Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mexico (North America Unit)

Most of this unit focused on Mexico.

General Mexico

  • We colored our map from this book noting landforms as specified in the Core Knowledge Sequence/Baltimore Lesson Plans for First Grade May. Note: there are tons of free maps available online so this coloring book wasn’t a must but it’s cheap enough that I felt when I factored in the computer printing costs (each map includes information, map, and a flag of the country) I was better off purchasing.

  • We reviewed and elaborated on the history including the Aztecs/conquistadors/Spanish rule and how that blend of cultures influences the people even today. We talked about the eventual war for independence from Spain. I could not find "my kid appropriate" videos for this area so as I did the first time through I told them in story form myself.

  • Activity: We made a flag using construction paper and a coloring page image (free online) for the center part.

People and Culture

We looked at the entry in our Children Just Like Me for Mexico.

We covered topics specified in the Core Knowledge Sequence and the Baltimore lesson plans-specifically Cinco de Mayo, traditional clothing, piñatas, and siesta. I covered Cinco de Mayo because it is in the Core Knowledge sequence and celebrated in the United States even though in most areas of Mexico it is not widely celebrated. We did talk about the Mexican Independence Day being more significant in Mexico itself. If I were planning this unit all again I might just tie the fiesta concepts and celebrations of Independence Day in Mexico in with the literature I selected for this unit.

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo video

Sesame Street video with film of celebration and we get to see traditional clothing in this video as well.

That video led us into discussing traditional clothing (I made a coloring page using an image I “grabbed” from google image searches. The book Uncle Nachos Hat is suggested in these plans for exploring the traditional clothing and I’m suspecting it’s good if your library has it. He suggests other books as well including Hill of Fire that I used later in my plans. These plans would make a nice unit actually. I just didn’t find them in time!

We also talked about fiestas and the piñata. My kids are familiar with those from birthday parties and the like but I still showed a picture.
note: Diego Rivera has artwork of children with a piñata that might work nicely here though I decided to keep it with our art appreciation day instead.

Activity for today:
We made miniature piñatas and hung them up as decorations.

Art: Diego Rivera and Murals

I showed his piñata picture and showed and discussed this section of one of his murals.
This is a video of the mural in Mexico City that shows the, well, impressive size of it. I muted as it’s better without the environmental sounds.
This is a video about architecture in Mexico City but includes a lot about Rivera specifically and his murals which is a Core Sequence curriculum art objective. I stopped at his house in the last bit of this video as beyond wasn’t considered appropriate content for me but that was very little of the video. I still showed most as it gave a nice view of Mexico City and the value of murals in that city and culture.

Art Activity:
Make a mural in his style--the art lesson in these lesson plans is good. We will use magazine and clipart pictures for our murals along with their additions.

We read the Legend of the Poinsettia from Mexico which we have in a book by Tomie de Paola but there are many variations available online and, of course, many other stories if this one won’t work for a family. Here are a couple of free online versions and there are more.

We completed a Poinsettia fan craft.

We talked about and "experienced" the Christmas La Posada celebration as outlined in this lesson.

We hung our poinsettia decorations on our ceiling with the piñatas and crafts we’ve done in our bible this week.

Alternative Literature Idea without Christmas themes
I planned this and then decided to save it for a science unit we’ll be completing later in the year. I’m including it here though as it also works in a Mexico unit covering the Paricutin Volcano. I intended to use this video of the Hill of Fire book that includes footage of an active volcano and volcano information that is very good.
This website has information about the Paricutin volcano

And, of course, we’ll make a volcano!

Music Lesson

First we made maracas (well, maraca like things anyway with cups and beans-there are lots of easy to make plans for various types of maracas online) to use while dancing and listening to the music.

Music covered was that listed in the Core Knowledge Baltimore lesson Plans. I used the following videos for the music:
La Cucha Racha
The Mexican Hat Dance

Before playing the Mexican Hat Dance we learned the steps as outlined here and in the Baltimore Lesson Plans for May Music (or at least we tried to!) and made a sombrero .
The Baltimore plans have a nice craft idea in the May first grade lesson plans for making tissue paper flowers and there are lots of instructions online too. If I had girls I would have likely done that instead of the sombrero. They look pretty. I might have done it anyway but I was overloaded with crafts this unit as it was.

Mexico games and crafts

Here is a list of some games played in Mexico.

  • I introduced our poetry of the week this day which was the Rope Rhyme by Eloise Greenfield (jump rope games in Mexico tied it into this lesson). That site has a lot of nice poems to use for poetry studies.
  • We clapped to the rhythm of the rhyme to simulate the sound of the rope hitting the ground while one child jumped on our mini trampoline and then switched guys as jumping rope wouldn’t work well with my two.

  • We talked about crafts in Mexico (a google image search will usually bring up pictures of the ones mentioned in the curriculum) and made some pretty crafts called papel picado per the instructions in the Baltimore Core Knowledge Lesson Plans.
  • We made palm trees as well because one of my two has been wanting to make them since we started Mexico. At any rate, we have been hanging all the crafts we’ve made with this unit to the ceiling and when we added today’s crafts it looks really festive! The boys are thrilled to see “their decorations” hanging.
  • I mentioned in another post that we use the Day by Day Devotions by Karyn Henley as our bible during the week. Since the first week is available online as a sample I will mention that Thursday’s Elijah lesson with the hide and seek activity worked really well with this lesson. It also gives me a chance to say again how much I love and appreciate her materials!
Eating authentic Mexican food "out" would be such a nice way to end the unit. We have a significant Hispanic population here so that would be easy to do if it weren’t for food allergies. We had to make due with what could be made here free of my son's allergies. It was still fun.

Final note: I had to cut out so much in planning this unit to fit it into the time I felt we could spend. I understand how and why people spend an entire year studying countries!

North America Unit--General

North America
The bulk of this unit was about Mexico but we began with a short bit on North America in general.

  • We viewed a map of North America noting the countries involved and I printed a blank North America map to color as well.
  • We briefly looked a little closer at those countries that touch the US focused on Mexico in this unit (post to follow) given we’re studying Spanish and the Core Knowledge Sequence covers Mexico in first grade.

United States

  • National Anthem
  • We viewed some Norman Rockwell artwork here for prints or here for video and talked about what we would draw or paint to portray life here.
  • We looked at a couple of the US entries in a book we have Children Just Like Me and discussed how their daily life paintings might look different than ours.
  • We’ll be covering a lot of United States in history, art, and music lessons this year so this seemed more than sufficient for now.


  • We looked at the map and discussed the country information in our Around the World Coloring Book. There are plenty of maps available free online as well. I found a lot of great stuff for Inuit people but we’re exploring that culture in a later unit.
  • Video
  • Then the National Anthem and Flag.
  • Make a flag using red construction paper and a print out of a Canadian Flag Coloring Page (widely available for free) for the center portion.
  • Recipes
  • Lots of good Canada information on a variety of topics tailored to kids.
The bulk of this unit was about Mexico so I am making a blog post specifically for Mexico.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Continued Unit on Seasons and Warm/Cool Colors

Every day has reading, math, handwriting, memory work, etc. for the core areas. I gave an overview of what do daily here. In this blog I am just going to be linking things I used for the Core Knowledge Sequence and related parts of my weekly plans in case it can help someone else following those plans.

NOTE: We had started this unit previously and I linked some detail in this post. This is a continuation of that beginning to the unit.

Picture Study for this week:

Henri Matisse, Interior, Flowers, Parakeets (1924)

Mary Cassatt, Portrait of a Little Girl

These selections gave me a chance to review warm and cool colors this week. It was also easy to tie warm/cool colors into talk of the seasons so it worked out nicely. We talked about the artists and time periods but basically just discussed the use of color and what we noticed, thought, and felt.

Day 1—Fall overview and leaf collection.

We talked about deciduous vs. evergreen trees and collected a variety of leaves for identification and rubbings.

I could have made “leaf people” by gluing the leaves to paper but I didn’t want to have the leaves in my house indefinitely and artwork is “forever” here so we stuck with the rubbings.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was used for our music appreciation this week and last. Youtube has tons of videos for them. Here is an example for Autumn.

Day 2—Winter overview including wind.

We talked about wind and made an anemometer as we discussed how wind speed is measured. I used this site for my lesson planning and directions.

We read the Poem I Do Not Mind You Winter Wind by Jack Perlutsky as specified and included in the Art for December in the Baltimore Lesson Plans.

We listened to a waltz from youtube and enjoyed the music by “skating” around on wax paper. It was fun and great exercise though not particularly educational! I read up that there is some controversy about the man in the world of classical music. But what joy it was to watch them and listen. Fun!

We did listen to Vivaldi’s Winter as well via youtube but it wasn’t great to “skate” with hence the waltz!

Day 3—Spring including Rain

We talked about spring and rain particularly.

We watched a free Magic School bus video about the Water Cycle Note that there is a Bill Nye one as well on the same site but my kids are more a fan of The Fritz right now! The Magic Schoolbus books are wonderful and we are using those for the ones I own in our science units. However, the free videos are saving me money or interlibrary loan headache and the boys really love them.

We made “rain in a jar” illustrating the water cycle.

We didn’t use them due to limited time but here are some other science ideas to go with this topic!

We talked about the idiom “Raining Cats and Dogs” today.

Day 4—Rainbows

Poem— April Rain Song by Langston Hughes

We watched a Magic Schoolbus video about Rainbows.

If there was sun we were going to make a rainbow with a hose outside but, alas, it rained!

We made watercolor pictures of rain scenes or rainbows listening to Vivaldi’s Spring via youtube.

Note: Schoolastic has a color mixing/Rainbow activity that would have been nice but we didn’t need that type of activity right now.

Day 5—The House on Pooh Corner Literature Day

I found videos of extremely well done audio recordings of this book with the illustrations. I selected a few specific chapters because we focused on characters and completed a character map but I definitely included Chapter Nine—In Which Piglet is Entirely Surrounded by Water! The recordings include 10 chapters and are wonderful and worth checking out even if you have the book in my opinion! I used free character map printable worksheets.

Our Curriclum For First Grade

Daily review of phonograms and daily reading to work on fluency. We'll add formal spelling when reading is solid. I wanted to share a free formal spelling program and the free phonics program I found also includes spelling for K-2.

Leftover from last year RightStart math, free MEP math, and materials I find particularly helpful for my math struggling child like this on number parts/bonds and a lot more. Actually, I need to make a post of all the neat math sites I've found soon!


I’m using Karyn Henley Bible materials with the boys. I really love her materials. This year we're doing Day by Day Hope for Kids Devotions Daily and her 1st Grade Foundations curriculum as a family on the week-end. These are one of the few things I purchased for this year and I believe they are worth every penny.

Chapter Book Read Alouds and Narrations:

We are reading and narrating one or two chapters of a read-aloud book each day except on literature day in the plans. Here are some narration ideas.

We just finished The Adventurers of Chatterer the Red Squirrel this week and began Squanto: Friend of Pilgrims in anticipation of our upcoming history units.
While we read lots of picture books as well I only enjoy reading one chapter book at a time. My boys really love audio stories and so they also listen to audio chapter book recordings we get from interlibrary loan. They are listening to The Trumpet of the Swan the last few days and we’ve already enjoyed so many wonderful books. This allows us to cover more great literature even as I find that moving more slowly through our personal read alouds lets us sink into those books in an especially meaningful way.

Memory Work, Handwriting, Poetry:
Our memory work is a weekly bible verse. Handwriting is copywork. Poetry will be weekly and I'm doing an idiom of the week too as my spectrum child especially could use a little direct instruction in that area!


We sing kid songs together most days and also do weekly classical music exposure (this week Vivaldi Seasons) or more formal music appreciation/study specified in the Core Knowledge Sequence.

Science/History/Geography/Art/Formal Music/Formal Literature:
We’re using the free for download Core Knowledge Sequence especially the Baltimore Lesson Plans as our spine outside of the above basics. I found much of what I needed for this curriculum free online. I’m doing sort of a mix of things using those materials. I organized them into science units, history units, and geography units. I planned formal literature, art, and formal music as weekly lessons. For the art I added hands on artwork to the topics the Baltimore lesson plans used for art study as needed so there is something to “do” every week. I didn’t think to save my sources for the art activities but I will try to find them again as I go.

I used the lesson plans as a foundation though I found I had to add a lot to history and art particularly to make it engaging and memorable.

We are really enjoying this curriculum. I'm pleased and amazed to find all of this is available for free.

History Specifics:
This will be early US History primarily--early exploration and settling through the Revolutionary War, Lewis and Clark and Westward Expansion. We’re doing some general things as well including symbols, significant people, etc. We already began with Native Americans, Columbus, Balboa, Ponce De Leon, Aztecs/Cortes, Incas/Pizzaro, The Lost Colony of Roanoke, and Jamestown. I didn't think about adding those plans to this blog but I do plan to try to keep up from this point forward.

Geography Specifics:
Geography units include major oceans and the continents, directions, the equator, landforms, etc. Periodically through the year we will focus a unit on a particular continent covering all of them over the course of the year. I pulled some ideas from the Core Knowledge K Sequence. I wish I had discovered this curriculum last year and decided to use certain portions of the K this year for first grade.


I’m covering the Core Knowledge Sequence for 1st grade Science also in unit form. I did pick up a bit from the Kindergarten Core Knowledge curriculum as well.

My plan is to do Salsa Spanish which we started this summer and enjoyed but so far working it in has been a struggle this academic year.

In case it’s useful to anyone I think I’m going to go ahead and post a simplified “what we did each day” from this point forward with any links I used. I hope this works and is useful to someone.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Seasons and Warm/Cool Colors Resources

For the seasons introduction I found a video on teachertube showing the various seasons to start our discussion. We divided a paper into four sections and made our own pictures for what we thought of for each season. We then rolled and taped it into a cylinder to show the circular nature of the seasons.

We watched this youtube video showing the “why” of seasons. We used our globe and flashlight to mimic what the video showed.

We talked specifically about summer and the sun and made summer artwork pictures. For each season I decided to use Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and there are so many youtube videos for those I feel silly linking any of them. I do link one in this past week’s plans though.

The study of Seasons fit well with warm and cool colors. I did the art study for the works mentioned here in the Kindergarten September Art. The art study landscapes are set in spring and winter. It was easy to find these paintings full page online.

For the warm and cool colors we were also studying the bible story of Abraham and Isaac this week so I had them stamp stars—one page in cool colored stars and one in warm colors. The link above has them using paints in warm or cool to make a handprint wreath. My kids would have loved that but, well, I wasn’t up for the mess of hands in paint this week! I found this video tutorial with warm and cool colors explained that I showed. Preview first to make sure you’re ok with it though because there is one picture that might not be ok for some.

I'll try to be more detailed in future posts if I can.