Mr. Star Wars just completed a science cell project– at home. While he could have completed the entire project on his own, this is one of those projects that a parent is probably going to have to offer help in some way. In our case, I drove to the grocery store to buy supplies and helped with formatting his written explanations on the computer. How much help is too much? As a teacher, if I send a multi-day 3-D project home like this, I know parents will be involved. The key is to provide only enough support that you do not “compromise the integrity” of the student project.
Read through the project assignment sheet and directions with your child.
Brainstorm a list of supplies and tentative “plan” for completing the project with your child (what to complete each day, so you finish by the deadline). This is a conversation that can happen at the dinner table or in the car on the way home from school.
Source supplies (make a trip to the grocery store, Michael’s crafts, hardware store, your pantry/junk closet at home).
Reread the directions with your student when the project is finished to make sure the student has completed all of the requirements.
Build anything while a child stands to the side and watches.
Good Project Supplies
If you have class projects come home more than twice a year, I would recommend investing in some common project supplies and saving a few items that can be hard to get when you need it at the last minute. I love having these items on hand at the 11th hour!
I keep seeing articles about how to encourage children to read throughout the summer. All of the articles make the same basic suggestions. Set a daily reading time. Establish a specific amount of time to read each day. Get involved in a reading incentive program at a local library or bookstore, and provide good book choices.
Ultimately, if your child/student likes to read, he or she will continue to read in the summer as long as there are books available. If you do not have a child who is an avid reader then you (or another adult) have to support the reading habits if you want any reading to happen. You will need to provide reading material or opportunities to choose reading material; model reading (that means read yourself); read together, and have book discussions. Even though we often think of reading as an independent activity for older kids, a child will develop better reading habits if reading is treated like a group activity, and all participate.
I wish there was a pill to magically make a child a reader but there is not. If you need a little kick-start finding a book to help your child get over the reading-when-not-at-school hump, try a book that takes place during the summer when the characters in the story are also not attending school.
Upper Elementary (~3rd grade to 6th grade)
The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies
Under the Egg by Laura Max Fitzgerald
My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian
Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
Summer Pony by Jean Slaughter Doty
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop by Kate Saunders
Hound Dog True by Linda Urban
Justin Case: Shells, Smells, and Horrible Flip-Flops of Doom by Rachel Vail
The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford
Ten Good and Bad Things About My Life (So Far) by Ann M. Martin
The Bread Winner by Arvella Whitmore
The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Kavik the Wolf Dog by Walt Morey
Middle School (7th grade+)
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
The Summer of the Swans Betsy Byars
For younger readers, try The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner specifically #2 in the series. I could not remember for sure, but I think some of the Ivy and Bean books by Barrow take place during the summer as well as some of the Judy Moody by McDonald. Now that Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss are beyond the early chapter books (sniff), my radar is not as good for these younger titles.
At various times during the year, my students write letters using unlined school stationery. Sometimes we type the letters and run the stationery through the printer for a totally professional product, but sometimes the letters need to be handwritten for a more personal touch. When students try to handwrite lines of text on an unlined piece of paper, the words start to move down the page (or up– or become a random zig zag pattern). By the third line of text, there is no attempt at straight lines any more, and the students are just trying to get all words onto the page before they run out of space.
I have a simple solution. In order to keep the words straight on the page, I use a trick I learned from the woman who helped me with my wedding invitations. Trace all of the lines on one piece of wide ruled notebook paper with a semi-heavy black marker.
Photocopy as many pages as you need. When students need to write straight lines on blank paper, place the photocopied lined paper underneath the unlined paper. As you press down to write, the lines are visible, so you have guidelines to keep your writing straight. My students have multiple opportunities to write on unlined paper throughout the year, so I keep the photocopied line pages and reuse them. We have an ongoing Author Letter Project, we write thank you notes to chaperones and hosts after field trips, and we have a project where students create their own letterhead and exchange personal letters with other classes in the school.
If addressing envelopes, cover the lines on a notecard with black pen and slide the notecard inside the envelope to create guidelines for writing an address neatly and evenly.
Sometimes, the envelope paper is thin enough that you do not need to make the notecard lines darker in order to see them through the front of the envelope. Hopefully, you can faintly see the notecard lines in the center of the envelope in the picture below.
This is one of my favorite teacher hacks that really improve the look of a finished writing assignment without creating too much work for me. And, this tip is not just for students. It is a great trick for anyone needing to write on unlined paper.
Along with every other 4th grade student, I want to avoid “write the spelling words 3x each” spelling homework. I am actually not against that kind of homework (especially if the students are writing the spelling words in cursive) since I think it builds a motor memory, but we all get bored with it. One new activity with spelling words I am using is a Spelling Doodle.
Students use every word on the weekly spelling list to design a word doodle. The challenge is to think of various ways to group the spelling words. Students use a combination of phonics knowledge and word meanings to create word categories. Not only do students practice writing spelling words correctly, they are also activating their knowledge about the ways letters combine to create words, word usage, and definitions of the words.
Give the student a piece of white copy paper and some colored pencils or fun pens. Using all of the spelling words in a list, students create groups of words and label each group with a title. Kids write the words and then add doodles and illustrations to the page to make it colorful and appealing. Talk about the words by sharing the group types. We came up with all kinds of ways to group last week’s words.
What are options for Spelling Doodle groups?
Syllable Count (group by how many syllables a word has)
Same Root, Prefix, or Suffix (look for common word parts)
Same Spelling Pattern in the Beginning, Middle, or End (look for repeated letter groupings, my SPELLING LISTS are created around a spelling pattern or rule, so my students were not allowed to create one giant grouping for all words on the list)
Same Starting, Middle, or End Letter Sound
Common Situation (look for a way to group words based on an activity like words you might use at a construction site or while going to a movie– this reminded me of games like Taboo)
Common Topic (look for words that have a theme like baking or sports)
I told my students they should try to have 2-4 words per grouping, but if they ran out of options at the end, they could create a group that contained only one word as long as they provided a title. We used colored pencils at school, but I got out the Sharpies when I worked on my samples at home. Definitely add color. If you need an alternative to calling out words when studying for a weekly spelling test, give this spelling activity a try. It works in the classroom and at home.
For more spelling word practice ideas in the classroom or at home, read THIS BLOG POST.
To purchase spelling products based on the most common English spelling rules and patterns, visit my teacher store by CLICKING HERE.
Magical candy is kind of a draw in children’s literature. Mr. Star Wars recently read The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop and let me borrow it when he finished. In the book, a family inherits a closed down chocolate shop with lots of magical secrets. It is my newest Charlie and the Chocolate Factory “read alike” book. Books that use food (particularly chocolate) as a central plot detail are a big hit with kids.
Mr. Star Wars and I tried to name all of the books we know that use food in some way. We came up with chapter books with candy, chapter books with non-traditional foods– like worms (!), picture books, an even some books that one food item steals a scene. I cut us off after we started on the picture book titles because there are just so many books we could list. What is your favorite book that will make your mouth water?