason for the season, it is all worth while.

May God richly bless you and yours this Christmas!  I look forward to hearing from you on Facebook, and I look forward to starting the new year with some new resolutions and some new post ideas!!  Do you have something you’d like to see me post here on my blog?  Send me an email!  I’d love to hear from you!

 

Apple Activity Box

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you probably remember the really fun activity centers I made for Becca last fall using our water table.  I brought it in from our summer play on the back porch, and she really had a blast… and I was super proud of all I came up with for her to do!  Fast forward a year, and lil Bro is into EVERYTHING… even things he’s not ready to do yet.  So, I found a way to re-make her apple activity center into a box that can easily be packed up and kept out of reach of Grayson’s little grabby hands!

apple box 2

You can find boxes like this one at your local craft store in the scrapbooking section – they are 13×13 and are fabulous!!!  I used scotch tape to stick the index cards on so they can easily be removed and the next seasonal activity center can go in their places.

Here are the skills that I included:
Math – apple patterning / apple adding & subtracting / measuring
Reading – a book to read and retell / a poem to read and recite
Writing – magnetic words to build / a blank book to write them in
Art – markers to make illustrations in the book and on the poem cards
Science – non-fiction book to read
Hand-Eye-Coordination/Fine Motor/Engineering – create an apple tree with popsicle sticks and buttons

apple box 1

Here are the direction cards, which guide play but certainly don’t limit it – she has gone way outside the box of just following these cards, though the lil OCD in her followed each card in order to some extent before moving on to do her own thing.  I also included with each instruction the list of items your child will need to complete the activity.  Some require prep, some don’t.

apple writing1. Write and illustrate a book about apples using the words on your magnets.
–>I got packs of 3 blank books for $1 at Target before school started!  Score. You could make your own just by folding paper together and stapling.  You’ll also need to write a few fall words on index cards, cut out, and stick magnet tape on the back.

2. Practice saying the poem without looking. (Recite from memory).
–>You’ll need to write the poem on index cards.  I got it online – original source unknown.  Here are the words:
—->card 1: Apples are so good to eat,
—->card 2: To have them is a special treat.
—->card 3: Red, green, yellow too,
—->card 4: All of them are good for you!

3. Draw pictures on the poem cards to illustrate what the words say.
–>Provide markers or crayons for illustrations

apple pattern4. Make an apple pattern. / Add the apples: green apples + red apples = how many apples all together?  (We extended this and did subtraction and multiplication as well – we have 2 groups of 5 apples.)
–>I got these little apples at Dollar Tree.  You could easily use buttons or gems or place apple stickers on index cards and cut out.  As long as there are at least red and green so that your child can make patterns, you’re good!

apple buttons5. Make an apple tree with popsicle sticks and buttons.  How many buttons did you use?  How many are left over?
–>You’ll need a bunch of random red, green, and/or yellow buttons, and some popsicle sticks.  I had green popsicle sticks, so we used those.  Any color will work.  You can really extend this by having your child pattern with the buttons, sort by size, add, subtract, make even groups for multiplication, etc.

6. Read the book “Apples” by Ken Robbins.  Retell to a grownup.
–>Any non-fiction book about apples will work.  This one fit well into the box I had.  I selected a non-fiction book to add in a science aspect to the box, but you could easily do a fiction book.  In my apple center last year, we had Ten Apples Up On Top and did a block activity with it.  You could easily have your child use the buttons to put ten apples on top of the book characters, or some such.  Use what you have, and you know your child – if your child won’t be “into” a non-fiction text, use what they will love!

apple word build7. Build the fall words on your magnet tray!
–>This activity is totally a repeat from last year’s apple center, because it’s just so fun and it’s always great to practice spelling!  I didn’t want to buy a bunch of magnetic letters, so I just wrote the words on index cards, cut out the letters, and put magnet tape on the back!  Super simple and cheap!  And obviously, you can save them from year to year to use again!  You’ll also need some sort of magnetic tray – I got this pizza pan from Dollar Tree and she uses it for all of her magnetic activities, including building sandcastles, which she loves.

apple measure8. How many cups of apple “tea” mix?  Find and bury treasure!
–>Again a repeated material from last year’s apple center, I simply took a bag of green decorative fish tank rocks from Dollar Tree and added some Black Apple Tea leaves to it to make it smell like apples.  We didn’t know that she has Anosmia back then… (Anosmia = no sense of smell.)  To extend this activity this year, I took the rock/tea mix and put into a small container and provided her with measuring cups to measure with, and a couple of fall shaped mini cookie cutters to bury and then dig around for.  She loves digging in the rocks, and will bury and find and rebury and find the cookie cutters over and over again.

This apple activity box has already brought us HOURS of fun, and I just created it this week.  It’s sure to be a hit well into early October, when I plan to take them out and convert the box to a pumpkin activity for Halloween/Thanksgiving!  I hope you enjoy the ideas… I’d love to know how you put them to use with your kids!  Please share!  If you’re not following my Facebook page, please be sure to click over and “like” the page and then share your photos and ideas anytime! 🙂

Building Duplo Sentences and Pronoun Matching

duplo sentencesI saw this idea from Allison McDonald, over at No Time For Flash Cards, and I thought it was really cool… but wasn’t sure how to relate it to Becca.  Then one day it hit me.  Sentences.  Becca is always wanting to write.  But due to her very asynchronous development paired with her perfectionism… she is unable to write in a manner that looks correct to her, so she doesn’t enjoy writing.  She gets very frustrated.  But this way… this way the world is opened to her.

I started by taking the Duplos that she already had and writing a bunch of words on them.  We did the activity and then we discovered I had inadvertently forgotten to make any prepositions.  And we needed color words.  And adverbs.  And… and… and… she thought of more words than I had ever dreamed of.  SO, since we needed to go to Toys R Us that afternoon anyway, we got another set of Duplos.  Because truly, we can’t ever get enough of them around here.

As of today, she has 169 words and punctuation marks.  (And that includes three blocks with ” ‘s ” written on them.)  She keeps thinking of more words she wants.  I told her that she’ll need to wait a while because we aren’t going to buy any more Duplos right now.  She wants me to write words on all of her brother’s Duplos too… which I have also held off doing because his go to specific sets.

I love the tenacity with which she approaches building her sentences.  Sometimes she likes to build silly sentences just by putting words together that don’t make sense.  Sometimes I think of sentences and have her hunt through all the blocks to find the words that are in the sentence.  And sometimes she comes up with things on her own that just blow me away.  When she wrote “I love my Mommy,” I couldn’t help but smile.

She has discovered that she can also build sentences vertically, and she loves sorting the words by type (which I made easy for her by matching the colors – all the verbs are yellow, food nouns are light blue, pronouns are red, etc.)  It’s a great way to talk about types of words, appropriate punctuation marks, sentence structure.  She can write stories by building them vertically, or by making them wrap around the table.  It’s also a great way to practice sight words if you have some words your child is struggling to remember.

I love the flexibility that comes with this activity, and that she still has the ability to use her engineering skills to build fun towers as well.  For example, yesterday I told her to forget there were words on the blocks, and just build something cool.  Then after she was done building, we read all the words in order and giggled at the silly nonsensical story she had written!

I also made male and female word sets to reinforce male and female pronouns, and that can be an activity in and of itself sorting them into the correct stack.

pronoun matching

We have a bunch of flat Duplos that I haven’t been sure what to do with… and I think I’m going to use them for math facts.  Whatever I decide to do with them, you can be sure I’ll share.  What ideas do you have for fun ways to use Duplos?

This post was not sponsored in any way by Lego Duplo… we’re just a family who loves Legos and Duplos and has an overabundance!