60 Activities for April, by Elizabeth Swartz
60 Skill-Building Activities You Can Use Right Now!
Math Draw two lines to divide a sheet of paper into quadrants. In each, write an addition problem. Leave room under each problem for children to build the problem with foam shapes, buttons or other manipulatives.
Reading This month, each time you read a book aloud, write the title in a large raindrop. Place the raindrops on a bulletin board in alphabetical order.
Science Collect photographs of local animals. Are your students aware of the diverse range of wildlife in your area? Are there nocturnal animals they may have never seen? Have they ever seen black squirrels? Don't forget the worms, either; they are vital to the health of our soil. List all of your local wildlife and be surprised. What can you and your students do to protect these animals?
Language Use a black marker to divide a paper plate into several "pie" sections. Color each "slice" with a different color marker. Use a fine-tip black marker to label clothespins with color names. Have the children read the color words on the clothespins and clip them onto the correct section of the pie.
Critter Action Rhyme
Poetry/Physical Education Use flannel board or overhead patterns of the animals to cue your class for the appropriate action. What other critter actions can they show you?
Math/Sequence On each of several small slips of paper, write an activity completed today. Place each slip inside a plastic egg. Mix up the eggs in a basket. Have children select, open and place the eggs in sequential order.
Folktales from Afar
Reading/Art Read aloud Tunjur! Tunjur! Tunjur! A Palestinian Folktale retold by Margaret Read MacDonald (Marshall Cavendish, 2006) about a little pot that takes things that do not belong to it. Have children make pictures of the pot showing the lid open and it filled with items from the story.
Art/Science Drop blotches of different colored paint on a thin piece of white paper. While the paint is still wet, gently crush the paper into a ball. Open the ball immediately and carefully spread the paper to dry. When dry, press it under heavy books for a few hours. Then cut out flower shapes and glue to a plain background to illustrate the part-to-whole relationship. Bits of green, black or blue crinkled paper can be used for the stem and leaves.
Science/Health Provide a fun smell activity for students by placing a few drops of ammonia, lemon juice, chocolate syrup, etc. on paper towels. Place the paper towels in small brown paper bags so they cannot be seen. After the scents have been tested and identified, talk about how the sense of smell also keeps us safe. What would your students do if they smelled smoke?
Math/health/Writing Do a survey and graph the results concerning students who have been injured on the playground this school year. Are there patterns? Does it concern one piece of equipment? Is weather a factor? Is it an issue of crowding? Extend the survey to include other classes and grade levels. What suggestions come about from studying the results? How can those injuries be reduced? Have the students present their findings in personal essays.
Help Save Earth
Science/Computer Skills Take your students to a great site from Canada, where they also celebrate Earth Day. Visit www.ecokids.ca where your students can go to the Kids section and play eco-games. Teachers you will find lesson plans and printables.
Math/Health Provide healthy geometric sandwiches as a culminating activity to your math unit. Use whole-wheat bread and cheese, egg salad, tuna, etc. Then cut the sandwiches into triangle, square, circle, oval or diamond shapes. Wrap them individually. Have students identify them, sort them in Venn diagrams, then eat and enjoy all that math.
Math/Poetry Read this poem, then take the children outside to identify other things with these shapes. Later have them draw or paint a picture of other springtime shapes.
Music Learn the history of jazz and meet some of the most famous musicians of this genre at www.pbskids.org. Play some jazz in class and let the kids feel the beat of this great American music.
Plenty of Predictions
Reading When reading aloud to your class this week, stop just at a turning point in the story and talk about the predictions the students want to make about the conclusion of the story. Use the skills they see on their favorite TV detective stories. Set up the chalkboard with: Setting, Characters, Facts We Know, Sequence of Events, Foreshadowing, etc. Are there still several predictions or have they been narrowed down? Complete reading the story. Return to the predictions board. Were there any clues missed? Any "aha" moments?
Science Select a spot where you can do some star watching with your child this month. Use the same place and the same time as often as possible so you can see how the night sky changes over the course of the month. Go to amazing-space.stsci.edu to prepare yourself about particular constellations, stars and planets that you will want to point out.
Science/Art Cover a bulletin board with black paper to represent the night sky. Have students make paper stars to use in building the constellations they see in the night sky. Align the bulletin board and label what would be true north, south, east and west as it looks when lying flat on the ground in your area. Go to www.go-astronomy.com for alignment assistance.
Math This game can be played with two or three players. You will need a die from a board game and a collection of pennies and nickels. To play, each person will roll the die. He or she will then count the number of dots displayed and collect that same amount in coins. As the players gain five pennies, they can be turned in for nickels. The first player to collect 25 cents wins the round.
Happy Birthday, Boy Scouts
Social Studies Invite a local Boy Scout leader and/or some Eagle Scouts from your high school to come in and talk about what the Boy Scouts organization has been doing for the last 100 years.
Musical Math Dance
Music/Math Print the numbers 1-20 on large pieces of foam or cardstock. Lay the numbers randomly on the floor. Let the children dance while some jazz music plays. When the music stops you will call out a basic math fact. Students will have 10 seconds to run and put their foot on the correct answer. If they are mistaken, they go to the sidelines. This can be played with multiplication facts, too.
Save the Earth
Science/Computer Skills Take your students to the website of the Environmental Protection Agency website at www.epa.gov to play N. Trubble and the Environauts Mission To Earth. Students can use their video game skills to learn about our planet's overabundance of trash.
Social Studies/Reading Show your students the book Jazz A-B-Z: An A-Z Collection of Jazz Portraits by Wynton Marsalis (Candlewick, 2005). Use it as a springboard to introduce Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong and many others. This collection can be enhanced by visiting www.pbskids.org to hear selections by these great artists. Also check your library for jazz CDs to borrow and play in class.
Science First, discuss whether or not students are influenced by the way things smell. Get a selection of various lip balm products, particularly those used in the winter months. Remove the tube labels or wrap each tube with the same colored paper. Then have them smell each of the different lip balms. Which would they buy? Why? Would the scent of the lip balm improve its ability to protect lips from wind, cold or sun? Why is scent used by manufacturers? Are there other instances in which students think they are influenced by smell?
Practicing with Pros
Music Take your students to the site www.wannaplaymusic.com so they know what is available to those studying particular instruments. Let them watch what it is like to practice with a real band or orchestra. Invite some members of your high school marching band to give talks about their instruments and answer questions about making a commitment to the band.
Science Get a few potatoes and encourage students to handle them and see the "eyes," the small indentations from which a new plant will grow. Cut the potatoes and place each section in a small dish with some water. Record the changes. Once the sprout is up about two inches, put each one in a clear plastic cup of soil and let students watch the sprout grow up and the roots grow down. After a time have them take the plant home to put in the ground. Explain that the potatoes will be harvested from under the soil only after the plant has died above the ground.
Health Send students on a fiber search throughout local grocery stores. What kinds of fiber comparisons do they find among various breads, crackers, fruits, etc? Then take them to www.aboutkidsgi.org and study the chart provided for finding fiber in foods. Use the recommended formula of a child's age plus five to calculate the recommended grams of fiber per day. Have your students select things they can add to their diet to reach that level.
There Is Still Time
Science The National Wildlife has an excellent site for students that explains that "endangered" means there is still time to save species in peril. The site www.fws.gov includes slide shows of various fish and animals in the United States. It also includes specifics about how kids can help these animals. Assign teams to a particular animal or species. Use this site for research and then do group reports that focus on using the time that is left.
Geometry in a Tree
Art/Math Draw tree trunks and branches on plain background paper with markers or crayons. Cut out brightly colored geometric shapes, parallelograms, hexagons, quadrilaterals, etc. and glue them onto the tree. After they are all displayed in a classroom forest, ask individual students to identify various shapes as an informal assessment.
Math/Physical Education Take your math class to the gym or playground, where ever there is a basketball hoop. Allow each student the same number of shots inside the zone as well as outside. Have students work in pairs so one can write results while the other takes shots. Return to the room and do some calculations. How many baskets were made by each student? What was each one's average? What was the average for inside shots? Outside shots? Did tall kids have better averages than short kids? Kids who have hoops at home over those who don't? What can you learn from the numbers?
Social Studies During National Coin Week (April 21-27) take your students to www.usmint.gov to investigate the new program to introduce one dollar coins back into circulation. Find out what Presidents will be featured first. Are the students coin collectors? How do they feel about the new quarters and dollar coins?
Safety In Sports
Physical Education/ Health During the spring months when many new sports get started it is important to highlight safety. April is National Youth Sports Safety Month. Go to www.sportssafety.org and have students "Ask the Expert" questions about sports safety.
Poetry/Physical Education Read this poem as students imagine themselves on the school track. Challenge them to memorize the poem. Now run around the track. Does the poet have it right? Is this what it's like to run track?
Writing Put a star at the top of the next blank page in each student's journal. That will serve as the story starter for this day. They may write about what the star reminds them of, why we use various symbols, how hard they work to get one, etc.
Health/Nutrition Keep track of the family menu for a week and determine approximately how much fiber each family member is consuming. Research ways to increase that through the inclusion of more raw fruits, vegetables and grains. Ask the kids to make suggestions and help write the meal plans. Teach your children that proper nutrition will enhance general health and prevent disease. Always increase the amounts of liquids consumed when increasing fiber intake.
Libraries: Good or Bad
Writing Ask your librarian for the amount of money represented by her complete inventory. Tell students this monetary figure, then ask them to write an essay about whether school libraries are an important part of the library community or not. Is it a good use of district money? What else would they do with the money? Could they afford to buy themselves all the books and magazines they use?
My Own Matisse
Social Studies/Art Introduce the artist Henri Matisse to your class by visiting the Baltimore Museum of Art at www.artbma.org to see the Matisse for Kids site. Provide lots of scissors and bold colored paper. Have students cut out shapes and overlay them upon different colors to create their own works of art in his style.
All About Trees
Science National Arbor Day is April 26. Go to www.arborday.org to learn about the most majestic trees in America, the rainforest trees, what we need trees for, how kids can take care of trees and more.
Language Have students collect crossword puzzles from newspapers and magazines. When your class has to wait for an assembly or has other down time, award bonus points for any and all completed crossword puzzles.
Math Have students create their own activity calendar showing what they do when they are not in school. Have them write the time when activities begin and end as well as the amount of time elapsed. Include homework times, music lessons, church or other social engagements. Ask them to then add up and graph where they are spending their time.
Social Studies/Math Ask students and teachers to bring in coins from other countries. When possible, have the student explain the monetary system of that country. If it is unknown, do some class research. Learn what the exchange rates are on the day the class is held.
History In 2007, America celebrated the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement. Now is a great time to read about early America, both in history and through excellent historical fiction. Ask your librarian to pull a selection of books for your class. Also take students to www.jamestown2007.org for more information on the settlement.
Science/Social Studies Learn the story of Marie Curie and her discovery of Radium in Something Out of Nothing by Carla Killough McClafferty (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2006). This book will lead your students into studies of other inventors.
Language Brainstorm a list of sports words that your class has heard on the field or court, on TV, in movies or read in books. Then divide that list of words into the parts of speech they represent. Make note of those words that could be more than one part of speech depending on their usage.
Have a Listen
Music Gather the group around one computer station to hear some live and/or selected jazz music at www.kcsm.org. Other details about musicians, schedules, awards, etc. can also be found at that site.
Our Family Background
History April 17, 1907, was the day that Ellis Island processed more immigrants – 11,747 – than any other day. Take a virtual tour and learn more about Ellis Island at www.ellisisland.org. Then ask your students to find out from what countries their families immigrated, how long ago and under what circumstances.
History/Writing The origin of April Fools' Day is credited with happening in 1564 in France when the calendar was changed. Those that missed or forgot the change were called the April Fools. Have students write about their favorite April Fools' jokes that they have played on others and that others have played on them.
Seeing Technology Develop
Science Bring a typewriter to class and demonstrate how papers used to be written, including the use of carbon paper for making copies. Then compare and contrast that with the word-processing capabilities of the computer. What changes evolved? Why? How does this compare to developments in other technologies? (Another example: ice trays in freezers versus refrigerators that make ice.)
U.S. Government at Work
Social Studies Currently one political party has the power of the White House while another major party has the power in Congress. Have students collect newspaper and magazine articles that highlight how the political power struggles influence the work of the country.
Science/Health Invite a pharmacist to your class to talk about the difference between "good" and "bad" drugs, i.e., doctor-prescribed drugs versus illegal controlled substances. What is the relationship between them? Can good drugs be used incorrectly? How do drugs actually work? How did the pharmacist choose his or her line of work, and what education and training is required to become a pharmacist?
History in My Hands
Science/Social Studies Borrow some old hand tools from friends, a local museum, a mechanic or carpenter, etc. Have the students feel and handle them. See if they can determine which tool was used for which job. See if they could devise a way to improve upon the tool. Has this tool been updated? How? Most inventions are designed to make things easier and/or quicker to accomplish. Does this definition prove true to your students?
Geography Provide each student with a map of either the world or the United States as need arises. Have each student show on the map where the members of his or her immediate family are living as well as marking the homes of grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. Have students show and compare their maps.
Math/Social Studies Ask your students to take a school-wide survey of classmates and where they have gone to school. Include in the survey: the number of schools attended in the last year, the total number of schools attended, the number of states in which a student has attended school and how many students will be moving in the near future. Assemble and graph the results. What does it tell about your student body?
Reading/Writing Ask your librarian to match students with sports fiction at the correct reading level and interest. As the students read the book, have them take notes concerning how much of the book is true. Is the sport correctly represented? Are the rules the same? Is the equipment included correct? Are the emotions among the players clearly representative of what really happens on a team? How realistic is the story? Give oral reports of the findings.
Math Spend some time with your kids explaining to them how your system for paying bills works. When do the bills come? When are they due? What happens if you pay them late or don't pay them at all? Talk to them about bank accounts and credit cards. If they don't have a savings account, get one started now.
Research/Writing As you continue your teaching of research skills, learn and incorporate the Big6™ research steps for clarity and consistency in your students' work. Research them yourself first at www.big6.com and www.crlsresearchguide.org. Use the same research model each time and watch your students' research skills grow.
Computer Skills Your students' speed and accuracy with word processing can be greatly enhanced by knowledge of the placement of the keys and practice gained through keyboarding programs. Schedule your class for repetitive trips to the lab for this skill.
A Night at the Museum
Social Studies Build on interest sparked by the movie Night at the Museum II by taking your class to the website "Meet Me at Midnight" at americanart.si.edu. Designed by the Smithsonian Art Museum, this interactive site for middle school students presents an animated scenario in which a mischievous piece of art – the Root Monster – comes alive and wreaks havoc in the galleries overnight. Visitors team up with characters that have been separated from their artwork to help the characters find their way back home. Participants learn how some pieces of the Smithsonian collection came to be invented and how they came to the museum.
Field Day Fiesta
Physical Education/Health Invite students to take part in planning your annual field day. Encourage them to include more individual exercise events, healthy snacks, pulse and blood pressure checks and parent involvement. Let them put everything they have learned into use.
Our Own Exhibit
Social Studies/Science/Art/Music Begin now to plan for an evening exhibit for parents and community neighbors to come to your classroom and see student displays. Have students design the layout of the room. Select favorite projects from the past year and put together PowerPoint demonstrations to explain the projects and a newsletter to advertise the whole event. Give next year's kids something to look forward to.
by Jacqueline Schiff
Jump like a frog.
Run like a pup.
Flutter like a butterfly –
Keep yourself up.
Creep like a turtle.
Crawl like an ant.
Hop like a grasshopper.
Do a rooster dance.
Leap like a deer.
Wiggle like a snake.
Sprint like a rabbit;
Give your bunny tail a shake.
In Shape for Spring
by Jacqueline Schiff
Hopscotch squares on the sidewalk.
A circle of sun in the sky.
Oval eggs of a robin,
And diamond kites flying so high.
Triangle beak of the bluebird.
Rectangle boxes of seed.
Cylinder cans in the garden
For watering plants that we need.
Rectangle swings on the playground.
Circular birdbaths in May.
Triangle sails on toy sailboats;
The shapes of a great springtime day!
by Jacqueline Schiff
On your mark...get set...go!
Run the race like a doe.
In your lane, look ahead.
Raise your knees. Take those breaths.
Raise your head. Lean a bit.
Belly breathe; Never quit.
Run the race, loose and light.
Just relax. Don't get tight.
Round the track; there you go!
Head up high; Eyes aglow.
Swing your arms. You'll do just fine...
Sprint across the finish line!
THIS MONTH'S CONTRIBUTIONS:
Marie Cecchini, West Dundee, IL, #1, #4, #19; Helen Wubbenhorst, Mesa, AZ, #8, #29; Sherry Timberman, Kennebunk, ME, #21.
POETRY: "Critter Olympics," "In Shape for Spring" and "Track Star" by Jacqueline Schiff, Moline, IL.
Illustrations by H. Robert Loomis.