“Splash” | Ann Jonas

A Mathematical Gem

I’m always on the hunt for a great book with endless opportunities for developing early numeracy skills.  Splash, by Ann Jonas is one of those gems! The bold illustrations are inviting and the different animals jumping in and out of the pond, beg to be counted!

A Brief Summary

The book is told from the perspective of a little girl who describes the shenanigans going on in her backyard pond.  She’s there to feed her fish, but while doing so, finds all of her animal friends jumping and falling in and out of her pond.  Dogs, cats, frogs, fish, and turtles, all make an appearance.  The text describes the animals coming and going, and at the bottom of each page, the reader is asked, “How many are in my pond?”.  The illustrations are wonderfully vibrant and easy for young children to count and analyze.

Counting

Counting is the most obvious application, as the reader is asked to count at the bottom of each page.  What child wouldn’t want to figure out how many animals are in the pond now?! This book lends itself well for a week long focus.  Begin with the counting activity, it’s a great way to get familiar with the story!

Addition Stories

When I look at the pages of this story, I immediately think, “Some animals in the pond.  Some animals out of the pond.  How many animals all together?”.  For me, each spread is a wonderful opportunity for discovering addition number stories.  You might approach these number stories as a group or have children discuss them in pairs.  They’re also wonderful for recording equations, if your children are at that stage.

Open Ended Addition Stories

By now, you’ve counted and recorded/discussed addition number stories based on the illustrations.  Now what? Here’s where I’d go next: “I saw 10 animals.  Some were in the pond.  Some were out of the pond.  What could I have seen?” This allows children to create their own number stories based on the animals from the book.  Ask children to create illustrations which reflect the number stories they’ve come up with.  One child might draw a cat and a dog out of the pond and five turtles and three fish in the pond (2+8=10 or 1+1+5+3=10), whereas another student might draw three turtles out of the pond and six fish and a dog in the pond (3+7=10 or 3+6+1=10).  These open ended addition stories allow for much more freedom and creativity!

Open Ended Multiplication (Or Larger Addition)

If you want to take it a step further, think about legs on animals.  For example: I saw 24 legs.  Some were in the water.  Some were out of the water.  What could I have seen?  In this case children will have to count and calculate carefully.  Perhaps a dog and a cat out of the water (1×4) + (1×4), and four turtles in the water (4×4).  The final equation: 8+16=24.  Although this is not usually appropriate for younger children, I have had a handful of kindergarteners each year who love this type of challenge!  Again, asking children to add illustrations to their multiplication/addition number stories is always a good idea!

Tips

Whenever children are solving or creating mathematical problems, always ask them to show their thinking in three ways: pictures, numbers, and words (Younger children might label their work with beginning sounds or have an adult scribe for them.) In addition, ask your child to keep their work neat and organized.  This is important, so that they can easily understand their own thinking and share their work with friends.

Watercolour Thank You Notes

DSC_0039At our house, we try to teach our sons about being grateful.  Grateful for evenings spent at the park, time with grandparents, and yes, gifts too.  So after celebrating my son’s third birthday, I got to thinking, “How can my son give thanks?”.  Instead of Mommy and Daddy doing all the thanking, I asked my son to make his own thank you cards! I kept it nice and simple.  I bit of paper, a little paint, and no overthinking!

What You’ll Need:

White Paper  |  Watercolour paper or card stock works best.

Envelopes  |  I always have a supply of coloured envelopes on hand from Paper Source

Watercolour Paints and Paint Brushes  |  Nothing fancy here!

Getting Started:

DSC_0033In terms for prep, this tabletop activity keeps it nice and simple!  Start by cutting down your paper to fit your envelopes. I use a paper cutter, but scissors will certainly do the trick!  Set out a large jar of water, the brushes and open up those water colour paints!

What To Do:

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A great way to start any activity, is to talk about purpose.  Have a conversation about being grateful and how to say thank you to others! The more involved you can get your children/students in any activity, the better.  Next, talk about parameters.  We decided to go monochromatic.  My son started with green, and then moved on to pink, blue, purple and orange.  This worked out well because our watercolour set had so many beautiful hues.  Aside from that, I just asked him to cover the entire surface of the card.  Keep it simple if children are making several cards.  You don’t want them to lose interest in the activity.  Don’t worry about the product! Scribbles and swirls look beautiful and will be adored by friends and family.

Tips:

Remember to refill you child’s water jar several times throughout the activity to keep the paint colour clean and crisp.

Want to know what to write on the card? Check back in a few days, for some great ideas!

 

Using Beads to Develop Foundational Skills

Sort By Colour

Getting Started:

Before getting any bead activity underway, think about your purpose.  Will children be working on developing fine motor skills?  If so, perhaps a variety of beads is all you need.  However, if your activity centres around developing literacy or numeracy skills, consider what other materials might be helpful.  Dice, number cards, spinners, word cards, patterning prompts, and name cards might come in handy during these activities.  Have them close by, so that your tabletop activity isn’t interrupted and doesn’t lose steam!

Don’t get overly involved! Let the materials and some gentle prompting guide children! Posing questions such as, “I wonder how we can sort these beads?”, will go a long way. (More on this, below.)

What You Need

What You’ll Need:

1. Dry Spaghetti Noodles

2. Beads |  I like to use an assortment of beads.  Plain coloured beads (pony beads) are great for developing numeracy skills.  Letter beads lend themselves well to literacy.

3. Play Doh, clay, plasticine or similar.  |  I always have Play Doh in the house, so that’s what we use!

4. Tray |  Working in a tray helps contain loose beads.

5. Additional Materials of Your Choosing  |  Dice, number cards, spinners, word cards, patterning prompts, name cards, etc.

What To Do:

As with any tabletop activity, there are a million different directions you can go.  I’m going to provide a few suggestions for a fine motor focus, literacy focus, and numeracy focus.  These activities are relatively simple to implement and a lot of fun for children!

Focus: Fine Motor

This is a wonderful activity for developing fine motor skills, as there are several different tasks to complete.  Start by going over the supplies. Ask children to roll pieces of Play Doh into balls.  (You might use a little rubber bouncy ball as a sample.) Next, you’re going to want your children/students to choose pieces of spaghetti to insert into the Play Doh (1, 2, or 3 strands per ball works best).  Some children might even want to break their spaghetti into half pieces.  Once the spaghetti is secure, you could ask, “What should we do with the beads?”.  I’m sure it won’t take long for someone to suggest threading them onto the noodles!

Focus: Literacy

Beads are a great way to develop literacy skills, all while having a lot of fun!  In this activity, lose the Play Dough.  It can be very frustrating for young children to put words together from the bottom, up.  Instead, have children lay spaghetti flat on the table, so that they can work in a linear fashion.

I love working with names first.  Children love to spell out their name using different materials and are usually quite confident in doing so.  Once children have the hang of this activity, you might ask them to write messages to each other.  One word per spaghetti strand, perhaps!  Children will enjoy breaking up the spaghetti into smaller pieces depending on the length of words, and rooting about in a bowl of beads for the right letter/colour combination!  For children who are just starting to put letter sounds together, try putting out picture/word cards to provide some extra support.

Focus: Numeracy

Patterning! Coloured pony beads are a wonderful way to make patterning playful.  In this activity, have children roll out the Play Doh and insert 1 – 3 spaghetti noodles into each ball. You might ask, “I wonder what kinds of patterns we can make?”.  Children who have already had patterning experience, will take off.  Children new to patterning, will need some support to get going.  Work together on a simple ABAB pattern to start with and then ask them to create a second ABAB pattern beside the first.  Revisit this activity several times and see how complex children’s patterns become.  Having children record their patterns in their journal is always a good idea!

Number Stories

Number Stories! Beads are also a fun way to develop number sense.  You might ask, “How many ways do you think we can make 5?” and “How can we show it using beads?”.  (In the example above, 5 is represented as 5 + 0, 4 + 1, and 3 + 2.)  Children will enjoy this type of problem solving, as it’s so open ended.  Beads come on and off of the spaghetti easily and mathematical conversation will flow as the activity ensues.  All finished with 5?  Let children decide which number to explore next!

Tips:

Save all of the work from today’s tabletop activity and put it on display in your home or classroom.  Children will LOVE revisiting and discussing their work the next day!

Take pictures!  This work isn’t permanent, but pictures can easily be added to a child’s journal (or the fridge) for later reflection.

 

 

 

My Children’s Bookshelf

DSC_0673Balancing the number of books in our house with bookshelf space is a mathematical problem! We consider shelving space prime real-estate and in order to make the most use of what we’ve got, we limit our books to the “gems”.  You know, those books that make you feel something, the ones that you read over and over again. Books worthy of worn pages and dirty finger prints. As a kindergarten teacher (and children’s lit. enthusiest), picture books are my life.  Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, wordless…you name it, I love it!  So I thought, this might be the perfect place to share my family’s “gems” with you!

Book Review | All the World

All the World | Liz Garton Scanlon

IMG_1550 (2)For six years, I taught second grade at a private school in Los Angeles.  During that time, I
was lucky enough to meet several fabulous (and I mean fabulous) authors and illustrators, including Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Jack Prelutsky, and Annie Barrows. One of my favourite guests was Marla Frazee, illustrator of All the World. The minute she presented this book, my heart skipped a beat.  It’s like a lullaby.  The last book you read to your children before they close their eyes and drift off to sleep.  This book is filled with beautiful messages that help children understand that we are all connected and that it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, we all experience some universal truths.

“Hope and peace and love and trust, all the world is all of us.”

These are words that stick with you even after the book is closed and put back on the shelf.  In addition to being beautifully written, the illustrations are swoon-worthy.  Yes, swoon! Marla Frazee captures the essence of this book perfectly.  You’ll love her depiction of children and the way she brings to life a single day from sunrise until sunset.  All the World is a wonderful addition to any bookshelf and a beautiful gift for any child.  A definite gem!

A Note to Teachers:

Liz Garton Scanlon offers teacher’s guides on her website.  You might find these useful, as they include pre-reading information, discussion questions, and student activities.

Confessions of a Stamp Hoarder

Stamping Ideas for Children

For years, I’ve been collecting (hoarding) rubber stamps.  I’d come across a pretty flower or cute robot and think to myself, this will come in handy…one day.  I’d safely tuck each stamp away into my “stamp drawer”, not wanting to use them or get them dirty until the day that “perfect project” arrived.  The problem? The perfect occasion/project never seemed to materialize.  So safely stowed they stayed… Fast forward to today, I’ve realized that they make the perfect tabletop activity for my children!  What child doesn’t love to rummage through a box of stamps, pick the perfect ink colour, and stamp away!?  I’m happy to report that I’ve let go of my hoarding ways and enjoy watching my children give life to these beautiful stamps!

Getting Started:

Search your craft drawers for any rubber stamps you’re willing to let your children experiment with.  My advice: Let go! You don’t need to buy anything new, three or four stamps will do the trick!

Look for a variety of materials to stamp on: coloured card stock, envelopes, wood, library cards, newspaper, etc. Putting together a wide variety here, will make only a few stamps go a long way.

When it comes to ink pads, the most important thing, is that they’re not dried up.  Let’s be honest, barely visible ink is no fun.  If you’re using ink pads found at the bottom of a drawer, be sure to test them out first.

What You’ll Need:

1. Stamps | The majority of my stamps come from Paper Source.  They have a really beautiful selection that satisfy a lot of interests!  You can take a look at their selection here.

2. Ink Pads | I use ColorBox because they’re so viberant!

3. A collection of materials to print on.

4. Paper for covering your table – Newspaper will do the trick!

5. Markers are great for adding detail and text.

Optional:

6. Embossing Heat Tool and Embossing Powder

What To Do:

There are SO many possibilities when it comes to stamping! I’m going to outline a few of my favourites here, but rest assured, they are just the beginning!

DSC_0514Give children time to just practice and get acquainted with stamping and ink.  Let them layer, in fact, encourage it! Some really beautiful images can be created by overlapping stamps. Giving ample time for children to practice will help them develop a sense of weight and balance needed to achieve clearly stamped images.

DSC_0487I always present my children with a variety of materials to stamp on.  Some of my favourites include: library cards, business card sized paper (in a variety of colours), envelopes, wood veneer, labels, manilla tags, and recycled paper.  I love turning stamped artwork into love notes and secret messages! A mini paper bag to tuck a “robot note” into for a friend, or heart covered envelope to hold a love note for Dad, are favourites around here.

Using manilla tags to adorn holiday or birthday gifts lends itself well to stamping, as does sprucing up shipping labels! My family tends to ship a lot of parcels and so I always have a few dozen shipping labels on hand. I create simple labels (pictured below) on Microsoft Word and print them out on full  page label paper.  We print them out, stamp, and voila! Wherever your children’s stamping takes you, sit back, relax, and watch the creative magic lead the way!

Tips:

Letting go doesn’t mean ruining your ink pads! In order to keep your pinks, pink and your blues, blue…I suggest assigning certain stamps to certain colours.  Have a little container for each set, so that children can keep all the stamps for the different ink pads grouped together.  Let your children help you decide which stamps will go with which colours!

ColorBox ink pads are beautifully vibrant, however they tend to take several days to completely dry.  If you’re using colour box ink, I suggest using a heat tool and embossing powder to quickly set the ink. (This is definitely an adult task, as the heating tool gets very hot.)  There are other inks which dry almost instantly, but I find them less vibrant.  Craft Smart is a great brand and can be found at Michaels.

Rubber stamp cleaner can be found online and at craft stores, such as Michaels.  I simply use warm water and dab with a paper towel.  This technique has worked well for me, but I’m always certain to clean my stamps immediately after use.  The longer you wait, the harder they are to clean.

If you’re using embossing powder for the first time, USE CLEAR. It is by far the most forgiving! Once you’ve mastered getting every excess piece of powder off your paper, try out some other colours!

Sizing Up Water Beads

Water beads…perfect for sensory play and SO MUCH MORE!  You’ve probably seen children gleefully running their hands through them in classroom water tables (I know I love to). Consider this though, using water beads as a tabletop activity for exploring absorption, making predictions, and testing and retesting hypotheses. A few simple and inexpesive supplies is all you need!

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What You’ll Need:

1. Water Beads | I love Marvelbeads from Amazon. (They’re non-toxic.)

2. 3 ml Pipettes | I always have a big bag of these in the house.  Great for science experiments and art projects! I order my Pipettes from Amazon.

3. Water

4. Teaspoon

5. Containers | A variety of sizes for transferring water and beads will come in handy.

6. Journal |  The journal pictured is from Riffle Paper Co. 

What To Do:

Of course, these are just suggestions.  There are a million different directions you can go with water beads!  I like to set all of my supplies out on my children’s tabletop (imagine a little white wooden table with two white wooden chairs).  We talk about all of the different supplies, what they might be, and what they could be used for.  Together we come up with a plan of action (some guidance might be needed here).  I love to watch my children’s eyes light up when something unexpected happens.  “Where did the water go?”…a perfect segue into absorption! From here, I let my children lead the way.  They decided how much water to add and whether or not we should size up to a bigger container. I help my children record their thinking (in our case, drawing and scribing) and talk to them about making, testing, and changing predictions.  Once the beads have reached a considerable size, and focus is starting to wear off, I introduce mini dump trucks and diggers into the equation…let the free-for-all begin…

Tips:

1 Tsp of dry Marvelbeads will eventually fill a large pasta bowl! Unless you’re filling a water table, your bag of water beads will last for months!

Keep those dry beads contained.  If you try putting them on a flat surface (you know, for a photo) they’ll start rolling all over the place.

The absorption process is nice and slow, so there’s lots of time for children to make observations, change their predictions, search for larger containers, and record their discoveries.

A Note on Journals:

Don’t overlook journaling! It’s a wonderful way for children to plan and reflect on their learning and play.  Younger children can journal by drawing pictures and asking adults/older children to scribe for them.  Older children will enjoy looking though their journal and reflecting on all they’ve explored.  When possible, give children the opportunity to choose their own notebook.  I know I’m more inclined to record my thoughts in a journal I’ve picked out myself!

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