Keeping First Grader Happy


I need some new ideas for keeping my 1st grader happily learning!



Imagination Magnets

First graders are not good candidates for a sit-in-your-desk type education. Although some young students enjoy worksheets, generally the more hands-on fun you can provide, the more happily they will learn. Games, puzzles, art projects, pattern blocks and nature walks are always reliable sources of enjoyable learning. I make sure they have a weekly memory poem or verse to work on while they swing on our chin-up bar (our regular way of doing memory work!)

image-1Get a hand-held magnifier, some magnets and other science tools/toys and you’ll be amazed at the experimenting that your child will do! You can encourage this (neat things to look at: salt, a human hair, bugs, leaves, a penny, cloth, etc)—and the learning will be fabulous. Tell your child to create two stacks of items: those that magnets stick to, and those that don’t. Or those that float and those that sink. It is hard to find something they’d rather do (and something they learn more from) than experimentation at this age!

If you have a bit of learning that needs to be done, and is being resisted, breaking down a task (such as a page of math facts) into sections can make the work seem more palatable. I take colorful markers and draw a colorful squiggly shape around each section of problems. When that section is done, it is time to run around the house once, or jump on the trampoline for 5 minutes, or listen to one more chapter in a beloved read aloud book. Another variation on this is to give your child those squiggly cutting scissors and let them cut their paper into fourths in whatever design they want and put them in a little bin. Then every time the clock strikes the hour, they take out a little page and do their math facts.AmmonsChart

As for accountability, I use a sticker chart and have a first grader check off their schoolwork as it is done. My kids think this is lots of fun and I like it because I can check at a glance to see how work is progressing and what I need to encourage.

Here are some great suggestions from homeschooling moms:

    • Take dictation and write down little poems or stories your child makes up. Keep these in a notebook and your child can read them over and over, and illustrate them too.
    • Making little books for her to write stories in and illustrate is lots of fun.
    • Make a mural including each book they complete. You can do any theme. Make a tree, for example, and every time the child finishes a book they add a leaf with the name of that book on it.
    • Out-of-state pen pal. Getting real mail is always fun and this has motivated her to write.
    • Grocery List: keep a list on your fridge and let your child write down things she thinks you need. You can also give her a simple list of items to help you find at the store and check them off.
    • Practice your penmanship with your finger in a shallow pan with about 1/4″ of salt in the bottom. To erase, just jiggle the pan and you are ready to write again!
    • For reading we often play “You read to me, I’ll read to you.” Depending on the mood and the books, sometimes I read a book then she reads a book, or if it is harder we take turns reading every other page or even sentence.
    • image

      Little red mailbox is perfect for sending “letters” back and forth!

      Send Me a Letter: Make at-home mailboxes to write notes to each other. This is also a very effective way to remind a child of something they need to do. It is much better than nagging again and again.

    • “Monkey in a Cage” practice game. Elisa says, “This one sounds horrible, but my daughter came up with it and just loves it! She likes to pretend that she is a monkey locked up in a cage (usually under her desk) and the only way to get out is by earning a certain amount of flash cards. I usually use a deck of words I have, but you could do math cards, too. Once she gets a certain amount right, she gets out of the cage and a good tickle.
    • My first graders like the magnet letters and numbers. I use the letters to help teach them the family words like “at”, “am”, “op” . . . to show them how words change when you place it with different beginning letter.
    • Treasure hunts : Hide clues to read around the house.
    • “Mother, May I ?” : Instead of just saying, “May I take 5 steps”, we say, “May I take 4 + 2 steps, 8 – 3 steps, etc.
    • Write your spelling words with sidewalk chalk. For some reason, writing on the sidewalk is much more fun than on paper!




May I recommend:

homeschooling-spoonful of sugar
A Spoonful of Sugar

Magnetic Letters

Pattern Blocks

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