Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tu B'Shevat in Homeschool Kindergarten

Tu B'Shevat is a Jewish festival celebrating the "New Year for Trees".  I happened to find these books in our home library (I think we got them for free from the PJ Library when the twins were babies), which inspired me to do some tree-themed activities in our Homeschool Kindergarten today in celebration of this holiday.  Here's how our day went..

For circle time, I read the books on Tu B'Shevat to all three kids (even though the twins could probably read them independently).  I also read them a book of children's rhymes in Hebrew (not about trees but about nature and farm animals).  Then we talked a little bit about why we need trees and tried to think of worlds that had to do with trees ("tall", "strong", "shady", etc..).  This discussion didn't last too long because H (2 years old) lost interest fairly quickly.  Then we sang "The Green Grass Grows All Around", which has fun arm movements about a tree.

For our math activity, I pulled out some foam beads in the shape of leaves and then drew some trees for the girls.  They had to place the correct number of leaves on each tree.  This was pretty easy for them (even with chopsticks) but they really enjoyed it and then went on to use the chopsticks to sort the leaves by color and to make their own patterns.

I took out a file-folder game where the girls had to find synonyms for the words on the caterpillars and feed them the correct leaves.  I split up the work into smaller groups to make it more manageable and the twins did a splendid job with reading the words and then finding the correct synonym. 

L was the one who came up with the idea (since it was "tree day") to make her string cheese snack look like a tree... clever girl!  Why didn't Mommy think of that?

For independent reading, the twins read a story called The Forest from one of the Houghton Mifflin Reading (1st Grade) anthologies.  It was about a class field trip to a forest and mentioned a variety of different types of trees.  We talked a bit about the difference between deciduous trees and evergreens and about how we can identify trees by their leaf shape, nuts, etc..

One of our art projects was making this paper bag tree (I got the idea online).  The girls weren't as excited about this tree as I thought they would be, so we moved on to painting..

My original plan for painting was to teach the kids how to draw trees by having them split each branch into two (and add a little lesson on fractals in the process).  L had a different idea - to paint a tall pine tree.  I let her use an old toothbrush to add texture to the pine needles, which she really liked.

The final result of L's painting turned out quite stunning and now graces our wall.  We'll definitely a do a more in-depth study of trees once the weather warms up and the trees have leaves we can use for identification.  Overall this was a fun little mini-unit.  Happy New Year, trees.

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