This post has a wide range of different hands-on activity ideas and teaching strategies that might inspire you in your homeschooling!
This time of year, our homeschooling can start to feel a bit stale. That’s when we have to shake things up and try approaching things from a different angle. We all have homeschool teaching strategies that we rely on, but it’s really great to change those up from time to time.
What kinds of engaging, hands-on activities can we do in our homeschools?
Our family has done simulations (the kids really liked the one we did on the Black Plague and the one we did on feudalism), plays, power point presentations, posters, dioramas, pin maps, dough diagrams, and played all kinds of games. In fact, you might want to check out this list of 30 Math Activity Ideas! I’ll share many more ideas down below!
Here are a couple of examples of teaching strategies we’ve been using the past week or two in our homeschool:
In biology, the kids are learning about the basic building blocks of carbohydrates, fats, proteins and so forth. Because this is the first time they’ve learned about this material it has taken quite a bit of review. I made up a quick set of matching flashcards so they could review this material on their own (below left).
In German (the kids’ foreign language), the kids have been learning more challenging vocabulary. One recent unit was on tools, another was related to the environment. As you can see above, I made two different bingo games – one had pictures, the other just had the English word. I would say the German words and the kids had to find the correct picture/word and mark it off on their bingo cards. It made reviewing more interesting and the kids were quite happy to go over the list several times! We also use an online app called quizlet that also allows teachers to make flashcard sets. You could do this for any subject! 😊
When we are stuck in a rut, I try think about these questions:
- What kinds of activities can I use to take this lesson further?
- Is the activity meaningful?
- What does it add to the lesson?
- Is this activity age appropriate? Are the kids too young or too old for this activity?
Then I think about some of the different teaching strategies I’ve used over the years and see if we can approach the materials in a new way. I often come back to the teaching strategy list I put together (continue reading below)… and think about what might inspire and engage the kids.
I’m sure you have your own personal repertoire of teaching methods and learning activities, but here is a list of engaging activities you could consider:
1) Songs such as Rock the Capitals, South America, USA Presidents Song, 50 States that Rhyme Song and this works effectively in foreign languages too (Grün, grün, grün sind alle meine Kleider in German)
2) Scavenger Hunts: You can hide math facts, letters, sight words, vocabulary words, foreign language words and more! Plus, (without anyone knowing) you can put a sticker under one dinner plate, have everyone choose a plate and have everyone check their plate mid-meal. Everyone says something meaningful & nice about the person who got the sticker… just to make them feel good!
3) Spelling Activities: sorting mats, cereal box sorting, game boards, bingo games
4) Math Activities: throw a sponge at the math fact, math cups (either face down or face up), hopscotch math, jump on math facts, math fact chalk games, math fact relay races, math races (on paper with no winner), online math games, math monster (ie. freeze tag with math facts!). Skip Counting Songs & hand-clapping game
5) Geography Activities: free hand map drawing (for older kids), pin maps, clay maps, cookie maps – with frosting, country studies (animals, food, plants, money, lapbooks, postcard exchange), dioramas (of habitats), average rainfall, world landmarks, geography games (like 10 days in Europe or 10 Days in Africa)
6) Using Read Aloud Time: crafts, coloring, cutting – often while read a novel together, the kids would be doing something else. This always worked well in our family!
7) Science: Engineering Activities – like building & testing with different materials – Here are 7 fun Engineering Challenges
And here are even more hands-on and engaging activity ideas:
plays/drama – I once wrote a play for the kids that had them re-enact all the events that led to the American Revolution. It included meetings in Parliament where different acts were passed, the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party, etc. The kids still remember acting all this out!
simulations – have students step back in time and “be” a different person. Have the kids immerse themselves in another time!
role play – Create role-cards each containing a description of a character to play during the activity. Provide general parameters of how the character would react. This is effective in history and foreign language lessons
conduct fake interviews — have students play a role and interview them (news style). Ask probing questions.
set the scene – Kim Bearden (author of Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me does a great job incorporating this technique effectively into her classroom — setting up an operating table to “operate” on sentences. History teachers could transform their classrooms into Ancient Egypt or demonstrate trench warfare (with chairs turned upside down for the barbed wire). For a foreign language class you could set up a post office or spend the day at the beach.
debates – take a side and argue it well, even if you don’t actually agree
music – songs and rhythm – People remember a lot from songs they sing. In our homeschool, we have sung the U.S. Presidents Song and the 50 States Song… about the Human Body Systems… and are currently singing songs in German to help us remember the parts of the body, clothing & colors, etc.
time for personal reflection – When people relate what they are learning to what they know, the go a step further in the learning process, connect and relate to the material better. Create opportunities for students to empathize with others and connect emotionally with the material (in a novel, back in history) Help the students to capture the moment or feeling of that situation/event/period.
portfolio projects – Writing projects help students synthesize the material and put it into their own words. These are amazing tools to use as kids enter middle school and high school, though my kids did a couple when they were younger as well. Be sure to grab this free resource: What is a Portfolio Project?
- Animal Portfolio Project – This is an example from when the kids were younger. It includes art, geography, writing and more.
- WWII Portfolio Project – This was from when my son was about 10.
create cartoons about the information at hand
create multimedia presentations – blog, video, slides, power point presentations — My kids have enjoyed making Power Point Presentations (and giving speeches) for the past year or so.
create interactive notebooks and lapbooks – last fall the girls did a lapbook on the Oregon Trail
And here are some interactive notebook pages I made for the Layers of the Earth
and for the Layers of the Atmosphere:
art projects – dioramas, drawings, paintings, sculpture that relate to the subject
hands-on geography maps, relief maps, pin maps
cookie diagrams — We have used cookie dough (or our homemade graham cracker recipe)
Montessori cards – We have used various Montessori sorting cards for many different science activities over the years! Here are our free Living-NonLiving Sort Cards, for example!
science experiments – Check out this free Chemistry Experiment Packet (for 2nd grade), for example!
online games – There are tons of online games that you can explore… here’s a really neat on for American History, for example!
use QR Code readers as a different approach to reviewing material – You can check out some of the materials I’ve made: like this Outdoor Treasure Hunt with QR Codes or Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division Practice – Minecraft QR Code Math. I’ve also made Civics Review Cards with QR Codes and American Revolution Review Cards with QR Codes
play active review games like Jeopardy and make it fun
Most any material can be made engaging, but it takes some planning. I’m sure I’ve left a lot of amazing, creative ideas off the list, but that’s the exciting thing about education, right? The possibilities are endless!
The goal with any of these activities is to teach in ways that are interactive, meaningful, and engaging. We need to find ways to continue to improve our instructional techniques… Think about the possibilities and give one or two a try!
Click here to download this free printable list of Hands-On Activity Ideas and Homeschool Teaching Strategies
Portfolio Projects: What is a History Portfolio Project? This post helps explain why Portfolio Projects are an effective teaching tool for history. It’s another strategy I use from time-to-time to change things up. This has the kids use a wide variety of writing styles and genres as they explore a specific history topic.
You can check out these (free) Portfolio Projects from when the kids were younger
- Animal Portfolio Project – My daughters always loved animals. A couple of years ago, I created this portfolio project so she could choose all kinds of projects relating to animals — art, writing, research, geography and more!
- WWII Portfolio Project – This was the portfolio project I made for my son when he was about 10.
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Happy Homeschooling, everyone!! ~Liesl
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