I like to find fun ways to help N practice writing and spelling. I stumbled across a simple project that worked well, so I wanted to pass along the idea.

Both boys love “collecting” rocks. On our way to the park the other day, I gave the boys a zip lock bag for collecting rocks. I also needed to keep them busy for a few minutes while I finished getting ready, so I found some stickers for them to use to decorate their bags. J got some fish stickers but I ran across some letter stickers I’d forgotten about, so I gave those to N.


I suggested he put random letters on the bag or try to write words with the stickers. He wanted to write “N’s amazing rock collection” but settled for “rocks.” This simple activity spurred some great learning moments:


  • He sounded out the word and decided he needed the letters R O C. I asked what other letter made a “cah” sound and he remembered that K did. We talked about how English is a silly language because people a long time ago made it up by combining a lot of different rules and then they changed most of those rules, so here we are today using two letters that make the same sound to spell a simple word like Rock. He was okay with that.


  • He knew he needed to add an S but couldn’t explain why, so I reminded him that adding an S makes things plural. I’d never taught him this before, but he learned it somewhere.


  • He then wanted to spell his name, so he practiced sounding that out. The A sound seemed like it should be a U, so we talked about how vowels can be silly too and make all kinds of unexpected sounds.


  • His name has a TH combination, and he couldn’t think of what letter made that sound. I helped him compare it to words he already knew, like THE. It took several tries, but he remembered how to spell THE, so then it was easy for him to understand that TH is used to spell his name.


  • He mentioned that a S at the end of his name would mean that the rocks belonged to him. I don’t know where he learned this either, but I took the chance to confirm that he was right and re-explain the difference between plural and possessive S-endings.


  • 20170527_100131This activity lasted lasted a lot longer than I expected, so we brought the stickers and bag in the car with us. He got very distracted about halfway through his name and I found myself almost nagging him to finish. I had to stop and think about what I was doing. This was an activity I had just made up so there was no ultimate finish point we were aiming for that had to be reached. We had already had several great conversations about spelling rules and he had stuck with this for nearly half an hour. But still, could I let him just leave his name halfway finished? It was a surprisingly difficult dilemma for me! I wanted to push him to reach a finishing point that made sense to me, but he had reached a natural end to his curiosity and interest, so the vibe was changing and our dynamics had shifted from me helping him do something he wanted, to me forcing him to work to do something I wanted.


  • At what point is a piece of art/work finished? This moment was actually pretty representative of our entire homeschooling experience, so even though the project was relatively insignificant, the thought process seemed productive since I knew I’d need to figure out where I stood for future reference.


  • I ended up deciding to pick the letters for him and let him put them on the bag to finish his name. This only took another minute and I think we were both happy to see it completed. He then wanted to spell his middle and last name but I called it done at that point.


  • 20170527_130657We ended up using the bags for a scavenger hunt. I gave the boys ideas of things to find and they happily ran around the field in search of their treaures. We kept it simple since I need to brush up on plant terminology before I really go about teaching them the good stuff, but they were happy for now to find grass, sticks, pinecones, leaves, and such. This was also an unplanned adventure but worked out well in the spur of the moment.


20170527_130819So there’s a very long-winded expository on some spontaneous learning moments from an ordinary day :). It helps to reflect on why I’m making the decisions I do so that I can be more purposeful in my “teaching.” I’d love to hear about any experiences you’ve run across where you had to stop and think about why you would or would not “teach” in a certain way with your kids!





Math Resources for Teachers, Tutors, and Homeschooling Families:

If you’d like to see my own growing library of educational resources (mostly focused on math) for pre-K through high school students, you can visit my online store at: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Sandra-Balisky. You can read more about my new venture in this blog post here.

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