Tag Archives: Learning at home

Odd and even

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Odd and even

Amu our youngest boy, soon to be four in a few months, loves numbers…counting forwards and backwards, attempting his brothers word problems and making up ones of his own, he generally seems happy in the world of numbers. This morning I set up the felt board for him and gave him felt numbers to play with. He neatly arranged them from 0 – 10. This was actually a great start for our activity. I then gave him colored tokens and asked him to represent the numbers using tokens (under each felt number). As he started out, I requested him to put the token in pairs. He quickly announced that there would be nothing under zero and moved on to 1 and 2 and so on till 10. Soon each number had pairs of tokens lined up below it in two neat columns.
Amu surveyed his work with a sense of pride. Now I gave him a bunch of big black and white buttons. I asked him to put a black button above every number where a token did not have a pair, and a black button where every token had a pair.
And so we started…white above 1, black above 2. I helped him get started and after he caught on and started putting the buttons all the way to 10.
When he was done, I asked him to look at the black and white buttons and tell me if there was a pattern that he could find. He was quick to say “YES!!!! White, black, white, black, white, black”
So then we looked at the numbers, tokens and buttons and established that 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 all had tokens with pairs while 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 did not. Now, taking it a step forward, I asked him what came after 10. “11” he answered promptly.
“So”, I said, “if you continue this pattern, what color button would you get on 11?”
“White” was the answer.
Me: And then, do you think all the tokens under 11 would have a pair?
Amu: Nope!
Me: What about 12?
Amu: That would be a black button…so yes it would have a pair.
That was our mini-lesson to introduce the concept of odd and even. We did not get into the terms at all…this was just a starting point for further discoveries. For a few days I will simply set the felt mat out for him with the numbers and tokens and let him continue this journey before taking it further.
This took all of 10 minutes and was fun for both of us. Amu wants the felt board counting when he gets back from school too!

Ish by Peter Reynolds

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We already had a book by Peter Reynolds – and it is a much loved book in our home – The Dot…which i may have blogged about earlier…about a girl who thought she could not draw and how just a really simple thoughtful interaction with her teacher changed all that…

I came across another book by Reynolds last week when I swung by my favorite bookstore in Bangalore (The Lightroom Bookstore) – Ish.

Intrigued by the title and encouraged by the author, I picked up the book and started to go through it. As I started reading, I could almost picture one of my twins being like the protagonist – Ramon. Here was a boy who liked to draw…Anywhere, anything, anytime…and just a simple thoughtless comment by his older brother makes him question his ability to draw. And so begins a journey of fail.ed attempts and frustration, as each work of art is crumpled up and thrown on the floor because it does not look like what it is supposed to. Suddenly, for Ramon, art is no longer a fun thing and he cannot stand his own own drawings. But there is someone else who has a different lens, someone who loves what Ramon does and sees value in his art. His younger sister Marisol, who quietly picks up the crumpled art to put up in her room. And it is little Marisol who looks at his attempt at a vase and tells him that it is actually ‘vase-ish’! ANd so it is! And as Ramon drops his need for perfect representation, making peace with the ‘ishness’ of his drawings, he lets himself go and starts painting again.

This reminded me so much of one of my twins – who loves to color, but often nowadays lokst at his brothers art and finds his own not quite ‘there’. He tends to get upset and feels like his drawings are not good. At times he winds himself up over this, getting more and more upset if his drawing does not come out ‘right’ and of late I have noticed a hesitation to try to draw something that he feels might be difficult. And so i thought maybe recognizing that ‘ish’ drawings are fun as well, and it is his representation that matters not the perfect image as one would conventionally have it – would help him. I told him that I thought of him when i saw the book but I did not tell him why. However when we were done reading it, he looked at me and said “i know why you thought of me!”

I don’t think that just reading the book is going to help. We will need to work on him and his confidence at various levels. Having twin boys who are so radically different is so many ways is fun, but also challenging..because more often than not, they master different things at different paces, and in our society, unfortunately, academics or lovely art is looked at with more admiration than hanging upside down or turning a somersault (which requires skill, practice, calculated risk taking, etc).

Anyway, as a follow up to our reading, we did a little art where the boys decorated a brown paper envelope to put a gift in for a friend. And the art was lovely…and Sid tried too and produced something pretty gorgeous – which I am sure has helped him feel at least a litle better about his art! This art is inspired by the book Cave Baby by Julia Donaldson – a book the boys used to love and one that their friend now has has his favorite. The first pic is Sid’s version of a fun tiger and the second pic is Nish’s interpretation of woolly mammoth frolicking in the paint!

Beading with the boys

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We have a lot of beads at home..big chunky plastic ones, slender tube shaped paper ones, translucent beads that gleam magically in the light, beads with tiny beads, hand painted ones and salt dough beads.   We started out with large platic ones and shoe laces because I thought the boys would enjoy those. However, after an initial couple of days, they were relegated to the back of the shelf and my three boys soon lost interest in them.  Then, sometime last year (the twins were shy of 4 and the little fellow was 2 then) we were together in an art and craft store when we happened to come to the bead section. Nish’s eyes totally lit up. He ran his fingers through the gorgeous glittery beads and asked me what they were. When I told him they were beads he was confused – the only ones he knew were the chubby plastic ones. Then it clicked for him – “Can we make real necklaces with these?”

And that was the starting point for our exploration and fairly long relationship with beads.  The boys amazed me with the amount of time they spent with the beads. They made necklaces, bracelets and earrings with them.  They used beads of the same color, beads in random orders, beads in very clear recurring patterns.

They started counting as they created…12-15 beads for bracelets, two for the earrings, etc.

They separated the beads into big and small, bright and pastel colors, into shades of pink and purple, into color families (as one of my boys called it – colors he thought went well together). This was a wonderful way to talk about shades and patterns.

They also realized that big does not always mean heavy…that too many colors does not necessarily lead to pretty.

They learned patience because it takes time to bead and perseverance because ever so often you let the end slip from your fingers and lose a bunch of beads from your strand…and you need to start over.

We figured easy solutions like making a big knot for the bracelet to stop the beads from sliding off, or the trick of tying the string to your toe so it is easier to manage and frees up one hand.

I am now thinking of using the beads to do more math concepts…tens and ones, understanding concepts of more and less. Let’s see how that goes.

foam pieces, tessellatations and a discovery

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We have been playing with cut up foam pieces for a long time now. But recently I came across a few sets of foam created by JodoGyan called Rangometry (www.jogogyan.org).

The foam is thick and sturdy and the pieces lend themselves to endless tessellations and combinations. Initially I let the boys simply explore the sets. They made all kinds of things using the pieces. The set has squares, triangles of two different types, diamonds, and hexagons.

Finally this morning as we were enjoying a chilled out morning in the balcony, I thought of pulling out the rangometry kit. This time we first played a game (an activity I learned about at the JodoGyan workshop called Sajaana). I drew an outline of a bus using a marker on the plexiglass sheet along our balcony railing. Then using a large dice each child rolled, identified the number rolled and picked out the matching number of pieces of rangometry foam which they placed along the outline. (Note: we had poured the foam pieces into a bowl of water. The made them wet and they adhered easily to the plastic sheet we were playing on) Since the twins are comfortable with numbers upto 10 we used a 12 sided dice (dodecahedron) which has numbers from 0-10 (5 is repeated once). It was great because here is what was happening as we played:

  1. the kids had to identify the number on the dice face correctly
  2. They had to then pick out the corresponding number of foam bits from the bowl
  3. They had to then put those pieces in continuation on the outline of the bus (fine motor skills)
  4. They quickly figured out bigger and smaller numbers, getting most excited when they got high numbers like 8 or 9 or 10 and a little sad when they got 3, 2 or 1
  5. They – especially the 3 yr old got the meaning of zero – it means nothing!! as he exclaimed when he rolled it and could not put anything on the outline. (It is useful to follow JodoGyan advice here – when a kid rolls a zero, do not give him another turn because not giving him another turn allows him to understand and appreciate the value of zero)
  6. We got quite a pretty outline with the kids trying to make patterns as they went along.

After we were done with this, I started playing with the pieces and started out a tessellation type design. I found Nish (5 yrs next month) was most interested. He observed carefully while I made pattern and then asked if he could help. With a tiny bit of guidance he started out and then was so fascinated that he went on and on…quickly inspiring his twin to join in too! I had not thought they would get it so easily but it was a pleasant surprise and they totally enjoyed it too!

And, since I have mentioned JodoGyan a few times here – you must check out their website. They have developed a math teaching and learning program preschool up that is pretty incredible. With a strong focus on the child, developmental appropriateness and simplicity, the program is actually very interesting and I would strongly recommend educators – especially in the preschool space to look at it. In stead of trying to cram the preschooler with endless numbers to read, identify and write repeatedly, moving into tens and hundreds and place value and complex operations, the program focuses on making math a concrete and enjoyable fun learning experience where comprehension is key. Given the general experiences in math learning across age groups it is indeed time to stop and look at math learning differently. For schools that are interested – they actually do detailed and very practice based training for teachers who plan top use their materials.

Note – I am not a representative of JodoGyan nor have I been asked to talk about it. However, I have recently come across their material and have been quite impressed – hence sharing this here with you!

Cardboard carton carpenters!

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Cardboard carton carpenters!

Sid felt like doing some carpentry last evening after school. He wanted to use my toolkit, but given that Amu was keen on joining in the action, I decided against pulling out the hammer because I was a little tired and not feeling ready for random accidents. So we decided to do something different (we have not really done any carpentry at home before…this was a first of sorts). I found an old cardboard carton, some nails and screws and then got their tool set out. (we have a gorgeous one I had picked on Amazon by Hape toys a while back). Their kit has a solid wooden hammer, screws, a screw driver, nits and bolts among other tools…however, in addition to the screws from their set, we used real nails and screws as well.

Surprisingly the toy saw was tough enough to cut through the carton and the boys totally enjoyed that. They also hammered real nails into the top of the carton and then pulled them out and used the plastic screws and wooden screw driver to put the screws into those holes too.

Unfortunately Sid fell asleep while we were setting up, but Nish and Amu had a wonderful time and spent close to an hour doing ‘carpentry’

 

The magic of gorgeous art supplies!

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We love art…ok that is probably an understatement..but my boys and I enjoy painting and crayons and coloring and glitter! A few months ago a family friend gifted the boys the most gorgeous coloring materials…we had fancy artists’ water soluble pastels, oil pastels, color pencils, watercolor pencils…a whole lot of shiny new art supplies! Needless to say we were over the moon.

Initially, the boys explored the color pencils..and then last week they moved on to the water soluble pastels (they have not yet played with the water soluble aspect of the pastels but have simply been dabbling with the pastels as they are).

The smooth almost delicious colors produced many oohs and aahs…but a better reflection of how much they appreciated the colors came through the amount of time they have been spending coloring everyday. Over the past few days they have spent close to an hour each day with their pastels..till we finally ran out of paper day before yesterday. For the first time since I can remember, we had nothing more to color on..no art paper, no one sided sheets, no used envelopes…So i sent and got them a sketch book each.

Nish sat for a good twenty minutes working away at something. When he was done he stretched, looked at me and said “look! I have made a sail boat in a storm”.

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It was stunning! Sid looked at it and literally clapped! he asked Nish to help him make his own sailboat in the storm and the two of them got busy as nish advised sid on how to proceed.

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Not to be left out, Amu wanted his sailboat too which nish obligingly drew an outline for. Amu of course wanted to do somethingh a little different so he called his art a fire boat.

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Today we have planned to take a wet brush and explore how it interacts with the pastels. should be fun and am looking forward to some more gorgeous art.

 

And it all comes together…

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In a lot of earlier blogposts, i have stressed on how, for me, the process is more important than the product. Whenever we set up things for the kids to do, I try to keep the focus on the process…the thinking involved, the experimentation, allowing kids to try things out, ask questions, work at a pace and in a manner that they are comfortable with (and as long as they respect their siblings who are also engaged in the activity).

These past few weeks have been rewarding for me, in that I am seeing how the focus on the process has culminated in my kids taking ownership of their work, enjoying the process and demanding more.

We tend to do a lot of art at home. Every day sees us dabbling with paints or crayons or markers or another medium. I usually set stuff up and let the kids be. While Nish always has been into drawing that tries to represent specific forms (he started out with a car when he was about 2 – a curved line with 4 wheels under it) Sid has been more of a scribbler. He has always steered clear of form, preferring instead to do broad, dark strokes on the paper, and if it is paint then on his body – generally his canvas of choice. He went went through a phase of not doing art at all (or very little of it) after a trainee teacher at his school openly remarked that his art was not the greatest (kaccha puccha – or half baked if you please).

However, i continued to put stuff out for him, not forcing him but asking him to make a card, or color something for me. I rarely praised it with a simple – wow that looks great…instead, i asked him to describe what he was doing, what he was thinking of and it became a great opportunity for a dialogue that involved very creative thinking and verbal expression.

The past month, he has been regularly asking for paper and crayons and likes to spend time drawing and coloring. He finishes and proudly comes up with his work. Sometimes it still looks like scribbles, but sometimes (more often than not) there is little ambiguity about the crux of his art. And he continues to have a narrative with every piece! Today he spent close to an hour making multiple pictures for different people, including a mixed media project with sequins.

Amu, not to be left behind, spent an equally large chunk of time sticking mirrors and small sequins to make bright circles on a paper.

Similarly with music…all that singing and listening to music has now suddenly led to bursts of spontaneous singing by the kids – ranging from old hindi numbers to the carpenters to new hindi movie songs. Amu loves pretending to sing into a mike as does Sid.

It feels nice…satisfying to see that it helps to believe that this approach does work…that you don’t need every one to be in boxes doing the same thing at the same time whether they want to or can.  Now can some of our preschools recognize this and start thinking about what this means to their classrooms?

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Music and movement…and a lot of fun!

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Kids in general are action oriented…they love moving, shaking, dancing to music…they enjoy fingerplays and action songs and use their bodies without inhibitions in such creative ways.
Music helps children develop in a variety of ways…language and communication, self expression, imagination, pre-math skills through rhythms…it help develop concepts, evolve language…it is a fun, safe and natural form of self expression. Children enjoy music and movement and that ties so closely to their language development as well (Linda Carol Edwards).

I have been thinking about music and movement with preschoolers …. more because in recent classroom observations I found a very basic minimal use of music and this bothered me. And since it was on my mind i thought about getting my boys to interact a little differently with music just for fun and to see how it could also be used in a classroom. we do a lot of singing at home but i wanted to try something else today.

When they got back from school today i asked them to sit down on the floor and close their eyes. They obliged. Then, i talked to them about imagining that they were in a forest with the wind blowing through the trees, the leaves rustling, butterflies flitting about, birds chirping and different animals sitting or moving around. I asked them to choose to be something in the forest…a plant, a bird..whatever they felt like being. Then i put on some nice instrumental music (i used Kenny G). It was really wonderful to watch them…Sid became a tree and Nish decided to be a spotted hyena. Amu was just amu…running around to the music! The tree soon became a baby hyena and the two hyena boys crept through the forest doing a most rhythmic and graceful frolicky chase to the music.
For the next song we mirrored each other and for the third song each person came to the center and danced while the other three watched him/her (this was Sid’s idea). we danced slowly, fast, shaing a lot, swaying gently, gliding, jumping, sitting, rolling…exploring space, rhythm, force and emotions through the music and our actions…this activity lasted for a little over 30 minutes and we all had a lovely time.

Something one can do in a preschool classroom quite easily…it required very little set up, was not very noisy and taught the boys to listen, appreciate, express themselves creatively. They also had to respect each others space in the process and learn to wathc and observe each other and learn from that.

The boys enjoyed it…and i did too! Will be doing more stuff with music and movement and will keep you posted!

We’re going on a treasure hunt!

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I found a lovely idea on http://theimaginationtree.com/ a few days ago and promptly tried it out. The boys are totally into the idea of pirates and treasure thanks to a book we have been reading called Here Be Monsters…about a pirate who is looking for treasure.
While i was looking at the http://theimaginationtree.com/ blog I came across a treasure hunt activity which encourages kids to read words. So i made a little treasure chest using an empty washing powder carton and foam sheets (decorated it with some glitter foam circles and a big silver foam lock). For the treasure coins I used glitter foam sheets in gold, silver and blue. I cut up circles (about the same size as a 2 rupees coin or maybe a tad bit bigger). One surface of this paper was glittery and the other surface plain. I used a black permanent marker to write on the plain sides of the coin. One the blue circles I had numbers (between 0 and 10) – one number per coin. On the silver cirlces I put 3 letter phonic words and on the gold I had 4 and 5 letter phonic words. I hid the “coins” all over the family room and when the boys woke up I told them that they had to find all the treasure. I showed them the chest and told them that the “coins” they found could only go in if they could read what was on the back.

The boys were most excited and set of with great gusto, peering behind curtains, under chairs and tables, between cushions…squealing with delight every time they found one. It was amazing and I have never seen them so excited about reading. I picked as many ship and sea related words as I could and that made it more fun. I had put the numbers in for my youngest fellow (2 1/2) who can recognize numbers upto 5 so that he would not feel left out of the adventure. They managed to find and read all and were super excited by the whole concept.

The following day when they woke up form their afternoon nap, Nish immediately asked if he could start looking for more treasure but sadly I had not made any more coins. Will work on more over the next few days and do another treasure hunt over the weekend I guess.

Definitely something to try…can do it with sight words, just alphabets, numbers, math sums, etc.

Word Bingo

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The twins have started reading a little and I decided to have a fun bingo game to get them excited about it. It is super simple to set up. I took 2 sheets of paper and put their name on top of one each. Then on the paper I drew a 3 x 3 grid. In each cell i put a CVC / CCVC word (hut, bug, stop, plot, etc). So each of them had a sheet with 9 words on it. Most of the words were the same – but put a few different ones on their grids too. Then i made of list of the words on my paper, put in a few that were not on their list too. I gave the boys their papers and asked them to called Bingo each time they got a word. (Since this was their first time at the game figuring words out in a game too – i made the bingo part fairly non-challenging).

i was actually fun and the boys enjoyed searching for their words and calling Bingo with great gusto. It took some time to get started because Sid’s first response was to simply state that he did not have the word without really checking…but once he got the hang of it it was fun! Next time will make it more challenging and ask them to call Bingo when they find 3 words or something.

Will try it with number too one of these days. And I guess you can spiral it to meet your needs – math problems, countries and capitals, opposites, history dates…anything you may want to prep kids for or practice in a fun manner. I am sure this would make for a fun class quiz too!