Friday, October 31, 2014

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Unit

Over the course of the last couple of weeks, the kiddos and I have read through the book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling.  Dinomite absolutely LOVED it.  Bulldozer appeared to be in his own world most of the time, as I was reading, but as it turns out, he was paying attention, and thoroughly liked the book as well.  Princess enjoyed some parts of the book, but definitely struggled with some of the scarier sections.  Still, over all she enjoyed the novel.

Once we were finished with the book, I couldn't resist designing a unit study to go with it.  There was just one little hiccup.  My computer died, and I couldn't make printables.  I'm very pleased to say that after A LOT of work, and a complete revamp of our computer, I'm back up and running, but for this unit, I had to make due with what I had on hand.  I had several other activity plans in mind to include in this unit, but without the ability to create printables, it just wasn't possible.  Though I was disappointed about this, my kiddos didn't notice it at all. It turns out this unit is one of their very favorites.  They begged to do learning time activities every day this week.  I do see future Harry Potter books and units in our future.  Hopefully the computer won't crash next time, and I can include the fun printables I had wanted to.  Moving on to what we did this week...
 This post contains affiliate links.

Magic Mirror Spelling
The Mirror of Erised showed people what they desired most.  During learning time, our mirror showed kiddos how to read and spell words.

To make the cards for this activity, write a word on a card or piece of paper.  Hold it up to a mirror.  Note that it's backwards.  Using something to write with, copy the backward image on another card.  This will be the card you use for the activity. When you hold the backward word card up to the mirror, the word will appear correct.

Once the kiddos could see the word and correct spelling in the mirror, they were asked to write it on the mirror.  I chose VERY easy words so that all could read them.  After they wrote the word, they could draw a picture also.

Taking the activity a step further, I provided a tray with a rag and glass cleaner, so they could clean the mirror off, preparing the activity for the next person when they finished.

Potion Fractions
 It's one thing to try making potions, but yet another to count how many times they work.  In this activity the kiddos keep track of how many times their potions explode into magical colors.  Once they've tried every cauldron, they choose the fraction that best fits their trial and error process.

To prep this activity I poured vinegar into some cauldrons and water in others.  Then I added a few drops of food coloring, making it a little more fun.  The kiddos scooped baking soda out of a container and added a heaping teaspoon to each cauldron.  Those with vinegar exploded with color.  Those with water did not.

Phases of the Moon with Oreos
 We've done this activity before on a few occasions, but it never hurts to review, especially when applicable.  It's mentioned in the book that Harry had to study Astronomy at Hogwarts.

Source:  The free printable for this activity can be found at Noon Janan Homeschool.

Planet Nomenclature Cards
 Once again, we've done this activity before, but I thought it a perfect time to review.  I find learning about the planets so fascinating.

Source: The free printable for this activity can be found at The Helpful Garden.

Star Constellations with Marshmallows & Toothpicks
 Learning about astronomy wouldn't be complete without reviewing some constellations.  This activity has always been favorite!

Source:  The free printable for this activity can be found HERE.  I originally saw the printable at Counting Coconuts.

Mixing Potions
 This activity combines practical life and science.  It was by far, one of the most favorite activities on the shelves this week and boy did it STINK!  Surprisingly the kiddos did okay with this, as they remembered the book mentioning that Snape's potion lab also smelled quite horrible.  I on the other hand had to try not to gag each time someone doing the activity.

There were many purposes in designing this activity the way I did.  Besides practice with scooping and pouring, it was a review on liquid density.  It was also an introduction to solutions and mixtures.

The kiddos were asked to invent their own potions using the materials provided.  I purposely made sure that they did not know what any of the ingredients were, so that they would have to discover for themselves which ingredient did what.  Little did I know exactly what this combination of ingredients could do.  There were sparkling layers that bubbled and fizzed and exploded.  It was FABULOUS!

So what did I use?  Only what I had in my kitchen.  Liquids included Raspberry Wine Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar, Sesame Seed Oil, Molasses, Water, and Canola Oil.  White powder ingredients included Baking Soda, Baking Powder, Sugar, Flour, & Salt.

The activity was definitely worth the smell!

Visual Arts:
Making Magic Wands
 As we've been reading the first Harry Potter book, the kiddos have all asked for magic wands at one point or another.  I was thrilled to find a fabulous way to pull this off at minimal cost.  The kiddos all chose sticks out in the yard for their wands.  This week we painted them and sprinkled them with glitter.

Source:  I discovered this activity on the Kids Activity Blog

Practical Life/Sensorial:
Practice with Keys & Locks
 Finding the right key is a big deal for Harry Potter.  I thought we'd practice too.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Sensory Bin
When asking Dinomite what he wanted included in this unit, he immediately said he wanted a Harry Potter Sensory Bin.  He even went so far as creating Harry Potter, a Dumbledore, and a few other characters out of LEGO parts for me.  It's hard to see the contents of the bin in the picture, so I'll list as many as I can remember:  Rice base with a few black beans for color, red, blue, green, gold, silver, and black beads to represent the colors of each house at Hogwarts, mascots for each house at Hogwarts, an award cup to represent the house cup, owl, toad, and mice figures, jelly beans to represent Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, and liquid test tubes for making potions.  The bin has been a big hit.  Hopefully over time, as we read more of the books I can add new contents to the bin.

Tonight, as part of our Halloween celebration, the kiddos will be having a witches and wizards feast by candlelight, just like at Hogwarts, with hats and all.  Afterward, they'll watch the first Harry Potter movie for the first time, most likely skipping over the scariest parts.  ;)  They couldn't be more excited.

We did have other activities on our shelves this week, but I'll be saving those for another post, as they were not related to our unit theme.

Next week we'll be continuing with our Witches and Wizards Unit with Wizard of Oz themed activities. We're almost finished reading the book.  I'm amazed at how different it is from the movie.  It should be quite interesting to put it all together into activities.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Unit for Tots & Preschoolers w/ Free Printables

This post may contain affiliate links.

After almost a week of having no computer, I'm back online and so excited to finally share our newest units and activities!  The kiddos are having SO MUCH FUN!  Sunshine is doing such a great job with every activity!  Here's what's on her shelves:

C is for Cat 
 Sunshine places the black jewels on the "C" in the appropriate places using her fingers.  It has surprised me how challenging this task is for her. I'm not sure if it's due to vision problems or hand and eye coordination, still she's loving it and gets so excited when she completes the task.

Source: I created the printable for this activity as part of my Halloween Unit for Tots & Preschoolers Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Halloween Themed Living vs. Nonliving
 Halloween can be so confusing for little ones, especially with so many characters and themes.  Here Sunshine will sort pictures cards, placing them under the correct heading card.

Source: I created the printable for this activity as part of my Halloween Unit for Tots & Preschoolers Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Searching for Black Cats
 Sunshine is obsessed with cats and dogs, so I tried to focus on cats in as many activities as I could throughout her Halloween Unit.  I've hidden 10 plastic black cats in the ball of play dough.  Her job is to pull apart the play dough to find them all.  This is a fabulous muscle strengthening activity for hands and fingers.  Plus, it provides great sensory input.  Once she's found all of the cats, we count them together.  She's coming along so well with her numbers.  If you're wondering where I found the cats, they were part of a Halloween table scatter set at Pier One Imports.  I have always found such great manipulatives in the table decor section of so many stores.

Halloween Color Sorting
 The craft store had these adorable Halloween felt figures, I couldn't resist picking up. I love the colors of them and the large sizes.  Sunshine loves them too.  She's having so much fun sorting Halloween items by color.  I've included all sorts of different items we had on hand from years past, with all sorts of textures provide a great sensory experience for her.
I think my favorite part about watching her do this activity is how particular she is about where she puts each item.  When placing black items on the cat, she'll say, "And now we'll put this on it's tail..."  etc.  It's super cute.  She's so great at sorting.  Sunshine may not know many of her colors yet, but she can always match things up!

I must say, I can't wait to do a Christmas version of this activity in December!

Pumpkin Transfer Activity
 Sunshine is doing so well with transferring items using tools.  She still has to really concentrate when working with them but her accuracy is definitely improving.  In this activity she picks up the Halloween balls and places them in the pumpkin slots provided.  It's more challenging than it looks as the balls are very light.  If she presses too hard, they all go flying.  Lol.  I've provided different colors in hopes it will help with color identification.

Halloween Sensory Bin
Sunshine has been asking for a new sensory bin, so I put this together for her. It includes Halloween glitter balls, foam pumpkins, spider webs, and spiders, large foam cats and friendly spiders, and Halloween erasers.  She loves going through the bin picking out and identifying all the different Halloween characters.

For those interested in the printables, click on the link below:

We're still playing a little catch up around here, so I'm unsure what Sunshine's activity theme will be next week.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Liebster Award

I am so excited to announce that Every Star Is Different has been nominated for the Liebster Award!  What is that exactly?  It's an award that's all about love for new and upcoming blogs.  Most importantly, and most flattering, I was nominated by one of my readers!  Thank you Laura!  I am so honored to accept.

Laura's blog has some fabulous hands-on activities for preschoolers.  Her posts have so much detail.  The ideas are great!  If you haven't visited My Bright Firefly yet, please do!

When accepting the Liebster Award, I'm asked to link back to the nominating blog, nominate at least 5 other new and upcoming blogs, share eleven random facts about myself, answer 11 questions Laura has prepared for me, create 11 questions for my nominees to answer, and contact my nominees to congratulate them and let them know they've been nominated.

I hope it's okay that I made my random facts a little more entertaining than expected.  Yes, I'm a Mommy to four special needs kiddos. Yes, I'm an educational blogger.  But, there's so much more to me than that, and it's fun to remember what life was like before all this. I hope you enjoy!  And in case you're wondering, I do have witnesses to verify every single one of these facts. ;)

11 Random Facts about Renae
1.  I obtained a boater's license and my first boat at age 11.
2.  My passion for computers and Microsoft Publisher (where I make all of my printables) started in 7th grade when I was nominated to be editor and chief of our middle school newspaper and taught by my technology teacher, Mr. Freitag, my mentor for years afterward.
3.  While in middle school, my family ran an ice business.  Each night, after dinner, during the Spring, Summer, and Fall,  I would head to the ice house to help my dad bag blocks and bars of ice.  We'd then bale 60 lb. bags of cubes, and stack them in the freezer.
4.  In high school, I was president of my class, president of our student council, and took AP courses. Yes, I was that type of girl.
5.  In my ninth grade year of high school, a classmate committed suicide in an effort to escape bullying.  As president of the class at the time, I was asked by my principal, to write a letter of condolence to the classmate's parents and hand deliver it to them, in their home, along with the American flag from the school, they'd requested, before the funeral.  I don't think I'll ever forget that experience.
6.  My high school class was known as the "Cursed Class of 2000."  Each year of our high school career classmates died.  Three of them died in car accidents.  Two of them died in car accidents in the same location.  The last to die was a surviving passenger of the second car accident just a month or two before.  The first to die in a car accident was one of my dearest friends.
7.  At 19, my best friend and I hitch hiked while in Las Vegas, Nevada.  This is one of those "What was I thinking?" memories, but still a fun one.
8.  While in college, I worked at a funeral home helping with removals, visitations/calling hours, funerals and more.  I LOVED this experience!
9.  While I was on a cruise ship to the Bahamas with a friend during my college years, the first mate of the ship, who happened to be from Greece, fell madly in love with me.  So much that he continued to call me, write me, and later propose marriage to me.  (In case you're wondering, I didn't marry him.)
10.  My husband and I eloped.
11.  I am addicted to popcorn.

Laura's Questions to Me:
1.  What one word sums up the heart of your blog and why?
Success.  My blog is documentation of all that I've taught my children.  When I look at each post and picture, I see my kiddos being successful in their learning.  The activities I create are specifically for them, to help them grow, learn, and develop into the most successful people they can be.

2.  What is the story behind your blog's name?
Every Star Is Different is the name of one of my favorite children's songs.  The words were written by John C. Cameron.  The music was written by K. Newell Dayley.  The piece was arranged by K. Newell Dayley.  I couldn't think of a better name for the documentation of my four very different shining stars. When I started blogging, I did not anticipate others following my units and activities. When I realized that my blog was becoming popular, and decided to make it a professional endeavor, I was able to contact the correct people and obtain permission to keep the name.

If you'd like to listen to the song, click HERE.

3.  What post have you written are you most proud of?
It may sound silly, I'm most proud of my Free Printables page.  The post took months to put together, as I had to go back and create collages, and update printable links for every unit I'd done with the kiddos.  When it was finished, I had a page that included every single unit I'd ever put together.  It was amazing to see all I had created and taught.  Looking at the pictures while making collages, brought back so many enjoyable memories I have with my children.

4.  What is your favorite aspect of blogging?
I love connecting with people from all over the world.  In my eyes it helps make the world a better place, where we're all working towards the same goals, share the same love, and want what's best for each other.  After all, this is how I started working with Anastasia from Montessori Nature.  Who would have thought I'd have a partner, who lives on a completely different continent?  I can't imagine life without her now.

5.  What is your favorite way to treat yourself?
On Friday nights, I take time to myself, and watch the newest episodes of my favorite shows, Parenthood and Grey's Anatomy.  More often than not, I'm eating popcorn too.

6.  What do you like most about the area you live at?
There are two things I absolutely love about where we live.  One, we are blessed to have amazing doctors and specialists for our kiddos all within an hour radius of our home.  I don't know what we'd do without them.  Second, behind our home is the most beautiful and well cared for cemetery.  Some may think that it's freaky to live so close to a cemetery.  Others may joke about our quiet neighbors, but I LOVE having the cemetery so close.  The kiddos and I take walks there almost daily.  There is so much history there.  And on a personal note, I find cemeteries to be such spiritual places.

7.  Your dream vacation, mountain hideaway or a beach house?
I would prefer a mountain hideaway any day.

8.  What's your favorite book?
Such a hard question...  As much as I LOVE to read, the only time I get a chance to read much of anything is when I'm in the bathroom.  Lol.  Since my kiddos have been born, this is pretty much limited to magazine articles, as they're short and quick.  But other than that, I'd have to say my scriptures are my all time favorite books.  They're the only books I've read more than a few times, and make time to read and study on a daily basis.

9.  Hot chocolate or coffee?
Neither.  I'm a hot apple cider kind of girl.

10.  Early bird or night owl?
Definitely a night owl and always have been.

11.  Which project or idea on my blog would you be most likely to try yourself?
I'm all about fine motor and sensory activities.  I love the picture of your Halloween Fine Motor Activities, and also your Halloween Sensory Bin Round Up.

Thank you again to Laura for nominating me for this award.  I'll be nominating five other new and upcoming blogs and asking them 11 questions I've prepared.

1.  Why did you start your blog?
2.  What are some of your favorite blogs to read and follow?
3.  What do you listen to when you're blogging?
4.  What's the story behind your blog name?
5.  What do you do to take care of yourself on a regular basis?
6.  What do you like to do in your spare time (besides blogging)?
7.  What makes you smile?
8.  What have you done today to show someone you love them?
9.  Who inspires you to be the best person you can be?
10.  What makes you laugh?
11.  What makes blogging worth it?

More details about the nominees coming soon!
Comments and questions are always welcome!