ABC and 123: A Learning Collaborative: April 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011

Encouraging Creative Writing

Mommy Labs believes that in order to get  kids interested in writing we have to give them reasons to write!  She helped her little ones create pin up noteboards out of upcycled DVD cases.

This activity from Primary Graffiti will give kids of any age a chuckle. Parents donated magazines. The kids selected funny pictures and created quirky dialogue to enhance each picture. 

The Important Book  became an interested writing spring board at Together Time 4 Families.

Creative Writing Now has ideas for starting your own creative journaling.

In honor of The Royal Wedding today I just had to share a goofy little book that I had fun working in to a creative writing lesson.  In the story, a little girl lets her imagination run wild as she imagines which knickers the Queen will be wearing when she comes to visit the child's school.  Kids Book Review shares a complete review of the highlights of the book. The illustrations are adorable and the text is sure to bring some giggles.

Check out what one school did to get creative after reading the book.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


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Sneaker Teacher explains how to write an "I Am From" poem.

Ignite a poetry unit with Poetry Bags.

Small Types inspired her lego crazed little one to create poetry with his favorite toy.  I imagine this would make a fun center activity in any classroom.

At Crayon Bits the first grade teacher encourages reading fluency using poetry.

Small Types also put together their own version of an on-the-go poetry activity that does not require any materials.

Read. Write. Think. has a fun interactive acrostic poem building activity.

First Grade Serenade explains how she uses poetry in the classroom and shares poems of the month.

Celebrate Poetry with a great list of activities from Kristine O'Connell George: Post It Poems, Balloon Poems, Cookie Poems and so much more!

If you haven't had a chance to enter to win a copy of Rip the Page: Adventures in Creative Writing, check it out.  It is a great resource for teaching children to write poetry.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rip the Page: Adventures in Creative Writing

Update:  This giveaway is now closed.  The winner has been chosen by

"Brandy said...
My daughter is gifted in language and would adore this book! She gets so giddy over word play and is constantly writing creatively. Thank you for this chance!"

April is National Poetry Month.  Poetry is one of those creative writing ventures that you can't just teach with a simple 1, 2, 3.  There are many formula type poems: Bio Poems, Haiku, Acrostics, Limericks, and more.  Yet, quality poetry requires a different way of thinking, looking at the world, and honestly reflecting on it.

True poetry requires word play, imagination, open ended questions, and plenty of blank pages for words to roam.  Rip the Page! provides just what writers of all ages need to turn on their creative writing brain.  Karen Benke, an experienced teacher of poetry, has put together an exciting resource for writers who are willing to explore.

My first grader and I have spent many April evenings diving in to the adventures offered on each page of this "Just Do It" book.  I would never describe myself as a creative writer, but I will tell you what this book makes it fun!  We started with the first exercise in the book, an open ended statement, "I Write with..."  It was exciting to see Gavin begin to think beyond his pencil and paper.

Another exercise encouraged us to name each of our fingers and toes.  It was interesting to watch my son thoughtfully consider what each one of his fingers should be named and why.  Since I have never named his fingers as pointer, ring man, and pinky he really had no schema tying his imagination down on this one.

Rip the Page encourages vocabulary and word experimentation in a way that is zany and entertaining.

As writers work their way around the book they are encouraged by notes from famous authors such as Annie Barros, Lemony Snicket, and Patricia Polacco.

According to the press release for the book,
"The exercises in Rip the Page! aren’t designed like a school assignment or extra-credit composition. They’re meant to amuse and inspire your child, showing him or her how fun and freeing creative writing can be even when it’s not being graded. Benke, who has led creative writing workshops for children for sixteen years, knows what kinds of prompts excite her students and how to get their pens moving."
This eye catching, engaging book would be a wonderful addition to any classroom.  With a very reasonable price it would be a nice gift for your favorite teacher during Teacher Appreciate week or as a year end gift. for ordering information, additional reviews, and a workshop possibilities check out Karen's site.

We are pleased to be able to offer one of our readers a copy of the book thanks Shambhala Publications, Inc.  Leave a word or two of your own in the comment blank to be entered to win. 

There is no special consideration necessary for entry, although we would love if you would also take a moment to vote for ABC & 123 on the list of TOP 25  Homeschool Blogs or if you would look us up on facebook!

We will use to select a winner from the comments below after entry closes on May 1 at 10PM EST.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Show and Tell #55

In last week's Show and Tell, Nurture Store got creative with Legos while teaching estimation and measurment.

Tons of Fun put together a colorful peg people race game for practicing colors, numbers recognition, and counting.

Sippy Cup Central used Easter eggs to create a clever way to math problems.  With many leftover plastic eggs this would still be a simple and motivating post Easter practice drill.

It's your turn!
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Please remember these rules:

~Post an "Ah Ha Moment," favorite lesson, experiment, learning game, field trip, whatever you're currently working on, your child's fridge worthy artwork, handmade gifts, or anything holiday related.

~Direct link to your post, not your home page.

~Include a link back to us or our link button in your post.

~If you come back and your link is missing, double check to make sure you've followed the directions!

~Most importantly, please try to visit and comment on at least three links. Spread the comment love and make someone's day!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Music and Movement-Mexico

Hi, I'm Jedda from This Little ProjectOne of the things that I love about being a musician and a dancer is that it brings me full circle in what I am learning about. It's one thing to read about a place in a book. But if you really want to get to know a people you've got to listen to their music and language and watch (and try!) the movements of their people's dance. That's where you will find a true reflection of a people's traditions and culture.

I hope that you will enjoy traveling around the world-in the comfort of your own home-to learn about cultures as well as the joy of music and movement and dance with your children and students!

Since I can't share my personal library with you, I'll be sharing some links online. Some come from youtube, which can be a great resource. Please be cautious and supervise your students/children when they view them.

Because Cinco de Mayo is coming up, today we will be learning about the music and movement in MEXICO!

Mexican dance is done in character shoes (shoe with a heel) for girls, and a cowboy boot for boys.

To get started, watch this video that shoes some of the different styles of Mexican Dance:

In this clip you will learn about the costume that the women wear when they dance.  You can also see the character shoes:

This lets you see some of the dancing up close!  The dance is "percussive" which means that the shoes are not just for dancing in.  They are also to make sounds with.
  You might like to try making sounds with your feet too!

Mariachi music is the style of music that we often think of when we hear Mexican music.
The word mariachi refers to the musicians now commonly seen in restaurants or strolling the streets, dressed in silver studded charro outfits with wide brimmed hats playing a variety of instruments which include violins, guitars, basses, vihuelas (a 5 string guitar) and trumpets.

This is a song we often hear in Spanish, the language spoken in much of Mexico with the mariachi style of music.

Mariachi songs speak about machismo, love, betrayal, death, politics, revolutionary heroes and even animals (one particularly famous song is "La Cucaracha").

Mexican dance is also for boys!

Now YOU Try!

Some things you really have to try to appreciate or understand them.

These activities will help you do that!

La Cucaracha song with the words in Spanish.  Try singing along!

Here is a child dancing with her skirt.  Try dancing like her!

Have you heard of the Mexican Hat Dance?  Try dancing it along with these children!

Make your own maracas 
out of your left over plastic eggs from Easter with the instructions: HERE

Link to Mexican flag coloring page: HERE
Coloring page flag Mexico

Link to coloring page of mariachi players: HERE
Coloring page Mexican musicians

Try making music with
  Mexican musical instruments with the game HERE

Now you will be all ready for Cinco de Mayo!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Feature Yourself Friday: Meet Tracy

Welcome! New to ABC and 123? Please check out our FAQ in the sidebar.

I am a devout Catholic, homeschooling, mother with a loving and supportive husband and 4 beautiful "cupcakes." My children are my pride and joy and they are the inspiration for this sweet blog I have created to document my passions in life, my creativity, and my family's memories. I started this blog as a way to document all the cakes I have decorated for my children in the past 10 plus years. You can check out all my cakes on my blog HERE. But, my blog has a little bit of everything and shows little "slices" or glimpses of our busy family life.

I am fairly new to blogging (as of June 2010) and have created this blog from "scratch" without knowing a thing about the blogging world or the blogosphere as it is called. I am also a REAL Mommy who has all the ups and downs of mommy-hood and homeschool-hood. I only disclose this to let you know that I am not one of those "perfect, always put together mommy bloggers". (Just ask my dear husband, my cute cupcakes, and my closest friends) I continually struggle with trying to balance it "all", and I am always striving to put my priorities in the right order! I hope I can inspire myself and others through this blog. As I continue to take baby blog steps, I am enjoying this learning process and meeting great bloggers along the way from all over the world!
Some Favorite Activities/Crafts/Posts of Mine
Easter Story Cookies

Since today is Good Friday, I thought I would share one of my favorite activities that I love to do with my family for the Easter season: Easter Story Cookies. You can find a recipe for them HERE. We have been making this an annual tradition on Holy Saturday evening, the day before Easter morning. I love that we can do this as a family to explain the Easter story. The cookies are not only yummy, but they really do look like empty tombs when you bite into them to remind us that Jesus is risen!

LifeSaver Ornaments

Another favorite activity I like to do each year with my children around Christmas time is to make LifeSaver Ornaments. This craft is very easy, although you have to be careful because the LifeSaver ornaments break easily! My children love to make the designs and watch them melt in the oven to turn into sweet and beautiful ornaments! My children love to eat the candy too! You can read more about these ornaments at my blog post HERE.
Our Homeschool Classroom

When I first started homeschooling in 2005, we were building our current home and my homeschool room was in our small dining room. I had 3 children at that time. Four years ago we moved into our new home and we are blessed to have a beautiful room that is designated as our classroom area. I enjoy the natural light that comes into the room and the space. I have more photos and information about our homeschool room HERE

Chore Charts

Chore Charts are always a hot topic it seems for homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers alike. How do I get my children to do chores on a regular basis and help them keep track of each chore? At the beginning of this school year, I came up with this chore system to help organize our chores. I can't say we have been consistent with keeping up with this system, but I wanted to share this idea in hopes that it will give others ideas on how to best set up chore charts for their family.
Our Helping Hands

Another way to keep up with chores is this Helping Hands system I came up with to help organize a few kitchen chores. These helping hands have helped keep track of who does which chore in the kitchen each day. You can read my post HERE for more information on how I use our helping hands to get work done together in the kitchen.

You can read more posts at my blog, A Slice of Smith Life.

You can also find my blog page on Facebook and if you like what you see, you can click "Like" on my Facebook blog page!

You can also find my blog at No Ordinary Blog Hop (NOBH) where I co-host this fun blog hop with Lynda at My Heart's Desire and Anna-Marie at Life's Adventures. Come join NOBH and find out what makes it so not ordinary! :) Here's one of the cool NOBH buttons (Thanks to Lynda, our "blog button queen") you can grab to put on your blog:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Animal Facts and Fun for Earth Day

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Handprint and Footprint Art read Wee Chick and made a cute chick to go along with the story.

Whimsical Ways put together pictures of animal prints in cubes that would be wonderful for teaching young children to identify animals and practice animal sounds (an important way to develop different speech sounds).

Quirky Momma suggests using basic shapes cut from felt to create animals.

Put together a paper plate elephant with the instructions shared on Children's Learning Activities.

Set up a Pennies for Polar Bears or Loose Change for Lions Drive to help save endangered animals.  See this idea and many more at Green School Network.

Review this list to find out the 10 Most Endangered Animals!
Amazing animals are all around us – whether we live in the suburbs, the city or the country.

The Kratt brothers’ (of the TV adventure series, Wild Kratts) love of animals stems from their experience with creatures right in their backyard when they were kids. Here are facts about just some of the fascinating creatures you may encounter in your backyard!

~Gray squirrels are found in several regions of the U.S., just one of these bushy-tailed creatures can bury and hide thousands of acorns in a single season.

~Pigeons feed their babies, or “squabs,” a milk-like substance.

~The wiggly Earthworm don’t have lungs, instead they use their skin to breathe.

~The Peregrine Falcon is a formidable hunter which flies at speeds of up to 240 mph to catch its prey midflight.

~ Raccoons are famous for “washing” their food – but they really feel for food in the water with their very sensitive hands! Plus raccoons just like to handle their food before they eat it.

Tune in to 2 new episodes of Wild Kraffs for more interesting animal information just in time for Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

All the Write Moves

As I get ready to head to Tampa, Florida this summer to present a workshop on writing, I can't help but to think that this should be in the forefront of every early childhood teachers' mind. From infants right up until getting them ready for kindergarten. This is a previous post from my blog PB&J Preschool. I will follow up with part two after I am back from my presentation with much more information on writing in the preschool classroom and with new pictures of what I'll be presenting to my audience.

When we think of writing, we think of letters and numbers that we can read and that make sense, otherwise why would you read it.

Writing in a preschool classroom is much different from our everyday writing. It seems to only make sense-at times-to the writer, can only be read by the writer, and can-at times-only be seen by the writer. What kind of writing is this, you ask? It is the writings of a preschool child. Their imaginations have taken over and their words begin to make sense when they can apply it to paper.

Here’s the catch...Have you ever seen a child come out of the womb writing letters and symbols that are aesthetically correct? If so, you have witnessed a miracle. The fact remains like any other developmental milestone, writing is a developmental progression that takes years to master. And this is why writing-rich classrooms are so important.

Writing Centers are specific areas within the classroom that encourage writing by providing interesting writing materials and appropriate models. Tracing letters are not appropriate. Focus on free-form writing.

Class Books allow each child to contribute an individual page to a group book. Sometimes the basic text is predictable but allow children to make small changes.

Pocket Stories encourage children to explore word boundaries and the relationship between spoken and written language. Children dictate a sentence to go with a picture they create. Duplicate words can be matched to the words in their sentence and stored in the pocket at the bottom of the page.

Journal Writing is common in many kindergartens. Journals allow teachers and children to trace writing progress over an extended period.

Sentence Fill-Ins allow children to experiment with writing by adding a word or phrase to a predictable text. Children can observe how their writing alters the meaning of the original text.

Writing on Interactive Charts enables children to experiment with the way writing conveys meaning. Children can write a word or phrase to add to the interactive part of the chart.

Literacy Suitcases extend the literacy curriculum from school to home. Literacy suitcases are take-home version of classroom writing materials.

It is extremely important at the preschool level for children to interact with print. This means that your classroom should be a print-rich environment. Children should be allowed to explore books and printed materials on their own and as a group. There should ALWAYS be printed materials on their physical and developmental level in the classroom. They should ALWAYS have access to writing materials at a specific place in the room. Use an old table or even a corner of the room with a basket of materials, a clipboard and a chair or bean bag. Even if we don’t have the luxury of space and new furniture, there is always something that can be used for this purpose. Materials could include: pencils, crayons, markers, paper of any kind, magnetic boards, magnetic letters or laminated letters that they can stick to Velcro on the wall to form words. Anything in your classroom can and should be used to enhance the reading and writing experience.

To further the writing experience, materials should be present in each center in your classroom. Examples could be notepads for order taking in the home living center, pads for drawing buildings in the construction/block area, or paper to write hypothesis and experimental thinking in the science center.

Take the summer to begin thinking about how you can incorporate a developmentally, fantastic writing center into your classroom this fall. Enhancing the writing experience will make a dramatic difference in your children’s ability to begin recognition of letters, phonemic awareness, and of course writing. It's never too late, so just because we technically only have a few months left in the actual school year, press on pencil and all!
Until next time...go teach the children,

Earth Day Ideas

Welcome! New to ABC and 123? Please check out our FAQ in the sidebar.
Here are some ideas to help you plan for April 22, Earth Day 2011!

Create a personal Earth Day Pledge using this printable from babalisme.

Use these labels from Jinerup to make getting your children to help with recycling a breeze.
Turn cereal boxes into bookmarks with Plum Pudding.

Make grocery bag parachuts with Flipflops and Applesauce and

go for a treasure hunt in the park and then

make cuff bracelets out of toilet paper rolls.

Here are a couple other recycled cardboard craft ideas to celebrate the day.

Michelle Made Me put together a nest/basket out of recycled cereal boxes and more.

Crafts by Amanda shows off her angry birds made from cardboard tubes.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Show and Tell #54

If you haven't had a chance to check out last week's Show and Tell, you will not want to miss the 98 great links!  Here is a tiny sampling:

The Ramblings and Adventures of a S.A.H.M. put together some color by number printables perfect for Spring.

Wishes Dreams Love shared a great roll-a-word game.

Last Minute Mel created some no-bake lamb cookies that would be fun at the kid's table this Easter.

It's your turn!
abc button

Please remember these rules:

~Post an "Ah Ha Moment," favorite lesson, experiment, learning game, field trip, whatever you're currently working on, your child's fridge worthy artwork, handmade gifts, or anything holiday related.

~Direct link to your post, not your home page.

~Include a link back to us or our link button in your post.

~If you come back and your link is missing, double check to make sure you've followed the directions!

~Most importantly, please try to visit and comment on at least three links. Spread the comment love and make someone's day!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Teaching with Ticia: Rain and Water puddles

I don't know if you guys get lots of rain in the spring, but in theory here in Texas we do.  It hasn't happened yet, but the idea for this came up last year when my boys noticed all the puddles we had after two weeks of solid rain.

Of course I thought of a science experiment to go with this.

Supplies: clear glass or baby food jar for each kid (as with most things it's more effective if they can each do this), dirt, pitcher of water

1.  First let your kid add dirt into the jar until it is about halfway full.  You want to make sure you still have room for the water to be added in.

Then look at the jar full of dirt, look at how there are little pockets of air that are empty, where water can go into.  What is going to happen when we pour the water?

If your kids are like mine there's a 50/50 chance they're going to say "You get mud!"  The other chance is they tell you there will be too much water for the dirt.

That's the answer you want.

2.  Slowly pour water in.  As you do you'll notice that the dirt becomes saturated with the water.  Once the dirt is saturated with the water the water starts to float on top of the dirt.  Thus forming puddles.

So, to get to the technical answer.  One way that you get puddles and flooding is if your ground has become too saturated with water for it to hold anymore water at this time.

Vocabulary word you probably introduced: saturated- to become full of something

Other posts I saw that could help with this idea:

An excellent example of flash flooding that we usually get in Texas

A great demonstration of water cycle- this was just linked up to my Science Sunday post this last week, and I thought it was so cool.

Further expansions or ideas:
Start a study of the water cycle
How does water get to your house (a great book for this is "Drip, Drip, Drop")
Obviously weather
What happens after it rains (can transition into plants growing)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Easter Themed Learning Centers & Games

Put together a rhyming Easter treasure hunt mission for your little learners using the inspiration from A Lil Bit of This - A Lil Bit of That.

A Mama's Two Cents Worth created a downloadable center egg game appropriate for preschool age children.
A List Maker's Life put together a Build a Bunny game to practice counting and taking turns.
This egg hunt skill building activity is appropriate for reviewing any concept in the classroom.  It worked with second grade students, yet was also fun with preschool age children.  Just create appropriate questions for the age you are addressing.
The First Grade Sweet Life put together a Sentence Scramble center and shares the printable recording sheets in her post.
Explorations in Learning shares the set up for their Easter themed writing workshop station.
Teachology has a great link list of suggested Easter themed lessons that would be appropriate for learning centers.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring & Easter Crafts

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Classified:Mom celebrates spring with a baby chick craft.

Krafty Kat caught my attention with this adorable egg carton Easter craft tutorial.

Auntie LoLo Crafts put a button collection to good use with this Easter Button Egg

Craftberry Bush made a lovely little spring bird cage.

Sweet and Lovely Crafts created a twist on a traditionally winter themed craft with their Spring Globes.
A List Maker's Life recycled formula cans into Easter Bunny Banks & Baskets and shares the step by steps.
Sippy Cup Central used little hand prints to make Easter lilies.

Mama to 3 Blessings got her little ones busy with paint creating Easter crosses and footprint chicks.