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Learning with Sticks and Stones At Home

Sometimes the best materials for learnings are the ones you can find right outside your front door. As the mother and daughter of two very serious rock hounds, I’m very accustomed to having rocks EVERYWHERE in my home. And now that we are all stuck At Home, I thought I would share some easy to make and do At Home Sticks and Stones Activities for your students.

In and of themselves, rocks are just a natural tool for learning. Kids are naturally drawn to their unique qualities.

They like to examine them, sort them, make patterns with them, or even classify them by size, color or shape.

So first and foremost . . . let them explore! But beyond that, there is so much more you can do with rocks to extend learning and make it fun and engaging.

So head outside and gather some sticks and stones. Here are a few of my favorite ideas.

Box of Rocks Sight Words (or Letters)

Students search for hidden rocks with words (or letters) written on them. They record the words they find and read them to a friend (or a parent if at home.)

Materials Needed:

  • Some flattish rocks
  • Paint pens or sharpies
  • Small plastic shoebox with top
  • Filler (sand, rice, polypropylene pellets, whatever you can find around the house)
  • Response sheet which you can find HERE (or just a piece of paper to record your answers)

Simply use the paint pens to write sight words or letters on rocks and hide them in the sensory box. This would also work in a sandbox outside too.

Sticks and Stones Race To 100

My own class was well into the study of tens and ones when we were directed to stay home. They had been practicing smalls and talls and all kinds of place value work.

So basically, stones are ones and sticks are tens. In this game, you are racing to collect 100. Here’s how it works, students can play with a sibling or parent (or a friend if at school). Players take turns rolling a dice (you can play with more than one if you’d like to change it up). Whatever number shows up on the dice is how many stones (or ones) you can collect for your ‘box.’ Each turn you add that many stones. When you have 10 stones, you trade it in for one stick (which is worth 10). The first person to collect 10 sticks (or 100), is the winner.

Materials Needed:

  • Race to 100 playing mat available HERE. (This is optional, you can always just use a piece of paper to keep track of what you’ve collected.)
  • 25 stones (allows for a couple extra)
  • 25 small sticks (allows for a couple extra)
  • dice

Another idea:

  • Parents create a number using sticks and stones and have the child identify the number created.
  • Parents write a number and have students create it with sticks and stones.

Making Words With Sticks and Stones

This is a very simple idea. Using a list of sight words your students are working on, have them create the word using sticks and stones. They can then read the word to a parent.

Materials Needed:

  • a good collection of various-shaped sticks (curved, short, long . . .)
  • several stones
  • word list (I use my Ball Word Sight Word Mastery system cards for this but you can just send out a list of words to your parents.)

I just keep a list basket of these available for students to sort through and use to make their words.

Idea extension: Have students take a picture of each of their word creations, then they can save them and read them on their device or print them out for sight word practice.

Story Stones

Pick three stones and tell a story. This is sometimes a very difficult task for students. Some have wonderful imaginations and others struggle. So storytelling takes lots of practice. You can use stickers to make your story stones or paint them if you prefer. Just pick a variety of images to make things interesting.

Materials Needed:

Students pick three or four stones (I like to have them ‘not look’ when picking.) and create a story using the images.

  • medium-sized flat rocks
  • stickers or acrylic paint or paint pens
  • storytelling response sheets available HERE

If you’d like to extend this activity a bit, have your child use a device to retell the story using the stones and then send it off to a friend or a teacher.

Making Words Rock

Much like ‘Making Words With Sticks and Stones,’ this activity uses rocks with letters written on them to create words. Parents can use sight word lists or have students stretch out words to write with rocks.

Materials Needed:

  • 26 or more rocks (in case you need double letters)
  • paint pens
  • list of sight words or decodable words for a student to create using rocks

Spin To Win Rocks

Part of my morning work stations always includes this game. It’s simple and can be adapted to so many different kinds of materials. This time we will use rocks.

  • 20 or so rocks with numbers written on them
  • greater/less spinner card available HERE
  • paint pens
  • paper clip and pencil (or another kind of spinner)
  • a container for each person to put their rocks in
  • optional 100s chart to help with comparing numbers available HERE

Students select any rock from the container. They identify the number on the rock and compare it to their partner. One player spins the spinner (use a paperclip and a pencil) to determine if the player with the greater or less than number wins both rocks to be placed in their container. When all the rocks are gone, players count up their rocks and then a final spin of the spinner will determine if the player with the greater number or rocks or the less number of rocks is the winner.

Other fun stuff with sticks and stones

Believe me, the ideas are endless when it comes to things you can do with sticks and stones. I live on 11 acres with three boys and have watched them create games and activities from so many items from our woods, it sometimes amazes me. So here are just a couple of ideas they had:

  • This is a bit of a stem challenge:
    • Using only sticks, stones, and either pipe cleaners or string, build a ‘hideout’ for an action figure, doll or toy. Around that hideout, dig a mote and then build a drawbridge.
  • Use sticks and stones to create different patterns. AB, ABB, AAB, ABC
  • Use sticks and stones and glue and paint to create some art!
  • Paint some rocks and leave them around your neighborhood to brighten someone’s day.
  • Start a rock collection
  • Make up your own game using sticks and stones. Identify the different kinds of stones you’ve collected.

So get outside and see what you can find. If you find some really big sticks and stones, you might even find yourself creating your own secret hideout. Just because we are stuck at home, doesn’t mean we can’t be creative, enjoy the outdoors and keep learning.

If you’d like to grab the printables that go with all of these activities, go ahead and grab them by clicking on the picture above or HERE. It will take you to my store, but the item is free. You just need to create an account and put it in your basket and checkout.

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These at-home learning activities are perfect for young learners and you can find all the materials right in your own backyard.  Kindergarten students will find these math and ELA games, activities and ideas engaging. and fun.  They are hands-on while still addressing important essential skills.  The free printables will give you everything you need to learn with sticks and stones.

Marsha Moffit McGuire

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