Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Visual Spatial Skills

Things have been quiet around the blog lately, for which I apologize.  Being a new teacher is much more difficult and time consuming than I had ever expected.  I am going in early, staying late and working both Saturdays and Sundays to try to keep up (I'm only able to sit down to write this post because I stayed home sick today).  It breaks my heart, but Xander's school has had to take a back seat for a while.  Instead, we have been focusing on reading a lot of books together and making his play educational.  One area we have been focusing on is visual spatial skills.

Last fall I attended a educational conference.  While I learned many interesting and useful things, one interesting fact really made an impression on me when it comes to Xander's education.  I learned that one of the biggest predictors of math and science achievement in school is the ability to mentally manipulate three dimensional objects.  In fact, the presenters talked about giving art lessons to kids struggling in math to help build these skills, which improved their achievement.

Since then, I've slowly been collecting toys and games that build these visual spatial skills (It sounds like we have a lot, but we definitely do it on a budget.  Michaels often has great games, so we wait for a 50% off coupon.  Xander also gets these types of toys for Christmases and Birthdays).  You can see all of our favorites on our Toys and Tools page.

We both LOVE building toys.  Magnatiles are, by far, Xander's favorites.  They are the most expensive toy I've ever purchased, but get used almost daily.  He also enjoys building with blocks, Marble RunWedgits, Duplos and other building toys.

 Template Matching
We are fortunate enough to have lots of template matching type toys.  Xander enjoys Magnetic RingsBlock Buddies, Imaginets and Pattern Play.  While he does work to match the pattern cards, he also really just enjoys making his own patterns and designs with these toys.
I've also worked on making some of my own activities that work on these skills.  I want Xander exposed to them often, but don't want him getting bored.  I pulled together all of the printables I've made into this one page so it'll be easier for others to find.
We've also slowly been building our collection of visual spatial games.  Xander likes Castle Logic and Color Code.  We also recently picked up Penguins on Ice and Temple Trap, although he still needs a little help with these.

What are your favorite visual spatial toys?  Have you found any other good printables for these skills?  Please leave me a comment, I would love to check it out!

Friday, September 12, 2014

A for Archaeology

Although we made it from A-Z in our Alphabet in Simple Science, I decided that I'd add some here and there.
Science Notebook Page (Click the picture to print).

Since we were studying about Ancient Egypt, we talked about how archaeologists are the ones who studied the old culture and found the mummies.  We talked about how sometimes studying the past is like a big puzzle.  Archaeologists have to piece together a lot of clues to figure out how people lived.

Ancient Egypt Archaeology Dig
1 cup sand
1/2 c cornstarch
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup water
Ancient Egypt Toob (or any other small figurines)

Inspiration for this activity came from Coffee Cups and Crayons.  First I mixed the sand, cornstarch and cream of tartar.  Then I added them to a pot with the water and warmed it until the water was cooked in (kind of like cooking play dough).  Once it was nice and thick, I let the mixture cool for a while, then wrapped the Toob figurines in the dough.  I like them dry for about a day.  
Then I put the "fossils" in the sand box and told Xander he needed to hunt them down.  I gave him a shovel and a sifter and he went searching.  If you don't have a sand box, you could hide the fossils in any sort of sensory bin.
After he dug them all up, I set up some "archaeology tools" on a tray for him to dig out the fossils.  They were basically some play dough tools and a little paint brush.  He had so much fun digging out all of the toys!  We will definitely be doing something similar in the future!
I also picked up Temple Trap for him (50% off coupon at Michaels).  He needs some help, but likes the idea of avoiding the alligators.  The premise of the game is that you're a person stuck in a temple and you have to try to escape without getting eaten by alligators.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Egyptian Theme

Finally finished out second theme!  (Check out these posts for our learning goals and how our school work will be organized.  I'm hoping to make our themes fun and hands on).  Earlier this summer Xander picked up the book The Runaway Mummy at a garage sale.  He has been obsessed with mummies ever since, so we decided to do an Ancient Egyptian unit.

We started out by reading some of the great books we got to review (see the review here).  Xander absolutely loves the Look Inside book and the sticker book.
Of course, we also read the Runaway Mummy, as well as Ms. Frizzle Adventures in Ancient Egypt.

Then I found some great printable activities from 3 Dinosaurs.  We did some graphing and a number puzzle.
Royal Baloo Also had some fun printables.  Here we were deciphering hieroglyphs
For some vocabulary building we used my Ancient Egypt Vocabulary Cards and the Ancient Egypt Toob.
Sensory Play
I finally got him some Kinetic Sand (Michael's with a 50% coupon).  It is fantastic with Learning Resources Geometric Solids.
He made the Pyramid of Giza and the "Sphere of Giza."
He also played with his Ancient Egypt Toob in the kinetic sand.
Visual Spatial
We built some pyramids... lots of pyramids.  First he made them out of Magna-Tiles.
Then he asked me to make the Sphinx.  I wasn't sure I could pull it off, but don't think I did too badly.
He built the Pyramids of Giza behind the Sphinx.
Then we made a pyramid out of Playstix.  He asked to bury all the yellow pieces inside the pyramid.
We also made some pyramids out of Wedgits, but for some reason, I forgot to take a picture.

We added another page to our science notebooks with A for Archaeology!  I'll post the full list of activities soon!

Couldn't have an Ancient Egypt week without turning him into a mummy.  Before I wrapped him up I reminded him that they only made mummies out of dead people.  Then we talked about how they'd first take out all the organs (and throw away those worthless brains).  Then they'd put the bodies in salt for a long time to dry them out.  Then mummies would be wrapped with fabric and amulets.
We're still (slowly) working on All About Spelling.  Here Xander was making kissy noises to "warm up" for his lesson.
Then after spelling each word correctly, he had to get up and do a happy dance.

<Follow Kaysha @ Memorizing the Moments's board Ancient Egypt on Pinterest.
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