Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sneak Peek: Classical Explorations Week 3

Continuing with our African theme from the past two weeks, we’ll be using A Savanna Food Chain: A Who-Eats-What Adventure in Africa as our starting point to learn about food webs and chains. It’s a choose your own adventure book. Every kid will receive an animal picture and they get to choose who gets eaten next. By the end of the book we should be pretty thoroughly tangled up in a web of string but hopefully the interconnectedness of organisms will be a whole lot clearer.
We’re making a whole army of Paper Soldiers of the Middle Ages: Vol 1: The Crusades. They’re supposed to be historically accurate so all of the paper clutter is for a good cause.
I and You and Don't Forget Who: What Is a Pronoun? is a fun book that we’ll read during one of our multiple craft times.
Each student will receive a coloring page of Richard I from Kings and Queens of England (Dover History Coloring Book).
Snacks will be chessmen cookies, fruit, and cheese.
During our main activity (no picture. sorry.) we’ll merge math and medieval. Completing skip counting challenges will allow the kids to rise in status from page, to squire, to knight. When everyone is knighted we will make cardboard shields and then go on a quest in search of hidden scrolls. When they’re all found, we will put them in order and read part of the story of Richard I. I'll have some books on Knights from the library that the kids and I will look through together.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

World Catch: CC Cycle 2, Week 1, Review

We invented this geography review game today. It was a hit. SugarPlum (5) burst into tears when I told her we needed to move on to another activity. 

Supplies: Inflatable Globe, Stickers (optional)

How to Play: If players are young enough that they have trouble identifying their right and left, you may wish to place a sticker on the back of the right hand so they remember which one they are using for the game.

Players toss the ball back and forth. When a player catches the ball they identify one of the continents or oceans under their right hand, then toss it to the next player who does the same.

Left: Obvious! Players identify one of the continents or oceans that their left hand touched when they caught the ball.
Drop: if a player fails to catch the ball, they must identify a continent or ocean specified by the player who tossed the ball to them. My kid found it useful (and hilarious) to make me try to catch crazy shots and then identify the continents and oceans she was having trouble remembering.
Right/Left: The person tossing the ball calls out “Right!” or “Left!” as they toss the ball forcing the catcher to quickly identify that hand.
Everything: Instead of identifying just one continent or ocean under their hand when they catch the ball, players identify every continent or ocean that hand touches.

Amazon carries inflatable globes at just about every price point. You can see from the picture that we're using something similar to this Animals of the World Inflatable Globe which I picked up at Goodwill for $0.99. If I were buying one new I would choose something with no color, writing, or pictures that would help with the identification process. When our globe pops, which it inevitably will, I’m considering purchasing one of these:
The earth from space. I love the beautiful colors but since there is no writing, political boundaries, color coding, or extra images SugarPlum would be forced to identify continents and oceans by the shape of the landmasses and bodies of water alone.
You can label this globe. It would be great for review when SugarPlum is a little older. Maybe she could even color it in with sharpies.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sneak Peek: Classical Explorations Week 2

ART: Last week, the kids made a paper diorama of the savanna. This week we'll be populating it with standing paper animals and reinforcing our art concept of mirror images.
SCIENCE: Active games to get the kids thinking about the types of consumers and who eats what.
SNACK: Sticking with the animal theme of art and science, I’m serving up this little parade.

Lions and Tigers and Bears - Yum! Yum! recipe
Savanna Snack
 Photo from kraftrecipes.com
We'll build a motte and bailey style castle and perhaps assault it
 with marshmallow projectiles.
Kids will receive coloring pages for both King Harold II and
King William I.
A search and find book with minimal text that follows life in a castle
through a whole year.
Pages six and seven contain a great image of an early castle like the ones
built by the Normans shortly after they conquered the Saxons.
Plus there are lots of images to find.
We'll be reading If you were a Pronoun by Nancy Loewen.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Backyard and Beyond: Hands on Exploration of the Ecosystem

Here are some books I'm using with SugarPlum (5) as we study our biome, the deciduous forest, and ecology right in our own backyard.

IF YOU CAN ONLY PICK ONE: Janice VanCleave's Ecology for Every Kid: Easy Activities that Make Learning Science Fun is my core book for our ecology unit. It covers the basics and several biomes.
BackyardA beautifully illustrated book which examines a single square foot in an average backyard. Great to get kids thinking about what they might actually find outside. Contains practical hints and experiments.
The Young Naturalist (Hobby Guides (Usborne Paperback))One of my favorite books as a child. SugarPlum loves it too. Not as practical as some of the other books but definitely one to get kids dreaming big. Contains information which is helpful if you get inspired by One Small Square: Backyard and decide to cordon off part of your yard and examine the habitat and it's critters in depth.
Backyard Pets: Activities for Exploring Wildlife Close to Home Don't add this book to your curriculum unless you are actually considering allowing your child to temporarily adopt a toad, turtle, worms, or other readily available backyard resident.
Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard explains food webs and chains using a habitat that most kids who've had a garden will at least be able to relate to even if they haven't observed it in real life.
Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard isn't a field guide. It is a hilarious cartoon style look at the what, when, where, how, and why of watching birds.
Your Backyard (Discovering Nature) each two page spread focuses on one aspect of nature in the backyard: soil, seeds, plants, birds, creepy crawlies. It contains step-by-step instructions for experiments and projects that are easy to follow, doable, and not overly ambitious. It's not comprehensive by any means but provides a great hands-on introduction that gets little people excited and thinking about scientific concepts.
I'm using Nature In Your Backyard to add to our list of nature based experiments. There is some overlap with Your Backyard from the discovering nature series.
You could probably do a lot of the activities and experiments in Woods And Meadows (Discovering Nature) in a suburban backyard, but I think it's a great resource to use to talk about adventures you've had in local parks and forests.
WoodsWalk: Peepers, Porcupines, and Exploding Puff Balls! Explores the forest and what you might find there season by season.
TOP PICK: If you have an early reader, Forest Explorer: A Life-sized Field Guide is a book you simply must check out. Two page spreads contain a collage of life size images from the forest and are followed by two page spreads which contain information about the organism. The best part about this book is its picture index which allows pre-readers and children just beginning to read to look up animals on their own.
I'm pretty sure that kids and brooks go together even better than peanut butter and jelly. The Brook Bookis a great text to accompany your kids' next excursion to their preferred summer habitat. It  isn't comprehensive, but it's a great introduction to the variety of life one can find in even the smallest streams.
Addition In The Forest (Math All Around) isn't an ecology book per se, but it's a great way to tie in math to our study of our local biome, the deciduous forest.
Don't let the simple kid-friendly illustrations of Pond Walk deceive you. This slender paperback contains far more than the story of a little bear's walk with his mom. It's a great book to get your kids excited about sketching nature.
FOR THE LITTLEST PEOPLE: Trout Are Made of Trees is a picture book that tells the story of the life cycle of trout and how we fit into it. Proof that science isn't (and needn't be) inaccessible for even the youngest children.
Chipmunk at Hollow Tree Lane - a Smithsonian's Backyard Book transforms the life of a chipmunk into an exciting story that I've read again and again. Check out all of the books in this series. They're wonderful.
Woodchuck at Blackberry Road - a Smithsonian's Backyard Book
is another great title in the series. Beautiful and accurately illustrated, this series turns each animal's life into a riveting story that your kids will want to read again and again.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Book Basics: an Annotated List for CC Cycle 2 Week 1

Here's a look at the core books we're using for week one of Classical Conversations cycle two.

Science: Biomes
I know this looks sparse. It is. I actually have several posts on great books related to the ecology portion Classical Conversations' second cycle that I'll be posting soon. If you live in a different biome, check out the other books in the same series, Biomes of North America, by Rebecca L. Johnson.

I'm organizing our ecology study a little differently than CC does. First, we're doing a year long nature journal. The goal is to identify organisms in our own back yard and figure out how they fit into food webs, what happens as the seasons change, etc. So for the first month most of our books are geared toward getting that project underway and studying the biome in which we live, the deciduous forest. After that I'm focusing on a biome a week. It's not like you can teach this stuff in neat little isolated segments anyway. It's a big, bold, beautiful, crazily interconnected world. By the time we do our mini units on Rain Forests, Deserts, Grasslands, Tundra, Coniferous Forests, and Oceans Sugar Plum will have memorized a lot of the vocabulary to discuss the organisms that live within each biome and how they relate to each other.

History: Charlemage
If you've scoured your local library for books on Charlemagne, then you know how hard it is to find something at an early elementary level. I pulled out a couple of books for late elementary that we may skim over. The book I'm really excited about though is The Elephant from Baghdad by Mary Tavener Holmes. It's based on an actual historical document. I'm all for myths and legends and fairy tales, but I like something a little more substantial when I'm teaching about an actual historical figure, especially since SugarPlum still has trouble separating fact from fiction when it comes to history. Plus you can never go wrong with elephants.

Geography: Continents and Oceans

This is mostly review for SugarPlum. Since she can locate them on the map already, I've picked out some fun, fact-filled books so that she can learn more about major world areas in addition to being able to find them on a map or globe. The majority of geography focused books that I've been able to find at the library are geared toward late elementary or older. While I incorporate lots of books that are technically well above SugarPlum's level, I was super excited to find the Spotlight on the Continents series. It's geared toward younger readers and each book is filled with lots of pictures and concise text. Wild Animal Atlas: Earth's Astonishing Animals and Where they Live has been a favorite at our house for several years. It's probably how she originally memorized the continents.

Oceans Atlas by DK Publishing is a little over SugarPlum's head but she loves all of the diagrams and pictures and retains a surprising amount of the information. Science and geography are pretty inseparably intertwined at our house this week. I'll be posting a link to more great books on ocean biomes. Classical Conversations may have excluded the largest biome from their list but that doesn't mean we're skipping it.

We're not using the entire Activity Pack this week, just the jigsaw puzzle. I like this world map puzzle because the continents and oceans are clearly labeled and it shows the major biomes, so it can tie in with both science and geography.