iLEAD Exploration Remains Open Virtually for Learners

iLEAD Exploration continues to operate its independent study model in an entirely virtual format. Click here for resources.

Aug 23, 2020 @ 01:00

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Inspiration: Mud Kitchen Fun

Mud Kitchen

By Nicole Huguenin
Director of Arts Integration and Play Maker, Maker Learning Network

Remember: Kids are 100% washable!

Are you running out of ideas to entertain your bright learners at home? We have just the thing for you: Why not build your family’s very own mud kitchen?

Mud kitchens are so much fun for your kids! Not only do they completely engage children and provide you with some much-needed extra time, but they also encourage the following:

  • Exploration
  • Creativity
  • Imagination
  • Social Skills
  • Role-Playing
  • Fine Motor Skills
  • Math
  • Sensory Play
  • Wonder and Joy

Did you know that dirt is healthy for your kids? Find out “The Dirt on Dirt” and the many health benefits of mud!

How to Make a Mud Kitchen

Mud kitchens can be as simple as a bowl, a stick, some dirt, and some water. They can also be a little more elaborate. Click here for our collection of mud kitchen ideas on Pinterest! Let your child’s imagination guide them in their mud kitchen adventures. See what you can find from this list:

  • Cupcake Tins
  • Wooden Spoons
  • Mashers
  • Whisks
  • Spatulas
  • Metal Bowls
  • Wooden Bowls
  • Sifter
  • Small Pans
  • Mortar and Pestle
  • Colanders
  • Ladles
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons
  • Rolling Pin
  • Pots and Pans
  • Expired Spices
  • Dried or Old Flowers

Mud Kitchen Supply Ideas

Items for mud kitchens need not be new. They can be things from around the house, or you can ask friends and relatives if they have any. Thrift stores are also a great place to find things for mud kitchens. See what you can find from this list:

  • Cupcake Tins
  • Wooden Spoons
  • Mashers
  • Whisks
  • Spatulas
  • Metal Bowls
  • Wooden Bowls
  • Sifter
  • Small Pans
  • Mortar and Pestle
  • Colanders
  • Ladles
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons
  • Rolling Pin
  • Pots and Pans
  • Expired Spices
  • Dried or Old Flowers

Remember: “Kids are 100% washable!” —Lisa Latimer, iLEAD Agua Dulce School Director

Have fun! #GETMUDDY

Be sure to share your mud kitchen photos with us here!

Speaking Activities


Speaking is usually thought of as the most important of the four skills. Below is a list of activities to enhance a learner’s ability to speak English.

Describe a Picture
Using the two links below, learners are able to look at daily pictures and graphs and describe what is happening in each picture or graph. For each picture, there are guiding questions for the learner to think about and answer. The learner also has the option to read how others respond to the picture/graph. When describing a picture, think about answering who, what, where, when and why.

What is It?
Place 5 objects on the table under a towel or blanket. Describe each object and let your partner guess what it is you are describing, then switch.

Sentence ideas:
The object I have is (heavy/light).
It is used in the (room).

Give your learner a statement. Have your learner think about whether or not he agrees or disagrees with the statement. The learner writes notes defending his statement. Have your learner present multiple reasons why he agrees or disagrees with the statement.

Example: The Summer Olympics are better than the Winter Olympics.
Sentence starters:
I think….
I believe….
The _____ is better than ____ because….
In my opinion…..
I think that…for example…

Listening Activities


Listening is an essential skill that we use daily. Listening takes different forms in different situations. You listen in a classroom, an airport, in a conversation, while watching television, and while listening to the radio. Below is a list of activities to help improve your listening skills.

Music 101
Listen to any song, and write down any similes you hear.
Example: “And it seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind”
Are there any metaphors you hear? What about personification, hyperbole or irony?

Storyline Online
Listen to a story online.

Unite for Literacy
Listen to a story online with the option to listen to the story in different languages.

Listen and Draw
This site has some audio files of vocabulary and scenarios that learners can listen to. Learners can draw the pictures or descriptions on a blank piece of paper as they listen to the vocabulary. Learners can also draw a picture as they listen to a story.

TED Talks
Ted Talks are a great resource for advanced or intermediate ELL learners. Have your learner listen to a Ted Talk two times through. For the first time, have them share the main idea. For the second time, have them listen for and then share opinions and facts.

The Walking Classroom is offering 26 free educational podcasts right now (due to Covid-19)! Their program is simple…take a 20-minute walk while you listen to a podcast! Each podcast comes with a health-awareness message and includes a character value within the narrative. It also includes discussion questions, key vocabulary, and quizzes. It is great for ELL students and catered to grades 3-8.

Reading Activities

Reading Strategies and Reading Strategies - Workshop in Tustin another option

Comprehension is the goal of reading. This skill can be extremely difficult for EL learners due to limited vocabulary and limited background knowledge. Learners should read or be read to daily. Here are a few activities that support EL learners and their reading comprehension.

Determine Main Idea and Details
Use the flower writing graphic organizer to help a learner determine the main idea and details of a passage.

Building Background Knowledge
All students learn better when they first access what they already know. Use a KWL Chart to activate prior knowledge. Learners already have experiences and knowledge that they can build upon.

Expanding your vocabulary is a great way to improve your comprehension skills. Vocabulary Coil is an interactive site that you may want to check out.

Interactive Games
Let learning be interactive! These games are engaging and will help build critical reading skills. The games are easy to understand and help build a child’s vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension skills. You can find something for every grade level and English proficiency skills.

ESL Fast

Learn English Kids


ESL Fun Games

Mr. Nussbaum Learning


Writing Activities


There is an important correlation between writing and language development. Learners often develop listening skills first, then speaking, then reading, and lastly writing. Writing requires a large amount of language processing in order to produce a message.

Writing Jar
Many learners perceive writing as a chore. Make it fun with a writing jar! Grab a jar or a container and fill it with a variety of prompts. Make them creative, fun, silly, serious, thought provoking, etc. The idea is to have a big range of prompts. Use them as a daily journal activity or as a way to teach the writing process: brainstorm, first draft, revisions, final draft. Have fun!

Cinquain Poems
Cinquain poems offer great flexibility and help the learner focus on parts of speech. The basic formula is:
One noun
Two adjectives
Three gerunds (words + ing)
A short sentence.
A one-word summary

Organize Your Thoughts
Use the hamburger writing graphic organizer to help organize the learner’s thoughts when writing a paragraph.

Ask Questions Through Family Discussions
Discuss with your learner about places you visit, work you do, books you read or TV shows you watch together. Talk to your learner about their ideas for writing. In order to write about something your learner needs to be able to talk about it first. Ask specific questions about your child’s writing such as, “How did that happen?”, “How did that make you feel?”, or “Can you tell me more about that?”

Encourage Your Child to Keep a Reflective Journal
Have them write about their personal feelings, pleasures and disappointments. Parents, share your own feelings and ideas paired with positive feedback about your learner’s writing.

Start a Vocabulary Notebook
Use a vocabulary sheet to teach your learner new words each week and encourage him/her to use them. Make it into a game and give points for using the new words.

Together Tuesdays


That’s right, it’s Together Tuesday! We love seeing the positive images submitted throughout iLEAD nation every week — joyful reminders that we are all in this together. Thank you to everyone who submitted this week! Click the image or link to view the video.

Share YOUR Together Tuesday images and stories with us by sending them to by midnight every Monday.

Social and Emotional Well-Being

Lunch bunch title

n an effort to address the emotional tension we are all experiencing during this season, the high school team would like to share some brief videos created by youth mentors who offer some solid words of advice for teenagers. Josten’s has made these inspirational videos available for free during this crisis. Please select any topics of interest to and spend some time talking about them together as a family. The topics include: our response to Covid-19, judgment, choices, changing my world, pressure, insecurities, failure, mental health, health and wellness, self-confidence, and self-reflection. We hope that your teenager feels encouraged, valued, and inspired as a result!

In addition, each Tuesday from April 14 through May 12, iLEAD’s student support team will host a virtual lunch bunch for learners by grade level groupings so that they can have an informal time to connect with support facilitators and other learners. This might be a great way for all Exploration learners to make new friends and talk through some of the questions and concerns going on in the world around us. Here is a flyer with those weekly times and links.

To join the High School Lunch Bunch on Tuesdays from 12:30-1:00 click here.

Advanced Courses For College Success

Advanced Courses for College Success

Taking advanced courses while in high school will prepare you for greater success in college. Advanced Placement (AP) courses are the typical high school standard for learners at brick and mortar schools, but access to AP tests can be a challenge for our independent study learners. Dual Enrollment (DE) courses also provide rigorous coursework with the additional advantage of granting access to a greater variety of courses (that are in most cases for free).

The single most important skill you will need in college is writing, regardless of your chosen major. Building those skills in high school will help you take those first writing-intensive college courses with confidence. Learners who hope to attend the most rigorous colleges should plan to take more than one DE or AP course with intensive writing during high school. Writing is not only part of an AP English course but also can be part of AP social science and history. A dual enrollment course in English composition will greatly increase writing skills which will benefit learners in all areas. Seek out courses that require essays and research papers and not just multiple-choice tests.

All learners should have a strong math background and those who are entering the arts, humanities, or social sciences should aim for at least pre-calculus or statistics. However, learners entering STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) should take a minimum of calculus while in high school. Community college or AP calculus will give a STEM learner a strong starting point. Classes that go beyond will help you enter college ahead of the rest!

Just about every college learner will find themselves in a science lab, so taking several lab sciences in high school is a necessity. An AP or DE science class can help prepare all learners for the rigors of college, but those entering STEM should plan to take more than one community college or AP lab science.

Language Other Than English
Some colleges require all learners to take a language while others require only those entering the humanities, arts, social sciences, and business to obtain a specific level of fluency. One way to get ahead is through a community college course in a foreign language or American sign language (ASL). At community colleges, a single semester of DE will count as 1-2 years of high school credit. Why not take advantage of this option now and knock out significant high school AND college credit?

Social Sciences and Electives
Don’t forget to take some fun advanced classes of interest such as anthropology, zoology, or psychology. These classes will help build college readiness skills and allow you to explore fields to which most high school learners do not have access.

Every learner should plan to meet with Bethany Maddox, our academic counselor, at least once a year to plan courses that will prepare for the next step–college! Sign up for an appointment here.

Together Tuesdays


The global COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of our lives, and while the constant flow of serious news can feel overwhelming, we are setting aside time every Tuesday to focus on positive images from throughout iLEAD Schools. A reminder that we are all in this together. Thank you to everyone who submitted this week! Additionally, you can share YOUR Together Tuesday images and stories with us by sending them to by midnight every Monday. Our theme for next week is school spirit. How creative can you get? Just in case you missed last week’s video, you can view it here.

Additionally, the iLEAD family resource helpline is available to you toll free, M-F, 8am-8pm at 833-610-0700. Please do not hesitate to call if you are in need of support. You may also want to watch our webinar on anxiety and stress here.

Write About It!

How to

One great way to encourage your learner to write more is to have them focus on those topics they love to talk about; pets, sports, games or favorite foods! It is always easier to write about the natural interests in our lives. Challenge your learner to write an informational piece that explains how to do something like ride a bike, or make their favorite sandwich, or maybe how to take care of a family pet. Share your ideas with your EF, as they would love to celebrate what you know how to do!

“How To” Template

“How To Take Care of…”

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