Thursday, March 11, 2010

Card Crazy: 10+ Ways to Use Three-Part Unicorn Song Cards

Luke and Nina have had an affection for the Irish classic, the Unicorn Song for some time now. So, a few weeks ago, I made them Montessori-inspired 3-part Unicorn Song cards. And, while the kids are not ready to use these in the traditional way (as described at The Joy of Learning), we have been enjoying playing many games with them. Among these are the following:

1. Concentration/Memory (for 1 or more players) : Using either two sets of picture cards, a set of picture cards and a set of picture-word cards, or a set of picture-word cards and a set of letter cards, we lay the cards face down in even rows. Then, we take turns revealing two cards. Anyone who finds a match (same pictures or pictures and starting letter/sound) gets to keep the match and go again, until they find no match.

2. Go Fish (for 2 or more players; if there are many players, use more sets of cards): Using either two sets of picture cards, a set of picture cards and a set of picture-word cards, or a set of picture-word cards and a set of letter cards, we lay all the cards face down as “fish in a pond”. Then, we each take three cards. One of us asks another, “Do you have a ___?”, naming a card we hold in our hands. (Nina sometimes simply shows us one of her cards when asking instead of naming it.) If the person asked has the card requested, the card is given to the first person, who lays the match down. If not, the person says, “No. Go fish!”” and the first person takes a face down card from the “fish pond”. The next person takes a turn asking. Play continues until all cards are matched.

3. The Everyone-Gets-One Slap Game (for 2 or more players): Using enough sets of picture, picture-word and letter cards so that each person can have one, we lay all the cards, minus one set down face up, so each card is showing. Then, the “caller” holds the remaining set as a deck. The caller looks at the first card and says, “Find a ___?”, naming the animal pictured on the card, or, “Find an animal that starts with ____?”, naming the sound of the letter or letters shown on the card. (This easily scaffolds the game to the different levels of student learning – simply matching pictures, matching pictures with phonics sounds, etc.) The other players each take one card as described. Play ends when all cards have been used. (Both Nina and Luke love being the caller. When Nina calls using the letter cards, she simply stands and says, “Who can find a card with this letter?” and shows us the letters, as she doesn’t know the sounds and letter names quite yet.)

4. The Competitive Slap Game (for 3 or more players): Two sets of cards are used. One is laid face up so all cards are showing. The other is held in a deck by the Caller. The caller draws a card and names it or names the letter/sound pictured. Players compete to be the first to slap the corresponding face up cards. Whoever slaps it gets to keep it. Whoever has the most cards at the end gets to be the next Caller.

5. Sequencing Game (for 1 or more players): Each player gets a deck of picture or picture-word cards and tries to play them in a row in the order they are mentioned in the Unicorn Song.

6. Guessing Game (for 2 or more players): One set of picture or picture-word cards are laid face up so all cards are showing. Player 1 gives Player 2 clues, such as, “These are small.” “These are gray.” “These came after the cats.” Or, ‘These start with an /r/ sound.” Player 2 tries to guess what Player 1 is thinking of. “The rats!”

7. Scavenger Hunt (for 2 or more players): Player 1 hides one set of picture or picture-word cards in different places in the room and holds another set as the calling deck. Player 1 draws one card from the calling deck and tells Player 2 to go find it’s match. Player 2 has to find the match in the room.

8. Classifying Challenge (for 1 or more players): Players try to classify cards by different attributes, for example making groups of big and small animals, of real and imaginary animals, of two-legged and four-legged animals, etc. If more than one player is playing, the other players try to guess what the groupings are about.

9. Hold It Up! (for 1 or more players): Each player gets a set of picture or picture-word cards. As we listen to or sing the Unicorn Song, we try to hold up the cards as the things pictured on them are mentioned in the song. This can get pretty funny and challenging with the fast “cats and rats and elephants” part.

10. Match ‘Em Up (for 1 player or a team): Using all three sets of cards, players try to match cards in groups of three, For example, the cats picture card with the cats picture-word card, with a “c” card.

And, of course, there are other ways to use the cards. One is as typical three-part cards and another is as pieces for a felt board story/song. (These can be made by printing the cards as is or enlarging and printing them, on cardstock and, then, attaching some velcro to the back. Or, by printing them on iron-on transfer paper – being sure to use a mirror image so the letters and words don’t come out backwards) and ironing them onto white felt.)

However the cards are used, they can help facilitate lots of fun and learning with culture/holiday studies, beginning phonics, word recognition, music, story telling, logic, classification, Bible story extensions, even literature extensions. (See The Late Passenger, a related C.S. Lewis poem, below.)

Please feel free to enjoy and share the cards and the ideas here, giving credit where credit is due. You should be able to click on any of the thumbnails throughout this post to get full-size versions for printing. Or, you can leave a request in the Comments and I will email you the document.

Also, I would love to hear about how you end up using the cards. Be sure to leave a comment, with a link if you’ve got one, to let me know.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

7 Quick Takes (Missed) Friday (Again) (Vol. 5): Acronyms, Etc. for Home Learning

Well, I missed posting on Friday again this week, as we were busy with Luke’s OT appointment and having fun watching our youngest niece Gianna. But, as the saying goes: Better late than never. So, linking up to Conversion Diary a day late, here is our 7 Quick Takes (Missed) Friday (Again) post for the week:

Titles, Acronyms and Catch Phrases
Call it the literary/linguistic learner (and teacher!) in me, but I love titles, acronyms and catch phrases that help me stay focused, get motivated and dig deeper in thought and action. This week, I realized my family’s homeschool journey is full of these: Jammies School, Our Rule of Seven, Our Core Four, SMART Goals, Faith First... The list goes on. And, I am wondering, do other homeschoolers and parents have acronyms that help them with home education, organization, spiritual life, etc.   If so, please share your favorite through a comment below.  I'd love to collect some more hoemschooling, child-rearing or just life-in-general titles, acronyms and catch phrases... In the meantime, a few thought on some of ours...

A Jammies School S.I. Book Study extension activity gets out of hand, but brings such laughter!

Jammies School
Official public, private and charter schools have names, or titles, if you will. Some of these are no-brainers, for example schools are often named are after the towns they are in. But, other school names are discerned only after much thought about the school's purpose and mission:  Will learning be modeled after a certain philosophy? Will the school honor a specific saint, deceased member of the community or historical figure? Will the education provided reach toward a particular goal? Is there something unique about the education provided at the school or the area in which the school is built? Our homeschool falls into this second category. Early on, it occurred to me that our home pre-school was different from “normal” ones in a very silly way – the attire the kids wear to it – often pajamas! With this realization came an insight about how I wish for learning to proceed at our school as opposed to at public schools.  Where many public schools seem increasingly test-not-learning driven, I want my children to learn in a relaxed, unhurried environment. Thus, the name, or title, of our school became “Jammies School.” And, of course, anyone browsing through this blog can easily see that we are literally true to our name -- much of our learning time takes place in our p.j.’s!

Nina enjoys a sensory activity inspired by our Book Study book of the week.

Have you named your household or homeschool? Please share a comment with me about what it is and why. I am inspired by little things like this..
Our Rule of Seven
As we set out on our homeschooling journey, we knew one thing that many schools “separate” (and ignore!) is something we wish to fully integrate. No “church and state” divisions at Jammies School. Loving and learning about God and His will for us is a primary focus in how we wish to train up our children. With this thought in mind, one day, while I was thinking about the “Five Finger Prayer”, a prayer I love for teaching young children to talk to God, I had numbers in mind. It was then that I ran across this post. I loved Melissa Wiley’s concept of a Rule of Six and found myself clicking links to other blogs, curious how different families let themselves be guided by their own Rules. I also immediately brought the idea up to my husband, as a way for us to clarify our own Jammies School mission and purpose. Within a week, we realized that Melissa’s literally “handy” idea for keeping her family accountable to their Rule of Six by tallying off the first five things on their list with each finger and then clasping hands together for the sixth would not work for us, however clever it was. Why? We could not narrow down our list to just six things. Getting to seven was work enough. And so, we settled on Our Rule of Seven:
  • loving God
  • loving Otheres
  • loving Movement
  • loving Beauty (nature, art, music, culture, etc.O
  • loving Work
  • loving Play
  • loving Learning

Luke enjoys loving God and Learning, through "tranforming" Jesus with glitter as we study last Sunday's gospel, the Transfiguration.

I posted about these in practical terms, with examples, a couple weeks back and would love to hear about others' Rules – with links if you’ve got them – in the comments section below.

Our Core Four
Seven? Four? What’s this? Well, as we move forward with home-preschooling, I continue to keep in mind what I like about Classical Education and things I gleaned from The Well-Trained Mind. (See this post for details.) Among these things is the fact that I need not feel compelled – as I so often do – to “do it all”. Rather, at the pre-K and K-level, concentrating learning activities around “the three R’s” -- Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic does nicely and prevents that feeling of being overwhelmed by the responsibility of homeschooling that one can too easily slide into. Indeed, when my weeks get too busy with paid work, house stuff and the myriad of other things that vie for my attention along with the kids and their training, instead of beating myself up about what I am not doing with homeschooling, I ask myself, “Which of our Core Four could I do something special with the kids about right now?”

"Core Four?" you might asked.  "You just mentioned three things - Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic.”

Well, in Jammies School, we have a primary goal that squares off our main foci of learning: Faith Formation! By ensuring our kids participate in focused activities about the following four things on a regular basis, I know I am doing okay:

  • Faith Formation

  • Reading and Pre-Reading

  • Writing and Pre-Writing

  • Math Literacy 

As part of our focus on Faith Formation, we've been studying the gospels from each Sunday in Lent.  Nina and Luke enjoyed coloring and "tranforming" Jesus this past Sunday.

It really takes the pressure off and inspires fun!

S.M.A.R.T Goals
As an individual, a one-time public educator and former advisor for a leadership program, I have found myself returning to the acronym S.M.A.R.T when thinking about goal-setting for myself and encouraging students and mentees to do so. As a home educator, the acronym is just as apropos. For example, during LENT, I had a simple S.M.A.R.T goal, which continues to drive our Lenten Learning with Little Ones:

Specific (well-defined and clear to all involved): We will Pray, Fast and Give throughout the season and the kids will come to associate these three things with Lent.
  • Measurable (know the goals is achievable and how far away completion is; know when the goals has been achieved): We can measure our success through our Lenten bean Jars and we will know we have prayed, fasted and given during the season when Easter comes and our bean jars are “made new” with treats in place of beans.
  • Action-Oriented (There are obvious “do”s): We will say formal and informal prays daily; we will discuss negative behaviors we might “fast” from (too much Internet time, biting and pinching, hitting, etc.) , replacing them with better behaviors and habits (quality time together, using our mouths to sing and pray, honoring God, using our hands kindly and with purpose – for crafts, cooking, etc.) we will list ways we can “give” and act upon them;
  • Realistic (within the realm of available resources, time and knowledge): Bean jars, crafts, Lenten reading, etc. all fall within the constraints of our resources, time and knowledge.
  • Time-Based (enough time to achieve the goals, without so much time we stray) Six weeks of daily efforts, usually taking seconds to less than an hour each, seems perfect!

A little sensory pre-reading anyone?  Luke and Nina sure enjoyed their shaving cream "B's" and "snow" this week!

 As relaxed as we wish Jammies School to be, being S.M.A.R.T with goal planning for our Core Four and other things should keep us from tripping along our path!
Faith First
I truly believe putting “faith first” in all we do, literally and figuratively, can lead each of us to a healthier, more whole- hearted lifestyle. Thus, “Faith first,” is a motto I try to live by and to instill in my children. For a short while this past year, this mean , literally, putting “faith first”, by starting out days with morning Mass. It was a challenging experience, at times, but enriching, too. Unfortunately, early medical appointments, weather too cold for walking, pregnancy-induced sometimes-morning-sickness-most-times-exhaustion and a variety of other things broke our daily Mass habit. Still, we aim to make “faith first” an important part of Jammies School. So, the kids are encouraged to recite this simple prayer each morning shortly after waking:
Dear God, I offer you this day. Please be with me in all I think and do and say

And, we include prayer and faith readings as a part of our Morning Circle Time. For this special daily time, we have quite a collection of books we refer to – and always love hearing about others. So, if you have favorite faith-inspired books that you use with your children, please share the titles in the comments below. Thanks!

Each week, as I reflect on how our homeschooling journey is going and pray for guidance in training them up, I think, ‘Am I my children through our endeavors?” This week, my thoughts and prayers include:
  • Bodies (health/healing, "daily bread"/physical needs being met) – Dear, Lord, thank you for helping me key into my children’s Bodies As I learn more about Sensory Integration and make simple adjustments to ensure a healthy sensory diet for Luke, I see both Luke and Nina enjoying and growing more and more. 
  • Labors (individual work, school and daily tasks) – Dear, Lord, I have been slacking on ensuring that my children participate in household labors habitually. Sometimes, it seems more expedient to attend to chores and tasks by myself, without the “help” of little hands. Please help me remember that taking the time to include them regularly now will save me time chiding and undoing bad habits later.
  • Emotional Needs (comfort, reassurance, hope, joy, peace, etc.) – Dear Lord, thank you for every opportunity I have to laugh with my children, to comfort them when they cry, to redirect them when they are fussy. Please help me maintain the patience to deal with their more challenging emotions and to model positive ways of recognizing, dealing with and expressing all emotions. Help me stop yelling. When did I ever become such a yeller???
  • Social Needs (healthy relationships with family, friends, associates) – Lord, thank you for the blessings of our town’s storyhour, playdates with cousin Gianna and time with other folks. Luke and Nina truly love these opportunities to play and learn with peers. 
  • Spiritual Needs (continually deepening relationship with God) Lord, the other day when Luke and Nina set up a tea for their stuffed toys, I was so amused and pleased. Then, when they stopped to pray “grace” and the “Hail Mary” with their stuffies before digging into imaginary food, I beamed. Thank you for the encouragement of knowing that my efforts to train Luke and Nina to “pray unceasingly” in both formal and informal prayer, are bearing fruit!

 The kids and their cousin enjoy "reading" to each other during a quiet moment.  Moments such as these are so special.

As always, I love sharing with and learning from others, so comments and suggestion below are much appreciated!


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