Tag Archives: measuring

smellyarmus, and other magical stuff…

Don’t you think that JK Rowling should have included a spell called smellyarmus?  I couldn’t bring myself to correct L and tell him it should be expelliarmus, why not have a spell that gives smelly arms to your enemy?  I think he could be onto something!  The boys were very excited to have a day of Harry Potter again.  Our local library Harry Potter Book Night event was unfortunately cancelled so it was potions and spells at home for us today!  It meant a move away from our animations and story work which, if I’m honest, was a welcome relief as C is spending far longer than necessary on his.  It will be epic in the true sense of the word by the time he’s finished!

We started the day with a breakfast game of pairs – matching spell cards.  It was a draw so as a tie break we had to answer questions to name the outcome of a given spell.  Needless to say, C won when I was unable to explain the effects of petrificus totalus!  Following this C did a bit of handwriting, he used his feather pen to copy out some of the spell names in a calligraphy style, as ‘fancy’ as possible.  He’s getting quite good, and now thinks we need a quill!

Our activities weren’t dissimilar to last year, so here are a few photos, after which I’ve been a bit lazy and have included my blog from last year, which includes a letter from Dumbledore for you to download, should you be wanting to recreate your own potions session!

Breakfast before our day properly started – buttering the toast using a freshly whittled butter knife!


First was a bubbling mixture, using carefully combined ingredients to include vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and an alka seltzer tablet, amongst other things.


L then prepared several concoctions of his own, with some attempt by me to get him to read the measures on his  syringe and measuring jug (he was having none of it!). I liked how he got himself organised!

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Meanwhile, C followed instructions to make his own invisible ink…


We ended with a bang, well maybe more of a pop!


We forgot to take a photo of our first exploding potion, but this was the result on one of the wall cupboards…


My kitchen has never been cleaner. This one really did explode everywhere, resulting in washing down all the wall tiles, the floor, the cupboard fronts and the kettle!

Tomorrow we will be formalising some of the learning a little by recording and reading measurements of potions, for now, here’s what we got up to last year:

I had identified a need to recap finding the difference as a method for subtraction.  This one is often tricky, but necessary, for younger children to visualise what it is they are doing when subtracting by working out the difference between 2 numbers.  C keeps telling me he “doesn’t like maths” and so I am trying to think more creatively about IMG_7047how we teach it; my solution for this was to incorporate ‘finding the difference’ into some play with the Scaletrix.  We  had timed races and when the timer was up, calculated how many laps we had each done by recording along a blank number line.  This enabled him to draw out the jumps, for example from 32 (no. of laps left) to 45 (the total no. of laps on the dial).  Our Scaletrix dials countdown from 45 so you can easily see how many laps are remaining:  It’s not so easy to see how many you have completed.  To follow on from this the next day, I stuck up some envelopes containing house points for the Hogwarts houses.  With these he had to work out the differences between the different houses and the winners.  We started together, with me modelling how Dumbledore would have mentally calculated how many more points were needed to put Gryffindor into the lead and then I left him to do a few more calculations independently.  This has all served to be successful scaffolding.  We started practically, followed up on paper with support and then gradually took away the support.  He’s got it!  And very pleased he is with himself too!

IMG_7051  IMG_7058

Upon leaving for Nursery one day this week we discovered a letter on the mat from Dumbledore himself, giving ideas for us muggles to make potions. IMG_7062 Once the letter was read and digested we set about, the three of us, creating some pretty disgusting tasting potions (recording and adding up the quantities as we went along).  The boys are convinced they made it snow with these as sudden snowstorm began while they syringed and mixed apple juice, lemonade and milk, yuk!  And of course, our crazy L loved it – drinking a fair bit until I insisted he stop before he was sick!


I have been so lucky with our HE community here.  Our lovely group organiser set up an online HP quiz for us all to take part in.  C has thoroughly enjoyed re calling his (limited) HP knowledge from his one film viewing and attempted all 6 rounds with very little help from me.  So good multi media comprehension there from him.   Some amusing, some random guesses, Professor Spinach instead of Sprout was my favourite I think.

To end this week, here he is sketching a portrait of Harry Potter, obsessed?   Who him?!


harry potter maths download


Santa’s little helpers do maths

Christmas is busy enough at the best of times but trying to prepare when you HE can make it even more so.  No popping to the shops while they are at school, no commute to stop off en route and get some late night shopping done.  It’s all shopping online and  having helpers in tow 24/7.  Does this sound familiar? To help a little with this, I thought I would share some maths we did  last year, which C and I loved, and shall be repeating this year with an extra elf on the team!

Once we had printed our wrapping paper (star potato prints, but this could easily have been more mathematical with repeating patterns or sequences), we set up an elf workshop n the lounge.  Nothing fancy Just 4 work stations:

Weighing area

Measuring area

Cutting area

Wrapping area


We planned these together with C making the signs and then preparing our resources before we set to work.  I think the areas speak for themselves.  What was key here though was how the learning was extended so that it was fun, but he was still learning at a level suited to him.  We devised a basic chart for him to record the weight and length of each present before he moved it to the cutting area where I had to follow his recorded measurement to accurately cut the paper.  He ‘quality controlled’ this!  We then wrapped together and placed presents in weight or size order before placing under the tree.

... and under the tree
… and under the tree

With gentle questioning, whilst keeping in role, I got him to find the difference between parcels, ” How much more does x weigh than y?”  “Let’s see what the combined weight of ….. is?”  “If we put these two side by side, I wonder how much space will they take up in the van or sleigh?”  And so on.

These ‘wonder how’, ‘wonder why’ type questions are a perfect way to stimulate thinking without the pressure of feeling there’s a right or wrong answer.  Obviously for these examples there is a right answer, but by phrasing it as an open question it can often mean that children are more inclined to offer a solution.  A closed question can lead to resistance or a barrier and instant feeling of ‘I don’t know’.  It’s worth taking a few seconds to mentally rephrase, particularly during hands on activities like these.  Theres a more comprehensive list of examples on the NRICH site for more ideas and an explanation of why this is important in maths.

I do try to keep structured with our HE, or at least semi structured.  So for me, planning activities like this gives a real purpose to the learning while satisfying my need to ensure that there is still curriculum coverage and evidence ofprogress being made on a weekly basis. This year I will be extending the elf helper’s learning with some time word problems to solve too.  If you want to give it a go, you can download the delivery notes  here.   These will be appearing at our breakfast table sometime soon in a suitably sparkly envelope and a letter from either the post office or the elves.  Possibly via one of the fairy doors, but either way, set into an imaginary context to set the scene!

santa delivery notes download increases slightly in difficulty;  working out the dispatch time is the hardest as the children  will need to work backwards from the arrival time.  I would start with the delivery notes that give the dispatch and length of  journey, before moving onto these.  If you would like a blank version to enter in your own times, please drop me a line and I can send this to you.