Archive for January, 2014

Gold Medal-Worthy Winter Olympics Crafts

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Anyone who uses our site or reads the blog knows that we love holidays and seasonal events, and the Winter Olympics are no exception! We’ve been in training to do our Winter Olympics crafts for weeks; we’ve strengthened our tissue paper technique, worked on our glue stick form, and drilled our knowledge of glitter glue. We’re proud to be Winter Olympics craft champions, and we’d like to invite you to join us in creating beautiful, handmade crafts that celebrate the biyearly event. Check out some of our favorite Winter Olympics crafts below.

Olympic Torch

During the opening ceremonies, it just feels good to have a handmade Olympic torch in your hand as you watch the event. This one is simple enough to make, so everyone in your family can have their own torch in a matter of minutes.

Olympic Writing

Everyone has their own favorite Winter Olympics event, but can you describe why your favorite sport is so great? This Olympic writing activity gets your child to use adjectives and nouns to describe their Olympic event of choice, all while watching the games! When the event is over, we like to turn our descriptions into paragraphs, and make miniature Olympics books that contain the whole family’s favorite sports.

Olympic Cookie Rings

This extremely delicious and exceptionally simple dessert is a tribute to the symbol of the Olympic games: the five rings. Make a batch of Olympic cookie rings to nosh on during the closing ceremonies this year.

In addition to these Winter Olympics crafts, we’ll also be making our way through the crafts, games, and activities in the Winter Olympics Activity Book, which includes tutorials on painting with Olympic rings, making pipe cleaner athletes, and using international greetings.

We’ll see you at the games!

How to Celebrate Chinese New Year

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Chinese New Year is a celebration of good fortune and new beginnings. While the traditions for Chinese New Year originate in the cultures and communities in China, the holiday is celebrated the world-over with parades, festivals, and parties. If you’re unfamiliar with Chinese New Year celebrations and customs, there are several simple ways that you can celebrate with your family. Read on to learn how to celebrate Chinese New Year with your children.

Chinese New Year Cleaning Education_com


Cleaning and tidying your home is a great way to prepare for the New Year. Cleaning up dirt and dust is seen as a way to ‘sweep away the bad luck’ from the previous year. Getting ready for Chinese New Year is also a great motivator for kids to pitch in on the cleanup process. Tidying up can also apply to personal appearance; many people get haircuts or new clothes for the New Year.

Chinese New Year Decorations Education_com


The color red is associated with good luck during Chinese New Year, so many families choose to decorate their houses in the color. Try making Chinese New Year crafts for kids with your children to add some good-luck red to your home. Elaborate looking dragon puppets, wishing trees, and hanging lanterns are surprisingly easy to make with young children, using cardstock and floral foam.

Chinese New Year Food Education_com


One of the best ways to celebrate Chinese New Year is with food! Families celebrate the holiday by eating foods that symbolize a long and prosperous year. Eating a whole fish, with head and tail included, is symbolic of having a good beginning and ending to the New Year. Long noodles, such as Chow Mein, symbolize a long life. Make the meal extra special with dumplings as appetizers and fortune cookies for dessert.

Chinese New Year Party Education_com


In many cities, the multi-week Chinese New Year celebration begins with a big parade and ends with a lantern festival. Do an online search to see if a city near you offers these celebrations. Another fun tradition revolves around red envelopes; married couples give red envelopes containing small amounts of money to single adults and children. You can even make and decorate your own envelopes using this template. Generally, the holiday is celebrated by being friendly and cheerful, so meet with friends, enjoy family togetherness, and take time to do things that make you happy.

When Elementary Math Gets Tricky: Subtraction with Regrouping

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

From time to time, we host ‘special guests’ in the office: our staff’s children! This past week, we hosted a pair of very studious first graders intent on doing their homework in office each afternoon. Because we’re all charitable and friendly adults, several members of the staff were coerced into assisting the kids with story tables, practice spelling quizes, and—most terrifying of all—math worksheets.

When they came to us with a long list of problems that required subtraction with regrouping, we struggled with the words to explain the concept to six-year-olds. After a few days (and a few two-digit subtraction with regrouping worksheets), we felt confident that we could guide even the most confused first grader through his math exercises. We wanted to share our process with you in the event that a child needs help learning how to do subtraction with regrouping.

1. Introduce your child to the different parts of the numbers in a subtraction with regrouping problem. Draw a line down the center of the equation, and explain to your child, “We’re going to be working with two different parts of the numbers in this problem. We’re going to be looking at the tens place and the ones place. The tens place is on the left of our line and the ones place is on the right.” Have your child point to the tens place, and then the ones place. Check for understanding.

2. Let your child know that you’re going to be subtracting in the ones place first. Cover the tens place with another piece of paper. Say to your child, “We have a zero and a five, so our problem for the ones place is ‘0 – 5.’ Can we solve the problem ‘0 – 5?’” Your child should respond with a ‘no.’ Continue, “We can’t solve ‘0 – 5’ because 0 is smaller than 5. We need to make 0 a bigger number, so we’re going to regroup.”

3. Uncover the tens place. Tell your child, “Since we need the top number in the ones place to be bigger, we can borrow from the tens place. Let’s borrow one digit from the tens place.” Show your child how you cross out the number in the tens place and replace it with a number one digit less, in this case, 7 becomes 6.

4. Explain to your child, “Since we took one away from the number in the tens place, we can add a one in front of the number in the ones place. If we add a 1 in front of the 0 in the tens place, what number do we have?” Give your child a moment to think about this question, and, if necessary, guide him to realizing that the number in the ones place becomes 10.

5. Use your second piece of paper to cover the tens place again. Ask your child, “Now that we have the equation ‘10 – 5’ in the ones place, what is the answer to that problem?” Your child should respond that the answer is 5. Show him where he should write his answer.

6. Now, use your second piece of paper to cover up the digits in the ones place. Tell your child, “Now, we need to solve the problem in the tens place. Since we borrowed from the number 7, we’re now solving the problem ‘6 – 3.’” Have your child solve the problem and write the answer in the tens place.

7. You’re done! Repeat the process with a different subtraction with regrouping problem, then have your child solve a problem on his own.

Four Ways to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is this Monday, January 20th! Dr. King inspired people all over the world to strive for peace, unity, and equal rights. Through nonviolent protests, moving speeches, and clear vision, Martin Luther King, Jr. became a prominent and influential leader in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and ‘60s. In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the upcoming holiday, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. activities, worksheets, and coloring pages to celebrate MLK Jr.

Help your child learn the basics about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life with this short biography of his life.

Celebrate MLK Jr.’s achievement in becoming a Nobel Laureate by constructing a Nobel Peace Prize with your child. Use this activity as an opportunity to discuss with your child why Martin Luther King, Jr. received a Nobel Peace Prize, and how you can promote peace in your home, neighborhood, and community.

This coloring page of Martin Luther King, Jr. is a great introductory activity for young kids, and also makes a pretty decoration to help celebrate the holiday.

MLK Jr. spoke of peace and unity in his public appearances throughout the Civil Rights Movement. Doves are an iconic symbol of peace the world over. Make a flock of DIY doves to hang in your home or classroom as a reminder to celebrate peace everyday.

Blogger Spotlight: Ingspirations

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Blogger Ing writes about parenting, educational activities, and family fun at Ingspirations. Through personal narrative and family photographs, Singapore-resident Ing shares her knowledge as a mother and educator to help parents foster early learning in their homes. Ing spoke to editor Katherine about her philosophies on education, teachable moments, and project-based learning.

Ing portrait

KS: You’re a big supporter of child-directed activities. Why do you think it’s so important for little ones to take the lead in the great learning adventure of life?

Ing: Watch a child at play or doing something he’s interested in, and you’ll see a high level of engagement and focus. I’m really attracted to this kind of engagement in my own children and students in my classroom. Children are born with an innate desire to learn and explore the world around them. Letting them take the lead in what they’re interested in is usually more productive than trying to get them to learn something they have no interest in. I know this may sound idealistic, because children need to learn things that they have no interest in. A child who dislikes numbers still has to learn math in school and use numbers in daily life. In such instances, it is a challenge for the parent or educator to find ways to arouse the child’s interest in the subject.

KS: I’ve read quite a bit about STELLAR (Strategies for English Language Learning And Reading) on your blog. Could you explain what it is and share with us a little bit about why you think it’s such a promising approach?

Ing: STELLAR is a program for teaching English [to non-native speakers] in the lower grades in Singapore primary schools. A typical STELLAR lesson begins and revolves around a big book, which is a bigger version of a children’s story book. Teachers will read the story to the class, and conduct activities to highlight and teach different components of English, such as grammar, vocabulary, reading, speaking, listening and writing. This approach allows children to learn the language in context, instead of simply memorizing isolated language rules or vocabulary meanings.

KS: What big book was the biggest hit with your Primary 1 classes?

Ing: There are a number of books which my students enjoyed in Primary 1, including There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly and There’s a Nightmare in My Closet.


KS: A new classroom approach called “project-based learning” has started gaining traction in the United States. Are you familiar with this approach?

Ing: Yes, we have an approach that resembles project-based learning in Singapore too, although I’m sure there are a few differences. We place students into pairs or small groups and they work together to solve a particular problem or do research on a particular topic, depending on the subject. The success of this approach really depends on the teacher’s objective: What do you want to achieve by using this approach? Teaching the importance of learning to work with others? Developing learning skills, such as researching, thinking, negotiation, planning, or independence? The level of success depends on the facilitation of the teacher.

KS: What are a few of the most memorable student learning moments that you’ve had the privilege of witnessing?

Ing: One unforgettable moment I experienced was with one of my Primary 1 classes. It actually happened outside the classroom, in a non-academic setting. That day, there was a team-building activity for all Primary 1 classes. Each teacher had to get all of her students form a line holding hands, and pass through obstacles without letting go. Along the way, I could see a few of my students getting tired and frustrated. I casually told the whole class, “Come on, we can do it!” and these six and seven year-olds surprised me when they started to chant, “We can do it! We can do it! We can do it!” As they made their way through the obstacles, they began to chant louder and louder. The frustrations and negative attitudes soon disappeared and we made it all the way through the obstacle course! Although our class didn’t come in first, I know all of them learned a lot that day: the power of teamwork, focusing on goals, and positive reinforcement.


KS: Is there a favorite craft or activity you’ve recently discovered, but have yet to do with your little learners?

Ing: That would have to be snow dough! I’ve read so much about it but have yet to try it with my kids. It seems so simple, but I need to find a good time for them to play with it, due to the potential mess.

KS: Can you tell us about an all-time favorite or most memorable activity that all three of your children enjoyed?

Ing: That’s a tough one. I’d say when they were younger (two to four years old), they looked forward to our daily bedtime reading. We would cuddle on the sofa and either my husband or I would read them a book or two before their bedtime. I’m thinking they loved the bonding as much as listening to the stories! Painting is a close second favorite activity. All three kids love to paint. And, of course, water play and bubbles never fail to captivate them! We’re also very into outdoor activities and letting the kids explore nature; they enjoy building sand castles, cycling, feeding fish, and having picnics at the park. And the most memorable activity that our two boys have tried is parasailing!

Discrepant Events to Spark Scientific Curiosity

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

In science education, a “discrepant event” is an attention-grabbing experiment or demonstration that upsets the viewer’s preconceived notions about how the world works. The more dramatic, the better! Discrepant events are a lot like magic tricks, at least in the sense that they want to make us want to get to the bottom of what we saw happen.

This impulse reaction is hugely valuable for teachers, as it prompts their students to follow through on the natural inclination to approach the world with a scientific mindset: apply background knowledge, make a hypothesis, and see if the results of the demonstration can be reproduced when different variables are changed. The best part? Plenty of students will be intrinsically motivated to do all of the above on their own if they’re shown something cool enough. Check out four of our favorite discrepant events from’s Science Fair section below.

What is Condensation Education_com

What is Condensation?

Why does the water balloon get sucked into the bottle? Kids will apply what they know about pressure, states of matter, and condensation to make educated guesses and figure it out.

Hammer Ruler Trick Education_com

Hammer Ruler Trick

This experiment periodically makes the rounds on the internet and often gets accused of being fraudulent! It’s very real, very cool, and because it makes little visual sense when kids (and many adults!) are first confronted with it, it enriches their intuition regarding important physical principles like center of mass and torque.

Liedenfrost Effect Education_com

Liedenfrost Effect

When a pan is heated to extreme temperatures, water droplets released into the pan demonstrate some cool behavior. But what’s going on? And what explains the mind-boggling fact that water droplets evaporate more quickly in a pan that isn’t as hot?

Candle Science Education_com

Candle Science

This one is totally bizarre. Smoke itself isn’t flammable, right? Then something else in the air must be…

These projects require adult supervision to ensure that everything goes smoothly. But don’t jump the gun, parents! Let your kid make a hypothesis before you explain what happened in each project.

Stuff We Like: WordPlay Shakespeare

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Reading through a new-to-you Shakespeare play can be daunting, and even downright confusing. That’s why the staff was so excited to learn about WordPlay Shakespeare. The WordPlay Shakespeare series from The New Book Press puts a full filmed performance of Shakespeare’s plays next to the bard’s text, on a tablet or desktop computer. In a salute to one of Shakespeare’s most famous phrases, the WordPlay Shakespeare slogan states that “Half the page is a Stage.” Guest blogger Alexander Parker writes about this innovative way to experience Shakespeare’s work.


Imagine a friend telling you that there’s an amazing song that you have to hear, or an extremely tasty dish that you need to sample.

Now imagine that your friend hands you some sheet music and a recipe.

You’d probably be disappointed. And if you can’t read music and don’t cook, you’ll be even more disappointed—you might even be frustrated. To experience great music, you need to hear it; and to experience great food, you need to eat it. Sheet music and recipes are like a secret code that allow you to produce the actual sounds and tastes.

In a way, this is the same frustration that millions of middle and high school students and teachers face every year, when they read Shakespeare. That’s because Shakespeare’s plays were not written to be read—they were written to be be seen and heard. In other words, what we read and struggle with today is the ‘recipe’ for the performance. Add in the complexity of language that’s 450 years out of date, and you begin to understand why Shakespeare can be such a struggle.

We at The New Book Press think that if you put Shakespeare’s written word right next to a performance of the text, students and adults will have a much better understanding of Shakespeare’s language and work. The new generation of tablet computers that can show text and film on the same screen, or ‘page,’ allowed us to combine the bard’s writing with videos of actors performing the lines.

WordPlay Shakespeare

Over 500 students and their teachers tried the pilot version of WordPlay Shakespeare, and we confirmed that students from ages 12 and up understood Shakespeare’s words considerably faster than when reading the plays in their traditional format. Even better, students were able to enjoy Shakespeare much more. And teachers were able to spend less time explaining the modern translations of the words, and instead focused on themes and concepts that exercised students’ higher learning skills.

We also showed the books to adults, and we heard the same phrase again and again: “I wish I had had this when I was studying Shakespeare!”

We know that studying Shakespeare builds vocabulary, and improves complex reading and interpreting skills, with the major benefit of introducing us to one of the greatest literary minds of all time. Now, we also know that the process can be far more enjoyable and illuminating  if blossoming Shakespeare fans can see the performance right next to the words. The written words help you understand the performance, and the performance helps you understand the written words. Advanced students make faster progress, struggling students engage immediately, and teachers get to spend class time on more advanced topics. Furthermore, students with all different types of learning styles—like visual, auditory, and logical-mathematical—are all engaged.

As one teacher said to us: “Pretty much every middle and high school student in America has to read two or three of Shakespeare’s plays—this is just a smarter way to do it. This is the future.” We agree!

Thank you to Alexander for the guest post! Learn more about WordPlay Shakespeare, including their versions of Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by clicking through to their website.

Pros and Cons of Project-Based Learning

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Project-based learning is an educational approach that has become increasingly popular in the last few years. So, what is project-based learning, or PBL? It’s an approach in which students adopt an investigative approach to learning. And, fittingly, it emphasizes the completion of all kinds of projects. Work is often performed in groups, and the environment encourages kids to band together and think creatively in order to solve problems and complete assignments.


Like nearly all educational philosophies, the success of the approach depends greatly on the teacher. However, there are some pros and cons of PBL that are worth discussing.


  • Students more easily develop team-building skills, which are essential in future work environments.
  • The learning process puts greater emphasis on creativity, and students can see how their ideas can be successfully adopted and carried out to complete projects.
  • Students are autonomous, yet they are also able to interact with one another freely.
  • Real-world connections are more easily derived from the learning materials.
  • Students get to know their peers better.


  • Teachers who are not properly trained or equipped with the skills needed to facilitate a PBL classroom might not be able to help their students learn key concepts effectively.
  • Conflicts between students might become more common and possibly more difficult to detect.
  • Group projects that are not heavily monitored by teachers can lead to uneven division of tasks between students.
  • It’s hard to determine how much each student contributes to a group project, which could mean that while some students are learning, others are letting their peers do all of the mental heavy-lifting.
  • Parents might struggle to figure out how best to help their students, as homework and take-home assignments are hard to understand when taken outside of a group context.

The benefits of PBL are not only educational, but also social. The cons, for the most part, center around the difficultly of navigating group dynamics and how they affect the learning process.

When I was in school, I remember dreading group projects. Depending on the group you were assigned to, you could end up doing a lot of someone else’s work if you wanted to receive a good grade. That being said, there was hardly any structure or teacher involvement in these projects. Teachers were little more than passive observers. Now that I’ve gained a little perspective, I do feel that I would have greatly benefited from more extensive interaction with my peers, especially in the upper elementary school grades, as well as in middle and high school. When students are required to work collaboratively, they learn from one another and gain a better understanding and appreciation of what their peers have to offer the group.

To learn more about project based learning and how it works, check out this article.

Do you have any experience with project-based learning? Do you feel this approach should be more widely adopted? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Workbook Pick: Performing Arts

Friday, January 10th, 2014

As has been mentioned in a previous post, I grew up a theater kid. I know. Sometimes I can’t believe it, either. I was a pretty shy, reserved kidI still am. But somehow, for a brief window of time in my tween performing arts workbook coverand teen years, I was able to put that all aside in order to get up onstage. Having a ‘safe zone’ of school and community theaters where I could get all of my teenage pent-up emotions out of my system was a huge part of my adolescence. I don’t know what I would have done without it.

So a few months ago, when designer Lori Fagerholm and I were working on a sheet about Groucho Marx together for our Famous Jewish-Americans series, we started tossing around the idea of doing some worksheets on live performance. Thus was born our Performing Arts book, available now in December’s lineup. This jam-packed performing arts book is full of activities that will be surefire hits with theater kids of all inclinations, from future stage makeup artists to scenery engineers to stand-up comedians! Even if your child isn’t a “theater kid”, there are still plenty of activities that he’ll love in this performing arts book. Find your copy of our performing arts book here, and browse the rest while you’re at it.

Related Content:

Improv Game for Kids

Understanding Shakespeare

What is Drama?