Friday, January 31, 2014

North America Unit for Kindergartners - Part 2

North America, like all continents, is such a rich continent to explore. This year, we are only scratching the surface though as this is our first time exploring the world so I constantly have to rein myself in and remind myself that there'll be many more years to come...

Inuit Inspired Etching Art

We haven't studied much of the population while talking about North America. We haven't talked about "the North Pole" much either. It was all voluntary. This year is the first time we introduce continents and I am not wanting to go too deep yet. I am also thinking we might cover the Artic Circle in an entirely different unit...but I couldn't resist adding this piece of art to our week to kind of show Adrian I wasn't ignoring the North part of the continent entirely! (I did mention why we did not explore it much as well). I picked this special etching art creation because it is a technique he's never tried before and the result does remind me of some real Inuit art I've seen before; in particular, the Cape Dorset birds. Being that I was raised in Quebec, I saw my fair share of Inuit art growing up (despite the fact that I lived nowhere near that population) and always thought it was so unique. For this piece, Adrian used wax crayons and colored a poster board piece entirely. He then painted it with black tempera paint and when it was all dried, the scratching began. We both decided to do the famous birds. Adrian also added some Inuit symbols around his.

North America's "Original" Foods : Count, Cut & Paste

We now live in a world where various foods grow in various places but this wasn't always the case. Foods originated somewhere, right? This activity showed Adrian a variety of foods that were originally found in North America, such as his beloved corn and tomatoes. I turned this into a counting activity by having 17 red kidney beans on the sheet for example along with other foods in different quantities. Adrian had to count the pieces, cut the numbers provided and glue them next to the foods they belonged to.

License Plates & Missing Letters/Numbers

The case of the missing letters and numbers is a fun way to revise alphabet and numeral order. Leaving out a letter or number for a child to fill in is always more challenging than simple reciting. Here, I printed small blank American license plates and wrote numbers and letters on after printing. 

Graphing with the flags of North America -
Which are the most/least used colors?

Graphing is something we try to do every so often. This graph went all the way to number 20 and included 6 colors so it was a big graph to make but Adrian, who loves flags, thought it was SO exciting. It took him a while to make it but he loved it. This graph was meant to see which color was the most used in North America's flags and which was the least. Adrian predicted upon seeing the flags aligned that blue would be the most popular and yellow the least popular. He then set to work, picking one flag at time, coloring in his graph the colors used in the flag being examined carefully. Well, can you guess which colors appeared the most and least? It was a tight race!

More, Less or Same? - With Coins and Banknotes
from North America

Coins and banknotes are usually items found in continent boxes. For this activity, we used coins to play the "more, less or same?" game. Coins from any country can be used. Same goes for banknotes. It's a nice way to introduce money from many different countries. Now if I could only have known I would need my coins/notes from all these places I've been to, I'd be so happy right now...

Initial Letter Sounds & U.S.A.'s 50 states

Without going too deep into our study of the United States of America, I introduced the flags of the 50 states...because Adrian loves flags and already knows a lot of these. To go with them, I made a worksheet with initial letters. Adrian cut up the tiny flags and pasted one flag or more next to each initial letter sound. He also completed Melissa & Doug's giant floor puzzle of the United States but somehow, that picture was wiped during the "reconstruction" of the computer! :(

Lowercase, Uppercase, Initial Letter Sounds &
Canadian Provinces/Territories

Adrian's flag book also has flags of the Canadian provinces so during the North America week, I was asked whether we'd work with the provincial flags. I hadn't planned on it but thought I could make it work too. As a result, I printed a small flag for each Canadian province and territory and made a sheet with initial letter sounds as well. To make it even more of a revision exercise, I had both uppercase and lowercase letters. They had to be joined together by a line and then the flag could be pasted next to the letter it belonged to.

Next up for us is Antarctica! I bet the activities will be quite different for that continent, what do yo think?

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

North America Unit for Kindergartners - Part 1

Montessori schools generally choose to study the continent on which the school is established as a first continental exploration. As we currently live in Europe, we thus focused on Europe last month but I felt we really ought to learn about North America this month as we probably will spend most of our lives there. After having made up my mind that North America would be the second continent of the year,  we of course booked and went on a trip to Asia and should probably have studied THAT continent instead! :) Oh well, Adrian knew quite a bit about Asia and the countries we visited anyway...

"Continent Box" Challenge

I decided early on NOT to make continent boxes. I's very unusual not to have one of those in a Montessori setting but I am guiding only two children and at this time, only Adrian is using geography materials. Putting together boxes takes a while and I always felt like those treasure boxes  were  under-explored and sometimes plain overlooked. To avoid my hard work going to waste, I decided to  present the continents through various activities that could have been found in a continent box...but on trays. If you prefer to do a continent box and want to put the chances on your side, you might want to pay a visit to 1+1+1=1. Carisa "tricked" her children into exploring her continent box by offering them a "challenge". Who doesn't like a challenge? I had to borrow the template sheet for that despite the fact that we had no box! (I knew Adrian would be delighted to cross things off as he went through them at least once.)

Pin Flags & North American Map

Every time we "visit" a new continent, I plan on having pin flags and a big size map of the continent. I get all my pin flags from Montessori Print Shop. I find that it saves me lots of time from making my own. For big maps, I rely on Your Child Learns. It allows me to print a map on several pages (I usually have mine printed over four). Remembering how tough it had been to pin the flags into a corkboard sheet during the European unit, I decided to put the North America map on a regular foam/mesh billboard this time. It worked great and we avoided many frustration of toothpicks breaking or not going in. The only problem is that it got quite crowded in the Caribbean area...

Caribbean Flowers Flag Countries

Caribbean Flowers: 
Which Country Were They Photographed In?

While studying the flags of North America, I noticed my son had more trouble identifying the ones from the Caribbean countries. I can't blame him. Lots of flags in such a small space compared to the "North". To help him, I prepared a few activities more specific to the area where he got to manipulate only the Caribbean flags. Having been to the Caribbean, I remember the colorful and fragrant flowers of the islands and thought I'd make an activity out of it. I printed pictures of various species and put the flags on a styrofoam board. Adrian and I then explored the flowers by name and I then told him that each flower had been photographed in a different Caribbean country. I let him pick a picture, told him where it'd been taken and asked him to pair the flag of that country to it. If he had been a reader, I would simply have put the name of the country on the card but we're not at the level yet.

Flag Peg People on North American Map

Using the same big format map as we had earlier this week, I got some flag peg people out for country matching. I've only made three for North America and they were rather easy for Adrian to place on the map but he still loves those peg people! :) I'm looking forward to an end of year challenge where the dolls from all continents come out! :) If you've missed my post on these lovely flag peg people, please read more on these here.

Road Trip Through North America

As a way to practice country names and geographical location, the big map was put to use more than once this week as you can see. In this activity, a small car was used for a "road trips". For readers working with a partner would be great but as I'm working with a non-fluent reader and no other children, we did the game orally instead of written down on cards. I would give Adrian a point of departure, stops along the way and a final destination. His car would have to go through all the points as I mentioned them. His car was lucky enough to even take the ferry a couple of times! :) To make it more challenging, it can be done by adding provinces and states as well.

Coloring Flag Book - North America
Many children love to color and mine are no different. I find it to be a less creative outlet than drawing though so I tend to offer it less but prior to the beginning of North America week, I prepared a booklet filled with North America flags and my son was thrilled. He loves flags and seeing that he had an entire set to color made his day. He used our pin flags to make sure he got the colors right and worked independently at it until completion. To make your own booklets, visit Yes Coloring. I personally printed 4 flags per page and cut them into a booklet format so they wouldn't be so large.

Syllable Counting - Using beads & 
Central America Animal Nomenclature Cards

Part of our North America study incorporated a look at animals we might encounter if we were to visit Central America. After the 3 period lesson and a few days had elapsed, the cards were used again for another language activity: syllable counting. Our animals ranged from 1-4 syllables (frog, macaw, basilisk, jaguarundi, etc). Below, you'll see all the animals used in this activity. By the way, I've made these cards myself using pictures found online and here's the full set:

Central America Animal Nomenclature Cards

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Music Appreciation Class for Kids : Bach

Bach Music Class Toddlers PRe-K
Introducing Bach to the youngest crowd can be fun!

With Halloween in mind, I couldn't help but pick Bach as our new composer to explore. I always thought Toccata & Fugue was the perfect background music to a slightly spooky Halloween event and now that we have kids in the house, a spooky Halloween party is out of the question but hearing a classical piece without the decor is fine. Here's how we explored Bach during Halloween week.  


Surprising a child with a moment of slight confusion is always a good way to capture their attention upon beginning a class. Be it an awkward story or a strange picture that doesn't belong or even a funny teacher wearing a shirt wrong, if it's done on purpose, it can get major attention. To begin this music class, I brought in a book showing a big picture of spacecraft Voyager 1 and played in the background Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 First Movement. Somehow, Adrian was puzzled. Was this the right class? Why an astronomy picture instead of a composer? Turns out as I explained to them, the piece they were hearing was traveling in space as we speak aboard Voyager 1. The composer who wrote the piece, Bach, is so well known throughout Planet Earth that his music was chosen to represent  all of us who live on the Blue Planet. 

Music Instruments Nomenclature


Bach of course wrote more than concertos and wrote more music that also appears on the Voyager Golden Records flying through the Kuiper Belt right now. We watched a beautiful Cello Suite no.1 played by Misha Maisky and I asked the kids whether they knew the instrument of not. To help with the identification of the instrument, I placed down on the floor several instrument nomenclature cards featuring instruments we own and/or have seen before (nomenclature cards found on Counting Coconuts). Adrian eventually picked the cello card off the floor telling me it was the one playing and we learned it was called a "cello" (he initially went for "big violin"). We then watched/listened to Brandenburg Concerto No.3 and I invited the children to pick the cards of the instruments they were seeing in the video (piano, violin, cello, double bass). They loved finding the music instrument cards for each piece we listened to. We tried the same activity with Air on the G String and added the archlute and organ to our vocabulary (I skipped viola and  violone but it was interesting to see "old" instruments from Bach's era) and closed the exploration time with Toccata & Fugue in D so the kids could hear and see a pipe organ and match it with its card.  We also discussed the tempo of the piece as it's something we learned about earlier and tried to imagine the piece played with other instruments. Would it sound as "spooky" played with a flute? What if we added instruments like big drums? Would it be even "spookier"? How about the environment? Spooky with lights on or off?

Water Goblet Music
Water Goblets can Make be Used to Play Toccata and Fugue!


Everyone is an artist and everyone loves to play music so I always let the children pick a music instrument from our bin and we then try to re-create the main piece of the day. In this case, it was Toccata & Fugue. To really reproduce the composition, the children quickly realized they needed more than just an instrument from our bin as the bin contained no piano, keyboard or anything else that would keep the melody. As such I showed them what someone did to keep that tune without any instruments...He used glasses filled to different levels (Glass Harp). We watched the entire video and the kids were amazed that the song could be made with just fingers, glasses and water. Of course, we don't own this many water goblets so we couldn't try the entire composition but the children loved sliding their finger on top of a water goblets to make them "sing". It was true magic to their ears.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Back to Blogging & Princess Birthday Party

I would like to start this post by apologizing for not being able to post anything in SO long. I certainly did not mean to be gone for this many weeks. I most resolutely thought that I would be back to blogging after our long (but much needed and enjoyed) vacation but for many reasons, until now, I was simply not able to. Overall, the biggest obstacle was a technical one: the inability to import ANY pictures to this computer for lack of memory (we sure love to take pictures here apparently! :)) and without any pictures, I felt my blog would be a bit daunting...Add to that the holidays, family visit, sickness, change of schedules and a princess party and that gives you a small idea as to why I couldn't be back as soon as I expected/wanted. That being said, it seems like most things are now back in order and so this blog should be back to running its usual course. Yay!

Princess Zahavah
Princess Zahavah Turns 3!

During the "intermission" you did miss a very important event though: Princess Zahavah's 3rd birthday. Yes, my "little baby" is now 3! For the big day, she requested a "big pink princess cake". Being that I'm the "head baker" of the family, I had lots of fun designing and making her cake (a vanilla batter topped with vanilla buttercream and pink fondant accents).

Pink Princess Birthday Cake
A Big Pink Princess Castle Cake

As for favors...well, would you guess that I found lots of Crayola wax crayons on clearance and thus got to make my now famous gem crayons? Zahavah offered these with "color your own Disney Princess stickers" sheets we purchased and everyone seemed delighted! :)

Princess Gem Recycled Gem Crayons Favors
Princess Favors : Handmade Crayons Shaped Like Gems with Stickers

Looking for princess-themed activities? Well, we didn't have time to do any with our friends during the birthday bash BUT we are planning for an entire week themed accordingly so stay tuned!

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