August 29, 2011

Salute: Quick, Fun Card Game to Practice Math Number Bonds

It's back-to-school time and children's math skills have become rusty. Try Salute, a quick, fun card game to practice math fact families, sometimes called number bonds. It's a game for three: a caller and two saluters. The caller deals cards out face down to the two saluters. When the caller says, "Salute," the saluters each pick up a card without looking at it and hold it face out on their foreheads. The caller looks at the cards and calls out the sum (or the product if you want your students to review muliplication/division fact families). The first saluter to say the card that is on his or her own forehead wins the round. Students can review a lot of math facts quickly with this game, and they are quick to confirm each other's accuracy.

Salute can be played with regular playing cards by treating aces as ones and either considering face cards as tens or culling them out of the deck. I prefer to play it with Uno cards, because the numbers are more prominent and there is no counting of hearts, clubs, spades or diamonds. Just cull the reverses, skips, and wilds.

Salute with Uno Cards

For more math card games, check out How to Teach Math with UNO.

Question: Other than worksheets, how do you practice math facts with your students?

August 26, 2011

Don't Turn That Page!

Here's a simple habit I've developed for reading picture books to little ones, especially my littlest one.

I don't turn the page until the child has interacted with the story in some way.

Usually he asks a question about the story or picture. Sometimes he makes a comment. Occasionally he traces a picture or runs his finger underneath some words. Only rarely does he want me to turn the page right away. Taking our time as we read stories makes the time more special for us and helps him to acquire the skills of a good reader.

Cowboy Small is in heavy rotation with my four-year-old.

August 24, 2011

Pine Cone Animals

Pine Cone Triceratops

My kids went to the science museum today and made these great pine cone animal sculptures. What a wonderful way to use found items for art! If you've read my blog before, you know I am interested in fine motor skills activities for older children. Well, holding a glue gun with one hand and attaching all of these little parts with the other is wonderful exercise for the small muscles of the hand. As with all of the best exercises, I'm sure making these cute pine cone animals didn't feel like exercise at all!

Pine Cone Dogs
Check out the acorn birds' nests the kids made the same day.

Question: What fun crafts do you have in mind for the fall?

August 22, 2011

How Much Attention to Give a Book

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.” --Sir Francis Bacon from his essay, "On Studies"
"Pile of Books in Prague Library" by Callum Scott

With the explosion of available reading material, Bacon's words are more relevant than ever. I am pondering how to teach my students to read discriminately (in the good sense), and how to make it fun.

One piece of that for me will be reading Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke. I recommend his blog too. In fact, that's where I got the Francis Bacon quote above.

Question: How do you decide whether a book is worth your (or your students') time, and how much attention to give it?

August 21, 2011

Catch the Match: Fun Pattern-Recognition Game for All Ages

Catch The Match is a deceptively simple card game that develops observation, pattern recognition, memory, and concentration skills. In the  box are 15 sturdy, colorful cards, each with pictures of the same 15 objects. The objects are in different places on each card and the colors (red, yellow, blue, and green) are mixed around. Any two cards has one and only one pair of the same object in the same color. The goal is to be the first to match that pair.

As a parent and educator, here's what I love about Catch The Match:

  • Everyone plays all the time. Unlike other memory games, there is no taking turns. All players have an opportunity to make a match at any moment.
  • Age doesn't matter. In my family, our nine- and eleven-year-olds hold their own against their mom and me. Our four-year-old, is less likely to be the first to make a match than the rest of us, but he still enjoys the game.
  • It's fun for preliterate or ESL players. No reading or vocabulary skills are required. In fact, players who speak different languages, can learn some new vocabulary words.
  • The rules are easy to adapt. Adjust the competition level by playing in teams or deciding whether or not to keep score. Add difficulty by matching items with opposite colors  (a blue airplane with red wings matches a red airplane with blue wings). You can even play Catch the Match alone against the clock.

A game similar to this one but more complex is SET, which I haven't played yet, but would like to.

Question: What is your top pattern-recognition activity for kids?