Thursday, September 19, 2013

BFIAR row: Blueberries for Sal

I have been wanting to row Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, a staple of my childhood library, for over a year. But it had to be the right season: I live in Maine, so it had to be during blueberry season. Last year I had a running injury that prevented me from doing much blueberry picking, so I was patient and decided to wait for a whole year to try it out again.

But now it's time!

We are beginning school this week, and we're doing so slowly, with only a Five in A Row book and no other work right off the bat. Read on to find out what we're up to!

We used our classroom bulletin board to display the crafts of our unit.

 Language Arts

1+1+1=1's B is for Bear printable worked well for our younger learners as we worked the fine motor skills needed to cut out the bears and glue them onto the provided B's. It also reinforced the name of the letter and the sound it makes. (It was such a beautiful day we did school on the deck, too!)

We made our own upper- and lowercase B's and practiced "B is for blueberry" by painting the B's with blue paint and a simple homemade stamp (from furniture pads to keep chair legs from scraping the floor- what are those really called??).

My older child practiced retelling the story and writing about it using the Homeschool Creations template (link in the resources below), while my younger learners used a felt story set I made to recall and re-tell main events in the story.

Upside down, yes. But you get the idea. The kids made the blueberries at the top of the board while I made the rest.

We were also able to practice our prepositions (inspired by the notebook Homeschool Creations included in her printable set) with the felt pieces by changing the positions of each character and verbalizing the change in relation to other pieces ("Sal is next to the rock..."). My younger kids also made the preposition practice book, with more fine motor practice with cutting and gluing.

 The Homeschool Creations printable also included practice three-part cards to help emergent readers identify important vocabulary words in the story, and we used those with great success.

Practical Life
Transferring blueberries with tweezers between pails is a variation on a classic Montessori activity that our kids really enjoy.

The cooking that we did qualifies as practical life skill building too, but I've described that below. We love to eat our way through FIAR rows, I tell you.


We were inspired to try Growing Kinders' blueberry counting math center, (above).

For my older child I created a quick estimation game about how many blueberries were in different sized containers. Once he made his estimate, we counted out what five blueberries looked like and I asked him if he wanted to change is estimate. Then we counted out what ten looked like and I asked the same question. We continued until we found how many blueberries were in the container. The unexpected bonus was that to count them all he practiced counting by fives and tens! Eating them was the best part, of course.

I also bought some cultivated blueberries (which are much larger than the wild, native blueberries that grow here) and asked the younger kids to compare the sizes. We did a simple big, bigger, biggest activity with a few sets of blueberries, and then promptly devoured our materials. Math can be so delicious. 

We made these fun little blueberry basket crafts using potato stamps from Little Page Turners, which I somehow failed to take pictures of. Huh. 

Since we are fortunate to live in Maine, where lots and lots of real bears live, we thought we had better pay those bears a visit! So, off we went to the Maine Wildlife Park to learn about bears, and feed them too!

At the beginning of the week I presented the kids with a simple KWL activity on my chalkboard door. (For those who don't know about KWL, the idea is to get kids to brainstorm 1) what they already Know, 2) what they Want to know, and 3) what they Learned as they completed the lesson. There's a great downloadable KWL chart here if you don't have a chalkboard door to use.) So we were able to update our KWL chart after our trip, and we went to the park with clipboards that listed our questions and gave us space to record our answers.

Once we had done our KWL, I made up a simple worksheet for the kids to complete during (and after) our visit to the bears so they could share the information they learned. If you'd like to download it, click here

Again, since we live in Maine, I took the opportunity to do a bit more "in-depth" geography exploration than I otherwise might. It was so fun, and I was so pleased to find that the kids really responded with interest when learning about their home state.

We used these dot-to-dot puzzles to make Maine and we did some research about our state here,

We used the Maine resources and printables from Confessions of a Homeschooler's Road Map USA curriculum (which I highly recommend).  The "state report" was a good fit for my first grader, and introduced us to the use of an atlas to find out information about a particular geographic location.

My teaching certification happened to be up for renewal this year as well (I'm a certified teacher in Maine and maintain my certification now that I homeschool so that I can provide homeschool consulting services), and instead of mailing in my renewal form I tool the kids to the state capitol to drop off the paperwork. While we were there we visited the State Senate and State House, practiced making our own laws (about conservation of environmental resources, no less), and did a fossil hunt (you read that right) in the capitol building. It was such a fun way to learn more about our state and to get an errand done at the same time!

While we were at the capitol, we picked up a few tourism brochures about Maine, and came home to make a collage about our state using the pictures we felt accurately represented our life here. It was such fun! We included common animals we see, industries we know are common, and sights which represent Maine to us.
Of course we practiced our map skills by identifying Maine on our USA map and our world map.

Other Activities During Our Week
We picked blueberries! (Click here to find a spot to pick blueberries near you.)

Blueberry Zucchini Smoothies
We made a lot of blueberry recipes. Here is the our weekly menu plan, loaded with seasonal produce and a daily dose of blueberry. Blueberry pancakes... yum!

Other resources we've used during this unit:
Homeschool Creations' Blueberries for Sal printables

Great tie-in books:
Jamberry by Bruce Degan
Journey Around Maine From A to Z by Martha Zschock and Heather Zschock
Bear Wants More by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman
Peter in Blueberry Land by Elsa Beskow

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