Thursday, June 30, 2016

Staging an Archaeological Dig

I haven't had this much fun preparing a lesson since...oh, I don't know, maybe back when I was preparing units for history as a first year teacher.  This project was a blast.

This is part of our series in which we highlight amazing activities to accompany you when you work through "Story of the World", Volume 1.  (But most likely, all these activities will work great with any classical history program!)

We read the Introduction to the book last week.  It is fabulous at engaging children by asking them questions that they can answer.  But it also delves into a big vocabulary word:   Archaeology.  So, to give them a video intro, we watched some of National Geographic's videos:

Now, when I was young, I remember reading a story about a kid who went on an archaeological dig   and if I learned anything from that book, it was that potsherds are the likeliest thing an amateur archaeologist might find on a dig.

So, we must have potsherds.  But I don't have a pot handy that can pass for an ages old piece of pottery and if I do, do I want to bust the thing up to make it legit?  No.  No, I don't. 

I need to make something I can break apart and bury in dirt, and not care the slightest when it is damaged beyond repair.  Got to make my own.   I worked on this recipe a couple of times until I was able to get something that was easy to mold, dries nice, and as an aged appearance.  The actual recipe is included in our Archaeology Tool Kit

Let's look at photos of the process to help you follow along.  This is the consistency you are after: very easy to mold at this point.  Just smooth out any cracks with a finger.

To build our little bowl, I began with a flat round circle.

Then, I built up the sides.  You can see mini cracking inside the bowl.  I didn't bother keeping it too smooth. 

Here it is, resting inside my oven, with the door open.  Don't leave your oven on at 350.  Turn it off, and let your pottery soak up the heat gently with the oven door open.  Too much heat may crack it in places you don't intend.

Once dried, I used acrylic paints to paint the little bowl.  At this point,  my son is still in the dark.  He doesn't know I am preparing any of this.

After I painted it, I was getting antsy about waiting.  So, while I was making lunch, (and broiling some asparagus), I stuck it back in the oven with the door shut.

This is how I know what might happen if you don't use the open door oven method.  See that big crack going down the middle?  Not a problem for me, since I'm planning to break it up to make potsherds, but good to know, nevertheless.

A successfully broken pot!  I tried to keep the potsherds large so as to help my son find them, and I admit, I was also hoping he would want to glue them back together on his own. Bigger pieces will definitely make it easier to recreate the pot.

Next, I prepared a Grid chart and a Location Record for this project, similar to what actual archaeologists use.  These pages are to help the young archaeologist record what they find on their dig and where they find it.  Then, I wrote up a "letter" from Glimmercat, inviting our young archaeologist to join her on a dig, and explaining what the student should be looking for (material remains, potsherds, or points).  Yay!  Now, it's getting fun!


You've already seen the potsherds I created, but what did I do for material remains?   (Material remains, in archaeological terms are simply anything plant or animal based, that might suggest something about the humans who lived there).

We had chicken for dinner the other night, after which I made a nice batch of Bone Broth, and so I had four chicken leg bones, all nicely cleaned off.

Bubbling away in my broth for 24 hours has given them a nice, aged look, too.  Fabulous!

I did not bury any Points this time.  But, you can purchase replica arrowheads through Amazon for a very reasonable price.   I will likely order those when my girls are old enough to do this project!

Now, outside I go with my "Material Remains" and "Potsherds" balanced on a paper plate.  I do not have string handy, but I do have my green gardening tape which will work just perfect for marking off the dig site.

The location grid on paper that I created above is large enough for 6 grid units (A-F), but I decided to keep it simple for us with just two roughly 1 ft square grid units.  I will separate this rectangle into Unit A and Unit B after I have buried my items.

I didn't dig too deep.  The deepest was perhaps 4 inches down.  But you can see the way I tried to scatter them across the grid.

Here's the completed dig site, all ready to go.  The "Tools" for digging are just my son's toy bucket, plastic shovel and a sturdy hair dye brush (useful for the point and the brush end).   We're ready!

Before we came outside, I prepared him for what we were doing, by watching another Youtube video of an actual archaeologist at a dig site, explaining about his tools, and we watched how carefully he sifted the soil he excavated.

I explained I had a dig ready for him to excavate, but that he would need to be careful, too.  A good archaeologist must be careful so as not to break an artifact. 

He was SO excited at this point, but we took a little time to explain how he would record what he found on his Location Grid and Chart (The grid and chart in the photo have since been updated).

He is going very carefully here, shoveling and brushing, unsure of what he is supposed to be looking for.  I did tell him that I had "planted" artifacts, and we went over the possible items that were suggested per our Glimmercat Grid and Location Chart, but that's all he knew.

Somewhere around here was when he announced that if his plans to be a Construction Worker don't work out in the future, he might just choose Archaeology for his day job.  I am okay with that.

Here's the moment when he finds his first piece:

He carefully catalogued his items as he went.  The bones, he guessed to be chicken, but his real interest was the pieces of pot.   He began hoping he would find all the pieces so he could later successfully glue it back together.

Now,  we have already learned that the reason Archaeologists do their thing is to help us discover more about the past. Listen in to this fabulous connection to all the dots:

That is what it's all about, right there!  That is the learning making the connection.  Best introduction to history, EVER!!!!

I am so jazzed and so is he.   If you'd like to do this project, check out our Archaeological Tool Kit, along with our recipe for "ancient Pottery" and another archaeology project at our store.

We're going to keep sharing these fun activities you can do to add to your adventure in history.  If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out our other many projects that can be found in our Ancient World History Activities in our Store!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Using Paper People with ELLs

Recently, I released a new product, "Ancient Egypt Paper People and Props" in our store.

I have been asked now, several times, if I intend to create more of these paper dolls.  I do!  I am in the process of creating "Ancient Mayan Paper People" and am harboring secret plans to next create a packet of paper people from the Ancient Greek Civilization.  (At right is a sneak peek at my process on the Mayan female).  So, keep tabs on me here, because you folks will be the first to hear when a new one is up and available!

I have had some lovely comments and professional encouragement shared with me about continuing this series, but none more so than from Susan at The ESL Nexus.

Susan has a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and a Masters in Teaching AND International Administration, so you can imagine that I was thrilled to hear her positive comments about this project.

Since she has taught English as a second language to all age groups and all proficiency levels in both the US and Asia, you can bet I was all ears when she began to share an incredible array of activity ideas for ELL students with these Paper People.

Now, my teaching career, in spite of its variety, has never focused on ELL students, and yet I can see the value in these ideas, so I want to share them here with you verbatim.
 (Many thanks again, Susan, for these incredible activity ideas!)

For those of you who might work with ELL and ESL students on a regular basis, I would recommend checking over The ESL Nexus and the variety of products Susan offers there.  She is a goldmine of ideas!

 Activities for ELLs 
(and other students, but especially for ELLs):

* Students use the pieces to create a person and then orally describe it to a partner. (Speaking practice)

* Students use the pieces to create a person and then write a description of it, which they then read to a partner.  The partner does not see the paper person and has to recreate it based on what they hear.  (Writing, reading aloud, listening & speaking practice)

* Students write a description of one of the paper people using as many adjectives as possible. (Grammar practice)

* Building off the idea above, you could even make a game of it: The teacher creates a person and then all the students have
to write a description of the same person, using as many adjectives correctly as possible.  Whoever has the most adjectives, in a paragraph that makes sense, wins.  This could be done individually, with a partner, or in small groups, with students reading their paragraphs/sentences aloud and other students ticking off or raising their hand (or whatever) whenever an adjective is heard.  (Listening, writing, grammar and speaking practice)

* Students use the people and props to devise a story set in Ancient Egypt, then share their stories with partners or in small groups.  They could be instructed to use transition and/or sequencing words as well as content-specific words.  They could also write the story and read it to classmates.  When they share their stories, the other students could be told to write it down and/or to retell it, for additional skills practice.  (Speaking, listening, writing, reading aloud, grammar, vocab practice)

* Students create a scene with a person and props, or just a person; that is, they use the pieces to put together a complete picture of something.  Then they write sentences or a paragraph that gives instruction about what they did or how to make the scene. (Writing how-to instructions)
*Students orally and/or in writing, compare and contrast the clothing of the paper people with the clothing they wear themselves.  (Writing and/or speaking practice)

~Susan at The ESL Nexus

These are such wonderful ideas to implement, even if you don't work with English Language Learners, but are wanting to implement fun writing lessons into your history curriculum!  I can't wait to try them!

Speaking of which, our next few blog posts are going to focus a bit on some wonderful activities we have been working on over here that coincide with "Story of the World", Volume 1, but would also work with a variety of history curriculum programs.  AND, I get to offer my readers an exciting Give-Away from Dover Publications next month, related to this very thing.  Stay tuned!  We have fun stuff ahead!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Stepping into Ancient Egypt

I have shared recently, how very excited I am about the history curriculum I am jumping into this year with my homeschooling son:  Story of the World.

 I am also excited to share with you a variety of products that will work as supplemental activities with both this awesome Homeschooling History curriculum.  Some of these activities will be my own creation (like this one shown here, the Paper People of Ancient Egypt), while some will be from outside vendors.

 I have been doing a bit of research to locate the best items I can find to highlight our curriculum.  I will share about each as I do and might even have giveaways to offer, from these outside vendors as well!

But let's jump in first to Chapter 1 from Story of the World, which begins with the earliest nomads and introduces the first pharaohs of Ancient Egypt.

 I have really enjoyed delving back into the Egyptian far past.  Joseph from the Old Testament has always been a personal hero of mine, and so learning more about Ancient Egypt is something I have enjoyed, even in my spare time.

 Now, I'm declaring in advance that my paper doll figures are definitely in a state of undress to begin with.  And yet, even this state of undress, with my Egyptian woman figure in an almost bikini of undergarments, is not historically accurate.

 Most of you know, Egyptians chose garments of linen, that were often transparent, and I have not seen any undergarments worn under female Egyptian dresses (at least that are visible in pictographic images).

But, since these images are intended for children to learn from, I made the choice to put our lady above in a "linen" undergarment, not too different from the loincloth of her male counterpart.

The cat, seen pictured is from an image of the Egyptian Mau breed, and cats quite often are seen depicted in jewelry-like collars (and sometimes earrings)!

Although, we created some clothing images that are ready to be printed in full color for our Egyptian couple, we also have several coloring sheets for students to enjoy.

I definitely recommend using a very sturdy cardstock when printing out the figures of the Egyptian man and woman.  Cardstock will also be helpful if printing out the images of

props that we also include.

For coloring with older children, I'd recommend using the gel pens that are so popular these days for adult coloring books.  These are easily available from Amazon and come in a variety of styles and colors.

I was able to use a metallic gold for much of the jewelry (and we do know, the Egyptian nobility did like their gold).

There are also pens with sparkles in the ink, and I admit a preference to them, too, when I color.

Here is an example of the type of pens you can find...

And you will see a wide variety, with a varying set of prices.

Cutting out the clothing proved to require an intense level of attention and detail.  I would recommend taking on this task yourself, as your kids might be easily discouraged on this part, unless you have a child who is extremely adept at the scissors.

The end result is actually quite fun, and will offer that feeling of ownership and an interest in reading more about Ancient Egypt that is so often inspired by play.

You can check out our product here in our store:

Story of the World does revisit Ancient Egypt a number of times in the first Volume (as indeed, there is much to cover in the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom).

So, there will be much opportunity to re-use these fun paper people and add to the knowledge as you keep reading through the book.

We also include two pages of props, including Egyptian date palms, a backdrop of the pyramids, and some household props that Ancient Egyptians most likely would have been familiar with on a day to day basis.

I'm excited about introducing these to my son, and I might include them in a future post.

If you decide to purchase and download this product, I would love to see how your children's creativity is engaged:  send me a photo with permission to use it on my blog and facebook I would be happy to share it. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Video Introduction to "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons"

Many thanks to Terri Wheatley for this picture of my hometown.

 It was my first year of teaching and I had been hired by a small district in the mountains of Northern California.  My class would consist of 19 students:  Three Kinder, 2 First grade, 1 second grader, 8 third graders and 5 in the fourth grade.

 (You thought this kind of classroom only existed in history books from the 1800's, right?  I did, too!  Many small rural towns across the country have to consolidate their grades into one classroom.  Another school in my district had Kindergarten through 8th in one class.)  

With one full time Teacher's Aide and a whole lot of advance planning, I had figured out a way for my 2nd through 4th grades to work independently while I focused on reading with the younger children.  But the question was, in a setting like this, what reading program do I use?

Something that would work for a 5 to 1 student teacher ratio, that would pack a big punch in a short amount of time and that would cover abilities that were widely ranging, as one of my 1st graders was special needs.  I knew what I needed:

But this book had been modified by DISTAR for parent and child, in a one on one setting (as almost every homeschooling parent can tell you).

Could I add a few items to make it work for my group of 5?  I could and did!  Let me share a little with you about this amazing reading program, and the packets we offer that work so well with it:

Here is a free sample of some of the worksheets and crafts we offer
Free Printables That Work With 100 Easy Lessons. 

But this is just a sampling.  Our supplementary worksheet packets are filled with crafts, additional reading materials and are available for purchase.  You can buy them in separate packets or purchase the entire bundle here: 

"After Five Through After Fifty Bundle".  

Sometimes, children need a little something extra to turn on the light of excitement inside them. 

These supplements are exactly what is needed to turn that light on!  We hope you enjoy them!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Homeschooling Parents, You ROCK!

I went to a Teacher's Get-Together the other day.

  It was a meet and greet, casual kind of meeting, where some of my fellow professionals were sharing best-practices.  The questions came, as they so often do in these types of gatherings, "What's your specific teaching field?  What grade level do you teach?"

I shared my teaching background, then explain, "And right now, I'm homeschooling.  I have one entering 1st grade and one in upper level preschool at the moment."

There was that slightly stunned silence, as there often is when a homeschooling former teacher is found in the midst of seasoned professionals who are still deep in the trenches of traditional schooling. 

So I followed it up with, "Originally, I went into teaching with the hope of someday homeschooling my own kids.  Now I am doing that and I am absolutely loving it."

There was another stunned silence and then the gal to my right laughed up at the ceiling:  "I could NEVER teach my own kids!"

 Now it was my turn to feel stunned.  I have heard this kind of comment from parents who do not homeschool but wish they could.  Usually, it stems from a concern that the professional teaching chops might not be there, that they might fail their kids and be unable to pass on knowledge in some way.  So, my initial response came from that experience.

"But you ARE a teacher!"  I said.

Several in the group chimed in, "It is not the same thing."

And then, of course it dawned on me, that what was actually being admitted here had nothing to do with one's ability to teach.  It had to do with the desire/inclination/will to spend that kind of solo time with one's offspring.  To devote the hours needed to be mom, dad, teacher, nurse, psychiatrist, disciplinarian, that "all in one" kind of role that you fulfill to the utmost only when you choose to homeschool.

And inside I felt that overwhelming admiration that I so often feel for those who take up the torch and choose to homeschool their kids.  Homeschooling parents, you ROCK!  You dare to walk the paths that professionals fear to tread.  You do it with knowledge, grace and the know-how that comes from knowing your child. 

I feel compelled to share it again because it is important that you know it:  Homeschooling parents, you are AWESOME!