Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holiday Learning Fun

Here in Australia we had a decidedly Wet Christmas. There were lots of Christmas greetings orbiting around the web, but this one touched my heart - greetings to planet Earth from the crew on the International Space Station. One world - wouldn't it be great if we could all work together to look after it?

If you're on holidays and looking for some activities to do indoors that might sneak a little learning into your kid's lives, here are some Book Chook ideas:

Instigate a game of libraries! Encourage your kids to organize their books according to their own criteria. All the blue books together? Favourite books on the top shelf? Give each book a Dewey label? Younger children might establish a read aloud corner to share stories with their toys. Hopefully, this will result in your kids revisiting their older books, and spending time with new books they received as gifts. If you're all set for read o'clock, don't forget write o'clock too. Making reading and writing part of everyday life is great habit for kids to get into.

Christmas and New Year are ideal times to study other cultures. If it's dry/warm enough to go outside, why not check out your local library's books written for kids about different countries, their customs and ways of celebrating. Music is another element to add to your research, and also exposes kids to other languages. Here's a French lullaby to get you started.

For lots of families, Christmas means gifts received. Most parents want their kids to express gratitude for presents, but getting kids to write letters of thanks can be like extracting teeth! Why not try electronic cards as a solution? At easyhi, you can embed video, use photos as background, add animations and text. It's easy to do - you join up, confirm via email, and begin. If you want your kids to enthuse about writing thank yous for gifts, this might be just the way to get them started. And it's a great way to send snippets of your Christmas to distant loved ones.

Older kids might like to take a look at a new Scholastic site, You Are What You Read. People from all over the world who join the community are encouraged to share the five books that shaped their lives. I found this an interesting exercise to do as an adult. It's fascinating to not only choose the books but then state what they mean to you. What would your five books be?

Linking led me to the Reading Bill of Rights at Scholastic. This makes a great starting point to a discussion with your students, kids or workmates. Here's an excerpt:
WE BELIEVE that literacy – the ability to read, write and understand – is the birthright of every child in the world as well as the pathway to succeed in school and to realize a complete life. Young people need to read nonfiction for information to understand their world, and literature for imagination to understand themselves.
WE BELIEVE that the massive amounts of digital information and images now transmitted daily make it even more important for a young person to know how to analyze, interpret and understand information, to separate fact from opinion, and to have deep respect for logical thinking.
WE BELIEVE that literature and drama, whether on printed pages, screens, on stage or film, help young people experience the great stories of emotion and action, leading to a deeper understanding of what it means to be truly human. Without this literacy heritage, life lacks meaning, coherence and soul.
While you're in the discussing frame of mind, check out this blog post where Angela Maiers refers to a fellow who's advocating no fiction for school kids. Huh? Could it be like reverse psychology, that he thinks banning fiction will make reading more attractive? I don't know but I sure hope his idea doesn't catch on. Narrowing choice seems to me to be a sure-fire way to kill love of reading. It seems Scholastic agree with me, here's another quote from their Reading Bill of Rights: "...every child should be able to choose and own the books they want to read, for that choice builds literacy confidence – the ability to read, write and speak about what they know, what they feel, and who they are."

Are you interested in making videos with your kids but not sure where to start? Vimeo has a video school with lots of tutorials about video making like this one about how to import in iMovie. Why not use movie making software like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker to stitch together some of those family holiday snaps? If you're looking for an even simpler option, try PhotoPeach. Digital stories like this are a great way to get kids involved in communicating with an audience. The learning curve involves them in reading, writing, talking, listening and all sorts of critical and creative thinking. Best of all it's fun!

With Christmas over, lots of folks begin a giant clean-up, throwing out packaging, cards, boxes and wrapping. Stop! Why not have a giant craft-up instead? Challenge your kids to make villages, monsters, spaceships or cubbies by recycling junk. Don't forget all those catalogues. Grab some ideas from Turn a Catalogue into a Classroom.

I mentioned Isle of Tune in an earlier post. In case you missed it, I think it's a great online game for encouraging kids to experiment with making music.

Image credit E.E.Piphanies on Flickr


  1. I love the library idea- for me these holidays I'm going to teach my older Cherub to write her name. By 'I'm' I mean my mum...

  2. The Book Chook31 December, 2010

    That sounds like fun! I am picturing name writing with finger paint, letter blocks, play-do, and the joy of exploring all sorts of writing implements. Such an exciting time when we figure out how to represent that powerful symbol, a name!

  3. What a wonderful perspective it would be to see the earth as a whole like that.

    I like to have books in various places around the house so the kids see them, and read them often. Especially in holidays.

    I haven't been to a library for a while... I'll need to find the one closest to my new place and make it a monthly activity to do with Harrison. I'm really looking forward to spending this year with him!

  4. The Book Chook01 January, 2011

    Kelly, keeping books available like that is a fantastic idea! I knew I had piles of books and magazines on every surface for a reason. ;)

    I think visiting the library is a great idea for kids - it means there's lots of new books, and gives them a wider range of choices. Enjoy your precious time with your son!


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