Posted in Education, Family, fun, history, Holidays, reading, summer, teaching, toddlers, Uncategorized

Summer Learning: A lesson on pirates

I haven’t actually done any “educational” posts in awhile and my daughter asked me this morning if we could learn about pirates.

Image result for pirates gif

I’m like YES, obviously we can learn about pirates.

Little known fact about me; I used to be obsessed with pirates. I did a research paper in graduate school about Blackbeard as my example of good and bad leadership skills. Peter and Wendy was actually the first chapter book that I read out loud to my daughter. I found myself censoring a few things but I digress-

I decided since I would be looking up some things for her to learn that I would share them with you to add some education to your summer break.

(This post contains affiliate links)

Treasure hunts-

One of the first things you think of, when you think of pirates, is lost treasure. “Booty” it’s called. Coins, jewels, and other riches obtained by piracy (theft generally speaking).

Treasure hunts are easy to set up at home. You can use rocks, seashells, plastic money, or their own toys. Hide them around your backyard or in your house. The big treasure prize should marked on a “map”.

Is this historically accurate? Not really. Most pirates didn’t bury their treasure, they spent it. One of the most famous pirates who did actually have a hidden buried treasure was Captain William Kidd. His loot has since all been found (at least they think so).

 

Legends and Folklore-

One thing pirates were, were storytellers. If you think about it, all that time on the sea with little to do in between navigating, thieving, and drinking; storytelling and music were a must.

Here is some pirate folklore to share with your family. Most of the stories are ghost stories or legends in nature. Some are about actual historical figures. There are plenty of stories out there about curses and signs of impending doom. A shark following the ship for instance meant death was approaching. Fridays were a unlucky day to sail. Gold hoop earrings could bring the pirate good luck and fortune on their travels. Never change the name of your boat, unless you want to run aground.

Some of the most famous folklore to come from pirates and other sailors were those of the mermaid. Different countries have different takes on what a mermaid is or was, and different ideas on what they looked like. Some believed them to be beautiful and wanting to help sailors get to safety. Most believed mermaids were there to lure men to their deaths.

I love the “You Wouldn’t Want to be a…” series. Lucky for you they have a pirate one!

Geography- 

Image result for map of where pirates sailed

Piracy took place all over the world, but during the Gold Age of Piracy (1650’s to 1720’s) most of the action was in the Caribbean. They were referred to as Buccaneers if they were Caribbean pirates. Although Pirates of the Caribbean was extremely fictional, the city of Tortuga was quite accurate. It was a high spot for pirates to refresh before hitting the high seas again. Tortuga was off the island of Hispaniola.

Why was this area so hot to trot for pirates? Spanish ships were constantly trying to get gold and jewels back to England and Spain for one. For two, most of the indigenous peoples of the area were killed off in many of the islands thanks to settlements centuries earlier. Three, there were a lot of places to hide.

It was a great time to be a pirate. But all good things come to an end and eventually England got sick of their money and ships going into the sea. The navy started to hunt down pirates in a ruthless movement to end the Golden Age and they succeeded.

Image result for pirates gif

Some resources to learn the geography of the Caribbean:

Geography Lesson: The Wonderfully Diverse Caribbean!

– Map making exercise for older elementary students. Great idea!

Jamaican Games for Fine and Gross Motor Skills Really cool list of ideas 

 Making steel drums for kids

 

 

Just for fun-

Mad Libs are a fun way to practice language arts skills! {Free printable}:

Image result for kid pirate map

Worksheets: Treasure Island Crossword Puzzle

For any adult wanting to brush up on their pirate knowledge I highly recommend this book:

And of course the classics:

        

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Posted in Education, Family, history, Library, literature, Opinion, reading, Uncategorized

Why read nonfiction at every age

You either love it or you hate it. There’s not many people who are in between (I’m sure you exist just bare with me). I’ve heard the argument many times “I don’t read nonfiction because it’s boring”, “It’s too hard to read”, “I just like stories that are made up”. All are valid points for certain titles and authors. However, there’s a whole world of nonfiction that is far from boring, hard, and read so much like fiction you’ll be amazed that it’s not made up.

Reading nonfiction is beneficial to you as an adult, and even more so to children. Since common core was initiated, nonfiction became a higher percentage of what children had to read per grade which is a good thing and a bad thing. I hate the idea of children and teens growing a resentment or dislike for nonfiction because they are forced to read it (much like what happens with the classics) but I do like that they are at least being more exposed to it.

Why Read Nonfiction?

0-5

Early literacy education focuses mostly on just inspiring the idea of reading

and the want to read. However, most of the books that children get exposed to in these younger years are fiction. There’s nothing wrong with that, the cartoons and illustrations are one of the main things that draw young children into books in the first place. There are nonfiction books though that are great for this age range. The series of books called the “tabbed board books” that feature real photos of different topics are wonderful for young readers. They see things they can relate to, things they see everyday, and start to learn names for all of these things. Plus they are bright and colorful so they keep their attention.



6-12

I read an article awhile back (I believe the stats were from 2013 or 2012) that said students only spend 5% of their free time reading nonfiction. While it’s not that hard to believe it’s still such a small percentage that I get worried. Obviously, there is a huge correlation between student’s who read on their free time receiving good grades, versus students who do not read on their free time receiving bad grades (not everyone, just the stats).

Nonfiction is great for hesitant readers in this age group. The nonfiction titles may not be as “age defined” as some of their fiction cousins. For example, there are some nonfiction books about the Titanic that a six year old could enjoy or a twelve year old could enjoy. Nonfiction is also great for boys. Yes, I’m being sexist here but again statistics show that after the third grade boys are much more likely to stop reading on their free time than girls are. I still don’t know why that it is I wish I did so I could fix it. However, some of my reluctant boy readers took really well to nonfiction. Sports, war, history, science, things like that are interesting when they are written about the right way. Do some exploring with your student until you find something they like to read about.

                   

12-18

Teens should read nonfiction for the same reason that middle school and elementary school students should: it will help their grades. Period. They will be smarter. You can’t read a nonfiction book (a well written one anyway) and not be a little bit smarter afterwards (unless it’s a political book but we won’t go there).

I feel like when I was in high school there wasn’t a lot of “YA Nonfiction”. Young Adult wasn’t even really a “genre” the way it is now. There was a handful of titles considered “teen” but it wasn’t the powerhouse it is now. YA Nonfiction has come light-years and is sometimes more entertaining than adult nonfiction. Again, it’s just finding what your student is interested and will take to the most.

                                     

18+

You’re not a student (well you may be a college student I don’t know, for argument’s sake we’re going to say you’re not). You’re not a student, you have no papers to write, no reports to be had. Why in the world would you waste your precious free time reading nonfiction? Reading is supposed to be fun, relaxing, enjoyable. Nonfiction is all of those things if you find the right authors. There’s more to nonfiction than studies and statistics being spit at you in the text of page after page of information.

If you are hesitant, or you have tried several nonfiction books but just cannot seem to get into them, try memoirs or true crime. Sometimes true crime can get a little sciencey, but a lot of true crime I’ve read reads more like a soap opera. I adore memoirs if they are well written.

                         

My favorite is history, usually American history but some eras in European history are also pretty fascinating. Some people just skipped this whole section as soon as they saw history. I get it, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. However, there are some amazing authors in this category to try.

Health and wellness is a new topic I’ve been reading. It’s one of the most popular topics at my library but I’ve never really been interested enough to read a whole book on a wellness topic. Now, I can say I have read a few that I didn’t get through because I thought it was boring, and I’ve read a few within a night or two because they were very interesting. Just have to find your niche.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Science and medical nonfictional can definitely fall into one of those harder to read categories. Certain authors make it more “story like”. Mary Roach is a really good one, and Bill Bryson.

                              

Folklore and fairy tales are categorized as nonfiction. Oddly enough this is one of the most frequent questions I get asked by students and adults; “why?”
Well technically, classic literature and poetry should be in nonfiction as well. All of these forms of writing give a scholar, or whoever is reading the work, a glimpse of the culture that the work came from. So for example, by reading Native American folklore, historians can learn what different values tribes held that may not be documented anywhere else.

 

Feel free to post any other suggestions!

 


Posted in Education, Library, literature, Poetry

‘Her Kind’, Their Kind

I am still struggling with coming up with meaningful lessons for my older students to do next year. This year really got away from me and I know with the centers I have planned I am pretty much already booked. I have started to revisit some of my old favorites in hopes that I would be inspired by them.

In these “centers” I mentioned, there is one for poetry which most students automatically sigh and want to vomit as soon as they see that’s where their name tag is. I, (even as a writer and lover of all things literature) was the same way. School kind of made me hate poetry. If I had to analyze “The Red Wheelbarrow” one more time I was going to put myself in one and roll off of a cliff. I don’t want to do that. I want the students to explore poetry that they will actually like. It wasn’t until I was out of school that I even started to read poetry for fun again and I did end up enjoying some of the poems I grew to hate from having to scrutinize them.

I just reread one of my favorites and I have decided that the students need to just be offered a large variety of poems to read and let me know what they take from it, not what I think, or what the scholars think they should. We obviously will look at imagery and the meanings behind some things they may not understand but all in all I want to know what the poem says to them.

‘Her kind’ by Anne Sexton.

The Three Witches from Shakespeares Macbeth by Daniel Gardner, 1775. © National Portrait Gallery, London Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne – the most famous political hostesses and society beauties of their day – are shown gathered around the witches’ cauldron alongside their friend, the sculptor Anne Seymour Damer. Date 1775  Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire a...

Posted in Education, parenting

Mothering or Smothering

At the risk of sounding cynical I have to say being an educator for two years now has made me question some parents motives. I have worked in a scenario where I practically begged the parents to just pick up the phone and talk to me about their students. The lack of interest in their children’s education was really mind-boggling to me. The students that I was working with then were the ones that were most in need of extra support academically but it’s clear they were (are) not getting it at home.

Then there’s the flip side…the smothers. I really don’t know which is worse: not caring at all and leaving your children completely to their own devices as far as their education goes or taking full control of everything and making sure they get the right grades. Now when I say get the right grades, this doesn’t mean the student earns them. Not all the time anyway. But smothers have a way of making sure their students are always straight A students. These are the parents that do their children’s homework and science fair projects. Not help, but do. These are the parents who are first to complain when a grade drops even before speaking to their student about why. How is that helping anyone?

So you are basically either teaching your child that they are alone in the world and getting an education has no importance or that if they find someone to piggy back they can get through life not having to try. Both of these ideas are terrifying to me.

Posted in Education, Library, literature

Analyzing “The Raven”

At the beginning of the year we (8th grade and I) tried to analyze “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe. Naturally, when you analyze anything with 8th graders, and most grades I would say, they want to know “did the author mean to do that?” When going into the mood, the theme, the motifs throughout the poem (and “The Raven” is riddled with them) I was asked this time and time again. For some poems I want to say, “no I don’t think the author was really thinking about that when they wrote it.” For “The Raven,” I don’t know. I am torn because I do believe Poe to be one of the most talented writers ever to be in print and yet there is a piece of me that is like “ehh maybe that was an accident?” I found this blog post that kind of reitterates the argument that I wanted to share.

Guest Blog: ‘The Raven’ – Nevermore.

 

Posted in Education, parenting

Self-Exploration (All About Me- for all ages)

An important part of school, learning, and interacting as a child (up through and into the teen years) is to discover who you are as a person. A lot of students tend to lose sight of this once they are in middle school and high school; a lot thanks to peer pressure.  I did it, you probably did to. There was a band that you said you hated even though you actually like them. The was a pair of shorts you really liked but would never wear around your friends because they weren’t “in style”.

Can projects and activities stop peer pressure? No. Let’s be realistic. But starting self-exploration with your kids can help them build a stronger sense of self which will help them throughout school and beyond.

All About Me Projects for all ages

For kids 5-10 or so, you can have them create an All About Me character map. Character maps are simple enough, a lot of classes do them for fictional characters. However, it can easily be turned into something you do for yourself. First, they pick something that represents them the best to put in the middle. For example I would probably put a pen or pencil (Note: if your student isn’t much into drawing have magazines that he/she can cut out pictures from and make more of a collage). Then under or over that image tell them to write their name in any funky way they want to. From the center picture the student will make six lines extending outwards. On each of those they will put something they like. Their favorite food, their favorite color, their favorite hobby, favorite sport, ect. That’s it.

This is a great idea I came across looking for things to do in my new class. It’s called a Wonder Wall. This isn’t so much “all about me” but expanding on what your student is interested in is one way to support their individuality. Anyway, the concept is you create a “Wonder Wall” (they used brown roll of paper, a sponge, and red paint to make it look like a brick wall). Then your child or students can post any questions they come up with to the Wonder Wall. Once a week, or month, however you want to do it, read the questions and try to solve them together.

One of the best things about self exploration is discovering what it is you really want. Middle school students may like this idea. You make a hot air balloon (that’s a project all it’s own on how you want to do that but if you just want a simple idea: cut out of paper and attach a square piece with yarn). In the balloon write something like “Oh the places you will go-“ or “I can’t wait to get to-“. In the basket have your child write where they want to go most in the world and what they want to do. Here’s a good image of one.

For older students you could try a self-portrait. I know that sounds terrifying to some people but it doesn’t have to be. This teacher had his students do more of a pop art type of portrait.

You could just do the student’s silhouette and have them fill it with different things they like. Make sure to include the year!