Sunday, January 29, 2012

Standard Units of Measurement

I've been teaching the kids how to use a ruler and wanted to explain why it's important that we use "standard units of measurement". I came up with a really fun lesson plan and wanted to share it with you. First, I created a worksheet that you can copy and print or at least use as an idea for creating your own:

I then had the kids trace their feet on different colored construction  paper, and cut them out, putting their name on one side. I divided each  cut out with lines to show 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 so they had more than just  one of their feet as a measurement.

Next, I included a piece of paper with three lines of different  measurements (I had measured out 10", 4" and 6") and then chose our dry  erase board and my personal calendar that hangs on the wall. Prior to  the lesson, I had measured the other items and found the calendar to be  1" and the dry erase board exactly 3".

After reading  through the explanation of what a standard unit of measurement was, and  estimating how big they thought the dry erase board was in their own  feet, I set them loose to measuring.

I had traced and cut out my own construction paper foot and measured along with them and it was fun giggling about how much bigger mom's feet were than theirs. When all was done, we sat down and compared our answers to the written questions. The ideas on what could be used other than a ruler to measure things was fun. We had everything from licorice sticks, band-aids (but what size?), toy cars, legos and the list grew just talking about it. It became clear real fast, that if people used anything to measure, there would be a lot of confusion. Then, before moving to our charts of measurements, I measured our foot cut outs to see exactly how long they were in actual inches. It was really funny, because a couple times, the measurements would have been right. Such as, the length of one line, was exactly 3/4 the length of my son's foot. The line was actually 4" and when we measured what it would be on his foot, 3/4 the length of his foot was exactly 4".

So, now they are measuring things with their feet and giggling over how big daddy's feet are compared to theirs. I hope you get inspired to have fun with your lesson plan. I sure did!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Field Trip To Police Dpt.

Class field trips were always the highlight of the school year. A chance to get out of the classroom and go where most people don't get to go. Get a sneak peek at the back rooms and factory secrets of local businesses and get to know the people in our neighborhood who are working hard for us.

I decided to ask the local police department if they would be willing to give a tour to a very small homeschooling group. At the time, it was myself and my three boys. I then called my cousin and asked if she would want to bring her two girls along. She agreed and the date was set. Sadly, Connor got sick and couldn't come, but I have plans for a fire department tour and I think that will make up for missing this trip.

So, we were met at the door by a female officer, of the Kalispell Police Department, who was taking time in the officer right before her maternity leave. Being pregnant myself, it was nice to see an active expecting mom. The kids all got plastic police badges and the tour began. The department was in the process of expanding to gain more room, so it was very busy.

We were shown the dispatch office, and what was formerly their temporary holding/photograph and fingerprinting area.

Next, we were shown the daily roster of officers on duty, the weapons room (just a peek) and on to the weight room, where officers stay in shape and do defensive training. Another officer came and demonstrated the coolest workout equipment called a Jacob's Ladder. I could see that whipping anyone in shape if they could survive for just five minutes a day! Here is a short video I found on YouTube showing how it works:

Next, she showed where they train with their tazers and the indoor shooting range. This is pretty cool, because the officers are encouraged to keep up their skills, which is very important. There were various barriers to utilize to simulate different situations. There was a wall with a small window, a curb and blockade wall, a mailbox, and fire hydrant. It is well ventilated and well put together. We chatted with the officer and the kids explored the area.

I think it was a good experience and I think the kids enjoyed it. The officer was really nice and I could see she would be very good at her job. It takes a combination of heart and strength of character to be a good officer and she seemed to have that. The kids were at ease with her as well.

The Kalispell Police Department also utilizes a bike patrol in the summer, which she had done and really liked because it was more personal, with citizens able to see the officers and converse with them. It is easier to get into unusual areas, like the local park as well and be more efficient with patrols.

I think, as a homeschooler, this is a valuable tour to take advantage of if your local PD is willing. Kids should know and recognize who the good guys are, and know how important their job is. It isn't just about driving around in a car, or arresting people. Police officers have to be well trained, and keep up with that training. They have to know the area they serve and the people they are protecting, as well as those they are protecting us from. So, take advantage of this resource if you can with your homeschoolers! You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

American History Revisited

Since my main focus for this year is American History, I am trying to inject important lessons throughout the year in various formats. I bought The Founding of America (History Channel series), at Costco ($40 as opposed to $65 online!) and had the boys start watching the first video a few days ago. I have them pause the movie and give me an oral report on what they are learning every so often. It's a great series and I am working on lesson plans and worksheets to go with it. The History Channel has an "History In the Classroom" area that spotlights lesson plans and gives ideas on incorporating some of their programming into the classroom.

We are continuing to study the Constitution and it's importance, not just in history, but it's relevance today. With MLK Jr. Day coming up (not a holiday but learning day in our house), we are focusing on inalienable rights and why they are important. I am reading through this lesson plan, "Documenting Democracy" and working on some projects I hope to share soon.

So, if you are like me, and don't think certain holidays should be used as a vacation from learning, but a point of interest in the learning process, take advantage of the upcoming MLK Jr. Day and teach your children about the rights we all have as human beings: The right to LIFE, LIBERTY and PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS regardless of age, sex, or race!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tricky Math

 Math is not my strong suit. I hated math in school and always challenged teachers to prove I would use it anywhere in real life. I never finished algebra because the teacher couldn't site a single time I would use it in the real world unless I went into drafting (which was obvious I had no interest in). So, I learned all kinds of techniques to help me with math so I didn't look like a complete dunce if I had to add something up on the fly. Like calculating if I had enough money while standing at the register with ten people staring at me. So, here are a few cool techniques and links I've used to help my kids learn their math.

Multiplication comes with various tricks, and teaching them to my kids is important because, I just memorized my times tables, so trying to explain why 9 x 8 = 72 gets tricky when you can't say, "Because it just does." It has to make sense. There is a cool hand counting technique that you have to try because it is so clever. It only works for the nines tables, but still neat. "Multiplication 9s Trick" is a pdf file that also has a worksheet attached so you can print it out for a lesson and then have your child use the technique to solve problems.

Another trick that I figured out as a kid, is that whatever the number is (1 - 10), subtract one from it. That tells you the first number in the answer. Then whatever you have to add to that number, to make nine is the second number. For example: 9 x 8  take 1 - 8 = 7 so that means seven is the first number. How many then do you have to add to seven to make nine? The answer is two. So the answer to nine times eight is seventy-two (7 + 2 = 9).

With subtraction and addition, I taught the kids that they can always check their work by working the problem backwards. So, 9 - 8 = 1 and reversed 1 + 8 = 9 . Likewise, 9 + 8 = 17 so in reverse, 17 - 8 = 9 . This has made it possible for the kids to check their own work before turning it in, and they are more likely to have more right answers.

About 45 minutes past cherry pie.
We haven't gotten to division yet, but I'm already searching for tricks to figuring those out. Teaching how to tell time was fun when we used the illustration of pie to figure out sections of time. Money also came into play, to explain quarters of an hour. Here is where I got the inspiration for using pie to illustrate time. It's a story with worksheets, called "15 Minutes of Pie". I also drew up on our dry erase board, a clock and labeled each hour with it's five minute increments, labeled the hour and minute hand, and then talked about half an hour being thirty minutes, or HALF the pie. The kids really took to it. Then they asked for cherry pie for lunch. Oh well. Food is a good motivator, that comes with risks.

I hope you found some inspiration. Good luck with those math lessons. Just think, if you struggle with math like I do, all this is strengthening your own knowledge and that's a good thing!

If you are interested in any more of the printable worksheets like the examples I provided. Check out Super Teacher Worksheets. A great site with really creative ideas and fun printables, all free. Update: The site Super Teacher Worksheets has become a paid membership site. There are some freebies, but not many. Bummer, but still an excellent site if you are able to pay for it.
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