Monthly Archives: December 2013

One for the children . . . A “Who’s hiding?” picture book

On Christmas Eve, my post is one for the children, especially my two gorgeous little grandchildren, Artie and Anna.

I hope they, and children everywhere, will enjoy this little guessing game.

Next year my skills may have developed enough to make it interactive, or even an app!!! Now, let’s not get too excited!

I am very grateful to Bernadette Drent who created the illustrations for me with very little notice.

Here it is for you:

Happy Christmas everyone!

slide 11

Season’s Greetings!

A big thank you to all who have walked with me all, or any part, of the way as I took my first tentative steps into the world of blogging (and tweeting) earlier this year.

I appreciate every contribution, from visits and suggestions, to liking, commenting and re-blogging.

I have learned more than I probably even realise, from many different people, and  the encouragement from all interactions has helped me find my voice and the strength to maintain the journey.

This post offers a break from my usual educational fare by providing a little Christmas jollity. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Wishing you and your loved ones much joy during this holiday season.

Norah

Counting on the holidays!

algebra

When the topic “Maths” is mentioned in conversation among adults, including teachers, many of them moan, “I hate maths. It’s too abstract. I could never understand it. I can’t see the point in it.”

I think it is a sad situation that many such adults were turned off maths in school by teachers who didn’t introduce them to the beauty of maths, who didn’t teach maths in the context of real-life purposes and whose pedagogical kit bag was entirely filled with worksheets of meaningless and endless algorithms to complete.

I am one of those adults too. In my final years of high school I had a “teacher” who could do the math but couldn’t teach the math; couldn’t explain the why or the how, or any of the steps required to achieve understanding. Maths became an impenetrable forest of meaningless algorithms, formulae and theorems.

As both a parent and teacher of young children, I was determined to not be an instrument of math torture. Granted this may be easier with young children than it is with older students, but I’m sure there are still ways of making maths fun and meaningful in high school classrooms.

The suggestions in this article provide parents of young children with ways of finding maths in everyday contexts and incorporating mathematical learning effortlessly into holiday activities. Of course, the activities are of benefit at any time, not just during the holidays!

If you don’t have young children to inspire, or inspire you, please move on to the end of the article for some suggestions to excite your own interest in maths!

Although the word “counting” appears in the title, it is important to remember that maths is not just counting.

The strands of maths as described by The Australian Curriculum include:

  • Number and place value
  • Patterns and algebra
  • Measurement and geometry
  • Probability and statistics

My list includes just a few suggestions for each of those strands to get you started. Need I say there is an infinite number of possibilities?

25 ways to keep children thinking mathematically during the holidays:

Number and place value

  1. Count items e.g. birds in the sky, shells collected from the beach, people for lunch, steps in a staircase, windows on a house, seats in a bus . . .
  2. Count out the cutlery required for each person at dinner
  3. Include your child in shopping activities by helping them to:
    • Recognise the coins and notes
    • Count the value of coins and notes
    • Predict whether they have enough money to purchase an item, and whether there will be change
    • Tender the money in payment for an item
  4. When your child is sharing e.g. the biscuits, balloons or slices of fruit, ask them to:
    • Predict if there will be enough for everyone to have one, or more than one each
    • Share out the items, allocating the same number to each
    • Determine if there are any left over and what to do with them
  5. Use terms like half and quarter correctly, e.g. when cutting apples, oranges, sandwiches, pizza, to indicate pieces of equal size
  6. Play games that involve counting, e.g. counting the number of skips, balls in hoops, pins knocked down or dice games like snakes and ladders that require adding as well as number recognition and counting
  7. Make up number stories e.g. “We had five apples in the bowl. I ate one, and you ate one, how many are left?” “
  8. Read books with number concepts e.g. Pat Hutchins The Doorbell Rang, Eric Carle Rooster’s off to see the world  or Kim Michelle Toft One Less Fish

doorbell rang

Rooster's off to see world

One less fish

Patterns and algebra

  1. Use items to make patterns e.g. sort and create a pattern from shells collected at the beach, building blocks or toy cars
  2. Look for patterns in the environment e.g. fences, tiles, walls and window, zebra crossings
  3. Decorate cards and drawings with a patterned frame
  4. Make gift wrapping paper by decorating with potato prints or stamp patterns

Measurement and geometry

  1. Include your child in cooking activities and allow or support them to:
  • measure the ingredientscooking-man
  • set the temperature on the oven
  • work out the cooking finish time

2.  A child’s understanding of volume and capacity can be developed when they:

  • pour glasses of water from the jug and discuss terms such as enough, full, empty, half or part full, more, less
  • pour from one container into another of a different shape to compare which holds more and which holds less

3.  Scales can be used to compare the mass of different items or quantities e.g. compare an apple and an orange, measure the mass of butter required for a recipe

4.  Measuring length can be included by:

  • measuring and comparing height
  • cutting a length of string to tie a package
  • measuring who is closest to the jack in a backyard game of lawn bowls

5.  Use the calendar to

  • Learn the names and sequence of days in the week or months in the year
  • count the passing days or the number of days until an event

6.  Identify shapes in the home and environment e.g.

  • 2D shapes: tiles on floor and walls, shapes of windows, sections of footpath
  • 3D shapes: cereal boxes (rectangular prism), balls (sphere), bottles or cans (cylinder), dice (cube)

7.  Play games that involve shapes e.g. jigsaw puzzles, tangrams

8.  Talk about directions e.g. left, right, forwards, backwards and follow directions on a grid

9.  Play games that involve directions and movement in space e.g. battleship, Hokey Pokey, Simon Says, snakes and ladders, ludo

10.  Read and discuss books that include measurement concepts e.g. Pamela Allen: Who Sank the Boat? (volume); Eric Carle: The Very Hungry Caterpillar (days of the week) and The Bad Tempered Ladybird (time); Penny Matthews and Andrew McLean A Year on our Farm (months and seasons); and for looking at places on a map Mem Fox Sail Away The ballad of Skip and Nell or Annette Langen & Constanza Droop Letters from Felix

who sank the boat

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

A year on our farm

sail awayLetters from Felix

Probability and statistics

spite_sun_rain

  1. When discussing the weather or desired activities include the language of probability e.g. possible, certain, likely, unlikely, impossible
  2. Encourage children to collect data about family or friends by asking yes/no questions e.g. do you like swimming, or making a graph of the family’s favourite colour or meal.
  3. Play games with spinners and dice and talk about the likelihood of spinning or throwing a particular number

This list is really just a beginning. I’m sure you will add many more suggestions of your own.

For your convenience, the list is available to download FREE in my TEACHERSpayTEACHERS store.

As promised I will leave you with a few suggestions to spark your own interest in and love of maths. Be sure to check them out:

These are must listen TED talks by Arthur Benjamin:

The magic of Fibonacci numbers

and A performance of “Mathemagic”

 And a fascinating one for the Christmas season “The 12 days of Pascal’s triangular Christmas” by Michael Rose on The Conversation.

If you want to delve a bit deeper, here are some interesting reads to get you started:

Charles Seife Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

Mario Livio The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI, The World’s Most Astonishing Number

Rozsa Peter Playing with Infinity: Mathematical Explorations and Excursions

I listened to the biography of zero on audiobooks this year. It was a fascinating listen.

What do you think of maths? Do you love it or hate it?

I hope you enjoy your adventures in maths! A world of possibilities awaits!

Let the children write! 20 suggestions to get children writing during the school holidays

writing

The school year in Australia is over and the long summer holidays have begun.

Parents often wonder how they will keep their children entertained during the long days with few structured or timetabled activities.

When returning to school after many weeks without the formal practice of skills taught during the previous year, teachers often lament that children’s writing ability (content, sentence structure, spelling, punctuation and handwriting) has declined. Sometimes this is an illusory effect of comparing end-of-the-previous-year results with those of students who are just beginning the same school year level. However some of it is a result of the natural attrition that occurs when ongoing practice is not maintained.

One solution to this issue is as simple as:

Let the children write!

Let them have paper, e.g.

  • loose paper in all sizes and colours, adhesive notepaper, letter writing paper, cards and postcards
  • plain paper, lined paper and patterned paper
  • bound paper in notebooks, exercise books, diaries and lockable ‘secret’ journals
  • envelopes and stamps
  • tablets and computer with word processing and drawing software

Let them have implements, e.g.

  • lead pencils, coloured pencils, fine pencils, thick pencils
  • jumbo crayons, fine crayons, wind-up crayons
  • charcoal
  • felt-tipped pens (thick and thin tips), black, silver, gold, pastel and bright shades
  • paints
  • tablets and computer with word processing and drawing software

Any of these make wonderful gifts that keep on giving, for a child of any age.

Here are 20 suggestions for keeping your children entertained while maintaining their writing skills.

The suitability of each suggestion will depend upon the abilities of the individual child and the level of support required. The focus and response should always be upon the content of the message, rather than the spelling, punctuation or handwriting. The idea is to encourage a love a writing; not to discourage it through negative attention to details which will improve with practice – and reading!

Just as writing is a great way of improving reading, reading is a great way to develop writing skills through exposure to correct use of grammar, spelling and punctuation, as well as the richness of language!

The possibilities for writing opportunities are limited only by your imagination!

  1. Use adhesive notepaper to write messages to your child and encourage your child to write a message back.
  2. Encourage children to write letters or emails, cards or postcards to grandparents, aunties, uncles and friends. These can be to inform them of the holiday or the year’s activities, or to thank them for a visit or gift.
  3. Demonstrate that you value writing by making time for your own writing, e.g. keeping a diary, writing letters and cards to family or friends, writing a shopping list.
  4. Display a message board prominently in the home and list important events, reminders and messages. Encourage your child to add their own messages to the board.
  5. Provide a calendar or diary and ask your child to note family birthdays, holidays and events for future reference.
  6. Encourage your child to keep a diary in which important events and feelings are noted.
  7. Play word games e.g. Scrabble and other crossword games; Boggle or ‘hangman’. (If you don’t like the connotation of ‘hangman’, give each player ten counters to start with. Each time an incorrect guess is made, they give away a counter. If all counters are used then they miss that word.)
  8. Write poems and songs together.
  9. Encourage children to write and perform ‘plays’ for the family.
  10. Take photos of events during the day and use them to make a photo book. This can be done instantly on a computer with photos taken using a phone or tablet and emailed with accompanying text.
  11. Insert photos from a phone, digital camera or tablet into a slideshow program such as PowerPoint, then add text to create a digital story or record. With one click these can be saved as an automatic show or MP 4 video.
  12. Involve children in planning the weekly meals by selecting recipes for a menu they write, and for which they create a shopping list of required ingredients.
  13. Write rebus messages to your children and ask them to write a rebus message back, e.g.                                                                               I think you are great
  14. Invite your child to create lists e.g. activities they would like to do over the holidays, movies they would like to see or friends they would like to invite to a sleep over.
  15. Encourage your children to write the step-by-step instructions for making a craft item they have just designed, or to write down the rules for a game so that everybody is sure how to play.
  16. Suggest that your child write down questions they would like answered, and then write the information discovered during research (by interviewing or asking people, reading books or internet search).
  17. Suggest to children that they make a storybook for a younger sibling or friend.
  18. When going out for the day, or journeying further away on a holiday, children could be asked to write directions for the journey as discovered by consulting paper or online maps.
  19. Help children to set up and maintain a blog to create a record of activities and events to be shared with family and friends. The posts could be regular e.g. daily or weekly, or follow particular activities.
  20. Make the most of every writing opportunity that occurs throughout the day!

What are your favourite ideas?

When I was a child I spent many hours reading, but I also spent many hours writing. I would write songs, poems, stories and plays which would be performed by myself and siblings for an appreciative audience (if one could be found) or just for the fun of it. My love of writing has continued throughout my life and, although most of my writing is now done on the computer, I still love all the different types of paper, pencils and pens that are available and beckon ownership.

The trick is to not make writing an onerous task that must be endured, but one that gives pleasure for its own sake e.g. stories and poems; or for a purpose e.g. writing a shopping list or things to remember.

Setting aside time to write alongside your child and share the enjoyment of each other’s creativity will do much to encourage a real love of writing; for yourself, maybe, as well as for your child.

Click here to download this document FREE from my TEACHERSpayTEACHERS store.

www.openclipart.org

20 suggestions for maintaining reading momentum during the school holidays

The school year in Australia is over and the long summer holidays have begun.

Parents often wonder how they will keep their children entertained during the long days with few structured or timetabled activities.

When returning to school after many weeks without the formal practice of skills taught during the previous year, teachers often lament that children’s reading fluency and level has fallen.

What is one way of addressing both these issues?

The answer might just be in a book!

Well in reading anyway.

Here are 20 suggestions for keeping your children entertained while maintaining their reading skills.

I’m sure you can think of many more!

Please keep in mind, as you read the list, that the amount of support given, or independence allowed, in each activity will need to be adjusted to the individual child’s age and reading ability. Even young children who are not yet reading independently can be included in most activities.

  1.  Read to and with your child every day – continue the practice established throughout the year with special sharing times during the day or at bed-time — or both!
  2. Demonstrate that you value reading by making time for your own reading, or setting aside a special quiet time when everyone in the family reads.
  3. Visit the library and borrow to read, read, read!
  4. Read poetry books, song books, picture books, joke and riddle books, crossword books, information books, chapter books (these can be read to younger children, or with older children – taking turns to read a page or a chapter each) — what are your favourites?
  5. Trade books no longer read for others at a second-hand book store.
  6.  When dining out, have your children read the menu and choose their own meal.
  7. Include your child in holiday cooking and have them read the recipe – ingredients and method. Perhaps they could read the recipe book to select the meal for the day.
  8. Suggest your child read the TV guide to find when favourite programs are showing and establish a timetable for viewing, rather than haphazard watching with random flicking through channels.
  9. Provide your child with bookstore catalogues and encourage them to read book descriptions to guide their next selection. 
  10. Bestow upon your child the title of ‘Family weather watcher’ and have them consult weather forecasts in the newspaper or online to select the most suitable days for planned outings and activities. 
  11. Include your child in making decisions about holiday activities. Give them the guide, or read the guide together and jointly choose the activities. 
  12. Make the library, museums and art galleries high on the list of must-dos. Many of these offer a wonderful assortment of free holiday entertainment for children, and reading is an essential part of getting the most from each visit! 
  13. Engage your child in some craft activities which require them to follow written instructions. The ability to understand and follow procedures is empowering and requires the ability to read written, as well as visual, instructions. 
  14. Encourage your child to ask questions about every day events and phenomena. Help them to research in books at home, in the library or on the internet. 
  15. Provide eBooks as well as books in print. Good ones bring a new dimension to the reading experience. 
  16. When going out for the day, or journeying further away on a holiday, support your child in locating destinations on a map and in selecting an appropriate route. Engage your child in giving directions while en route. 
  17. Include your child when reading bus or train timetables. 
  18. When doing the family grocery shop, give your child their own list of items to look for. 
  19. Listen to recorded books on long car journeys, or have books for listening to or reading along with in bed. 
  20. Make the most of every reading opportunity that occurs throughout the day!

What are your favourite ways of incorporating reading into everyday activities?

When I was a child, I loved receiving books as gifts. I still do! Books are among my most treasured possessions.

I remember the delight when, on awaking in the dark of an early Christmas morning, I would reach down to end of my bed and discover a book there. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel the smooth glossy cover and the familiar roughness of the pages. I would lift the book up and breathe in the rich, delicious smell which promised so much pleasure I almost wanted to devour it. I knew that something delightful was in-store for me, and as the dawn’s soft glow began light the room, I watched the colours, pictures and words slowly take form and reveal themselves to me. What joy!

I am forever grateful to my parents for encouraging my love of reading.

The love of reading is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child.

So, here is #21, it probably should have been #1!

21. Give books as gifts!

Read! Read! Read!

You are welcome to download and distribute the 21 suggestions FREE from my TEACHERSpayTEACHERS store.

You can read another post on this topic by Nanny SHECANDO by clicking here.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Searching for meaning in a picture book — Part A

Do you recognise this book?

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Chances are you do.

According to the website of the author Eric Carle, since its publication in 1969 it has been published in over 50 languages and more than 33 million copies have been sold worldwide. It ranks highly in the Wikipedia List of best-selling books.

Most primary schools, preschools and kindergartens would have numerous copies in their libraries with a copy in most classrooms as well as in teachers’ private collections. Most homes with young children would have a copy in their storybook collection.

reading

In addition to the books, many of those schools, classrooms and homes would have some of the associated merchandise; including toys, games, puzzles, posters and colouring books, which are now available.

When I typed ‘the very hungry caterpillar’ into the Google search bar about 5,640,000 results were listed in 0.33 seconds!

 Google search the very hungry caterpillar

There are activities, lesson plans, printables, videos, and advertisements for merchandise. There is a plethora of suggestions for using the book as a teaching resource, including counting, days of the week and sequencing.

I think you would be hard pressed to find someone that hasn’t at least heard of the book. That is quite an impact, wouldn’t you say?

For a book to have done so well, it must have a lot going for it. And it does.

There are many things I like about this book, including:

  • The bright, colourful, collages with immediate appeal
  • The natural flow and rhythm of the language making it easy to read, dramatize and recall
  • The sequence of numbers and days encouraging children to predict and join in with the reading and retelling
  • The match between the illustrations and the text supporting beginning readers as they set out upon their journey into print
  • The simple narrative structure with an identifiable beginning, a complication in the middle with which most children can empathise (being ill from overeating) and a “happy” resolution with the caterpillar turning into a beautiful butterfly.

Reading to children

 Nor and Bec reading

Sharing of picture books with children from a very young age has a very powerful effect upon their learning.

There are many benefits to both parent and child of a daily shared reading session.

clock

It can be seen as a special time of togetherness, of bonding; of sharing stories and ideas. It can be a quiet and calming time; a time to soothe rough edges and hurt feelings; a time for boisterous fun and laughter; or a time for curiosity, inquiry, imagination and wonder.


Whatever the time, it is always a special time for a book
; and all the while, children are learning language.

8-12-2013 7-38-33 PM

© Bernadette Drent. Used with permission.

They are hearing the sounds and rhythm of their language. They are being exposed to new vocabulary, sentence structures, concepts and ideas. They are learning important understandings that will support them on their journey into literacy e.g. they are learning that the language of a book differs from oral language and that the words in a book always stay the same.

They begin to realise that it is the little black squiggly marks that carry the message, and they may even start to recognise some words.

Robert 2

Many of these, and other, features make “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” suitable for incorporation in an early childhood curriculum, for example:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

  • Literature appreciation – love of language, knowledge of story, interest in books
  • Reading – the clear, simple and predictable text make it an easy first reader
  • Maths – counting and sequencing the numbers, sequencing the days of the week
  • Visual arts – learning about collage and composition of a picture
  • Philosophical inquiry —sharing interpretations and discussing feelings about the story, asking questions raised including the ‘big questions’ of life

ryanlerch_thinkingboy_outline

Eric Carle, in an interview with Reading rockets, describes it as a book of hope. He says:

You little, ugly, little, insignificant bug: you, too, can grow up to be a beautiful, big butterfly and fly into the world, and unfold your talents.”

He goes on to explain that,

I didn’t think of this when I did the book, but I think that is the appeal of the book.”

But I’m not going to let him have the last word!

While “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” has always been one of my very favourite picture books, I do have some misgivings about the impact that this book has had.

In future posts I will share what I consider to be some limitations of the text, and what I consider to be the most powerful use of all.

What do you think?

What appeals to you about this book?

What questions does it raise for you?

Please share your ideas. I look forward to hearing what you think.