Thursday, August 28, 2014


We created homonym stories.

Homonyms are words which sound alike but have different meanings; sow and sew, blue and blew, beat and beet. They can create confusion for people new to the language and similarly for young children. Once kids are familiar with the dual meaning of words, however, they can make great subjects for stories.

The Honey Cake Mix-Up (Disney's Out & About With Pooh, Vol. 5) - When Pooh tries to help Roo make a honey cake, he's confused about what type of flour (flower) to put into the cake. This story is a fun way to introduce children to homonyms.

After reading the story, we discussed many other homonyms and their meanings. Alan Cooper's Homonym List is long and contains a short definition of each form or the word. ABC Teach Homonyms list is only two pages and great for scanning and homonym ideas.

Then we worked to create our own homonym centered stories.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Playing the Organ

We played an organ.

Playing an organ is like playing the piano, but there is a lot more gymnastics involved. Piano music contains a treble clef which is typically played by the right hand and a bass clef which is typically played by the left hand. Organ music contains these two, plus an additional bass clef for the feet. As the hands move through chords and melodies, the feet do too. Sometimes it's necessary to play one note with the toe, and the next note with the heel so as to create a smooth transition. In addition, the feet often cross as they move up and down the keyboard.

A standard piano contains seven and a half octaves. Our cheap keyboard contains five. The church organ we played contains four and a half on the top row, four and a half on the middle row, and two and a half on the feet for a total of eleven and one half octaves.

Since organs are primarily housed in churches, and all churches are different, organs are custom made. Hence, they are not cheap and all are a little different. Sometimes the organ is located on a second story behind the congregation, and other times it is in the front. An upgrade to the one in the photos which added the top row of keys was completed around ten years ago for sixty thousand euros.

Lots of air is required for the 70,000 or so pipes which create the sound. Older organs needed several people to pump air through the pipes with a type of bellows system while the organist played. More modern organs use electricity, but there are many which still require at least some manual pumping of air.

The typical path to becoming an organist, is to first learn the piano, but our friend and host learned the organ first and doesn't play the piano. The speed and strength used to push piano keys changes the sound, but organ keys only are on or off and require lots of pressure. Knowing the details of each instrument is important, but I think with a month or two of practice, she would be an excellent pianist too.

Yankee Doodle on the Organ

Testing out the Foot Pedals

Trying Piano Songs

The kids and I were hooked right away. We stayed and played for an hour and a half. Thanks so much Katrin.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Two-Digit Multiplication Game

Games make learning math fun, and the possibilities are endless. This multiplication game is a variation Shut The Box which teaches basic addition.

To play this two-digit multiplication game, all that's needed are some manipulatives that represent ones, tens and hundreds and some dice or cards. These units were made from card stock paper. To give the game a money twist, pennies, dimes and dollars can be used for units, as they represent ones, tens and hundreds.

Non-standard dice which contain more than six sides are best. Icosahedron shaped die contain the numbers 1-20, dodecahedron die contain the numbers 1-12 and octahedron die contain the numbers 1-8. If these are not available, paper can be taped to the faces of a standard die and marked with any desired numbers.

Be the first to get rid of units.

We began with 4 hundreds, 14 tens and 20 ones or a total of 560 units for each player.

Roll the dice, multiply the numbers and remove that number of units. The dice in the example above show 13x8. First 8 was multiplied by 3 (8x3) and the units were gathered and placed on one side of the dice. Next 10 was multiplied by 8 (8x10) and the units were placed on the other side. Finally all of the units were set aside.

This example shows 14 x 8. 32 Units are placed on one side for the one-digit multiplication, and 80 units are placed on the other for the tens.

This game is a fun way to introduce the concept of two digit multiplication. When playing we began with an eight-sided die and a twenty sided die. Then we switched the eight-sided die for a twelve-sided die. My daughter was excited to be able to get rid of more units.

Playing the game with money, it may be better to get the pennies, dimes and dollars from the bank, and the player with the highest amount at the end of six rounds is the winner.

Here's a list of excellent blog hops to get even more educational activity ideas.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tectonic Plate Activity for Kids

Week 25: We used crackers and cream cheese to show how tectonic plates move.

Volcanoes, earthquakes, mountains are all related through tectonic plates. Tectonic plates are in constant motion. They smash together, drift apart, slip beneath one another and sometimes crack. Whenever and wherever they move earthquakes occur. Volcanoes are formed by the magma seeping out anywhere it has an opportunity. Mountains form when two plates smash together and crumple raising the ground between them.

Quake!: Disaster in San Francisco, 1906 is a fictional story written for children. During the earthquake a young Jewish boy is separated from his family. Soon after the quake, he rescues and befriends a young Chinese boy. Together the two face discrimination, and feel the welcome of people from other backgrounds on their journeys to locate their families. It was an exciting book to read in conjunction with this activity.

Just days before the 1906 San Francisco earthquake a filmmaker from Chicago mounted a camera on a street car and set the car in motion while recording. The film captures the chaos of the busy city with horse drawn carriages, motor cars, street cars, few traffic rules, no cross walks and people everywhere.

There is a stark contrast between the above movie and this one which shows still photos of the earthquake damage.

Plate Tectonics Activity

Several blogs have detailed similar activities.
Studying Plate Tectonics at Life's Adventures
Earth Science: Plate Movements and Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Mountain Making at The Homeschool Den
How Mountains are Made at We Made That

Cream cheese (magma) was spread on a plate and two crackers (tectonic plates) were placed on the top.

Part 1

As the plates pushed together and one slipped beneath, magma between the plates was forced up. (Pacific Ring of Fire).

Part 2
This time the crackers were moistened with water so they would fold.

 As two plates crash into each other they fold and the ground raised between them. (Himalaya Mountains)

Stay tuned to Highhill Education. There are more volcano and plate tectonic activities coming in the next few weeks.

Here's a list of excellent blog hops to get even more educational activity ideas.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Botticelli Art Activity for Kids

Middle Ages Unit Study
Week 24: We created pictures in the round like Botticelli.

Botticelli was an Early Renaissance painter famous for his Madonnas and images of Greek Gods and Goddesses. He used perspective and his paintings have very detailed backgrounds. Like Giotto, Botticelli used egg yolk based paints. In Adoration of the Magi the crowd of people coming to visit the new baby was made up of people Botticelli knew. He even included himself in the painting. In Primavera and Birth of Venus, Botticelli used egg whites to highlight parts of the paintings.

Botticelli (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists) is a good book to read with children to learn more about Botticelli.

A Tondo is a circular painting over 2 ft in diameter. Since the work was round, the eye was always drawn to the center of the painting. This type of work became popular during the renaissance, and Botticelli was among the first to paint tondos.

To create our Tondo pictures, we used paper plates. Although they were not 2 ft in diameter, they were simple and convenient to create.

 Here's a list of excellent blog hops to get even more educational activity ideas.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Color Poems

We created color poems.

Last April during National Poetry Month Powol Packets hosted a poetry competition and each day of the month partner bloggers wrote about various poetry topics. Anna, a former teacher at The Measured Mom had a great idea for writing color poems with children. Although her idea was targeted at pre-schoolers, it worked so well that inspired my 7, 10 and 12 year old kids.

Before introducing The Measured Mom's technique, we read the poem Yellow from April Bubbles Chocolate, an ABC of Poetry. It is one of my favorite books of poetry to read with the kids because they can relate to the short poems and like the illustrations.

Yellow by David McCord
Green is go,
and red is stop,
and yellow is peaches with cream on top.

Earth is brown,
and blue is sky;
yellow looks well on a butterfly.

Clouds are white,
black, pink, or mocha;
yellow's a dish of tapioca.

Since my kids are a little older and always want to do things their own way, we didn't follow the instructions exactly.

First we picked a color and brainstormed items associated with the color. Then we thought about interesting descriptive words as suggested by The Measured Mom. In addition to this, we discussed adding alliteration, rhyme and/or rhythm to the color poems to make them even more interesting.

In total between the four of us seven poems were written. Here are some of the results.

Colors by my 7 year old daughter
White as eggs,
Yellow shoes,
Red tomatoes,
Pink balloons.

Green grass,
Blue Skies,
Purple grapes,
Orange butterfly.

Pink by my 12 year old daughter
Pretty pink pigs, cherry blossoms,
Rose quartz, strawberry quark,
but not opossoms

Wiggely, squiggely worms
Flippant flamingoes
Corals bursting with life along sunny ocean coves

Luscious light lillies,
Bubbly bubble gum,
Pearl the hedge hog, butterflies, and a dogwood blossum

Yellow by my 10 year old son
Juicy pineapple,
Jerky yellow squash,
Yellow is also sun so hot

Yellow caution, danger to go,
Butter is so nice and oily - yo!
Yellow, yellow, is more pretty than not

Vanilla the hedge hog is yellowish too

Pineapple, yellow squash and more -
Do not slam the yellow door!

Here's a list of excellent blog hops to get even more educational activity ideas.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Op Art for Kids

We created optical illusion artwork.

Op art is abstract art work that appears to contain movement, or plays tricks on the eye.

After watching this 5 minute tutorial on creating an Op Art picture, we tried it ourselves.

First circles and other simple shapes were lightly sketched on a sheet of paper.

Next the shapes were filled with curved lines which followed the shape of the object, and the background was filled with a grid.

Two complimentary colors were used to fill in the paper by alternating the colors.

The smaller the grid the longer it takes to color the paper. For young kids, a one inch grid is perfect.

I love the way the circles jump out of the paper and appear like balls.

 Here's a list of excellent blog hops to get even more educational activity ideas.
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