Found yourself suddenly thrust into the role of homeschooler thanks to Coronavirus? Looking for some simple and fun learning ideas for learning from home? Let me see what I can do for you.
So here’s the thing.
As a teacher, I don’t expect you to replicate the classroom in your home during these strange and confusing times. I would hope that you’re all just loving hard on your littles but it’s a weird one to balance, isn’t it? I’m ALL FOR giving kids the space to get bored. But I also find it useful to have some ideas to fall back on when my kids apparently lose all ability to think up an activity for themselves and are climbing up the walls.
Trying to maintain normalcy in times that are wack seems near-impossible. So don’t go too hard on yourself if your *lessons* don’t turn out as planned. The ideas for learning from home outlined from here are all open-ended. Don’t be rigid and go with the flow. You never know where it will take you.
Process not product, people!
Okay if we try and be positive and look for some silver linings, imagine all the books our kids can enjoy during this time.
Missing friends and social isolation is a big worry for our little ones. Rally a group of schoolmates and meet up via FaceTime, Skype or Zoom and discuss the books that are being enjoyed at each home. You could structure each call with a guiding question like “Who was your favourite character and why?” “Tell us about your favourite part of the story.”
Maybe you could use my Book Scavenger Hunt (developed for Book Week a few years ago) as a way to thematically organise each call. For example, “This week we’re going to find all the books about Dinosaurs on our shelves. We will share our favourite Dinosaur book when we call each other.”
Board games are a totally under-rated way for families to slow down and connect. They also give children a fab chance to practise turn-taking, winning and losing. Take an audit of the board games in the cupboard and pull one out every now and then.
Set up an imaginary restaurant. Holy moly all the writing practice a child will get playing a waiter or waitress! All that vocab development as you construct a menu. See how such a simple set-up is infused with authentic learning opportunities?
Choose a teddy and plan a birthday party for him or her. Write invitations. Plan the party food. Peruse catalogues or supermarket websites and write a shopping list. Calculate your budget. Create decorations. What parts of the syllabus have we covered here? Writing for different purposes and contexts. Letter-sound relationships. Reading for a purpose. Money. Number. Addition. Subtraction. Learning disguised as play? My favourite.
Write an old-fashioned letter to a friend. Take a few snaps of it and send it via the Interwebs for instant connection and easy writing practice. Or try your hand at some of these cool pop-up cards from Maggy at Red Ted Art?
Go on a virtual excursion
The borders of the world may be shutting down but the world is opening up virtually.
Lastly, what do you do when the proverbial poo hits the fan?
Channel your inner Lady Gaga and “Just dance, gonna be okay.”
Turn the music up and DANCE. (My husband attempted to introduce my kids to rave music this morning. They were not impressed.)
Here’s a super fun activity that teams music with painting.
Watching children learning to write is such a magical process.
The current catch cry at our place is “But how do I spell that?”
Here’s what I have been doing at my place to help unlock the world of writing for my kids.
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Establish a writing space
My little guy moved into a Big Boy bed.
So we were left with a cot.
Which my husband suggested we convert into a kiddy desk.
Who was I to argue?!
By no means do you need to create a fancy-pants cot-turned-desk writing space for your child learning to write.
You just need to create an inviting writing space. And stock it with accessible writing materials.
Full transparency: This has lead to many pens and pencils being strewn across the space.
Hello Teachable Moment! I’ve been trying to embrace it as an opportunity to teach my children about the need to organise our belongings. #workinprogress
Provide a variety of materials
In their writing space, my children have paper, pencils and markers.
At this stage, my focus is on my children experimenting with writing and mark making.
I’m not hung up on letter formation or correct spelling.
Take a playful, learning approach to writing by supplying different tools and materials.
Whiteboards and whiteboard markers
Take writing outside and write with chalk on the fence or footpath
Or use a paintbrush and water to paint words onto the fence or footpath
Novelty materials like these early stART alphabet crayons from Micador are fun. I’ve found them excellent for getting my 3-year-old, a reluctant writer/ sketcher, excited about mark making. (Thank you to Micador for gifting these fab crayons to us.)
Provide an environment rich in text
Children learning to write are excited about letters and words.
Support this curiosity by providing lots of visual support and prompts.
My children are at that obsessive stage of learning to write their names.
So we’ve been doing a lot of discussing about how a name starts with a capital and then lower case letters follow.
I have posters for their first letter so they can see how it is formed.
There is an alphabet chart on the wall. (We got a super cute unicorn-inspired one from Send a Unicorn.)
They also have the desk charts shown above so that they can refer to the alphabet as they write.
Learning to write is a super complex process. Having visual references helps young writers through the process.
Encourage children to play with letters and words
This should probably be tip #1.
Children learning to write are excited by the possibility of letters, sounds and words.
Provide lots of playful ways for your children to explore this world of letters and words.
We provide old keyboards for the kids to play with.
Letter tiles, magnets or alphabet cards (bought or DIY) are other ways to show your child how to play with words.
Show your child how writing is an everyday activity
Heading to the supermarket? Demonstrate how you write a shopping list.
Filling in your diary or calendar? Model how you write down the details of an appointment.
Going to a birthday party? Show your child how you think about a message and then write it down.
Involve your child by showing them writing in everyday contexts.
Develop fine motor skills
Successful writers need strong hands.
If you’re concerned that your little one shows no interest in writing, never fear.
Provide lots of fine motor activities for your child and rest assured that they are building up the skills required to eventually become a writer.
To accompany the book, we used some paper plates to create a simple feelings craft.
What you will need:
What to do:
My children have an insane love for painting paper plates.
So we had a session of painting paper plates. As you do.
This step is obviously optional. You do not need to paint the plates if this is going to give YOU BIG feelings.
Using a craft knife and mat, create a “window” through which the mouth will be seen.
This is a step to be completed by an adult.
I included this photo mainly to highlight that craft is all about trial and error. #keepingitreal
On a second plate, draw a variety of mouths illustrating the feelings you wish to explore.
I then trimmed this second plate down, so that it would sit neatly behind the top plate.
On a piece of card, draw eyes and cut out eyebrows.
Use split pins to secure these to your top plate.
You could draw a diverse range of eyes to illustrate different feelings.
The eyes could then be replaced with blu-tack as you discussed different emotions.
Secure your plates together with another split pin.
And because I like including as much fine motor practice into a craft activity as possible, I used a hole punch so that wool could be threaded through for hair.
Rotate the bottom plate to change emotions. Discuss what our eyes and eyebrows can do when we experience this feeling.
The above face is what I look like when we are out of milk and there is no morning coffee.
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I adore that stage in a child’s life when the World of Letters starts to open up and the magic of the alphabet is discovered.
But how many times can you sing the ABC song before you want to stab yourself in the eye with a fork?!
(Just asking for a friend.)
If you’re looking for some creative and playful alphabet activities, you’ve come to the right place.
Oh hey! That’s me on Instagram!
I wrote the alphabet in white oil pastels on paper.
The children then painted over the paper with liquid water colours to reveal the hidden alphabet.
You could also use watered-down food dye.
Using our alphabet charts, we then went on an alphabet hunt around the house.
We collected items beginning with the letters of the alphabet and made a design with the gathered items.
Finally, we played a game of good ol’ I-Spy using the items we had gathered.
Julie Curtin is the kind of Kindy teacher of our dreams. Her classroom looks like such a fun, creative space.
Julie paired her activity with an alphabet book and made letter pebbles. Click on the picture for the full process.
Dig out the fidget spinners! Create a line of letters and get that spinner spinning!
The aim is for your child to name the letter as the spinner moves past it. Extra points if they can provide the corresponding sound!
I love how simple this set up is. Trace around some magnetic letters and then have your little learner match the letter to the traced shape.
Or you could use stickers and add in some fine motor practice!
My friend Amy is the Queen of literacy activities. She’s a bit of a phonemic awareness nerd.
Use stickers on a dice to create a letter dice. Learners keep track of how many times letters have been rolled by using coloured pom poms.
It’s letter identification meets chance and date.
We have these bath foam letters at our place and they drive us nuts. They appear all over the house.
I love how Cristin and her little learner used the letters to create animals beginning with that letter.
Joanna has 4 children and this activity appealed to all of them. Such a great activity for elementary students.
Using pencils and sharpies, the children designed their own letters and incorporated zentangles into their designs.
I love the process behind this alphabet art. A grid was drawn on some water color paper with pencil. One letter per square, each having upper and lower case letters. Once the letters were written in black oil pastel, the entire page was wet watercolored. Wet water coloring is when you dip the entire page in water, making sure the entire page gets wet then add your pigment. Such a cool result!
Sight word practice- love it or loathe it, it’s a pretty important part of learning to read.
How do you help your littles learn their sight words?
Why are sight words important?
As the name suggests, sight words or high frequency words are so called because they occur frequently in texts and the goal is for your child to recognize them on sight.
Reading is a really complex process that requires the use of many different strategies.
Sight word recognition is one of these strategies that kids can rely upon to read a text.
Why is this important?
Many sight words do not follow basic phonic principles, so they can’t be sounded out.
They enable fluent reading. Reading is a laborious and complex process. Knowing words upon sight, means that beginning readers do not need to decode every single word. Decoding every single word affects the flow of the reading. Fluent reading aids comprehension which is the ultimate goal of reading. Knowledge of sight words allows energy to go towards comprehension not decoding.
They promote confidence.
What is the best way to learn sight words? Practice, practice and repeat!
The more opportunity your child has to play with these words, practice them and spot them in texts, the better.
Learning with Manipulatives
I Spy Bottle
This is a fabulously portable activity that is super simple to make. Fill a dried-out water bottle with rice and sparkles. Write sight words onto small pieces of card and insert into the bottle. Kids have to shake the bottle up to uncover different words. A great activity to keep in the car so that your children can practice their sight words en route to swimming lessons, piano lessons, etc.
Write letters on the side of Duplo pieces. Children can connect the pieces to create words. A great way to highlight letter formation as well. Make sure to use long pieces for the “tall” letters (like k, l, t) and the letters with ‘tails’ (like y, g, and p.) Use the smaller pieces for letters that only have a “body” (like a, e, c, o.)
Magnets are always a favourite in the classroom. When teamed with a whiteboard, this is a great way for children to practice “read it, build it, write it.”
Children read the word aloud. They build it with magnets and then write it. This would be a great activity to organise on the fridge door. Your little reader can practice whilst you get on with organising dinner.
Learning Sight Words Through Sensory Play
An oldie but a goldie. Get your reader to trace their sight words into the playdough, using a finger or a paddle pop stick.
They could also roll the playdough into logs and form the letters of the sight words. Lots of fine motor development happening at the same time! We love this playdough recipe.
Paint in a Bag
Squirt some poster paint into a sandwich bag. Seal the bag and cover with duct tape to ensure it is sealed tightly. Give your reader a cotton bud and let them trace their words into the paint. Watch the words disappear!
Cover a baking tray in shaving cream and let your child use their “finger pencils” to write their sight words.
Paint with Water
A no-mess activity. Equip your child with a container of water and a paintbrush. Let them “paint” their words on the exterior of the house, on the driveway, on the fence… This is also a great activity for bath time if the clock has beaten you and you didn’t manage to fit in sight word practice in the afternoon madness.
Chalk and Trampoline
Get your reader to write their sight words in chalk on the trampoline. They have to jump on the word that you call out. A great way to get kids to use up their energy whilst completing their homework.
Visit the AUSLAN Signbank and get your children to spell their sight words using finger spelling.
Have your child write their sight words on index cards or scraps of paper. Lay them out on the floor and play Twister. “Put your left hand on the word ‘from.'” You could also play this with chalk on the driveway.
Learning Sight Words With Games
One of the most popular sight words games I’ve used in a classroom. Children choose a card from a pile of sight words. If they can read the word, they keep the card. Interspersed through the pile are some BANG! cards. If you draw a BANG! card, you have to put all your cards back into the central pile. The person at the end of the game with the most cards, wins. I first saw this ideas over at K3 Teacher Resources.
Cut out some fish shapes. Write sight words on the fish and place a paper clip on each fish. Create a “fishing rod” with a ruler, string and a magnet and kids can “fish” out the sight words they recognise or the words that you specify.
Another oldie but a goldie. Write sight words twice onto pieces of card. Turn all cards word-side down. Readers have to find matching sight words.
Create a bingo card with a list of sight words. As you call out a word, your reader has to locate it and cover it on their game board. (This is a fun one to rope all family members into!)
Sight Word Sticks
Write all sight words on some craft sticks or paddle pop sticks. Place them in a jar and your little one has to pull out a stick and read the word. To add another level of fun, set a timer. See how long it takes for your reader to read all the sight words. See if they can beat their record each time.
The key to learning sight words is to practise, practise, practise. And then repeat. And repeat again. Feel free to vary your prompts. You don’t need to be continually asking “Where is the word ‘the?’ Where is the word ‘from?’ You can help your child identify the patterns in words and the way words work by asking things like, “Find me a word ending with -ey.” “Where is a word starting with the sound th-.”
“Find me a three letter word beginning with b-.”
Above all, sight word practice should be fun. Otherwise it just feels like rote learning.
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My preschooler is going through an intense love affair with scissors.
Let us not speak of the time I found her under the dining table with a self-administered haircut.
Do you also have a scissor enthusiast at yours?
Here are 4 fun ways we have been building and practising scissor skills at our place.