Merry Christmas From Our Home To Yours
It is Christmas!
Christmas has been very different for the past couple of years due to the pandemic and restrictions. It is nice to have a more normal Christmas break this year. I am really happy to have a family Christmas.
Last year, my daughter's family tested positive for Covid on Christmas Eve and we needed to quickly make different plans. The longterm home where my mother-in-law lives went into very strict restrictions on New Year's Eve and for 3 months I was the only person allowed to see her. Not what we were hoping for. It made the holidays bittersweet.
Our Christmas wishes became musical videos for each other. Here is the one we shared last Christmas.
Our kids also made music videos for us. Here is a parody our son made to ours.
Here are the family videos made by some of our kids and their families.
Carols and music are a special part of Christmas. I hope you enjoy listening to these ones. I know they have special meaning for us, but they can also bring joy to others as we think of Christmas and family time.
Finally, this is my daughter and her kids singing Away In The Manger for a virtual Christmas service for her church.
I could go on and on about music and how it has impacted our family, but let's just say it is more than a hobby. It is something that is of great meaning to us. As you can see from this photo, even the grandchildren play musical instruments.
I am pretty sure we will have other musical moments to share in the future.
I hope that you are able to have some special moments with family this holiday season. Enjoy your holiday break. See you in the New Year.
Preparing for Father's Day
June is coming and this is a time for celebrating Father's Day with dads and other special men. This can create a wide range of emotions for kids. Celebrating our fathers and spending time thinking about them and all they mean to us is easy for most of us, but there are many situations where it is not as easy, and it can even be traumatic.
Does this mean that we shouldn't do things to recognize fathers? I guess that is a question for each teacher to decide. For me, I still think it is important, although I do think it can be approached in a more inclusive way.
There are often situations where the father is not part of the family unit. In these cases, there are possibly other men who fill some of that void and act as a father figure. They could be uncles, step dads, foster dads, grandfathers, a family friend, teacher, even an older brother. These special men could be celebrated on this day and recognized for all they do.
Sometimes the relationship between a father and child is not good. The child may not feel comfortable creating something for the father. Maybe there could be some choice as to whether to do something for another special person, or to create something more generic. It is up to you as the teacher to help the child to feel comfortable during the activity and sometimes this may be differentiating in a unique way for individual children.
Ultimately, we want to be able to celebrate people for how they positively impact our lives. During discussions with our students, this can be a focus. Gratitude is very important to understand and teach. This is one of the ways we can do this. In a "Me" world, it is necessary to actually help kids understand the importance of thinking about others and being grateful for all we have and for all that others do for us.
Some Father's Day Ideas That Celebrate Special Men
If you are making a gift, it can be used for anyone if it doesn't have the word "father" or "Dad" on it.
You could create cards for special people and leave out "Happy Father's Day".
You could do writing activities that are about special people and what makes them special.
You could do acrostics using different words that fit the special men in their lives.
Sign up for my newsletter to get some Father's Day cards. The full package is available in my TPT store.
Who Are Special Ladies?
Mother's Day is a time for celebrating special ladies. These could be moms, aunts, grandmothers, foster moms, cat moms, dog moms or any lady that is special and deserves to be celebrated.
I know this can be a difficult time for some children, because they may not have a mom or they may not have a situation that they want to celebrate, but we can always find a special lady in our lives, so I would encourage you to help these kids find a special woman that means something to them. Hey, it could even be a teacher.
If you are like many teachers, you probably have a stash of dollar store items for creating things. Over the years, I collected many different things for my classroom. I also liked doing crafts with my grandkids, so I collected things for them as well.
When a special occasion comes up, I go to my stash and I start to let the creativity flow. I never know what it will be until I start putting things together. Of course, I start with simple ideas like cards or bookmarks, and go from there.
Some special cards for Mother's Day
Here are a couple of card ideas I put together to show what you can do. I started with a folded shape that opens up to a symmetrical pattern. You can choose any shape you would like, but for the example I chose a hand and a heart. Note: If you are teaching symmetry in math, this is a great activity to practice what has been learned.
Another card example was a basic one with a sun on it and a blank page inside for writing a special message. Again, this could be any shape or design, I just felt like using the sun because it was a bright sunny day outside.
Bookmarks are easy to make and are fun to use. There are many different types of bookmarks you can try. Here are some with fancy toppers. Just add your own message and you are set.
Hint: Laminate the bookmarks after you add the message, but before you add the toppers, so that it is easier for writing out the message.
A Unique Flower Pot
It is spring time, so there are many different pots available from seedlings that are ready to put into the garden. It is also the time of year when many classes study plants and grow beans or other seeds and then give them as gifts. What better time to decorate pots for the plants to go into.
It is actually very easy to make a decorative pot. You can use acrylic paint and create designs on it or you can decopage it. You don't require any fancy materials to do this. I often used wrapping paper cut into small cubes and a mixture of white glue and water. You can buy the commercial product, but the glue mixture works just as well. Once the pot is dry, I spray it with an acrylic spray to give it a shine.
Each time you make something, you can add a twist to make it different and unique. Let your creativity flow as you try out new ideas. Imagination has no limitations!
I hope you have some fun as you come up with new ideas for your students. I would love to hear about some of them.
How to help children learn about their family heritage
Teaching about family and cultural diversity can be fun, but also tricky. It is a time when some people may find it difficult to share or investigate their roots. I learned this as a fairly new teacher. I hope to be able to help change this.
I had a young girl who was afraid to let people know about her background because she had been teased at a former school. She chose to use her mom's last name instead of her dad's last name because she didn't want people to know her nationality. This really disturbed me. How could people make such a young person feel like this?
It was so bad, that when her half sister came to visit, she didn't want to share about her visit because they would hear her name and tease her. (at our school this would not have been the case, but she didn't realize that)
I decided that I needed to do something about this. I wanted my students to be able to celebrate their heritage and be proud of it, not ashamed. I decided to create a unit where they could research the places where their families came from and share different traditions, cultural activities, food, and even special articles or memorabilia.
At the time that this unit was forming in my mind, my son was teaching in South Korea, and I had an exchange student from the place where he was teaching. This allowed me to work with the young student at the same time. (He had very limited English, so I was able to support him with his research and presentation.)
I called the unit Who Are We? Discovering Our Roots. This unit was far more successful than I ever imagined. Every child created an incredible display of who they were and shared enthusiastically with others when we did a school wide presentation and a presentation to parents. We had music, food, special items that were from their culture and fabulous backdrop displays,
The best part was, that everyone was excited to celebrate who they were, even my little girl who was so afraid earlier. As a matter of fact, she shared both her father's and her mother's roots.
I decided to recreate this unit a few times throughout my teaching career, and each time I was thrilled to see how enthusiastically the kids embraced who they were and shared their traditions with others.
A few years ago, I learned about people sending cutouts of themselves around the world on adventures. I discovered that this was something that came from an idea based on the Flat Stanley books written by Jeff Brown. I thought this would be fun to do, but I decided to put more of an educational twist on it. I decided that we would send out flat families around the world to different relatives that lived far away from us. That is how the Flat Family Project was born.
I did this project a couple of times before I retired and it was so much fun for the kids. Each child sent away a journal and a hand drawn picture of their family along with a letter and a return envelope. Throughout the following weeks packages arrived at the school filled with journal entries and photographs of the flat family adventures. Many also included special items from their family members that would be cherished keepsakes for years to come.
I did have a couple of students that were unable to connect with a family member elsewhere, but they were still able to participate. I contacted some of my cousins and they said they would get their children to help out. It was so good to know that everyone would be able to take an adventure and receive a parcel back. (I did check with the students' families to see if they were okay with this.)
One of the families even sent back a book for our class with an inscription and drawing of their flat family.
If you would like to check out either of these projects, you can find them here. I know that I would be doing them again if I was still in the classroom.
Thanksgiving And Gratitude
There is always occasion to be thankful and to show gratitude, but at this time of the year, it is a main focus here in Canada. Next week is Thanksgiving and despite all that is happening around us in the world, there are many things to be thankful for. This is the time to stop and take time to remember and recognize the good things and the things that we have been blessed to have or experience. This is especially important right now for our mental health.
Of course, this may not be an easy task for many because of all the negative stuff we are bombarded with daily, but it is very important for our own mental well being and for our interactions with others.
It is hard to be positive and happy when all we hear and see each day is negative. We need to start filling up our buckets and those around us with gratitude and blessings. As we begin to focus on these things, our attitudes will change and we will be able to be more positive and productive. People will want to be around us rather than avoid us and we will ultimately fill more buckets and spread kindness around us.
One way we can begin is to review what bucket filling is and why it is important. We can also start a gratitude journal and write down a list of things that we are grateful for. Another activity that works well is a compliment sheet for others. Often we don't realize that we are helping others feel good and doing things that they appreciate. A compliment sheet allows others to share what they notice or appreciate. It is amazing to watch kids beam when they see that they have made a difference for others.
I have created some seasonal gratitude journals. You can check them out here. I am giving a free copy of the fall journal for you to try. Get your free copy now.
For most people, Thanksgiving time is a special time for family. It is a time to gather together and share a meal and just enjoy being with each other. Last year, many of us didn't have the opportunity to get together because of the pandemic. Sure, we were able to meet through video chats, but it was not the same. It really brought home how much gathering together was important when we weren't able to do so. I am hoping that we can make up for that this year and really look forward to being with everyone. I hope that you are too.
Of course, not everyone will have a happy time during the Thanksgiving weekend. We need to be aware of those who may have challenges and try to help them to have a reason to be thankful too. This might be helping out at a soup kitchen and sharing smiles and stories with others. It might be inviting someone who is all alone over to join you for dinner. Each situation will be different and the options will need to fit in with the families doing the giving and sharing, but if everyone does something to make it a happier time, we will all benefit.
The saying, "Giving is better than receiving" never was truer. There is no better time to help change the outlook for people from a negative, hopeless view to a positive and hopeful view. Together we can help make this happen.
Of course, there are also all of the typical types of activities done at school that can be included as reading, writing, or math activities to help the kids focus on the meaning of Thanksgiving. These are important learning activities, but I still feel that we need to go further than just sharing information. We need to adopt a kindness attitude. What better time to do acts of kindness than now.
Acts of kindness can be very simple and free. Sometimes people think they need to spend money to give to others. A smile, helping hand, visit, or phone call can also help to make someone's day better. We can help in so many ways if we just stop and think about others and how we can make their day a little brighter. If we do acts of kindness for others, we will set the example for our students, and our own families.
I believe that an attitude of gratitude and thanks will make the world a better place. If we are grateful for what we have, we will have a positive outlook on life. We will be able to share this with others and fill our buckets and theirs too. It truly is important for good mental health.
Don't forget to grab your free copy of the fall gratitude journal here.
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Motivation-What Motivates You?
What motivates you to keep going?
What motivates you when you are stuck at home or in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable situation with work? I started thinking about this recently as I found myself running out of steam. It has been a year and a half since life changed because of the pandemic and some days it is hard to keep pushing on when it seems like things are not improving or changing fast enough.
Life changing events
Last year things changed in February for me, just a couple of weeks before the move to distance learning happened in Canada. My husband had a heart attack. All of a sudden, he was unable to do much more than go from the bed to the kitchen before being totally exhausted. He needed a walker just to get around the house. We were told that he basically had to cut sodium out of his diet (not easy for someone who likes spicy food) and he went on a regimen of medication. Talk about a change. The day before his heart attack he was preparing his equipment and getting ready to head off to be an official at a track meet down island. He was involved in many different activities. So was I. We had to put these on hold and focus on helping him recover. This was very difficult to do. We were so used to being busy and working with others. All of a sudden, we were at home every day doing just the basics (eat, sleep, eat, sleep, some computer time or tv time, eat, sleep.) We were gradually able to get outside and do some walking every day.
Here we are a year and half later, and he is stronger, able to do most things that he used to do, and healthier than he has been in a long time, but it hasn't been without its challenges. One thing we joke about is that everyone stopped doing what they were doing so he wouldn't feel left out as he recovered.
All kidding aside though, we have a greater appreciation for what is important in life, and also a realization that we need things to keep us motivated and able to keep going when it seems like nothing is changing. Family has been a big one for us. Even though we were not able to get together we were able to meet virtually and stay connected that way.
A Creative Outlet
My TeachersPayTeachers business is another thing that I can go to when I need to have a focus. I have been busy taking some workshops and courses so that I can better provide materials and resources for teachers and I have continued to learn new things. I also try to stay connected with teachers in my district as well as those I have met in my Facebook groups. This helps me to better understand how they are dealing with the issues out there right now. Together we are able to support each other as we get through this pandemic.
It is funny how we all react so differently to change. Some people embrace it as a challenge and forge ahead, others shrink back and begin to doubt their ability to go on, and others are somewhere in between. When we look back on this past year and a half, hopefully we will find that we surprised ourselves in a good way with how we were able to take the impossible situations and make them work, maybe not the way we thought, but I guess that is part of learning, and adjusting as we go along.
Through all the ups and downs, try to find things that inspire you and continue to motivate you to carry on. Have a wonderful year.
Week 6 Focus: Summer Support For Primary Kids
Have you ever worried about your child forgetting what was learned during the school year because of the long summer break? This is often referred to as the summer slide. Maybe you have had some experience with that yourself if you have taken a course and then not looked at the material for a long time.
Although there will be some lag after a break, if we do things to help make connections with the skills and concepts during the break, the lag will be short lived and with a bit of review, learning can continue. Here are some different ideas for summer support for your child.
Take a break from academics
Just as we need to recharge and refresh, so do children, especially this year after a much more stressful and different type of year. Taking a break from the academics and doing something different for awhile may actually help with improving learning and retention. Fresh ideas and more attention will be easier after a break as long as the break isn't too long.
Connect activities with real life
Do activities that connect the real world with the skills and concepts taught at school. If you would like more details about the various subjects, you can check out my previous blog posts in this series.
Week 1 Focus: Primary Language Arts
Week 2 Focus: Primary Math
Week 3 Focus: Primary Science
Week 4 Focus: Primary Social Studies Part 1
Week 5 Focus: Primary Social Studies Part 2
Make activities engaging and fun
Kids want to feel like they are having a break from school. There are many ways to help them continue learning without making them feel like they are doing schoolwork. Using games and hands on activities help to engage them and the concepts get reinforced while they are having fun. Here is an example. This is a blog post I wrote about using manipulatives and games in math.
Enjoy the outdoors while learning
Let them get outdoors and soak up the sun while learning at the same time. There are so many ways that learning can be done in the real world. Here are some examples.
Try having races and using stopwatches to see how fast they can go. Compare with others. See if they can better the times.
Go geocaching as a family and search for treasures. This is a great way to learn about places around the community that you may not have known existed. It is also a good way to practice using coordinates and mapping skills.
Collect rocks and sort them by different characteristics. Then find ways to use them for other activities such as graphing, crafts, and rock studies.
Let your child help plan a camping trip. They could help with planning meals, doing the grocery shopping, making lists of what equipment is needed, and looking at routes and distances.
History, Family Heritage and Traditions
Learn about local history by visiting museums, historic landmarks, interviewing long time residents or doing research at the library.
Help your child learn about your family heritage, culture, and traditions.
Create a pictorial timeline of the family.
Get creative practicing academics
It is important to sometimes do activities that specifically reinforce and review skills and concepts in order for them to be maintained. This is the time to get creative with the academic activities. Mix them up with active games and brain breaks to keep learning fun. Try to avoid too many worksheets and drills. Engage your child in reading and writing activities that have themes or special hooks to make them interesting. Perhaps the library has a summer program where different authors visit or they may have incentives for reading a certain number of books.
Puppet shows are a great way to practice acting out stories. Maybe your child could write some different stories and then create puppet shows to present to the family.
Try using nursery rhymes or simple songs and using them as the springboard for writing new lyrics based on a variety of themes. There are many different examples floating around on the internet this year that are parodies using popular themes.
Check out my blog posts for struggling readers, writers and learners for more ideas.
Motivating Reluctant Readers
Tips For Helping Struggling Writers In The Classroom
How To Engage Your Reluctant Learners In The Classroom
Math is definitely an area where I suggest using hands on activities and making things as visual as possible. Math is abstract and therefore hard for many young children to understand if they don't get lots of practical exposure first. I have worked with many older children that struggle with understanding how to do basic operations and more complex math because they haven't figured out how it works. By doing lots of games and hands on activities with them, they have been able to move on and be successful in more difficult math situations.
Check out some ways that I have worked with them to help math make sense.
Tips For Helping Math Make Sense
These are just a few ideas that may help to keep the learning going throughout the summer. Remember to have fun and the learning will happen.
Week 5 Focus - Social Studies Part 2
Last time I focused on inquiry processes, geography, history, culture and heritage. This time I would like to look at rights and responsibilities of people and regional leaders, relationships between people and the environment, multicultural awareness and diversity, and the interactions of First Nations people and early settlers.
These are all large topics, so I will only be touching on them, but depending on the age and understanding of your kids, you can dig in deeper.
Rights, roles, and responsibilities
Rights, roles, and responsibilities of people change depending on where they are and who they are. In the home, parents and children have different roles. The parents are the caregivers and they have the role of looking after their children and the responsibility of raising them to be responsible citizens. They are the role models. Children have different roles and responsibilities depending on if they are the only child or if they have siblings. Where they are in the group of siblings also affects their roles and responsibilities. They may be left in charge of others if they are the oldest. They may need to listen to older siblings if they are younger.
In the community, roles and responsibilities could be different. Community leaders make decisions that affect those in the community. They have the responsibility to listen to the members of the community and make decisions based on what is best for the community. Different groups have different degrees of responsibility. Adults have the opportunity to vote for different leaders and laws or bylaws.
It is important to have discussions about what the different roles and responsibilities are for at home, at school, and in the community. This might also be a good time to talk about how these roles and responsibilities have changed over time. For instance, when parents and grandparents were children, they would probably have had different roles and responsibilities than children today. They could share these changes with the kids and maybe talk about why they might be different.
Along with roles and responsibilities, come rights. This is more difficult for young children to understand. They should be informed of some of these rights as they are old enough to understand, and as they gain more maturity and understanding, these rights can be explained further.
One of the big ones for me is that everyone has a right to a safe, inclusive environment at school, in the classroom, on the playground, and in the community. This can be tied in with responsibility during discussions. Another one is that everyone has a right to be heard, but that also comes with a responsibility to listen when others want to be heard.
A big part of classroom management and class rules is based on the rights and responsibilities of those in the classroom as they work together. If they are mutually understood, this will make it easier for them to be followed. Here are some posters and ideas for routines and manners that will help kids with these.
Classroom Manners Dos And Don'ts Posters
Dos And Don'ts Manners For Home
Relationships between people and the environment
Relationships between people and environments is also an important aspect of social studies and ties in with our personal and community responsibilities. Depending on the type of community, different industries and services are an important part of the livelihood of the community members. Along with these industries and services comes the responsibility to make sure that they are not negatively impacting the environment. This can be a difficult balance at time. It might be an interesting angle to look at as kids get older. For young children, learning about the different industries and services in their community, region, or country would be a possible research project. Here is a resource that I have successfully used with late primary grades in the past.
Industries and Services project
Protecting our environment is a focus that is often a main topic around Earth Day, but should be considered throughout the year. Maybe it could be a family event to do a beach cleanup or a neighborhood walk and check for litter. It is amazing how much litter is just tossed even when garbage cans are nearby.
Plastic is everywhere. Maybe the focus could be to see how many ways plastic can be replaced in daily life. Or perhaps, how many different ways we can reuse containers instead of using one use type ones.
These are only a couple of suggestions. There are many different ways that we can help our environment. It might be fun to come up with ways that the class or families can do things to make a difference.
Multicultural awareness and respect for diversity
Our countries are made up of many different cultures and beliefs and it is important to respect these various cultures and beliefs. This is what makes our country rich in traditions, celebrations, holidays, special foods, music and many other things. Cultural differences can be acknowledged, but the diversity of people needs to be respected. We do not have to all have the same beliefs and values, but we all need to be respectful and responsible citizens.
Mutual tolerance and acceptance is what leads to a peaceful existence. We spend time teaching kids about acts of kindness, and spreading peace. It is important that we model the same behavior for them. Kindness is huge. It goes a long way in maintaining a peaceful existence.
Right now in Canada, there is a lot of attention being focused on the First Nations people because of the injustices inflicted on them in the residential schools and the multi-generational impact it has had. In other places it might be racial prejudice towards other ethnic groups.
In order for healing to begin, it is important that this be acknowledged and that changes happen. We need to be the change and not pass off blame. This may be a tough thing to accept, but if we are to move forward, we need to show our children that wrongs sometimes happen, but they should be made right. When we say Every Child Matters, we need to take action to show that we mean it.
This poster demonstrates the impact that one person can make by being kind and respectful. Imagine if we all did this. If you would like a copy of this poster, click on the image above.
First Nations People And Early Settlers
Prior to teaching at my last school, I didn't have much of an idea of how life was for our First Nations people. I didn't have any First Nations children in my classes. I understood the importance of celebrating our heritage, and I did lots of projects and activities with my students, but this was one area that was missing and I hadn't even realized it until I moved schools and had several First Nations children in my class. I made it my mission to learn more and to make sure that my lessons were inclusive and respectful of these kids as well. I had the good fortune to have a student's parent come and make bentwood boxes with my class. Her father also had a longhouse which he invited us to visit. We used birchbark disks for plates and had salmon and bannock while there. It was a wonderful cultural experience for my students as well as myself, and my student and his family were proud to share their culture with us.
Here is a book that I found very useful when talking about the First Nations people and helping the children to understand some of their contributions to making our country special. I discovered lots too. If you would like to find out more or download a copy of the lesson plans and the book, click on the image below. It will take you to the government website where all the information is available.
I also created a unit that focused on ways the early settlers and the First Nations people might have worked together. We looked at what life might have been like in the Pacific Northwest and on the Plains. We researched types of dwellings, types of canoes, food sources, trade, and life as a child and what it might have been like.
The contributions of each group was looked at and the projects created were to reflect this. It was interesting to see which groups were chosen and what elements were represented in the project models. It was interesting to see how my First Nations children were able to add some of their own heritage into the projects.
I have to admit, because my students were young, I didn't go into much detail about what happened later or about how the children were sent to residential schools. In recent years, this has been addressed more in the young grades and discussed in detail in the intermediate grades.
There are some good books available that help to talk to kids about residential schools. Here is one source.
We are lucky to have a good relationship with some of the elders of the band and there have been many different activities and sessions that have helped with understanding the culture and traditions. Several of our students participate in the dance celebrations and drumming and singing. Language classes are also a part of the week. One of my favorite activities was a nature study in the nearby forest where we learned about the different trees and plants and how they were used for clothing, medicine, food, and even transportation.
If you would like to find out more about the project that we did, you can check it out here.
I hope that the tips and activities I have shared with you will help to make connections with social studies taught at school. There are many opportunities for expanding and enriching understanding through discussions, research, and activities done at home as well.
There is much more to social studies, but hopefully these ideas will be a springboard to further learning.
Week 4 Focus: Primary Social Studies Part 1
For the next couple of posts, I will be focusing on social studies, what it is, and how to help primary kids with tips for learning for school and home.
What is social studies? In simple terms, it is the study of people and their relationships to other people and the world. For young children, it starts with family and then spreads out to community, regions, provinces, states, or territories, and from there, to countries and the world.
It can be broken up into 5 different categories: geography, history, culture and society, civics and government, and economics. I will be focusing on some of these categories today, and some others next time.
An important part of social studies is developing inquiry processes and skills for asking questions, gathering information, interpreting and analyzing it, and communicating effectively. It can involve mapping skills, learning about the world around them, and researching and reporting findings.
For primary kids, the focus is on family, neighbourhoods, communities, and perhaps larger regions such as provinces, states, or territories. As they get to later primary grades, they begin to investigate their country, other countries, and the world.
Geography is the study of places and the relationship between people and the environment. For simplicity we will be focusing on the study of places right now. This starts with looking at the neighborhood, the community, the town or city, the region, province, state, or territory, the country, the continent and the world.
Mapping skills, designing and creating a community, or doing research on a city, region, or country all help kids to better understand the world around them.
Mapping skills start with being able to recognize that maps are used to represent real places, and symbols or pictures are used to represent real locations. This progresses to being able follow a map to a destination, use cardinal directions, interpret symbols and legends, create simple maps, and read more complex maps.
There are many different types of mapping activities that can be done to practice these skills. I wrote about many of these here.
Here are some resources that can help with these skills.
Mapping Skills Using Grids
Mapping Skills Using Grids (online version)
Creating A Community
A fun extension to mapping is geocaching. This is like a scavenger hunt with added technology. The goal is to locate hidden containers by using a gps device to follow coordinates to specific locations. It is something that can be done as a family and lets people explore areas around them that they might not visit otherwise. Geocaches have been hidden all over the world, so it can be done when traveling as well.
History is the study of past events, stories, and people in different places. This includes the significance of various events, objects, people, and places in the past and how they may impact our lives today.
Then And Now
With young children, it is important to start with events that they can relate to. One way, is to look at the community they live in and find out how it has changed over time. There are many different ways to learn about the past and how things have changed over time. One way is to visit the local museum.
I often booked field trips to our local museum. There were also video or slide show presentations there that showed how the city had changed over time. The kids loved seeing what it used to look like where current landmarks now sit. I also borrowed the kits they made available to use in the classroom that included artifact replicas that the children could handle and even try to use.
Another place to find out information is the library. There you may be able to look at old newspaper articles or books that may have been written.
Interviewing grandparents, seniors, or elders and looking at old photo albums will also provide some understanding of how life has changed over the years.
Timelines and order of events
Creating picture timelines of families are great ways for young children to see how their families fit together. These could start at any point: when their parents met, when they were born, when they moved to a certain place.
Community events timelines are a good way to help understand what events are significant in a community. These could be annual events, historic events, or even one time events that mark important happenings in the community.
As children get older and begin to study a bigger part of their world, timelines could be done for larger regions, such as provinces, states, or territories, or even countries or the world. These timelines can be less pictorial and more detailed with dates and specific events listed.
Culture, heritage, and traditions in society
Diverse cultures make up our communities and countries. They provide a rich blend of customs, art, music, traditions, holidays, food, clothing, and dress. It is important to value the many different aspects of culture that make us who we are as well. These characteristics of various cultures need to be acknowledged and better accepted in our communities. Research activities can be done and families can be involved in them.
Several years ago, I had a student that was afraid to let people know about part of her heritage. Apparently, in another school she had been teased and she was afraid of this happening again. It made me sad to see a child so young feeling this way. I decided to create a project that would help her, and any others who may feel the same, to celebrate who they are and how their heritage made them the unique people they are. By the end of the project, she was excited to share that she had a mixed heritage and she began to feel proud of it.
Here is the project we did.
Another fun activity we did was a flat family project. It was based on the story of Flat Stanley and it came about after learning of a teacher who started send Flat Stanley on trips. In our case, we sent our flat families to other parts of the country and across the world to visit family members. You can read more about it here.
As you can see, there are many different aspects to social studies. These are just some of the ideas and activities that you can try. I hope they are helpful for you. Next time, I will focus on other aspects of social studies.
Week 3 Focus: Primary Science
This week, I am sharing some tips and activities that can help primary kids with science as they develop a better understanding of how our world works. Science is involved in every aspect of our lives. At school, kids are introduced to some of the basics, and various experiments and investigations are done. At home, more of these types of activities can happen and deeper learning can be accomplished.
I know that as I was preparing for this blog post, I was amazed at how much we do that I hadn't even thought of as science, but rather, just part of my daily life. If you stop and look around you, it is amazing to discover all the science that is happening right in front of your eyes.
The ideas I am sharing, are divided into several different areas, but they are only a small glimpse into the world of science. They are like a springboard into where you can go to continue to further investigate the different areas.
The Scientific Method, or Scientific Process, is a way of looking at how things work in science. We begin with a question, form a guess as to what we think might happen (hypothesis), gather materials and make a step by step plan (materials and procedure), notice what happens (observations and results), and form a conclusion that may or may not be the same as our initial guess.
Here is a resource that sets it out in a way for kids to understand.
Chemistry and experiments
Chemical reactions are fascinating for kids to watch and try out. There are many different experiments that can be done at home that show how things change when different ingredients are combined. Just think of times when you may have gone to a science fair at the school, or maybe even participated in one. There were undoubtedly a few chemical reactions going on there. Here are a few popular ones that I have used or remember seeing others do:
making a volcano, elephant toothpaste, Coke and Mentos.
Sometimes these chemical changes require added things like heat or cold to happen. Cooking and baking are examples of how we use chemistry in daily situations.
Biology and life cycles
Studying the life cycles of plants and animals is a great way to introduce biology and the study of living organisms. It is exciting to see how a seed begins to sprout and grow into a plant that produces more seeds that continue the cycle. If it is a fruit or vegetable seed, it is an added bonus to be able to eat what has been grown as well. Here is a resource that may be useful for recording what happens.
My Bean Plant Observation Journal
Another fun thing to do, is to study the different animals and learn more about them and their lives. This was always a great research project for my students. Here are a couple of research templates that you could use if you would like to try to do this. I would sometimes add in a powerpoint component with my students so they could share with others later.
Animal research planning templates
Studying about the earth and the solar system that it is part of are fun ways to learn about where we live and how it works. Checking out solar eclipses or lunar eclipses, learning about the phases of the moon, the planets and how they orbit the sun, investigating rocks and minerals, and studying the weather are all part of earth sciences and there are many ways they can be studied both at school and at home.
How many times have you come across interesting rocks or seen land formations that are intriguing and wondered how they may have been formed? Rock collecting and sorting is fun and it can also be a great learning experience. Combine that with learning about volcanoes, mining, and how different rocks are formed, and how they are used, can be a great way to study about rocks and minerals together. I still remember when I first went to Hawaii and saw the lava fields and the different rock formations and layers as we drove around. It was so interesting to see what we had studied at school in person and to experience how it impacted the area.
When studying the moon phases, we used Oreo cookies to make the different phases. Not only was it a great way to reinforce what we learned, it was fun to do and we got to eat them afterwards.
I have yet to find a student who didn't enjoy learning about the solar system. One of my favorite ways to study this, is to do it as a project. We do lots of research and activities along the way, but ultimately, each child gets to share what they have learned as a presentation style of their choice. This has always been a family affair, because families are encouraged to work with their kids on the final project. We have had so many amazing projects over the years and the kids have always been able to competently explain their knowledge in a way that they felt was best for them. You can check out the project and read more about it here.
Our Solar System Project
Physics-gravity, magnets, soundwaves, buoyancy and density
Physics encompasses so many things. Here are a few different aspects that may be fun to explore.
Gravitational force is what keeps us on the earth and not floating around in space. When we think of gravity, we often think of astronauts floating around in the spaceship. We don't really think about how it affects things around us. Without the pull of gravity we would not be able to walk, sit, take a shower, or do any of the basic things we do every day.
There are many different ways to look at how the gravitational pull works. One way is to do what I call the "clink-clunk" test. This is a fun way to test gravity and practice using the scientific method at the same time.
Studying about magnets is another great way to see how the gravitational forces work. Kids love to see how things attract and repel. There are so many cool ways to test out if objects are magnetic or not and this can keep them busy for quite a while. They may start to drive you crazy, but they will be engaged!
There are lots of different fun activities that can be done to learn about sound waves and how sound travels. One of my favorites is making string telephones. Here is a craftivity and experiment that can be done to test out different types of containers and how well they can make sound travel.
Another interesting thing to test out is how size and vibration speed changes the pitches of the sound. I have an old fashioned car horn that I used to keep for this type of activity. When a bicycle horn is squeezed, it makes a fairly high pitched sound, but when the car horn is squeezed it make a much lower pitched sound. This can be a good topic for discussion and one of the activities that can go along with it is to try to find other examples of how size and speed of vibrations change the pitch. Here are a couple of examples: a violin and a double bass, a short ruler and a longer ruler.
Buoyancy And Density
Buoyancy and density are also fascinating to study. One of my go to experiments is dancing raisins because they demonstrate how things that are more dense sink, but that with the gas bubbles attached to them, they become less dense and float until the bubbles pop and then they sink again.
Adding salt to water and then placing an egg in it is another experiment that amazes the kids. They are surprised to see how the salt water causes the egg to float. The salt makes the water more dense than the egg causing it to float.
Because different liquids have different densities, they can create an interesting display of layers when added together. The more dense liquids settle to the bottom and the less dense liquids float to the top.
Have you ever noticed how quickly a person sinks when they are in the water in an upright position, but that they float when they are stretched out on their back or stomach? This is a great way to visually show buoyancy and how the water is displaced differently when the body is spread out allowing it to float.
These are just a few examples of ways to show how buoyancy and density work.
States Of Matter
Solids, liquids, and gases are also fun to explore. Learning about the different states of matter and how they are the same or different peaks the curiosity of kids. They love to do hands on activities too, so it is fun for them to create their own water cycle and do experiments with ice. Being able to connect the water cycle with how the weather works and how nature recycles is also a great learning experience. It might also be interesting to discuss and explore how the gases in the air we breathe can be found in other states as well.
A popular experiment at recent science fairs with younger students has been creating electric currents using fruits and vegetables. They are excited to see how these act as conductors for the electricity. Working with batteries and other electronic devices also fascinates them.
Electricity is fun to study, but can be a bit dangerous too. It is important to make sure that these activities are monitored. I learned through experience as a child that it isn't something to take lightly. I had not been taught much about electricity when I was young and I tried to get a plug out of a socket with a knife. Not a good move. The electrical shock went through me and into my sister who was leaning up against me. It also made a big black mark on the knife. We were very lucky not to have been seriously hurt. I definitely have a much more cautious approach to electricity now.
Static electricity is also interesting to investigate. Have you ever petted an animal and then touched something and felt a shock? What about walking across carpet and then reaching to touch a door handle? This shock is caused by static electricity. There are other fun examples that don't give you a shock but demonstrate the electricity. We used to have fun rubbing a balloon in our hair and then sticking it on the wall. Sometimes, your hair will have static electricity when you take off a hat.
Lightning is also a form of static electricity. This might be a great place to do some research about how static electricity works.
As you can see, there are many different ways we can explore science. I have only just touched on a few. If you would like to explore more ideas, there are several places that have science activities for kids. Here are a couple that I found that might be interesting to check out.
100 Amazing Food Experiments For Kids
Fun With Science: 27 Sensory Science Experiments For Kids
I hope you have found some helpful tips and ideas for connecting what is being taught at school with ways to continue investigating science at home in every day situations. A child's natural curiosity can be a great springboard into many scientific adventures. Happy investigating!
Don't forget to grab your free copy of The Clink Clunk Test.
About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.