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Wilbur Geo.


One day my friend Mary sent me a Wilbur for my daughter. I have to confess I was surprised that my then 2nd grader was very interested in using Wilbur too.

Wilbur is a fun and unique learning tool made from an old bleach bottle. If you haven't seen him - check him out!

Now I had a Wilbur and needed to generate ideas for how to use him. Coming up with ideas for toddlers and preschoolers was easy. Other GamesForLearning list members were also sharing great ideas. This left me with one question:

What do I do for my older child?

The first thing we did was use Wilbur as a fun drill for geography. The second was to use Wilbur to learn the names of certain bones. We were, at the time, in a Geography club that was studying the states as the state quarters came out. I decided to piggy back  [no pun intended] on this idea by adding an element of history to the geography.

You'll need a good U.S. map. We used this one. If you use this one take note that there is no line between NH and VT. You'll have to sketch one in by hand.

Be sure to spend some time with your child going over the material.  Have them help label the map.  My son used our resource book The Big Book of America to tell me the order that the states joined the Union. As I labeled we spoke about regional cuisines, monuments and the state's proximity to bodies of water.  We also remembered friends and family from each state.

Once your child is moderately comfortable with the material you can begin. I encourage my kids NOT to guess.  If they REALLY don't know they can just look for the answer.  The second or third time through they will know it.

You'll need a stack of index cards that will fit nicely into your Wilbur.  I use the smallest bleach bottles because getting the index cards for a larger Wilbur can be a challenge.

Label the states in the order they joined the union.  Do NOT put the names of the states on the map.  You can create a second map, as part of the lesson, to label the states.  Do not use this one to drill from.

Now you have to label the index cards in a way that will coordinate with the map.  Here's a hint - when I make Wilbur cards I ALWAYS drill the info from both angles.  One of my cards looks like this:



On the BACK of that same card will be this:



Remember that your child can only see what is written along the top of the card.  Do a test card and actually put it in the Wilbur to be sure that you can clearly see the clue along the top AND the answer when you peek in.

You've done the prep and are ready to go.  To play/drill you need to put a stack of cards in Wilbur. Give your child the map.  They will see a clue along the top of the first card.  If they see the word MARYLAND they have to look on the map and find it.  The map will show them that the state labeled 7 is Maryland.  THEN they look inside Wilbur to see if they are right.  This immediate feedback will help to cement ONLY correct information.

If the top of the card shows a number the child must look at the map and find the state by its shape or location.

It really is THAT simple, and tons of fun, to set up a good self-checking drill for your child.  This can free you up to take a shower, cook or work with another child.

This was a nice supplement to our geography club.   There is a software program called USA Explorer that goes well with this type of study. Also, I highly recommend Carmen Sandiego games that you buy or make for yourself.

I'm sure your kids will come to love Wilbur.   If you're eager to make them one but have no bleach bottles in the house consider using the 1 gallon Heinz Vinegar bottle.


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