Spielgaben: Activity 4

As part of our Spielgaben activity this week we will be exploring the times tables.

In this activity children will learn how to work out and remember times table facts using wooden points to help them visualise the numbers rather than making them memorise abstract sums which can often be frustrating for some children. Learning times tables is often laborious and traditional methods can lack engagement, where as this activity aims to keep the child engaged as there is an element of play. As we are studying the 3 times table, this is the example we will be using in this blog.
As always, although this is a Spielgaben activity, I’ve done my best to provide alternative ways to get involved at the end of this blog, even if you don’t own a Spielgaben yourself. I have also provided free downloadable content for those using other manipulatives. 

I would recommend this activity for children aged 7+ but obviously it doesn’t matter what age your child is as your knowledge on their ability will be more relevant.

All you will need is the Spielgaben Cookie Grid, which is free to download, a pen/pencil, set 9 and set 10 of the Spielgaben. It is not essential but you may want to laminate the cookie grid so you can reuse it multiple times with a dry wipe marker. Another fun optional extra for this activity is a baking tray!

Below I have provided a guided script that I feel works well for us.

Parent: Shall we make some cookies? I will start by making one cookie. I am going to put three chocolate chips onto the cookie. How many cookies are there?

Child: There is one cookie.

Parent: How many chocolate chips are there?

Child: There are three chocolate chips.

(At this point, have your child write a 1 in first cell of the ‘Number of cookies’ row and a 3 in the first cell of the ‘Number of chips’ row)

Parent: Would you like to make another cookie? We need another cookie with three chocolate chips.

(Child makes cookie with three chocolate chips)

Parent: How many cookies do we have altogether now?

Child: We have two cookies.

Parent: So how many chocolate chips do we have altogether now?

Child: We have six chocolate chips.

(As before, have your child write in the next cell along of both the rows with the correct answers. Keep repeating the process of making cookies with chips to work out each mathematical problem. As you work along the grid you may notice your child counting all the chips, if so, help them to see that they don’t need to do this. Have your child look at the grid to see the previous number on the ‘number of chips’ row and simply suggest that they count three up from that – it should save a lot of time) 

Once you have finished playing and you have finished your grid as far as you and your child wish to go, you can use your grid as a reference for the abstract sums (e.g. 5×3=) at a later date. You can also repeat this game until your child can recall the sums from memory.

If you don’t own a Spielgaben then you can download this free Plates And Jelly Beans Printout For Times Tables, all you will need to buy is some jelly beans and the best part is you can snack on them after you’re done playing! Or if you feel you have a bit more time, perhaps you could bake some real cookies and use real chocolate chips!

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A Week of English – And Story Cubes!

So this year, now Ava is older, we have introduced many new subjects and more variations of certain subjects for her. For instance, English no longer consists of Reading Eggs sessions everyday. Although this was fun and it served its purpose, there was only so much it could provide and it ended up just being a supplement to her English studies so I decided for her we would not continue with the subscription. Having said that, I cant recommend it enough for younger children just learning to read the basics, it gamifies the whole learning experience which makes it less laborious for both parent and child.
So here is how a week of English goes for us at the moment.

Every day of the week we follow the Writing With Ease Workbooks by Susan Wise Bauer. A big recommendation from us for its simplistic scripted lesson plans and worksheets to go with the lessons. She has literally done all the legwork for you so you don’t have to do a thing. Each book has a whole years worth of lessons! 

We also listen to chapters of audio books together daily with breakfast. We might also do this while we are drawing or doing some sort of handcraft. It’s an opportunity for them to hear a variety of different of writing compositions and words along with their correct pronunciations. The theory behind this practice is that even if they don’t understand the literature they’re listening to, the seeds are being sown for future understanding and it will help them to grasp the more complex literature down the line. Essentially we use audio books in place of television and both the girls love it! 

Monday: We follow First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise. I also cannot recommend this book enough. Just like the Writing With Ease books, the lessons are scripted so it makes it nice and simple for parents and each book also has a whole years worth of lessons!

Tuesday: Ava has independent reading, this is simply where she will read a book with literature that’s suited to her ability. She’s really enjoying David Walliams’ books at the moment. She’s almost finished the entire series of his books! 

Wednesday: First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise.

Thursday: First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise. 

And finally,

Friday: I try and make Fridays super fun and relaxed to round off the week and create that ‘It’s the weekend!’ atmosphere, so on Friday we explore creative writing together with the help of Story Cubes. Story Cubes are dice with icons that are designed to prompt story telling. Not only do we love using them for creative writing but we use them for puppet shows, I will use them for bedtime stories and sometimes we will play them as a game and each take it in turns to roll a dice and take it in turns to narrate the story in which direction we’d like. I love Story cubes, they’re so versatile and I love to make learning play based as much as I possibly can. 


Here’s how we use them for creative writing.

  1. I like to start by having Ava look at the different genres. We tend to choose one small genre pack or three dice from one of the large genre packs and mix them with five dice from the original pack, the orange one. 
  2. We then roll all the dice at once and set them aside while we look at our story template from Usborne’s Write Your Own Story book.
  3. Then, I’ll ask Ava to place a cube on each prompt on the template.
  4. For help with ideas on key words and settings we use the Story Genres Display Poster Pack from Twinkl, we then set about trying to think of a story to match the icons rolled.

And she ends up creating something like this..

(I have translated the image underneath as I appreciate not everyone will be able to understand her awesome and unique spellings). 

“Once upon a time there was a girl called Emily, she had a pink dress and ginger hair. She lived near a train station that always stopped outside a haunted town. One day Emily got on the train and she got off at the haunted town and a monster appeared. And so she ran into a haunted house but she did not know it was haunted. However as she walked in, the door slammed shut. She was locked in. Then a ghost chased her so she closed the door and locked the ghost in. Eventually she found a key and got out. In the end she never went back to the haunted house again, not even the haunted town. The end.”

I really love how such simple tools can spark imagination to allow children to create such exciting ideas. I’m quite impressed with how her story turned out. She grasped how a story works and was able to create her very own. 

Do you have Story Cubes? If so, how do you use them? We would love to see your ideas as we are always looking for new ways to make learning more fun and exciting for our family. Feel free to share your ideas on our Facebook page or leave a comment below to your website, we’d love to read and follow your journey!

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Emily’s First Day… Of Not Going to School!

Home education starts from birth – at least if that’s what you’ve planned from the beginning anyway! Nevertheless, this week still marked a special milestone. Emily’s first day… Of not going to school!

This week would have been Emily’s first week of school, she would have started reception. I know. We home educate so there’s no actual start date but I still wanted to take lots of photos and mark it as a big milestone because that’s what it is for us.

Some people may think it’s ridiculous to take lots of photos of another day of what is essentially her just doing what shes been doing since she was born – learning at home. But for us it was important to document, because these ‘first day of..’ photos symbolise something more than that.

When we look at these photos we have a memory of the day of course, the milestone, the ‘I can’t believe how fast you’re growing up!’ moment, but what we also have is images that makes us feel so grateful that we are able to home educate, images that say ‘You don’t have to wave goodbye for six hours a day, the fun still carries on!’

These images represent our freedom of choice, whether to home educate or otherwise and I am incredible grateful to live in a country that allows us those freedoms.

We have images of a little girl that is happy because she feels safe and because of this, she is open to learning and engages in the activities presented to her. For those of you that know Emily personally, you will know that she is extremely shy and she shuts down in very large groups. She refuses to engage. She is such a gentle and sensitive soul. My point is that these photos paint a bigger picture for us; they remind us of how we are doing the right thing and how we are on the right path, for us.

Whether you are home educated or you go to school, we hope you all had a fantastic week starting the new term! Good luck to all the new starters of 2017!

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