Homemade Scrabble/Boggle Letter Dice Game for Writing, Spelling lesson plans

Here's a fun, easy DIY game to make and play with children and tweens to keep reading, writing and spelling skills fresh. I love the word games Boggle and Scrabble in which players make words from random letters. Both Scrabble and Boggle are superb games for spelling and reading practice. Here's a game that combines the scoring of Scrabble with the letter mix-up of Boggle. And best of all, it's easy to make, fun to play, has endless variations and is adaptable. This game can be played in the car, at the store, on a place, while waiting in line; anywhere you go it goes. I call it 'Scraggle'. Here's how to make your own Scraggle game.

You will need

12 dice: Recycle die from old games like Kismet or Yahtzee.
Dice can be purchased at almost any store for under $2).

Permanent markers

Blank stickers (round or square white stickers are best)

Note pad

small pencils

watch or timer

small box

To make Scraggle: (Scrabble plus Boggle)

Affix a sticker to each of the six sides of the die.

Label each die side with a different letter. With 12 dice times six sides you will have room for 72 letters. Since some letters are more popular, label dice this way. It makes no difference where on the dice you put which letters, Just be sure to get this many letters in.

  -four times each, letters: A, E, I, O, U, R, S, T, L, N

  -three times each letters: B, C, D, F, G, H, M, P

  -one time each, letters: J, K, Q, V, W, X, Y, Z

  -dictionary to check spelling

To play Scraggle:

Distribute pencils and pads. Players take turns shaking box with letter dice, to rearrange.

Player open box and make sure all dice are flat and showing letters.

Time players for three to five minutes, to see how many words they can make with letters showing.

Scoring is as follows;

  -3 letter words = 5 points

  -4 letter words = 10 points

  -5 letter words = 20 points

  -6 letter words = 50 points

  -7 letter words = 100 points

  -8 letter words = 200 points

Players should check each others words for accuracy.

Math facts practice kit activities for portable math learning centers

Here's a homemade mini math learning center. Use this shoebox math facts practice kit for independent, on-the-go learning. Retention of math facts and operations is vital for higher math. Use this math homework practice kit to reinforce addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts.

 Children should practice 5-10 minutes 4-5 times a week. In a shoebox or plastic lidded box, place these items 

--color-coded list of digits. For example: 0-yellow, 1-blue, 2-red, 3-orange, 4-purple, 5-green, 6-brown, 7-pink, 8-black, 9-gray. Some 1,983 would be written blue-1, gray-9,black-8 and orange-3. Color coding helps many students visualize and organize numbers, learn place value and memorize math facts, 

--set of dice. Practice math facts by casting die and adding or multiplying two numbers shown. 

--set of dominoes (base 12 set is best) or homemade"domino"flash cards made from index cards. Write domino dot configuration in number color from chart. Student selects a domino and adds, subtracts or multiplies the two numbers. Write answers on back for self-checking. Here are free printable dominoes

--deck of playing cards--student chooses two cards and adds, subtracts, or multiplies them. Face cards are valued as such:(ace-1, jack-10, queen, 12 and king-0) Here's a free printable deck of playing cards

--math flashcards for each fact family. Purchase at Dollar Tree or discount store. Here are free printable math flashcards. Make flashcards by writing math fact (problem) in color code on one side and the answer on the back. 

--pencil, eraser and scrap paper squares--student writes out a fact family, or writes story problems, illustrating with items to represent (three apples times seven apples). Use for pop quizzes also.

 --tablet of small stickers or mini-stamper marker-- Child makes his own flashcards with stickers and scrap paper, for the math facts family on which he's working. 

--100 chart or cheat sheet. Student uses to skip count by different numbers (multiply), look for patterns, or practice facts. Here are free printable 100 charts. 

--yarn strung with 100 plastic beads. This homemade abacus is a great visual for math operations. Give student a problem, like 7x8, She counts out and add seven groups of eight. 

--food snacks with little pieces; fish crackers, breakfast cereal, raisins, candies, pretzels. Students demonstrate math facts with food while eating it. 

Keep math facts practice kit in the car. Use travel time for homework reinforcement.

Montessori learning centers: preschool dramatic play and dress up activities

Preschool classrooms function best when organized into Montessori style learning centers. Learning centers are rotational play areas where children perform tasks related to specific content areas: math, reading, science, art, practical life, dramatic play or preschool dress-up areas. Homeschool parents, why not create learning centers in your child's play room? Here's how to organize Montessori preschool dramatic play, or preschool dress-up learning areas. mom designed an at-home dramatic play area.

Encourage young thespians. Dramatic play is the performing arts learning center. This is where costumes, puppets, theater stage and props are kept. This is where kids play dress-up in occupational uniforms, hats, masks, animal costumes, cartoon characters and others. This learning center doesn't have to be extensive. Hang costumes and preschool dress-up clothes, hats, masks and accessories on hooks or coat racks. 

Collect costumes. Go to secondhand stores and look for old Halloween costumes, uniquely patterned and brightly colored clothes, vintage clothing, costume jewelry, funky shoes, wigs and interesting hats. Stock dramatic play learning centers with uniforms, occupational accessories, hats and helmets. These are great for preschool dress-up. Keep an eye out for multicultural, historical costumes. Check for sales at opera companies, theaters and theater costumer sales. Ask senior family members and friends for homeschool contributions. Remember to wash and disinfect all secondhand costumes. 

Make a collapsible cardboard stage for your homeschool. Get a portable ballet barre for dance. This can be taken down and stored easily. Make a puppet theater out of a large cardboard refrigerator box. Cut a window at child height. Hang a curtain on a long shoelace or piece of rope and staple it across the opening. To store, simply collapse the box. For full scale productions, a curtain draped across the room makes a great stage. Let kids improvise with on-hand props. 

Design interchangeable scenery. Have kids color pictures depicting different backgrounds (home, forest, lake, city). Affix scenery to the inside back of the box using putty so the scenes can be changed. To make hanging backdrops (like those in real theaters), kids can draw pictures on white pillowcases, sheets or tablecloths. Attach shoelaces to each side and hand theater backdrops as you did the curtain (only across the back). Draw scenes on both sides so that the backdrop can be changed. 

Make dramatic play learning centers portable. Store costumes in easily accessible tubs. Keep a few costumes on a small free-standing coat tree. Hang a hats, dress up clothes and accessories on it. You might also use coat hooks. Choose costumes that reflect homeschool unit, theme, season or subject. 

Rotate dramatic play themes. Group dramatic play costumes and preschool dress-up accessories according to theme: animals, cowboy, pirate, fashion, Bible, occupations. Coordinate costumes with seasons and holidays. Match them to homeschool lesson plans. Around Labor Day, set out uniforms. Near Thanksgiving, pull out Native American costumes. You will have fond memories of the many impromptu performances your young actors put on for you.

Free printable spring coloring pages, Easter and life science lesson plans

 March 20-22 marks the vernal equinox, the first day of spring in many countries. For those of locked in ice and snow and cold, this date can't come too early. Many have had a long winter and are pretty happy to hear those cheery little birds singing and see tiny crocuses bravely trying to poke their lavender heads up through the snow. How about some free spring coloring pages, Easter holiday activities and spring crafts to occupy those children who are sick of winter and school? 

Coloring Book Fun free printable spring coloring pages are simple enough for the not yet seasoned colorers, and yet offer more challenging pictures for veteran colorers. This site has a huge stock of free printable spring coloring pages and spring crafts based on seasons, weather, Easter holiday activities, topics, Bible based pictures, multi-cultural and animals. You can find just about any cartoon character from G.I.Joe to Barbie to Pokemon to Rug-rats to Rainbow Brite to Dragon Ball Z to Dora, plus all your Disney favorites.

DL-TK provides all sorts of free printable spring coloring pages, seasonal spring crafts, lesson plans, puzzles, crafts, projects, scissor practice, sequencing practice, music, song sheets, stories, spring crafts and Easter holiday activities. DLTK has all kinds of preschool activities that will reinforce prereading, letter and number recognition, fine motor practice, telling time, tying shoes, counting, tracing and other skill builders based around a theme. You will find printables for baby animals, new life, butterflies and other insects, plants, flowers, rain, and more. 

Check out these really cute Easter holiday coloring pages from Print Activities. This site
has a really large data bank of banner and ad-free printables with educational themes, There's no sign up or registration, very few if any pop-ups and easy one click printing. I found many styles of cross-word puzzles, calendars, tracing, mazes, word scrambles, word sorts, connect the dots, connect the dot using math problems, Sudoku, fill in the blanks, color by numbers, color by math (students complete math problems and complete a code to color pictures. All these spring crafts and puzzles are themed on seasons, but you can find other topics with themed puzzles: Easter holiday activities, seasons, animals, It may take a moment to load, but it is worth it

School Fitness Workouts for Kids: Stretching, breathing and Yoga for kids

Schools often put the cart before the horse trying to educate a child's mind while ignoring bodily needs. Tired, hungry, uncomfortable children don't learn well. Here are school fitness workouts for kids to improve mental functioning. Use yoga stretches and breathing exercises for classroom phys ed. Yoga makes perfect winter school fitness workouts for kids because they can do yoga in the classroom--no need to go to the gym or outdoors. Yoga stretches and breathing exercises foster learning. 

Lest any parent object to the use of yoga in schools, for religious reasons or otherwise, this isn't meditative yoga, it's just basic asanas or postures. Call it Brain Gym or just phys ed if that makes parents feel better. 

Why use yoga in the classroom? For 6-8 hours a day, students sit in uncomfortable desks, breathing stale, recycled air. When she's not sitting, she's lugging around an achingly heavy backpack. She gets very little healthy exercise but a lot a stress and strain. Many schools have phys ed, but generally only one to three times per week. High school students get none unless it's an elective. School fitness workouts for kids are essential, even if they're just short ones. 

Do short periods of yoga for kids or other stretching and breathing exercises throughout the school day serves several purposes. Yoga strengthens lungs by teaching students to breathe deeply and use oxygen more efficiently. Yoga breathing calms the mind, body and spirit. It puts students in a tranquil, receptive frame of mind for learning. Yoga stretches and breathing exercises, even without meditation, purges the body of negative energy. Yoga is particularly useful for special needs students who can't do certain exercises or who suffer anxiety. 

The benefits of stretching periodically are many. Students experience fewer cramped muscles, stomachaches, headaches and discomfort. They are more attentive when given a chance to limber up. Students are happier and more willing to cooperate when they know that teacher cares about their whole self, not just the thinking part. Yoga requires no special equipment. It's perfect for school fitness workouts for kids and in-class phys ed. 

Try doing whole group yoga for kids stretches and breathing exercises twice a day. Start first thing in the morning and immediately after lunch. Utilize "waiting in line" time and walking halls for mini phys ed breaks. School fitness workouts for kids help keep them focused. Do whole body stretches and deep breathing exercises. If kids are concentrating on yoga stretches, there will be less need for obligatory teacher shushing in the hallway. Once students get the hang of yoga stretches, fitness workouts and breathing exercises while walking, they will do it automatically whenever they are waiting somewhere. Here are yoga for kids videos. 

Easter Egg Crafts and Bible Object Lesson Plans

For Catholic Christians, the Lenten season, which begins after Ash Wednesday is a journey with Jesus. The Catholic Church prays the Stations of the Cross, tries to imitate Christ in humility, prayer and sacrifice or fasting. Lent culminates at Palm Sunday and Holy Week which ends in the Passion, death and resurrection of Christ at Easter. Here are Lenten devotions and Bible object lesson plans using Easter eggs. Use these Easter egg crafts to teach science too. 

Holy Trinity Bible object lessons. Decorating Easter eggs is a great time to teach Bible object lessons. Use Easter egg crafts to teach children about the Holy Trinity. Show children that the eggshell is white, smooth and pure. It holds everything together and so represents God the Father. Hidden inside is the yolk, the source of life. The yolk represents God's most important gift, His son Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the Paraclete, the intercessor, the go-between. So the egg white represents the Holy Spirit as it is in the middle.

New life Bible object lessons. Easter eggs symbolize fertility and rebirth. In Lenten devotions, teach children that Easter eggs represent eternal life. Just as birds care for their young in eggs and rejoice when newborns emerge, a Christian experiences new life or rebirth from old sins in Jesus. Hiding Easter eggs simulates how a Christian should seek God. Easter baskets simulate nests which shelter baby birds. God shelters his children in safety of his love. Children might decorate their Easter egg crafts with images of birds, nest, chicks, spring, the cross or Jesus.

Resurrection Eggs Lenten devotions: Catholic Holy Week countdown using Easter eggs. For these Easter egg crafts. you'll need 8 plastic eggs, a basket and Easter grass or green construction paper. For Bible object lessons, place one item in each egg that relates to the Easter story and a slip of paper with the Bible verse that mentions the item. You'll find the Easter story in the Gospel of Luke chapter 22, 23 and 24 (verse 1-12), or Mark chapter 11 (verse 1-11)chapter 14, 15 and 16 (verses 1-8). It's contained in the other two gospels as well, but Luke and Mark are the best retellings.

Label each egg as follows and place these items inside:

Palm Sunday--a piece of palm, dry grass or a plastic donkey (to remember Palm Sunday, when Jesus made a triumphal entry into Jerusalem)

Monday of Catholic Holy Week--a piece of cracker or crouton (to remember Christ's institution of Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper)

Tuesday of Catholic Holy Week--a dime (the 30 pieces of silver Judas was paid to betray his friend Jesus)

Wednesday of Holy Week--a tiny piece of branch with thorns (Crown of thorns)

Holy Thursday--a nail (to symbolize that His hands and feet were nailed to a cross)

Good Friday--a cocktail sword or toothpick (to remember that Jesus was pierced with a sword in his side, from which poured water and blood)

Holy Saturday--a stone (the stone that was placed in front of the tomb of Christ and later miraculously removed)

Easter Sunday--Nothing! This reminds us of the empty tomb on Easter morning.

Open one egg each day from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday. Light a candle for this special time. Ask a young child to explain to the family or group what this item could mean. The family can share their ideas, experiences or scripture references to the item. You might all sing a hymn or chant to remember this part of the story. Sing Crown Him with Many Crowns, All Hail the Power of Jesus's Name or Te Deum. Extend Easter egg crafts, by having children to illustrate Bible object lessons they've learned. Combine illustrations in a family memory book and use for Lenten devotions in years to come.

Free Field Trips for Homeschool or Summer Enrichment

My husband and I homeschooled four children in a single-wide mobile home, living on one income. What we don't know about living minimalist and frugal, isn't worth knowing. Here's our budget list of free or dirt cheap educational summer field trips. 

Nature center
Interpretive guided nature tour
Petting zoo
Historical re-enactment
Civil War encampment
Medieval fair
Community concert
Church festival. 
Community kiddie carnival
Rock quarry
Ship tour
Hobby shop
Military demonstration
Army climbing wall
Amusement park coupon days
Craig's Cruisers coupon days
Historic business or building
Historic home tour
Historic village
Historic fort.
Knight's of Columbus (Lions, Eagles, Elks) kids' events
Ice cream social
Circus (look for coupons)
Scouting event
Sportsman's expo
Fish farm
School enrichment program
School festival
Pumpkin patch
Bridge walk
Spelunking (cave exploration)
Native American pow-wow
Community garden
College sponsored activities
Poetry slam
Book signing

That's just a start! More to follow

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