Chinese New Year & Extreme Weather Unit: Earthquakes & Volcanoes

Our shelves seem overloaded with activities this week.  There is no change in the number of activities on our shelves; we're just trying to cover two topics at one time.  Miraculously, everything came together.

This post may contain affiliate links.

Our continent for the month is Asia.  Up until this week I hadn't even mentioned anything about it.  I struggle with our continent studies.  They always look so great when others share them in the blog world, but when it comes down to it, I just can't seem to find my special place.  I tried the flag theme and a few other things with South America.  Everything flopped.  The kiddos could have cared less.  I completely skipped over North America because Dinomite was sick for two weeks in November.  (I'm hoping to make it up later in the year.)  Our study of Antarctica went amazingly well, but it was easy.  All that's there is ice, snow, a few animals, and minimal people during certain seasons.  There's not an elaborate history involving several different countries, cultures, languages, etc., like... um... Asia!  Oh my goodness!  Where do I begin?  There's Russia, China, the Middle East...

Chinese New Year was also on our syllabus for the month.  It only took me a few days to decide that I would focus on China specifically, and not all of Asia. I have thrown in a few activities that encompass the whole continent.  Animals from Antarctica was such a hit, I couldn't resist putting together cards for Asia too.  Let me rephrase that.  I asked my husband to put together animal cards for Asia.  He deserves the full credit!  There are about 50 animal cards total.  Most of the other activities have a China theme. I even tried to tie in our study of earthquakes to China.  To my surprise it fit beautifully.  I really hope you enjoy the activities and all the printables.

Chinese Zodiac Nomenclature Cards
The kiddos will match up cards correctly, and then place animals on proper cards.

Source:  I created the cards used for this activity. For your free copy, click on the link for the China Printable Pack II at the bottom of the post.

First Vowel Sound Identification
I've noticed that Bulldozer and Princess are having a hard time identifying vowel sounds in words. It doesn't matter if the sounds are long sounds or short sounds.  I'm hoping this activity will help them improve those skills.

Source:  I created the cards used for this activity. For your free copy, click on the link for the China Printable Pack II at the bottom of the post.

Chinese Zodiac Animal Spelling Words
We had a lot of fun with the intro of this activity today.  Each kiddo was given a plastic bag with a dragon head and tail to color.  Once complete, we pulled out all the letter cards in the Set 1 envelope.  The kiddos took turns making Dancing Dragons out of the letters of each word.
Dinomite's Dancing Dragon

Princess' Dancing Dragon

Bulldozer's Dancing Dragon
At the end of the week, we'll replace the letter cards with a real body for our dragons.

Source: I created the spelling list for this activity. For your free copy, click HERE.  The free dragon head and tail printable can be found at Craft Jr.

Odd & Even Numbers
It's been a while since we reviewed odd and even numbers. To my surprise, everyone remembered! Hurray!  The cards can also be used for counting by 2's etc.

Source:   I created the cards used for this activity. For your free copy, click on the link for the China Printable Pack at the bottom of the post.

Measuring Dragons
I wanted to practice measuring one more time before our unit is complete.  I still can't believe how quickly the kids caught on to this and loved it.  Once again this activity is a hit. The kiddos measure the dragons and match them up to their inch number cards.

Source:   I created the cards used for this activity. For your free copy, click on the link for the China Printable Pack at the bottom of the post.

Greater Than/Less Than
Here's another review activity on our shelves this week.  The kiddos weren't as great at remembering how to do this one, but by the end of today they finally remembered.  Bulldozer surprised me, in that he caught on the quickest.

Source:   I created the cards used for this activity. For your free copy, click on the link for the China Printable Pack at the bottom of the post.

Adding with Pandas
I couldn't resist using Pandas for our addition practice this week!  As I suspected, it's been a big hit!

Source:   I created the cards used for this activity. For your free copy, click on the link for the China Printable Pack at the bottom of the post.

Asia, the Contient
The kiddos will cover the map of Asia with play dough, refreshing their memory of it's shape. I chose a physical map so they could notice the topography of the Continent and identify specific countries.  The color yellow is used because it's the Montessori color associated with Asia.

Source: The idea for this activity came from To the Lesson!  The free map for this activity can be found at

Flag of China
Even though the kiddos aren't crazy about flags, I still love to incorporate them when I can.  The kiddos will color the flag of China correctly.

Source: The free map for this activity can be found at Homeschool Creations.

Largest Cities or Towns of China
It's one thing to learn about the rich history of China, but another to realize what China is like today.  I wanted to make sure the kiddos understood the difference.
The kiddos will put the cities or towns in order from biggest to smallest.  If they so desire, they can find and mark them on the map.  (I had to write two of the cities/towns in that weren't already shown on the map.)

Source:  I created this activity. For your free printable, click HERE.

Historic Places of China Nomenclature Cards
China is such a beautiful country with so much history.  I loved teaching the kiddos about the places on each of these cards.
Source: I created this activity. For your free copy, click HERE.

Animals of Asia
Here is our newest set of animal cards, made specifically for Dinomite.  I would not be surprised if he becomes some type of animal scientist when he grows up. He knows SO MUCH already.  The kiddos will look at all the different animals on the cards, sorting them as they wish.  A special thanks to my husband for researching all of the animals and making the cards!

Source:  My husband created these cards.  For your free copy, click HERE.

Layers of the Earth
As I was planning our study of earthquakes and volcanoes, I realized we couldn't learn about them without understanding a lot about the layers of the Earth.  This was our intro activity.  I was so surprised the kiddos understood it all so well.

Source: These free cards can be found at The Helpful Garden.

How the Earth's Plates Move
After learning about the layers of the Earth, we focused on the layers of the Mantle, to better understand how earthquakes and volcano eruptions happen.  I found this really cool visual activity that I couldn't resist using.  The kiddos loved it and completely understood the difficult concepts. I was super excited!
The kiddos create the different ways the plates shift using the Oreo cookies, matching the diagrams provided.  They loved taking it one step further, having the plates collide, etc. to create earthquakes.

Source: This activity can be found HERE.

What an Earthquake Looks Like on the Surface
It's one thing to understand what happens below the surface to cause an earthquake. It's another to understand how it affects the surface and what happens.  The kiddos poured rice on the green paper, covering a metal cake pan.  They liked to say that the rice grains were people.  Then, they took the spoon and banged it against the side of the pan, (the mantle movement & collision under the surface).  It was quite entertaining to watch what happened to the rice.  We then tried the same thing with lentils.

To tie the activity into the history of China, I included picture cards of the earthquake that hit in 2008 causing tens of thousands of deaths, destruction and more.

Source: I found this fabulous idea at  

Parts of a Volcano
I loved these cards when I saw them.  I was so thankful I didn't have to make my own.  (That wouldn't have gone well.)  The kiddos will match up pictures with words and hopefully learn all the parts by the end of the week. I told them if they all could do that, we'd make a volcano and have it erupt.

Source:  This free printable can be found at The Helpful Garden.

Visual Arts:
How to Draw a Horse
Since this new year is the year of the horse, I thought it quite fitting to learn how to draw one.

The free cards for this activity can be found at Art Projects for Kids.

We continue to sing everyday, practice the piano, and have added a new song this week.

Physical Education:  We continue with our family fitness program, adding a new video this week. The kiddos LOVE it!

Practical Life/Sensorial:
Transfer with Chopsticks
The kiddos will transfer pom poms from one bowl to the other using chopsticks.

Chinese Writing
The kiddos will paint Chinese Number signs or days of the week signs. They had a lot of fun with this today, especially Dinomite.

Source: The free printable used in this activity can be found at Luxury, Travel & Lifestyle.

I'm not quite sure if we'll continue one more week with our Extreme Weather Unit, or if we'll dive into our Olympics Unit at this point.  Come back to visit and find out!  For those who are interested in the printable packs, click on the links below!

China Printable Pack Part II by Renae at Every Star is Different

Thank you so much for your comments. They always make my day!

Extreme Weather Conditions Unit: Hurricanes & Tornadoes

Bulldozer is absolutely obsessed with extreme weather, especially hurricanes and tornadoes.  It's the visual effect that appeals to him most.  Our Extreme Weather Unit: Hurricans and Tornadoes is designed specifically for him and others who enjoy the intense study.  There are several activity ideas and fabulous free printables for all to enjoy!
This post contains affiliate links.

Here's what's on our shelves!


Digging Through the Rubble Spelling Sensory Bin
Diggning through the rubble spelling sensory bin.

This is one of my most favorite sensory bins of all time.  All three kiddos love it too!

Contents include:
The kiddos dig through the "rubble" looking for letters to create their spelling words.  It's harder than it seems, but all the kiddos have been successful with it so far.
Hurricane and tornado spelling words.
Source:  I created the spelling list printable. For your free copy, click HERE.

Tornado Types
Type of tornadoes 3 part cards.
I'm super excited about these cards.  The kiddos use them as nomenclature cards, learning about the different types of tornadoes. These cards do not include double tornadoes etc.

Source:  I created this printable. For your free copy, click HERE.  Information for this activity came from the book: Inside Tornadoes.


Tornado Addition
Tornado addition activity.
This is our classic addition tray, with the added fun of mini tornadoes made out of white pipe cleaners to count with.  It always amazes me how just one little added twist of fun makes all the difference.

Source: I created this printable as part of my Hurricane & Tornado Math Printable Pack.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Hurricane Subtraction
Hurricane subtrction cards and activity.

Get ready!  Bad weather is on it's way!  The kiddos will practice subtraction using cotton ball clouds and blue glass beads as counters.

Source: I created this printable as part of my Hurricane & Tornado Math Printable Pack.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Purchasing Items for an Emergency Kit
Purchasing items for an emergency kit
Each week we learn about extreme weather conditions, we also review the safety and emergency protocols for each weather event.

This activity is helping the kiddos remember exactly what needs to be in their emergency kits. Obviously there will be other items too, but this is a good start for them.  It's a great way to practice their coin counting.

Source: I created this printable as part of my Hurricane & Tornado Math Printable Pack.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.


Scale of Tornado Intensity
Scale of tornado intensity matching activity and printable.
 This activity has been very popular on the shelves.  The kiddos match up Intensity Scale ratings with pictures and descriptions.

Source: I created this printable. For your free copy, click HERE.  Information for this activity came from the book Inside Tornadoes.

Hurricane Paths
Creating Hurricane Paths
 We don't have official Montessori Knobless Cylinders, but Bulldozer does have a large collection of his own in his room.  They're not perfect, but they definitely work.  In this activity the kiddos create the paths of the hurricanes, as shown on the cards, using the cylinders.  Bulldozer loves to do this more than anyone.
Hurricane paths.
Source: I came up with the idea for this activity.  Hurricane Path Cards were found on the Internet.

Culture & Geography

Hurricane Katrina in Pictures
Hurricane Katrina in pictures.
As we introduced the unit we talked in depth about Hurricane Katrina, sequencing picture cards to tell the story.  The kiddos now look at the pictures, putting them in any order they'd like to tell the story of the hurricane.

Source: I gathered the pictures together for this activity using Wikipedia Commons Files.

Top 10 Tornado States
Top 10 tornado states learning activity.
The kiddos will use markers to mark the top 10 Tornado States on the map.  The map is colored using Montessori colors. I have colored the chart using corresponding Montessori colors so states are a bit easier to find.

Source:  The free printable map for this activity can be found at Free Printable Maps.  I created the Top 10 Tornado State Chart. For your free copy, click HERE.

Information for this activity came from the book: Inside Tornadoes.  This map reflects the total amount of tornadoes ever in each state, and is not to be confused with Top Killer Tornado State Rankings or Top Yearly Tornado State Rankings, also provided in the book.

Visual Arts

Torn Paper Tornadoes
Torn Paper Tornado Art
The kiddos will tear up old magazine pages and glue them on the white paper in the shape of a tornado. I love how every one looks so different!

Source:  I saw this adorable activity at First Graders At Last.

Practical Life & Sensorial

Hurricane Creations
Hurricane creations using whipped cream.
I thought it might be fun for the kiddos to create space views of a hurricane using laminated blue paper for water, green paper for land, and whipped topping to create the clouds of the hurricane.  Once they've created their hurricane using the whipped topping, they can use fingers to help it move, become bigger or smaller.

This proved to be a great fine motor activity!  Shaking and spraying the whipped topping was challenging, but so worth it.

Source: I came up with the idea for this activity.

Replacing Batteries in a Flashlight
Changing batteries in a flashlight.
The kiddos will practice putting batteries in a flashlight correctly. They will turn it on to check their work.

Locking the Doors & Windows
Locking and latching doors puzzle.
Originally I had wanted to have a hammer and nails activity on the shelves. It would be fun to practice boarding up windows before a hurricane comes. However, I couldn't find a piece of wood the size I needed, so I reverted back to this activity instead.  There were definitely no complaints.

The kiddos will practicing locking doors as they are evacuating their homes before a hurricane comes using the Melissa & Doug Latches Board.

United States of America Puzzle
Wooden Puzzle Map of the USA
Our unit focused primarily on extreme weather activity in the United States this week.  The kiddos have loved reviewing all of their states with this puzzle.

Tornado in a Jar
Have you ever made a tornado in a jar?  All you need is a jar, a few drops of dish detergent and water.  It's provided so much entertainment, and again is great motor work!

Source:  This activity came from

I hope you enjoy our tornado and hurricane activities as much as we have!

For those who would like the Hurricane & Tornado Math Printable Pack, click on the link below:

Hurricane & Tornado Math Printable Pack by Renae at Every Star is Different

If you are interested in our other extreme weather units, be sure to visit the posts below.
Avalanches, Blizzards and Ice Storms

Earthquake and volcano activities with free printables.

If you are interested in more weather activiites in general, be sure to visit the page below!
Weather activities and free printables.

Rainbow Writing

This post may contain affiliate links.

Each morning, as part of our morning work, my kiddos write in their journals.  All of them are at different levels with different expectations.  Dinomite is a first grader.  It is a goal to have him write a four sentence composition by the end of the year.  At the beginning of the year, he was writing single sentences.  Now that we are in our third quarter of the year, he's writing three sentence answers.  Princess, is a preschooler, however, with an IQ of 131 (tested at age 3), she is above and beyond preschool work.  I would say she's more of an advanced kindergartner.  During the first half of  the year she practiced copying a one line sentence. Now that we're into the second half of the year, she's answering very simple questions with one sentence answers.  Bulldozer, though a kindergartner, really struggles with writing.  His skills are that of a beginning preschooler.  His morning assignment is to copy one or two words in his journal.  When all three kiddos are finished writing in their journal, they're asked to draw a picture that corresponds to what they write. This ensures they're always practicing their art skills.
Other than white board work (practicing 5 letters and/or numbers), and two worksheets they're asked to complete as part of their morning work, the journal assignment is the only writing I require each day.  Writing is very difficult for my special needs kiddos.  When I have tried to incorporate it into afternoon learning time trays, the trays are left untouched.  If an unknowing kiddo does select a tray with writing, they almost always end up melting down before the completion of the work, if for no other reason than it's taking too long, or there are too many steps.

I love our journals. They've been a fabulous way to find out how much Dinomite is retaining in other subject areas.  Usually, his questions are based on our current unit of study.  Part of journal work is figuring things out by yourself.  Mommy and/or Daddy do not help with spelling words.  We may prompt kiddos to sound out words, but that's as far as we go.  There are no corrections made to the journal work.  It stays in original form to show a natural progression of the kiddos' knowledge, and to help them build confidence in their own abilities.  I have loved watching Dinomite's spelling improve over this year in a natural way.  Princess' journal is a way for me to see how much she's understanding about letter writing, creation of words, and sentence structure.  Bulldozer's journal helps me know if he's finally conquered how to write a specific letter, and if he can follow directions.

As great as journal writing is for our family, it definitely comes with it's challenges.  Writing is despised by the kiddos, so any work that involves writing, is not well received.  Dinomite suffers from extreme anxieties.  Anything that's new and unknown comes with significant meltdowns.  Bulldozer is a perfectionist.  At the same time, he struggles with motor planning and fine motor skills.  Writing is so hard for him.  There are days when he just can't get his hands to do what his brain thinks they should do. Those days are rough days for him.  Princess seems to be the only one that enjoys writing, however her emotional handicaps make it very difficult for her to follow directions, and at times remember what she's capable of.

In an effort to make journal writing more successful, I created a system that works for us.  I call it Rainbow Writing.  My kiddos need step by step instructions presented in a visual way. They need incentives to complete their work and reinforcers when they finally do complete it.  We're finally at a place where they're old enough to use a token system to help them along the way, but there are some days when an instant reinforcer is still needed.

Each kiddo has a laminated copy of their Rainbow Writing Checklist.  I have created three levels, based on the abilities of each kiddo.

Bulldozer completes the Rainbow Writing Checklist Level 1.

A successful day of journal writing for Bulldozer looks like this:
Bulldozer worked so hard to make his letters fit on the line.  He erased and tried again several times.  His letters in this entry are the best I've seen.  Bulldozer struggles with understanding where the picture belongs on the page, so his icicles, a representation of an ice storm, are under his words instead of above.

Princess completes the Rainbow Writing Checklist Level 2.

A successful day of journal writing for her looks like this:
Princess was able to identify words in the question she needed for her sentence, and copied them correctly.  She does not know how to spell the word "white" nor does she know the rules for Long "i," so she sounded out the word, and wrote it using the knowledge she has.  This is her best.  She worked extremely hard making sure her letters were close together and that there were spaces between each words, erasing several times until she thought it was good enough.  When it came time to draw her picture, she told me snow was white, which was already the color of the paper.  Gotta love her!

Dinomite completes Rainbow Writing Checklist Level 3.
A successful day of journal writing for him looks like this:
Dinomite did a fabulous job writing three sentences, although I had to laugh at their shortness.  He's definitely known for finding the easiest way to complete a task.  I love the progression of his explanation. It shows he has a great understanding of the subject.  The difficult words he's spelled correctly, shows me our spelling activities are paying off.  The more simple words that are spelled incorrectly shows me he's still having a hard time slowing down to sounds words out.  This has always been difficult for him.  Overall, it's a great entry.  I love his picture too. It's a branch from a tree, bending from ice.

When each of the kiddos finish their journals, and check them over using their Rainbow Writing Checklists, they show them to me.  If writing tasks meet the checklist criteria, they each receive one token.

There are many ways to create a token system.  You can use actual money, which I did think about.  You can use plastic coins or fake money.  You can use any type of cards or anything really, as long as it's something the kiddo has a passion for.

I had each kiddo help me make special tokens.  Dinomite wanted snake and reptile tokens.  He didn't really need this many, but he was convinced he did.
Bulldozer wanted extreme weather tokens.
Princess wanted horse tokens.
The reason I had them help me was because I wanted to make sure they wanted the tokens more than anything.

Tokens are collected to earn prizes.
All prizes in the blue bin are one token each (for those who need an immediate reinforcer).  All prizes in the purple bin are five tokens each. This works perfect to cash in at the end of the week.  All prizes in the green bin are ten tokens each, for those who want to save and earn something big.

Since I have three very different children, and I wanted to ensure the success of system, I had the kiddos pick out their own prizes.  One token prizes were items found in packages as the local dollar store, costing no more than $0.15 each.  Five token prizes are those that cost about $0.50 individually, usually coming in tubes or packages.  Ten token items on average cost about $3.00.

One Token Items
From left to right:  Dinomite's 1 token items, Bulldozer's 1 token items, & Princess' 1 token items.
The items are in baggies because the kiddos were super worried that someone else would choose their prizes.

Five Token Items
From left to right:  Dinomite's 5 token items, Bulldozer's 5 token items, & Princess' 5 token items.
I was super excited about our five token items.  We picked things up after Christmas so there were a bunch of girl's make up Christmas packages on clearance.  Score!  All three kiddos each chose their own Safari Toobs, which I had 50% off coupons for.

Ten Token Items
From left to right: Dinomite's 10 token items, Bulldozer's 10 token items, & Princess' 10 token items.
Dinomite has been all about collecting the Imaginext Superhero Figures.  I found a great sale that was buy one set and get the second 1/2 off.  I had a $20 gift card that helped with the rest.  Bulldozer will do anything for a new monster truck or ball.  He has over 25 of each already.  There's just something about them.  I'm guessing he picked out the cone because it's purple, his favorite color.  Princess loves to collect the mini My Little Pony Figures.  The mystery is always fun.

And there you have it!  The system is working beautifully!  Obviously it can be applied to any type of work, but for my kiddos, writing is the worst, so that's what we use it for.  I'll continue to replenish the prize boxes as we go.

For those of you who would like copies of the Rainbow Writing Checklists. Click on the links below!

If you are interested in a free copy of any of the homemade tokens, please feel free to e-mail me at  I can not believe the changes in my kiddos' journal writing since implementing this system.  Just the checklists alone have done so much.  I hope obtain the same results!

Get Access to Exclusive Special Needs Parenting Printables by Subscribing Below