26 December 2013

Number Matching Craft

I decided a few years ago we weren't going to be an Elf on the Shelf family each year the holidays rolled around. But with Nerd having turned 2 in October, I wanted to try to start some kind of fun holiday tradition (sans badly-behaved elf), so I gave the advent calendar a try. I looked up all kinds of activity ideas--baking cookies, making crafts, donating old clothes and toys--for each day of the month leading up to Christmas Eve. Then I cut and pasted pretty number print outs to card stock and hung them neatly for Nerd to pull off each day. I was psyched. 

The month started out strong. Nerd reminded me it was "time to pick a number" whenever I brought her home from the sitter. She also tried pulling down 3 or 4 at a time or skipped the search for the correct number and would pull one at random. It made for fun teachable moments, including Nerd learning what patience is all about.

 But between my hours at work, being a mommy, and then falling ill with a stomach virus (which was almost immediately followed by the flu), most of the advent actictivities were ignored. I didn't have it in me to carry my own child up the stairs, much less set up a painting activity for Day #10 when I'm hugging the toilet and fearing an ER visit.


When I was finally out of at-home quarantine and allowed to touch my kid without having to wear rubber gloves and a surgical mask, I began to wing it with the activities. Candlelit bubble bath in the master bath. Go out to dinner as a family. Call Nana on FaceTime.

There was one activity, though, that we both ended up liking. It was so stinking easy, and it tested Nerd's number recognition, making it a craft that was educational. Here's what I used:
•one sheet of green construction paper
•one black Sharpie marker
•10 or more brightly-colored circle stickers

Then in my very best 6-year-old-level freehand, I drew an outline of a Christmas tree. I numbered 10 of the stickers 1-10, followed by writing the same numbers all over the tree, but out of order.

I told Nerd to match the numbered stickers to the same number on the tree. We did go in order, and even though I helped, she really did most of the work. She even read the numbers out loud to me and told me, "These go together!" And most of her matches were correct! The stickers on the "tree" looked like decorative ball ornaments, and Nerd kept adding blank circles to the tree once she completed the task.

I could see this educational craft done a number of ways. You could change the numbers to letters, shapes, animals, or sight words, depending on the age of your child. You also wouldn't have to make the background a Christmas tree. It could be just a blank sheet of paper, or all you parents with actual art skills (the ones I lack) could go wild and make a detailed scene at the aquarium or in the woods.

As for next year, I might cop out and get Nerd a store-bought advent calendar with punch-out doors and tiny chocolates. The daily activities can be pared down to the weekends and days Mommy isn't ralphing hot wings.

06 December 2013

Kids and Their Epic Lack of Age Awarness

Most of you know I went back to my career in education this fall after 15 months of being a stay-at-home mom. Minus all the bureaucratic and political bullhonk surrounding the profession, I really love teaching. The level of excitement I reach when kids learn something because of me borders on unhealthy, but I live for those "lightbulb moments". Obviously, it wasn't too difficult to make the decision to go back to the classroom.

And, of course, you work with kids, and they are going to say some pretty darn hilarious things.

A few weeks ago, a student (let's call him "JC") asked an innocent question that had me busting a gut.

Our schedule for rotating classes was a little unusual, so our class segments were cut short. We took the opportunity to create flash cards for vocabulary words in animal classification. The end of class was approaching, and several students were already quizzing each other with their cards.

As I walked around to check in on their progress, one boy studied my face and asked, "So you're like 20?"

Yes, this is the question that had me falling apart with laughter. Not just 9 years ago when I started my career, a student had taken me for 50...and I was fresh out of college at a mere 22. Obviously, kids in elementary school have an epic lack of age awareness.

After I regained my composure, I told JC that 20-year-olds aren't legally old enough to teach in the state.

JC wanted to try again, "25?"

"Nope. Keep going."



"There's no way you're in your 30's! You're way too fun to be older than that." (OK, maybe he was sucking up a little bit.)

"Well, I hate to disappoint you, but this fun teacher is definitely in her 30's," I answered seriously. But I couldn't help myself when I jokingly said, "But now you are my favorite student. You think I look younger than I really am."

Not wanting to be beat out by JC, the girl sitting next to him piped up, "Yeah, well, I thought you were 18!"

It's cute when they suck up. Sometimes.

So what I have learned from such conversations with kiddos is that I'm aging backwards. This means by the time I hit 40, I should pass for the neighborhood babysitter, and by 50, I'll be ready for juice boxes and light-up velcro sneakers. Who needs wrinkle cream when you've got students who will unknowingly flatter you with their misconceptions in aging?


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