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Showing posts with label lesson plans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lesson plans. Show all posts

Bibliotherapy with Vintage Children's Literature: Lesson Plans Using Old Kids' Books


Greetings from the Omschool! Teacher Omi (grama) here with lesson plans using vintage children's literature. I was an avid reader pretty much from day 1. I grew up being read to, reading and and then reading to others, as a parent, teacher and grandparent. I have a huge memory bank and now library of old kids' books from my childhood and earlier.  Here are ways to use vintage children's literature as bibliotherapy. 

First, think back to favorite books from your childhood. If you can't remember the title or author, ask a librarian. This is how I unearthed "Mr. Miacca: An English Folktale (Evaline Ness, 1967). She was able to do a Google search and found it because I vaguely remembered that it was written by the same author as another favorite "Sam, Bangs and Moonshine." Another librarian helped me find my beloved book "The Doll of Lilac Valley." I knew the name but not the author and since it was withdrawn from circulation, it seemed lost in time. Which brought me to the next step. 

Do your own searches with Advanced Google Book Search, or Google Books just Google, using details I recalled from other works of children's literature I'd loved. This is how I found "Walter the Lazy Mouse" (Marjorie Flack, 1937). I'd been read this story at around age 4 and could only remember that it was about a mouse who moves to an island and makes furniture. 

Use picture memories. Many of my earliest books memories are of the illustrations. Before discovering Walter, anyone I'd ask would suggest "Stuart Little." I knew that wasn't the one because I recall the image of Walter making a stick bed and table. My mental image was a little blurred with Stuart Little but when I saw Walter's furniture, the illustrations fit my memory image perfectly. 

Begin (or continue) collecting old kids' books. Through garage sales, library book sales, thrift stores and now Thriftbooks and Amazon, I've amassed over 1,000 kids books, most written in the 1960s or before. Some were from the Little Lending Libraries. I rarely pay more than a buck or two per volume. I've had to pay more for a few of them because of age and the fact that they're collectibles. "Mr. Bear Squash-You-All-Flat" a classic my dad and I both loved, was going for about $50 but finally, I was able to purchase it for $8 at Thriftbooks. 

Find old kids books at Thriftbooks and Amazon. These sources have the best pricing for purchasing used and vintage children's literature.  As part of our travel quest, my husband and I rediscovered Uzbekistan, specifically Tashkent and Samarkand. He'd not heard of these cities but I remembered reading of them at about age 5, in my grandmother's Childcraft series. 

Try to recall as many details as possible. The Childcraft books were a children's encyclopedia set. My husband had not heard of these so I thought maybe I'd gotten the name wrong. All I remembered was that they were white or silver books with a dark red banner. I searched and found that the Children of Many Lands was volume 5 (with the Uzbekistan stories) but the cover didn't look familiar. I kept searching and found that Grandma Langerak had the 1961 collection with the covers exactly as I had remembered. I was able to locate and purchase volume 5. I've not received it yet so I don't know for sure if the stories of Taskent and Samarkand are in it but I will update you!

Keep digging. My husband had a favorite book called "The Big Book of Real Trains" that was lost. It took us awhile to locate, first because he forgot the "real" trains part. Then we discovered it had about 6 editions as trains changed over the years. We finally located one based on his memory of the cover. The illustrations were close but not exact. So we'll keep pursuing till we get the correct volume. 

Be prepared for some culture shock. I'll talk more about this is upcoming posts. Just to summarize, your beloved kids books will likely contain some things that might be uncomfortable or even offensive to you now.  Depending on time period, many kids books contained racial profiling, cultural appropriation (or misappropriation) and inappropriate depictions. I recently found a recording of one of my favorite albums "Aunt Theresa Please Tell Me a Story."  I cringed at how missionaries were portrayed as so superior and condescending to those they were missioning to. The racism, bigotry, inaccuracies and Messiah Complex in "The Stick of Wood That Talked" was rampant. 


Free printable Valentine's Day Lesson Plans: Love coupons


 Hello friends of this free printable lesson plans blog! I'm teacher Omi (grama) of the Omschool! Today I'm sharing free printable Valentine's Day lesson plans to make Love Coupons. We made these years ago, when I was homeschooling our children. A love coupon book is very easy to make with kids of all ages, from toddler to teen. And they make great Valentine's Day gifts that cost nothing. 

You can get free printable love coupons and love coupon booklets to personalize from Spruce Crafts and FTD. BH&G has more Valentine's Day love coupon printables and crafts. But you don't have to print anything if you don't want to. Kids can design their own and probably will enjoy it more. 

For homemade love coupons, simply have kids design a frame pattern like a store coupon. I made some for my now-husband, when we were dating, using index cards. Even the youngest can illustrate or color the coupons. Kids can write in "this coupon entitles the bearer to__________" with a blank to fill in. You can then photocopy the page of coupons to fill in. 

Then practice writing skills having children fill in what the Love coupon is good for. Here are some great free Valentine's Day gifts kids can give. 

--back rub

--do the dishes

--play with little brother

--clean garage

--wash the car

--hugs and kisses

--make breakfast

--feed the cat

--walk the dog

--fold clothes

--quiet time for parent nap

--shovel snow

--rake leaves

--reading to siblings

The list is endless! And best of all, none of these task cost anything. Toddlers can help by doing shorter simpler tasks (sorting socks, picking up toys, drawing a picture). I really encourage all teachers and homeschool families, to keep lesson plans simple. As much as possible, make them, individualized, open-ended, hands-on and designed for high success. 


Free printable animal tracks flashcards to play nature detective

 


Hello my friends! Teacher Omi (grandma) here with some fun winter science lesson plans for you. Today at the Omschool, we are having a big blizzard, so the ground is covered with snow. Opi (grandpa) was clearing the snow and noticed that lots of different animal friends had visited. How did he know? Yes, you  guessed it. Because he saw animal tracks in the snow! But the mystery was, which animal tracks are they. So we decided to play nature detectives and thought you might like to join us. But first you'll need some free printable animal tracks flashcards to help. 

We can figure out who visited by looking at the footprints and sometimes, tail prints that they left behind. Let's begin by printing those free printable animal tracks identification cards to help us solve the mystery of the who visited our yard.  You can use these to make your own field guide. 

Exploration America offers free printable animal tracks flashcards for you to print out, cut and assemble into a booklet. You can even use these as animal identification coloring pages. Maine.gov offers free downloadable printables of animal footprints and the Minnesota DNR (Department of Natural Resources) has 14 more free animal tracks printables. Massachusetts.gov has free printable animal identification flashcards.  

Along with our field guides, nature detectives need a magnifying glass. A camera would help, to take pictures of the tracks in situ (as they are). We can then make them into a nature scrapbook. We might also bring tweezers and some small plastic bags to collect any specimens we find, of fur. If we find any scat (animal droppings, or poop), we'll just leave it there and take pictures! 



Free printable snowflake patterns for winter science lesson plans


 Good morning! Teacher Omi (grandma) on this lovely winter day! We were just hit with a massive blizzard and it reminded me that when I homeschooled our kids, the weather and seasons played a big part in our lesson plans. Here are free printable snowflake patterns to extend winter science lesson plans! 

First Palette has long been a favorite for free printables, activities and lesson plans. This site offers free printable snowflake patterns and templates for snowflakes to cut. Use these to explore crystals, three forms of matter (solid, liquid, gas), fraction math and weather lesson plans. 

When I was a kid, we learned to cut snowflakes by folding paper. A snowflake crystal always has six sides. To create that, you need a perfect square piece of paper. And to create that from 8x11 paper, fold in half and then half again (quarters). Then without creasing, fold again, into 8ths and cut the excess off. Now open the paper and fold diagonally to form a triangle and then in half again so the points of the triangle meet. Now fold both sides half way in, so they overlap and cut off the excess. 

What you are left with is 12 sections, folded in on each others. Keeping that folded, make any cuts you like but don't cut all the way through. You can cut the center point to make an open pattern. Whatever cuts you make will be repeated 6 times. The snowflake pattern is achieved when the 12 sections are divided into six repeated sets of two each. 

You can do the same design folding the paper into 8ths. You'll still have 12 sections only this time, the pattern will be repeated four times instead of three (or six). It won't be a  snowflake but it will be very pretty. And you can teach fraction math and also the factors of 12: 1, 2,3,4, 6 and 12. You can also teach symmetry (mirror images) by showing how, when you open the snowflake pattern, the repeated patterns are facing each other, exactly the same but opposite. 



Active learning vs. Passive watching: building lesson plans that engage students


Hello Omifans! I've been teaching in one form all my adult life through a spectrum of teaching styles and theories. And one thing that has never changed, though it is seems "more honoured in breach than observance" is the importance of active learning vs. passive. These days, we may talk active learning by we walk cyber school, heavy internet focus and near-constant screen time (via mobile phone, TV etc.).

Yes, I know, it's easier to do everything on the computer and there is surely a place for digital learning. But as our bodies have shown, constant sedentary activities are not healthy. More kids suffer from juvenile obesity, diabetes and learning problems than ever before. Reading comprehension goes down 25% when reading a screen vs. a hardcopy book. 

Cyberschool may have its place but not to the exclusion of hands-on learning. So I'm issuing a Get Up, Learn and Play (GULP) Challenge. Even if you're classroom bound to a large extent, students can and should be doing more hands-on and interactive learning experiences AWAY from a screen. They should be engaged in tactile exploration, building and active play. They should be doing a lot more than seeing and hearing. 

Here are some relatively simple ways to build active learning in your homeschool or classroom:

Don't just turn TV off, put it away.  Losing the remote is not the worst thing that can happen. It will force kids to turn to activities and use their own creatively and inventiveness to entertain. 

Same with phones. This goes for adults too. None of us is going to get to the end of our lives wishing we'd fooled around on our phones more. 

Put on a play or puppet show. Bust out your dress up stuff, recycle bin and craft supplies. Get kids busy writing scripts, creating costumes, working out blocking and stage movement, experimenting with lighting, building sets, designing puppets, even making music to accompany the show. A historical or literature based play? So much the better. You can cover the entire curriculum:  math, STEM, creative writing, social studies, science, reading, drama, by putting on a play. I'll blog more on this for sure. 

GET OUTSIDE: Did I yell that loud enough? Read outside. Have a picnic. Take a nature hike. Do arts and crafts. Cook outside (thank you Coleman stove and campfire!)

Every time I talk to my grandkids (hey Silas, Moses, Lola, Lucian, Milo, Ezra, Juno, Emmett and Remus!) it's the active things I hear about not the TV shows or apps. My kids' best memories are of forts and sidewalk chalk and homemade games! I'll blog more on that later too! 

I'm not trying to guilt anyone for relying on the TV or phone to entertain. I get it. But I will guarantee better behavior and happier kids when you shut those off, haul out the blocks and tell kids to build a city!



Autumn leaf lesson plans with fall crafts, activities and printables

Hello Omifans! Teacher Omi (grandma) here with an autumn leaves party planner complete with fall crafts, activities and printables! From childhood to adulting, I've loved the beautiful season of autumn especially here in Michigan! Fall is the perfect time to explore seasonal science, fall crafts and foods, autumn leaves and harvest themed activities. These fall lesson plans are include cross-curricular, multiage activities for use in homeschool or classroom settings. There's lots to do for the very young toddlers (I'm waving to you, Ezra, Juno, Emmett and Remus!--my youngest grands!)I've included free printables but you probably won't need them as these fall activities focus on nature's bounty which is available for free right outside your door! 

Fall math lesson plans. Fall leaf crafts are perfect for preschool and early elementary (Silas, Moses, Lola, Lucian, Milo and Henry, these are for you!). Go on an autumn leaf walk and collect various colors, shapes and varieties of leaves. Have children sort and categorize leaves by color, tree of origin and size. 

Fall science lesson plans. Using your collected leaves, research leaf types and identify which trees they come from. Discuss deciduous (trees that shed leaves annually)  and evergreen or coniferous (which shed cones). Make a leaf identification chart or booklet. Label leaves. Here are free printable leaf patterns. Wildflower Ramblings has free printable leaf identification cards too. Here are more tree and leaf guides and printables. Here's another guide to tree and leaf identification.

I'll add more to this post soon! Just want to get you started. 

Book BAGS: Apple Party with books, activities, games and snacks


 Hello my dear friends in the Omschool-iverse! Teacher Omi (grama) here with more apple activities plans for autumn harvest lesson plans. We talked in my last post about crafts and snacks for an apple party and today we'll extend that with a Book BAGS unit. Book BAGS are my lesson plans that focus around a (B)book with accompanying (A) activities, (G) games, (S) snacks and craft projects. These free printable lesson plans cover cross-curricular activities: math, reading, literature, science and social studies and are geared to Pre-K up to about grade 2. Book BAGS are heavy on hands-on, multisensory activities for all learning styles and special needs. They're multiage for homeschool families, too! And being that I'm teacher Omi, they feature my beloved baby grands Silas, Moses, Lola, Lucian, Ezra, Remus, Milo, Juno, Emmett and Henry in starring roles (Hi, guys!)

Let's begin with kids books about apples. Here are some favorites.

Ten Apples Up on Top by Theo LeSieg (aka Dr. Seuss!) Here's a video of Ten Apples Up on Top for all learners to sing and read along with. This is perfect for the younger toddler and preschool learners to practice counting (Juno, Ezra, Emmett, Remus this one's for you!) Dr. Seuss books provide perfect emergent reading practice also. Also, value added are games for simple physical education by balancing apples on your head! Then off course you can eat the apples or make them into applesauce. 

The True Tale of Johnny Appleseed by Margaret Hodges. There are many wonderful kids books about explorer and environmentalist John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) but this one is my favorite. There's a Disney version of Johnny Appleseed legend from 1948 that children will love today. The wonderful thing about this story is that unlike other Americana legends or tall tales like Paul Bunyan or Pecos Bill, this one is essentially all true. Read John Chapman's wikipedia page for details on his life. This book/movie combo is perfect for teaching apple science. 

Use free printable apple lesson plans from Enchanted Learning. This website feature dozens of free printable apple themed activities from craft projects, reading, creative writing, penmanship, science, drawing, phonics, math and more. 

Oh and speaking of applesauce, young learners will love Tigger and the Apple Tree from the Mickey's Young Reader books. The ever-bombastic Tigger assists Rabbit's applesauce-making in his own avant-garde style! Follow up reading by bobbing for apples in a tub of water (older kids) or using fish nets to "fish" for apples (younger learners). Then make your own applesauce with honey (Pooh Bear's recipe). You can peel and core apples or, if you have a applesauce mill, use that (much tastier and prettier). Simply add a dab of honey when done. 

Plant parts booklet. Kids love making their own books and apple science is a perfect subject. You can make kids books simple. Staple a few sheets of paper together (recycled from recycle bin) .Or get fancier and bind books and make a cover. Draw progress of apple from seed, sprout, stem (trunk), leaves, blossoms, fruit and finally back around to seed. Students can make it like a flip book if they choose also. 

Visit and apple orchare and host and apple tasting party. Assemble various types apples and have students sample, rate and categorize. They might arrange by color, sweetness and texture. Make a map of where different apples are grown regionally. Here are some apple varieties to try:

Granny Smith

Northern Spy

Macintosh

Ida Red

Paula Red

Jonathon

Red Delicious

Yellow Delicious

Pink Lady

Cosmic Crisp

Fuji

Gala

Honeycrisp

Sweetango

Winesap (harder to fin)

Host and an Apple Hunt (like an Easter egg hunt). Then make apple prints. Cut apples widthwise and find the star hidden in the apple. Saturate paper towel with food coloring to make stamp pad. Or use lightweight paint  to make apple print T-shirts. 

Teach Bible lesson plans on apples. Of course there's the Adam and Eve story, but I like to focus  Christian lesson plans on the more positive Bible verses such David being the "apple of God's eye" meaning beloved. We are all beloved, as children of God, by extension. 

Teach Jewish Rosh Hashanah lesson plans with apples and honey. Chabad.org offers wonderful lesson plans and activities for kids to explore this Holy Day tradition. 


Free Printable Apple themed Fall Harvest Lesson Plans: Apple Party



Hello to all of Teacher Omi's  ( Grama's ) Omschool friends! I'm Omi to 10 going on 11 wonderful grandkids and as a former teacher and homeschool mom, I'm all about educating kids! The Omschool is 2nd gen homeschool with the grandchildren and I'd love for you to join us! Today we're thinking about one of Omi's favorite foods: apples! Let's explore some free printable apple themed activities for fall harvest lesson plans. 

We live in Michigan and in autumn, Michigan is pretty much apple central! So why not celebrate this fall harvest goodness by throwing an apple party with a potluck of apple foods, apple themed crafts and games and apple lesson plans! First the free printable apple lesson plans.

California Apples.org has a harvest basket full of apple themed lessons, games, crafts, cross-curricular lesson plans, coloring pages, apple recipes, etc. Michigan Apples has a free printable apple resource kit for homeschool parents and teachers. 

For your fall harvest apple potluck, you could make anything from apple soup to apple dumplings, to pork roast with apples (my Omi's special recipe) to Our youngest Emma's famous 9-egg apple peanut butter cake (made when she was four and complete with peelings and seeds!) Last year, I gave each member of the family a bag of apples when they went on sale preference is McIntosh). This includes children. Each was tasked with looking up or inventing an apple themed recipe. This year, we're looking for even more creative goodies. 

I've got to dash to work but I'll post more later in part two of these apple themed lesson plans (plus great-Omi's apple pork roast recipe!)

Book BAGS: preschool book-based activities, games and snacks for "Blueberries for Sal"


Hello friends! Teacher Omi (grama) here. As a former homeschool parent and special needs teacher, I'm excited to bring this passion for education forward to the next gen grandchildren. When he was 4, my eldest grandson Silas called me Teacher Omi (grama) so I'm calling this new phase of homeschooling our Om-school.

I've been putting together a series of Book BAGS (literature-based units with books, activities, games, snacks and crafts). Today's Book BAGS unit is based on the 1949 Caldecott winner "Blueberries for Sal" by Robert McCloskey. My mom read it to me when I was 4 and it's become a family favorite. We also live in Michigan blueberry country and it's coming on blueberry season, so a perfect story to celebrate. I've geared this to homeschooling, erm, Om-schooling families with activities for all ages. If you're using in a group setting, preschool to 2nd grade would be best. I'm dedicating these free printable bear lesson plans and activities based on "Blueberries for Sal" to our grandboy Lucian, bear aficionado and explorer extraordinaire. 

Begin your Book BAGS unit by reading "Blueberries for Sal." Enjoy the beautifully detailed block print illustrations of Robert McCloskey.  I recommend getting your own copy of this classic story and Thriftbooks is my go-to for reasonably priced used books. 

Note the similarities between the bear cub and his mother and Sal and her mom. Both moms are preparing for winter. Sal's mom is going to can the blueberries while Little Bear is exhorted to "eat all you can hold for winter." "Blueberries for Sal" is the perfect segue into life science lesson plans on bears and hibernation. Bear.org has a plethora of free printable bear lesson plans and activities based on bears. 

You might actually do a fruit canning project with children. Or if you're like me and not much of a home-canner, make freezer blueberry jam. Here's a freezer blueberry jam recipe from Farmhouse Harvest. Jam-making lesson plans are perfect for multiage classrooms or homeschools because everyone from the baby on up can participate. Toddlers like my Omschool littles Remus and Emmett could practice eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills placing canning jar rings on a spoon (as Sal does) while the prechoolers Juno and Ezra could be blueberry stem removers and squashers. The 4 and up crowd (Lu Bear, Milo, Lola) can get math skills practice measuring and counting. The big Kahunas like our Moses and Silas can be project coordinators. And everyone will enjoy the tasting! 

If you don't want to mess with making jam (and I confess I for one might not LOL), you can make a multitude of snacks from blueberries for your unit. How about rainbow sandwiches? Spread bread with cream cheese, slice strawberries, mandarin oranges, bananas, green grapes, blueberries and red grapes and arrange like a rainbow! Or make Super Berry Chicken Salad with cubed chicken, celery, green peppers, blueberries, cashews (or chow mien noodles) mayo and Dijon mustard. Lots of slicing and chopping for cooking skills practice. Or you could do blueberry muffins or pancakes. 

Grade one and up might also discuss how things have changed in Sal's 1948 family kitchen and what things have remained the same. Stoves for example look much the same but are fueled differently (discuss how). You might assemble a collection of "vintage" cooking utensils like a rotary hand beater, potato masher, metal cookie cutters, flour sifter and pastry dough cutter. Put these in the  sand and water table for exploration. 

A perfect game for "Blueberries for Sal" Book BAGS (bags is book, activity, game and snack) is clothespin drop which lets kids explore another old-time tool, clothespins. This was a favorite at birthday parties when Omi was young. All you need is a package of clothespins and a canning jar. Students practice eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills dropping pins in the jar. 

And for the activity or book-based craft, make clothespins into "puppet" characters from "Blueberries for Sal" and act out the story. Here's where that recycling bin I'm always on about is invaluable. Let kids forage for scraps from there and a fabric scraps bag, to clothe and fur the characters. No fur fabric for the bears? Just draw on brown paper bags! Then add faces and voila, your own puppets! 


Free cross-curricular real-life lesson plans and building projects

Hello and welcome to the Omschool! Teacher Omi (Grandma) here with more ways to get free lesson plans from everyday tasks. A good curriculum should be practical, hands-on, goal-oriented and feature real-life. activities. Today's free lesson plans come from building/ assembly projects for household materials. These do double duty in that students are creating real-life items they will use everyday and homeschool families get value added being able to cross one more project off the to-do list! Assembling building projects is cross-curricular, requiring STEM, math, tool use, fine motor, reading, following directions, process thinking and often problem-solving skills (plus probably others I've not thought of!) 

So what kind of building projects are we talking about? Well, most of us order a lot of things online and have them shipped. And even if you purchase in store, many items come in pieces and must be assembled. Furniture, shelves, containers, toys, decorations, you name it...most everything states some assembly required. And these assembly building projects make excellent free printable STEM lesson plans for students. Next time you buy something that comes in pieces, students to building projects. Usually, you don't have to write separate lesson plans or even provide materials! Everything comes right in the package! And if instructions aren't written as well as they could be, this is extra learning as students are required to "think outside the box" and come up with solutions.  What better problem-solving activities could there be?

Oh and even more value added if instructions are written in several languages. Students can learn to translate and compare words in different languages. You might have them make a chart of how different phrases, words, materials or processes are called in various languages. I suggest making photo copies of instructions for each student involved in the projects. 

The building projects example I'm using is this desk I built (or assembled) recently. Everything was labeled, parts by number and hardware by letter. The step-by-step instructions were wordless and showed pictures. Most steps were very clear but the keyboard tray assembly was not. I had to redo it several times till I got it right. The set came with tools so I had everything I needed. I would recommend using your own if possible. We used our power drill which made it easier. Older kids could be taught to utilize one if available. Let children discuss how to organize materials for easier construction (placing parts in numerical or alphabetical order). For building projects with many different fasteners, students might sort them into an egg carton. Be sure to save little zippered bags from fasteners for other repurposed uses. Also, save any spare parts in case something breaks. 

Here's a site with free printable paper buildings and structures for further STEM extension. Some of the free printables aren't working anymore (this is a really old site I used 15 years ago when I was writing lesson plans for Yahoo!) But there are enough to provide lots of printable activities and hours of learning. Stay tuned for more free printable lesson plans. 

Cats Mordecai and Moishe (not shown) were very helpful in the building project and Mord thought you would like to see him sitting on his handiwork!  



Make a pet baby tornado: fun, easy, free science activities and recycled crafts

 Hello teachers and homeschool friends, "Omschool" teacher Omi (grandma) here with easy, free recycle bin crafts for science lesson plans. Today we're making pet baby tornadoes. This science experiment is easy for all ages from toddler on up. It's perfect for a highchair craft. The pet baby tornado is free to make with items from the recycle bin. You just need water, a clean glass jar with lid and a tiny drop of dish soap. 

To find baby tornado, just shake round and round to create a swirling in the water, called in science talk, a vortex. This is the force that drives a whirlpool and also the force that is generated by the drain in your sink or bathtub. Water doesn't just fall down the drain, it swirls round and round as it goes down. 

I realized after I made my pet baby tornado video that it was difficult to see him clearly. So I tried adding a little food coloring to make baby tornado show up better. You can also add some glitter if you  have some, to show how things floating on the surface are pulled into the vortex. 



 
Extend your science fun with some cross-curricular connections. Make a book about baby tornado. Research tornados and the force they create. Draw your tornado and maybe make up a song about him (her!) 

Here are free printable tornado lesson plans from A to Z Teacher. And here are some more free printable tornado lesson plans from Teach Engineering. 


DIY Sand and Water Table alternatives for homeschool and classroom


 Hello fans of my Omschool blog. I've been a licensed general and special education teacher for 37 years and part of my career work was spent homeschooling our four children. Now, I'm Omi--grandma--to 9 going on 11 and am continuing the homeschool traditions I began, with the second generation as Omschool (Omi's school). Lesson plans are designed with cheap to free materials, many of which are reused, repurposed and recycled. 

For today's lesson plans, we'll create a DIY sand and water table for preschool, special education and lower elementary learning centers. This sand table alternative was developed in our homeschool and works well for small spaces. As budgets are usually tight, whether in public, parochial or homeschool, this is a low cost alternative as well. 

Instead of the expensive sand and water table purchased from school supply companies, I've used a repurposed child's sandbox such as the enclosed Little Tikes turtle sandbox or Step 2 brand sandboxes. The turtle sandbox is washable, portable and covered. It moves easily indoors or out. For an even more budget friendly alternative, get a small plastic wading pool. I've found these as cheap as $7 from Dollar General. Inflatable kiddie pools will work too however they aren't as durable. 

The last sand table alternative is a low sided plastic box or tub with lid. This works very well when space is limited. When learning center activities are done, simply close the box with media and manipulatives inside and stack in the storage area. Here's my blog post on homemade sand toys for the sand table. 

These preschool learning center activities worked very well for our homeschool. I could allow the  youngest children to explore independently while instructing the older children. The DIY sand and water table wasn't just for preschool learning center activities either. The older kids could use it to practice and explore mathematical concepts such as measurement, geometry (volume) and science (sing various media). Sand tables provide excellent sensory experiences. More on sand table filler alternatives later! 

I'm sorry I don't have an image of how this sand and water table fit in our homeschool. But let me assure you the even in our tiny 10x10 room, it fit well! I've linked the picture to Amazon. This small reasonably priced Step 2 sandbox would work perfectly. 

Free lesson plans: how to homeschool for nothing (zip, zero, no cost)


 Hello my friends! Om-school Omi here with some good...nay great...news for homeschool families. You can literally homeschool your children for nothing, as in zip, nada, zero cost with these free lesson plans and a little know-how. I'm going to share easy, free ways to educate kids, gleaned from 43 years of teaching. 

I've been doing this education thing in one way or another since I was 15, at summer camps, VBS, Sunday school and then as a certified teacher in K-8, Montessori, adult, preschool, special needs, tutoring, homeschool and substitute teaching. And I can assure you that it's not really that difficult if you plan and prepare accordingly. 

If the Covid 19 pandemic taught us anything about homeschooling our children it's that we prefer to pay for things (or feel more comfortable with purchased curriculum, cyberschooling, apps, etc.) than we do trusting our own teaching skills and common sense. But happily, as quarantine wore on, I saw many parents begin to have aha moments as they realized, hey, this isn't so difficult. We can teach our kids! To quote my beloved Barack Obama, yes we can! Parents began to wean from purchased packaged and digital lesson plans and experiment with ideas of their own. 

So now that Covid 19 is winding down, you can also keep up that momentum with homeschooling if you want. You don't have to homeschool every day or keep them out of group education. The key is to remember that every moment we are with our children we are teaching, modeling, and communicating in every act we perform or word we say. Daunting? A little. But also exciting. So how do we teach, model and communicate positive healthy, proactive ideas to our kids? Here are some ideas, my "free lesson plans" if you will. 

1) Be authentic. Just because we are educating constantly, doesn't mean we have to adopt a fake "teacher voice." Educating doesn't mean pontificating, preaching or proselytizing. Speak to children respectfully, positively and gently. 

2) Build for natural learning. Teaching is more about doing and showing than talking. St. Francis of Assisi said of preaching (which in its truest form is teaching) "preach always. Occasionally, use words." Genuine learning takes place when teachers share, foster and facilitate experiences. 

3) Facilitate. Montessori identifies this as the teacher's main duty. Make natural learning experiences accessible to students. Create activities--a craft project, for example--and then step back and let children interact with materials. Or just point out learning experiences (a bird's nest on a nature walk). Don't hover, orchestrate or  manufacture results. Let kids take from experiences what they will. See my post on grandchildren Lucian and Ezra and their experiences with a sand mold project we did with them. 

4) Observe. I can't emphasize enough the importance of quiet observation and reflection in the classroom. In an upcoming post I'm going to cover observation journals. There's so much going on around us in our world. Children know this and are constantly making us adults aware of this, if we listen. Sometimes, we learn more from them than they learn from us and what a blessing that is. I guess that's why Montessori says to "follow  the child" and the Bible that "a child will lead them." 

5) Empower. Sadly some children have had their experiences, observations and ideas diminished and need an infusion of confidence. They have come to believe that they aren't good enough and require constant validation from someone they think is superior. This is where we educators can interrupt and redirect that cycle and validate them. When subbing in an alternative high school for troubled teens, students were reading "The Crucible" aloud as a play. I complimented one young man who was generally very angry and withdrawn, on his delivery as Judge Hawthorne. I said he should consider community theater. He literally blossomed and I heard him after class telling students that he was thinking of trying out for a play. 

Stay tuned for more ideas on how to educate children without spending a cent! Photo is eldest grandson Silas mucking about with his homemade slime, making a mess, having a blast, oh and btw, learning about polymers. 

Recycled trash crafts for Earth Day: Book-based endangered animals and habitats

 


April turns our minds to Earth Day, which has expanded into Earth Month. Build awareness of conservation and reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose with these recycle bin trash crafts. Today's trash crafts for kids feature book-based animals and habitats, student-designed from the recycle bin. 

Said it before and I'll say it on autoloop, the recycle bin is a teacher's /homeschooler's best friend. Making book-based animals and habitats from the recycle bin teaches students several important lessons about ecology. First, children explore animals and their habitats. If you swing these lesson plans toward endangered species, kids learn how and why animals become threatened or endangered. These earth science lesson plans have social studies connections too. 

Second, making recycled trash crafts teaches kids to reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose. Making book-based endangered animals and habitat dioramas extends lesson plans to include art, literature, measurement math and inventiveness. Throw in Earth Day poem writing or have students compose a story about the endangered animals and you've got creative writing as well. 

For preschool students, I recommend using any of the Mousekin (Edna Miller), Leo Lionni or Eric Carle books for your book-based animal habitat diorama crafts. Research with children which of the animals is endangered or threatened and why. Both children's authors feature animals in habitats with simple drawings that can easily be created by children with items from the recycle bin. Leo Lionni illustrated his books to look like patterned pieces and scraps. 

Here are some free printable Eric Carle coloring pages and crafts to spur creativity. Here are links for free Leo Lionni resources. Not all work but some are still available. Here are free printable animal habitat activities

To make the animals, put out an assortment of paper and cardboard scraps, plastic, metal and glass packages, cardboard tubes, packing materials, mesh produce bags, foil, plastic lids, etc. Add fabric scraps, buttons, yarn, string and other nifty recycled items. Give students free reign to invent as they wish. 

Happy Earth Day and Earth Month! (The cats shown above are not endangered but they were just too cute not to share). 


Lesson plans using recycled plastic Easter eggs and egg cartons


  I love repurposing and reusing stuff from my recycle bin in new and creative ways, especially as lesson plans. Recently, my one-year-old grandson has been discovering the fun playing with empty recycled plastic Easter eggs. This has inspired me to design hands-on activities, lesson plans and games using recycled plastic Easter eggs and egg cartons. I've includes some free printable activities to supplement. 

With Easter coming up, there will be many activities involving plastic Easter eggs: candy hunts, Easter crafts, etc. You might be tempted to throw them away, after use, but don't. There are so many educational activities to use recycled plastic Easter eggs. Save Styrofoam egg cartons as well. 

I blogged in an earlier post about using plastic eggs and egg cartons from the recycle bin as preschool learning center math, sorting and fine motor activities. The good news for homeschoolers is that these make great toddler high chair activities too. Activities are easily adjustable to age. My grandkids Juno and Emmett who are 1, love stacking or "nesting" plastic egg halves, just like blocks. We work on placing eggs in egg cartons, to practice eye hand coordination, puzzle skills and fine motor. 

Challenge kids fine motor skills in egg assembly activities. The plain colored recycled plastic eggs are easier than the shaped ones like the ice cream ones shown in the picture which can be a little tricky. But it's important for development that some tasks be difficult, especially for special needs and students with autism. We teach to fear failure and frustration when we make things too easy, or do it for them. Children need challenges, to have to work at something and to try new approaches, to learn patience, perseverance and vital problem solving skills. 

Use assembled Easter eggs in science learning centers and preschool sand and water table to explore water displacement and floatation concepts. Give toddlers scooping tools to practice fine and gross motor skills in high chair activities. Special needs students will love "fishing" for Easter eggs too! 

Have kids "hide" little items or non-messy foods in recycled plastic Easter eggs. Or hide them yourself and have students predict what's inside. This teaches math skills of size estimation. 

Sort eggs in egg cartons, by color or design. Last year, when my husband and I visited our grandkids, we brought each child a set of individualized themed Easter eggs (dinosaurs, fish, desserts, sports balls and insects). Then we played an Easter egg hunt game in which each child had to find eggs in his pattern. The 3-year-olds, Lucian and Milo, were able to identify eggs that belonged in their pattern. And Ezra, who was almost two, was able to find his fishy Easter eggs by their color. Extend pattern lesson plans with free printable animal dominoes

Do an Easter egg hunt, using recycled egg cartons to place found eggs. Each child brings a dozen and finds a dozen. Once her 12 spaces are filled she "wins." A homeschool mom friend of my oldest daughter came up with genius plan. It prevents kids taking too many eggs and best of all teaches math skills. Have older kids group their eggs by two, three, four and six, to learn skip counting, multiplying and dividing. Reinforce with these free printable math flash cards

For more hands-on lesson plans and recycle bin activities stay tuned to this blog. 


Recycle bin Easter egg crafts to teach early math--with free printables


With Earth Day (now actually Earth Month) around the corner, I'm sharing lesson plans to make crafts from your recycle bin. Today we're making recycle bin Easter egg crafts to teach early math activities of sorting and matching, plus fine motor skills. These Easter egg crafts were inspired by my toddler grandchildren, Juno, Ezra and Emmett. 

As a homeschool mom, I was always looking for toddler high chair activities to keep the youngest busy learning while I did lesson plans with the older kids. Use these Easter egg crafts in math learning centers, as high chair activities or at a toddler picnic table for older more mobile preschoolers. I used one of the small Little Tikes picnic tables with our youngest. I rotated different preschool crafts and hands-on activities for her to work on. You could use the sand and water table also. 

For toddler Easter egg crafts (ages 1-2)  you're only going to need two things, which can be found in your recycle bin: plastic refillable Easter eggs and empty egg cartons. Assemble eggs for 1-year-old children and let them practice sorting into egg cartons. As they get older, children can begin assembling Easter eggs. Then at age 2-ish, they can match egg halves by color or pattern (we have some really cool ones shaped like sports balls, fish and ice cream!) These are great for developing fine motor skills. And saving Easter eggs from year to year is environmentally friendly so prefect for Earth Month. 

Also at age two, or whenever they no longer put things in their mouths, they can begin filling Easter eggs with tiny objects or shapes. Children might cut shapes from recycled cardboard or paper, to practice scissors skills. They might also use shape punches. Extend this into a fun preschool snack craft by giving them little snacks to hide in eggs (fish crackers, letter pretzels, etc.)

Here are free printable Earth Day activities and here's my page of free printable Earth Day lesson plans, crafts and activities. Lastly, here's my collection of lesson plans for Earth Day trash crafts Stay tuned for more Earth Month activities! 




Recycle bin crafts: sensory "touch and feel" animal habitat books for hands-on animal lesson plans

Want to make animal lesson plans more hands-on and interactive? Here are lesson plans to make sensory or "touch and feel" animal board books to provide tactile stimulation. Use these for preschool and special education for students with autism and special sensory needs. 

Start with my blog posts on free printable animal habitat lesson plans. You'll find loads of animal coloring pages, cut and paste habitat dioramas and zoology printables. After coloring and assembling, attach animal habitat pieces to recycled cardboard from recycle bin. I suggest cereal and food packaging weight cardboard for ease of use with scissors. Value added: these recycle bin crafts and science activities are perfect for Earth Day to practice ecology and environmental awareness. 

Next, hit up that recycle bin and fabric scrap basket for various textured materials to simulate animal habitat structures, nests and body coverings. Depending on age, have students cut or cut for them, pieces to attach to habitats and animals. What you're going for are the multisensory "touch and feel" animal board books such as babies like. 

Here are some suggested multisensory materials to use for different animal body coverings and habitat structures:
 

fake fur or carpet pieces for furry mammals (cats, tigers, rabbits, squirrels)

polar fleece for lambs, sheep and goats

felt for animals with hide, hair or short fur (primates, monkeys, dogs, horses and giraffes)

feathers for birds

straw or twigs for nests

rough sandpaper for habitats pebbly surfaces 

soft sandpaper for beach habitats

wood chips or bark for woodland and tree animal habitats

foil for snakes or fish with skin

sequined fabric for fish with scales

satin ribbon or soft plastic pieces (such as from milk jugs or dairy containers) for frogs, dinosaurs, amphibians and mammal fish (dolphins, whales, seals). Look for appropriate colors. 

straw for nests

cotton balls or stuffing for snowy arctic regions and polar habitats

corrugated cardboard for trees

burlap for toads, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, turtles, pigs and animals with rougher skin

construction paper, canvas or bumpy fabric for dens and caves (also sandpaper would work)

yarn, string, brush bristles (any kind) for lion, goats, giraffe, zebra, mule, donkey or horse mane or tail

You don't need to cover the entire surface, just a bit as multisensory "touch and feel" books do. Try include as many sensory elements in the animal "touch and feel" books for optimum VAKT lesson plans. Assemble pages in book format by punching three holes along the edge and tying together with shoelace, for added tactile stimulation. Use these for preschool, students with autism and special sensory and tactile needs. 






Cage-free Zoo Animal habitat lesson plans with free printable animal activities


I've been a teacher for 40 years and today I was going to share preschool lesson plans to make a zoo animal circus train from my early days. And I realized that lesson plans that feature animals behind bars are not really ethically, environmentally or animal friendly. Piggyback on this, a discussion with my oldest homeschooling daughter (second gen homeschool <3) how she was rethinking what she was teaching, taking kids to on zoo field trips, with animals locked in tiny, non-habitat appropriate cages. This includes aquariums and marine zoos, especially. If we learned anything from the film "Blackfish" about Tilikum the "killer" orca whale, it was the damaging effects cages have on animals. So here are cage-free zoo animal habitat and animal classification lesson plans with free printable activities. 

Visit animal friendly zoos. Happily, many zoos are redoing structures to move away from tiny cages to wide, open more habitat appropriate spaces. The Detroit Zoo and Toronto Zoo are examples. John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Mich., still has cages but new structures are more open. And even if you don't want to visit the zoo, check their website for free printable animal lesson plans. JBZ and the Detroit Zoo and probably all zoos have lesson plans and printables on animal classification, animal body coverings, adaptation, habitats and more. 

Research petting zoos. Maybe they've improved over the years, but we've had some unpleasant experiences at petting zoos. Tired, uncomfortable and even neglected animals forced to interact with mobs of people who aren't always respectful of the animals is a recipe for disaster. Pun intended, "vet" petting zoos before visiting. This includes any zoo day camps or zoo school experiences. 

Visit animal sanctuaries, nature centers, wildlife preserves and animal hospitals. Blandford Nature Center in Grand Rapids, Mich., is a good example. Yes, animals are in cages, but that is for their protection. All have been injured, maimed or in some way damaged by interaction with humans. Our youngest daughter was sensitized, then incensed seeing a bobcat that had been taken captive for a wildlife circus and declawed. He is literally helpless. It's a sad but relevant object lesson on why animals should be protected, not endangered. Blandford has a beautiful wildlife preserve, nature center and animal hospital that rehabs injured animals for reintegration to the wild.  Visit any nature center or wildlife preserve near you. Most all will have free printable animal lesson plans and activities to further study. 

Make animal habitat dioramas. Use my lesson plans to make animal habitat dioramas and here are free printable animal habitat diorama cut and paste coloring pages. Teach biodiversity, animal classification, body coverings, animal tracking and more! Make animal activities VAKT and special education friendly, by adding "touch and feel" elements to habitats. Use straw, fabric, fake fur, bumpy and textured surfaces to simulate animal body coverings and nest or dwelling materials. More on that later! 




Valentine Heart Party with science and health lesson plans, activities and printables

 


Are you looking for some fresh Valentine's Day party activities, beyond the usual valentine exchange, candy blast and heart crafts? How about swinging your holiday party health themed with these fun, active, not-boring heart health lesson plans and activities?

Parts of the body lesson plans: see my earlier blog post for tons of free printable health lesson plans including human body coloring pages circulatory system printables. Use these to create a parts of the body paper bag vest or T-shirt. Younger students color cut and paste parts of the body and assemble them on a paper bag vest. Older students draw, color and label body parts on a long-sleeved T-shirt. 

Heart healthy snacks: Instead of the standard Valentine's Day fare of candy, cookies and cupcakes, why not make heart smart goodies in class? Make a shared fruit and veggie rainbow. Set up stations for students to prep food and design in a big beautiful rainbow! The rainbow diet is one of the heart healthiest there is.  Mix and match with any of these rainbow fruits and vegetables. Extend health lesson plans to include physics science activities on light, spectrum and rainbow.

RED:  strawberries, raspberries, pomegranate, dragonfruit, red leaf or romaine lettuce, watermelon, radishes, grapes, pepper, tomatoes

ORANGE: peppers, carrots, oranges, mango, peaches, nectarines, cantaloupe, squash, sweet potato, pumpkin

YELLOW: peppers, lemon, pineapple, summer squash, wax beans

GREEN: grapes, kiwi, broccoli, beans, spinach, lettuce, spring mix, kale, peas, honeydew melon, avocado, cucumber, scallions, peppers, endive

BLUE: blueberries, blue grapes, potatoes (look in tri-color blend), peppers

INDIGO: prune plums, prunes, figs, eggplant, blackberries, currants

PURPLE: cabbage, broccoli, grapes, purple carrots, purple asparagus

Heart healthy games: Engage kids in relay races, aerobics, jump rope, jumping jacks, yoga, obstacle courses, fitness stations, trampoline, stretching, windmills, "bicycles" throwing and catching and climbing. Try to avoid competition and encourage personal achievement. You can do a range of movement activities that require no equipment.

Dance party: what better way to round our your Valentine's Day heart party than with dancing? Play fun, upbeat music and let kids work off desk-time pent up energy! Songs kids love include "Hamster Dance" "Baby Shark" "Gummy Bears" "Hand Jive" and "I can make your hands clap." 

Happy heart day! 




Free Printable Heart lesson plans for Valentine's Day


Hello fellow educators, with Valentine's Day right around the corner, you're probably up to your elbows in holiday crafts. But how about some non-traditional Valentine's Day activities? Here are free printable heart (as in the organ) lesson plans. Use these for science, anatomy and health lesson plans for fun holiday connections with an educational twist. 

Coloring Home has a large assortment of free printable heart coloring pages featuring diagrams to color and label, plus anatomy coloring pages to show how the heart works within other parts of the body. The health lesson plans help students explore the heart and the larger circulatory system and why it is such a vital organ (the word vital comes from Latin, "vita" or "life.") 

The American Heart Association has loads of free printable heart health lesson plans. There are other resources on heart health and healthy habits. Here a free printables on the circulatory system and heart themed activities to help students keep heart fit. I particularly like the free downloads with printables on 25 ways to keep moving, at home and at school. 

Kids Health has free printable fitness and health lesson plans to help students understand the importance of nutrition, exercise, fitness and healthy choices (not smoking or vaping). Click around to find fitness trackers, heart rate monitors and other tools for wellness. 

Along with the frilly Valentine's Day crafts and valentine exchanges, my students studied the parts of the body in science lesson plans around this holiday. Preschool students made vests cut from grocery bags with organs of the human body drawn on. Older kids made human body T-shirts with body organs drawn on in permanent marker. There are several coloring pages from the Coloring Home link that could be used as parts of the body templates. Older students might stencil on the T-shirt, label and color the human body model. 

Younger students can get scissors skills practice, using the body parts coloring pages as color, cut and paste activities. Here are more free printable human body coloring pages for such cut and paste activities, from Exploring Nature. 

Include lots of active learning in your heart lesson plans and heart healthy snacks! Stay tuned for heart party activities for Valentine's Day!