Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Tower of Babel

We are using Mystery of History this year and are studying Sumer and the Tower of Babel. Among other activities, the younger kids created ziggurats using Lego. I love how each has their own personal style, yet all are similar to the pictures we looked at online.

These are the remains of a ziggurat in the ancient city of Ur. Abram might have walked past this!

This is an imprint of a seal from ancient Babylon showing a ziggurat. I love history.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How I Teach Larger Place Value (MUS Beta)

How do you turn 200,000 + 40,000 + 6,000 + 500 into 246,500 instead of 2,465?

Most of my children have had difficulty learning to order these big numbers. Personally, I wonder if this lesson group should be in a later book, but it's in Beta, so we deal with it. Here's what I do.

I have them turn lined paper to the side, so they can write one number in each lined column. I have them write the biggest number first, ie. 200,000. It takes SIX columns to write it out. I mention that you have to think about these big numbers right to left, which is backward from reading, so it makes it hard. I use my fingertip to block out most of the number and say "units", move it to the left slightly, "tens", repeat movement, "hundreds" etc. to teach the names of the places. I tell them that they can count the number of digits to make sure it is the same as the one printed on the page.

Then I have them write the next number (40,000) underneath the first, UNITS FIRST! I know it's backwards from the usual way, but it's what worked for me. That way units end up under units, tens, under tens, etc. I cover the number again, and verbally point out that the units are lined up, then the tens, then the hundreds, etc. Then they write the next number, units first, (6,000), then the next, units first, (500). Then we add the units, the tens, the hundreds, etc, to get the right number. I emphasis that in this kind of problem, the answer must have the same number of digits as the largest (and usually it's the first written) number in the series they are to add.

Some of my older students overheard me teaching this and came to say that it was the hardest part of the book. They also said that when these problems come up (very infrequently) later on, it seems much easier than it does when you are first learning it. I love spontaneous encouragement!

Also, I do not make my students *master* this skill like I do math facts. It is not really used much after these lessons and, like I said at the beginning, it is a higher skill, in my opinion, than is needed at this level. It comes much more naturally later on.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Black Bear Mini-Unit

Our school year has officially started! For my Littles (ages 9,9 and 6) we are beginning the year with a bear study. We're focusing on black bears, since they are our 'local' bear, with a sprinkling of grizzly, sun, koala, polar and panda for good measure. We had the good fortune of having a personal encounter with a black bear a few years ago while camping. The children were eating s'mores around the campfire in the afternoon. A bear came wandering near our camp, so my Honey, my SIL and I stood between the bear and the kids and watched him walk past. The children could see him well and they all, except Troubles, remember the experience.

For our study we read some books:

Bears for Kids by Jeff Fair
Black Bear Baby by Alan Lind
The Three Bears by Paul Galdone
Bearskin by Howard Pyle
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey (This was made even more relevant by a recent gift to our family of pounds of blueberries from a friends bush.)
Little Bear (and the others in the series) by Elsa Holmelund Minarik
Jessie Bear stories by Nancy Carlstrom

If we want to spend more time with bear characters, we'll read some Paddington. We read both Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh's Corner last year. I have all my early readers read "The Bears on Hemlock Mountain", so I did not read it with them now.

We did not, please note, read any Berenstein Bears. I do not like them. Father Bear is portrayed as an idiot and he is looked at with scorn by Mother and the children. I won't have those disrespectful storylines in the house.

We watched some videos:

Baby Bear Squeaks
Lost Baby Bear Calls For Momma
Grizzly Roars
Sleepy Baby Bear

We used some other sites, too.

Here's a bear den webcam that we have kept an eye on.

Of course we discussed bear safety. This is old hat to my Lambies since we camp in bear country often.

We have seen a replica black bear paw, real teeth and even skulls several times in the ranger station that we visit when we go camping. I'd love to see a model of a black vs grizzly paw in real life. This would make a real impression!
(awesome picture from CoolRVers)

I created a pretty easy bear word search for them using this tool.

They did a coloring page or two.

Since bears love honey and seeds, we made these Sesame Honey Candies. We did not sprinkle them with ants or grubs to make them even more like a bears natural diet.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

State History and Geography Overviews

This year (and likely next) we will be studying each state's history in overview fashion, its geographical features and learning things like its capital, famous residents, quirky stories, etc. We'll read story books that are representative of each, as well. I think it will be a fun study! Since we live in California, we're bucking tradition and beginning our study on this coast, working north (and west), then east. It's more important to me that my children are familiar with the states they may visit sooner than later.

I plan to blog the sites and resources that I use for each state. If you have a great state/regional story that we should not miss when we get to your state, please share it! I can use all the great story ideas I can get!