Tools for Visual & Linguistic Learners

Tools for Visual & Linguistic LearnersHelp Your Child’s Learning Style Come Alive

The world must be a uniquely beautiful view for one of my kids. He sees things many just walk right past, hears things in a different way, and finds the humorous, perplexing, and inspiring in what we might consider the mundane. His learning styles are unique to him, but I consider it my job to help find tools that will enhance his learning. If you’re the parent or teacher of a child who thrives on visual or linguistic learning strategies, you know that his or her view on the world is intriguing, and that it is not always easy to use typical teaching tools.

Linguistic learners have skills for reading, writing, speaking – those tasks that revolve around words and communicating ideas through them.

Visual learners thrive on seeing things in action, through demonstrations, charts, graphs, pictures, and any other way they can visually connect with an idea.

You don’t understand anything until you learn it more than one way. ~Marvin Minsky

I treasure that quote by Minsky. It reminds me that just because things have been taught in certain ways for so long, it doesn’t mean those are the only effective ways to learn. Visual and linguistic learners often have similar traits – they enjoy stories. The following learning tools incorporate both of these in unconventional, yet successful ways.

Language Arts Learning Tools for Visual and Linguistic Learners

Idioms

We use idioms often without thinking too much about them. They are a natural part of the English language. Some people, however, struggle to decipher idioms, usually taking them literally (which would be a very confusing way to spend the day). One of the markers of kids on the Autism spectrum is an inability to comprehend idioms. The phrase, “I’ve got a frog in my throat” takes on a whole other meaning for these kids.

Teach your kids about idioms using books like my son’s favorite, Horsing Around – Making Sense of Everyday Idioms, by Katherine Scraper. In the book there are 50 common idioms, each illustrated with funny interpretations and a story passage using the idiom in a dialogue situation (a few short paragraphs). This book appeals to both visual and linguistic learners. The pages also each give space for kids to write their own interpretations of the idioms.

Understanding idioms improves language by

  • Helping with oral language development, especially in the early preschool and elementary years
  • Building reading skills
  • Developing creative writing skills
  • Improving speech for ESL students (English as a Second Language)

Mathematics Learning Tools for Visual and Linguistic Learners

Math doesn’t have to be just rote calculations. Perhaps it is my love of the written word that draws me to these next two math tools, but I’ve also seen my kids relate to numbers and mathematical theories in a different way since adding these resources to our bookshelves.

Life of Fred

  • The Life of Fred books are a series of “story” books, ranging from elementary all the way through high school, that are designed to get students thinking about math. The unconventional approach uses humorous or just plain wacky stories to teach kids how to apply mathematical concepts.

Charlesbridge Math Adventures

  • This series of math adventures, perfect for early elementary students (even my older kids love to listen to these, too), is an engaging way to introduce and reinforce math concepts. Colorful and wonderfully illustrated tales have characters experiencing adventures that are all intertwined with mathematics. Some of our favorite titles include:
    • Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter (a tale that teaches kids how to calculate things such as the area of a circle)
    • Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi (yep – a story about calculating with pi)
    • Alice in Pastaland (an adventure centered around problem solving skills)
    • Cut Down to Size at High Noon (ratios and proportions set in a western story)

Social Studies Learning Tools for Visual and Linguistic Learners

Do you remember memorizing the list of presidents when you were in elementary school, the names and locations of countries, or the capitals of states? If you were like me, it was simply based on rote memorization, grouped by perhaps 10 names at a time. And the memorization lasted long enough to pass the test – and it was usually not an entertaining experience. If you’re looking for a new way to help your kids memorize these basic (and sometimes boring) facts, try some of these books.

Yo, Millard Fillmore!

  • This fun and engaging book helped all of my kids not only learn the names of the US presidents, but their memory of these facts is long lasting, and they really enjoyed the illustrative approach. Each president has a picture and short description as to how the picture fits with that name. Then, each picture (president) is somehow linked to the following one, helping to reinforce the order of presidency.

Yo, Sacramento!

  • Just like Yo, Millard Fillmore!, this book engages readers through humorous illustrations that teach kids how to relate the capital names to the state names.

The Scrambled States of America

  • You might be familiar with this title of the book that teaches about the US states. I also use the board game (by the same name) to reinforce the illustrative concepts presented in the book.

Visualize World Geography

  • I admit that when I first saw this book I raised an eyebrow. The graphics are – unique – and I wasn’t sure I would be able to get past their uniqueness in order to actually learn from the materials. But then my kids and I started using it and we realized that these mental maps that the book creates really do work. There are short bits that go with each graphic to help tie the mental map together, appealing to both my visual and linguistic learners.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a homeschool parent is that learning styles not only influence academics, but they transcend our personalities. It is more than learning about reading, writing, and arithmetic. It is about learning what makes each one of us tick – what gets us excited to try new things, and helps us overcome failures. When we tune into our kids’ learning styles, we give them tools that go far beyond their report cards.

An Invitation – Free Writing & Reading Printables

Years ago – in the blink of an eye and with a gentle whisper to myself – I started homeschooling. I collected curriculum resources like some women collect shoes. I also started my own personal collection of files and PDFs, creating my own miniature lessons (especially for reading and writing). In an effort to purge my files and track my paper trail of personal resources, I developed A Powerful Pen. Consider it my tiny corner of the homeschool world where I share the resources I developed for my own kids. Some of them you may have already seen here at Happy Medium Homeschooling – scattered in the blog posts. A Powerful Pen takes them and devotes some space just for printables.

So – you’re invited. I’ve just started uploading the files, adding in notes about how to use the printables when necessary. Print what you need. Take what you will. Grab what might help your child learn to love words and language and everything amazing about communication. And if you want me to share your resources, send me a note with the link.

Children who learn how to absorb words, communicate their thoughts, and use language to its fullest are steps ahead in life. I believe in the power of the pen. 

powerful pen

Explosions in the Kitchen – AKA Science for Homeschoolers

Homeschool Science

You know you’ve made a lasting impression when the furnace guy who makes the yearly maintenance checks wants to know what science experiment we have planned for the day. Turns out he vividly remembers the first time he showed up right in the middle of a volcanic eruption in the garage.

Explosions, messes, and gooey-gadgets are mainstays in homeschool science lessons (at least they are if we’re having fun). Below is a list of some of our favorite resources for science of all types.

Online Science Resources

There are some fabulous YouTube channels that provide great short videos for free about a wide variety of topics. Just search on YouTube for these names:

  • MakeMeGenius
  • Adventures in Learning
  • The Spangler Effect
  • Minute Physics

Free Printable Science Worksheets

I’ve also put together Steps to Good Science for kids – a free PDF you can print and use – as they conduct their science experiments, based on the scientific basics of:

  • Observations
  • Questions
  • Hypothesis
  • Testing and experiments
  • Drawing conclusions.

Books

There are tons at the library but these are three we’ve kept on our shelves over the years.

Hands-On Gadgets

We just can’t get enough of hands-on experiments, and these are some of the staples we like to have around for science.

  • Snap Circuits sets
  • Wild Goose science experiment sets
  • Magnets – the bigger the better

I’ve been there – watching the horror as green goo rose up and walked all over my kitchen counter with a life of its own. And while these kinds of moments call for extra paper towels, they also give amazing memories and lessons well-learned.

 

 

Teaching Writing Skills to Kids

penmanship

There are some frightening statistics about the abilities of students when it comes to writing. Even though writing is one of my passions, I know that it is not for everyone. In fact, I’ve had to come to terms with the almost unbearable (insert note of chagrin) fact that some of my kids don’t love writing. However, it is also a needed skill in life – one that our kids can learn. As a mom, homeschool parent, and writer, I don’t make exceptions to whether or not my kids want to write. It is like cleaning the toilet, washing behind your ears, or sending the 23rd arm-aching Thank You note – it just needs to happen. So let’s not get bent out of shape. Let’s find ways to make sure that you can do it. And along the way you will hopefully find a way to embrace the importance of writing, even if you don’t embrace it as your passion.

  • 80% of high school seniors in the United States are not considered to be proficient writers.
  • 20% of high school seniors in the United States are not considered to be basic writers.
  • Girls tend to outscore boys on assessments of writing skills.
  • It is estimated that American firms spend more than $3 billion each year as a result of writing deficiencies among employees.

So – with all of the research pointing to the fact that too many children, especially boys, are not acquiring sufficient writing skills, what can we do about it?

How Can We Help Our Kids Write Well?

We have to start earlier. We can’t wait until they are seniors in high school and then realize that they are not prepared for college courses or the expectations of their employers. As the mother of 4 children, 3 of them boys, I have seen firsthand how it can be more challenging to teach writing skills to some children. Writing is not a naturally occurring milestone – it needs to be woven into the activities in which children participate and it needs to become less of a chore and more of an extension of communication. Our children need to learn that writing (and not just LOL, IDK, or BRB) allows them to express themselves, helps them reach their goals, and is a tool they will need in their future.

Part of the challenge of teaching writing to children is that writing, unlike reading, can seem infinite. There are as many ways to write a paragraph about a monkey as there are words in your child’s vocabulary. This can overwhelm children and shut them down to the writing process before they ever even get started. If you have kids with learning or other challenges like I do – writing is sometimes actually almost painful. Let’s take away the pain and get back to finding ways to make writing – communicating – fun and effective.

Printable Activities for Writing

Give tangible goals to your kids for writing. I use these tickets as a way to remind my children on what areas they need to focus. Each ticket has a short, limited amount of goals, appropriate to where they are with their writing skills.

Don’t ask for it all in one. If you’re a homeschool parent like me, you can do this more easily. If your student attends public or private school, consider talking with his or her teacher about the writing strategies used in class. Find out what methods are utilized, and gently suggest some of these ideas.

  • Limit writing to writing – especially for struggling writers. When you start to add grades for penmanship, spelling, and an accompanying picture to the mix it just gets to be too much.
  • Brainstorm with your child. Show him how to write down words that he associates with the topic. These words can then be “jumping off” points for sentences, and they help kids focus their ideas.
  • Meet your kids halfway. So for one of my kids the fine muscles needed for holding a pencil just don’t coordinate. But that doesn’t stop him from being able to knock out some pretty creative poetry and stories with the use of a word processor. Ask yourself what goal you are really trying to reach – and see if there is a way to meet your child part way to that goal.
  • Try to help your kids create visual maps of their writing. For boys especially the writing process is not concrete enough to let them feel secure. When my boys were younger I used imagery like these worksheets to help them Build Great Paragraphs.

How do you help your kids learn to write?

Easy Activities that Bring Gratitude to the Table

Thanksgiving Activities that Bring Gratitude to the Table
Thanksgiving Activities that Bring Gratitude to the Table

Printable Activities to Put the “Thanks” in Thanksgiving

Great food, amazing family, and fun & games – three keys to a Happy Thanksgiving for our family. Each year I anticipate Thanksgiving through the eyes of my children, and try to draw them in to the spirit of the holiday with an attitude of gratitude and an abundance of fun. For we know that once Thanksgiving is over, we are in a tumble, rumble, roll towards Christmas with our children. So put the brakes on for a bit and plan some fun and meaningful activities for you and your entire family this Thanksgiving season!

Printable Activities for Attitudes of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is the kick-off to a wonderful holiday season, but it can be so easy for our families to get wrapped up in the chaos and commercialism of the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Help keep your kids grounded and form a little perspective this Thanksgiving (and Christmas) season with a few fun and easy printable activities you can do right at your Thanksgiving table.

I Am Thankful! – Print this form for an acrostic poem (you can do one for the family, work in groups, or print one for each person). It just takes a few minutes to complete, and it helps bring everyone together to share in some gratitude.

Blessings in a Box – Make these table decorations that also serve as reminders to have attitudes of gratitude and thankfulness. The instructions are on the printable sheets, and you can print as many tags as you need.

Our Thanksgiving Feast – This is a holiday twist on traditional mad libs that gets your kids using their grammar skills (shh – don’t tell them while they’re on school break). Play it the traditional way, having one person as the “caller” who asks the others around your Thanksgiving table for the various parts of speech to fill in the blanks (without revealing the story). When the caller has written in all of the blanks, he or she reads the story aloud. Even though it brings a bit of silliness to the table, it can remind your kids to think about why they are thankful.

Extending the Gratitude

Before we know it the pies will be eaten and the day of thanks will come to a close. If you are heading out for Black Friday shopping and jumping right into the next phase of this season, keep a sense of gratitude with you. (I’m as eager as the next person for a great bargain, but it is also my time to hang out with my daughter and make great memories.)

  • Make the first item you buy for someone in need.
  • Take your kids to the craft stores to buy supplies to make homemade gifts.
  • Make the last stop of the day to do a good deed for someone else – grab the kids and take dinner to an elderly neighbor, encourage the kids to do a chore for a family member or friend (walk the dog, help clean the garage, etc.).

Keep the spirit of thankfulness in your hearts – and keep looking for ways to bring it more to life each day with your kids. I am thankful for the family and friends who surround me, the faith that guides me, and the opportunity to look forward to each day doing things I love to do.

The printable PDFs I created are yours to share and use this holiday season, but not to be sold or redistributed for commercial purposes. Thanks!

[I originally shared some of these ideas at BetterParenting.com :)]

Are You Lapbook Illiterate?

No More!lego

Lapbooks, project packs, and file folder books – they are all referring to the same basic idea of creating a miniature book to reinforce a learning adventure. Becoming popular in the homeschooling world over the past 10 years or so, these options are also being used in classrooms and even daycare centers. The above fun LEGO lapbook was shared at Joy in the Journey.

What is a Lapbook?

Lapbooks are easy tools you can use to build around central themes and turn basic topics into unit studies. In some ways lapbooks are scrapbooks meet learning journals. But don’t be frightened, you don’t need to be a scrapbooking queen in order to master the art of lapbooking. In fact, you can be scrapbooking challenged like I am and still have success with lapbooks!

Most lapbooks are created using the following supplies:

  • manila folders
  • printed worksheets (on regular paper or cardstock)
    • There are tons of free resources – check out homeschoolshare.com, eduhelper.com, and more.
    • You can make your own worksheets or even use parts of worksheets from inexpensive workbooks.
  • glue sticks
  • color crayons/markers
  • scissors
  • staples/stapler

filesWhat Does a Lapbook Look Like?

The best way to really understand what a lapbook is all about is to see one, so check out these great examples that moms and dads, teachers and caregivers have used with kids of all ages, about all kinds of topics.

How Do I Make a Lapbook?

Depending upon how much information you want to include in your child’s lapbook, you can use anywhere from 1 to 6 (any more than that and it gets to be too much) manila folders. If you are a visual learner like I am, there are some great tutorial videos that show you how you can create different styles of lapbooks.

If you’ve been looking for something that will hold your child’s attention or reinforce boring information, lapbooks can be the answer – and they are extremely inexpensive and versatile. I’ve used them to supplement books we’ve read such as the Magic Tree House series, to add extra information to a wildlife unit study, and we always incorporate them into our holiday studies.

I originally published much of this at BetterParenting.com 🙂

10 Rainy Day Activities for Kids

Cute child catching raindrops under umbrellaThat Will Get Them Away from the Video Games!

Finally – warmer weather is brining rain showers. Here in the Midwest I think the last of the snow piles are creeping away like a guest who has finally realized she stayed too long. Spring has sprung and that means the inevitable rainy days where the kids might be moping around and yawning I’m bored. Cure that boredom, without resorting to letting them sit and play video games all day, with these 10 rainy day activities that will get their brains working and their creativity hopping.

1. Comics

Our boys have recently joined at comic creation class, learning about graphic novels, classic comics, and how to create their own. Check out some classics from the library like Garfield, and share in a few laughs. Then encourage your children to write their own comic strip. Our library has great books to help reluctant artists – search for ones with simple line drawings and “basic” or “beginner” titles. If your kids are stuck for an idea, start sharing silly family stories – there is bound to be something comic-worthy in your family history!

2. Puppet Show

Turn socks, paper lunch bags, and craft-stick creations into unique puppets and then throw a blanket over the table to serve as the puppet stage. Kids can create their own stories or you can read to them some fun books and they can develop the characters as puppets and recreate the story on stage. If you have older kids, have them try to create their own marionettes like these.

3. Cards

Sure, you can dive in for the classic games of Crazy Eights, Go Fish, and Solitaire, but also try some new twists. Play mathematics war by turning over 2 cards at a time and the person with the highest sum, or product if your child is practicing multiplication, gets the cards (a subtle way to review math facts). Don’t throw out those old decks, either, because they are perfect for building card houses. You can even hold a card house competition in the living room, challenging children to the tallest house or the one that uses the most cards.

4. Puzzles + Reading

They might not seem like they go together, but throw on a book on CD into the CD player and set up a table space for puzzles. Research shows that it is sometimes easier for kids to concentrate on a mental activity (like following a story line) if their fingers are busy (putting the puzzle together). This is a great way to introduce kids to classic stories they might not otherwise be inclined to choose to read, such as Treasure Island or Gulliver’s Travels. There are tons of modern stories available, too, through bookstores, online vendors, and local libraries.

5. Kitchen Creations

No matter how old they are get the kids into the kitchen! When my kids were really young I would just set out some ingredients – flour, water, seasonings, etc. – and let them have at it. The flour adds a thickening agent that often makes for something moldable for kids. As the kids get older they either follow recipes or get creative and try to develop their own. This can make for some interesting flavors of “cake” in our home! If you’re kids are old enough, task them with creating the meals with these kid-friendly recipes.

6. Paper Mache

Mix together water, flour, and liquid children’s glue into a slightly thick liquid. Have the kids shred newspaper into 1 inch strips. Dip each strip into the liquid and then place over a shape made from cardboard, wire mesh, or just a balloon. For a fun twist use a balloon filled with wrapped candy or small trinkets and make your own piñata.

7. Indoor Camping

Get out the bed sheets and let your kids create their own tents in the living room. Chairs, laundry drying racks, and folding tables are great structures to add. Give the kids some flashlights and S’mores made in the microwave, then let the adventures begin.

8. Build a Robot

There are inexpensive and easy robot kits available at stores, but sometimes the best ones are made from scrap. I found this adorable magnetic robot creation online that is a modern version of Mr. Potato Head and perfect for young engineers. If you have a child like one of mine who loves building robots that actually move and seem to interact, Instructables.com is a great place that offers simple instructions. We also found that investing in some inexpensive solar panels for Lego pieces let my son create solar powered Lego cars – a real hit as soon as the cloud clear and the sun shines!

9. Doll Accessories

It’s been a while since my daughter was busy playing with her dolls, but one of her favorite activities used to be to build furniture and accessories for them. Shoe boxes make great beds, and cloth napkins are often a great size for blankets. Your child can take ink stampers and decorate the blankets, or sew on buttons for decoration. You can also find great paper doll patterns here for your little ones – you just might need to help with some cutting.

10. Play in the Rain!

Just because it is a rainy day doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors. Water is sometimes a magnet for kids, pulling them into the cool splash of a big puddle. Have a contest and search for the largest puddles, smallest puddles, and worm tracks. Make paper boats and float them outside, and have kids use rain gauges as they predict and track how much rain is falling. My geeky homeschool mom side would also tell you to share with your kids about the water cycle and come up with a wacky story about Mr. Raindrop who travelled the world and fell in our yard, but that might be going overboard.

[portions of this article originally appeared at BetterParenting.com :)]