Monday, September 28, 2015

The Salamander Room

This week, for our first row of third grade, we rowed The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer.  Amazon's synopsis of it reads, " A boy finds a salamander in the woods and imagines the many things he can do to turn his room into a perfect salamander home."  

(I have learned that if a book has that Reading Rainbow icon in the top corner of it, it's usually a good read!)
Once we read the book, we colored our story disk for it and placed it on the Eastern side of our US map.  (Maggie chose Georgia, our state.)
 Next, we set out to make an illustrated list of some of the things she could remember the boy planning to have in his room for his pet salamander.
 Here was our completed list.
 After her list was done, I challenged her to use the items on that list to make her own salamander room on paper.
 Later, we came up with an acrostic poem using the word "salamander."
Love it.
I saw a great idea at to make little salamanders for lunch out of hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls.  I had to do it for Mags.  I also used cloves for the eyes, poppy seeds, and a little melted butter.
 First, I shaped the crescent rolls (I used two per dog) around the hot dog to resemble a salamander.  Then, I pinched a little dough off the end of his tail to form four, small, round feet and pressed them against his body.  Lastly, I shaped the tail again to look salamander-like.
 Next, I pushed two cloves in for eyes (these would be removed before eating) and washed him with melted butter before sprinkling on some poppy seeds for spots.
 They went into the oven at 350 degrees until brown and puffy.
 This is what they looked like cooked!
She was very happy!
After lunch, we did the mathematical "Salamander Room Story Problems" for this book found at
Then, it was time to learn a bit more about amphibians, particularly salamanders.  We read The Animal Kingdom: Amphibians by Bev Havbey ...
... Amphibians by Rod Theodorou ...
... and About Amphibians: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill before we paused our reading for a video.
This Animal Life for Children series is great and are usually in most libraries.  We picked up the "All About Amphibians" disc at our library and watched it to see some live action shots of salamanders.  They are usually less than 25 minutes long.
After the video, we read Salamanders by Edward J. Maruska ...
... and Salamanders by Cherie Winner.  It was fun to share the different things we noticed about them in the pictures.
After all of our books had been perused, we found two videos of salamanders hunting bugs.  The first one was on the National Geographic website at The second one (the one below), we found on YouTube.
This next video is awesome, too!
We found the idea online to make salt dough salamanders and paint them.  Here, Mags is mixing our salt dough.
 Shaping salamanders!
 Even Daddy helped!
 Once shaped, we baked them for one hour in a 300-degree oven then let them cool off.
 Don't you just love a good paint party?!
 Looking good!
 Our salamanders, drying!
So cute!
Once they were dry, it was time to make them a "salamander room"!  Here is Maggie and her Daddy, ready to start!
We got lots of materials together to do it -- plastic green plants, Spanish moss, river rocks (all at the Dollar Tree), a shoebox, blue cellophane, white paper, hot glue, and scissors.
 Maggie was so proud of the end result!
 These are very happy salamanders in their salamander room!
On the next day of our book study, it was time for a road/field trip.  We headed out for a short trip to Albany, Georgia to look for salamanders at the Flint Riverquarium.  (Their website address is  We also were excited about watching the Micro-Planet show in their Imagination Theater, about the small animals that inhabit Georgia’s lakes and forests.  Here are some photos from our field trip.

This is at the entrance.
 I love seeing above and below the surface of the water!
 They have a great river table with rough sand and faucets.  It is higher at the faucets and the table declines to the end, demonstrating how running water forms a river and flows debris downhill.
Maggie was determined to get her river to the end!
She did it!
Finally, we spotted it!  A salamander!
 What a handsome tiger salamander!
 He was keen on smiling for us!
The river that runs alongside the RiverQuarium is a great place for spotting wildlife!  I think we'll come back in the Spring and look for tadpoles.
The Salamander Room was another great row!  Stay tuned for our study of next week's row, The Story of Ferdinand!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Thunder Cake

This past Spring, I hosted our homeschooling co-op and decided to do a book study on Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco.  I should have blogged about it then but the blog has gotten behind me for a bit.  Bear with me while I try to remember the details.
We have our co-op at our church, mostly.  I hung this poster to fill up as we read the story.  Beforehand, I found examples of onomatopoeia throughout the book, then typed them out.  I handed each child one of these examples and challenged the kids to listen for the examples as I read.  If he/she heard the example in his/her hand, that child would come up and add it to our poster, then pick out two paper lightening bolts from my container.  
The lightening bolts had individual tasks written on them.  Put together, these tasks would instruct the children on how to make a thunder cake.  (The recipe is in the back of the book.)
I can't remember now what I had used the numbers on the clouds for, but the two lightening bolts attached to these clouds told each child what his/her jobs were when it was baking time!
Here is our completed poster.  We talked extensively about onomatopoeia and made these sounds together.  We also talked about how you could gauge how far away the storm was (from the distance in time between the lightening and the clap of thunder to follow).
Here was the setup in the kitchen at our church, complete with aprons and paper chef's hats!
You gotta have chocolate!
The secret ingredient in thunder cake is pureed tomatoes!
First, we prepared the pans!
Then, we measured the ingredients!
One of Maggie's jobs was mixing!
Her second job was measuring the cocoa!  
Later, we talked about weather and the water cycle.
While our cake baked, we completed a worksheet on the water cycle and started an onomatopoeia craft.
Great job!
Here was the example I made for our onomatopoeia craft!
Looks great, Mags!
Silly kiddos!
Here was our thunder cake, coming out of the oven!  Next we frosted it and added strawberries like the recipe calls for.
Ready to dig into some thunder cake!
It was so good!
The children left with extra slices of cake, their worksheets and craft, and a pinwheel to use when the next storm is coming!