World Cup Fever: At-home activities

World Cup fever has made an appearance at our house.  The boys (eldest and middlest) have immersed themselves entirely in all things “football”.  I was surprised how much they actually know about the sport.  Sure, they play soccer every Sunday morning, but as far as I understood that was the extent of it.

The symptoms of World Cup fever are evident in their clothing choices (football jerseys gifted from travels afar by generous relatives), their outdoor playtime (baseball has taken a backseat) and even their Sunday morning friends are joining in the antics of swooping arms, praying hands and bent knees while chanting that now familiar word: Ole!

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Because I have an unnecessary compulsion to turn the everyday into teachable moments, my unsuspecting boys have been the recipients of an on-going geography lesson.

Here’s what we’ve been up to:

Flag Match

We searched the official FIFA website for all of the teams playing in the 2014 World Cup.  We wrote out each country on half an index card and glued a print out of the corresponding flag on the other half.

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We then cut the cards in half to make our own “World Cup Match Game”.  If you want to make it easier on yourself, a printable version (along with other World Cup activities suitable for kids) is available here.

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Flag Tally

Our neighbourhood is ripe with flags.  They are visible everywhere from car windows, to front porches and store windows.  We counted the flags while making the walk to and from school each day, but after that grew tiresome and school finished-up for the summer, we made a tally sheet to document the most popular teams in our neighbourhood (and on a few very long car rides).

We created our tally book by printing a simple three-column table (flag, country name, tally).  We printed the 2014 World Cup country flags, cut them out and glued them into our tally book.  This is an easy way to involve younger siblings.  Cutting and pasting are great ways to build fine motor skills.

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We used our World Flag sticker book as a resource to correctly identify the flags.  This task could have easily been accomplished by using a website, but I wanted the boys to look up the flags using the geographical index and matching each flag with the correct country.  Real books, people.  Remember those?

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There were some snags.  Many flags have similar colours.  Belgium and Germany can be easily confused, but after taking a few minutes to identify the direction of the stripes, the boys learned to be more careful in both their gluing and their matching.  Remember to stretch the sounds while spelling out the country name and look for phonetic patterns.  For example, the “y” at the end of Italy, Ivory Coast and Germany all make the same sound.  Colombia, Algeria, Nigeria, and Australia all end in “ia” and together those vowels sound like “ee-ah”.

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Countries are proper nouns.  Remind the writer that all proper nouns begin with uppercase letters.

Keep talking -while working together we discussed the various countries.  I asked them the following questions:

What language is spoken in that country?

Do you know anyone who has travelled to that country?

What continent is the country located on and what is the climate like?

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Want to take it a step further?  Consider making culinary connections by serving up a traditional dish from a winning country.

Rainy Day Activity: Teaching Rhyming Words & Looking For Patterns In Storybooks

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Literacy, books, learning – there a big deal around here.  I love reading in the way that my husband loves to cook.  I love reading in the way that my boys love to whine.  I love reading so much that a perfect day for me would be spent lost in the stacks of the library.  I love that musty library smell.

Our last library haul brought home a bounty of books.  Each boy was weighted down by their selections and I didn’t come up short either.

I like to see what books the boys choose when left to their own devices.  It tells me a lot about what their current interest and what’s grabbing their attention.

And because I am a book geek, I like to use one book per haul and make a lesson of it.

Oh, groan!  Can’t take the teacher out of the mother . . . my poor kids.

My middle boy loves dogs so it’s no surprise that when he spotted Bark Park by Karen Gray Ruelle it had to come home in our library tote.  We read the book a few times together, and then he spent some time with it alone.

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A few days later, I typed out the words to Bark Park in large, kid-friendly font (Comic Sans, size 26) and printed it out.

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We sat down together and read through the script without the pictures.  This can be difficult for children who are learning to read as often early readers rely on pictures for cues.

Using the printed story, I asked my son to find the rhyming words.

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Since, for the most part, there are three pair of rhyming words per stanza, I asked my son to choose three different coloured hi-liters and because he is my son, he’s game to do any activity that requires office supplies.  Staplers are a favourite!

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I like to use a blank, white paper to keep the stanzas covered that we have not yet worked on.  This focuses his eye (and attention) on the task at hand.

Together we read through the story and he colour-coded the rhyming pairs.  I.e.  Bark and park would be coloured purple.

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It seems like a lot of work for at-home literacy activity and it is, but by spending this time, a foundation has been laid and a curiosity sparked.  Books that we have read after Bark Park spurred discussions about books that don’t rhyme and what are the reasons why they may not?  Non-fiction books, cookbooks, and instructional books don’t use rhyme, why?  Why do some fiction books use it and others don’t?  Can you imagine an entire chapter book told in rhyme?  Why is it not always possible to tell a story that way?

He also made connections between his favourite authors and their use (or lack of use) of rhyming.

After he had identified all of the pairs, we looked for patterns and with little prompting he was able to identify several.

  1. Rhyming words have the same ending letters . . . or do they?  Words ending with –ing do not necessarily rhyme.
  2. The last word of each sentence rhymed with the last word of the next sentence.  How can you tell if it’s the last word of the sentence?  The punctuation, of course!
  3. The first and third words usually rhymed.
  4. Sometimes made-up words are fun and can rhyme with “real” words.

Looking for patterns is a skill that extends beyond literacy and can prove helpful when learning mathematics.

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Next week we return our books to the library and I wonder what will be next?