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Ideas for non-busy work assignments for studies you design?


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Please.

 

This seems like a stupid question BUT I love making book schedules and such but stink at assigning output. My kids aren't big on projects and neither am I. Most stuff out there seems like busywork and I end up not following through with it because I find it pointless. I've tried using pre-designed studies but then it ends up being just a booklist as I generally hate the assignments.

 

How often do you assign things and what type of things do you assign?

 

I have 2nd, 5th and Jr. High this year.

Edited by soror
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We don't do a lot of output in the early grades. Sometimes I've had them make a booklet (some paper stapled together, titled 'Life Cycles', with each page drawing/labeling a different organism). I'm also a fan of charts, where we fold paper into 3-8 sections and put something different in each one. This works well when doing compare/contrast things in history or science or when we want to talk about several different characteristics of a system. Next year I'm going to have my 6th grader do weekly reports for history - we're going to be working on notetaking and synthesizing information from multiple sources. My plan is to take notes M-W (co-op on Th) and then write a short report each F. Since we'll be working through the writing assignments in the MCT series, I'm planning to have the writing for history fit the assignment from the writing book - expository, descriptive, persuasive, etc.

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For my 2nd grader: Read aloud for 20 minutes. Find 1-3 sentences that you think are beautiful, exciting, funny, or important to the story and copy them into your reading notebook.

We also took 6 picture books over 6 weeks and filled out the conflict and plot sections of the Teaching the Classics chart.

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We do "learning with" work. Mary Lennox brought gardening and bird watching here, Alice encouraged poetry memorization and learning more about chess, My Side Of The Mountain encouraged survival, and geography, The Giver brought us symbolism, ideology, and community/government studies, The Phantom Tollbooth brought allegory and word play.

 

I don't assign a lot of written work or paper crafts. Everything should have meaning and bring the book closer to being living and loved.

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Please.

 

This seems like a stupid question BUT I love making book schedules and such but stink at assigning output. My kids aren't big on projects and neither am I. Most stuff out there seems like busywork and I end up not following through with it because I find it pointless. I've tried using pre-designed studies but then it ends up being just a booklist as I generally hate the assignments.

 

How often do you assign things and what type of things do you assign?

 

I have 2nd, 5th and Jr. High this year.

No answer because I have the exact same experience. Love planning the book lists, stink at planning assignments.
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I ask for oral or written narrations, depending on the ages d ability, and also include copywork / dictation. If something lends itself well to a visual retelling, I might ask for a diagram or flow chart or something like that

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Depending on the age/skill level, we follow reading with narrations. Younger children typically discuss, explain, retell or describe (composition but orally), sometimes draw, paint or create with modeling clay or reenact using their own bodies or small toys. Mid-elementary age children do the same, but now we add in creating lists and simple charts (at first together and later independently), writing letters, writing short research based narrations, writing from another character's perspective, etc. Middle school age children do some of what mid-elementary aged children do, but with more complexity. Their written narrations increase in length and in number per week, adding to the components needed for essays. A few formal, full-length essays are assigned per year in varying subjects and on varying topics. Response papers (to science journals, literature, etc.) can be added by late middle school and throughout high school. Of course, essays for high school.

 

The beauty of oral narration is that it can be used to aid in balance. Too often textbooks and programs require output after every chapter in every subject. This could be writing out definitions for vocabulary words, answering basic comprehension questions, crossword puzzles based on vocabulary, writing assignments, outlining a chapter, etc. All of these outputs used this often creates overload. Narration allows me and my student to pick what fits us for that day in that subject. If my daughter has already chosen to draw a map for one book and to write a short research narration for another book, then the next book might mean she discusses or describes some aspect of that next book with me and moves on. This allows us to keep balance in the day and in the week. Busy days mean less written work or weeks with a larger, more formal essay in the works might mean less written work. Narration suggestions also allow her to chose what "speaks" to her, IOW, what aspect of what was read she felt inspired by or connected with. Because she has more say in what she writes or in what way she responds or reacts to what she has read, she is more likely to consider it positively and less like "busy" work.

 

I do give my girls assignment sheets to keep track of regular work for the week. They have these to work on whenever I cannot be engaged with them. These include a regular rotation of books to read, narrations they've chosen, and other assignments. Also, I do assign some written work, so they don't get to chose everything. Many everyday narrations are chosen from a list of suggestions by them, though. This is why I've written the guides that I've written and why each chapter or reading selection is followed by a list of possible narration suggestions. The variety is there for many reasons, one of them being flexibility for what the needs of that day are. And narrations are not busy work, because they are always composition, communication or expression building in style.

Edited by Kfamily
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I confess to enjoying lapbooks, and so do my kids. I enjoy cutting and gluing for some unknown reason. However, sometimes I don't feel like it, and I mainly require narrations. I also look out for opportunities to revisit the subject matter in every day life....oh look there's a such and such, remember we read abOut it? Or tell daddy about what you learned. Mine are fifth and second grades, so this would change as they age of course.

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No answer because I have the exact same experience. Love planning the book lists, stink at planning assignments.

 

 

Me three. :glare:

 

At least I am in good company!

I confess to enjoying lapbooks, and so do my kids. I enjoy cutting and gluing for some unknown reason. However, sometimes I don't feel like it, and I mainly require narrations. I also look out for opportunities to revisit the subject matter in every day life....oh look there's a such and such, remember we read abOut it? Or tell daddy about what you learned. Mine are fifth and second grades, so this would change as they age of course.

If lapbooks work for you great, they just don't here. 

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We don't do a lot of output in the early grades. Sometimes I've had them make a booklet (some paper stapled together, titled 'Life Cycles', with each page drawing/labeling a different organism). I'm also a fan of charts, where we fold paper into 3-8 sections and put something different in each one. This works well when doing compare/contrast things in history or science or when we want to talk about several different characteristics of a system. Next year I'm going to have my 6th grader do weekly reports for history - we're going to be working on notetaking and synthesizing information from multiple sources. My plan is to take notes M-W (co-op on Th) and then write a short report each F. Since we'll be working through the writing assignments in the MCT series, I'm planning to have the writing for history fit the assignment from the writing book - expository, descriptive, persuasive, etc.

I'm not really worried about my 2nd grader but I need to bump up expectations with my older ones. Thank you for the examples.

 

Writing assignments. My 2nd graders do copywork. My 5th and middle school kids do reports or essays(possibly for late middle school.)

You do once weekly writing assignments, right? Alternating subjects? I have your book on planning but I still feel a bit inept on making assignements.

 

For my 2nd grader: Read aloud for 20 minutes. Find 1-3 sentences that you think are beautiful, exciting, funny, or important to the story and copy them into your reading notebook.

We also took 6 picture books over 6 weeks and filled out the conflict and plot sections of the Teaching the Classics chart.

I've done TTC with my oldest but not the others. I did have them do some copywork this year like you describe but didn't stick with it enough and my older ones need to be doing more.

 

We do "learning with" work. Mary Lennox brought gardening and bird watching here, Alice encouraged poetry memorization and learning more about chess, My Side Of The Mountain encouraged survival, and geography, The Giver brought us symbolism, ideology, and community/government studies, The Phantom Tollbooth brought allegory and word play.

 

I don't assign a lot of written work or paper crafts. Everything should have meaning and bring the book closer to being living and loved.

Yes, beautiful, we've done this some as well, for sure. Coincidentally we read Secret Garden this year and just started our garden and have been getting into bird watching more. My son did some survival stuff after reading My Side of the Mountain a few years back and I'm planning it for dd1 next year- in the fall so we can really explore different things but we really need some written output.

 

I ask for oral or written narrations, depending on the ages d ability, and also include copywork / dictation. If something lends itself well to a visual retelling, I might ask for a diagram or flow chart or something like that

 

 

Depending on the age/skill level, we follow reading with narrations. Younger children typically discuss, explain, retell or describe (composition but orally), sometimes draw, paint or create with modeling clay or reenact using their own bodies or small toys. Mid-elementary age children do the same, but now we add in creating lists and simple charts (at first together and later independently), writing letters, writing short research based narrations, writing from another character's perspective, etc. Middle school age children do some of what mid-elementary aged children do, but with more complexity. Their written narrations increase in length and in number per week, adding to the components needed for essays. A few formal, full-length essays are assigned per year in varying subjects and on varying topics. Response papers (to science journals, literature, etc.) can be added by late middle school and throughout high school. Of course, essays for high school.

 

The beauty of oral narration is that it can be used to aid in balance. Too often textbooks and programs require output after every chapter in every subject. This could be writing out definitions for vocabulary words, answering basic comprehension questions, crossword puzzles based on vocabulary, writing assignments, outlining a chapter, etc. All of these outputs used this often creates overload. Narration allows me and my student to pick what fits us for that day in that subject. If my daughter has already chosen to draw a map for one book and to write a short research narration for another book, then the next book might mean she discusses or describes some aspect of that next book with me and moves on. This allows us to keep balance in the day and in the week. Busy days mean less written work or weeks with a larger, more formal essay in the works might mean less written work. Narration suggestions also allow her to chose what "speaks" to her, IOW, what aspect of what was read she felt inspired by or connected with. Because she has more say in what she writes or in what way she responds or reacts to what she has read, she is more likely to consider it positively and less like "busy" work.

 

I do give my girls assignment sheets to keep track of regular work for the week. They have these to work on whenever I cannot be engaged with them. These include a regular rotation of books to read, narrations they've chosen, and other assignments. Also, I do assign some written work, so they don't get to chose everything. Many everyday narrations are chosen from a list of suggestions by them, though. This is why I've written the guides that I've written and why each chapter or reading selection is followed by a list of possible narration suggestions. The variety is there for many reasons, one of them being flexibility for what the needs of that day are. And narrations are not busy work, because they are always composition, communication or expression building in style.

Lisa, I went to your site again and your book on narration is wonderful. You give wonderful assignments. I know I don't have the skills and knowledge to do as well on my own but you have inspired me. It is just plain daunting I guess. I need to pre-plan more.  I start well but life gets hairy, kids complain and I cave too much. Also, I need it pre-planned in the schedule and more specific or the kids seem to think it optional. I pre-planned some last year but just vague stuff. I guess the answer is to do it myself, as I can't find anything quite like I want.

Edited by soror
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The way I'm doing it for a few subjects that I've created is to

1. Only require discussions then have a final "fun" project proving that he's retained something :rofl: This could be making a video, creating a play, a poster, something interactive... So DS could act out his favorite scene from the book, or rewrite a scene thereby changing the entire rest of the book (with discussions about that), and so on.

or

2. Have regular work but incorporate it into other subjects.  For example, if DS learned how to write a complaint letter, I would tie it in with typing and computer science (opening a file in Word, formatting, etc).  If it was a book assignment, I could tie it into art and he could paint what he thought was the most pivotal scene, or again, type a narration.  Stuff like that.

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Some of this depends... I mean, conceptually, I think you can just assign copywork, then a mix of copywork and dictation, and then a mix of dictation and written narration, and finally old fashion reports and essay responses. I think that's fine.

 

I often don't... I mean, we do some of that too, but if I'm thinking ahead, I assign other stuff. But it's probably exactly the sort of writings that you find pointless. So, I suppose you have to decide to see the point or you have to commit to just cyclically assigning a report on whatever they read.

 

So, for example, when ds did his study of time travel, he read all these science articles and books about time travel. And then I had him write a time travel story. He got to play around with writing fiction and had to come up with a way to incorporate the science he read about. And then he read most of Michio Kaku's Physics of the Impossible and I made him make catalog ads for "impossible products" based on the ideas he read about. He got to practice taking on a "selling" voice and mimicking a style of writing (catalog ad copy), and figure out how to incorporate some of the science he read about. It was a fun project. He drew things to go with it (though I would have been okay with leaving this bit off if he wanted).

 

Right now, he just finished doing research on how weather forecasters predict the weather with modeling and so forth. So I'm having him write a children's book about it. Again, practices a certain style and voice. He may or may not add some pictures to it.

 

Last semester, other ds did a thing about fairy and folk tales. I worked up a long list of assignments. Read a fairy tale, pick an assignment. A few were art based (make a comic of this, illustrate a scene), others were more academic (write a page about who's the hero and why, compare two different characters), others were more creative (write a new ending, write the tale in a new setting). He did a bunch of them and then picked a couple to revise and polish for his portfolio. I think one of them was a thing where he found a website where you could make a fake Facebook conversation and made up one between the characters in a fairy tale. It was well done. It showed he got the story, thought about the characters' ideas and beliefs and motivations.

 

But... of course, for some kids, that stuff will feel like busy work. I think you have to assign the things that you believe in and can back up. And that you know your kids will get the most out of. If my kid was more likely to get more out of writing a paragraph about the character's motivations, then I'd just assign that.

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Some of this depends... I mean, conceptually, I think you can just assign copywork, then a mix of copywork and dictation, and then a mix of dictation and written narration, and finally old fashion reports and essay responses. I think that's fine.

 

I often don't... I mean, we do some of that too, but if I'm thinking ahead, I assign other stuff. But it's probably exactly the sort of writings that you find pointless. So, I suppose you have to decide to see the point or you have to commit to just cyclically assigning a report on whatever they read.

 

So, for example, when ds did his study of time travel, he read all these science articles and books about time travel. And then I had him write a time travel story. He got to play around with writing fiction and had to come up with a way to incorporate the science he read about. And then he read most of Michio Kaku's Physics of the Impossible and I made him make catalog ads for "impossible products" based on the ideas he read about. He got to practice taking on a "selling" voice and mimicking a style of writing (catalog ad copy), and figure out how to incorporate some of the science he read about. It was a fun project. He drew things to go with it (though I would have been okay with leaving this bit off if he wanted).

 

Right now, he just finished doing research on how weather forecasters predict the weather with modeling and so forth. So I'm having him write a children's book about it. Again, practices a certain style and voice. He may or may not add some pictures to it.

 

Last semester, other ds did a thing about fairy and folk tales. I worked up a long list of assignments. Read a fairy tale, pick an assignment. A few were art based (make a comic of this, illustrate a scene), others were more academic (write a page about who's the hero and why, compare two different characters), others were more creative (write a new ending, write the tale in a new setting). He did a bunch of them and then picked a couple to revise and polish for his portfolio. I think one of them was a thing where he found a website where you could make a fake Facebook conversation and made up one between the characters in a fairy tale. It was well done. It showed he got the story, thought about the characters' ideas and beliefs and motivations.

 

But... of course, for some kids, that stuff will feel like busy work. I think you have to assign the things that you believe in and can back up. And that you know your kids will get the most out of. If my kid was more likely to get more out of writing a paragraph about the character's motivations, then I'd just assign that.

The bolded is exactly it. I have to find assignments that are meaningful to them and to me. Writing this out has helped me see it isn't just a problem on their end but my own in seeing the value of assignments I make. That is something to think about, why do I want them to do these things? What is the point of the assignments? Another problem is that I make assignments that might need some scaffolding but then when time comes I run out of time and energy, I need to get models, resources, and detailed instructions ready beforehand, I need to know how I'm going to teach it when I plan it. 

 

I actually like your assignments, I think you give some creative ways to demonstrate knowledge and practice a variety of writing skills. I don't know if ds would care to do any as he is a more straight forward type of kid. Dd1 likes being more creative but she is also the type that likes workbooks and wants to get her schoolwork done so she can move on to free time. I need to discuss with them preferences and do some more thinking about what I want them to get out of each assignment and what kind of assignments will meet these goals.

 

I think I may go ahead and start planning our first 6 weeks so I can get a feel for workload and think about how I want to do it.

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When I create writing assignments for them, they are typically topics I want them to learn more about or remember long term. My kids have never written a book report. When they are not old enough to be writing analytical essays, when I assign a report based on the literature they are reading, the assignment will be on an aspect of historical setting or a science topic from the story or something along those lines. Some books are more conducive to that sort of assignment than others. If the book isn't good for that, I pick a writing assignment from history or science.

 

My goals are two-fold: learning more about what they are writing about and developing their writing skills.

 

Some of my kids like a creative twist to their assignments. Some don't. I just adapt to whatever they need.

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When I create writing assignments for them, they are typically topics I want them to learn more about or remember long term. My kids have never written a book report. When they are not old enough to be writing analytical essays, when I assign a report based on the literature they are reading, the assignment will be on an aspect of historical setting or a science topic from the story or something along those lines. Some books are more conducive to that sort of assignment than others. If the book isn't good for that, I pick a writing assignment from history or science.

 

My goals are two-fold: learning more about what they are writing about and developing their writing skills.

 

Some of my kids like a creative twist to their assignments. Some don't. I just adapt to whatever they need.

Thank you for your thoughts 8. 

 

I'm not looking for mine to do book reports either, that is the type of assignment I would end up skipping. I need to do more pre-reading so I know what topics I want to pull out for more study. 

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I've been toying with the idea of having my 5th grader next year write a test for a book. He'd have to pick out what info is important, write some multiple choice, true/false, short answer. Then either I would take the test and he would grade it or his friend could do the same thing with a different book and they would trade books/tests.

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Because my DD hates crafts, lapbooks and notebook pages, she does PowerPoint presentations instead.  She does several slides per week for both science and history based upon what she's read in those classes.  During the last couple of weeks before school ends, she goes over her PP projects and finesses them. Then she presents them to the family.

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My 4th-grader does one page a day of what we call "journaling." It is a short narration coupled with an illustration on the topic of his choice. It may come from history, science, Bible, or his free reading. The illustration may be a drawing, labeled diagram, or map. So that is only one output assignment per day; we do not do one for every subject. It's kind of a cross of Charlotte Mason and Robinson schooling. I use a Note Sketch from Miller Pads and Paper; it's perfect for this.

 

A 2nd-grader would just do copywork, and a drawing if desired. I like to add a simple cooking/baking project if it fits with the subject matter, like making biscuits with honey after reading The Bee Tree.

 

Oral narrations are always a simple possibility, at any age.

 

 

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Go back to WTM and look at how she suggests doing short writing assignments for science, history, and literature.

 

Read about a person, write a 1 paragraph biography, file it. 

Read about a historical event, put it on a timeline, outline the text

Read about a science topic, outline the text, do relevant experiment, write up lab report.

 

:iagree:

 

Also, we do:

 

Copywork/narration/dictation

Notebooking, including sketches, labels, etc

Written narrations

Mini reports

Group discussion

Teens: research paper

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