Sunday, February 27, 2011

Miyax and Sam

We recently read Julie of the Wolves and My Side of the Mountain, both by Jean Craighead George. Since Super and Dude really enjoyed them, I decided to use the two books for a modeled writing exercise.

First, we compared the main characters of the books. Sam Gribley and Julie/Miyax were similar in many ways. They were both leaving a bad situation, and they both had to survive using their wits and resources from nature. There were many contrasts as well: Sam left civilization to live off the land while Miyax was originally trying to reach civilization. Sam was able to find more food, but Miyax faced many days of hunger. I wrote the kids's brainstorming ideas on the white board, and we also did a Venn diagram on paper.

Then the kids each wrote a short paragraph explaining which character they would rather be: Sam or Miyax? Both kids chose Sam, and I have to agree with their choice!

The next day, we took their paragraphs and expanded on their ideas. If either of them had chosen Miyax, we would have expanded both of their paragraphs; since both kids chose Sam, and their paragraphs were fairly similar, we just did one modeled essay.

We put their ideas into a Four Square template. (I LOVE the Four Square concept; I'm a very visual person and traditional outlines never worked for me!) The topic sentence goes in the middle, the supporting reasons go in three squares, and the conclusion goes in the last square.

We started with our topic sentence: I would rather be Sam because he ate a meal every day. This sentence is verbatim from Super's original paragraph, and we chose it over Dude's sentence: I would want to be Sam because geography is destiny and Sam had more resources. We talked about how Super's sentence is more concise and works better stylistically. We also agreed that Dude's sentence is very important and that we needed to address the geographical differences and the availability of resources later in our essay.

We supported our topic sentence with details: what did he eat? He ate hickory nuts, walnuts, and acorns. He ate tubers, dandelions, wild strawberries, wild blueberries, and wild onions. I was the "secretary" while the kids dictated their sentences. After a moment, we realized that all our sentences were sounding the same: he ate, he ate, he ate. So we thought of ways to vary our sentences to avoid sounding repetitive. After listing what Sam ate, we wrote a contrast sentence describing what Miyax ate.

We decided to address the issue of resources in our second paragraph. What other resources did Sam have that made his life more comfortable than Miyax's life? The weather was less extreme. The forest provided him with lots of things essential to comfort and survival. We ended the paragraph with a contrast sentence about Miyax. As we worked on the paragraph about resources, I pointed out that our topic sentence only mentioned food. The kids decided that the topic sentence might be a little too narrow. We revised it to: I would choose to be Sam Gribley because he had a more comfortable life than Miyax.

Since both characters depended on animals for food, our third paragraph compared Sam's falcon to Miyax's wolf pack. Sam trained a falcon to hunt for him, but Miyax didn't train wolves. She had to become part of their pack and ask to share their food.

We worked on our essay all week, for less than thirty minutes a day, to avoid burnout. Every day we started by reading the essay aloud. We made minor changes, rearranged sentences, and added a couple of details each day. On Friday, I was very pleased to hear Dude say: "Mom, are we going to work on our essay next? Because I have some great ideas!"

Here is Dude's original paragraph:

Here is Super's original paragraph:

And here is our essay:

Living Like Sam or Surviving Like Miyax

I would choose to be Sam because he had a more comfortable life than Miyax. He ate a meal every day. He ate hickory nuts, walnuts, and acorns. He foraged for tubers, dandelions, wild strawberries, and wild onions. This adventurous boy also ate plenty of meat, including deer, rabbit, turtle, and frog legs. He caught crawfish and other fish, and made tea from various plants. He even made salt from hickory bark and jam from wild blueberries! Miyax, on the other hand, went days without eating. She only had meat and a small amount of moss and wild peas.

Sam had more resources available than Miyax did. He was in a forest instead of on the tundra. The trees provided him with firewood, shelter, salt, leaves to make a soft bed, and food to eat. He found clay to make a fireplace and pots. He was near a stream which gave him fresh water and wildlife to hunt. Miyax did not have as many resources. Shelter was harder to find on the tundra. She had to collect caribou dung to burn. All the water was frozen, so she had to melt snow and ice to drink.

Sam had another important advantage over Miyax. He had Frightful, a trained falcon. Frightful caught small game for Sam. Miyax depended on the wolf pack for food, but she did not train them to hunt for her. She had to become part of the pack before they would give her any food. Unlike Sam, she couldn't be sure of getting food from her animal companions.

Sam found it easier to survive in the wilderness than Miyax did. Both Miyax and Sam were escaping bad situations, but Sam ended up having a fun adventure. Miyax survived her journey across the tundra, but she faced many dangers and hardships. I would rather walk in Sam Gribley's rabbit skin shoes than Miyax's caribou skin boots.

This essay was truly a collaborative effort, with the kids providing the bulk of the ideas. I walked them through the editing process and helped them only with organization and style. I think they did a fantastic job, and we're all looking forward to our next writing project!

Polygon Workbox

It's more of an "activity box," I suppose. I'm putting together several of these for math, science, and language arts.

It has seven different activities related to polygons. Most of them came from either Teacher Filebox or Hands-On Math by Frances M. Thompson.

We do most of our school work together, but occasionally I need to work with one kid at a time. These boxes will be available for the other kid to use while I'm working one-on-one. And then there are those days when something happens and I really need the kids to take care of themselves. They will be able to pick up a box and work by themselves or together.

I'm hoping that they will find these activities fun! After the kids have used them a few times, I'll pass the old boxes along to our homeschooling buddies and put together some new ones!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Silly Bandz are not Polygons...

...because they aren't made of line segments, and you can't count their sides or measure their angles.

However, they do make a really interesting rock band.

Um, Gomie, could you please not walk all over the definitions? Thanks!

More highlights from the week: pizza fractions...

...whatever the heck this is...

...and a visit from a gorgeous Steller's Jay, who refused to pose for a picture!

Ancient Greece, My Side of the Mountain, cub scouts, a graphing project, Nova, karate, playdates, and fifty more things that I can't think of right now because I'm tired. It was a good week. Hope yours was, too!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

We are homeschoolers, after all. Hope you are having a super-awesome day!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Our Week So Far...

Hope you're having a super-awesome week, too!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Go Google Something

Remember when people used to use the phrase "Look it up?" Now there is a new verb for that. If you haven't been to today, you need to check it out! Today is Jules Verne's birthday, and Google has designed an awesome tribute to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea!

Hetzel front cover

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Favor Please?

Choco chip cookie

We're working on a graphing project here at the Super-Awesome School, and we need your help!

1) Take a look at the following choices and choose your favorite cookie:

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Oatmeal Cookies
Peanut Butter Cookies
Sugar Cookies
Other (Please Specify)

Coffee NCI Visuals Online
Photo by Renee Comet

2) In the morning, do you prefer coffee or tea?

3) And finally, if you could visit any continent, which one would it be?

Thanks for your help!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Is This What Charlotte Had in Mind?

Mom: OK, kids, what comes to mind when we think of the Ancient Minoans?

Dude: Volcanoes and death!

Super: And all their boats got destroyed.

Mom: Can you remember the name of that volcano?

Dude: Yes! Oh, my gosh! I know it, I know it!

Mom: I'll give you a minute. What else comes to mind?

Super: They lived on an island, all surrounded by water. They had good weather, and they had plenty of food, so they had free time.

Mom: Were they a big military power in the region?

Dude: No, they were a, um, money power.

Mom: That would be an economic power, right?

Dude: Yeah. And there was a huge volcano on another island and it blew up a huge chunk of the island!

Super: And that's where we get the story of Atlantis.

Mom: What was the name of their famous king?

Super: King Minos!

Mom: And did the Minoans actually call themselves Minoans?

Dude: No, we don't know what they actually called themselves.

Mom: What else comes to mind?

Super: The Minotaur! And wealth. And they weren't good fighters.

Dude: (singing) We just wanna have fu-un!

Mom: Where did they live?

Super: Crete.

Mom: Right, but what kind of place did they live in?

Super: An island.

Mom: Right, but I mean, what kind of structures did they live in?

Super: Oh! You mean their big palaces? You were being kind of vague, Mom.

Mom: You're right, that was kind of vague. those palaces, there are some very beautiful, very famous...

Dude: Beautiful pistachios!

Mom: Almost!

Super: Frescoes.

Mom: What else were they good at?

Super: All kinds of art, metalworking, making money... They were rich but they weren't the world's best fighters.

Mom: Do you remember the name of the people who conquered them?

Super: The My... the My...

Dude: The Mayans! No, wait...

Mom: The Mycen...

Super and Dude: The Mycenaeans!

Mom: Where did the Mycenaeans come from?

Super: From the mainland of Greece.

Mom: Was ancient Crete a perfect place to live?

Dude: No! There were earthquakes, and volcanoes, and tidal waves!

Minoan Ash

Mom: Can you remember a really cool thing that young Minoans did? Something kind of dangerous?

Dude: Yeah, but Mom? Can we eat now?

Super: Yeah, Mom, why don't we talk about the Minoans over lunch?

AMI - Stiersprungfresco 3