I’ll keep this updated as we add references, but this is my running list of what awesome references we have on our home library shelves. It does not include storybooks, because that would be ridiculous to try and catalog. I do keep track of what realted storybooks we use for each unit, and you can look through the booklists here. Many of these were gifts, or found at library book sales, and lots are awesome Usborne references that we use daily. I find that the Picturepedia is used every day (it is a BIG book), while our Usborne books are awesome when we are looking for something more subject-specific. Each image is linked to a retailer where you can purchase your own for your home library. As we progress through more subject-specific units or I find a need for other reference books (or just find a good deal) I’ll add those too. I may or may not be a children’s book hoarder. And by that I mean I am a children’s book hoarder.
[Full disclosure: No one has paid me to list these, but I am an Usborne consultant because the books are THAT GOOD and I like a discount.]
Some of the books we used to go along with our snow and art themes this month we also used in our ABC Bunny unit as well. You’ll notice a lot of art books, as we went full throttle into art study because it is something I love so much. Without question, our favorites this month were the “Katie and the…” series by James Mayhew and the Usborne art references. If you click on the image of the book cover, it’ll take you directly to either Amazon or Usborne so you can love on your own copy. You’re welcome.
This month we “rowed” The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Because of the illustrative properties of the book, I chose to do a unit study on art to accompany and supplement and obvious/direct relation lessons, with a focus on shape and color. I check out books that go with the theme from the library. We read the target book 4-5 times a week, and they can choose from any of the “go-with” books to read whenever they want. I also built our reference library with really sturdy illustrated dictionaries and encyclopedias, so we spend significant time looking things up when they want to know more about an animal or sport, etc. The Booklist for this month lists all the references and accompanying storybooks we used and includes those in our home library. They’re also good to open to a page for inspiration while an activity is in progress (especially for art projects).
These are the lessons for the month, most can be adapted for younger siblings to participate too. Or, have a stack of dollar store workbooks so they can “do school” while we work (they can just scribbles, but whatever). The links for instructions and printables are there. I spent a lot of time in January laminating and printing and cutting. My library also has teacher guides from major curriculum publishers for Kindergarten, so I pull a few lessons from those for core objectives. We also slowly work the the 100 lessons book and the McGuffey primer as my daughter is interested. Every artwork must be signed by the artist to practice writing her name.
Shape game: use painters tape on the hardwood floor to outline large basic shapes (I did star, circle, square, plus, crescent, triangle) then use beanbags to toss to shape as its called out (I made quick flashcards with a sharpie on construction paper that I’d just hold up and they’d throw the beanbag onto that shape). Then we would jump, trace with toes/fingers, tiptoe, use the tape shape as a road for cars, etc on each shape. [we did this last week and the shapes are still used daily] **we used the shape game to talk about the shapes artists used in paintings and other art form- great to relate to Kandinsky and Matisse!
Shape Clip cards (I print, laminate, and cut, then keep in a zipper pencil case for storage)
Marble chute: A gift from my parents, we have a wonderful wooden marble chute and about a dozen glass marbles. After we did marble painting, I thought it would be a good time to debut this simple and glorious toy, and I’m so glad I did. While I certainly wouldn’t leave two three year olds unsupervised with marbles, it was great fun to do all together. We talked about why things move faster on an incline and set up the marbles at the curves to create a domino effect. Marble chutes are so classic, I had one as a child at my grandparents house and my cousins and I would spend hours playing with it. I’m glad we have one too, because the girls weren’t the only ones having fun…
Ker Plunk Game: another marble game! Classic game that I used as a lesson in weight and strategy.
Snowball races: a movement game, all you need is small pompoms and straws. We started by reading a poem about wind from Weather and The Windy Day. Gather supplies, then designate a start and finish line (I used painters tape on the floor). Upon “go!” use the straw to blow the snowball down the racetrack the the finish line. Talk about how your breath was the wind that blew the snowball and how wind outside blows leaves, snow, etc.
Matching snowflakes: We introduced a magnifying glass for this lesson, and it was a big hit. We laid out the big snowflakes and then used the glass to help us identify the tiny details of the small snowflakes to match them. We read the book The Snowflake: A Water Cycle Story before this game and it linked as a quick science lesson really well.
What makes Ice Melt: Ice cubes in 4 bowls (helpful to freeze some with food coloring in them for better visualization), pour cold water on one, warm water on the next, hot on 3rd and use salt on 4th. Talk about what makes ice melt. Relate to Peter’s pocket snowball in The Snowy Day.
Henri’s Scissors: read the book, then use the iPad/reference books to look at art by Matisse and talk about the colors and shapes. Then we used scissors to cut our own shapes out and paste as a collage. We also got our felt board and felt shapes and created our own art, looking at the Matisse cutouts in our art references for inspiration. [A note: this felt board gets used all the time, it is one of the best random purchases I’ve made and now is a favorite gift to give because it is contained well and can be used for so many different lessons.] These lessons were the most popular and memorable for my little students, they loved the abstract nature of Matisse’s work and how everyone saw different things in works like La Perruche et la Sirene (The Parakeet and The Mermaid) and La Gerbe (The Sheaf) http://playgroundparkbench.com/painting-with-scissors-exploring-matisse-cutouts/
Marble Painting: I used painter’s tape to secure a piece of yellow construction paper in a rimmed baking sheet, then put a few dime-sized dots of washable poster paint beside the paper directly onto the pan. We used three marbles and reviewed how to roll the marbles around the pan by tilting the pan without tipping the marbles out. Then we watched how the marbles made tracks across our paper and learned how to make straight lines vs. curved lines. A big hit! http://www.messforless.net/marvelous-marble-painting/
Flower painting: read about Georgia O’Keefe using reference books and “My Name Is Georgia” then use oil pastels or paint to draw “up-close” and big flowers.
Felt play, using shapes like Matisse (I had one of our reference books open to a Matisse work for inspiration) and building scenes from The Snowy Day, then creative play. We have this felt kit and use it all the time. I also use the board for when I have a feltboard story to accompany the month’s theme
Edgar Degas and ballet movements: This one was a personal fave of mine for the month. I love to incorporate movement into lessons. Using this lesson from The Getty, I incorporated some movement into our lessons and we learned two ballet moves like the ones seen in works by Degas. This was tough at first, as the girls were tired at the point we started, but when I tried again on another day it was a huge hit with all ages!
Phonics & Writing
Tracing lines with snow paint: to help with grip and eye-hand coordination. We related these lines to how the mountains of snow looked to Peter in The Snowy Day
Snowflake stamps/stickers on the letter S: this activity was quick, and my littlest enjoyed it, too. I simply drew a big letter S on a sheet of white paper and the girls used snowflake stampers to trace it. We ended up doing other letters too on other sheets of paper because they liked the stamper so much!
White playdoh play: making letter shapes using our DwellStudio letter cards as guides, making snow mountains and snow balls like in The Snowy Day
Snowflake windows: Press’n’Seal, cotton balls, Qtips. Go. Great for fine motor skills and we left it up to use over several days, sometimes reading books from the booklist shelf as the girls worked.
Alphabet recognition game: Use DwellStudio cards in speed game to match to Alphabet floor mat using letter name and then phonetic sound
Alphabeasties book and cards/puzzle: This book was a huge hit. It has foldouts and all the animals are made with typeface letters. Very cool and interesting to look at. We also have the alphabeasties cards, which have individual letters on one side and can be grouped with other letters as a puzzle on the reverse side to make a picture. This held attention for about an hour and it was a fun was to reinforce beginning letter sounds when the entire animal is made from its own letter! There’s also a workbook to complete the set, which we don’t have, but it looks interesting too.
This month we spent a lot of time on field trips. The Science Center and The National Gallery are on the list. We also managed a spontaneous field trip to our local Marine Museum.
I was lucky to happen across a series of classes at an art museum in a nearby city that allowed students to study works in the galleries. We attended our first this month and looked at paintings in the galleries for clues as to the seasons in which they were set. The class was fabulous- the teacher had prepared a bag containing pouches of sensory materials to enhance the lesson (fake leaves for autumn, ice packs and a scarf for winter, a little stuffed bird finger puppet for spring, etc) and the girls & I had so much fun. At one point my daughter asked if she could climb into the frame like Katie does and my heart about burst that she had remembered and aligned one of the stories we read at home to the experience she was having in the class. I did have to explain that we can only go into paintings with our imagination, but agreed that the frame of the picture we were looking at did look very much like those around paintings in the Katie books (see the booklist post for more details about our favorite series this month!). After spending time looking at some of the gallery works, we went to the museum classroom and created our own seasonal art using pastels and stickers. We can’t wait to go back for next month’s class!
Other Random Notes
Once we complete the list of target lessons, we’ll go back and repeat some of the favorites. I try to do 2-3 lessons a day, and we also try to bake 1-2x a week for math skills. We really like the Kumon and Roger Priddy workbooks and sometimes that is all we will get to. We also love the Learning Palette and its different cards (we have math and phonics sets) because my daughter can do it herself and they are self-correcting. My oldest daughter has access to Starfall and ABCmouse on the iPad, but only plays 1-2x a week. My youngest does not have iPad access, but watches the YouTube videos. But some weeks are busy, and we only get to read… and that is just fine. These ladies are still little, and the main focus is playing and cuddling with books. Directed and intentional play with the end goal of fun is all I’m aiming to achieve with these lessons.
These are books I chose from the library that we read the most and were the most popular, as well as some from our home library to set out on the visible and accessible bookshelves in our homeschool room because they compliment our current “row” and unit theme. The theme I chose for ABC Bunny was alphabet (obvious) and weather, due to multiple weather references in the story. We especially loved Count the Raindrops! Enjoy!
We started our year with basic alphabet and weather units based on concepts in ABC Bunny by Wanda Ga’ag, which I chose from our Before Five in a Row manual for its fun rhythm and simple illustrations. We “rowed” this book for about a month (January) because we were able to expand the units so well and the girls loved the book.
The first day of a new unit, we always begin by reading the book. Since our first day of this row was also the first day of our new co-op journey, I thought we should establish a good rhythm for the girls so we began by getting out the instrument box and jamming out to a lively rendition of the classic ABC song. We then put the instruments away and sat together to read the book. We continued to read the book every day of the month of January.
In an effort to keep things interesting, I found the ABC Bunny song on YouTube and the girls LOVED it.
Ivory Soap Clouds (science): Something about Ivory soap and the way in which it is made allows it to expand into a cloud-like shape when microwaved. This was probably the most favorite lesson, followed closely by the shaving cream rain clouds. It was very easy: cut a bar of Ivory soap in half, place in a microwaveable glass bowl (for easy clean up- we used colored paper plates for visibility purposes but I’d recommend a glass bowl for future clouds) and microwave for one minute. Likely it will not take that long and only about 20-30 seconds. It will be done when it stops expanding. We then used eye droppers with colored water to drop onto our clouds and watched as they disintegrated into mush, which then became a fun sensory material to knead and squish.
Shaving Cream Rainclouds (science): Fill a clear glass container (you can use a pint glass or mason jar) about 3/4 full with water. On top of the water, layer shaving cream so that it creates a dense layer to the brim of the glass. In another small bowl, color a little water with food dye. Using an eye dropper, drop some of the colored liquid on the top of the shaving cream, watching just below where the water and shaving cream touch for “breakthrough,” or Rain! We discussed that clouds (shaving cream) can only hold so much water before they spill over with what we know as rain (colored water). The girls loved this activity, and quickly used their colored water, asking for different colors to see them mix as rain underneath.
Counting hailstones (math): We used Didax Sandpaper Numerals
to help us count hailstones- marshmallows or cotton balls- and trace the numbers. [“H for hail”]
Wind lesson (science): Super simple and really fun. All you need is two pompoms (I used white tinsel to look like snow for our weather unit) and a straw. Blow the pompoms across the floor. We had pompom races and we herded snowflakes and in general had a lot of fun. [“G for gale”]
Tornado bottles: We attempted, but it wasn’t as successful as I wanted and I think because we added too much soap with not enough air at the top of the bottle. http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/experiments/makeatornado.html
Rain stick: This was really fun, though tedious. http://theimaginationtree.com/2011/02/diy-rain-stick.html
Ice Painting: Freeze water in various containers, then upturn it onto rimmed baking sheet and paint with water colors. http://teaching2and3yearolds.com/ice-painting-for-kids/
Ice Melting: Fill 4 small bowls with ice cubes. Have cups of cold, warm and hot water at the ready, as well as a small bit of salt (be careful with the hot water!). Talking about hot cold ice is and that it needs to stay cold to remain frozen, start with the cold water and pour the cold water over the first bowl of ice. Move to the warm water, asking what the child thinks will happen, and watching as the ice melts slowly. Hypothesize about the hot water and then the salt, each in a different bowl of ice.
Weather sensory bottles: We used these to discuss what kind of weather was happening outside each morning while I made breakfast. http://www.two-daloo.com/weather-sensory-bottles-circle-time/
Letter tangrams: I had gotten Melissa & Doug tangram blocks and found these free printables to use the tangrams blocks in alphabet learning. They were a big hit! http://www.freehomeschooldeals.com/free-alphabet-printables-pattern-blocks/
ABC matching: Our homeschool classroom has an alphabet floor mat
and we utilized it for a speed matching game with our Alphabet Wall Cards. It was a great way to get moving in between lessons and helped with letter recognition. After using the letter names to find matches, we matched with phonetic sounds for a level up in difficulty. I’d hold up the card, and they’d race to match it to the letter on the floor mat.
Letter matching manipulatives: This little bag of letters came in handy several times when one would finish an activity before the other. Having an actual letter to hold when matching was popular!
Q tip painting: These printable Q tip painting templates were free, I only had to cut them. All we needed were Qtips and a little paint. This helped with grip, motor control and movement planning, for sure.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom: This classic paired well with our alphabet focus. We read the story, then completed a few activities to reinforce concepts and for extra fun.
Letter matching stickers: Using a pack of circle stickers (like the kind used for pricing things at yard sales) I wrote either a capital or lower case letter on each sticker, and used these free printables for the girls to find the letters and match with the correct sticker. http://www.makinglearningfun.com/themepages/CCBBLetterAssessments.htm
Build a coconut tree: I found a great craft kit at Target and used the wooden beads and pipe cleaners from that to set up a coconut tree for the girls to make. Essentially, I made the tree and then they worked to string on the beads as coconuts. The tricky part was making sure they distributed the beads on all the branches so the tree didn’t tip- a nice little lesson in balance! (also we had to listen to the song- below- 283952653 times while making the tree)
The Chicka Chicka Boom Boom song: we did this lesson over a month ago and this is still requested daily.
Animal sorting: There are lots of animals mentioned in ABC bunny. I printed animal classification cards and laminated them, as I plan to use them with our entire BFIAR curriculum. I pulled the animals that were mentioned in this book and gave them to C for her to “smack” the animals in the books as we came across them. The search helped her pay attention and was hilarious.
ABC Bunny printables: we used the line tracing, leaf letter matching and a few other activities from this awesome free printable resource to go with our lessons and for a quick lesson when we had some time to fill.
Sorting Chart activity (science): I set up Animals vs. Insects in our chart and the girls worked together to sort each item appropriately.
Learning palate (math): Made by Usborne, this is one of my favorite learning tools because it is self correcting and once they’ve gotten the hang of the discs it can be a self-led activity to reinforce concepts in a different way. I get this out a lot when I’m transitioning to a new lesson or cooking dinner, etc. Right now we are working through the beginning math cards.
P for Porcupine: Another big hit, this was super simple but the girls really enjoyed it. Simply choose a play doh (or modeling clay) color and grab some toothpicks. The kids stick in the toothpicks to their shaped porcupine body as the quills. Done. The girls wanted to know more about porcupines, so we looked them up in our handy Picturepedia andMy Big Animal World books, then left them open as inspiration while they built their porcupines.
My current curriculum for two 3 year olds (one of whom isn’t mine and comes to our home once weekly for a morning co-op like situation) is Before Five in a Row, utilizing the manual for book selections and some lessons. I round out our study using lessons from various sources and enhance learning by choosing books that compliment the theme. I gather ideas from teacher manuals for Kindergarten at my local library, Pinterest, free websites and museums. So far, this has worked beautifully. Since the girls are so young, there is no real need for formal structured learning, so some days we start with a plan and end up going in a completely different direction based upon their interests. The goal is to walk away from each lesson having had fun and if I’m lucky, maybe had a nugget of info stored away in their little minds. The best days are the ones that they remember every lesson and talk about them even days later.
My goal with this blog is to track what we’ve done and my sources and lessons. Feel free to use whatever lessons you find interesting, but all pictures are my property and are not to be copied or used in any fashion.