Friday, May 24, 2013

Fraction Fun on Friday

    I was of two minds today; part of me wanted to go on a field trip and part of me wanted to stay home and do some more lessons with the boys.  Now that most people are wrapping up their school year I'm looking back and once again questioning how much they've really learned and grown since we've started on this homeschooling journey.  By now, those of you who read my blog frequently, know that whenever I question our practices I tend to go back toward more traditional lesson plans.  The boys are all for it lately so while I have the ambition and they have the attention I'm taking advantage.    Most of the field trip ideas we came up with would not have been fun in the rain or else it just didn't work with our schedule anyway so we once again found ourselves at home for the day.   
      For math we read a few books about fractions.  One called Full House and one called The Wishing Club; both of which were absolutely adorable and the kids loved them!  We then played roll- a- whole.  I had the fraction tiles that I got with my McRuffy set and I had ordered some fraction dice from Amazon.   If you don't have any fraction tiles you can order some from Amazon or go to this page and print some off for free.  If you don't have fraction dice you can use regular dice and attach stickers to the sides.   I wish I had realized my fraction dice didn't have all that many variations though or I would have ordered a different pair (like the ones in the link I just gave you!).  For today we wrote a few fractions onto neon dot stickers and covered up a few of the repeating fractions.  The boys seemed to like this game (we played three rounds!) and I loved that it worked on many skills pertaining to fractions.  We were identifying and matching fractions, adding fractions and even looking for equivalent fractions as we rolled.  Alec's first roll was for 1/4 and he quickly grabbed two of the 1/8th tiles to see if they would work.  That sent the precedent for all of the rounds and rolls.  They were interchanging tiles, comparing sizes, trying to figure out how much more they had left to fill.  It was great!  Once we were done Evan wanted to play with the tiles and made up his own game called "Crack the Code."  I never did figure out how it worked but while they were playing Alec was working on filling up the fraction piece chart using assorted colors and sizes of tiles.  He finally figured out he need 12 of the 12th tiles and 10 of the tenth tiles, etc.  He told me one fourth is the same as one sixth plus one twelfth.  He tried lining the pieces up on the table in a pyramid from smallest to the largest.  He yelled out two one tenth equal one fifth.  He finally filled up the chart using all variations of fractions.  He pointed out that if two twelfths equaled one sixth then he needed 6 twelfth tiles to equal 3 sixths; and so one and so forth.  He also started reducing fractions; four eights is the same as one half!  Once Alec was all done Ian dumped out the tray and put them all back together in the right order matching all the pieces up together.   I heard one tenth, a twelfth, etc. coming out of all their mouths.  A very successful lesson with the added bonus of free play!  I heard Evan yelling "one fifth! one fifth! if I use the one fifth you loose one fifth of your power.  Oh no! One fourth. "   A bit later on he told me he has "six eighths power in his hand."   I have no idea if he was matching that up with the right tile but at least he's getting the vocabulary down!  They may have learned more about fractions on their own playing with the tiles than we did while we were playing... I'm not sure but I am definitely glad I pulled out these tiles to play with today!  It kept them occupied for over 30 minutes and they even pointed out to each other; "hey do you know you're learning about fractions playing right now?"  The best part is that Alec answered "Yep!" with a huge smile on his face.  Who could plan math activities to beat this?  More and more I realize I do just need to facilitate (or strew) and watch learning unfold before my eyes.  It seems like every time I question our decision to unschool and start moving toward more traditional ways I am reminded how well they can  and do learn on their own through play. 

Playing the game Roll a Whole; Alec is helping Ian figure out what equals 1/3. 

1/6 plus 1/6 equals 1/3

Playing with the tiles Alec arranged them according to size
Ian filled up the chart in order
All filled up randomly by Alec

Alec filling up the holder with assorted tiles
Preparing to play the game; we dumped out all the tiles and used our fraction dice. 

       We read some more of Ralph S. Mouse for reading.  It was a rainy day and I realized the other night as I snuggled in Alec's bed with him and Evan reading books that we had stopped doing that altogether!  So today, instead of reading at the kitchen table or on the couch I had them all come snuggle up in my bed and we read a few chapters.  It's amazing how much excitement I can create about reading when we just change up little things like where we read.  They love getting read to outside on our picnics,  in a fort/ tent, in someone else's bed, etc.  I'm going to start doing this more often!
        For art we read and looked at a few books about Monet.  We started with the story Linnea in Monet's Garden (though after reading a few pages we started skimming through the book for the pictures; it's a great story but very long!) and also used the Usborne Children's Book of Art.  He's one of my all- time favorite painters so I was very excited about today's lesson and the boys already knew who he was.  To follow- up our stories we made water lilies today.  It was a fun yet easy art project that I found on the Plateau Art Studio site (another elementary art blog I need to start following for all the great ideas!).   We took our watered down blue, green, pink and purple tempera paint and made a wash of background colors.  I cautioned the boys not to mix/ muddy them up too much so you'd see the splotches of colors and then as they set those aside to dry we started working on making tissue paper lilies.  Basically the boys took tiny pieces of colored tissue paper and crumpled them into tiny little balls/ bunches to look like a small flower.  I cut out lily pad shaped pieces of green tissue paper for the pads and once our color wash was dry we glued on the pads and flowers.  I love them! 

Ian's "Monet"

Evan's waterlily garden

Alec's completed masterpiece

       With all the real- life examples we've been having of rain, thunderstorms, and clouds I decided to do a few science demonstrations about weather today.  I had planned to do these same two demonstrations the other day when they watched Popular Mechanics for Kids: Lightening and Other Forces of Nature but we never got around to them.  Both of these ideas are all over Pinterest and most of the time they're both referred to as rain in a jar.  For the first activity (I love this site too-- weather whiz kids!) I heated up some water until it was steaming and then poured it into a jar until it was 1/3 full.  We then covered up the jar with a plate and then after a few minutes started adding ice cubes to the plate.  The cold plate causes moisture in the warm air trapped inside the jar to condense and form droplets.  Just like our weather outside!  The second activity was more colorful and I saved it for last on purpose.  We filled a clear container part way with water (any temperature is fine) and filled the surface of the water with shaving cream.  Using colored water and droppers we dropped color water onto our cloud; eventually the shaving cream gives way and the color rains down.  For more detailed instructions and an explanation of clouds and how they work check out Steve Spangler's Blog.  The kids love shaving cream and water and with the addition of food coloring I knew they'd have fun doing this over and over again.
Rain in a jar
colored rain clouds

    In between all this the boys took breaks and played outside in the rain with their raincoats on.  They soon changed into shorts and were getting wet standing in the lake or the dam they were making.  They were singing songs a the top of their lungs and working pretty nicely together to create a whole amusement park, water park and hotel.  They made a slide, a wave pool, a stage and a huge hotel with pool and hot tub.  They have a boat launch too and mini roads for people to travel on.  I was told it will only cost $2 a person for the day until the taxes go up and then they'll be forced to charge $3 each.  They were enjoying the fresh air and each other and using their combined imaginations to create something truly wonderful.   

Playing in the rain

They switched to shorts so they could really get into their work

The stage is in front of the bulldozer

The hotel is the hump with the tunnel; the hot tub is in front w/ the pool in back and a loooong grey pipe is the slide

A close up of the pool & hotel

The start of the wave pool; a wedge shaped hole in the ground


          We took such long breaks between our schoolwork today that we went well into the afternoon by the time we finished.  The boys wanted to go swimming and while I thought they were nuts I agreed to watch them.  Within moments of starting to swim the rain started.  We could hear it, like a waterfall moving toward us across the lake.  That was pretty neat to see and hear.  Not so neat was the fighting, crying and bickering over skipping stones that went on and one and threatened to ruin our perfectly nice day.  The sibling bickering is by far my biggest trial of homeschooling. 

        It was finally time to clean up and get ready for Alec to  head out for his first real sleepover.  He's been anxiously awaiting this night all week and I hope it lives up to his expectations.  It sure sounds like it will be fun.  He's slept away from home before but always at a family member's house so he's excited about his first sleepover with one of his best friends. 


  1. It even got better; we weren't inside more than 5 minutes when Evan asked to take out the fraction tiles again and they've been playing with those for most of the afternoon. I've heard Alec reading books to Evan and they're all building with Lego's, playing piano and singing. Self- guided math, reading and music!!