Thursday, December 8, 2016

Textured Cardstock and Hands-on Learning

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!


Today we are working on a problem from our Puddle Questions math book. This is the grade 8 book. We are on Investigation #5: Birdhouse Designs.

"Darn it, I forgot the floor again," one child remarks to herself.

In this investigation, students are asked to design a birdhouse made with wood.

    Write a proposal explaining how you would build the birdhouse. Use boards that are 1/2 inch x 8 inches x 6 feet. In the proposal, show a sketch or sketches of your design labeled to show the dimensions. You may want to show different views. Tell how much wood you would need to build the birdhouse.


I'm looking at buying 12 x 12 inch textured card stock with a woodgrain pattern because both of my students scored a 1 on the rubric (1 is low, 2 is medium, 3 is high, 4 is exceptional) because they did not clearly describe their design and how to build it, they did not accurately determine the amount of wood needed for the project, and their designs did not work to produce a complete birdhouse.


Yes, Puddle Questions are HARD. It's hard to clearly explain your mathematical reasoning step by step. One child proudly created a scale model of the starting boards she would buy from the lumberyard, but then drew a birdhouse with no dimensions on it and gave the instructions as "make birdhouse according to diagram."

I've found that the best thing to do with Puddle Questions is to let their answers rest for several days before returning to them and scoring them. When they go to share their reports with me, and their thinking is no longer fresh in their minds, they soon realize where their explanations lack clarity.

For the birdhouse project, we can take it a step farther. The students can use the card stock to actually try to build a birdhouse (card stock, ruler, pencil, protractor, compass, scissors, tape). They can use these materials, follow their own written instructions step-by-step, read their own diagrams... they can SEE where they are unclear, where they fall short.

So I'm giving students time to do this this morning and to then rewrite their reports and we will score their new versions. This is a great example of hands-on learning and this hands-on aspect helps me to push students (gently) to make their writing more detailed and clear. It is so much easier if they push THEMSELVES to be more clear. It is so much easier if they realize the weaknesses in their work on their own... and are motivated to make their work stronger.

"I'm definitely measuring twice and cutting once," Becca tells me.

The room is silent as students measure, cut, draw, and write.

One child looks up and says, "I feel like I'm wording it a lot better now."

Their feeling of satisfaction with their new work takes away the sting of being disappointed in their old work. As we say in our classroom every day, Practice Makes Progress!

Monday, December 5, 2016

"Monk Day" by Becca, age 11

Before I share Becca's experience as a medieval Benedictine monk for a day, I want to share a few quick craft projects. Tonight is our Christmas Eve, since our family exchanges gifts on St. Nicholas Day (December 6). I focused on gifts which the whole family could share this year, instead of individual presents, and ended up with Twister and the Cuboro Standard Marble Maze. (And Oh! Toys gave me wonderful customer service... when they found out I needed my item by St. Nicholas Day they expedited the shipping for free!)


Classic Twister


Cuboro Standard Marble Maze
from Oh! Toys


All was going well and I was feeling confident in my Christmas preparations. Then Natalie reminded me about the pickle ornament and the extra gift. AAARGHHH! I mean, yay, fun family annual tradition. (I love the pickle but I never seem to remember to buy an extra gift. Last year the person who found the pickle got a new tube of toothpaste. Not kidding.)


So I'm making frozen gelatin fossil excavation molds as the extra gift... I like this idea because I don't have to wrap something frozen and put it under the tree and hope it doesn't melt too quickly. I can just say, when someone finds the pickle, "Your extra gift is waiting in the freezer."


link to activity instructions
from Fun at Home with Kids


And while I was at Pinterest looking for Extra Gift Ideas, I decided on one more joint present for the girls. It's Moldable Play Sand, made with 5 cups of play sand ($3.35 for 50 lbs at Lowe's), 1 cup of baby oil ($2.47 at Walmart), and 3 cups of all-purpose flour. Which I already had on hand.

I love love love Pinterest and my 76 Pinterest boards. Last time I was a new mom (in 2002), I subscribed to Family Fun magazine, Child, Parents, and Parenting. And Martha Stewart Living and Good Housekeeping and Taste of Home. And now I don't need to subscribe to any of those things because Pinterest is free!

So tonight I'm wrapping gifts and putting them under the tree, hanging and stuffing the stockings, hiding the pickle ornament, and creating moldable play sand and frozen gelatin fossil excavation molds ($2.97 for a pack of ten plastic insects at Walmart -- in the gift wrap and party favors aisle).


Now, on to Becca's guest blog post about her experience as a monk yesterday:

    I was a monk on December 4. I woke up at 2:30 in the morning, and read the Bible until 8:00. It was long and tiring and nobody else was up so it was very lonely. I didn't eat until 2:00 p.m. and I was hungry at 5:00 a.m. At 8:00 I went to Mass at a Catholic church. When I came back it was time for work. Some of the jobs that monks did were copy the Bible / illuminated manuscripts, work in the garden, cook, look after the sick, and teach the novices. I did art instead of illuminated manuscripts but it was close enough. At 12:00 p.m. I read a book about Saints until dinnertime. For dinner I had Salmon with Wine and Ginger Sauce, bread, and Pottage. Here are the recipes. When you only have one meal a day it tastes better because you're really hungry. In the Middle Ages they couldn't drink the water because it was contaminated so they usually had wine or beer. I had apple cider. After that I worked on "illuminated manuscripts" until 4:00 p.m. At 4:00 p.m. I went to a Vespers concert at a church. They had monastery music. When the concert was over I changed into my "night shoes" (pajamas) and had Collatio. Collatio is a hot drink and a piece of bread before bed at 6:30 p.m. to help you fall asleep. I was glad for an early bedtime after the long day.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Do Monks Wear Pajamas?

Yes, I was researching this tonight (monks wear their clothes to sleep in, according to St. Benedict) because my sixth grade daughter is so in love with the story of Gregory the Great in our new Medieval History / Middle Ages main lesson block, she has decided to spend one entire day living -- as closely as possible -- an authentic Middle Ages Benedictine monk's schedule.

She's going to write a guest blog post about her experience, but here are some of the things we've had to research to make this happen:

the daily schedule (winter version)

the unfamiliar terms in the schedule (I was ok on Vespers and Compline, etc. but had to look up "collatio")

what monks wore (and yes, she wants to wear a belt with a knife stuck in it all day)

what monks ate

some authentic medieval recipes (and then go shopping for the ingredients)

the jobs in a monastery and the order of authority in a monastery


We are lucky in that our local paper came this morning and -- amazingly -- there's a concert tomorrow of monastery music at 4 pm. Just in time for Vespers! So we will be going to that. I'm also taking her to a Catholic church for Mass at 8 am. And making her "Pottage" and "Salmon with Wine and Ginger Sauce." She will be getting up at 2:30 am and going to bed at 6:30 pm and she went to bed at 7 pm tonight in preparation for her early morning. She plans to follow the prayer schedule, listen to Gregorian chants, and read the Bible and do housework. I promise we will share how it goes!!! She could NOT be more excited, and wants us to call her Brother Ben tomorrow instead of Becca.


Some resources:

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

There is No "O" in Number

There is no more important academic task, I believe, than teaching students to be metacognitive. Teaching them to think about their thinking. To succeed in life, you must know yourself as a learner. Knowing how you learn best, knowing whether you understand something or don't, knowing how to frame your questions, knowing who or what is the correct resource for finding out what you want to know.

To me, there's no such thing as a K-W-L chart. What you know. What you want to find out. What you learned. Add another W section! K-W-L-W. What your new questions are! I even had someone make me a custom K-W-L-W graphic organizer, which I'm happy to share if anyone is interested.

Today my student was putting the date (November 29) at the top of the page in his plan book and I noticed that he abbreviated November in his own way and wrote the date as "No 29." I explained to him that No is already an abbreviation -- for number -- and that Nov. was the correct abbreviation for the month of November. And he asked me, "Why is No the abbreviation for Number? There is no "o" in Number." And I said, "I have no idea. That's a great question for Structured Word Inquiry!"


In countless areas of education, you find this as the goal. Teaching students to ask their own questions. Modeling asking the questions to which you as the teacher truly don't know the answer (Junior Great Books). Our Puddle Questions books, which score student responses on how clearly they explain their mathematical reasoning and not on whether their calculations are correct. Approaches such as Reggio Emilia, which center on emergent student-led curriculum projects, focusing on process and not product, observing the child and documenting her process of inquiry in great detail, requiring profound teacher professional growth. So many projects at Project Zero (such as Artful Thinking) have this as the goal... the entire discipline of Philosophy has this as the goal... and so does the lovely Waldorf math question "What is the most beautiful way to make twelve?"


COLLEGE has this as the goal. Right? You go into college and you are supposed to pick what you want to learn about. You're expected to try everything, figure out your interests, plan your program of study for your major, write your thesis on a topic no one has chosen before...

So how to we get kids college and career ready? We help them learn how to think and we support the development of inner drive and perseverance.

We support question asking.
We support risk taking.
We support mistake making.
We encourage creativity.
We encourage collaboration.
We encourage reflectiveness.


I was thrilled when he asked me why No is the abbreviation for Number... and I can't wait to research the answer to this right alongside him!


Yesterday we finished up the main lesson books for our one-week Math block from before the Autumn Break. The Math Gnomes book-in-a-box project came out splendidly! The older students are making their own cookbooks. One child has an unusually-sized vintage three ring binder and he has to painstakingly measure and cut out 9 inch x 7 inch sheets and measure and hole punch the holes with a single hole punch. He's used a lot of paper and made mistakes in his measuring over and over. But practice makes progress and he's very pleased with his book!

In our homemade calendar projects, we have to create art for 13 months (fun!) but we also have to write the names of the months, the names of the days, and every single number of every single day for 13 months (hard!). However, since the children are making something that is a point of personal pride (whether it's a handmade main lesson book or a handmade gift), they persevere. My little girl who still reverses some letters and numerals is working HARD to make sure not a single thing she writes is in Backwards Land. And she is happy to do the work!

(I am VERY VERY happy with the blank calendars we purchased. Not only are there 13 months, so that the gift recipient can hang it on the wall immediately on Christmas Day, plus still have all 12 months to enjoy next year, but there are 6 rows for every month. This means that children don't have to struggle with the awkward 24/31 you sometimes find on a Sunday in that odd month that has six weeks. Children can better understand creating the calendar when there aren't those abstract shortcuts! It makes this work extremely age appropriate for first, second, and third grade. Even my middle schoolers love making the calendars. $9.99 well spent.)


More notes from last school week and the start of this:

New Read-Aloud Story - David and the Phoenix

Art - calendar project (my previous blog post here contains all 14 art ideas)

Handwork - sewing beanbags, knitting, weaving potholders

Philosophy - topic Friendship, philosopher bell hooks (also the subject of her own blog post)

Circle Time - poem (last week a blessing from In Every Tiny Grain of Sand, page 19; this week it is "Travel Plans" from Animals Animals, page 32)


Math Gnomes - we introduced these stories and acted them out whole group in the "math facts" part of our circle time last week. Oh, my gosh, we had so much fun!!! Followed by making the little MLBs. I just added an entire Math Gnomes page to the website in the First Grade section. There you will find our stories word-for-word.


Baking: Time, Temperature, Weight & Volume - this is traditionally a third grade block but everyone enjoyed making the recipes together. We had some hits and some misses. The Chai-Infused Pumpkin Pie Smoothie, Carrot Ginger Soup, and Oat Soda Bread were the best. We also enjoyed The Story of Clocks and Calendars as well as some science experiments on Heat. We will incorporate more practice with Weight and Volume into Extra Lesson.


Extra Lesson - symbolizing sentences in Grammar, independent math practice (Order of Operations Dice Game, Order of Operations Riddles, Middle School Bell Ringers, and I am a Veterinarian)

Second Great Lesson - the final highlight of last week, November 14-18, was the Montessori Second Great Lesson. This is the beautiful story of life... from its humble bacterial beginnings all the way up to the mammals, and stopping right before the evolution of humans (this is the topic of the Third Great Lesson). Students love the dramatic display of silk scarves on the floor, and the pictures and fossils and artifacts that come out as I tell the story across time. I highly recommend watching the Franz Lanting TED Talk if you have not already:


I also am always on the hunt for more fossils and artifacts to add to my telling of this story. I'm in search of a larger trilobite fossil, some reptile and amphibian pictures, and a insect fossilized in a drop of amber. Azoka also makes a beautiful Timeline of Life classroom material for student independent follow up work. The things I've already purchased for this lesson: Geologic Periods Book Set and Timeline of Life Fossil Collection.


To introduce the Third Great Lesson, the Long Black Strip is often used to help show to scale how long the Earth existed before humans evolved. It is quite humbling to unroll this strip outside and walk its entire length! You can easily make a homemade one, however. I personally love the calendar analogy best (from Early Humans by Michelle Breyer), so I'm going to take our extra blank Calendar and make myself a Timeline of Life Calendar! I CANNOT wait to draw, paint, collage, etc. the story of life on our planet into a compressed scale of 365 days. I think that anything that helps students get a concrete idea of how much TIME has passed between one event and another is a valuable tool. And I only have to make this calendar once and I can re-use it every year when I give this lesson.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Native American Legends

Native American Legends can be part of a Waldorf curriculum in several years, and you sometimes find yourself wondering what block to put them in or at what age to do them.

I've seen a Native American Legends block in second grade as a part of world folktales (Live Ed does this), in third grade to go along with Housebuilding, and in fourth grade as part of Local History & Geography. Generally, I prefer to tie in Native American Legends with Housebuilding, but we are going to do them as a stand-alone Cultural block this year.

My older group will be doing the Middle Ages as their Cultural block in December. Here are the Medieval History / Middle Ages block notes from my website; our text is The World of Walls: The Middle Ages in Western Europe by Polly Schoyer Brooks and Nancy Zinsser Walworth.


Native American Legends

Although it is tempting to do beautiful books which feature Native American characters like The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble or Cloud Eyes by Kathryn Lasky, I wanted actual Legends. Here were my 10 choices:



Do you have a favorite story I've missed? Please write a comment and share your recommendations! I'll be putting a Native American Legends page on the website soon. I'm also updating my third grade Old Testament Stories, Housebuilding, and Farming & Gardening pages with new notes. AND I've photographed all of last year's MLBs and will be posting them to the blog.