Part 1—Daily Almanac and Observations, plus Miscellaneous Learning Resources
“If you have no idea where you want to go, it makes little difference how fast you travel.” Italian Proverb
As summer winds down and autumn studies loom, now is the time to start (or finish) researching and planning fresh lessons and routines for the coming school year.
A good place to start looking for ideas and resources is this list: http://www.amonco.org/directory.html Also, the internet is full of good ideas and resources for classroom activities and lesson plans. The following are just a few ideas you might consider out of the almost unlimited possibilities. Happy planning!
Daily almanac and observations–
Day, date, time, sunrise, sunset, length of the day, phase of the moon, current weather conditions, forecast weather (short and long-term), upcoming celestial events, and important events on this date in history are only some of the types of daily information and observations your students might enjoy researching and recording to start each day.
Keeping a journal of this sort of information can be interesting and informative. It can provide good practice for spelling and handwriting. It also adds some routine and structure to the school day. If you keep the journal, it can also provide conversation starters and teachable moments when comparing past data with current data (especially weather observations) in successive years.
To record your own daily weather observations all you really need are an outdoor thermometer, a window or door to check current sky conditions, and a notebook. You can also easily find the daily forecast on-line on a local news site or by typing in your city or zip code (for the US) here: http://www.weather.gov
However, if you want to get into more depth, look for inexpensive “weather stations” (digital or traditional) which include other instruments like barometers (to measure barometric pressure) and hygrometers (to measure humidity), or which record the high and low daily temperatures. Nature’s Workshop Plus! sells an economical weather station with a thermometer, hygrometer, and barometer http://www.workshopplus.com/productcart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=2113&idcategory=0 , and the Farm Country General Store has a variety of interesting weather books. http://www.homeschoolfcgs.com.
You can also look for (or sometimes construct your own) rain gauges, weather vanes, windsocks and other instruments to help students understand and evaluate atmospheric conditions. Some students love the extra data they can gather from this sort of instrument. The following article by Geoff Jenkins of the Royal Meteorological Society in the UK has many inspiring ideas and tips for home and school weather observation. http://www.rmets.org/sites/default/files/pdf/simweameasurements.pdf
The famous Old Farmer’s Almanac has a website which provides lots of interesting information, including weather forecasts. Be sure to check out their articles on predicting the weather, and maybe have students try their hand at a forecast! http://www.almanac.com/weather
For an example of a very detailed daily weather report, check out the Appalachian Mountain Club’s forecasts for local recreational enthusiasts. Perhaps one of your students would like to report specialized details like ground/trail conditions, or might think of their own weather-related observations to record. http://www.outdoors.org/recreation/tripplanner/go/pinkham-washington-weather.cfm
For daily weather stories and facts, check out The Weather Notebook. http://www.weathernotebook.org The archives of this National Public Radio show produced by New Hampshire’s well-respected and historic Mount Washington Observatory provide nine years’ worth of brief, interesting weather stories. These free, easy-to-access tidbits of history and information would dovetail well into a morning Pick a year and the current month, then look for today’s date for a topical weather story.
Miscellaneous learning resources—
Core academics are always an important part of lesson planning, and they can also be subjects that are hard to keep fresh and interesting for students. Look now for free lessons and curriculum plans like the following.
General curriculum resources. http://www.discoveryeducation.com/teachers , http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/showthread.php?t=109114 , http://www.galileoeducation.org/Homeschooling.html ,
Daily quick facts and short exercises can be a fun way to help students learn new information and practice skills they are learning.
Free daily math problem for grades 1-8. http://www.mathbuddyonline.com/common/mbqad.html
SuperKids offers a free “word of the day” as vocabulary boosters for students from upper elementary through high school. http://www.superkids.com/aweb/tools/words/wod.shtml
Sciensational has free daily science and math facts. http://www.sciensational.com
For older children, more advanced students, or kids who really want to test their intellectual limits, try these sites with more-advanced daily challenges. http://dictionary.reference.com/wordoftheday , http://sat.collegeboard.org/practice/sat-question-of-the-day , http://www.imo-official.org/problems.aspx
This article explains how you can use the “word a day” strategy to teach or learn foreign languages and provides links for nine languages plus sign language. http://www.childrenlearninglanguages.com/Vocabulary_and_LanguageSkills/Word_of_the_Day.html
Also, look around for open-ended materials that encourage a creative use and/or lot of interaction, like this cool writable globe from Schoolmasters Science. http://www.schoolmasters.com/categories/productDetails.cfm?product_ID=16685&div=sc&category&bc3&details You could start your year’s geography study with this blank globe several different ways, depending on the age and skills of your students. With very young students with limited geographic knowledge, you could only mark countries, oceans, etc., as you study them. With older students, you could have them do a “challenge” attempt at naming the countries; and then spend the rest of the year researching the countries and landforms they did not know initially.
If your lesson plans for the year ahead include any sort of science, art, or other “fair” projects, you may find the following article from Catholic Homeschooling Resources inspiring. It describes their Annual Project Fair, and shares some interesting ideas for project types, as well as fair organization