## Jar Of Hearts – Valentine’s Day Math Printable

This is another part of our learning after school series. I try to engage my son in fun things after school and when I asked him what he wanted to work on he said math. He loves math and comes by it very very naturally. His dad has a bachelors degree in engineering with a minor in math and a MBA in finance. Yeah numbers are well loved in our house . Even I love math although I didn’t always. It wasn’t until I was teaching it to students that I found the fun in numbers.

1. Gather your materials. You will need a jar , some hearts ( any hearts will do – we used foam ones but paper, heart erasers, heart candies will all work), The printable found here and again below and a pencil with an eraser.

3. Lay out the sheet, pencil and hearts and let your little math whiz at it. Of course this is more than just a math lesson. My son is working on writing numbers in kindergarten right now and this is my tricky way of practicing without making him write them over and over again. If the 8 questions are too much do 2 or 3 and put it away for a day or two and complete the rest after. Learning isn’t a sprint it’s a marathon so go slow if needed! He estimated, counted, sorted and counted and wrote some more.

## Sight Word Dominoes & Speed Racer Game

Learning after school is something we try to do most days but we keep it fun.  Making learning a game is my magic trick for my son who is possibly the world’s most competitive 6 year old. I set this up quickly and had it all ready for him before he got home.  I wish I could take all the credit for this idea but it’s spin off from our contributing writer Kim’s amazing letter dominoes post from last year. After you read this one make sure you check it out.

1. Gather your materials. You will need some sentence strips, a marker, scissors and  a list of about 20 dolch sight words . We used a mix of levels 1, 2 and 3.  Dolch sight words are high frequency words that are often thought to be best to teach children to read by memorization not through decoding ( sounding out/using other clues like context ) .
2. I chose some words that I knew would be easy for my son, some that I wasn’t sure and a few that would take a few seconds to figure out. I always try to boost confidence with some easy, hit right on target for most and challenge him with some as well.
3. Cut the sentence strips.
4. Draw a line down the middle and write a word on each side .
5. Play!
6. We played dominoes by placing one card down on the table and flipping the rest over from a pile over until we found a match . We played on the table because of the terrible light ( winter weather is not blog friendly!) but later on we moved to the floor where we had much more room to make a bigger better domino structure.
7. The next game we played with the cards was even more fun. Start with one card each on the same spot on the floor or a table with a clear finish line.
8. Place all the other cards in a pile.
9. Flip the card and when a match is found add it to your line.
10. The person to reach the finish line first wins. He was counting to see who was ahead but we were neck and neck! Repeat! This game got him reading so quickly wanting to hurry up and flip to the next.

## {fill in the blank} Easel Stories

My daughter got this Melissa & Doug easel from Santa and she loves it but at our house we share most everything and her brother got a chance to play with the easel with this Fill in the Blank Easel  Story.  Writing , spelling and reading all come together with creativity and storytelling in this fast to set up activity. If you do not have an easel you can enter for a chance to win one from Melissa & Doug below or use a big sheet of paper on the wall. The reason I am suggesting the wall or an easel is because when kids write on vertical surfaces likes these their arms, wrists and hands naturally go into the proper position for writing. This makes it easier for many kids that struggle and doesn’t hurt those who aren’t either.

1. Gather your materials. You will need some dry erase makers, a dry erase board / easel and a big imagination.
2. Start by writing out a simple story on the easel with dry erase markers. Here is mine – Once upon a time there was a ________ named _________. He was brave, smart and ____________ . One day he found a magic ____________ and it started to ____________. He thought that is was amazing and ran to show his ___________. when he got home his magic ____________ disappeared! He looked for it everyday but never saw it again.
3. Invite your writer to come fill in the blanks.  Have them read it out loud.
4. Fill in the blanks. My son kept asking me how to spell things. Here is what I do when he asks. I will ask him first to sound it out. If he is struggling I will help. Generally I ask that he uses his 6 year old spelling for everything. Spelling is developmental and if we skip stages in development there can be struggles later on. Invented spellings are a really important step. Kids aren’t misspelling things they are just spelling them at their level of development. As your child progresses feel free to correct them little by little. My son can read well and simple words like dog, hat, car are ones that I would not hesitate to correct his spelling but words like furious, sword or friends I am still encouraging him to sound out and spell at his level. Interestingly he spelled sword correctly later in the lesson.
5. He didn’t like my ending so he edited it. ” When he got home his magic sword would shock people.”
6. When he was done writing he proudly read it back to me.

Watching my son write this really showed me how hard white boards can be for new and struggling writers. Many need the friction of a chalkboard to help them form letters correctly. This easel has a black board on the other side and if you aren’t lucky enough to win it in our sweepstakes you can make your own dollar store ones like we did.

## Enter For A Chance To Win

Fill out the form below. Please only one entry per household. SWEEPSTAKES NOW CLOSED

Official Rules
This sweepstakes is open to American residents 18 years or older. To be eligible for the sweepstakes you must enter your name and email in the google form embedded in this post. 1 winner will be drawn at random, using Random.org, after the sweepstakes closes on January 14th 2013 at 8:00pm PST. The winners will receive the Deluxe Wooden Standing Art Easel and Companion Set , valued at approximately \$115. After the winner is notified he or she has 48 hours to respond with their mailing address to ship their easel and companion set to ,or another winner will be chosen at random. No purchase necessary.The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Any information gathered through the sweepstakes including email and postal addresses will not be used in anyway other than contacting winners and shipment of winnings. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

I am a blog ambassador for Melissa & Doug and am compensated for my work. The sweepstakes prize is provided for the winner free of charge from Melissa & Doug.

## Rhyming Peg Board {Learning After School}

My son is a good student but like most new writers he needs to work on his fine motor skills . He enjoys writing now but I still like to sneak in some fine motors skills in with activities he loves like rhyming. This rhyming activity uses novelty to keep kids interested. The rubber bands and pegs are great because it takes a lot of patience and fine motor skill to carefully place them on the correct pegs. This was just enough novelty for my son to be eager and interested even after a long day at school.

1. Gather your materials. You will need a shoebox or other sturdy box ( we used our Kiwi Crate) , push pins , elastics, a sheet of paper, glue stick or double stick tape and a marker.
2. *Before doing anything make sure that the push pins are secure when you push them into your box. Test out how far apart you can make the push pins and stretch your elastics so they stretch but aren’t so tight that that pull the push pins out and turn them into projectiles.
3. Write out a list of words on the right side ( we did Christmas themed words but obviously do what works for your kids). Write a second list on the left of rhyming words.
4. Tape or glue onto your box.
5. Add push pins remembering to keep them not too far apart.
6. Add a kiddo to start matching these words up. This is a fast activity but it’s designed to be. It’s a splash of learning not a long lesson. My son really liked it and I plan on making more with different themes , spelling words etc…

## Toy Catalog Drawing Prompts

Drawing wasn’t always something my son liked to do. He loved to paint and craft but his perfectionist side reared it’s ugly head when he wanted to draw ” It doesn’t look the way I want it to.” After much encouragement that he draws just like a 3 or 4 or 5 year old should and a lot of displaying every single thing he drew it got better. But he still wasn’t enjoying drawing as much as I had hoped. Now you may say ” Why worry?” I wasn’t worried but I wanted to encourage it as much as possible as part of handwriting practice and basic fine motor development. When he started to want to draw his Lego scenes from catalogs I adapted this drawing activity idea after seeing this pin on Pinterest that lead to this blog post from ArtMommie using magazines.

1. Gather your materials. You will need some toy catalogs, brochures or instruction booklets you don’t mine cutting up. A pencil with eraser, double stick tape, plain paper and scissors.
2. Cut out some images that are full of action. You want it to look unfinished so they want to finish the picture.
3. Tape to plain paper.
4. Invite your artist- he was super excited to see them.
5. Have your child choose one and start drawing. There was no lag time or whining about not liking to draw he just dove in!
6. He even wrote a caption. When you are working on something like this and your child uses invented spelling let it go. Do not correct it. Let them sound out the words and spell what they hear. This is a really crucial step in literacy if we only give them the right spellings without them trying to make sense of it they will skip this building block. There is plenty of time to get it right, but it’s a developmental process and you have to let it develop.
7. I am glad I made a bunch because as soon as he was done the first he grabbed a second and started drawing. Oh and like I mentioned above these drawings are already on my fridge for all to see. Confidence is such a huge component of ability and when we display our kids art that builds their confidence even if it clutters our kitchens. It’s totally worth it.

## Lego Books

LEGO City: All Hands on Deck! (Level 1) by Marlyn Easton is another Lego City themed book. If you have any of the Lego City building sets it’s likely you’ll recognize a few in the illustrations. My son loved seeing ones he recognized and loved telling me which of his friends have this set or that.  I think being able to relate to a book via favorite toys is actually really positive. Some parents will be apprehensive about books that sprang from a toy franchise but at this age when many children ( boys especially) start showing less interest in books , it can be a great tool. My son loves to read but loves reading these books even more and I am all for it! This story is even simpler following a group of sailors that save a windsurfer from disaster on the water. It’s also shorter than the previous with only 160 words which is great to build children’s confidence in reading which is also key to keeping interest high. MY one complaint is the complete lack of girls in this book. I know the audience is boys but by not including a single girl the audience of girls will drop even more.

LEGO City: Ready for Takeoff! (Level 1) by Sonia Sander is not just a cute book for Lego fans but also for anyone taking a trip by plane to get their kids ready for what to expect.  I was pleasently surprised by the quality of the details and how well it helps my son prep for air travel. We got it for a trip from Seattle to Chicago we took this summer and it was an instant hit. The text is a great mix of sight words, words that need to be sounded out and the illustrations are wonderfully helpful for kids needing visual clues for some words.  Even if you aren’t going on a plane any time soon this is a good book all about air travel, and it just happens to also be set in Lego City.