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First Stage Publishing Co's blog to engaging students in hands-on education.
"I hear and I forget.  
I see and I remember.  
I do and I understand."
~ Chinese proverb
"For most students academic learning is too abstract. They need to see, touch and smell what they read and write about." 
~John Goodland
"The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled." 
~ Plutarch 
"Learning is an active process. We learn by doing. Only knowledge that is used sticks in your mind." 
~ Dale Carnegie

Active Learning

Hands-On Invisible Ink Activities: Learn Vowels, Consonants & Sight Words

by First Stage Publishing Company on 10/22/18

Fun activities involving invisible ink can help in learning to recognize differences between vowels and consonants and how they appear and sound in words.  Focusing on writing challenges involving vowel-consonant combinations helps to develop reading comprehension.  Reading will become less complex as words and sentences begin to have true meanings. Learn to know the fundamentals of vowel-consonant relationships and grasp the context of a whole paragraph! 

Use the following invisible ink activities to help your students understand the fundamentals of reading words and messages.

Materials: lemon juice or milk, small bowl, white or colored paper, paint brush, Q-tips, salt, crayons

1)  Choose lemon juice or milk. Squeeze out the lemon juice or pour the milk into a small bowl.  Either liquid will create the desired effect.  

2)  Next, have the student dip a Q-tip or paint brush into the “invisible ink” and write words on a white or color sheet of paper.

3)    a)  After writing with lemon juice, or milk, expose the paper to a heat source such as sunlight, a lamp bulb or iron lightly.  You will see the invisible writing become readable!

     b) Alternatively, write words with milk or lemon juice on paper and sprinkle with salt while still damp.  After a few minutes, rub a crayon over the salted paper to reveal the letters and messages.  

Vowel and Consonant Activities with Invisible Ink

      When studying the vowels have the student write the letters with milk or lemon juice.  Practice saying and writing the names of alphabet letters.  Once confident, focus on the the vowels, Aa, Ee, Ii, Oo, Uu and semi-vowels Yy, Ww.  Practice writing them multiple times and follow the instructions to reveal the invisible letters.

Once confident with the vowels, start by introducing consonants Bb, Cc, Kk and Dd.  This exercise follows the basic principles used in The First Stage Reader here consonants re introduced based on the amount of words able to be created with their vowel combinations.  Start with two and three letter vowel-consonant combinations, giving examples of how they are written, pronounced, and what they mean.

Some examples may include: 

Bb: bebeeBea, baybybyebuy, bow

                  (bee)                          (Bo’s bow)           

Cc (sounds like letter Kk): such as cake, cakes, cube, cubes, cat,   

   (cake)             (cat)

Cc (sounds like Ss): such as ice, ace, aces, etc.                               

         (ace/aces)                (ice)

       Practice writing, saying and reading using their own, parents, or family members names.   Write sentences using verbs such as “I bake ___,” “I see a ___,” “I can ___.”  ”Sue can __.”  Draw a picture of the word with invisible ink in the blank. 

An Effective Art Program

by First Stage Publishing Company on 08/02/18

Welcome to ART Really Teaches

by First Stage Publishing Company on 05/31/18

ART is a guide that helps teachers or parents use art activities with young children's learning.  Below are educational quotes from the book by University Professors about the importance of ART:

Dr. Elliot Eisner- Professor Emeritus of Art and Education at Stanford University

Dr. Eisner tells us about the importance of using art activities in the early years in the intellectual, social, physical and emotional development of children.  The art materials and activities stimulate the senses in young children’s educational development. “Nothing is in the head that was not first in the hand.”

Dr. Violet Robinson - Professor Emeritus at San Francisco State

 All children can benefit from a variety of art experiences that enable them to learn and develop.  Small muscles, eye-hand coordination and dexterity are developed as they engage in physical rhythm and feel joy as they finger-paint, paint with deliberate strokes, or make repeated patterns.  "Art activities contribute to all aspects of a child’s development."

Winter is Here Quilt!

by First Stage Publishing Company on 01/31/18

When it’s too cold to play outside, light a fire on your TV to keep cozy, and enjoy a fantastic art project.  Each child makes two separate paintings of a snowman and a snowflake, which can be attached together to form a quilt of paintings.

Materials Needed

Glue, sea/table salt, white tempera paint and other colors for details, blue construction paper, paint brushes, q-tips, cotton balls, recycled pie tins, white paper.


  • Language Arts Vocabulary: seasons, snow, snow people, snowflakes, border/frame, scarf, hat
  • Math: counting, shapes
  • Activity: tearing, painting, gluing   
To Make Hand-Print Snowflakes:

 White paint is poured into a pie tin, or tinfoil formed into a saucer. Each child will put his or her hand into the paint and makes 3-5 hand-prints on the blue construction paper.  Turn the paper after each hand-print, so their fingers will resemble a snowflake.  While the paint is still wet, have children sprinkle salt on the snowflake to make it shimmer.   


To Make Snow People: 

Children start by tearing white paper into pieces using and strengthening their finger muscles. The small pieces are glued around the edge of the blue construction paper to make a border.  Have children count the number of torn paper pieces used.  Snow People are made by painting different sized circles with the white paint.

Scarves, hats, arms, and facial features are added by painting with a q-tip, brush, or fingers.    Children can decorate the snow person and background with cotton balls, by gluing them to the paper, and adding falling snow with the white paint.

For similar hands-on, creative art activities that meet the Pre-school Learning Foundations, California Kindergarten & Common Core Standards, see ART Really Teaches  pg. 18-22.

Make Your Own Fun Chicken-Wire Board to Help Students Learn Numbers and Colors

by First Stage Publishing Company on 03/25/14

While living in the rural country of California, I wanted to use recycled items to creatively teach numbers and patterns to the children in my kindergarten classes.  To teach these concepts I created a work board with some cardboard and chicken-wire (the kind used for raising pets and plants).

Using chicken-wire, a piece of paper, and crayons, young students can learn numbers and practice creating color patterns.  They exercise small hand muscles and use math and language skills with this fun board.  This activity meets the California Curriculum Standards for Language Arts 1.3 and 1.17, Visual Arts 1.0 (color and space), and Math 1.0.

Vocabulary Learned: Patterns, hexagon, horizontal, vertical; blue, yellow, green, purple, and other color words.

Materials to Make the Board:   

  • Chicken-wire: available from hardware stores or recycle spare pieces
  • Wire cutters to cut the chicken wire: 9" x 12"
  • Needle Nose Pliers to turn the ends of the wire 
  • Heavy cardboard: 9" x 12" (Recycle and reuse a box)
  • Stapler to attach the wire to the cardboard
  • Duct tape to secure the wire to the cardboard, make sure it covers any pointed ends of the chicken-wire

Preparation for Creating a Chicken-Wire Board: Start by folding the ends of the chicken wire under for safety.  Next, staple the chicken wire to the cardboard frame and use the duct tape to secure the wire to the cardboard.

Making a Worksheet Rubbing with the Chicken-Wire Board:

  • Your newly made chicken-wire board
  • Blank paper
  • Jumbo crayons with wrapping removed (use crayons that have already been broken)
  • Clips to hold the paper to the board                                 

Activity & Instructions for using the Chicken-Wire Board:   

Place a sheet of blank paper  over the chicken-wire grilled surface and secure it with clips.  Rub a black or dark color crayon both horizontally then vertically over the metal surface to create a rub-on hexagon pattern worksheet. 


Remove the paper from the board and use a different color crayon to color each set.  For example, when emphasizing the number 3, fill in three hexagons with one color.  Then use a second and/or third crayon to color three adjacent hexagons.  Continue coloring patterns in sets of two. 


Refer to Piaget’s Theory of Conservation to determine which number the student should focus on.  To learn more see our previous blog, “Teaching Piaget’s Theory of Conservation with Buttons, Bugs, Birds, and More!”  This activity can be repeated many different ways, allowing the students to color new patterns of a specific number.  For example, 3 adjacent hexagons can make a triangular shape, and 4 hexagons make a squarish shape, or a vertical or horizontal line.


For fun, have the students create various unique number/color patterns, I am always pleasantly surprised by all the creative ideas the children come up with.

Take It Further: Some other fun activities using the board are to color-in, outline, or insert numerals, letters, pictures or symbols into the hexagonal spaces using the color number patterns. For example, your child could color triangles, squares, or circles in three adjacent hexagons.


© Ruth Velasquez, First Stage Publishing Company

* For more hands-on art activities focusing on language arts, math, science, social studies, and visual arts aligned with the California Cirriculum Standards for Kindergarten, see the First Stage publication ART Really Teaches