Guilt-Free Homeschooling Summer Camp: Homeschool Summer Reading Activities

How do you pack for vacation? My daughter used to pack one suitcase with her clothing and another suitcase just for her books. She would sit in the back of our van with her nose in a book, seemingly oblivious to the scenery passing by outside the windows. She might only make her way through a few of those books during a week-long trip, but her selections were varied enough to cover whatever need arose. She chose her reading material to closely coordinate with the vacation itself, and her favorite Zane Gray stories came alive as we drove through high desert country or deeply wooded forests. I’m sure that if we’d ever scheduled a boating trip, she would have brought along Moby Dick or perhaps Mutiny on the Bounty. Back at home, my kids often made use of their tree house as a reading hide-away. A blanket fort or tent might offer a different setting for “ambiance reading.”

I enjoyed reading aloud to my kids, not for the exercise of reading aloud, but because I loved to watch their faces as the story turned suspenseful or to see them puzzling over what might happen next. Sometimes I stopped reading and asked for their opinions of what a certain character had just done or where they thought the plot might lead next. And then the reading would resume, only to reveal a twist that none of us had anticipated. We laughed, we cried, we paused to look up unfamiliar words in the dictionary, but mostly we shared the stories over and over as classic lines found their way into our conversations: There’s nothing like the smell of burnt marshwiggle to bring you to your senses, or It’s just a simple method of mathematics.

Our lists of favorite books and favorite authors grew longer every year. Whether we had read them aloud or individually, our lists included: The Chronicles of Narnia and Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (the rest of his Space Trilogy was a bit much for my youngsters, but they absolutely hung on every word of the first volume); A.A. Milne’s poems, Longfellow’s The Village Blacksmith and other poems; the Danny Dunn books (based on a young scientist/inventor); and the Elsie Dinsmore series by Martha Finley (28 books in the original series).

We discovered that watching the video version first (whenever possible), then reading the book was a big help to a reluctant reader. That method brings a quick understanding of the plot, setting, and characters—enough to hold the attention while the book releases it all much more slowly. Sometimes my kids wanted to read the entire book to see all the scenes that had been left out of the movie; sometimes they read only a chapter or a few pages to get a sense of the author’s writing style and the mechanics of how various elements were handled. Sometimes we just stopped a movie in the middle and looked for something more interesting.

Poems, magazines, short stories, comic books and graphic novels can all be valid reading material. Shorter works instead of long chapter books can capture the attention and make reading less tedious, especially for boys and disinterested readers. Reading aloud to your child can also help build interest his interest—I did that with some shorter chapter books for early readers when my son was just becoming independent at reading. I’d read a few pages of the first chapter, then tell him he could read just a paragraph or two for himself while I went to shuffle some laundry. Then as I took my sweet time getting back, he would devour page after page, caught up in the story. Let’s just call it salting the oats to make sure the horse takes a drink.

To encourage your not-so-much readers to become I’m-running-out-of-books readers, try as many of these tips as possible. Help them choose some unforgettable lines from a few favorite books to print up, post on a wall, and quote to each other.  Pick something from the following themed lists for a new genre to expand your readers’ interests. As the great Sherlock Holmes would have said, The game’s afoot!

Summer Adventures: Jules Verne, Frank Peretti’s Cooper Kids Adventure Series; J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy; Alexandre Dumas; Zane Gray; Robin Hood or the King Arthur stories by Howard Pyle; Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson; The Chronicles of Narnia and Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis.

Summer Romances: Robin Hood by Howard Pyle; Zane Gray’s westerns (heroic cowboys who always win the girl’s heart); Grace Livingston Hill; Jane Austen’s Emma or Sense and Sensibility.

Dark Summer: the mysteries of Agatha Christie; Edgar Allan Poe; Arthur Conan Doyle; Louisa May Alcott’s The Inheritance.

Summer in the Real World: biographies of the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver, Abraham Lincoln, Copernicus, Leonardo da Vinci; Carry On, Mr. Bowditch; The Trumpeter of Krakow.

For a few more tips on encouraging your young readers, see these articles:
How to Adapt Lessons to Fit Your Student’s Interests and Make Learning Come Alive
Classic Literature Is Not Necessarily Good Literature
Teaching Spelling (and Grammar) Through Reading and Listening
Tests, Book Reports, and Other Un-necessities

Read the entire GFHS Summer Camp series:
Homeschool Mommy Summer Camp
Homeschool Summer Camp FUN!
Homeschool Summer Reading Activities
Homeschool Summer Scheduling
Encouragement Around the Campfire

Guilt-Free Homeschooling Summer Camp: Homeschool Summer Camp FUN!

Some kids run out of ideas quickly, particularly if they’ve been used to a school schedule that has every day planned out for them. Try the articles listed below for some unique activities that your kids will love and that will also help them retain their knowledge base over the summer.

Some of these ideas were things I had intended to do with just my own kids, but their neighborhood friends begged to be included, too. Some of these ideas were things I thought would entertain my kids for an hour, but were enjoyed so immensely that they lasted all afternoon or were repeated time and time again. Some of these ideas came from trying to use old materials in new ways, such as a bucket of sidewalk chalk. Some of these ideas came from wanting my kids to practice their academic skills but needing very stealthy methods that still let them feel like they were getting a summer break. Keep some of these ideas in mind for the next time you hear “I’m bored.” If you have the supplies on hand, your kids may just come up with their own ideas, before you even have a chance to suggest anything.

Teach Your Children the Art of Amusing Themselves
“Stealth Learning” Through Free Play
Backyard Carnival
Take It Outside! 
Hopscotch—A Powerful Learning Game
It’s So HOT, You Could Fry an Egg Outside!
Jumpropes
Natural Science
Sidewalk Art

When it’s too hot to play outside or for a rainy day!
Money Land Game
Gee Whiz! Quiz
Top 10 Dress-Up Items
Beanbags (No-Sew DIY)
100-Grids and Flashcard Bingo
“Mystery Boxes” and the Scientific Method
Texture Dominoes

And many more ideas…
Topical Index: Activities

Read the entire GFHS Summer Camp series:
Homeschool Mommy Summer Camp
Homeschool Summer Camp FUN
Homeschool Summer Reading Activities
Homeschool Summer Scheduling
Encouragement Around the Campfire

Workshop Wednesday: Money Land Game

I absolutely love to teach with games. Playing a game transitions a lesson concept from tedious drill to fun and… well, games. My kids might have balked at the idea of doing yet another set of math problems, but they would voluntarily play board games using money, which required the same adding and subtracting as the math problems — only they could do the money problems aloud or in their heads while handling all those tactile game parts, instead of writing them on paper. The ability to do math in your head is a distinct advantage in life, so I encouraged my kids to play money games as often as possible, but they didn’t need much encouragement at all. They loved to play board games of all types, and games with money were a distinct favorite.

I also believe in borrowing equipment from games and combining those components to create a new game or a new variation of an old game. This is how we got here today, coming up with a new variation of an old game (Candy Land) that often falls into disuse once its players begin to read and move on to more complex games. By adding the math component of money, the Candy Land game once again appeals to older students, and with several variations that increase the complexity of the money transactions, this game can help students of all ages hone their mental math skills in a very stealthy way. Every turn provides all players with opportunities to improve their math skills, whether to avoid paying fines or to catch another player in a mistake and collect a fine from him. Winning the game is highly dependent on chance, giving all players an equal playing field. (Notice that the fines are not intended as meanness, they are simply incentive to pay attention during other players’ turns and to make players aware that they are doing their own math correctly. The fines also provide another way for an alert player to make money.  The fines are intended as a sporting challenge, not a way to make fun of other players. Fines may also be optional — see Fines section below.)

Instructions:

Basic Version #1 — Use the game board, cards, and pawns from a regular Candy Land game, but include the money from Monopoly, Monopoly Junior, or any other source. Begin a money “pot,” by placing $5 (in any combination of bills) on the Home Sweet Home area of the Candy Land game board, and give each player a total of $50 in bills of various denominations. Players do not all need to have the exact same denominations of bills, as long as they all start with the same total. (Suggested amounts for each player — standard denominations: 10 $1’s, 4 $5’s, 2 $10’s; Monopoly Junior denominations: 6 $1’s, 5 $2’s, 4 $3’s, 3 $4’s, 2 $5’s) Any leftover bills should be set aside and not used.

Assign the following number values to the Candy Land color cards, based on the colors of the Candy Land game board:

  • Purple square = $1
  • Blue square = $2
  • Green square = $3
  • Yellow square = $4
  • Orange square = $5
  • Red square = $6

Place the shuffled stack of cards face-down near the starting square. Play begins with the oldest player and proceeds to his left. Each player in turn draws a Candy Land card and moves his pawn to the nearest square of that color as in a normal game, but when his pawn lands on the square, he must pay the corresponding amount listed above into the Home Sweet Home pot. (The Rainbow Trail and Mountain Pass shortcuts have no significance in this game and are not used.)

Special Plays: 

Doubles card — Player moves to the appropriate square and collects an amount of money from the pot that is equal to double the dollar value of his color square (Example: a double-red card = $12). The player may then take a bonus turn.

Sweet Treat card — Player moves to the appropriate square, collects all the money in the pot, and takes a bonus turn.

There is no limit to how many Doubles and/or Sweet Treat cards may be drawn in succession by a single player, as long as the pot contains sufficient funds. However, if the pot does not contain enough money when a player draws a card that would allow him to collect more, that player collects all the money available in the pot, his turn ends, and play moves to the next player. If there is no money in the pot, the player’s turn ends, and he does not move his pawn.

Sticky Spot– A player whose pawn lands on a Sticky Spot must pay double the amount for its color, but may move on his next turn (he is not required to remain on that square until the appropriate color card is drawn). No bonus turn is awarded. In the rare event that a player draws a Doubles card that lands him on a Sticky Spot, no money is either paid or collected, and the player’s turn ends.

Fines —  If a player either pays or collects an incorrect amount of money, or pays when he should be collecting, or collects when he should be paying, any other player who notices this mistake may point it out at the end of the player’s turn, before the next player has drawn his card. In the case of a player who has earned a bonus turn, the mistake must be pointed out before the next card is drawn. In each case, the player who made the mistake must correct the amount AND pay a $5 fine to the player who pointed it out. If a player catches himself in a mistake and corrects it before the next card is drawn, no fine is required. (Fines may be considered optional, especially when young players are just beginning to learn math facts.  The fines can also be imposed by much younger players against more experienced players, and not vice versa, depending on the skill levels involved.)

Players who need to do so may make change from the pot in order to obtain the correct amount required for their turn. (Example: A player owing $8 to the pot may pay with a $10 bill and remove $2.) A player may also trade a large bill to another player in exchange for an equivalent amount of smaller bills, if the pot does not contain a sufficient amount for exchange.

If a player’s pawn lands on an occupied space, the other player’s pawn is moved backwards to the nearest empty space. The owner of the moved pawn does not pay or collect any money because his pawn was moved.

If the stack of cards runs out before the game has been won, the stack should be shuffled well and turned over to start again.

A PLAYER’S TURN ENDS WHEN —

1) he has drawn a card, moved his pawn to the appropriate square, and paid the correct amount into the pot, OR

2) he has met condition #1 as a bonus turn, following a Doubles card or Sweet Treat card, OR

3) he has collected less than what was owed to him from the pot, because it didn’t contain enough money, OR

4) he pays all of his remaining money into the pot. Any player who runs out of money during the game is out for the remainder of the game.

THE GAME ENDS WHEN —

1) one player ends up with all the money, OR

2) the game is down to the final 2 players and one is eliminated by running out of money, OR

3) one player reaches Home Sweet Home and collects any money remaining in the pot.  Home Sweet Home is considered to be located anywhere after the final square of the trail (no exact count is needed). A player whose pawn lands on the final square is not considered to have reached Home Sweet Home until his next turn, provided he draws any color card and not a Sweet Treat card that would send him back to another location on the trail.

Winning — Winner is the player with the most money at the end of the game.

Basic Version #2 (Dice-Addition) — Include a regular, 6-sided game die. Players will add the number on the die to the card’s dollar value. The rest of the rules apply as above, with the only change being the amount of money paid or collected on each turn. Each player rolls the die in addition to drawing a card, and alters the dollar value of the card according to the die. If any bonus turns are awarded, the player draws a new card and rolls the die for each additional turn. The die is not rolled whenever a Sweet Treat card is turned up. The amount paid for a Sticky Spot is not affected by the die. In the case of rolling Doubles and collecting money from the pot, the number on the die is added to the doubled value of the color square (Example: double-red = $12 + 4 on the die, collect $16).

ADVANCED VERSIONS FOR PLAYERS WITH HIGHER MATH SKILLS

Advanced Version #1 — Play proceeds as in Basic Version #1, but players receive a starting total of $200 (Suggested amounts for each player: 10 $1’s, 4 $5’s, 3 $10’s, 2 $20’s, 2 $50’s). The starting pot is increased to $20, and Fines are also increased to $20 each. The dollar value of each square changes as follows:

  • Purple square = $1
  • Blue square = $4
  • Green square = $8
  • Yellow square = $12
  • Orange square = $16
  • Red square = $20

Advanced Version #2 (Dice/Addition) — Include a regular, 6-sided game die. Players will add the number on the die to the card’s dollar value. Play proceeds as Basic Version #2 (Dice-Addition), but increases the starting value of the cards to Advanced Version #1 levels before adding the number shown on the game die. Pencil and paper may be used for calculating correct values. Starting pot is increased to $100, and each player’s starting total of cash is increased to $500 (10 $1’s, 4 $5’s, 7 $10’s, 5 $20’s, 4 $50’s, and 1 $100’s). Fines are also increased to $100 each. If any bonus turns are awarded, the player draws a new card and rolls the die for each additional turn. The die is not rolled whenever a Sweet Treat card is turned up. The amount paid for a Sticky Spot is not affected by the die. In the case of rolling Doubles and collecting money from the pot, the number on the die is added to the doubled value of the color square (Example: double-red = $40 + 4 on the die, collect $44).

Advanced Version #3 (Dice/Multiplication) — Include a regular, 6-sided game die. Players will multiply the number on the die times the card’s dollar value. Play proceeds as Advanced Version #2 (Dice-Addition), with the only change being the amount of money paid or collected on each turn. Pencil and paper may be used for calculating correct values. Starting pot is $100, Fines are $100 each, and each player’s starting total of cash is $500. If any bonus turns are awarded, the player draws a new card and rolls the die for each additional turn. The die is not rolled whenever a Sweet Treat card is turned up. The amount paid for a Sticky Spot is not affected by the die. In the case of rolling Doubles and collecting money from the pot, the number on the die is multiplied times the doubled value of the color square (Example: double-red = $40 x 4 on the die, collect $160).

Advanced players may choose to play subsequent games, continuing with the cash accumulated from previous games (instead of re-counting to starting cash amounts). In this case, no cash is placed on Home Sweet Home as a starting pot. Each subsequent game is started by the next player to the left of the one who began the previous game. Very advanced players may choose to add more than one die to Advanced Versions #2 & 3.

© 2013 Carolyn Morrison. These rules may be printed for personal use or shared for free, but these game concepts and their rules may not be reproduced for sale. This copyright restriction must appear on any printed copies.

Workshop Wednesday: Beanbags (No-Sew DIY)

Who has a child who can’t focus on anything while sitting in a chair? Who has a child who loves playing games and sports, but hates worksheets and written assignments? Who has a child who tries to make everything into an exhibition of physical abilities? You’re in luck! Let us help with some great ideas using beanbags that will enthuse your kinesthetic learner and keep him doing these learning activities on his own while you sneak in a coffee break!

Those energetic students are kinesthetic learners who need to move to be able to learn. Their brains don’t fully wake up and begin to learn until their arms and legs get moving, so these beanbag activities are ideal for getting them involved, holding their attention, and helping them remember what they’re learning.

Inexpensive, no-sew beanbags can be made quickly from discarded socks (no holes or thin spots) by cutting them to an appropriate size and pouring in dry beans or uncooked rice. Tie the ends shut tightly with string, yarn, or plastic zip-ties (trim the ends with scissors), leaving each beanbag about two-thirds full, so that the contents have room to slide around—if filled too full, the bag will be more likely to burst when it lands. Aquarium gravel is a suitable waterproof filler, just in case your beanbags are likely to get left outside in the rain.

What can you do with all the wonderful beanbags you’ll create from your orphan sock stash? Use them for “throwing stones” for hopscotch (and all its variations), whether playing on the sidewalk, driveway, or patio. For indoor activities, hopscotch grids can be drawn with permanent markers onto an old bed sheet or tablecloth, but please use caution when using a cloth on hard surfaces to avoid slipping.

Learning Activities with Beanbags

Matching — If your clothes dryer has given you an abundance of sock orphans, you can mark them with letters or numbers for some preschooler’s matching activities.

ABC’s — Toss a beanbag onto a jumbo ABC-grid and make the sound of the letter selected. Older students may say a word that is spelled with that letter (beginning, ending, etc. your choice). A bigger challenge is to toss two or more beanbags onto the ABC-grid and think of a word that uses all of them.

1-Sentence Stories — Lay out word cards on the floor (sticky notes will stay in place), toss beanbags onto several words, and create a one-sentence story that includes the words selected.

Hopscotch Variations — Make a parts-of-speech hopscotch grid and play the standard hopscotch game with the rules for numbers, but have players give an example of the part of speech selected, such as saying “ticklish” when picking up the beanbag from the adjective section, “skeleton” for a noun, or “angrily” for an adverb. This method can be varied for other subjects, too, such as naming the sections Nations, States, Cities, Lakes, Rivers, and so on for geography. Students would then have to name an appropriate geographical feature.

Math Symbols — Mark some beanbags with math operation symbols and toss them onto a jumbo 100-grid for instant math problems. Throw an unmarked beanbag onto a random square for a starting number, then draw a random operation-symbol beanbag from a sack or pillowcase and toss it onto another square, using that number for the designated operation. Repeat as long as your supply of beanbags lasts. Pencil and paper may be used to assist in calculations, but careful aim and an accurate toss may be the most help.

Target Practice — Use laundry baskets or cardboard boxes for target practice to improve eye-to-hand coordination and tossing skills (just don’t hit the lamp!).

Juggle — Learn to juggle!

These beanbags are quick to make and will add hours of fun to indoor or outdoor playtime, and they are a great way to make lessons kinesthetic for your active students!

See also:

Hopscotch, a Powerful Learning Game

100-Grids & Flashcard Bingo

Letter or Number Manipulatives (DIY)

Kinesthetic Learners

 

Workshop Wednesday: Grammar with Giggles, Mad Libs Style

Do grammar lessons rank among the favorite subjects at your house? Would you like to make sure they do? Would you also like to incorporate other learning style methods into a subject that typically requires only the visual skill of reading?

Mad Libs are part party game and part puzzle book. They remove key words from nursery rhymes, letters, and simple stories, and replace those words with blanks marked with the appropriate part of speech that is needed to fill in the gap. The fun comes from asking your audience for the random words first, and then reading them the completed story, using their suggested words in place of the expected ones: (adj.) Phony Miss Muffet sat on a (noun) frog, eating her (noun) henhouse and (noun) giraffe. Most kids will be begging for more at this point! Reading the sentences aloud and hearing the crazy wording are both auditory components, and the sillier these sentences come out, the more likely your students are to remember them! “Phony Miss Muffet” may even become a permanent addition to your family’s vocabulary.

I was introduced to Mad Libs back in my elementary school years, along about the time my classmates and I were learning the difference between adjectives and adverbs. Someone in my family brought home a Mad Libs book, and the next thing I remember is that we were all holding our sides, laughing until we couldn’t breathe, and the tears were running down our cheeks. We had to take turns reading the completed Mad Libs stories, because the last person to read one could no longer speak from prolonged laughter. Anything capable of producing that much hilarity is guaranteed to stick in my mind, and I very quickly learned that adjectives tell what kind and adverbs tell how or when. Years later, I used the Mad Libs process to help my own kids learn parts of speech, and they had just as much fun with it as I did.

Go grab some index cards and some colored markers, and let’s get ready to add some giggles to those grammar lessons. Take turns around the family circle choosing the words, and write one word per card, nice and large. If you already use a color code for parts of speech (great visual method), continue it in this activity, writing nouns in color #1, verbs in color #2, adjectives in color #3, adverbs in color #4, and so on. Write NOUN on the back of all the noun cards, ADVERB on the back of all the adverb cards — you get the idea. Make as many of each kind as you’d like, but keep each kind in its own stack (you’ll see why in a minute). Be sure to include articles, conjunctions, proper nouns, pronouns, and prepositions, but keep the cards and markers handy so your students can add more words whenever they want to. As your students’ grammar knowledge increases, they can add more complex parts of speech: for example, linking verbs and participles. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

To play, I mean learn, shuffle each individual stack of cards and place them upside-down, so the parts of speech (on the back) are plainly visible, and select an appropriately ordered group of cards (without peeking at the words on the face of each one) and lay them out in the order of a sentence, such as article, adjective, noun, verb, adverb. Now turn them over one at a time to watch your silly sentence take shape: The fluffy elephant danced fiercely. It will probably only take one or two rounds of this for your kids to begin thinking up more words to add! Let them make new cards to change the existing sentence, or shuffle those cards back into the stacks and start over with a new sentence combination. All the shuffling and dealing of cards are good tactile methods to keep the hands and fingers involved in the lesson. As a bonus lesson, have your students copy each silly sentence into their notebooks, underlining the words with colored pencils, if desired, to reinforce the color code for the parts of speech.

Diagramming sentences is also a valuable skill for learning grammar, and the cards can be rearranged into the proper diagram, using yarn, string, or ribbon to form the diagram lines. Spreading all the cards out into long sentences or large diagrams on the floor or table brings a kinesthetic component to normally visual-only grammar lessons. Be sure your students copy each diagram into their notebooks, too — those notes become valuable reference material for future lessons, uniting the visual skill of reading with all the other learning skills used in the same lesson.

As their grammar knowledge grows, your students can add multiple modifiers, use conjunctions to create compound subjects and verbs, expand into direct and indirect objects, plop down some prepositional phrases, and giggle their way through learning to diagram introductory adverb clauses!

BONUS TIP:
Once you have made a few dozen word cards, a handy way to store them is in an index card file box. Add a set of divider cards marked for the parts of speech, and choose a student to become the Official Keeper of the Parts of Speech for the day, so he can sort them into the right categories to put them away again for next time. He’ll get the bonus activity of learning to recognize the parts of speech, and he’ll never realize that this fun activity is a great lesson in itself! (You’ll want to keep these word cards, because we’ll use them in more great grammar ideas coming soon!)

You can use the links below to find Mad Libs products or to play Mad Libs online. (No, I’m not getting a commission from this, I just love the product!)
It’s a Mad Libs World
Mad Libs
WordLibs Mad Libs Online game

See also:
Teaching Spelling (and Grammar) Through Reading and Listening
How Did You Learn to Write?

Workshop Wednesday: Math Measuring Tape

Do you have a child who needs to see things for himself in order to understand lesson concepts? Have you used math manipulative blocks but he’s still just not quite getting it? Here’s a unique idea for a powerful math tool that you can make yourself from simple graph paper. By making a special measuring tape that exactly corresponds to the size of whatever math manipulatives you use, your students will have a customized tactile and visual learning aid.

Cut 1 or 2 sheets of graph paper into 1-inch wide strips and tape them together for the length you desire (make sure that no strips end in a partial square). Graph paper marked with five squares per inch (available in office supply stores) is compatible with the centimeter-scale Cuisenaire Rods that we used: 2 graph-squares = 1 centimeter, so marking numbers on every other line produces a centimeter measuring tape. (Yes, centimeter graph paper would have been easier to use, but I couldn’t find any in my area — so I improvised!)

To illustrate skip-counting by 2′s, accordion-fold the tape on every other number, and then say (auditory) the number for each fold-increment. Adapt and repeat for other skip-counting intervals. (The measuring tape in the photo only has numbers at intervals of 5, but feel free to write on as many numbers as your children need.)

Your students can lay Cuisenaire Rods on the tape to demonstrate addition & subtraction facts. Arranging different length rods to equal the same total (1+5, 2+4, 3+3, etc.) helps them see by yet another method that different numbers can add up to the same total. The measuring tape becomes a learning aid for memorizing facts as your kids line up blocks or rods on it and see the resulting numbers.

Repeat the same process for multiplication & division facts: 3×5, 5×3 — both measure to 15.

This method can also help students understand uneven division problems. For 15 divided by 4, start placing 4-rods at the 15 and filling in backwards toward 0, but fill in the gap with a “remainder” rod, in this case a 3-rod fits as the remainder.

We used this measuring tape by itself to illustrate multiplication and division facts by accordion-folding the paper tape into 6 sections of 8 centimeters to show 6 x 8 = 48 and other facts. My origami-loving son really enjoyed this foldable number line, and he would take a few seconds during a math problem to fold it back and forth, just to be certain of his answers.

The measuring tape can also be used as your kids run around the house, measuring everything in sight (kinesthetic) for practice at measuring and estimating how large certain objects will be, according to the scale used by your math manipulatives. For instance, my sofa may be 86″ long, but measuring it with a centimeter scale makes it 215 centimeters. My kids liked the challenge of guessing how many centimeters first, then measuring an object to confirm the answer. This is also a great way to compare inches and centimeters, and they can use a ruler, yardstick, or measuring tape in inches to confirm their answers.

If you use another form of math manipulatives other than Cuisenaire Rods, you can adapt the size of the measuring intervals on this homemade tape to coordinate with your own manipulatives.  Graph paper with 4 squares per inch (1/4″ squares) can be marked for 1/2″, 3/4″, or 1-inch manipulatives. Remember the sofa we talked about above? It would be almost 115 connecting cubes long, when measured according to a scale for these 3/4″ cubes.

P.S. — We stored our measuring tape neatly by folding it up and using a large paper clip to hold it in place. ;-)

Workshop Wednesday: Letter or Number Manipulatives (DIY)

Have you ever found yourself wishing you had a whole big bunch of fancy-schmancy letter or number manipulatives to help your struggling learner? Well, don’t move, because you’re about to learn how to make them inexpensively for yourself!

A child who has difficulty learning letters or phonics patterns, identifying syllables, spelling words, or reading will usually benefit from using letter manipulatives, something he can move around and re-position himself. The struggling student might be any age, so using letter tiles is helpful for older students who already know the letters but struggle in spelling or syllable divisions.

Number manipulatives are helpful for the student who struggles with math, as are extra tiles with math operation symbols, to use them in building and solving equations. It’s one thing to use math cubes to illustrate 3 + 2 = 5, but it’s another thing entirely to use number tiles to solve 3 + 2 = 4 + y.

It’s fairly easy to cut out letter or number shapes by enlarging a simple font to super-size status, about 3″ tall (or around 350 points) on your computer’s word processor. Experiment to find a font you like, enlarge the letters or numbers, then print them on cardstock and cut out. These shapes can also be used as templates for making cut-out letters or numbers from materials that can’t be put through a computer printer, or to get more letters or numbers from a single sheet of paper.

Squares or rectangles can be turned into cards or tiles by writing the letters or numbers on them with a Sharpie marker. I have used cardstock, sandpaper, and cereal box cardboard for these with great success. The sandpaper adds a nice tactile element for kids whose learning styles appreciate more texture. I have varied the sizes, depending on the age of the kids using them and the application they will fulfill — 6″ squares are great for matching games on the floor, but 1″ squares work great as tabletop tiles for spelling practice. We had a few hundred small letter tiles made from cardstock, which were great for building a list of spelling words.

For students who are just learning their letters, I highly recommend starting with upper case letters first, then once the student knows them without mistakes, introducing the lower case letters as the “little brothers” of the upper case. This results in less confusion and fewer possibilities for reversals.

These cut-out letter shapes are wonderful tools for teaching and learning recognition, matching, phonics, spelling, syllables, and so on, whether by themselves or in combination with cards, tiles, and a variety of sizes and font styles (especially helpful for learning to recognize all the different appearances letters can have). You could even make some in the exact same size and shape as the letter tiles from a Scrabble or Bananagrams game and combine them all for even more learning fun!

I have made letter and number shapes and cards from these materials:

  • Sandpaper (fine to medium texture works best)
  • Craft foam
  • Textured fabrics (corduroy, vinyl, fleece, denim, etc.)
  • Cardboard (including cereal boxes), poster board, etc.
  • Cardstock
  • Textured scrapbooking paper

Bonus Tips:

  • Sometimes I needed to glue an identical shape of cardstock or cardboard to the backs of some flimsy materials for stability and durability, especially with cloth or thin paper.
  • Wood or foam cut-outs can sometimes be found with craft supplies for a quicker start.
  • It can also be helpful to decorate the front side and/or bottom edge of letters and numbers to help kids learn to orient them correctly (even a line drawn with a marker can be enough to discern top from bottom or front from back).

Letter Activities:

  • Matching — sort lots of different letter shapes, tiles, and cards into separate piles for each letter. Alphabetizing — mix up one set of letters (A-Z) and put them into alphabetical order.
  • Phonics Practice — use letters to make short words (2-3 letters) and practice reading their sounds in order to read the words. Change one consonant and read again; repeat. Ditto for changing the vowel. Repeat for longer words as skills increase.
  • Spelling practice — use your supply of letter manipulatives to build spelling or vocabulary words. Add as many words as possible that use the same phonics patterns.
  • Syllables — build a vocabulary word, then scoot the letters apart to divide the word into its proper syllables. Compare to the dictionary entry to self-check.

Number Activities:

  • Matching — sort lots of different number shapes, tiles, and cards into separate piles for each number.
  • Numerical order — mix up a set of numbers (0-9 or 1-10) and put them into numerical order.
  • Number value — match the appropriate number shapes, tiles, and cards with the dots on dice or dominoes.
  • Double-digit numbers — combine digits to make teens, twenties, etc. and practice reading them. Ditto for three-digit numbers and beyond.
  • Arithmetic practice — build arithmetic problems using the number shapes, tiles, cards, and operation symbols, and put the correct numbers in place for the answers.
  • More operations — be sure to make some commas, decimal points, fraction bars, dollar & cent signs, percent signs, and anything else your student will encounter in his math lessons.

 

For more activity ideas, see also (in any order):

ABC Flashcards

Building Blocks for Success in Spelling

Building Blocks for Success in Math

“Stealth Learning” Through Free Play

What Is the Missing Element?

Letter & Number Recognition

Tactile Learners