Learning with Crazy Holidays

Your calendar is actually full of learning opportunities.  Whether you homeschool, teach, working kids in child care or have your own, you can liven up each and every day with celebrations of your choosing from the lists of goofy holidays.  Every day can be a celebration, but even more importantly, you can connect the holidays with classic literature, math activities, life skills, research and more.  Take a quick walk through the calendar with me right now and you’ll see what I mean.  I’ve just taken a small sampling of what’s out there-and I’ve listed a few of my resources at the end of this post that will guide you through every single day of the year.

  • In January, do some dragon activities on Appreciate a Dragon Day (Jan. 16).  Write stories, draw pictures and more.  National Popcorn day is January 19th. You can do science experiments with popcorn on that day.
  • February 8 is Extraterrestrial Culture Day. What an opportunity to be creative with writing, or to research reports of UFOs.  On February 24 celebrate Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, with all of the obvious benefits.
  • March 12 is Donald Duck Day. You can celebrate with everything from stories and games that feature the famous cartoon star to learning about animation.  March 27 is Quirky Country Music Titles Day.  It’s a great day for creativity, and for learning about a big part of the music culture in the United States.
  • On April 7, pay special attention to measurement because it’s Metric System Day.  The 13th is Thomas Jefferson Day, and I’m sure your creative and fertile mind can think of some related learning activities.
  • May 9 is Lost Sock Memorial Day. Play matching games with young children, and write sock stories with older ones. How about a want ad for a lost sock?  The 16th is National Biographer’s Day. Read some real biographies, and write a few of your own.
  • June 12 is Raggedy Ann and Andy Day. Did you know there are stories about the famous duo?  Find them and read a few!  June 16 is Fresh Veggies Day.  How about trying a few new and unusual ones for your area?
  • July 8 is Video Games Day.  Besides providing an excuse to play, try having kids write down directions or “cheats” for their favorite games.  It’s a great exercise in clear, concise writing. The 24th is Tell an Old Joke Day.  Jokes are also wonderful memory exercises, in case you hadn’t thought of that.
  • August 7 is Sea Serpent Day, which provides an enormous opportunity for reading, research and writing.  August 28th is Radio Commercial Day. Experiment with sound effects and record your own old-time radio commercial.
  • September 16 is Collect Rocks Day. Use the time to learn about geology and other related things.  The 22 is Elephant Appreciation Day. This opens the doors for anything from a research project about endangered species to reading stories about Babar or another famous elephant.
  • In October, you can celebrate World Habitat Day on the 4th.  What can you learn about the environment?  The 12th is Old Farmers Day.  Try paging through the Old Farmers’ Almanac for interesting tidbits. Can you chart their weather forecasts and see how accurate they are?
  • November brings King Tut Day on the 4th.  What can you learn about this famous Egyptian king?  November 24th is a great day for a talent show because it’s Celebrate Your Unique Talent Day.
  • December 11 is National Noodle Ring Day.  That’s one of those days that I don’t quite know what you’d do with it, but it’s full of possibilities.  December 28 is Card Playing Day.  Teach the group a few new games, or have them find a new game to teach each other.

You can see from this random sampling that each day is full of fun and surprises when you tie your calendar in to learning.  If you’d like more information, you can visit Holiday Learning for Kids or Bizarre and Fun Holidays.  I’ve got more holidays and even more learning ideas posted on those two sites.

Happy Celebrating!

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As always, I welcome your questions and comments.  Please drop me a note to get the conversation going!

Creating Great Webquests

First Steps to Creating Webquests

Once you’ve decided to make your own webquest, the first step is to look at lots of samples. Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to work through a few that are applicable to your curriculum and age group, and maybe even have your students try a few webquests on their own to see what they do well and what they need help with. It’s also important to have a clear idea of what skills you want to emphasize. Set some clear goals so that you know exactly what you want your students to accomplish. This road map will be a great beginning and will also ensure that your final product takes your students where you want them to go with their learning.

Use a Webquest Outline

A sound webquest has six parts. The first is an introduction that sets the scene for the learning. It should be captivating and intriguing, drawing students into the task. The second part of a good webquest is a clear description of the task at hand. Students will need to know exactly what finished product is expected of them and how it will be evaluated. A grading rubric is great to include in this section. The third part of the webquest is the procedural instructions. Your students will need this guidance to understand exactly how to proceed with their task. Next, your webquest should include a collection of resources or ideas about how to locate resources. Remember that these can be a mixture of print publications, internet information, and even people that can assist with the project. Students will use all of this information to create a finished product that demonstrates what they’ve learned within the parameters that you set in the beginning of the task. Finally, make sure that your webquest includes clear evaluation of the students’ work and an opportunity to reflect on the project as well as to create an avenue for additional explorations.

The Heart of the Webquest

The focus or task of the webquest is its heart. This is what must match up with your goals for the activity, and also where you ensure that your webquest targets the right level of thinking skills and complexity. With the right task, your webquest can range up into the highest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning and can activate higher level thinking skills. Bernie Dodge has created an outstanding list of tasks for webquests that are listed by the thinking skills involved at Webquest Taskonomy. You’ll want to visit the site to get some great ideas of possible tasks for the webquest you are creating.

Keep the Students Moving

Students often take on various roles as they work through a webquest, such as detective, journalist or scientist. You’ll need to craft a great list of resources that will help them create the final product that you’ve set for them. These can be links, resource people, magazine articles, references in books, and any other items that will help them gather the information they need to complete the project. Your webquest should contain a list of suggested resources or a suggested path to finding appropriate resources. Think of this section as a collection of clues to help the students find their way down the path you’ve selected to the finished product that you want to see.

Put It All Together

Are you ready to create your first webquest? There’s no time like the present to get started! You’ve got the tools and you’ve got the ideas. All you need to do is put them together to create a great project that will enhance your curriculum and intrigue your students. If you need a simple template, check out The WebQuest Template from WebQuest.org or the WebQuest about WebQuests by Bernie Dodge (one of the originators of the concept). These two fine examples will give you the tools you need to create fabulous webquests for your students.

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Don’t forget to leave me questions and comments!  I love to chat!