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Big Learning News 9-20-06

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 4:31 September 20, 2006

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Table of Contents
Math Moment: Analog clocks
Activity: Make string figures
Book Review: Stealing Home
Education news: Homework revisited
Web Site : Pirates
Contests: Writing and inventing

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Math Moment

Reading Analog Clocks


There are lots of little games on the web to help kids learn to read analog clocks. I thought this one was the most fun:


But then I got to thinking: The hard part about reading analog clocks is that they all look so different from one another. Some have Roman numerals. Some have no numbers at all. Some don't even have tick marks

So, if your kids have already mastered the basics of reading an analog clock, try this collection:


It has 15 different clock faces for your child to decipher.

More Fun Math for Kids

Comment on this article or see what others have said



Play "Cats Cradle" and other string figure games


String figures are complex patterns kids can make out of a loop of string. These web sites have illustrated instructions for making Cat's Cradle, Jacob's Ladder, and other famous string figures. Some have animations and even videos showing the moves that create the figures.

String figure games are handy diversions - kids can play them anywhere and they require nothing more than a loop of string. They're also Big Learning exercises, supplying children with practice in pattern recognition and three-dimensional visualization skills.

Other activities for developing these skills

Making boxes and geometric solids
Mobius strip math
Paper sculpture for kids

Comment on this article


Book Review

Stealing Home by Matt Christopher ( Little, Brown Young Readers, 2004)

Ages 9-12

In this engaging baseball novel, Joey's small-town American family welcomes Jesus, an exchange student from Nicaragua. At first, Joey is unenthusiastic, but warms quickly to Jesus, guiding him through his activities at school and Little League. When Jesus turns out to be a baseball star, Joey has to confront his jealousy.

This is a great novel for raising issues about differences and similarities, stereotypes, prejudice, and economic differences around the world. There are also nice bits of Spanish sprinkled throughout.

More Information

Related Reviews

The Spirit of Tio Fernando
If the World Were a Village
Evening Meals around the World
The Kids' Multicultural Cookbook

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Education News for Adults

Homework, revisited


This article from Slate Magazine reviews three recent books about homework. Not how to get kids to do it, but whether homework is all it's cracked up to be.

Well, the answer is, no it's not, at least at the elementary level. Homework has never been proven to increase achievement or improve study skills, responsibility, or discipline. It has been proven to cause untold angst in families, but I bet you don't need research to tell you that.

If I were Queen of Education, this would be my proclamation about homework, grades K-2:

1. All regular homework-for-the-sake-of-having-homework hereby canceled.

2. Teachers encourage regular reading for pleasure at home, and schools supply books for kids who need them. I'd like to see a free-or-reduced-book program like the free-or-reduced-lunches we have now.

3. Teachers, if they desire, can send home practice at critical times on skills that require independent practice - for example, during the few weeks when kids are learning new math facts.

4. Instead of wasting hours each week correcting needless homework for the whole class, teachers can apply their professional expertise to help parents help kids who need extra study at home.

What about grades 3-5? As kids get older, I'd add some independent projects (ones that kids could really do themselves) and assigned reading in content areas. Maybe a few minutes per day of math.

Books about Homework

Recent Education News Commentaries

Free to roam?
Everything is starting earlier
Should you pay kids for good grades?

Comment on this article or see what others have said


Web Site: Pirate mysteries

Ages 9-12


Ok, I'll jump on the recent pirate bandwagon just for a minute, and recommend this site. These adventures use fun clues and snappy writing to teach kids about famous pirates and pirate hunters.

Comment on this article



Here are a couple of new contests for kids:

Writing contest

Winter Wonderland Essays: 500 words about what makes winter special. Open to ages 6-10, deadline November 23. http://www.fandanglemagazine.com/contest.html

Invention Video Contest

Build an invention and submit a video of it. Open to kids ages 6-12. Deadline September 30. http://pbskids.org/cyberchase/big_idea/index.html

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Big Learning News (c) 2006 Karen Cole

Content meant for adults and provided for informational purposes only - readers are responsible for previewing all materials and activities for suitability and safety before sharing them with children.
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