Comic Strips Tips & Templates

Solar System Mercury

Comic strips are picture stories that convey loads of information and visual detail. They are a wonderful resource for language arts and creative writing activities and make an excellent option for narrations and storytelling.

Here are some comic tips:

  1. Plan out six to 8 facts or ideas for your story on rough paper first. Just think … eight blocks = eight facts?
  2. Look at some real comics with your children before your start to show how a reader reads the dialogue from left to right, from top to bottom if there is more than one “call out” or speech bubble in a block.
  3. When writing the dialogue, first print the dialogue small & neatly, then draw the speech bubble around the words.  This prevents you running out of space in your bubble.
  4. Use different shaped “call out” bubbles – bubbled for thoughts, pointed to a mouth as speech, zig-zag to show radio comments or computer voice.
  5. Add a top or bottom information phrase block if needed, like: Later on … or Back inside
  6. Use the space left after the speech to draw simple ideas. Colour adds to the effects.
  7. Use onomatopoeic (sound effect) words and draw them with style to show something popping, crashing, exploding, squeaking etc.
  8. Be creative!  Have FUN!

Here is your free comic strip template download ~

Most the comics include dialogue written in speech bubbles. In my post Use Comics To Teach Direct Speech I described our effective lesson on how to write direct speech from a comic strip. Here’s a brief summary:

Simple direct speech rules.

  1. Write down the spoken words or dialogue that appear in speech bubbles exactly  as they appear, but inside inverted commas.
  2. Use inverted commas or quotation marks “…”  immediately before and after the spoken words.
  3. Insert punctuation marks that suit the dialogue after the dialogue inside the inverted commas.
  4. Use capital letters to start any dialogue, or any new dialogue that follows a full stop.
  5. Question marks  & exclamation marks act as a full stop.
  6. Use an appropriate attribution for each speaker and try be creative and vary using the word “said”.
  7. Separate dialogue from the attribution with a comma.
  8. ALWAYS skip a line and start a new line for a new speaker. When typing the direct speech on the computer, press ‘enter’ + ‘enter’ again to leave a line open and begin on a new line.

Comics contain a lot of visual information. The scene and actions should be described in words. Adding this to the direct speech, and conveying a flow of action, thought and interest to the written dialogue is a more advanced skill, making a wonderful, interesting story.

In my post Use Comics to Teach Reported Speech, we chose my daughter’s most dramatic comic strip story and she pretended that she was a news reporter, changing her speech dialogue in speech bubbles into reported speech. Once again, we looked for examples of reported speech in our read aloud literature books.  Charlotte Mason’s principle to teach grammar and language arts through living books and good literature is amazingly effective!

Here are Usborne Book of English Grammar basic rules of writing reported speech summarized ~

  • Report what someone said using your own words.
  • No need for inverted commas.
  • Change the verb to the past tense.

This report can then be written as a newspaper report or given as a speech as a TV news reporter.

The comic strip template is included in my more than 100 Narration Ideas Booklet which you can order on my Order Packages page.

Blessings, Nadene

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Struggles with Maths?

Maths may be a difficult subject for many children and a source of fear for many homeschooling parents.

As a child, I was terrified of Maths and I failed miserably all through high school and needed extra classes with a maths tutor to pass my Matric exams. When I was a student teacher on my 2nd teaching practice, I was given Grade 7 Maths classes to teach. I was appalled. In order to adequately prepare, and so that I wouldn’t be caught out by any student’s questions, I covered the topic using every textbook I could lay my hands on. And you know what? I discovered that I was an outstanding Maths teacher!!! I knew how to approach the concepts from many perspectives and I had a slew of different examples to practice and demonstrate with my learners. I made the lessons fun and relatable. My students enjoyed their lessons and mastered their maths.

So, with this experience, I homeschooled and tutored my daughters’ Maths lessons all the way to graduation. When fear is taken out of the picture, Maths is fairly simple. Maths concepts and applications are straightforward, simple and logical. If you can find the right “fit” for your child in the pace and application, you will be able to help them conquer their Maths battles. I describe 12 successful Maths principles I used in What Works – Maths.

Here are 5 R’s to help when you or your child are struggling with Maths lessons ~

  1. Review
  2. Repeat
  3. Replace
  4. Restart
  5. Refuse

Review Usually struggles in Maths lessons occur when your child has not fully understood a concept. Revise, re-visit, and review the concept. Make sure that your child understands the basic Maths concepts and principles. If there is any hesitation, doubt, or uncertainty, repeat the Maths principle with physical objects, Maths manipulatives, other examples, or relatable applications. Practice previous examples and lessons. Practice is vital before moving on.

Repeat Similar to review, repeat practice lessons using other examples until the Maths concept “clicks”. You may need to look for additional textbooks, worksheets or online lessons to repeat the concepts until your child fully understands and successfully applies the concepts. Take your time! Rushing on will only make the fear and uncertainty worse.

Replace Find alternatives that may be better suited to your child’s learning style. Replace your textbook or practice the Maths lessons with a different book or with online lessons such as Khan Academy. Every author and publication has a unique approach, style, pace and application. You can use a combination of different books and lessons. Don’t feel bad if the Maths curriculum you initially purchased doesn’t meet your child’s requirements. Tailor-make your children’s education and find something else instead.

Restart Start again with the basics. Leave the books and worksheets aside for a few days or weeks and focus on fun activities such as skip counting, multiplication and addition. I discovered that Mental Maths worksheets, drills, songs, card games, manipulatives and activities helped with my children’s speed and confidence. Once these basics are re-established, start again and your child may find the Maths work much easier. This will boost his confidence which will help him conquer his fears.

Refuse Do you need to refuse to teach your child Maths? May I encourage you to consider a Maths tutor when your relationship with your child is harmed by the tension and struggles over Maths lessons? Maybe Dad, a high school student, a kind neighbour or a co-op mom can help teach your child without all the interpersonal battles. Often a 3rd party person doesn’t receive the backlash and resistance and refusal that a child gives a parent. May I also add that a high school child can choose to do Maths Literacy instead of Pure Mathematics? Maths Literacy goes beyond academic focus and aims to give students basic Mathematics skills they can use and apply in their everyday lives. Just check with your high schooler’s career options and tertiary education requirements first.

Maths struggles have a way of getting right in and messing with our souls! Please, please, please … be compassionate to yourself and your child during this phase. Gently put the “offending” book on your bookshelf and offer yourselves time to consider what will work. It is tough to be gracious to yourself and others when you are afraid or offended. Grace for grace. Pray for guidance and grace.

You can find all my Maths freebies here. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below or or write to me on the contact form on my About & Contact page.

Blessings, Nadene

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Create a “No-fail” Unit study

Recently Hannah Savage shared her “no-fail” Viking unity study on Instagram. She wisely shared,

“When I see my job through the lens of laying a feast without tying my success to an idealized outcome, I free up my heart to enjoy the unit with them for however long it lasts and whatever it ends up looking like. My “low stakes” approach feels like a friendly invitation to them rather than a tight-knuckled force feeding. It’s an awareness many (many) fumbles in this homeschool life have taught me.”

@hannahsavagewrites

Lovely, right? It sounds like my recommendation to offer a learning buffet and allow your children to choose what they want from a delightful array of books, projects and options.

Among all her wonderful resources she found for her unit study, she linked to my free Viking Paper Men and Dolls.

If you looking for a wide variety of ideas for your children to express their learning, I have created a Narrations Ideas Booklet filled with over 100 creative project optionsalternative suggestions, practical tips and templates for every age and learning style. You can order your booklet on my Packages page.

May Hannah’s “no-fail” unit study approach inspire you to be brave and creative and curate your own “no-fail” unit study on themes or topics your children are passionate about!

Blessings and much grace, Nadene

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Don’t Teach Nature Lessons!

Nature walks should be somewhat spontaneous opportunities for discovery. Learn from my early homeschooling mistakes and DO NOT treat nature study like an outdoor class time — it kills the child’s natural curiosity and delight!  My older children eventually refused to participate in nature study.  Instead, look for ways to include regular weekly or daily outings in nature and provide some simple tools and methods to encourage your children to notice, explore, engage and enjoy nature.

Charlotte Mason bemoaned,

“We are awaking to the use of nature-knowledge, but how we spoil things by teaching them!” (Formation of Character, p. 396).

Of course mom, you can set a topic of focus and guide your students to look for something specific, but be sure to give them lots of opportunities to observe closely and carefully for themselves with a minimum of input from you.  May I suggest that the reference books are kept in your nature study bag to be used only when a child asks for additional information? Allow your child’s natural curiosity and let them study elements and objects “off-topic” and follow their lead!

“As soon as he is able to keep it himself, a nature-diary is a source of delight to a child.  Every day’s walk gives him something to enter …” (Vol 1, p.54-55)

Here are some of my Nature Study posts, practical tips and free downloads from my archives:

Our Theme for the Day and refreshed Daily Themes provides a simple visual reminder to include all the “extras” in our weeks such as Nature Study, Poetry, Fine Arts, Creative Writing, Geography and Science. 

Daily themes 2015

My three Smash This Nature Journals provide loads of fun, simple, unusual and unique nature journal prompts which inspire joyful nature experiences.  Order and print your Smash Nature Journals to encourage fabulous, fun nature activities!

Smash Nature Journals 123

Making time for nature study with free nature photo of the week chart and Ambleside Online Nature Study Schedule.

Free John Muir Nature Quotes & free Copywork pages include about 10 pages of John Muir quotes in either print or cursive using Charlotte Mason’s copywork & dictation principles.(Of course this is only for handwriting practice and not as part of the nature study lesson!)

How to create a Perpetual Nature Journal with explanations and links on how to create your own perpetual nature journal.

How to make a nature study bag and a sewing tutorial with simple ideas of what to include in a nature study bag.

How to create a Nature Study notice board or shelf and a post on how a simple Nature Tray provides a wonderful way to display the week’s nature finds for collection, further study and drawing in nature journals.

nature tray

John Muir Law encourages how to cultivate curiosity in nature study 3 ways.  He believes that the key to developing a closer connection with nature is by deliberately enhancing your powers of observation and wonder.  He says,Attention is what the fabric of love is made from.”  This post explains his method.

I trust that these ideas and suggestions inspire you to relax or upgrade your Nature Studies in your homeschooling!

All in grace, for grace, Nadene

Easter Pictures & Hands-on Activities

Here are some Easter hands-on activities inspiration ideas “resurrected” from deep in my 2014 archives!  I wanted to involve my daughter fully in our Easter Bible readings.  She LOVES reading her comic-style Illustrated Bible Story New Testament book.  It is very visual and makes the stories “come alive”.  I wanted to add loads of hands-on activities.

Young children learn best when they use all their five senses – hearing, seeing, smell, taste and touch

Easter14

I created an Easter Flags 16-page download, suitable for junior primary children, which includes Scriptures and parallel verses, activity ideas and story summaries for each Easter theme. As you read the Easter Scriptures, encourage your children to use all their senses as they learn about Easter and Jesus’ crucifixion. Children may enjoy touching and feeling real objects hidden in a “feely” bag. Cut out each flag. Children can colour in the images. Fold the top edge of the flag over and staple or glue to a ribbon to hang as Easter bunting. These simple images may also be used for material applique on fabric flags. Be sensitive and adapt your lessons to suit your child’s age and temperament.

Here is your free download ~ Easter Flags

For older children I also created some Easter Picture Collages.  

These are similar hands-on activities using all 5 senses, but this is more suited for older children as the images are more graphic, and some of the activities may not be suitable for young children.

Easter12

I wanted my daughter to use all her senses and physically act out as many of the scriptures of Easter as we could. Instead of me preparing the lesson activities, I printed out the collage images, gathered all the objects we needed and asked my child to create the activities with me for each lesson. This is child-led education — which is a joy to behold!

These are the items we collected for each theme:

  • palm leaf – we were both surprised how huge the branch was!
  • perfume – perfume essence & spraying alcohol mixed in a bottle with cork and candles to seal the bottle
  • coins – in a little bag
  • wine & bread – for Last Supper and communion.  Matzos is unleavened, pierced bread.
  • bowl, water & towel – to wash feet
  • cock’s feather and sound recording of cock crowing
  • thorns twisted into a crown – rather painful job!
  • whip – a cat-of-nine tails with leather strips
  • purple cloak – purple cloth and sticks to make lots
  • hammer & nails – hammer into thick plank of wood
  • vinegar & sponge – taste the bitter vinegar
  • stone & cave – sealed with some clay

Here is your free download ~ Easter Picture Collages

Here is a summary of some of the activities, thoughts and experiences of our Easter:

Easter1

Some of our first activities were lovely.  Waving a long (taller than her very tall brother) beautiful palm branch and singing praise songs was wonderful.  

Easter

Making perfume and sealing the bottle with melted candle wax was soothing and it smelt delightful.  We acted out Mary’s act of worship; anointing Jesus’ feet and wiping them with her hair.  Very intimate. 

Easter3

We tasted the bread and wine.  The matzos bread is pierced and striped, just like Jesus’ whipped and pierced body.  The red wine reminded us of His blood.  Reverence and deep gratitude filled our hearts. 

Easter10

We washed one another’s feet. Just like Jesus did to His disciples. Humbling and so lovely. 

Easter2

Then things became tough.  Count out 30 pieces of silver, which was the price of a slave. Judas was mean.  While Mary broke the seal and poured out anointing oils worth a man’s whole years wages, Judas snatched up 30 silver coins. Worship breaks open and pours out, selfishness takes for itself. 

Easter4

We went to our chicken coop and found a lovely long rooster feather.  The rooster strutted about with his hens.  Did we hear him crow?  Could we also betray our Lord?  Would we cry bitter tears?  Somber reflection. 

Easter8

And then the scenes with Jesus’ scourging.  Painful.  See the thorns in the leather?  A cat-of-nine has bone or stones tied to the leather strips to inflict greatest pain and injury.  Our minds reel.  Hear the whip as it snaps in the air … 39 times!  Exhausting.  How could Jesus survive?  

Easter5

Thorns pricked us as we made the crown and really hurt!  

Easter9

Hammering in nails into wood it a tough job.  Bang! Bang!  Imagine nailing through hands and feet?  How awful!  Our hearts ached. 

Collages1

We cast lots for the robe with our sticks.  If you win, you take the piece of cloth and feel its rich texture.  When I win, it is all mine. It is so easy to be callous and greedy, and all the while our Lord hangs suffering, dying. 

Easter6

Now Jesus cries out and someone gives Him vinegar.  Yech!  It tastes bitter.  No one can drink that stuff! 

Easter7

Finally we made a small tomb using a rock that had a cave-like shape.  We found a flat stone to fit in front.  Pressing some clay around the flat stone, we sealed the tomb. It is dark inside. Closed.  It is finished. 

May the Lord blessing you and your family in this Easter season,

In grace, Nadene

Khoikhoi House & Village 3D Model

I am happy to share my latest 3D paper model in a series of traditional African houses and villages ~ Khoikhoi House and Village.

The Khoikhoi were nomadic pastoralist indigenous people who lived in the southern parts of Africa and farmed with sheep, goats, and cattle. They traded with seafarers who landed at the Cape from all over the globe for centuries.

The Khoikhoi village was relatively large, and the Khoikhoi lived in round huts covered with reed mats that could be dismantled and re-erected in a new location when grazing in the area became depleted.  Each village had a headman who made decisions with the clans about when and where to move. There was a group that was more sedentary known as “Strandlopers” who live by hunting and gathering food along the beaches of south-western Africa, originally from the Cape Colony.

The 3D model of a Khoikhoi grass hut and village background triorama page (1-page triorama which forms a triangle/ pyramid-shaped folded page) is a 6-page purchase package download that includes both black & white outline illustrations as well as coloured-in pages. These illustrations include clear assembly instructions and some extra cultural details. I included some additional basic historical background information as well as Internet reference links. 

This grass hut template may look complex, but I have designed it so that most middle-school-aged children should manage to assemble the hut on their own.

Colouring-in, cutting out and creating these 3D houses and village models are a wonderful activity while mom reads-aloud. You can view details of the other African houses in the series — Zulu House & Village, the Xhosa House & Village and the San Bushmen House & Kalahari Desert background which are excellent hands-on activities that fit perfectly with Footprints in our Land, our South African, literature-based Social Studies curriculum.

These South African house and village downloads are purchase packages and I really appreciate your support, but I would love to share a freebie with you. Each house comes with a triorama background. A triorama forms a wonderful 3D pyramid shape with a base. It requires just 2 folds and a snip to make, so it’s very simple, but looks dramatic!

Please pop over to my Packages page to order your download. Thank you for your support.

Blessings, Nadene

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San Bushmen House & Village 3D Model

I am happy to share my 3rd, and currently my favourite, 3D paper model of traditional African houses and villages ~ A San Bushman House and Village.

The San, also known as Bushmen, are the oldest native tribe that live in the vast Kalahari Desert regions of South West Africa. They lived in southern Africa long before European settlers and other Bantu tribes arrived. They are nomadic hunter-gatherers, and they set up temporary camps as a family-based society.

The 3D model of a San Bushman grass hut and the Kalahari Desert camp background triorama page (1-page triorama which forms a triangle/ pyramid-shaped folded page) is a 6-page purchase package download that includes both black & white outline illustrations as well as coloured-in pages. These illustrations include clear assembly instructions and some extra cultural details. I included some additional basic historical background information as well as Internet reference links. 

This grass hut template may look complex, but I have designed it so that most middle-school-aged children should manage to assemble the hut on their own.

Colouring-in, cutting out and creating these 3D houses and village models are a wonderful activity while mom reads-aloud. You can view details of the other African houses in the series — Zulu House & Village and the Xhosa House & Village which are excellent hands-on activities that fit perfectly with Footprints in our Land, our South African, literature-based Social Studies curriculum.

These South African house and village downloads are purchase packages and I really appreciate your support, but I would love to share a freebie with you. Each house comes with a triorama background. A triorama forms a wonderful 3D pyramid shape with a base. It requires just 2 folds and a snip to make, so it’s very simple, but looks dramatic!

Please pop over to my Packages page to order your download. Thank you for your support.

Blessings, Nadene

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How to Join Upper-Case to Lower-Case Cursive Letters

With parents finding themselves suddenly homeschooling during this pandemic, a mom emailed to ask me to help her as she was struggling to teach her son how to join cursive upper-case to lower-case letters.   To help her, I created a little  5-page download which is also available for free right here ~ Joining Upper Case & lower case Cursive letters

How to join an upper-case letter to a lower-case letter

Most upper-case letters will have their own ending line that simply overlaps as the starting line for the next letter.

Only a few upper-case letters will require “an extra” line to start the new lower case letter at their base such as with B C D F H I O P S T V W  I  have drawn this line which will be the overlapping starting line as a dotted line.

Practice Joining Cursive Letters Sheets

  • Laminate the following Joining Cursive Upper-Case to lower-case practice pages or place each page in a plastic page protector.
  • Demonstrate and talk about where to start, how to form and end each letter.
  • Then ask your child to trace over the letters with a whiteboard marker.
  • Once your child knows where to start, how to form and end all the letters in lower- & upper-case, your child can start doing simple copywork as handwriting practice using the chart as a reference.

This download provides practice pages using every letter of the alphabet.  Extended lines provide space to not only trace over the letters but also to copy and write out the joined letters on the coloured lines provided.

I have also included a detailed explanation of letters’ line placement as well as coloured dots for starting and ending points for each letter in this download.

I will post a detailed blog post on letter line placement in my upcoming post.

Please pop over to my Packages page to purchase the updated Teaching Cursive Handwriting Step-by-Step booklet.

If you wish to write a private email to me, please fill in the contact form on my About & Contact page.  I would love to help you!

 Blessings, Nadene
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Lapbook planning tips

My children loved doing lapbooks and  we quickly figured out some practical tips to prevent overwhelm and to maximise our studies with other activities.  Here are some of my tried-&-tested practical lapbook planning tips ~

Often when printing out and cutting out the lapbook minibooks for your new lapbook , you will have heaps of booklets, papers, cutouts which may cause you and your children to feel overwhelmed. 

Print out the table of contents or index with every download and file this with the lapbook instructions.  If your lapbook printout doesn’t have an index, draw up a list of each minibook theme, or the topics or chapters covered in each minibook of the lapbook study along with a short description of each activity.  You can download my free lapbook planner below.

Whether you download a lapbook or make one for yourself, it helps to print out the lapbook planner or index page so that you have a birds’ eye view of your core topics, sub-topics, minibooks, relevant websites, videos, songs, recipes, hands-on activities and any other downloads as well as the time you plan for each minibook or topic.  Here  is  the  index  I used for my planning my Ancient Egypt Lapbook.  (You  can freely download  the Ancient Egypt Lapbook)

Here is my Pearl Harbour lapbook organiser  which outlined additional websites and sources used:

For more complex subject such as World Wars, it helps to draw up basic vertical timeline and mark the dates for all the most important events.  This helps to follow the course of events chronologically as well as plan the lapbook layout.

We always pasted all the minibooks into the lapbook before we started so that we did not waste time searching through a packet of minibooks to find the relevant one for the day.  You can read all about this in my post Time-saving tips for doing lapbooks. I must add here that my children often pasted their minibooks where they felt it best fitted and not strictly according to the suggested layout and it never was a problem.

We duct-taped along the spine of the lapbook and punched holes in the duct tape so that they were on hand in our files or ring binders.  (Read how we assemble and duct tape our Aesop lapbooks here.)

We stored each child’s completed lapbooks together in a file folder as seen in the photo below.  (Read all about how we stored our lapbooks and notebook pages here.)

Here is my lapbook planner page  free download (available in .docs or  .pdf versions) to use for your planning ~ Lapbook Planner or Organiser (MS Word.docs) or  Lapbook Planner or Organiser (pdf)

My children loved doing hands-on activities so I always extended our planned lapbook time to provide a wide margin for the spontaneous learning activities or additional enrichment.

Please do not ever rush to finish anything!  Take your time and aim to include the “extra” additional studies and hands-on activities!  These will bring your lapbook study to life!

Blessings, Nadene

Kinesthetic Learners Activity Posters

In my last post  Kids that Wiggle 30+ Tips, I created a set of posters which I would love to share with you ~

You can use these posters as reminders for yourself when planning lessons and looking for different options, or display them in your schoolroom so that your children can select an activity they would prefer.  I have included the all my ideas and suggested tips and strategies from my post in this download.

Here is your free download ~ Kinesthetic Learners Activity Posters

 Blessings, Nadene
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