Archive for the ‘ Elementary ’ Category

Take a Virtual Field Trip of Scotland

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

Take a virtual field trip of Scotland inspired by Brave

This weekend’s release of the Disney-Pixar movie Brave exposes viewers to the rugged and mysterious Highlands of Scotland. If your kids are already fans of the movie, here’s how you can teach them more about the country that inspired the beautiful scenery in the movie with a virtual field trip.

Teach children where in the world Scotland is located.  Young kids will appreciate a three dimensional visual representation of Scotland on a globe while older children with an understanding of geography can easily understand a flap map.  Print out a map or use this interactive map of Scotland and mouse over the links that highlight various parts of the country.

Learn the history of Scotland’s many castles and take a virtual field trip of Eilean Donan.

Teach movie goers the meaning of the words and phrases used in the movie such as the following that were uttered by the characters:

  • Bunch of galoots- Many fools. A galoot is a clumsy, oafish person.
  • Dreadful collywobbles- Unwanted stomachache or a bad case of the nerves. Collywobbles means an upset stomach; intestinal disturbances or a feeling of apprehension.
  • Jiggery Pokery- Nonsense.
  • Jings crivens help ma boab- Oh my! An exclamation of bewilderment or exasperation
  • Lass- Girl
  • Lad- Boy
  • Mitchy me- An exclamation of surprise, shock or being overwhelmed.
  • Numpty- Useless individual

Try your hand at archery like Merida through the Ultimate Archery Challenge, a fun interactive game on

If you’re wondering whether Brave is right for your children, visit Common Sense Media’s review and read how Amy Mascott of prepared her kids to see the movie.

Ruins of Dunnotar castle, Scotland via Shutterstock. BRAVE Scottish Glossary courtesy of Disney-Pixar.

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Harry Potter Themed Games Debut at E3 for Fall Release

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Last week the gaming community assembled in Los Angeles for E3, the Electronics Entertainment Expo that served as the industry’s opportunity to take a look at the much anticipated game titles and systems that will be out this fall and in the near future.  The event brought together tens of thousands of attendees from all over the country and world for three days where Disney-like lines formed for the chance to try the latest video games. Companies such as Ubisoft, Sony, Nintendo, Activision, EA, Sega, Capcom, and more provided sensory experiences designed to immerse attendees in the games.

What new family games and new gaming experiences can you expect to see this fall and throughout the holiday season?

Sony unveiled their new Wonderbook and the first title, Book of Spells.  This Playstation Move family title represents a collaboration between Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling, to bring immerse young Muggles into the wizarding world in the comfort of their own homes.  Wonderbook uses augmented reality where a physical object is required for game play with the PlayStation and PlayStation Move controllers.

PlayStation Book of Wonder transports children to Hogwarts through game play

Sitting on the floor or couch, the camera associated with the PlayStation Move recognizes the child and the book but the technology transforms the ordinary physical book into a spell book on the screen akin to what Harry, Ron, and Hermione might use in their Hogwarts classes.  Using the PlayStation Move controller, players engage in various tasks to learn proper wand usage before tackling challenges that Potter fans will recognize from the books.

Continuing with the Harry Potter theme, Xbox with Kinect owners will enjoy the new Harry Potter for Kinect. With your body as the controller, Harry Potter for Kinect immerses players in challenges that require whole body movement.  Those who have always wanted to play Quidditch will love mounting a broom and flying as Harry as he takes on the Slytherins in a Quidditch match.  Game play is fun and easy for the whole family as your body serves as the controller.  Lean left or right to turn and follow the golden path around the stadium, side jabs at Draco Malfoy help to throw him off your shoulder as he tries to interfere, and when you spot that Golden Snitch, simply reach out to grab it to win the match.

Image courtesy of Sony PlayStation.


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Free Printables for Summer Learning from Trusted Names in Education

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

With school winding down and summer starting, families often look towards vacations rather than how to keep kids’ minds active during June, July, and August. “Parents are the first line of defense when it comes to preventing summer learning loss and supporting their children’s education when school is out,” said Jennifer Peck, Executive Director of the nonprofit Partnership for Children and Youth that is spearheading the Summer Matters Campaign. “Fortunately, there are plenty of free and easy ways to engage children in enriching summer learning activities that will help them start the new school year successfully.”

Workbooks, and summer packets sent home from school are helpful but where can you go if you don’t have materials that are just right for your preschool and early elementary learners?   Through Summer Matters, parents can access a downloadable PDF titled  Prevent Summer Learning Loss & Support Your Child’s Summertime Learning for helpful tips about keeping kids engaged.

One tip from Summer Matters suggests that parents ask their children’s teachers to recommend online educational worksheets and free downloadable activities.  PBS Kids and toy manufacturer, Melissa & Doug, have a wealth of free materials that are not only fun but highly educational. Here are additional details about learning activities geared towards ages 4-9.

iVillage PBS KIDS Summer Reading Community Challenge

For the third year in a row, PBS is providing children and families with fun and educational content across platforms that include free literacy-building resources and daily activity assignments delivered by email that correspond with summer programming on PBS Kids as well as downloadable apps and video content. The iVillage PBS Kids Summer Reading Community Challenge runs from June 18 to July 27 and features 10 weeks of themed programming.  Starting June 4, free episode downloads, video playlists and other downloadable content will also be available on iTunes.

Melissa and Doug’s Camp Sunny Patch

Toy creators Melissa & Doug recognize that parents are looking for affordable activities for their children and created Camp Sunny Patch as a way to create low-cost, creative activities for kids for the entire summer. The weekly activities from Camp Sunny Patch are a great way to include learning in a creative way throughout the summer.  Parents can print and post monthly calendars from the Melissa & Doug blog or get a preview of each month’s activities via email. Each week parents can download a session guide for additional details of the activity ideas, games, crafts and more. The Melissa & Doug blog also features printable camp badges while optional camp-themed surprises will be available throughout the summer on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Two brothers in the park reading a book together via Shutterstock

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5 Disney Themed Learning Activities

Monday, May 21st, 2012

If you’re planning a vacation to Walt Disney World, chances are your kids are pretty excited about your upcoming trip.  Seize upon their excitement to sneak in a little learning. Kids will be highly motivated to complete activities involving their favorite characters or to learn more about the parks. Here are 5 wonderful websites that contain free printables and tutorials that can help you integrate learning into your upcoming Disney vacation.

  • Earlier this month, Disney launched their Spoonful site that serves as a wealth of free content available for kids of all ages on a daily basis. Visitors can always browse through the tabs- cook, create, play, and celebrate- or subscribe via email to keep up to date with the changing content.  The printables section is where to find Disney themed coloring pages that are perfect for preschoolers who are practicing fine motor skills like how to hold a pencil or crayon and coloring.  Older children will enjoy helping with Disney themed cooking activities that serve as a way to practice math and reading by having to measure ingredients and practicing sequencing to add them in the right order.
  • Creating a countdown paper chain out of paper rings not only provides younger kids with a very concrete visual about the number of days left until your trip but also gives them practice in counting backwards. has a free PDF with numbers on one side and trivia on the other to integrate a little math and reading into your pre-vacation excitement or create your own. Cut colorful strips of construction paper and have your kids practice patterning (another math skill) to create your paper chain.
  • Visit your local craft store to assemble supplies to make your own Disney autograph book. You could purchase one in-park but save yourself some money and have fun making your own with thanks to the tutorial on Juliverse.  Labeling the book with your name and address in case it get lost not only ensure that it will find its way back to you but is a way for children to practice knowing and writing their name and address.
  • Teach your kids fun facts about the parks before you leave.’s Amy Mascott created free Disney trivia printable lunchbox notes with fun facts to teach your kids a little park trivia.  Cut out the strips and put them in your child’s lunch box for a little meal time trivia or print, cut, and place in a basket on your dinner table to read them together as a family.
  • TeachMama also has free printable word searches available based on Disney characters and one for each of the following parks: Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Magic Kingdom. These are a wonderful way to help kids practice word recognition amid the excitement over their Disney vacation.

 Mickey Mouse at a benefit screening via Shutterstock

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3 Tips for Teaching Your Child to Type

Monday, April 16th, 2012

These days my fingers fly over the keys thanks to years of practice but touch typing used to be a struggle for me like it is for many kids.  Whenever one of my students would comment in awe of my typing speed I’d always say, “Would you believe that I once got a C- in typing class in middle school?”

“Practice makes perfect,” I would tell my shocked students, recalling sitting in my middle school typing class and trying to remember the placement of the keys to avoid mistakes in our daily practice.

With 26 letters randomly placed on the keyboard, typing without looking at the keys is no easy task for smaller hands whose fingers can’t easily reach the keys in the first place.  The practice of hunting and pecking is a laborious one and makes word processing a tedious task. These days typing is sometimes included in school computer curriculum but it never hurts to provide additional opportunities to practice at home.

Here are three easy things that you can do to assist your child with their typing skills:

Allow your child to practice typing as much as possible.  Writing stories on the computer, sending emails to the grandparents or a pal up the street, or even typing on your smartphones keyboard helps to familiarize your child with the placement of the different letters and punctuation marks on a keyboard.

Include typing practice into screen time.  You can certainly purchase typing software but why not take advantage of the BBC’s free online Dance Mat Typing.  With 12 stages, lessons are broken down into manageable chunks and designed to be fun for elementary ages at no cost.  If you’re looking to purchase a program, our school system always used Type to Learn 3.

Be patient.  Luckily my parents weren’t upset about that C- about typing because they realized that typing is not only developmental, but also a skill that comes with repeated practice.

Man typing on a keyboard via ShutterStock

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