Monday, August 8, 2016

WILD About A New School Year!!!!

It's that time of year again - back to school!   We're a little WILD about starting a new year.   :)

I recruited a few of our stuffed friends to help celebrate the first day in an appropriate fashion.

The sign is available through my new TPT Wild About A New School Year (WANS) pack.  You'll notice as you read further that many other activities we worked on this past week also came from the WANS pack.  For those interested, there is a link to the pack near the bottom of this post along with some very exciting, special news AND a giveaway.  

The monkey sign is from Mardel.  The vines I made by twisting kraft paper.  

Breakfast was cereal that morning - an extra special treat for our family.  I was able to find some cereal boxes with wild creatures on them.  I also added some paper leaves, so it looked like they were hiding in a jungle.

I hesitated to spend any money on the safari hats, but they were on CLEARANCE (at Michaels).  I am so glad I bought them though, because the kids LOVED them and used them quite a bit.

As for the other items, I bought the sticky frogs in the party section at Walmart.  We had binoculars already, so I just pulled them out for my little safari kiddos.  The bookmarks and "Safari Adventure Journal" covers are a part of the Wild About A New School Year (WANS) pack.

Yum!  Jungle juice (actually just some healthy green juice I purchased at the store)!

This was the "bridge" leading into our learning jungle.  I used more kraft paper to make the "ropes".  I cut up unfolded cardboard boxes to make the "boards" for the bridge.  

You didn't think I would just let my kids hop across the boards without making them work to get over to the jungle, did you?  One color was for my son and the other for my daughter.

Once across the bridge, it was time to go exploring.   I used several vinyl tablecloths (about $1 each at Walmart) for this jungle.  

It is kind of hard to see, but a blue one is covering the door to our school room.  I cut it into strips to make it look like a waterfall.

I also bought a jungle (or rainforest?) sounds cd on Ebay and had that playing in the background.  I could not find the same one on Amazon but posted a link to one below that might be similar?

I hid creatures (like those in this picture) inside our little jungle which gave the kids an opportunity to use those trusty binoculars.  They loved pretending to find animals hiding out in the foliage.  The animal pictures I used are part of the Wild About A New School Year pack.

This was the tangled vine mess that greeted my delighted children when they walked through the waterfall (I used party crepe paper).  At first they tried to maneuver their way through it, but eventually they just joyfully crashed through the vines.  Come on, you know you'd do the same... ;)

After chopping through vines, they found that our homeschool elf had taken off with their school supplies once more this year, so they spent some time hunting him down via clues.   The homeschool elf pattern comes from my book "The First Day of Homeschool" (link at the bottom of this post).

I usually wrap some school supplies for the kids and throw in an extra little wrapped treat or some unexpected items.  It is definitely not necessary, but I think it makes our first day of school that much more exciting.  I think I bought this wrapping paper at Michaels.

Lunch time in the jungle!  I sent the kids on their merry way with safari packs.

Behold a teaching experiment for me this year!  I wanted a way to make it easier for the kids to find which activity we would be doing each day related to our week's theme (hopefully making it something they could do more on their own).   There is a shelf for each day, Monday through Friday.  

This set up gives me a spot to organize the items according to which day we plan to use them.  At the end of the week (or during the weekend), I just fill up the shelves with the items for the following week's theme.  When Monday rolls around, we are pretty much ready to go!  :)  

This is an IKEA cabinet with movable shelves.  I think it is BESTA?

We learned about rainforest layers, and the kids worked at building one on a tinier scale.  

This was the "Safari Peek-A-Boo" book (part of WANS pack) we made together.  The kids really enjoyed picking out just the right wiggly eyes for their creatures!  

This was a poem I created to go along with our first week of school and our theme.  The kids used highlighter tape to highlight rhyming words and subbed in jungle sounds of their own at one point.  

I know some parts are blurry, but sadly I had some concerns about other bloggers or teachers grabbing it and using it as their own without purchasing the WANS pack (it is a part of).

This was a cute craft idea that was inspired by this blogger's pirate theme.

Graphing animal crackers inspired by

We spent some time measuring "vines".

This blank "Monkey Match" worksheet is also part of the Wild About A New School Year pack.  I filled it in using math facts for my kids.  Others might want to use it for rhyming words, digraph words, etc.

Do your kids like magnets as much as mine?  If so, they might enjoy the "Bananagains" game (WANS pack).   

Tape a monkey to a magnetic wand or tape/glue magnets to the back of it and drop it on the paperclip pictures of bananas.  The number your monkey picks up (gains) is recorded on your goal sheet and added to the previous total (you have to remember to write the math sentence or you lose your bananas).  First player to reach the goal is the winner!

What would a jungle theme be without exploring some of the different items we get from a rainforest?  I created this punch board using some empty applesauce containers glued to a board.  I put different items (we get from a rainforest in some way) inside each and covered them with tissue paper.  The kids would poke, punch, or peel back the tissue to see what item was in the cup.

This is a picture of our morning board at the END of the first week of school.  As you can see - it was a busy one!

As promised, a lot of our activities were ones I created for my new Wild About A New School Year pack which can be purchased for $2.50 in my TPT store here.

Hope you all have a grrrrrrreat year of homeschooling!  

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Lesson Theme: Transportation!

Whew!  We have had a rough September so far (travel, unexpected bad news, illness and loss of a loved pet, etc.).  However, I wanted to make sure I posted at least one of our themes for this month before October sets in!

This is a shot of our morning board.  We made some word webs for our transportation topic and sorted vehicles according to land, water, air types (I believe I saw this activity on Pinterest but do not remember where).

I bought one of these at Mardel and posted it outside the classroom door.  The idea was for the kids to stop before entering the classroom and either read sight words (Mr. J) or translate Latin words (Miss A).

This was another Mardel purchase, and I posted it near our dining area.  I wanted the kids to practice their math facts before eating.  I color coded the facts for each child so he/she would know which ones to practice.

I turned some stickers into a graphing game.  We would roll the dice and graph what came up.  The stickers are on small green Post-it notes, which made it easy to remove and play more than once.

I found this cute poem here (along with other transportation idea gems), and we made a stoplight to go along with it by gluing tissue paper behind the cutout circles.  Inspiration for the stoplight can be seen here.

Speaking of stoplights, this was part of lunch one day.  I toasted the bread and cut out the circles using a round cookie cutter.  The red "light" is tomato.  The yellow "light" is cooked egg (whipped up an egg and poured some in the circle to cook while the bread was toasting in the skillet).  The green "light" is avocado.  

We played a memory game with some road signs and then added them to a city we made.  Inspiration came from this post.

Another fun idea for this activity is to have the kids practice giving directions to each other using the words "left" and "right" as they use small cars to visit different buildings or deliver items.

We read "If I Built a Car" and then practiced building our own lego cars (inspired by this post).

We painted with car wheels (inspiration here), but I added a twist by giving the kids driving directions.  The kids had to dip the car wheels in paint and then drive from one letter's house to the next until they had completed the word.  Then they would use a different color paint for another word, etc.  Mr. J practiced sight words while Miss A practiced some spelling words.  :)  We did this over a few days so that the paint would have time to dry (didn't want them crawling over wet paint to get to a letter).

Lest you think we only focused on land transportation, here are a couple of water activities we did as well.  We performed a "sink or float" activity with a variety of materials.  

Based on the data collected from that experiment, we chose what material might float the best and made a small boat with it (see boat in activity below).  The sail is made from cloth and craft sticks. The bottom is a foam meat tray that a grocer was sweet enough to give us.

Loved this foil river idea.  I added a twist by putting cards with words by the river.  The kids had to either read the sight words (Mr. J) or translate the Latin words (Miss A) as the boat sailed along.  The idea was to race the boat to see whether the child would reach the end of the words (and river) first or whether the boat would be the winner.

This was an easy cute craft inspired by this link.

While I had intended to do more with air transportation, life got in the way.  Those on Facebook already know that we had a beloved pet pass away after a very expensive and emotional week of caring for her during her mysterious illness (which we now know was probably a very aggressive form of cancer).  

While we are glad she is no longer suffering, it was hard on the family to lose her.  I basically cancelled school the next day and spent that time grieving and desperately trying to pack everyone for a trip we were scheduled to take the following morning.  

So, while we did not do many activities or crafts for air transportation, we DID actually go to an airport and fly on an airplane which I consider a pretty cool grand finale for our transportation theme!!!  :)

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Back "Choo" School Time!!! (Train Theme)

Alllllllll aboard for a new school year!

I decided to surprise the kids with a train theme this year - pictures below.  Many of the items shown below (signs, tickets, etc.) can be purchased through my TPT store!  The entire set is only $1.50, but I will be offering it FREE for ONE day next week.  I will be posting the information on my Facebook page so check there if you are interested.  :)

Breakfast set-up in the "Dining Car".  I was very excited to find a battery operated engine that fit with the train set we already had, so I was able to surprise the kids with a train that actually moved around the tracks!  :)  I posted a link to one at the bottom of the post in case other moms out there have been searching for the same thing.

I also printed out "Sleeping Car" signs (not shown) and posted them on their bedroom doors during the night.

The mats are construction paper.  I purchased the caboose cups, train pencil toppers, and engineer caps (yes, they even had PINK) through this website.  The whistles came from the Dollar Store (Tree?).

I opted for an easy breakfast this year.  My kids love cereal because it is not something they get on a regular basis, so I surprised them with cereal that had princesses on the front (Frozen) and a cereal with Star Wars on the front (strangely enough - my kids have not seen Star Wars but still really like it).  

I made a train track (black and silver duct tape) which led to the school room.  I also made a simple cardboard train out of some empty boxes and an oatmeal container (wrapped with black paper).  The kids handed me their tickets, and I punched them with a hole punch so they could board the train (the train was too small for both, so we had to do this one at a time).

 They arrived at "Education Station" right on time for the first day of school!

This is a photo of our morning meeting board which usually seems to change every year depending on what worked last year or new needs this year!  :)

First day snack time was a success!  Found this cute idea here and used it for our snack time.  They enjoyed eating freight!  I even threw in some items we wouldn't normally have (candy, bunny grahams) because it was a special occasion.

After reading "The Little Engine That Could", we completed this activity.  I folded a sentence strip accordion style and glued the pictures of an engine and a caboose onto it (engine at the front and caboose at the back).  I let the kids paint or draw train cars on each fold (my littlest didn't quite get his on the folds but still had fun).

I then had them write (or dictate to me, depending on ability) things THEY can do on small Post-it notes.  These then became "freight" which they could add to their cars.   More "freight" could be added during the day as they came up with more ideas of things they are capable of doing.

Found this great idea here.

Inspired by the many fun things I saw on the website "", I put words on tracks and had the kids make sentences or simply practice reading sight words by setting up the tracks and using a train to guide their reading one word at a time.

For my eldest - I used Latin words she was learning.  The Post-its are "stations" and the Smarties are "freight".  If she could translate the word when she arrived at it, she was allowed to add that station's freight to her car.  If she couldn't translate the word, I would give her the translation but NOT the freight.  She had to go back around the track again a few times until eventually she had successfully translated all the words and collected all the freight (enjoying every last piece of it for a job well done).  

 Another fun activity we found here.  Set up words and crash into them! 

For my littlest who is just beginning to form words, I had him first form the word in front of him so he could see the letters from left to right.  Then we set them up vertically.  

Notice the Latin words set up on the side showing an older kid option (Latin words or harder spelling words, etc.).  The red blocks have Latin endings which make it easier to build a Latin word quickly.
I cannot remember where I saw something similar to this or I would give credit, because it was what inspired our snack freight train.  The kids added their "freight" to each car (celery).  The stations were their mouths so after the freight was picked up, their trains headed to the stations.

My eldest needed to review some math facts, so I wrote them on the train tracks.  Great way to practice each fact on the way to our school room.

We read "Freight Train", and the kids made their own colored trains using small sponges for the cars (inspiration here). I then gave them a bin of "freight" to add to the cars.  Each car carried the letters (freight) which matched its color.

Before we threw out the sponges, we decided to try showing a speeding train  motion together by brushing the sponges along a paper.  This went along with the "Freight Train" book as well.
What child doesn't enjoy playing with vinegar and baking soda?  Inspired by what I saw in this post, I decided we would make some bubbly colorful "smoke" of our own.

Mr. J enjoyed rolling the dice, adding the numbers together, and placing that many puffs of smoke above each train engine.  We found this activity and many more here.

If trains are not your thing, you might be interested in our back-to-school theme from last year (frogs - "Leap Into a New School Year")!  Blog post here and frog theme items for purchase here.