Float By Daniel Miyares | Review and Extension Activities

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There is nothing better than a book that inspires a child to do more; to explore further, to create, to do.  Float by Daniel Miyares is a perfect example of a book that gives children new ideas and vision each time they open its cover. A wordless book, the storyline is quite clear through the playful illustrations and each “reading” is a bit different.  Children can open their minds and explore the fun of a paper boat through the eyes of . . . well, they can chose the little boy’s name. . . as he takes his boat out on a rainy day.  The boy chases his paper sea craft as it is whisked into a drain  pipe and flattened by the river.  He returns home, saddened by his loss.  After some comfort and a hot drink from his father, the sun begins to shine.  The boy is cheered as he heads outside, this time, with his new paper airplane.

I love the included directions for creating your own paper boat and paper airplanes.  They are plain and obvious and are that extra little step that takes this book from passive entertainment to inspirational play. After you have enjoyed building your paper vessels, you may enjoy some of these other activities, all inspired by Float.

Sink or Float

This very simple, classic activity is fun for children over and over again.  Gather several materials and a big bucket, bowl or container filled with water. Let your children guess what will happen when they put the items in the water.  Were they right? Did they sink, or float? What kinds of things sank?
A video about what makes things float
An article that talks about the same thing
Take this experiment to the next level by adding salt. What happens when you add a little bit of salt to your water? What if you add a lot?  You can add different amounts of salt to different cups or bowls and see what happens.

Check out these books for more ideas on science experiments with water:
Science With Water
The Usborne Book of Science Activities Vol. 1

Origami

Origami is the art of folding paper.  You can fold paper airplanes and boats and even more! It’s also a great way to build fine motor skills and to practice following directions!  Best of all, it’s free.  You can even use scrap paper. 🙂

Click here for some easy origami projects once you’ve masters the airplane and boat. You can step it up with some fancy origami paper. Or even special paper just for paper airplanes and rocket ships.

Writing Stories

There are so many story telling opportunities with wordless books. They are especially fantastic for pre-readers. You can adjust the activities based on your child’s age. To start off, you can mostly tell the story, but ask your child questions as you “read together”.  You can ask questions like, “Is the boy happy or sad? How can you tell?”  or “What do you think will happen next?” Asking these questions will help build valuable reasoning, observation and comprehension skills.

If your child is ready to tell the story all by herself, let her.  You can let her write her story on post it notes, that way you can read it word-for-word every time.  Don’t worry about getting spelling or punctuation perfect. If she gets tired of writing, you can even write some for her.

Continue the story.  You can have your child write a story of the little boy’s adventures with is airplane.  If you have an artistic child, let him draw the pictures too.

If you find your child really likes writing stories, make some basic blank books by folding and stapling a small stack of papers (maybe 3-5 sheets).  You can have several of these blank books around for any time your child becomes inspired to write a book. Another idea is to give her a writer’s notebook.  You can chose a composition book based on your child’s age and fine motor abilities, but make sure it’s always available. Remember wordless stories count too!

If your child likes to have prompts, you can try some from this website. You could also use these fun story cubes and make a game of it.  These are especially good for children who have a hard time writing. You might even consider a book that explores more aspects of story writing like My First Story Writing Book or Write your Own Story Book for big brother or sister.

Other Books, Resources and Ideas

Don’t let your explorations stop with just the ideas I’ve shared with you! You can learn even more about things like the history of origami, boats and boat building, the water cycle, aviation history, author studies, and more!

Would you like more ideas on any of the topics listed above? Do you have more ideas or resources to add?  Please share in the comments below! I’m always adding and updating as I discover new ideas and resources!

Check out this video to take a peek inside the book:

 

Disclaimer: I am a consultant for Usborne Books & More and receive commission on any sales made through links to my online Usborne Books & More store. I do not receive compensation or commission for any other links.

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Why I Ditched Math | Gentle Math Strategies for Young Learners

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I recently shared about the gentle reading strategies we use in our homeschool, but I have been researching and studying about math learning as well.  Over the past few years I have been captivated with the idea of children learning through play. As I have watched all the things a child picks up with no formal instruction, only an enriching environment, I have been amazed.

What started me on this line of thinking in mathematics was an article from Psychology Today arguing that we should stop teaching math to our youngest learners.  This concept seemed crazy to me, but the more I read about the experiment in which teachers replaced formal math instruction with open discussion and communication, the more I was captivated.  In the long run, these students did at least as well in mathematics, usually better than children who had formal training during those early years.

When we think about math we think of number sentences and drills, but for a young child, this is totally abstracted from the idea of figuring out how they need to divide the stones they found so that everyone has an equal amount. The numbers on the page are simply symbols they need to manipulate, and it’s difficult to make the correlation to real-world problems.  In this way, math loses it’s meaning.

Legislators and educators have tried to combat this by creating the “new math” we see in the common core. While I applaud the goals here, I still think that working solely with numbers, especially for young children, only causes confusion and frustration.  Not only that, but it fails to give children the opportunity to figure it out on their own. By observing and making mathematical connections that aren’t fed to them, children develop a mathematical base that can’t be developed any other way.  It’s kind of like explaining to a nine-month-old how to walk.  Babies don’t have the language understanding to comprehend the complexities of walking. Even if they did, trying to grasp the idea of muscle movement and joint manipulation would simply cause frustration and make walking seem intimidating and impossible. It’s only by experimenting with standing and taking steps, falling and trying again that a baby learns to walk.  Over time, they can learn how to better strengthen their muscles and maybe even become a marathon runner. The same is true for math education.

So, what are we to do? I am a big proponent of play-based learning (much more on that later as I have a stack of books on the topic I’m currently working my way through). I believe it applies to math as well. Rather than loading our children with worksheets and drills, it’s best to focus on conversation and reasoining. Let me know if you are interested, and I’m happy to share with you lots activities and ways to provide a mathematically engaging environment for your child through play – mostly open-ended, natural play.

This is a little video of how I am “doing” math with my five-year-old.  He loves finding ways to use math and gets excited about solving problems.  We haven’t done any number drills, but I’m often shocked to see how well he solves real world problems (even algebraic ones). I frequently ask him to tell me how he reached his conclusion, and he is able to articulate it to me.  Keep in mind, I love my child and while every mother believes their child is a genius, based on my observations of children between the ages of 5-8, I really don’t think he has any special math abilities. When I have put a traditional math worksheet in front of him, his reaction is much the same as students that would be classified as struggling with math.

How about your kids? How do you notice them using math every day? What are some of your favorite games or activities that involve math? I would love to hear about it!

For more information on delayed mathematics, check out this article series by Denise Gaskins. (Her whole website is actually really neat, and I look forward to exploring it more as I JUST found it while researching for this blog post.)

Gentle Reading Strategies for Early Readers

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I have a five year old who really wants to learn to read.  He has approached me before, but simply hasn’t been ready. His vision wasn’t developed enough to identify symbols (letters) or words.  He struggled to distinguish beginning sounds from ending sounds.  He approached me again recently and something was different.  He was reading sight words . . . and remembering them! While sight words were a go, phonics and blending were still a struggle, and the idea of sitting through long lessons trying to help him absorb concepts he wasn’t ready for simply was not an option in my book. (For more info, check out my post on why I ditched the alphabet.)

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After a day of panic, lots of prayer, and some thought, I finally came up with a plan that has been working beautifully.  It is stress-free, very gentle, and most importantly, my son sets the pace.  We do have to work on it every day so he doesn’t lose the progress he has made, but I’ve been so excited to even see his phonemic awareness soar.  Everyday he amazes me at how much faster he is picking things up.  It is so fun to watch him be so excited about his progress.  I think sometimes he even shocks himself. 🙂

Samuel set his goal all by himself.  He wanted to read my big Dick and Jane book. All of it. Before we started, I wrote a master list of the new words introduced in each story. As we read through to book, I look ahead and write any new words on post-it-notes and hang them on the wall. We play games with these words randomly throughout the day.  I might say to Samuel, “bring me ‘jump'” and he will run to the wall and bring me the word jump.  Then I will have him put it back and read it.  Sometimes as we pass by I will stop and ask him what words we are working on and he will look at the wall and read them to me. It’s all about exposure.  Then, when he comes across the words for the first time as he’s reading, he often gets excited because it’s a word he recognizes. Once he learns a particular word well, we move it off the wall and into his word book.  Then, we can play games with those words later.

Of course, phonics is still a struggle. I don’t want to ignore phonemic awareness completely. Phonics skills are very important when it comes to decoding and reading. To keep it slow and less intimidating, we work on one letter at a time.  I hang the letter by the words we are working on and we practice it just like we do the words.  As we go past the wall I might say, “What sound does that letter make?” and he’ll tell me.  When he has mastered a letter enough to point it out in our reading, I add a new letter on top of the one he just learned.  From time-to-time we will grab a stack of learned letter sounds and review and play games with them.

For a more detailed look at how this process works, check out my video:

And that’s basically it. This is working really well for us. If it becomes too much for Samuel, or not enough, we will adapt our methods as needed. But for now, this is perfect for our needs and we are all having so much fun!

What about you? Have you worked to adapt educational goals and strategies based on your child’s personal development? I would love to hear about it!