Tag Archives: holidays

glitter, glisten, smiles and sparkles

Add a sprinkle of glitter to make your day sparkle

Children love to create artworks using pencils, crayons, paints and anything they can stick to a surface using glue. With access to a variety of materials, they can be absorbed for hours creating their masterpieces.

While they might select from the materials offered, I found the one thing that few children could resist was glitter—and the more of it, the better.

There is nothing like glitter to add a bit of sparkle to the day. The only trouble is, glitter is so light and so small, that it goes everywhere—on the artwork, on the table, on the chair and on the floor. It sticks to the hands and is smeared on the face and takes forever to remove from the hair. But everyone loves it nonetheless, and it adds a little brightness to the day.

Smiles are like glitter in that they also spread easily and brighten the day. However, they are not nearly so messy, cost nothing, and require no cleaning up at all.

I think smiles are the glitter we should add to the artwork that is everyday life. And if there’s one thing about smiles, the more you give, the more you receive. Smiles come from a bottomless well, from a source that never dries up. A sprinkle of smiles will make anyone’s day sparkle, and who knows what difference a smile can make to another’s life.

The Ripple Effect by Tony Ryan

I often think of The Ripple Effect, written by Tony Ryan, and its inspirational stories. I especially enjoy this quote by Bette Reese included in the book: “If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.”

quote about effectiveness and size by Bette Reese

One of Tony’s stories describes the following scenario:

“As you enter the freeway, you discover that the traffic is heavier than usual, and is moving quite slowly. You then notice that the young driver in the car beside you is trying to enter your lane, because her exit is coming up. No-one is letting her in, and she is becoming tense and upset.”

Tony then describes the turning point in her day:

“You stop, and wave her in front of you with a flourish and a smile.”

and the ripple effect:

  • “she returns your smile, acknowledges your thoughtful action, and drives on
  • her tension dissipates, and she arrives at her company office feeling buoyed by your little effort
  • as the main receptionist, she is the first to greet the hundreds of people who enter the office each day
  • with her positive greeting, she decides to brighten up the life of every person she meets throughout that day
  • because of her efforts, many others in the business district are inspired to focus on their own positive efforts.”

Like glitter, we can never know how far the effects of our smiles might travel. There can never be too many smiles in any one day, especially in a classroom filled with children.

man glisten a flash fiction challenge by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about man glisten. It was a fun term coined by two men with glitter in their beards. What more could it embrace? Look to the unexpected and embrace a playful approach. Go where the prompt leads.

I’d only come across the word “glisten” before in the Christmas carol, Walking in a Winter Wonderland.

But Charli’s prompt reminded me of an incident in my childhood that had absolutely nothing to do with glitter or glisten (I don’t even remember glitter in my childhood) but loads to do with smiles. I’ve rewritten the incident to include glitter and other alternative facts. I hope it gives you a smile.

Glitter smiles glisten

Relentless rain meant no beach for the country cousins. They spent eternity on the verandah, making artworks, playing games, and bickering.

On the last day, when Mum said to clear space for their mattresses, they fought over who’d do what. Toys and games ended up in a haphazard tower with the glitter bucket balanced on top.

When Dad bent for goodnight kisses, he stumbled and demolished the tower. Glitter went everywhere—including all over Dad. The children gasped.

“Your hair glistens, Dad,” smiled the littlest.

Dad smiled too, then everybody laughed.

Dad wore a hat to work that week.

Writing Skills workbook with Strike Me Pink

I previously wrote about this incident for inclusion in a Writing Skills Homework Book published by Pascal Press. Workbooks such as this are very different from the teaching resources I now share on readilearn, but: it was paid work.

This version is closer to the truth.

Strike Me Pink!

Because we lived near the beach, our cousins visited one Easter. Unfortunately, it rained all weekend. Just imagine eight children under ten years old and four adults cooped up in one tiny cottage. Everyone’s patience was wearing thin. We children were starting to whinge and niggle each other. The adults were trying to keep cool and prevent us from hurting each other.

One night when it was all too much, the children were sent to bed early. Four of us were on mattresses on the floor. The line for drying washing, strung across the room overhead, held only one item: my pink dressing gown. I had carelessly tossed it there out of the way.

When Dad came in for a goodnight kiss he thought we looked like a row of toy soldiers in a box. Bending down he exclaimed, “Strike me pink!” And he was! The dressing gown fell from the line and draped over his shoulders like a cloak. What mirth erupted at the sight of my father looking like a pink general. The tensions eased and smiles returned to everyone’s faces.

The next morning was fine as our cousins left for home. We hadn’t been to the beach, but we did have a story to share that would bring a smile to our faces for many years to come.

Note: I don’t know how many others used the term, but my Dad often said, “Strike me pink” to express surprise.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

Sharing holiday traditions – readilearn

A great way of sharing information about holiday traditions is through the use of class surveys. It’s fun, engaging, and provides opportunities for learning across the curriculum.

Here are some of the benefits:

  • Children feel valued when they have opportunities to share information about themselves and their families.
  • Children’s social skills develop when they interact to find out interesting information about each other.
  • Children become more aware of their similarities and differences. This helps to develop feelings of acceptance and appreciation for the diversity represented in the class.
  • Children’s language skills develop as they talk to each other, asking questions and clarifying information.
  • Children learn to be organised and methodical in the collection, recording, interpretation, and reporting of data.
  • Children are fully engaged in the learning when they are asking questions they have raised and to which they are interested in finding the answers.
  • Because learning occurs in meaningful contexts and is integrated across subject areas, children can transfer learning to other situations.
  • Children enjoy learning about their classmates and the classroom community is strengthened.

 

This week I have uploaded three new resources to support early childhood teachers’ use of Yes or No class surveys, and a quick and easy recipe for entertaining at home or to contribute to a “bring a plate” function.

Click here to read the original: Sharing holiday traditions – Readilearn

School’s out for another year!

Teaching is forever in my heart

It is almost the end of another school year in Australia. I can’t believe that it is now four years since I left the classroom, both sadly and probably, to never return. I often hear advice given to never say “never”, but although a large part of my heart remains in the classroom, I’m fairly certain that I’ll not physically return; not full-time anyway.

It is also the end of the first year of formal education for Gorgeous 1 (first-born grandchild). I’m pleased to say that he has had a wonderful year and very much enjoyed attending school. His parents are happy too and relate many positive things about the teacher and the ways in which she has nurtured the children. That makes grandma happy too.

However a few queries have been raised in recent discussions. One of these is with regard to class allocations for next year. The parents commented that Gorgeous 1 won’t know what class he is in, including teacher, classmates or classroom, until he turns up for school on the first day. They wondered if this was common practice and about its purpose.

Sadly, I think it is a fairly common practice for which a variety of reasons may be given. However I’m not convinced that any of the stated reasons are justified or have any real validity.

I very much liked the way my most recent school dealt with class allocations. I thought it worked well for everyone: children, parents and teachers.

Towards the middle of October children were asked to identify three friends they would like to be in the same class with the following year, and any they wouldn’t. I never emphasised the “not like” part but made sure that children knew it was there if they wished to use it. Few did.

friendship choices

 

At the same time parents were invited to submit in writing things they wished included for consideration when class allocations were made. Requests were to be specific to their child’s needs; for example friendship issues or the type of teacher thought best suited to the temperament,  learning style or needs of the child. Identifying a teacher by name would invalidate the request.

The process of allocating children to classes was time consuming with many things to be considered; including, for example, the distribution of children of high, mid and low achievement levels; boys and girls; children from non-English speaking backgrounds; children with disabilities or requiring support with learning or behaviour.

Current class teachers collaborated to draw up lists which were checked by an administrator to ensure even spreads and that parent requests (not revealed to the teachers) were complied with. It was no small feat. We would go into the meetings armed with lists of children’s friendship groups on sticky notes, scissors, coloured pencils, erasers, and more sticky notes. It was always amazing to see the classes come together.

The best part of this process occurred in the second-last week of term when teachers and children met their new classes for the following year. Another feat of organisation. Class teachers told children which class they would be in and distributed to each their portfolio of work to be given to the new teacher.

All year levels met in their respective assembly areas, divided into their new classes, met their new teachers and went off to their new classrooms for about 45 minutes. The new teacher would explain class expectations and topics the children would learn about. Sometimes the teacher would read a story or engage the students in discussions about what they had learned in the current year and what they were hoping to learn in the following year. Oftentimes children returned with a small gift from their new teacher; for example a book mark, pencil or eraser. They always returned excited.

In addition to stories and discussions, I would always ask my new students to draw a picture of themselves, write their name and anything else they would like to tell me about themselves or their picture. I would also take their photograph and attach it to their drawing. In addition to the portfolio of information coming from the previous teacher, this would provide me with valuable information that I could use when preparing for the new year.

Michael likes dogs

In addition I would have a letter and a small gift ready for my new students. The letter helps to create a positive connection, makes them feel special and helps to ease the transition back to school after the holidays. It also ensures they remember what class they are in and who their teacher is. It lets their parents know as well.

end of year letter

 

I think this is a wonderful process and one that should be adopted in all schools. It has many benefits; including:

  • helping teachers get to know important information about students before the year begins and aiding preparation.
  • reducing the anxieties of children and parents over the holidays, wondering about which class they would be in and which teacher, even whether they would be in the same class as their friends.

Once children knew their new classes I arranged their seating and named their groups to match. This provided opportunities for children to bond with future class mates as well as identify their class for the following year. There would be no unnecessary confusion or anxiety on the first day of school.

I’d love to know what you think of this process or of other processes with which you are familiar.

With the holidays just around the corner I provide links back to previous posts which provide suggestions for maintaining children’s learning in informal and fun situations.

Learning fun for the holidays, without a slide in sight!

Counting on the holidays!

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

20 suggestions for maintaining reading momentum during the school holidays

The lists are all available for free download and distribution to parents from my Teachers Pay Teachers or Teach in a Box stores.

 

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

Home or away

Many people look forward to a holiday away from home; an opportunity to escape the routines of the everyday and enjoy new experiences.  Many people look forward just as much to the return home, to familiar comforts and routines.

During the past twelve months I have enjoyed a few escapes away.

I travelled overseas and far away for my first visit to London.

Whitehall, London © Norah Colvin

Whitehall, London
© Norah Colvin

My visit to the UK included a few days at Saxmundham to the north

Cottage at Saxmundham © Norah Colvin

Cottage at Saxmundham
© Norah Colvin

and a visit to Dinosaur Adventure at Norwich for Grandson’s fifth birthday.

Dinosaur Adventure, Norwich © NorahColvin

Dinosaur Adventure, Norwich
© NorahColvin

I travelled to Cairns and Port Douglas in northern Queensland,

Port Douglas © Norah Colvin

Port Douglas
© Norah Colvin

and from north to south through Tasmania from Hobart to Launceston.

Hobart © Norah Colvin

Hobart
© Norah Colvin

I visited Alice Springs and Uluru in Central Australia.

Uluru © Norah Colvin

Uluru
© Norah Colvin

I also visited some seaside locations closer to home, including Hervey Bay and Marcoola to the north and Coolangatta to the south.

Hervey Bay © Norah Colvin

Hervey Bay
© Norah Colvin

Just last week I enjoyed a few days at a farmstay celebrating Grandson’s sixth birthday.

Farm © Norah Colvin

Farm
© Norah Colvin

Looking at that list, one might think I am never at home; but it doesn’t seem that way to me.

Visiting places away from home can be educational as well as enjoyable and fun; meeting new people, learning about different cultures and ways of life, experiencing new foods, activities and routines, and seeing different geographical features. This is true for adults and children alike. The learning is integral to the experience, not an add-on or a lesson.

However the experiences can be recorded by, with or for children to enhance learning opportunities; for example, but not restricted to:

  • Photo stories with accompanying text provide wonderful opportunities for reading and discussion and for keeping the memories alive over the years.
  • Diary or journal records that include dates, places and events provide opportunities for writing and reading. These entries can be supported with photographs, drawings, or “souvenirs” such as stickers, postcards, entry tickets and brochures.
  • Letters and postcards sent to family and friends provide further opportunities for sharing, writing and reading.
  • Emails can also be used to share highlights with family and friends and provide opportunities for using and learning about technology. I have found that including myself as a recipient for each email provides an effective alternative, or addition, to diary writing.
  • Marking routes and places visited on maps helps develop a sense of location and direction. Combining these with photographs or photo stories or diaries makes them even more meaningful.
  • Using a calendar to count down the weeks or days until departure, mark the days at each location, and the date of returning home helps to develop an understanding of the passage of time as well as the ability to read and use a calendar.
  • Discussion of departure and arrival times, the time until and the duration of journeys or events,  and relating these to time shown in both digital and analogue format helps develop an understanding of the use of time measurement and the passage of time. Use of printed and online timetables, as well as those displayed in airports, train stations and at bus stops provides opportunities for in-context and purposeful learning.
Example of a simple photo story for preschoolers

Example of a simple photo story for preschoolers © Norah Colvin

Books, including atlases and photo books, can be used to ignite interest in places to be visited during a planned holiday or generally to arouse interest in other places. Stories can also be used.

Felix

One such story is Letters from Felix by Annette Langen and Constanza Droop. It tells of Felix, a toy bunny who was lost at the airport, as he travels the world on his way home to Sophie. In my version Sophie lives in Hobart, Tasmania and she receives letters from Felix in London, Paris, Rome, Cairo, Kenya and New York. (If anyone owns a different version, I’d love to know the countries included.) In each letter, the information shared by Felix inspires Sophie to find out more about the location. When Felix finally arrives home he has a surprise gift for Sophie: a sticker from every location visited.

Letters from Felix is a great story to read at any time, but takes on extra meaning when one, or someone known, is travelling or returning from travels. It can be used to support or encourage an interest in geography in the classroom or at home. If children are not visiting locations as exotic as those visited by Felix, they may still be encouraged to record and share their experiences in the ways described above.

Of course, when children arrive home, they may be just as excited to rediscover their familiar comforts, toys and books and reconnect with friends and family left behind. As the song says, “There’s no place like home.”

What inspired me to think about holidays and home this week is the flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a return to home. I have written about Marnie’s return to the place she had grown up but had never felt was “home”. It also provides a segue to the next post in my series celebrating Australian picture books which includes “Home” by Narelle Oliver. I hope you will join me for that post. In the meantime, here is my flash:

The return

Her eyes looked outward but her gaze was inward, trying to unravel the confusion of tumultuous emotions: anger for what had been, sadness for what wasn’t, regret she hadn’t escaped sooner, fear of her reaction, coldness at their passing. The bus carried her back; some things familiar, some as different now as she, returning “home” after so many years. Home? She’d called it home, back then, but now realised it hadn’t been home, not really; not safe and warm and loving as any home should be. She’d left vowing to never return. She returned now for finality and closure.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

I’m (not) dreaming of a white Christmas

Last week the flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch was to write a story using two objects, people or ideas that don’t go together. There was quite an assortment of responses, including mine. You can read them all here.

This week Charli has continued in the same vein, challenging us to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs something seasonal with something odd. 

In Australia that’s easy. We’ve already got Christmas in summer. Most people around the world would say you can’t get much odder than that!

But it is summertime in Australia and Christmas is just around the corner.

While we enjoy warm days at the beach and in the pool, picnics in the park and barbecues in the back yard, hoping the big storm doesn’t get us this time (like the one that hit Brisbane on 27 November); those from whom we have inherited our Christmas traditions are cooling down in the Northern Hemisphere, many looking forward to a (not too) white Christmas.

 

Shops here are playing traditional (northern) carols with snow, sleighbells and mistletoe; decorations are tinged with fake snow and cards show snowy scenes with families huddled around the fireplace.

While there is an increasing number of songs and books with an Australian flavour many are merely innovations on the traditional such, as “The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas”, “Aussie Jingle Bells” or “An Aussie Night before Christmas”.

Some Australian Christmas picture books

Some Australian Christmas picture books

One innovation that I particularly like is The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas by Kim Michelle Toft. Kim is an Australian who uses her talents as author and illustrator to educate children about the things she feels passionate about: ocean life and coastal habitats. Her illustrations, hand-painted on silk, are absolutely stunning.

12 Underwater days

In addition to the visual beauty of the book there is great value in the supporting information through which Kim explains the importance of conserving each of the creatures included in the book. While written by an Australian, the application of the book is not limited to our shores. Creatures from all over the world adorn the pages.  If you ever wished to own a book simply for the beauty of its illustrations, this is a great choice.

One original song I enjoyed listening to on the radio as a child is “Six White Boomers”. Despite the reasons that make me reluctant to mention it this year, it is a delightful tale of a joey who rides on Santa’s sleigh, pulled by six huge white kangaroos, to be reunited with his mother on Christmas Day.

Peter CombePeter Combe has written two albums of original, but with a traditional rather than specifically Australian flavour, Christmas songs for children, including this one:

Some Christmas traditions popular with Australian communities are Nativity plays, carols by candlelight and Christmas parades. Many classes and schools perform their own end-of-year “break-up” concerts to which parents and the wider community are invited.

Using the traditional Nativity play as the setting, Mem Fox created an original and fresh story in Wombat Divine. It is a delightful tale of Wombat who loved everything Christmas. When finally he was old enough to be in the Nativity Play he rushed along to the auditions. Unfortunately it was difficult to find a part that was just right for Wombat. Can you guess which part he got? You’ll have to read the book to find out! Children all over the world will identify with Wombat and his predicament and enjoy the heart-warming tale.

Books are wonderful gifts to give or receive at any time. The titles I have mentioned here are perfect for giving, reading and sharing at this time of year. When I was growing up there was always a book for Christmas and birthdays, a tradition that I have continued with my extended family and friends. You can almost, but not always, guarantee that if it is a gift from Norah, it is a book.

After my siblings and I had grown up and swelled the family numbers with partners and children of our own, my Mum used to say, “There’ll be no presents this year.” It wasn’t that she wasn’t a giving person, for she was. It was just that there were so many of us! When she passed away this year she had about fifteen grandchildren and eight grandchildren, in addition to her remaining nine children and their partners. (I’m saying ‘about’ for grandchildren and great-grandchildren in case I’ve missed some in the count!) You can imagine how daunting a task it would be to go shopping for all these people ranging in age from six months to sixty! However it was always surprising how frequently she did not follow her own rules and had a small something wrapped up to present to many of us.

This year there will be no presents from Mum, and more sadly, we will be without her presence.

Although I have borrowed my Mum’s words, “No presents” for both flash fiction pieces included in this post, the stories do not cast aspersions on her generosity. I have simply explored how the oddness of no presents or presence at Christmas time may have impacted Marnie, a character I have been developing in my flash fiction pieces, at different times in her life. At this stage of my writing I am still investigating her character, discovering a little more with each flash piece as her once indistinct figure begins to step out of the shadows and take shape.

This first piece is written about a difficult time for teenager Marnie and a situation that may be the catalyst for her leaving home.

 

No presents

Marnie jerked backwards avoiding the predictable grope. In so doing she collided with her mother, sending her sprawling onto the tattered sofa.

“Aargh!” her mother screamed. “Look what you’ve done!”

Marnie watched the liquid from the upturned glass merge with the patchwork of stains collected in the carpet. If it was her blood it would not have mattered more.

“I … I’m sorry,” she stammered. But her sorry was for all the years it had been like this.

He smirked, raising his hand to strike, “No presents for you this year!”

“That’s right!” She ducked. “No presence!”

 

So as to not be too dismal at this time of year, I have written a second piece about a younger Marnie for whom there still seems a glimmer of hope.

 

No presence

With faces as bright as their Christmas wear, the children bubbled into the room, each carrying gifts for the Kindness tree, “for those less fortunate”.

Parents fussed, removing smudges and replacing wayward hair before blowing kisses and hurrying off for the parade.

And there was Marnie: no parent, no Christmas dress, no gift, no smoothed-down hair; no smile.

One last chance.

“Marnie!” I beckoned, and held out my Christmas cape and crown. “Will you be my special helper?”

Our eyes locked communicating more than any words. Her smile was my reward.

“I’m proud of you,” I whispered.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction pieces.

December reflections

The end of the school year in Australia has approached swiftly and silently this year, for me at least. You see, now that I am not in the classroom I am not absorbed by all the things that the end of the school year brings.

In Australia the school year coincides with the calendar year so November and early December are frantic for teachers completing the final assessment and reporting for the year, preparing their students (and themselves) for separation after spending so much of the year together, and making preparations to welcome a new class in the new year.

The classroom remains busy with learning and curriculum matters until the last day. Both teachers and students begin to tire and the warming (hot, in most parts of Australia) days in classrooms without air-conditioning add to the fraying edges of all as they anticipate the long summer holidays.

teacher beginning and end

One thing I always enjoyed about the end of the year, that made all the extra work and the increasing heat tolerable, was the learning about family traditions and celebrations, including Christmas.

Some Australian Christmas picture books

Some Australian Christmas picture books

Last year I wrote about some of the Christmas activities I did with my class, such as making friendship trees

Friendship treeand a co-operative 3D display.

3D Christmas tree display

3D Christmas tree display

I shared some suggestions for parents to support their children’s  reading, writing and maths development in fun ways during the holidays. (These and other items are available in my TeachersPayTeachers store.)

I also provoked a lively discussion about whether Christmas should be included in a school program by suggesting tens reasons for its inclusion. Many readers joined in explaining their position either in support or against.

I always enjoyed this special time of year. I loved hunting through discount stores for items with which children could make cards and gifts for their families and decorations for their home. Often we talked about “free” gifts they could give and made vouchers for things like a free car wash, breakfast in bed or unlimited smiles and hugs.

As well as the gifts they made for each other in class, such as the friendship trees and Christmas crackers, I always gave each child a small gift, usually a book to read, a pencil and notebook for writing in; something to do over the holidays.

While it was never expected, but always very much appreciated, many of the parents and children presented me with lovely ‘thank you’ cards, letters and gifts, some purchased, many home-made; all treasured. While the consumables were long ago enjoyed, many other items still adorn my shelves!

A selection of gifts from over the yeats

A selection of gifts from over the years

Brian

Sometimes it was difficult to know what to give as a gift to recognise a special teacher. This year Bec has come up with, what I think, is the perfect gift, though she didn’t design it for that purpose. It’s the apple cozy: a special little bag for carrying an apple safely, protecting it from bumps and bruises. They are available in her Made It and Etsy stores. An apple for the teacher in its own special bag: how cute!

Apple Cozy // Joyce

Apple Cozy // Joyce

Although there are no preparations for Christmas at work this year (except for Secret Santa) there is still much to do at home. The traditional time for putting up the tree and decorations is December 1, and I usually have mine up by the end of the first week in December. Now that both my children are grown and living in homes of their own, I thought I would have the lonely experience of decorating on my own this year (Hub says he helps by not helping, but actually he gets tree and decorations down from the roof space for me!)

What a delightful surprise it was to have both my children and grandchildren (all two of each) visit on the day I was putting up the tree and help me out. The joy that the excitement of a 3- and a 5-year old bring to such activities cannot be matched. I think we did a pretty good job! When I look at it I relive the fun we had together.

Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014

Although to most it would appear simply a Christmas tree, and some may consider many decorations to be ready for the discard pile, most decorations have a story to tell. For me it is a memory tree. It holds decorations made by my own children over the years, and now some by my grandchildren.  There are gifts from family and friends, and children I have taught. Each item, as it is placed on the tree, provides a time for reflecting upon the wonderful people whose lives have touched mine over the years. Each has its own story to tell of the joy that others’ kindnesses can bring. But it is more even that just a memory tree. It is a giving tree; a time for remembering and being grateful.

What are you family traditions? What and how do you celebrate?

Thank you

 

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

 

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!