The Joy of Teaching – An Evan-Moor Blog

Sharing creative ideas and lessons to help children learn

May 23, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Finding Safe Apps: A Great Drawing and Writing Educational App for Young Kids!

One of my friends this week got a new iPhone. She was excited that she finally had room for Target’s Cartwheel app. But, her next comment to me was that her kids want her to install some apps for them. This started a whole conversation about kids and apps—and in-app purchases.

Over the past few years, I have resisted installing game apps on my phone and tablet because I’ve been scared of accidental in-app purchases being made. I’ve tried to find apps that I am comfortable with my kids using that I didn’t have to worry about.

Recently, I had the chance to review Evan-Moor’s Draw Then Write app, which incorporates writing and drawing. This educational game is ideal for younger children in grades K–3.




This educational app is available via Evan-Moor’s website for PC or Mac, or at the iTunes app store for iPads. It allows 5- to 9-year-olds to trace different animals and complete fill-in-the-word simple sentences about the pictures. The app fits these ages best, but all three of my kids (the oldest of whom is 13 years old!) loved it. My 13-year-old is a little unusual because her primary subject interest is art. She was able to create several projects for her siblings to trace in the program and share these with them.

The app isn’t free. It costs $3.99. But, the peace of mind of not having to deal with ads and have a great drawing app is worth it to me.

Often as homeschoolers, we’re looking for simple rewards that motivate kids to get their work done, but are still beneficial. This drawing app is one of them! The drawing portion helps kids work on their fine motor control—which can help improve handwriting. Kids can use either a stylus or their finger to draw. The stationary drawing screen is something I much prefer for my kids over flashing images which don’t require kids to develop a steady focus. The minimal writing and the cloze sentences would be a good reinforcement for kindergarteners and first graders. It’s a fun, easy-to-use app for kids. I also loved that I could create a separate account for each of my children and that it saved their drawings.

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use drawing app for your kids and homeschool—I’d definitely check this one out!


Suzanne Sniffen is a homeschooling mom of three children. She has taught students ages 3–60 in a variety of settings in the past 17 years. Suzanne has been homeschooling for the past 11 years, after previously teaching in public and private schools. Talking with other parents about homeschooling and how children learn is something she enjoys every chance she gets. She also leads a homeschool chess club and maintains a blog of homeschooling resources. Since her kids were very young, she has been blogging about homeschooling, books, and life at lovetopaint.blogspot.com.

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May 15, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Creative Writing Prompts for the End of the Year

Summer is just around the corner, and everyone is antsy…including you. Freshen up your weekly writing routine and keep students engaged with some creative writing topics. There are a range of skills practiced in these prompts, such as: letter writing, compare and contrast, narrative, and persuasive.

  1. Plan a picnic. Think about what you will eat and what games you will play. Make a list of things you will need.
  2. Finish this story: The waves crashed against the sand. I plopped my pack down and spread out my towel. It was going to be a wonderful day. Just then…
  3. Think about your favorite foods and then imagine a new flavor of ice cream that tastes just like them. What would you call your flavor? What would it look like? Write a slogan for it.
  4. Write a story about a door. Be sure to describe the door, tell where the door is, and explain what is on the other side of the door.
  5. Impossible. Think of something people thought was impossible that someone did. Think of something you did that you thought was impossible. Think of something that is impossible now but you believe might be possible in the future. Explain why. Write a story that shows how the impossible might be possible.
  6. Compare summer days and summer nights. Listen and list sounds on a summer day. Listen and list sounds on a summer night.
  7. Compare yourselves to an animal. Write how you are alike and different.
  8. Write a want ad for a good student (review examples of want ads).
  9. Pretend you are a spring flower just about to bloom. Describe the experience.
  10. Write a letter to your mother. Tell her why you love and appreciate her.

Get these ideas and more from Giant Write Every Day: Daily Writing Prompts!


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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May 11, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Homeschooling Overseas: How I Built My Curriculum

Ten years ago, I began homeschooling my daughter by accident. She is now a beautiful, clever, imperfect, and soulful human being, and I am proud to have her as a citizen of our beautiful planet.

I began homeschooling my daughter when she turned six years old. As a family, we spoke both English and French fluently, and we lived in Singapore, which was our adopted country at the time. I had no friends or family who knew anything about homeschooling. The only guides I had were my commitment to raising my daughter surrounded by possibilities and my natural intelligence and curiosity to continuously learn.

Singapore provided a large array of educational materials and books. There was also a wide selection of learning materials from all over the world. I created a foundation for her learning and began my quest to seek the books and learning materials we would need. At the start of this expedition, there is a certain sense of excitement in discovering something new, especially when it concerns the wellbeing of your child. However, at the end of two hours of constantly searching curriculums and workbooks, I was swimming in a dread of information overload.

Most of the books offered repetitive and boring exercises until I discovered Evan-Moor workbooks. It was not the cover of the books that invited me to them, but the range of books offered that prompted my first purchase. The Daily Practice range of books covered my foundations in math, reading, geography, language, science, and writing. Although there was a required repetitive pattern in the daily exercises, each day of work brought about a new way of learning the same core concept. This important distinction won us over as the facilitator for my daughter’s learning. It was clear that I would not be bored with the learning materials available to teach my daughter if I was to continue homeschooling her.

The other range we both loved within the Evan-Moor materials was the History Pockets. My daughter loved her active role in cutting, choosing, and pasting parts of the book to retain key factors she was learning within each history topic.

My top Evan-Moor resources are:

 

In Singapore, the Evan-Moor books were high-priced. But I found them to be a lot more information-packed, and therefore a good value. If you’re homeschooling overseas, consider purchasing Evan-Moor e-books or subscribing to TeacherFileBox, Evan-Moor’s online lesson library. With TeacherFileBox, you can print or project the lessons that you need and have access to every Evan-Moor title!

In the four years since we last used them, every time I come across Evan-Moor books, I cannot help smiling at the memories they evoke of my daughter and me having fun with learning.


Lara Jay Hequet is a life entrepreneur, certified and qualified in many fields of knowledge. She is a single parent to a fifteen year old daughter who is ‘lifeschooled’ for the last ten years. Together, they travel the world creating life stories and capturing stories of other wonderful people via film and the spoken word.

She is the founder of wowageing.com, a community of people who choose to Live Older instead of growing older. She intends to inspire and support unique individuals and their parents in the art of homeschooling.

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April 27, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Kindergarten Readiness Checklist: What Does My Child Need to Know for Kindergarten?

Preparing your child for kindergarten can be a stressful experience. With new learning standards, children are expected to enter kindergarten with a higher skill set than previous years. Set your child up for success and start practicing some basic kindergarten prep skills that will give your child a strong foundation.

Here is a list of skills your child should practice before entering school in the fall. Print the kindergarten checklist.

Listening/Speaking

  • Listen to stories without interrupting
  • Recognize rhyming sounds
  • Pay attention for short periods of time to adult-directed tasks
  • Follow 2-step directions
  • Speak in complete sentences
  • Make comparisons between objects such as big/little

Social/Emotional

  • Understand actions have both causes and effects
  • Start to follow rules and share
  • Separate from parents without being upset
  • Speak understandably
  • Manage bathroom needs independently

Motor Skills

  • Cut with scissors
  • Hold pencil correctly
  • Trace basic shapes
  • Hop, jump, run, bounce a ball

Math

  • Count to ten
  • Identify numbers 1–5
  • Correspondence counting (one-to-one counting)
  • Sort similar objects by color, size, and shape
  • Identify basic shapes and colors
  • Understand more than and less than

Phonological Awareness and Print Knowledge

  • Recite the alphabet and identify most of the letters
  • Identify rhyming words
  • Identify the beginning sound of some words
  • Write name
  • Retell a story

 

More Kindergarten Resources

How-to Videos


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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April 21, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Teacher-Recommended Educational Games and Apps for Grades PreK–5

Not all of the educational games and apps available are created equal. As a parent and teacher, I have discovered most educational apps to be a waste of time and money. But you can make your child’s screen time count with these top three performers. Designed to practice skills with fun and engaging activities, these educational games will capture children’s interest and feed their brains.

 

Starfall, Grades PreK–2
The Starfall website introduces early educational skills through play. Children learn essential math and reading skills through songs, chants, rhymes, and games. You can use the free version with limited access or pay $35 for a year’s subscription for the full version.

Draw Then Write, Grades K–3
Evan-Moor’s Draw Then Write educational app is the perfect tool to inspire reluctant writers. Children are allowed to let their imagination run wild with over 30 theme-based drawing and creative writing prompts. Using digital drawing tools, children create a picture and then write a story based on their picture. Draw Then Write is available for $3.99 and available in iTunes (for use with iPads).

ABCYA, Grades PreK–5
ABCYA is a teacher-created website that offers fun and engaging learning games and apps for grades PreK–5. It offers access to all grade levels with math, reading, thinking, and spelling games. A family subscription is $6.99 a month.

What other educational games and apps have you used with your children or students? Please share in the comments section!


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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April 12, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Dinosaur Fossils: Earth Science Activity

Dinosaurs are a great topic to sneak into your earth science fossil unit. They engage your students’ interest easily and often produce the best writing samples of the year. This souvenir activity is a memorable way to wrap up your study and will enrich your students’ learning experience.

Materials: Tupperware (one per student), modelling clay, shells, plastic dinosaurs, plastic plants, Plaster of Paris, water

 

Directions:

  1. Press a little modelling clay, about 2 cm, into the bottom of a Tupperware container.
  2. Carefully press shell or other object into the clay.
  3. Remove objects from the clay.
  4. Mix a ratio of 1 part water to two parts Plaster of Paris.
  5. Pour the plaster on top of the clay and let it dry for 24 hours.
  6. Remove the plaster from the Tupperware and leftover clay. (If you have students remove all of the plaster pieces from the clay, you may reuse the clay.)

Writing Extension Activities:

  • Write a short story about a fossil. Include key vocabulary and specific descriptions of the fossilization process. What does the fossil tell you?
  • Research a type of dinosaur.
    • When and where did they live?
    • What did they eat (carnivore, herbivore, omnivore)?
    • What does their name mean?
    • What is the theory of how they died?


Download your free lesson from Read and Understand Science Grades 2–3.

For more dinosaur lessons and ideas, subscribe to TeacherFileBox, Evan-Moor’s digital lesson library.

 

 

 

 


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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April 11, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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5 activities to get active boys and girls ready for kindergarten

If you have an active preschooler, getting your child ready for kindergarten with workbooks and seatwork can be a challenge. Here are some fun activities and games to help your child learn important kindergarten readiness skills—without sitting down!

Musical Letters Dance

Kindergarten readiness skill: Letter recognition 

Inspire and entertain the dancer in your child while teaching letter recognition.

  1. Write the letters of the alphabet on 8 x 5 construction paper and cut them out. Tape them, in random order, on the floor of a room. (Start with 8-10 letters at a time.)
  2. Create matching 3 x 5 cards with one letter on each card.
  3. When the music plays, everyone dances around the room.
  4. When the music stops, hold up a 3 x 5 card with a letter on it. (Make sure it is on the floor, as well.) Your child should find the same letter on the floor that you are holding up on the 3 x 5 card.

This game also works well outside with chalk.

Matchbox Car Counting

Kindergarten readiness skill: Correspondence counting 

Start teaching one-to-one correspondence counting with objects your child enjoys.

  1. Tape the numbers 1–10 onto 10 matchbox cars. Have your child count out loud and put the numbers in order from least to greatest. (Increase numbers when appropriate.)
  2. Tape letters to the top of matchbox cars. Have your child create simple three-letter words (sounding out the beginning, middle, and end sounds). Start with words that end in the letters “at,” such as bat, cat, sat, mat, rat, pat.

Scavenger Hunt Directions Game

Kindergarten readiness skill: Follow multi-step directions

Learning to follow multi-step directions is an important skill to learn for kindergarten. Help your child learn listening skills by playing direction games. Make it fun with a direction scavenger hunt.

  1. Hide 5–10 fun objects around the house.
  2. Give oral 1- to 3-step directions for finding the objects. Start simple with one step and work up to three steps.

Sight Word Target Practice

Kindergarten readiness skill: Recognize sight words 

Introduce beginning sight words with some target practice.

  1. Write sight words on paper plates. Beginning sight words to use: can, see, the, a, we, look, to, me, go, here, I, is, for, it. (Start with two sight words and work up.)
  2. Line up the plates on the floor, wall or pavement.
  3. Have children read a word and throw a beanbag at the word they identified.

Dinosaur Dig

Kindergarten readiness skill: Fine motor skills

Discover you inner paleontologist with this fine motor skills game.

  1. Pour rice into a deep pan or dish.
  2. Bury miniature colored dinosaur figures in the rice.
  3. Have your child pull out the dinosaur figures using a pair of tweezers. (Ask your child to count the figures for cross-curricular practice.)

Final tips on getting your active child ready for kindergarten: Keep learning fun and positive the entire time! If you are able, try incorporating some fine motor skill practice. Holding a pencil and scissors properly is difficult and requires frequent practice. Keep these practice sessions short, but regular.

For more ideas about preparing your child for kindergarten read 5 Tips to Help Your Child Get Ready for Kindergarten

Recommended resources for active learners

Zoo Phonics is a multisensory language arts program that combines movement and learning.

Alphabet Puppets  teaches alphabet and phonemic awareness in letter formation in a unique and entertaining format.


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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March 27, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Create Independent Learning with Take It to Your Seat Centers

As homeschoolers, we know it is quite important to create independent learning experiences for our children. Parents know the value of our children learning to complete tasks on their own.

Since we want our kids to be able to thrive independently, it is essential that we create independent learning opportunities to guide them through the process.

One of my go-to resources that I use to create independent learning experiences is an Evan-Moor series called Take It to Your Seat Centers. The full-color activities in these books are designed for children to practice skills on their own!

Step-by-Step Method to Create Independent Learning

I wanted to share this simple step-by-step method to create independent learning:

  1. Teach the new skill (I highly recommend Evan-Moor’s Language Fundamentals and Math Fundamentals as your baseline curriculum).
  2. Make certain children understand the skill. We check for this understanding to make sure they are ready for practicing using the new skill correctly.
  3. Choose an activity that will help your child practice this skill. My kids really enjoy the full-color activities from the Evan-Moor series called Take It to Your Seat.
  4. Introduce and practice the independent learning activity with them. Why? Even though children may understand the skill, it still may be new to them. Let children try the activities on their own. Once kids have success with guided practice on their own, they will naturally move toward learning on their own.
  5. Follow up by having children repeat the activity again as a review in future independent work time such as workboxes or centers.

How I Use Take It to Your Seat Centers

Evan-Moor’s Take It to Your Seat activities are so fun, colorful, and engaging that children will be motivated to work on their own.

There are Take It to Your Seat books for math, geography, language, literacy, phonics, reading, science, vocabulary, and writing!

One of the secrets to creating independent learning experiences for children is to practice with them FIRST. If we are working with skills that are new to children, we do the Take It to Your Seat activity together. Then I put the Take It to Your Seat activity in their workboxes as a review within the next 3–7 days.

If the Take It to Your Seat activity is a skill that children have already been taught, then I make sure they understand the directions and let them have a go on their own!

BONUS TIP: I like to print these activities out and keep them in an envelope or plastic bag. We use them to review all year long!

Have you checked out the Take It to Your Seat series yet? If not, head over there right away!

Remember, you get the BEST price by joining TeacherFileBox for $13/month. You will have access the entire series of Take It to Your Seat books and tons of other publications covering grades PreK–6 in reading, phonics, math, science, and MORE!

How do you set your child up for success for learning independently? Share your ideas in the comments!


Amy Michaels is a certified teacher with 11 years of elementary classroom experience who is actively homeschooling her own children. Her mission is share the best teaching methods and resources with all homeschoolers. Amy supports parents through her podcasts, webinars, and online training for homeschoolers on her website www.thrivehomeschooling.com.

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March 17, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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DIY Schoolyard Habitat Lesson

Often, science labs can be tedious labors of love that require tremendous amounts of time and preparation. This fun activity is a simple schoolyard observation that encourages students to put on their investigative caps and research the habitats on their playground.

  1. Create a Habitat logbook: Students will create their own science logbook to record class notes and observations. Be sure to include blank pages for observations and drawings. (For the logbook that I used check out ScienceWorks for Kids: Habitats.)
  2. Research: Check out books from your school library on habitats. I like to designate a corner of my classroom to this theme and fill the space with books, posters, and pictures.
  3. Playground field trip:
  • Discuss the scientific method of inquiry, investigation, hypothesis, data collection, and analysis. Have students record their hypothesis in their logbook about what they might find outside.
  • Separate students into pairs.
  • Give each group a quadrant (wire hanger pushed into a square). Magnifying glasses and clipboards are helpful if you have them.
  • Instruct students to observe only the area within their quadrant.
  • Students record living and nonliving things they discover in their logbooks. Encourage them to draw detailed pictures. 
  1. Conclusions: Discuss what students found during their observations and identify what type of habitat they observed outside. Students will write their conclusions in their science logbooks.

This is the perfect springtime activity to get students out of the classroom without spending your precious field trip budget. Listed below are additional resources I used in my unit study on habitats, biomes and ecosystems.

Additional Resources:


Backyard
by Donald Silver


ScienceWorks for Kids: Habitats offers detailed study units on diverse habitats


Complete Thematic Units, Habitats – Forests and Meadows


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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March 2, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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St. Patrick’s Day STEM Activities

St. Patrick’s Day is a great day to include a little magic in your daily lessons. What could be more fun than mischievous leprechauns, magical rainbows, and pots of gold? Make your classroom celebrations educational and engaging with these STEM and writing activities.

Build a Leprechaun Trap: Engineering and Design

This is a fun activity that works well with small groups. Have groups discuss and plan their trap before building. Be sure to build students’ background knowledge by learning the history and facts behind leprechauns. Define key terms and encourage students to use them in their writing.

Materials:

  1. Recyclables: egg cartons, plastic containers, toilet paper rolls, wine corks, rubber bands, shoe boxes, string etc.
  2. Colored paper
  3. Shiny rocks (spray them with gold) or Lucky Charms cereal for bait
  4. Glue/tape

Writing Prompts:

  1. Write a short story about catching a leprechaun in your trap. Describe three wishes you would ask him for and why.
  2. Describe how to rebuild your leprechaun trap. Be specific!

Rainbow Crystals Science Experiment: Structure and Properties of Matter

Encourage a love of science in your classroom with this rainbow crystal experiment. Students create their own crystal rainbows with just pipe cleaners, string, borax, and water.

Materials: Borax, boiling water, pipe cleaners, Popsicle sticks, large container

Directions:

  1. Link colored pipe cleaners into rainbow design.
  2. In a bucket, mix 3 T. borax for every boiling cup of water. Only the teacher should handle the boiling water mixture.
  3. Dip pipe cleaners in solution and leave overnight (24 hours).

For an extra special addition to students rainbows, have them set them on chocolate gold coins.

Download your free science lesson Rainbows from Read and Understand Science, grades 2–3.

May the luck of the Irish be with you!


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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