Week at a Glance:
- Books for Kids GIVEAWAY: The Kid Who Named Pluto by Marc McCutcheon
- Books that Encourage Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Imagination
- Simple Back to School Activities that Encourage Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Imagination
Books for Kids GIVEAWAY: The Kid Who Named Pluto by Marc McCutcheon
Why we love this book:
Do you want to encourage your children to think, research, problem solve and invent? Then this is the book (and blog post) for you. This book includes nine short biographies about teens who made significant contributions to science. From braille, to television, to fossils your children will be inspired to imagine and investigate. I like books about curious people who follow their curiosities! This book highlights nine such young people. Recommended reading for grades 3 – 8. However, I’ve read this book aloud chapter by chapter to Miss Enigma, age 6.
Looking for more great kids biographies about curious, inventive and interesting individuals? Then you might want to check out my posts:
Teaching Inspiration All the Way From Cambodia to America
Agape International Missions Elementary School Teachers, July 2014
Well . . . the last couple of weeks I gave myself an unexpected sabbatical from life in general. A couple of things happen each time I return from Cambodia. First, my body and brain live in a perpetual state of fog, making it hard to put comprehensible thoughts together. Second, while I’m in Cambodia, I achingly miss my little family. Consequently, upon my return, I yearn for one big love fest with nonstop hugging, snuggling and playing. And finally, each and every time I return home, part of my heart remains in Cambodia. I desperately resist returning to every day American life in an effort to not lose one once of my Cambodian experience and to keep all of those that I love tucked deep into my heart.
Kids Books that Encourage
Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Imagination
Books that Encourage Creative Thinking (Teachers “Crazy” Style)
Let me start by saying, I cannot even begin to express my affection for these teachers!
They are young, vibrant, devoted and eager to learn. The past couple of years we have taught them the basics: classroom management, positive reinforcement, calendar activities, small group activities, early literacy skills, hands-on manipulative based learning . . . you get it . . . teaching basics 101.
This year, I wanted to teach them to fish! I knew this was the year to build their confidence and to show them they can trust their own creativity and teaching instincts. This year we did not bring cookie-cutter activities, samples and lessons. We brought open-ended critical thinking activities to engage them in problem solving, imagination and lesson planning. The week was about learning to fish, explore and create. We experienced an amazing time of creativity and growth!
I gained so much inspiration from these joyous teachers! So much that I decided to begin my homeschool year with daily, open-ended, creativity activities that would jump-start our brains and open our minds to new insights. The next few weeks will be devoted to Books & Simple Activities that Encourage Creative Thinking . . .
You do not need these specific books! I took a big pile of books to Cambodia and when I arrived I used items I found around the school and in their supply room to create daily, open-ended, exploration activities.
These open-ended activities are designed to be simple, short and sweet. Maybe 10 to 15 minutes to get the creative juices flowing.
Book: The Thingamabob by Il Sung Na
- One day a curious elephant makes an unexpected discovery – a thingamabob! He tried out this and that and even ask his friends until he finds the perfect use for his thingamabob.
thingamabob karaoke . . . stuff
Supplies: an umbrella (that’s it!)
Creativity Spark: What can you do with a thingamabob?
- Before reading the book: Today we are going to pretend! Let’s pretend we are on a walk. We are walking along when we find a “thingamabob.” No, no, no! This is not an umbrella. We have no idea what it is or where it came from. I want you to use your imagination to think of 5 things you could do with the thingamabob.
- Come on up . . . Open it . . . Close it . . . Try it Out . . .
- With a bit of exploration encouragement, the umbrella began to transform into a walking-cane, a bat, a golf club, a shopping bag, a sword, a cell phone . . . But the best by far was a karaoke microphone! This was one of the quietest teacher but when he began singing all of the other teachers began clapping, cheering and singing along. It was awesome!
- Again, I did not pre-plan this activity. On my first morning at the school, I announced that I needed a random item. Someone suggested an umbrella hanging on the wall. Perfect! Only latter did I actually remember that I had brought a book about an umbrella.
- This was one of the first activities I did with the teachers. While sharing reflections at the end of the week they readily admitted that they thought I was crazy! “What does an umbrella have to do with teaching a lesson?” By the end of the week they realized there was a method to my madness and it was all about trusting their creative instincts. They also said they would surely do these types of open-ended activities with their students. And by the way, they came up with many unique ways to use the jump-rope in the classroom. I’ll have to save that for a follow-up post.
Book: Not A Stick by Antoinette Portis
- Have you ever observed a child with a stick? Of course you have. In the hands of a child (or a bunny), a stick is never just a stick. A stick can slay a dragon or paint masterpiece.
Supplies: jump-rope, Popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners
Creativity Spark: What can you do with a jump-rope?
- Before reading the book: I passed out jump-ropes to each small group of teachers and instructed them to come up with 5 uses for the jump-rope.
- Questions for the teacher: Do you want us to think of lesson plans for the jump-rope?
- My response: It’s up to your group. You explore and come up with 5 ideas using the jump-rope any way you’d like. There are no right or wrong ideas.
- Schools in Cambodia are typically rote memorization. Open-ended activities were a new concept for these teachers. Considering this, I was quite impressed with their problem solving and team work throughout the training.
Creativity Spark: What can you make with Popsicle sticks?
- After reading the book: I passed out Popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners to small groups. I stressed to the teachers that when introducing new materials, a time of free exploration is crucial. This allows children to think outside-of-the box without parameters set by the teacher. Additionally, later when a specific activity is introduced playtime will be be a bit out of their system.
- The teachers created Popsicle words, letters, shapes, numbers, animals, towers, houses . . . .
Creativity Spark: What can you do with pipe cleaner?
- After reading the book: While some teacher explored the Popsicle sticks, other teachers got creative with the pipe cleaners.
- They were quick to create letters, numbers . . .
- shapes and objects . . .
- But I never expected pipe cleaner costumes! One group went to town and they were seriously all decked out!
- Later in the week, my teammate read The Three Little Pigs. Small groups of teachers acted out a retelling of the story. And guess what made an appearance. You guessed it. Costumes including pig noses and ears made out of pipe cleaners.
Book: The Birthday Box by Leslie Patricelli
- What’s better than getting a brand-new toy as a birthday gift? Transforming the box it came in! Together boy and doggy have many adventures with the brand-new birthday box.
Supplies: Boxes, toilet paper tubes, random food cartons, paper, scissors, glue, tape
Creativity Spark: What can you make with a box?
- On the last day of training, I gave each small group of teachers an unfamiliar book. As a group they planned an open-ended, creativity activity for their students.
- Before reading the book: This teacher’s lesson presentation was so much fun! He strategically placed a box at the front of the classroom. When he came up to share he stumbled over the box.
- Teacher: Oh what do we have here? A box? I wonder what we could make with this box.
- He invited the students to verbally brainstorm ideas.
- Midway through the book: The teacher stopped in the middle of the book, passed out paper and markers and invited the students to draw what they thought the boy would do next with the box.
- Not A Box by Antoinette Portis could also be used for this creative, construction activity.
- Similar in concept, the little rabbit in Not A Box shows that a box will go as far as the imagination allows. All the way from a car to a rocket ship, a box is not a plain old box!
Satellite Knex and Blocks
- After reading the book: Later in the day, I passed out a variety of block sets and Knex.
- MacGyver donated his big collection of Knex pieces. The teachers had never seen anything like Knex. They explored, explored and then created and invented.
- First, I simply told the teachers to explore, play and create. Most of them worked alone.
- After about 10 minutes, I told them they had to combine their creations with their teammate’s creations to make something new.
- A little bit of free exploration time and teamwork can create big ideas!
- Follow-up Activity: Set up a Construction Station with a variety of boxes, food cartons, toilet paper rolls, paper, scissors and glue. Include the above books and additional books about construction, buildings, skyscrapers and bridges.
- Book: 1,2,3 I Can Build by Irene Luxbacher teaches children simple architectural techniques such as joining, roofing and folding, in addition to concepts such as foundation, structure and function. It also highlights fun building projects.
This week was all about busy minds and busy hands. Getting children up and active and giving them opportunities to explore and invent. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll venture into creative storytelling, math investigations and imaginative art. Again, all simple, short and sweet . . . and more fabulous books!
We’re GIVING AWAY one hardcover copy of The Kid Who Named Pluto by Marc McCutcheon
To enter this contest, use the Rafflecopter to answer the following question. After you leave a comment, you can move ahead with more entries.
Answer the following question in the comments section of this post.
How are you kicking-off this back to school season? (Or just say “Hey.” We’re flexible around here.)
No entries after 11:59 pm Central Time, Sunday, August 31, 2014
The winner must be a resident of The United States.
The winner will be selected at random and announced Monday, September 1, 2014. Check back to claim your prize. It might be you!
Sharing this week at: