Some Scheduling Tips

This is the seventh post in the series “Organization, Time Management, and Priority Setting for Students.” For a complete listing of the posts, check out the topic on the Home Education Tips links page.

In the previous post, “Planning Learning: Getting Help,”  we talked about how you can get help from tutors and accountability partners, as well as working with your teacher to focus on quality rather than quantity of assigned work. In today’s post, we’ll be discussing some tips on how to schedule your learning and studying most efficiently, so you can succeed in your academics while still having time to enjoy other activities.

 

First Things First: What You Most Need to Schedule:

This may not sound appealing, but when you make your study schedule, first slot in times for the subjects you least enjoy and most often put off. Next slot in times for the subjects you find more difficult. And finally, leave the “fun” subjects till last (but, of course, don’t leave them off). This really will help!

If You Can Plan Your Own Learning Schedule:

If you are a home schooler and/or independent learner, able to set your own learning schedule, think about how you learn best. Do you enjoy learning several subjects in the same time period (as at school with linear, semestered or quartered schedules)? Or do you love to settle in and really focus on one subject at a time? Decide how many subjects you want to do at a time. If one at a time, you might finish a whole course in a month or less of focused effort. If three or four at a time, maybe four to five months. If seven or eight at a time, maybe a full learning year.

Special Events: Holidays, Sports, and More:

Keep in mind special events such as holidays, weddings or sports events you want to attend and take part in. Will you take a complete break from your learning at those times, or will you take learning work with you and commit to maybe two or three hours a day during that time period? You must keep in mind how much time you actually have to learn, and subtract those “special events” from your learning time. Do you have enough time to do all those things and still succeed in your learning? Which things could you delete from your schedule or put off to a later date?

Create a Written Schedule–and Follow it!

Write down an exact schedule for your learning–and follow it! If you are part-way through an assignment for one subject when its time is up, set it aside and go on to the assignment for the next scheduled assignment. You do that at school when the bell rings for the end of class, right? And you do it on the job when your boss has a schedule he or she wants you to follow. And if you had a fun activity planned for the next hour, you’d happily close your math book and finish later, right?

It can be annoying to have to stop and do something else when you feel you are on a roll with an assignment, but it’s good training for real life. Then, if you finish up a different assignment early, you can go back to the unfinished one and complete it in the remaining time.

Also, don’t think of early finishes as extra fun time. Take a 5-minute brain break, then use that extra time to do other studying, since studying is what you scheduled for that time.

Study Times and Brain Breaks:

Hint: When you create your schedule, think about how long a time period would be suited for a particular assignment–and how much time you can spend on it without losing focus. Sometimes it is better to break an assignment into parts and do it in parts, fresh and ready to work each time. Also, allow yourself a short brain break every half hour (5 min.) or every hour at the most (10 min.)–stretch, have a quick snack, run around the block, then get back to work. Use a timer!

Now it’s your turn:

Which of these ideas could you put to use? What other ideas can you come up with? Please share your thoughts in the comments. Thank you!

Coming soon: How to be more efficient in your learning:

  • Some Practical Tips
  • Healthy food, sleep, and exercise
  • Learning methods, health issues, family responsibilities
  • Tutoring and other help
  • How to focus
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Planning Learning: Getting Help

This is the sixth post in the series “Organization, Time Management, and Priority Setting for Students.” For a complete listing of the posts, check out the topic on the Home Education Tips links page.

In the previous post, “Planning Learning: If You’re Already Behind in Your Course,”  we talked about what you can do to get caught up and succeed in completing your courses if you’re already behind. In today’s post, we’ll talk about ways you can get help if you feel overwhelmed as you plan your learning and put it into action.

Hire a Tutor:

If you are totally confused about how to plan your learning, you may be able to hire a tutor who can discuss your situation with you, contact your teachers to discuss your situation, and then help you make a plan. You should probably plan to meet with the tutor at least a half-hour or hour once weekly for a month or two to have him help you get into the habit of staying on-schedule.

If the tutor is also skilled in the subject area(s) in which you have most difficulty, also ask for help in improving your skills in the subject(s). Accountability and skill improvement, both! When you go to meet with your tutor, be sure to take all your course materials with you, even if that means hauling a 25 pound back-pack along. Your tutor can’t help if you don’t provide the assignment instructions, the texts you are to use, and so on.

Find an Accountability Partner:

If you have a hard time organizing yourself, try to find someone (parent, friend, tutor, etc.) who would be willing to check in with you daily in the morning to go over your day’s plans with you, and then again in the evening to see how you’ve done. An “accountability partner” can be a big help, and it probably won’t be long before you’ll be able to scale back your partner’s help to once a week, then once a month–and finally, become really responsible and accountable to yourself.

See if You can Focus on Quality Rather than Quantity:

If you are feeling very overwhelmed by the amount of work you are being assigned, why not arrange to meet with your teacher or tutor (or yourself, if you’re planning your own learning), and see if you can arrange for a while to do a bit less “quantity” so you can focus on “quality.” Be prepared to explain why you feel so overwhelmed and what other things you are already doing to improve the situation (better time management, better planning, accountability partner, etc.); then your teacher will likely be more sympathetic to your needs.

Now it’s your turn:

Which of these ideas could you put to use? What other ideas can you come up with? Please share your thoughts in the comments. Thank you!

Coming soon: More on how to plan and organize your learning:

  • Some Scheduling Tips
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Planning Learning: If You’re Already Behind in Your Course

This is the fifth post in the series “Organization, Time Management, and Priority Setting for Students.” For a complete listing of the posts, check out the topic on the Home Education Tips links page.

In the previous post, “Planning Learning: Goals, Priorities and More,”  we talked about how to create time for your studies by examining your priorities, choosing between short-term and long-term goals, and creating some double-duty time. Today we are going to talk about what you can do to get caught up and succeed in completing your courses if you’re already behind.

What If You’re Already Behind?

If you are already part way through a semester (or other learning time schedule) and you realize you are “behind” in some of your courses, it usually means you need to become more organized with your learning time–and you may also have to engage in some “catch-up” methods as well.

Catch-up Ideas:

Here are some catch-up ideas–they’re not always fun, but they may be necessary–and fair and reasonable, too, especially if you were the one who misused your study time to start with. Remember, too, that once you’re caught up, and you’ve developed a more organized schedule and better habits, you’ll be able to put some of the less pleasant “catch-up” items aside. So,

  • You may have to really cut back on other non-learning activities, even some of your favourite pastimes like hobbies, hanging out with friends, playing video games, texting, or sports, in order to provide extra catch-up time for your studies.
  • You may have to do homework/study during your “personal free time” such as evenings, weekends, or holidays.
  • You might have to take along your homework on sports or band trips and make sure you work on it in every spare moment, even if all your teammates and friends are out and about, doing things like going to the movies, shopping, or sight-seeing.
  • Contact your teachers of subjects in which you are behind, and explain your situation. See if you can get an extension by promising to do work during holiday time and by providing the teacher with your study plan and a firm hand-in date–then do as you’ve promised. If you don’t keep your promise, the word will get around, and your teachers will probably never again allow extensions or provide you with extra help.
  • If you are really far behind and are totally confused as to how to get out of your mess, meet with each of your teachers and ask them what you most need to do to get caught up. Find out their priorities. If you can’t catch up everything, find out what assignments they consider to be the biggest priority, and/or worth the most marks, and then do those things. Better to skip the short, easy assignments that are only worth a few marks (even if they’re the fun ones), and focus on those that will give you more marks and prepare you better for exams.
  • Seek study help. Your teacher(s) may be willing to provide you with help at lunchtime or after school. Many schools have “peer helper” groups, and you might find a helpful study partner. Other schools or community groups offer homework help programs. Or you can hire a tutor who is qualified in your subject area. But warning! Don’t ask for help unless you are serious about it, and are determined to turn up on time, bring all your materials, and work hard. When people are willing to help you (even if you are paying them), show respect for the fact that they are giving of their time, energy and expertise to assist you.

Then Get Organized and Develop Good Study Habits!

Once you’ve caught up, don’t just slip back into your old, disorganized study habits–or you’ll just end up in the panicked, unpleasant situation you’ve just dug yourself out of.

Check out the other posts in this series for tips on how to become a more organized learner and how to improve your study skills. You’ll find a list of all the posts on the “Home Education Tips” page under the topic, “Organization, Time Management, and Priority Setting for Students.”

Now it’s your turn:

Which of these ideas could you put to use? What other ideas can you come up with? Please share your thoughts in the comments. Thank you!

Coming soon: More on how to plan and organize your learning:

  • Getting Help
  • Some Scheduling Tips
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Planning Learning: Goals, Priorities and More

This is the fourth post in the series “Organization, Time Management, and Priority Setting for Students.” For a complete listing of the posts, check out the topic on the Home Education Tips links page.

In the previous post, “Planning Learning: Course Requirements,”  we talked about how to start planning and organizing your learning by first examining your course requirements. Today we are going to talk about how to create time for your studies by examining your priorities, choosing between short-term and long-term goals, and creating some double-duty time.

Create Some Double-Duty Time:

If you don’t have enough time to study, can you come up with some “double-duty” time? Here are some possibilities:

  • Read on the bus while travelling or school or work.
  • Study during lunch and coffee breaks.
  • Take your homework reading with you when you go to appointments or other places where you might have some waiting time.
  • Double-up on other things, like planning your meals a week in advance and only going shopping once a week so you aren’t making several trips for shopping time.
  • If your studies include podcasts or other audio material, plug in your earphones and listen while you walk or jog.

Setting Priorities–“Me time” or Study Time?

If you don’t have enough time for your studies, how can you prioritize? For example:

  • What “fun” activities could you give up in the short-term, in order to reach your important long-term learning goals? Sports? Texting friends? TV? Social media? Hanging out?
  • Realize that while you’d like weekends and holidays to be your “lazy days” or days when you should be able to do whatever you want, and you feel resentful when you have to give up some of that “me” time for studying, it is really important to learn to prioritize and to work when it is necessary. Giving up a bit of “me time” right now could make a big difference to achieving your future goals!

Goal-setting and Tough Choices:

Sometimes you really do have to make tough choices between short-term goals and long-term goals. For example:

  • If it is two weeks till final exams for courses you’ve been struggling with, and at the same time a track meet or other competitive sports event is coming up, what will you choose to do with your limited time: study for the exams or spend your time training for the event and attending it? Or maybe find a way to accomplish both?
  • Think about your long-term goals: For example, are you planning to be a professional athlete or do you want to go to college? Or both? Which is most important?
  • Could you give up some of the “physical training” that is more for “fun” (like intramural games at noon hour at school) and use that time for studying, while still carrying on with the serious training and practice sessions?

Now it’s your turn:

Which of these ideas could you put to use? What other ideas can you come up with? Please share your thoughts in the comments. Thank you!

Coming soon: More on how to plan and organize your learning:

  • What If You’re Already Behind?
  • Getting Help
  • Some Scheduling Tips
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Planning Learning: Course Requirements

This is the third post in the series “Organization, Time Management, and Priority Setting for Students.” For a complete listing of the posts, check out the topic on the Home Education Tips links page.

In the previous post, “Learning Goals and Priorities,” we talked about setting learning goals and priorities to make the best use of your learning and study time. Today we’re going to talk about how to start planning and organizing your learning by first examining your course requirements.

How to plan and organize your learning:

a. Examine Your Course Requirements:

  • For each course, carefully go over the course requirement information so you have a clear idea of the course itself, what you need to do, and how much time you’ll need to schedule for it. Remember to include things like reading time, homework, assignments, and exam studying which may not be listed specifically on the course requirement. Also, remember that if the course requirements have a suggested time schedule, that is for an “average” student; you must think about how long different things like reading, writing essays, or doing math problems take for you. If the course topic is new to you, allow extra time. If the course requirements are unclear, contact the teacher and ask for more details.
  • Write down all this information for each course, then sit down with your time schedule you have made for all the other time uses in your life, and figure out when you can slot in everything you need to do for your learning.
  • Analyze each course and consider alternatives. While a course taken at school might have the schedule of lessons set by the teacher, an online or distance learning course might allow you to set your own schedule. Perhaps you can take a shorter or longer time than the suggested course time?

Coming soon: More on how to plan and organize your learning:

  • Creating Time: Goals, Priorities and Other Considerations
  • What If You’re Already Behind?
  • Getting Help
  • Some Scheduling Tips

 

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Learning Goals and Priorities

This is the second post in the series “Organization, Time Management, and Priority Setting for Students.” For a complete listing of the posts, check out the topic on the Home Education Tips  links page.

In the previous post, “Organizing Your Learning and Study Time,” we talked about how to analyze how you’re spending your time overall and what to do with that information in terms of your study and learning. Today we are going to look at setting learning goals and priorities to make the best use of your learning and study time.

Make a list of your learning goals:

  • Start with short-term goals such as completing assignments due in the next week.
  • Then list mid-term goals such as passing this semester, important exams to study for in the next month, and major assignments.
  • Finally, think about your long-term goals such as graduating from high school and/or university.

Figure out how much time you require to reach your goals:

Do some research and calculations to figure out how much time you need to spend to be successful with your goals. If you haven’t done the calculations in the previous post under “What to do with your time-spending information,” do them now, and you’ll have a good start on figuring out how much time you’ll require to reach your goals. Also, for short-term and mid-term goals, check with your teacher(s) and/or information provided on course handouts to get an idea of the amount of time required for each course. For long-term goals, speak to your school’s educational counsellor so you have a clear view of how many credits you require to graduate, and try to get copies of course handouts so you’ll know what each course requires. Also get a copy of the calendar for each university you are considering and examine the degree requirements and the requirements for each course. Also go online and check out websites; many teachers post up detailed course outlines.

Compare your “average week” and goal times:

Once you’ve listed your goals and calculated the time required, look back at your “average week” time figures from the previous post. Compare them. Ask yourself:

  • Am I currently spending enough time on learning to fulfil my educational goals?
  • If not, from what other aspects of my daily/weekly life could I find more time?

Consider your priorities:

  • Am I willing to sacrifice some of my “fun” for the time being in order to reach my goals?
  • Would I be willing to give up or cut back on my job, and earn less “spending money”?
  • Could I cut back on some of my extra-curricular activities (sports, clubs, hobbies, hanging out with friends)?
  • Could I cut back on screen time (TV, video games, texting, listening to music, etc.)?

And …

  • Find ways to personally take responsibility for your planning and organization. (A whole section about that is coming up…)
  • Become more efficient in your learning so it doesn’t take as much time. (A whole section on that is coming up, too!)

You can do this! It’s worth it!

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Organizing Your Learning and Study Time

This is the first post in the series “Organization, Time Management, and Priority Setting for Students.” For a complete listing of the posts, check out the topic on the Home Education Tips  links page.

One of the most common excuses one hears from students in regards to not completing assignments or handing them in late or doing a poor job, is “But I just didn’t have time!” But is that true? Do you really know how you’re spending your time? Could you make some small changes that could really make a difference? Let’s find out!

 

Find out how you’re spending your time now:

  • Choose an average week, and write down the exact amount of time you spend on every bit of educational work you do every day. Write down the date, starting and ending times, a brief description of what you did, and how many hours and minutes it took.
  • At the end of the week, tally up all the study and assignments you didn’t get around to, but should have done, and make a good estimate of how much time they would require.
  • If you stop in the middle of a learning session for a few minutes (to take a phone call, get a snack, check Facebook, answer a text, read a magazine or cruise the internet or whatever), record that as well in order to see how you might be “frittering” your time during learning sessions. Add it up every day, and then add it all up at the end of the week. Analyze which of these distractions are taking up the most time.
  • Record each and every time you do things like social media, texting or phoning friends, checking email, watching TV, listening to music, and all those fun things that–let’s face it–gobble up time. They seem so small but they add up so fast. Record them and add them up at the end of each day, and the total at the end of the week. Be honest!
  • Record essential uses of time (sleeping, eating, cleaning, classes, job, travel times, dressing and showering, chores, exercise, etc.).
  • Also record time spent on personal enjoyment: sports, hobbies, meetings, recreation, music or arts, and other things you do for personal enjoyment (or because other people want you to do it).

What to do with your time-spending information:

Once you think you have all this figured out, total up how many hours a week you have available for learning–and subtract about 10% from that figure, to take account of unexpected events like being sick, emergency dental appointments (and planned appointments), breaking your leg skiing, or other events you really can’t plan for. If those things don’t happen, great! You’ll have more time to study (but don’t think of it as more time to just have fun…).

Next, get a large size calendar and mark on it all holidays, special events you definitely want to attend (concerts, new movies, ski season, sports play-offs, etc.) and regular non-learning items in your schedule (school and work hours including travel; sports teams you’re on including practice times, games, and playoffs; and so on).

Now write on each day how many hours you have left for homework and study. Compare it to the time you’ve spent on studying and assignments this week, plus the time you didn’t spend on learning but probably should have. From these figures, you’ll be able to figure out how much time you need for study, overall, and decide how much time you need to give each day to your different courses.

In upcoming posts, we’ll talk more about how to manage your learning time:

  • Setting your learning goals and priorities
  • Examining your course requirements
  • Creating time: goals, priorities and other considerations
  • What if you’re already behind?
  • Getting help
  • Some scheduling tips
  • Lots of tips on how you can be a more efficient learner

Why not sit down right now and analyze how you spend your time?

Then you’ll be ready to put the remaining articles in this series into action as they are posted! Do it! Now!

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Organization, Time Management, and Priority Setting for Students

Over the next while, I will be posting a series of articles especially helpful for middle school, secondary and post-secondary students who are struggling with organizational skills, time management, and setting learning priorities. And these posts will also be useful for parents as they teach these skills to their children of all ages.

As I write each post, I will place a link to it on my Home Education Tips page, under the topic, “Organization, Time Management, and Priority Setting for Students.”

I hope you’ll find this new series helpful!

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A “Buggy” Learning Theme – Part 2

Doing lots of activities, reading, writing, research, etc. on topics children are very interested in, is a great way to encourage them in learning their literacy skills! Even children who really struggle with their literacy skills become very motivated if the lessons focus on a high-interest topic.

As an example, one of my students loved bugs and other “buggy” critters! We spent a dozen lessons or so on bug-related activities, and her skills improved dramatically. Below are examples of some of the things we did for this “bug theme.”

This is part two and covers: Math; Science; Social Studies; Research; Arts and Crafts; Music; and Reading and Movies/Videos. Part 1 covers: Reading; Phonics, Sight Words, Spelling; Reading Comprehension; Poetry; Listening and Following Directions; and Handwriting.

Math

I gave J a set of bug-shaped cards with the “5s” numbers to 100. First, we laid them out in order and practised saying them. Then I mixed up the 5s to 50 and J put them in order; then the rest to 100. Next, I took out the 5s and had her practice the “10s.” A good way to practice skip counting (you can make cards with whatever numbers you want to work on).

For “bug math,” we worked on two “bug addition” worksheets in which J added double-digit numbers of bugs. For each question, there were pictures of bugs (such as 23 + 14) and I first had her count and add (I reminded her it is best, when adding this way, to start with the larger number). Of course, counting 30 or 40 bugs takes quite a while. Then we practised adding the numbers (which were given under the pictures), and she quickly saw that learning to add the numbers, first the ones, and then the tens, was a lot easier and faster than counting each bug. Next, we read together the Winnie The Pooh story with the “bee song.” We followed that with a subtraction sheet, called “Pooh’s Predicament.” This featured bees and the questions were simple subtraction, such as 10-6. Again, we did pictures first (count the total bees, cross off the “take away bees,” and then count the bees that were left). Then we talked about how much easier it is to learn simple subtraction facts and be able to quickly do the problems, rather than counting backwards.

Insect patterns: Cut out lots of pictures of different kinds of bugs from old magazines. Then have your child design “insect patterns.”

Insect addition cards: I made a set of cards with different bugs and different numbers (to 9) on them. The cards were placed face-down, and J picked up two, turned them over, wrote them as an addition equation, and used the abacus to figure out the answer. I reminded her, when using the abacus, to start with the big number, and then just count the extra small numbers (eg. 9+5: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14) instead of starting from 1.

As mentioned, there are dozens of free “bug-themed” worksheets available free or very cheaply online and in workbooks. Here are some examples of the kind of bug-themed math worksheets you can find:
– “Wormy Apples” worksheet: counting and graphing (to 6); then “read” the graph and answer questions based on it
– “The Inch Worm” worksheet: measuring the length of different worm sketches, in inches
– “Measurement” worksheet: a cm graph paper sheet with bugs shown at various locations; draw “routes” from one bug to the next and record the distance in cm
– “Those worms”: fractions: circle the total number of worms in the fraction (bottom) and then colour the fraction of the worms (top).

Science

Children love working with charts. You can make charts of your own; there are also many available online or in workbooks. I had J work on a chart called “Insects or Not.” She had to glue a bunch of little squares with pictures of various insects, birds, and animals in the correct columns.

I gave J an “entomologist worksheet” and a magnifying glass. She had to go outside and find a bug to examine. On the sheet, under the magnifying glass picture, she drew the bug. Then, in the jar picture she drew the bug’s “habitat” (leaves, grass, twigs, pebble). At the bottom of the page she wrote two observations about the bug (for a child who struggles with writing, she could draw her observations and “sound out”/write keywords. Finally, J gave the bug a name, and at the top of the page wrote her own name under the word, “entomologist.” (Of course, you can easily design worksheets like this, yourself.)

Butterfly life cycle: J put in order and glued pictures and words of eggs, larva, pupa, and butterfly on a life cycle chart. Note: If you can’t find a pre-made worksheet like this, it is fun (and probably more colourful and more likely to create a lasting memory) to do some basic research together, and then look through old magazines (or download pictures from the internet, or have your children draw their own sketches) to make their own chart of this kind.

There are lots of free/low-cost bug-theme science worksheets available. For example, “Ant City” has a cut-away map of an ant colony; J coloured the different parts of the colony according to the directions given.

Social Studies

There are lots of books, videos and documentaries to do with bugs from all over the world. Get out an atlas and, while you read or view about bugs, find their locations and habitats in the atlas. Check out maps of precipitation, vegetation, topography, etc.

In some parts of the world, bugs are an important food source. This is a fun Social Studies activity to research (you might even try out some bug recipes if you have access to suitable bugs!). You can also find out about how different places deal with bugs, what bugs are useful in the garden, what kinds of clothes (and netting, etc.) people use to protect themselves from bugs, what kinds of bugs are dangerous to humans, and so on.

Research

I gave J a worksheet called “What Do You Know About Insects?” She read the sentences (she needed a bit of help, but that’s fine!) and filled in the correct word for each one from the word bank. At the bottom of the sheet were sketches of 6 different kinds of insects; she had to name each insect from her own memory, and then she looked it up in a “Bugs! Bugs! Bugs!” book and wrote the correct spelling on the worksheet beside each picture.

Arts and Crafts

The magazine, “Chirp” (April 2013) features an article, “Monarch Butterflies” (pages 20-21). It also has many other interesting stories, poems, and activities, which we looked through. Besides reading the butterfly article, J chose to make a wind chime with natural items and odds and ends from around the house.

I had J create her own “bug.” She looked at bugs around her yard, and then used her imagination to draw and label a “new kind of bug”–including its habitat, what it eats, what eats it, how it survives/protects itself, etc. Then on a second sheet, she created an imaginary story about her bug. I suggested maybe an adventure it goes on, or a story about its family, or whatever she liked. She dictated the story to mom, then copied it, and finally read it to her younger siblings. A child who does not like to draw could make a plasticine model or something similar. The child could also create a “habitat” for the bug with twigs, grasses, etc.

Have your child create her own “bug booklet.” Have her cut out pictures from old magazines or download pictures online, or draw her own pictures. Have her make a title page/cover with her name as author. J’s booklet included: ladybug, fly, butterfly, bee, ant, beetle, and mosquito. She coloured and labelled it at home and read it to her siblings. J was very excited to have her own little book with her name on the front!

There are lots of “How to Draw” books for children–and lots of them have “bug” instructions. Children really enjoy learning how to draw butterflies and other colourful bugs, which they can use to illustrate their other work–or make into a mobile or a garden collage, etc.

Music

We learned the “I’m a Bug Watcher” song, to the tune of “Frere Jacques.” (“I’m a bug watcher, I’m a bug watcher, Don’t you know, Don’t you know, When I’m finished watching, When I’m finished watching, I let them go, I let them go.”) Music can be a great way to help children with literacy skills. Songs often have lots of repetition, and its a great way to practice reading new words, as well as developing rhythm, understanding rhyme, and even learning word families.

We read together a book, “Insects at Your Fingertips.” I did most of the reading, but J did her share–and she really enjoyed the pictures and the information. It has a lot of surprising information about different kinds of insects, like a “Goliath Beetle” that weighs 1/4 pound. She didn’t know what “Goliath” meant, so I sang her the Sunday-School song “Only a boy named David” and did the actions, too. Then she sang it with me and did the actions, which she enjoyed very much. (“Only a boy named David/ Only a little sling/ Only a boy named David/ but he could pray and sing/ Only a boy named David/ only a rippling brook/ only a boy named David/ but 5 little stones he took/ And one little stone went in the sling and the sling went round and round (repeat)/ and round and round and round and round and round and round and round/ One little prayer went up to heaven and the giant came tumbling down”). I told her that Goliath was the giant’s name, and that lots of times when people want to say someone or something is really big, they say it is a “Goliath.” After learning that song, I’m sure she’ll never forget the “Goliath” reference. Our language/culture is full of references to ancient stories and events, and it is amazing how many songs, ballads, and instrumental pieces there are related to such references. If you can’t find a song, a good both of myths and legends or a children’s history book can provide interesting background.

“Insect Parts Song”: a song, to the tune of “Head and Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” that teaches the parts of insects: “Head and thorax, abdomen … and eyes, wings, s-iiiiix legs!” Kids love to make up their own words to this song, for different kinds of insects, and it’s such a great way to memorize those words/facts.

Reading and Movies/Videos

J and I read a “bug book” from Disney Pixar: one of the “A Bug’s Life” series. She had seen this story before on video. It was definitely a “challenge” reading level for her, but as she had seen the movie, and we read the book together (partly “choral” reading, partly “I read/you repeat”), she was able to read-and-tell (read the parts she could; “tell” the remainder) the story to her younger siblings.

Now it’s Your Turn!

What other kinds of “buggy” learning activities can you think of? If you can’t come up with any, just ask your child–I’m sure he or she will have some great ideas. And of course, if “bugs” isn’t your child’s “thing,” find out what is instead and explore that!

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A “Buggy” Learning Theme – Part 1

Doing lots of activities, reading, writing, research, etc. on topics children are very interested in, is a great way to encourage them in learning their literacy skills! Even children who really struggle with their literacy skills become very motivated if the lessons focus on a high-interest topic.

As an example, one of my students loved bugs and other “buggy” critters! We spent a dozen lessons or so on bug-related activities, and her skills improved dramatically. Below are examples of some of the things we did for this “bug theme.”

This is part one, and covers: Reading; Phonics, Sight Words, Spelling; Reading Comprehension; Poetry; Listening and Following Directions; and Handwriting. Part two covers: Math; Science; Social Studies; Research; Arts and Crafts; Music; and Reading and Movies/Videos.

Reading:

I gave J 3 blank bookmarks and bug stickers for her to decorate the bookmarks and use in the bug books she borrows. Your child could also draw his own bugs or you could find bug outline pictures online or in colouring books for your child to colour and glue to the bookmarks.

We read the book, “Bug in a Rug.” I had her take it home prior to the lesson to read it at home with mom; mom read the main part of each sentence, and J read the “ug” words. That’s a great way to introduce a book like this. At the lesson, I slowly read each page (1 or 2 short sentences) aloud to J, encouraging her to read aloud the words she knows. Then we re-read the page together with J trying all the words.

We did the same with the book, “Bugs! Bugs! Bugs!” J really like this book with its beautiful illustrations! At the end of the book is a “Bug O Meter” chart which lists a variety of bugs, and indicates if they sting, where they live, etc. J really enjoyed exploring the chart together, and then by herself again at home.

I loaned J a copy of Highlights High Five (Jan 2012) that has an article/activity called “W” Worm School. The goal is to find all the hidden “W”s in the picture (and any words that start with w). I made her a photocopy so she could actually colour all the Ws she finds. We also looked through the rest of the magazine at the many poems, stories, activities, recipes, crafts and so on. Children’s magazines like this are a great way to encourage reluctant readers/writers to practice their skills and have fun doing it at the same time.

Does your child enjoy riddles and jokes? There are lots of riddle and joke books that contain, among other things, bug-related jokes and riddles. Why not go to the library, pick up a few books, and search them (your child can search alone, or you can search together) for jokes and riddles your child really likes. Have him copy his favourites and illustrate them to make his own bug joke and riddle book. If he can come up with some jokes and riddles of his own, all the better!

Phonics, Sight Words, Spelling

Squish Sight Word game: a set of cards with different bugs and sight words. Cards are face down in a pile; take turns picking a card and reading the sight word; if you get it right you can keep it, but if you get it wrong you have to give it to the other player. If you get a “squish” card (place 3 or 4 in the deck), you have to give one of your cards to the other player, too. The winner is the one with most cards at the end.

You can easily make up all kinds of card games like this for phonics, sight words, math, etc. If you don’t want to draw sketches of bugs (or cut the cards into bug shapes), you can pick up a “sticker book” of bug stickers from the dollar store, and your child will love making her own cards. Have her put a sticker on one side of a card, and write a sight word or spelling word (does not have to be a bug word) on the other side.

I had J do some verb “be” exercises, in which she had to fill in the blanks in different sentences with the correct form of the verb “to be” (are, am, is, was, were). She had no trouble with this. I simply made up some sentences on a piece of paper, with “bug” themes, and had her complete the “to be” verb blanks. Then she had the option to draw (or use stickers or cut out pictures) to illustrate/decorate the sentences.

There are lots of free or low-cost worksheets available online or in old workbooks. An example is “Together We Stand”: Amusing sketches of different insects, based on the words that make up their compound names (for example, honey+b=honeybee, dragon with fly wings=dragonfly, a house with wings=housefly, etc.). J really enjoyed figuring out what bug each sketch represents, and writing the names of the bugs (all of which are compound words). A child could also invent her own riddles like this!

Reading Comprehension

I gave J a worksheet called “Main Idea: Spiders and Insects.” I read the short article aloud to her, and she followed along with the reading. Then we read the questions underneath and she dictated answers, based on the article. I wrote the answers, and for homework she traced them, reading the answers aloud after tracing them. It seems that “bugs” is a very popular topic in workbooks and online worksheets. Be sure to check out thrift stores for partly used workbooks at very low cost; often the “used” pages are done in pencil and can be erased to use again for your child. The internet is also loaded with free worksheets. Just google “bug worksheets” and you’ll find dozens of them, covering practically every literacy skill imaginable! The same is true for many other popular topics such as dinosaurs, etc.

I read aloud a book, “Ready to Read: Bugs,” to J. At the end of the book there was a quiz, and J got all the answers right. I encouraged J to read the book to her siblings (with parent help as needed) and then ask them the questions at the end. “Teaching” younger siblings what a child has just learned is a great way to instill the new skills, and also provides self-confidence.

Poetry

“Bee’s World” poem and worksheet: we read the poem. Then J answered a series of questions based on the poem. The questions required J to imagine herself as the bee and think about how she would see the flowers and garden (for example: Is a flower like a tower? Why?). Then she had to create some possible new lines for the poem, create some similes (for example: To a bee, every bush is as tall as a … building; tree; mountain). Finally, she had to pretend she’s a giant, and answer questions like “Would a tree be like a little flower? Why?” Children are very imaginative, and enjoy these kinds of exercises! While in this case I used a worksheet, children’s poetry books have lots of poems about “bugs” and you can read them together and do these kinds of activities. In fact, once a child has done this under your direction for a couple poems, she’ll like to make up exercises for you to do … and help you out when you get stuck!

Listening and Following Directions

I gave J a picture of some bugs, flowers, sun, grass, etc., and then orally gave her a series of directions (colour things certain colours, draw certain shapes around things, count things and write the number, etc.). She did very well, and liked this activity a lot! Old calendars often have great landscape pictures (including bugs) for this kind of activity.

Handwriting

The “Insect Express Activity Book” is full of fun erasable-marker activities like dot-to-dots, spot the differences, what bugs eat, insect match up, bug patterns, bug words manuscript writing practice, counting bugs, drawing bugs, writing a story, and searching for bugs out in your garden and then listing the ones she finds. For children who are having difficulty with fine motor coordination, this is a fun way to improve those kinds of skills. Other erasable books with buggy exercises are also available.

Now it’s Your Turn!

What other kinds of “buggy” learning activities can you think of? If you can’t come up with any, just ask your child–I’m sure he or she will have some great ideas. And of course, if “bugs” isn’t your child’s “thing,” find out what is and explore that!

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Posted in adventures & explorations, art and learning, family learning, home learning, learning resources, learning themes, math, passions and interests, Phonics, printing and handwriting, reading, songs and poetry, worksheets | Comments Off on A “Buggy” Learning Theme – Part 1