Last week we got a little note from a fairy that read:
I have been thinking about you. I want to make all your birthday wishes come true.
Make a party poster with your birthday plan and I will make all your wishes come true with fairies from my land!
Frankie the Fairy
Getting a note from a fairy was a great incentive for my kids to make a poster of their birthday wishes. They got straight to work! They made checklists of presents they would like, a guest list, a list of wishes and even a menu request. As a STEM and art task I had Merryn and Nyella design their cakes. This spilled into an activity in measurement, capacity, fractions and properties of solids and liquids when we baked the base of the cake together.
Another activity that came out of the birthdays was writing cards and an Art lesson. Kids Art Hub provides great lessons from Kindergarten onwards on how to draw birthday cakes and treats.
After the parties were done it provided a great opportunity to write about the experience as a narrative. In Kindergarten you can have your child draw 2-4 pictures of the best parts of their day and write a sentence under each part. For Grade 1-3 I have them write 4 sections (First, Then, Next and Finally.) and write details for each part. Another wonderful follow-up writing activity could be writing thank you cards!
This morning, we were listening to the song, "Going on a Bear Hunt" on Spotify. After we were done, I we watched the story going on a Bear Hunt on youtube.
After we did this we started working on some bear art. Gavin practised his fine motor skills by cutting out pictures of bears from an old calendar we had. The girls watched a video on Kids Art Hub about how to draw bears.
After we were finished this, I asked my kids if they wanted to go on an imaginary bear hunt. They did! Gavin was a little apprehensive until I let him know we would only be searching for teddy bears. I asked Merryn what we needed to bring and had her write a lits. Then we set off to the woods.
We took turns hiding the bears in the woods. It was so much fun.
After playing for over an hour, we headed home. That afternoon, Nyella wrote about her adventure. When I teach kids to write narratives, from K-grade 3, I have them divide their stories into 4 parts (First, Then, Next and Finally). In Kindergarten it may start as a picture for each part followed by a sentence underneath each picture. By grade 3, I have the kids write a minimum of 3 sentences for each part. If they are stuck on details I ask them to reflect on how they felt or what they were thinking. I also ask them to add dialogue or sound effects to make the story pop!
Other writing options could be:
*Writing in role as the Teddy Bear
*Interviewing the Teddy Bear
*Writing a story about the bears
*Making a comic of the teddy bear hunt
*Writing a song about the adventure
*Making up a dance to the Bear Hunt song and writing down the steps...
So many possibilities! Overall, it was so much fun.
Play can be messy. So can cheeky toddlers. Since spending so much time at home it has felt more challenging to keep on top of the mess. So, I decided to turn it around and help the kids take responsibility for helping to run our household. To illustrate this point with the kids I showed them this picture of Gavin. I asked them, what would happen if one person in the house had to tidy up everyone's messes all the time? They realized after some prompting that that is too much work for one person. So we decided we all need to be responsible for helping around the house.
After listening to this, Nyella thought of the book Jillian Jiggs. This is a great story about teaching kids to tidy up their rooms! Her Mum exclaims to Jillian, "Jillian, Jillian, Jillian Jiggs, it looks like your room has been lived in by pig! Nyella decided she wanted to jump in the story and be Jillian. She quickly made a mess of her room and after we reenacted the story she worked to tidy her room
Next we talked about what jobs the would each like to do to help around at home. I made a list of possible jobs and the kids got to include it on their chore chart. Choice is key. Also, I let them know that they didn't have to do these chores everyday but each chore they did do would earn them 25 cents. This helps them work on counting by 25s and teaching them about money. It also helps them with the days of the week as at first I reviewed at the end of each day how many chores they had done. Immediate reward helps increase incentive at first.
Another great incentive to have the kids help with the cleaning was to make a natural cleaner with them that they could use.
This was also another great opportunity to let my kids experiment with measurement and practise their writing skills. Having ownership on their very own cleaner was a huge incentive for them. Soon, all of our windows and many of our surfaces were spotless. Most importantly, the kids were focussed, working as a team and occupied for over an hour. Everybody won here!
I love watching my kids play with characters. They naturally create stories throughout the day. After they are finished playing I always ask them what the story was about. They usually respond, "Mummy, it isn't a story, I was just playing." So, I wanted to find a way for them to write these stories without pulling teeth!
The first thing I did was to take a few pictures of their play as it was happening. You can also have them do this.
When they were done, I printed these pictures and helped them with a story planner. For my SK Merryn, I asked the questions and wrote down what she said. I did have to do some prompting here but it helps them learn the important story elements. Next, for Merryn had her take one of the characters she was playing with the recite the story. After the character said each line I helped Merryn sound out her words or write them on a wipe board to keep the flow moving. Merryn wrote one detail for each of her pictures. She had a blast writing and reading it.
For Nyella who is in grade 3, I only managed to get one picture of her play. She used this in combination with a story map to create her story. She had fun writing on the printed picture to name the characters.
This exercise was the most fun so far. After showing my kids how they are already doing this in their play, I hope they will do this independently after we have done it together a few times.
This morning Nyella woke me up wearing a witch hat. This was not scary at all. When her and Merryn decided to become witches for the day, I knew we had found our theme. The trick to extending their learning in an engaging way for kids so it doesn't seem like work is listening to what they are interested in. You can take any theme and plug it into this equation to make a mini-learning unit.
1) Find the theme they like
2)Language: Listen to their play. Are they making up stories orally? Could you help them write it down as a script? A picture story? A comic? Could you take pictures of this learning and have them write about that picture? Are they interested in research? Help them read or watch videos of their favourite animals and then write down facts about what they have learned. Do they like building? Have them create a plan for what they are building and describe what they have built in writing.
3) Art: You can google any art idea on this theme. As my kids love to draw. I use Kids Art Hub on youtube which shows you how to draw a wide range of characters.
4) Movement: Cosmic Kids Yoga on youtube has an extensive list of videos around so many different topics.
5) Math: You can google math around any theme and so many ideas will pop up. I promise!
6) Stories: Hunt through your bookshelves to see if you have any stories on the theme. You can also go on youtube to look for videos of online readings.
I love www.storylineonline.net because actors read the stories and they use so much expression.
The witches started the day by making potions. We decided to have some fun and mix baking soda, vinegar in food colouring. We also put some food colouring in our bubbles to see if it would make them green. While we stirred the kids started reciting spells. I had Merryn write hers down later on.
As our snack that day we made pattern skewers of monster flesh and newt eyeballs. We also had a witches brew. Later on we drew all the things we had put in our cauldron that day and instructions for how to cook it.
Later on in the day we learned to draw witches and a black cat on Kids Art Hub on youtube. This inspired a 5 finger story as well. For a 5 finger story you tell 5 details to match your picture.
Over the course of the day the kids pretended to be witches for about 8 hours. A big part of this time was them playing in role on their own. They need this undisturbed time to play and be creative. At the end of the day they convinced me to put on a witch's costume as well. This was the highlight for them. When I joined them in their play. Work in the primary grades is using play and making work through play. This makes the experience fun for everyone.
Today, after reading the book Cinderella, Nyella and Merryn decided that they wanted to put on a Royal Ball. They got work right away planning the event and outfits everyone had to wear. Nyella insisted on being the party planner. Everyone was encouraged to dance and switch partners every song. A stern warning was given that NO kissing was allowed.
This was such a fun family activity. We tried dancing the waltz and sampled different classical songs by various composers. The kids got to vote on which composer they liked best.
This activity kept the kids occupied for 2 hours! Other activities around this theme that you could do are:
*STEM task: Making crowns using found materials
*Making a menu for the party
*Making up a dance and writing down the moves
*Drawing 4 pictures of what happened at your party (First, Then, Next & Finally) and labelling each picture with a sentence.
*Reading fairy tales or fractured fairy tales and making up a new ending.
*Writing a letter to a character in the story.
*Online Dance Lesson for Kids ( I sadly could not find a waltz lesson): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHd2s_saYsQ&t=605s
A Note About Fairy Tales:
When Nyella was 18 months old she tried to ride one of the boys at daycare like a horse. When he didn't comply she put him in thinking chair until he was ready to listen. As both of my girls are very spirited and like to be in charge...I don't see them taking on passive roles in relationships. Having said that, looking at these films gives a great opportunity to look at old stereotypes of a "Damsel in Distress".
A Damsel in Distress is described as beautiful, innocent, and passive. Usually someone or something attacks her and her response is to wait until she is rescued. She is usually rewarded for her good behaviour through marriage to a Prince. Looking at movies such as Cinderella, Snow White and The Little Mermaid, you can ask your child questions about why this role takes away from the character's personal power.
Following a child's interest is the most engaging way to extend on their learning. Here I have posted some every day activities that can draw from various strands across different age groups. Remember each child has different interests so the key to working with your child is to follow their lead and ask the right questions.