Cake pops, Heart relay & Fun

Cake pops

We’re having a party at our place over the coming weekend. Nope, neither of my kids have their birthdays, nor is it me or my husband’s birthday or wedding anniversary. Our home is known in the immediate neighborhood to throw small yet fun parties for the kids every now and then, be it any occasion. And with Valentine’s Day falling this weekend, most of the kids will be making a beeline towards our place.

I chanced upon this very interesting conversational relay game the other day which I think the kids will enjoy. It works well in a group (and ours is bound to be around 15 odd kids so a pretty big group at that). All you’ve got to do is divide the entire group into, say, three teams. One child at a time, from each of the three teams, will carry cardboard conversation hearts (with messages written on them) from one bucket on one side of the room to another bucket at the other end of the room – the catch here is they need to be sucking up the hearts with a straw – no touching allowed. If a heart unfortunately falls along the way, bad luck; you have to start all over again. The team that finishes this task of transferring all their ‘hearts’ first wins.

There’ll be mini chocolate doughnuts and strawberry milkshake, cake pops and marshmallows too. Wish to drop in? Happy Valentine’s Day! :)

Mathematician of the Month – Somerville

Mary Somerville, a Scottish science writer and polymath, was nominated to jointly be the first female member of the Royal Astronomical Society at the same time as Caroline Herschel (the great German British astronomer). And coming at a time when women’s participation in science and math was discouraged, this accomplishment was highly praiseworthy on her part.

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The young girl whose favorite pastime once used to be looking after the family chickens and hunting for starfish and crabs on the beach once unexpectedly encountered an algebraic puzzle with X’s and Y’s in a magazine. Our budding mathematician was very intrigued and eager to learn more on the subject. But unfortunately, her parents were of the belief that a woman’s constitution could not handle much intellectual effort without causing damage to her physical and mental health and so discontinued her studies.

But our enterprising lady would not accept defeat. She began by sneaking in on her brother’s math tutorials to learn more about algebra. She also creeped into her father’s study every now and then and read his books on navigation. She taught herself the Latin language so that she could learn more about Euclid and his geometry. Her parents eventually came to know that she was spending her evenings studying and so they confiscated her candles. But Mary found another way around this roadblock – she started memorizing mathematical problems and then solved them in her head in the dark!

An outstanding mathematician, astronomer, geographer as well as scientist of the Victorian period, Mary Somerville has not only the Somerville College in Oxford University named after her, but also an Arctic island by her last name. On her demise, she was rightfully dubbed ‘The Queen of Nineteenth Century Science’ by a newspaper.

5 Back-to-School Classroom Activities for Kids

It’s the festive time of the year again! Back in those days when I used to teach, I remember that kids coming back from the Christmas and New Year vacations would mean that they were in no mood to get back to their books. As a result, homework also suffered during the first week of the New Year or so. And hence, I always used to try my best to come up with a few fun activities to carry out in the classroom with the kids to get them back on track.

Preparing lesson plans and looking for fun ideas for classroom activities is a never-ending process for most teachers. Group activities can build rapport, encourage the class to connect with each other, and produce better quality work if planned well. So what can a teacher do to help her students get to know one another better and foster a healthy community environment? Here are a few fun classroom activity ideas to help your class have fun and become more active.

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New Classroom” by Bart Everson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Classroom activity #1 – The Line of Silence

Ask the students to get into a line based on any criterion such as height, shirt color, shoe color, etc. The challenge is not to talk to each other while they get themselves arranged in a line. Play a couple of rounds of this classroom activity with a different criterion in each round.

Classroom activity #2 – The Color Coded Chits

Fold small chits of paper and write a color from the following on each of them – red, orange, yellow, blue, brown, and green. Next, write the names of the colors on a whiteboard followed by these actions next to them. Below is an example.

Red – Who’s your favorite singer/actor?

Orange – Tell us something you learned last month.

Yellow – What do you think you are really good at, like a pro?

Blue – What is the one thing that you fondly remember from yesterday?

Brown – Tell us a special memory from your childhood.

Green – What is that one thing (not a person) that you can’t live without?

Have the students choose a chit and answer the question corresponding to the color that’s written on the chit.

Classroom activity #3 – The Bookmark Game

This is a great icebreaker activity perfect for the start of a new academic year. You will need to prepare well in advance for this classroom activity before the session begins. Make simple yet colorful bookmarks for the whole class and write the name of a student on each bookmark. Along with the names, write a question that will help you to get to know them better, examples being “name your favorite hangout”, “name your best friend”, “name a food you love to eat”, “what do you love to do when you’re not playing”, etc. Place the bookmarks question side down on a tray and pass the tray along the class for each student to choose a bookmark. Have the students read out the name on his/her bookmark and address the question along with it to the name he/she just got.

Classroom activity #4 – The Friendship Band Activity

Have each student braid a friendship band and tuck in a small piece of paper with his/her name in one of the layers of the band. Distribute the friendship bands among the whole class. If A got the band made by C and D got the band made by A, A will tie the band around C’s wrist and D will tie the band around A’s wrist.

Classroom activity #5 – Truth vs Lie

Each student says aloud three statements about herself/himself to the entire class. Of the 3 statements, 2 are true and 1 is a lie. Any one student from the class will raise his/her hand and volunteer to guess which of the three statements the lie is. This game is a great way for the kids to find out how well they know their friends!

Classroom activities can be a great way to build camaraderie and promote friendship in the class. Feel free to tweak and modify the classroom activities I’ve listed to suit the grade you teach.

Mathematician of the Month – Ramanujan

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The fact that Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar has a feature film on his life called The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan speaks volumes about the greatness of this Indian-born mathematician. The downside to his great intellect? He was so far ahead of his time and his work was so unorthodox, that even the most celebrated scholars of his times couldn’t really understand him! It is only now, more than 80 years after he passed away that we are beginning to comprehend his work and apply it to computing and complicated physics.

Thanks to the English mathematician G H Hardy, Ramanujan came to England. But he was known for certain quirks. For instance, he refused point blank to wear shoes or socks. People started referring to him as a nutcase as he was in the habit of lying face down in a cot while working on mathematical problems, and that too on a slate with chalk rather than using pen and paper. The most infuriating habit of all – especially to his fellow mathematicians – was that Ramanujan would rub out all his complicated workings with his elbow once he solved a mathematical problem and just leave behind the solutions on his slate! As a result of which mathematicians, even today, are still in the process of figuring out how exactly this mastermind worked them all out so correctly.

The most popular story about Ramanujan comes from a visit G H Hardy made to him when he was on his deathbed. Hardy didn’t know what to say to cheer him up, so he commented on the boring number of his taxi – 1729. Our genius, even in that ill state, was instantly inspired and sat up: “1729 is a fascinating number! It is the smallest number that can be expressed as the sum of two cubes in two different ways!”

In his short yet extremely fruitful life, this mathematical prodigy rediscovered previously known theorems, produced new theorems of his own accord, independently compiled nearly 4000 results of identities and equations and made remarkable contributions to the fields of mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series and continued fractions.

G H Hardy summed it up perfectly when he said: “Here was a man who could work out modular equations and theorems to orders unheard of, and whose mastery of continued fraction was beyond that of any mathematician in the world.” Undoubtedly, he was one of a kind, the only one in his league.

3 Reading Games for the Elementary Classroom

I haven’t met a kid who doesn’t like to play, so it makes sense to use games as learning tools in the classroom. That’s what I did back in those years when I wanted my first graders to learn and polish their reading skills; I introduced some fun and interactive reading games that helped motivate them to become better readers. These games can be used along with online reading games for a balanced reading experience. Feel free to check them out!

9610012698_84910f7432_z-1SAD_Amidon 70” by US Department of Education, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Guess the Word

Skills taught – Word recognition and sequencing

How to Play

  • Identify a “secret” word from a random chapter or story.
  • Write that word on a piece of paper.
  • Give your students a hint of the word’s location in the book; for instance, you can say “The word is on page 79.”
  • Let the students take turns asking you yes-no questions to help them arrive at the correct answer. For instance they might ask “Is the word on the top half or the bottom half of the page?” Or, “Does it come before the word “careless”?
  • The student who zeroes in on the correct word wins the round.
  • Continue playing the game for as many rounds as you want to. Once the students have mastered the rules, they can play the game in small groups.

The Reading Wagon

A reading wagon is a good investment for your classroom. Acquire a wagon or use any pull vehicle and invite your students to decorate it. Then encourage them to fill it up with their favorite books. Even better, have everyone collect books that fit into a theme they are studying in class and place them all in the wagon. When it’s time to do independent reading, choose a student to pull the wagon around and deliver books to her fellow readers. Each time the wagon stops, students can choose a book and read it. The wagon can go around again when reading time is over and collect all the books.

Spell It

Skills – Spelling and vocabulary

How to Play

  • This variation on the classic Spelling Bee is loads of fun to play in the classroom. First, invite the students to form a circle.
  • Give them a word to spell. The first student says the first letter, the second student says the second letter and the round continues until the word has been spelled.
  • A student who provides the wrong letter must sit down.
  • When the word is completed, the next student says “Done!” and the student next to him must sit down.
  • The game continues until only one student is left standing.

Elementary students would hopefully enjoy playing these games and become better readers as a result. What do you think?

Mathematician of the Month – Archimedes

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Archimedes of Syracuse – a mathematician, a physicist, an engineer, an astronomer, an inventor, a scientist – there was absolutely nothing that this brilliant man couldn’t do! No wonder he is considered to be the greatest mathematician of classical times and one of the greatest till date.

Archimedes’ first tryst with fame came when the ruler of those times, King Hieron, built a ship which was too heavy to go into the sea (Why did he build ‘a ship’ anyways if it couldn’t sail? Archimedes must have had a good laugh at the majesty!). Our budding genius was the savior – he came up with a slick contraption made up of pulleys, levers and cog wheels, which allowed a single individual to launch the massive ship into the waters, all the while sitting back in a chair and relaxing with a cool drink in his hands! And hence the famous Archimedes quote: “Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth!”

What’s more, this prodigy also had a hand in fighting with the Romans. Legend has it that he helped the army build huge wacky catapults that hurled boulders through oncoming ships and mirrors that reflected the sunlight onto ships, which resulted in them erupting into flames, even before they got close to the land! The best story of all is that of a gigantic crane he constructed that had the capability to reach over the wall, lift entire ships up, shake them around till they rattled and then drop them back into the seas – upside down! Must have been a sight to behold!

To put it in a nutshell, here is a man who invented the water screw, made war machines, made a heat ray, created a miniature planetarium, worked with pulleys and levers, invented calculus (to the woes of many like me, no doubt), invented the odometer and is more famous for his inventions in life than just math alone!

His last words supposedly were: “Don’t disturb my circles!” as a Roman soldier walked across his drawings in the sand for his latest mathematical theorem. The soldier was so incensed, that he stabbed the mathematician. Thus came to an end the extraordinary life of the greatest ‘Eureka’ genius in Greek history.

What You Need to Know Before Homeschooling Your Child

Homeschooling is a great option for parents who want more control over their kids’ education. It’s a well-known fact that homeschooled kids do better in standardized achievement tests and get a first-class education, even as they have loads of fun. So if you think you have the time, temperament and resources to homeschool your child, here are three surefire ways you can make your project a success.

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homeschooling during advent” by Elena, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Educate Yourself

Before you embark on your educational project, you need to investigate your options and get the details sorted. Understand why you want to homeschool your child and what you hope to accomplish by it. Explore the best routes and resources available to homeschoolers and choose your curriculum. Research your state’s homeschooling requirements and get detailed information about homeschooling laws. The end of a school year is a good time to start your research if you’re planning to start by autumn. You can subscribe to homeschooling newsletters and magazines, read books, visit the library, talk to other homeschooling parents and/or join a homeschooling group.

Get the Tools

You may not be able to have everything that a regular school will have, but you can easily assimilate and use the basics. You need to have a computer with a high-speed internet connection along with textbooks and supplies. Additionally, you can subscribe to online learning websites that offer educational worksheets, activities and other printables for free or for a small membership fee. If possible, set up a small home chemistry lab with essential equipment like a microscope, glass tubing, tongs and clamps, distillation equipment, digital balances, etc. You can also establish a library with second hand books or get a library membership. Remember that your home is your child’s school so you will have to set it up like one.

Sign Them up for Extracurricular Activities

The best part of homeschooling is the flexibility you have when it comes to establishing a schedule for your little scholar. Use this to pique and develop his interest in a wide range of activities – music, dance, sports, field trips, art lessons, seminars, Boy or Girl Scouts, etc. Kids learn the importance of teamwork and responsibility when they get involved in structured activities outside the home. They also get to interact with their peers, develop social skills, build confidence and learn new skills that will stand them in good stead. Once they identify their areas of interest, they can pursue it further and maybe even take it up as a vocation.

Homeschooling is one of the fastest growing forms of education in America today. If you’re planning to homeschool your child, make sure you get off on the right foot!