## Teaching Mathematics To Young Children - Addition and Subtraction

Children need to have many opportunities to problem solve using mental strategies before they are exposed to more rigid, procedural strategies. We want our children to approach each Mathematical task creatively and critically.

Welcome to my third and final blog in the series “Teaching Mathematics to young children”. In this blog I aim to educate parents on the effective strategies that children need to learn to solve addition and subtraction problems. I also want to highlight the negative effect algorithms have on young children. (An algorithm is the strategy of using a set of rules and set procedure to solve a problem)

In my experience, most parents tend to focus on one strategy to help their child work out an answer to an addition or subtraction problem. It is usually the “Algorithm Method” as this is how they were taught to solve these problems when they went to school. Unfortunately teaching this to a child too early does more harm than good.

Why we do not teach an algorithm to a child under 10 years old?

I have coached many different types of sports for a long time and I always encounter the same problem as a coach no matter what sport it is. Children want to work on a harder aspect of the game before they are ready to. In basketball, the children all want to shoot a “three pointer” when they first start. In order to do this, they do not use the correct shooting technique. They just throw the ball and hope for the best. This incorrect technique will need to be “unlearnt” in order for them to develop their shooting skills in the future. This is harder than learning it the correct way from the beginning.

While teaching students addition and subtraction, I encounter the same problem. Students have constantly been exposed to algorithms as a method of solving problems without understanding the concepts behind the algorithm. They have learnt how to solve the problems as a procedure instead of what is logical and what makes sense.

Teaching a child how to use an algorithm too early will encourage your child to learn a procedure by rote learning (learning something off by heart) instead of understanding what they are doing.

Now let’s look at the addition and subtraction strategies that will benefit your young child. I like to think of these as tools for your child’s problem solving toolbox. Each tool has a different purpose and when used correctly can help a child solve a number problem successfully.

Strategy 1 – Split strategy

A child “splits” up a number into their place value to add or subtract quickly. For example 45 + 23 = . The child would be encouraged to add the larger place value numbers first as this is the logical way that our minds work. In their mind they would add 40 and 20, which would equal 60 and then add 5 and 3 together to make 8. The final step would be to add the two totals together. 60 + 8 = 68

Strategy 2 – Jump strategy

A child “jumps” from the stated number forwards or backwards depending if the problem involves addition or subtraction. For example 45 + 23 = . The child would be encouraged to put the 45 in their head. They would then jump 2 tens forwards to make the number 65 and then jump another 3 forward to make the number 68.

Strategy 3 – Compensation strategy

A child rounds a number to make it easier to calculate. They then adjust the answer to compensate for the original rounding. For example 97 + 63 =. A child would round the 97 to 100 in their head. They would then add 100 and 63 together to equal 163. Then they take away 3 to compensate for the addition of 3 at the beginning of the problem solving. The answer would be 160.

Children need to have a solid understanding of addition and subtraction strategies before they use algorithms to solve problems. Introducing children to algorithms after they have this solid understanding will allow them to develop their number sense, make fewer errors, have strong mental computation (mental problem solving) and require less “reteaching” of concepts. As parents and educators, we need to encourage children to explain how they solved a problem mentally. This will enable a deeper understanding of the concept to occur.

Many parents inform me how much they disliked Mathematics when they went to school. They always throw around terms like “borrow and pay back”, and “a number doesn’t go into another number”. What do these terms actually mean? We need to be clearer in our own understanding of Mathematics before we start assisting our children. We need to make sure that our children have a positive experience of Mathematics. We can do this by teaching them for understanding and not just learning procedures like many of us were taught. These procedures have a place in solving problems but it should not be used as strategy for young children until they have a solid understanding of the concept of addition and subtraction which comes around 10 years of age.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog. We have loved writing our series “Teaching Mathematics to young children”. Our next series will be available next week. The three part series will be titled “How to make the new school year successful for your child” It will provide a lot of tips for parents to enable you to provide the best learning environment possible for your child.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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## Teaching Mathematics to Young Children - Place Value

Focusing on children having a deep understanding of concepts in Mathematics when they are young, will set them up to be successful problem solvers and critical thinkers in the future.

Welcome to my second blog in the series “Teaching Mathematics to young children” In this blog, we look at the importance of “place value” in contributing to a child’s number sense. This blog outlines the growth points (see my previous blog for a definition of growth points) that children go through to achieve an understanding of place value.

Place value is the understanding of “where” a digit is in a number and knowing the value of it. For example, in the number 6 023, the place value of 2 is “tens” and in the number 2.43, the place value of 3 is “hundredths”. A solid understanding of place value allows the child to read, write, order and interpret numbers confidently.

Below is a list of the growth points of “place value” that children should move through and parent tips of how to support their child at home to achieve a given growth point.

Growth Point 1: Reading, writing, ordering and interpreting single digit numbers.

For this growth point to be achieved children need to be able to read all 1 digit numbers (1 – 9), be able to write them (number reversals are fine eg The numeral 2 is written backwards), can order the numbers from smallest to largest and largest to smallest and can show the relevant objects to match the numeral eg 6 cars for the number 6. This growth point is usually achieved between 4 – 6 years old.

Parent Tips to get your child to achieve this growth point

• Play the game “memory” with some numeral cards (numbers) and dot cards (dots on a card to match a numeral).
• Make towers with blocks (1-9 blocks) and get the child to write the corresponding number on a post it note to stick in front it.
• Ask your child to collect a specific amount of objects that they roll on a dice. (eg if they roll a 4, they have to get 4 balls)
• The main focus is getting the child to recognise the name of the number, what the numeral looks like and to show how the number is represented (show amount with objects). This is called the number triad. All three aspects must be taught together so the child learns the relationship between all of them.
• The adult and child can walk around the house with post it notes and count things they see. (objects between 1-9). After they count it, help the child to write the number on the paper and stick it up next to object/s. Eg write the number 4 next to the light switch that has 4 buttons.
• Mix up all the numeral cards (1-9) and ask the child to put them from smallest to largest. You can include dots on the card so they can see it is increasing. Also expose your child to the terms; lowest to highest and ascending order. Then mix it up again and ask them to order the cards from largest to smallest. (or highest to lowest or descending order). Ask lots of questions about how they knew how to do it. If they can explain, it shows a deep understanding and knowledge of the concept.

Growth Point 2: Reading, writing, ordering and interpreting two digit numbers.

For this growth point to be achieved children need to be able to read all 2 digit numbers (10 – 99), be able to write them, can order the numbers from smallest to largest and largest to smallest and can show the relevant objects to match the numeral eg 37 cars (shown by 3 rows of 10 cars and 7 cars by themselves) for the number 37. This growth point is usually achieved between 6 – 8 years old.

Parent Tips to get your child to achieve this growth point

• The child must gain the understanding of tens being their own value of 1. Many children still consider the tens as large collections of ones. (For example 30 needs to be seen as 3 tens and not 30 ones) Parents can help this concept by making bundles (tens). Use paddle pop sticks and get the child to make bundles of 10 and wrap an elastic band around them. You could count these bundles by tens with the child. Explain to your child that this is a ten as there are 10 in it.
• Play a bundling game. The child rolls a dice and collects that amount of paddle pop sticks from the middle. They roll again. Once they have got ten paddle pop sticks they use an elastic band to make a bundle. They keep rolling and making bundles until they get to 99. Once they get there, when they roll the dice you could go backwards. They will have to separate a bundle when they need to take away ones but they have no more ones left. Constantly ask your child what number they have made and write the number on a paper. (ask before each roll) You want them to make the connection that for two digit numbers, the first numeral represents how many bundles (tens) and the second numeral represents how many ones.
• Play ordering number games. Give your child a variety of two digit numbers (about 10 of them) to peg up on a piece of string in ascending order. (make sure you use all the different terms for ordering as mentioned above). Then mix them up and get them to peg them up in descending order.
• A lot of children when they start to write two digit numbers write the numerals in the wrong order. (eg fourteen is written as 41) This error shows that a child does not have the understanding of the place value for writing numbers. They make the same error when they read numbers.
• The ‘teen numbers’ are particularly difficult for children as they are said differently to how they are written. (children hear the eight first in 18 and write it with an 8 then a 1) We need to do lots of work on teen numbers with our children. Play lots of games where the focus is reading and recording teen numbers. (eg get the child to start with a teen number, roll a dice and you decide whether they have to add or subtract (try to get them to stay within teen numbers), the child needs to make the number, write the new number and say it. The child rolls again and you can choose again whether they add that amount or take it away. – Remember to use bundles as we want them to know that the first numeral represents tens.

Growth Point 3: Reading, writing, ordering and interpreting three digit numbers.

For this growth point to be achieved children need to be able to read all 3 digit numbers (100 – 999), be able to write them, can order the numbers from smallest to largest and largest to smallest and can show the relevant objects to match the numeral eg 136 to be shown as 1 hundred, 3 tens and 6 ones. This growth point is usually achieved between 8 - 10 years old.

Parent Tips to get your child to achieve this growth point

• To continue on from the two digit numbers, hundreds need to be seen as having a value of 1 and not a very large collection of objects.
• Many children who begin writing 3 digit numbers always write them as they hear them (eg 326 is written as 30026) To help this concept, you could continue to play the bundling game and show them that 100 is 10 bundles together. You can call this a mega bundle. Start the game at a high two digit number. Focus the child’s attention on having a zero for the tens when the number has just gone over 100 or 200.
• Play a game focusing on the role of zero in a three digit number. Give the child 3 numeral cards, one being a zero and get them to chose an order. Once the child has chosen an order get them to make that number with equipment. Then ask the child to change the order of the numerals and get them to make the new numeral. Ask the child if changing the order of numerals in a number makes a difference?
• Play a 3 digit recording game. Tell the child a number and get them to type it into a calculator. Press the clear button. Then tell them another 3 digit number. Make sure you include numbers with a zero. (harder numbers are 316, 204 etc)
• Play an ordering game. Give the child a variety of 3 digit numbers and he/she puts them in ascending order or descending order.

Growth Point 4: Reading, writing, ordering and interpreting four digit numbers.

For this growth point to be achieved children need to be able to read all 4 digit numbers (1000 – 9999), be able to write them, can order the numbers from smallest to largest and largest to smallest and can show the relevant objects to match the numeral. Eg 4561 to be shown as 4 thousands, 5 hundreds, 6 tens and 1 one. This growth point is usually achieved between 9 - 12 years old.

Parent Tips to get your child to achieve this growth point

• To continue on from the three digit numbers, thousands need to be seen as having a value of 1 and not a very large collection of objects.
• Ask your child to write down a variety of 4 digit numbers that you say to them. Ensure you say lots of numbers with a zero in them. (eg 2016, 4510, 5003)
• Ask your child to read lots of environmental print that has 4 digit numbers. (prices of furniture etc)
• Get your child to make up an imaginative shopping trolley filled with items from a catalogue. (find a catalogue with many items that all cost a four figure amount) After your child has chosen many items ask them to order them from the most expensive to least expensive or the other way around.

Growth Point 5: Extending and applying place value knowledge.

For this growth point to be achieved children need to be able use their knowledge and understanding of place value to solve challenging mathematical problems. This growth point is usually achieved between 10 - 13 years old.

Parent Tips to get your child to achieve this growth point

• Expose your child to lots of word problems that involve place value. (eg What number is 6 hundreds more and 3 tens less than 8722?)
• Get your child to roll the dice 4 times. Each time they roll it represents a numeral in a different place value. (Eg Roll One= 3, Roll Two = 4, Roll Three= 3 and Roll Four= 6. The number would be 3436) Ask the child lots of place value questions about this numeral. Eg What is 10 more, 10 less, 100 more, 100 less, 1000 more, 1000 less, 20 more etc)
• Begin to expose them to decimals. Show them lots of prices in supermarkets and explain that anything before the decimal point is a whole and anything after is part of a whole. Introduce terms such as “tenths”, “Hundredths”, “Thousandths”. Explain to them that the addition of the ‘th’ at the end of the word means it is smaller than 1. (This concept is further developed in other growth points)

Place value is a very important element in understanding ‘number’. It is often assumed that a child has a good understanding of it, but when specific questions about place value are asked, many gaps in their understanding are discovered.

I hope you have enjoyed reading the second blog in my series “Teaching Mathematics to young children” as much as I have enjoyed writing it. The final blog in this series will be focusing on the development of a child’s understanding in addition and subtraction.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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## How To Teach Mathematics To Children - Counting

Asking the right mathematical questions at the right time to your child can make the difference that enables deep learning to occur and a solid foundation for other concepts to be built upon.

As a primary school teacher, I am often asked many questions about the best strategies to use when helping a child with mathematics or about what mathematical concepts to focus on with a child to get them to have a deeper understanding of mathematical content. There is a lot of information about teaching mathematics to a young child so I thought I would cover a couple of topics through three blogs in a series titled “How to teach mathematics to young children”. This is the first blog of the series focusing on “Counting”.

Number sense is very important for children to be able to effectively and efficiently work with numbers to solve problems in their everyday life. Counting is one part of number sense and it becomes a very important skill that assists children to solve problems.

Children’s early numeracy (mathematical) development can be described using ‘growth points’. These can be thought of as “steps” on a learning journey. Each “step” is a growth point that a child must be successful at before moving onto the next. They move through the growth points to achieve a deep understanding of that particular domain. (eg counting, place value, additions and subtraction, multiplication and division)

Below is a list of the growth points of counting that children should move through and parent tips of how to support their child at home to achieve a given growth point.

Growth Point 1 - Rote counting to at least 20

This growth point is about the child being able to count forwards independently to at least 20 without making mistakes. (skipping a number or saying the wrong number) It is hoped that most children are able to do this before starting Kindergarten; however most children are unable to do this. Giving children many opportunities to count in the early years gives them a big advantage when they start school.

Parent tips for working with a child to achieve this growth point.

• Give your child many opportunities of hearing you count forwards in your everyday life (eg counting the fruit you put into a bag at the green grocer or counting the number of cars in a line in the carpark as you walk back to your car)
• Point out numbers in environmental print (print used in everyday life) eg number plates, house numbers on letter boxes, digital clocks, phone numbers on advertisements)
• Sing counting songs (5 little ducks, 10 green bottles)
• Read counting picture books (Ten little ladybugs by Melanie Gerth and Counting kisses by Karen Katz)
• Play counting games e.g. The parent and child take turns saying a number. You could include more people in the game when the child gets more confident with their knowledge.
• Don’t always stop counting at a number ending with a zero (10, 20, 30, 40 etc) Start at 0 and finish at 35.

Growth Point 2 - Confidently counts a collection of around 20 objects

This growth point is about the child understanding that each object represents 1 and confidently uses this knowledge to count a collection of objects. A lot of children find it hard to organise their collection in order to count it correctly. Most children usually keep their collection in a pile and try to point to each object while counting; however they will miss counting some objects or count objects twice using this method. Our focus should be getting children to organise their collection to make counting the objects easier. By moving the object to another space when it has been counted, or setting up the objects in rows or lines, it will help the child to successfully count them. To achieve this growth point, the child must be able to count at the same pace as they point to the object. (Many children count slower than their finger pointing to the object) This growth point is usually achieved between 4 - 7 years old.

Parent tips for working with a child to achieve this growth point.

• Give your child many opportunities to count different objects for you (e.g. Ask the child to get 5 potatoes for you to peel, ask them to count how many necklaces you have, ask them how many toy cars they have)
• Play simple board games to get your child moving their player piece the amount of spots on the board that the dice tells them eg snakes and ladders, trouble (when your child gets good at this encourage them to try and tell you the number on the dice without counting them. This is called subitising and it is important for ‘number’ understanding)
• Play guessing games with your child. For example, put some (13 - 25) toy cars in a bucket and ask your child to tell you how many cars they think are in there. Then get your child to check by counting them.
• Practise arranging objects in different ways and get your child to investigate which ways are the easiest to count. (moving objects, placing them in rows, placing objects in a line) You can demonstrate how you set up the objects.
• Play matching games (eg Matching the collection of objects to the numeral or matching pictures of objects with their numeral)

Growth Point 3 - Counts forwards and backwards from various starting points between 0 - 120 and knows numbers before and after a given number

This growth point is about the child being able to start from any number between 0 - 120 and count forwards from that number and backwards from that number confidently. They must also be able to identify what number comes before and what number comes after each number. Achieving this growth point helps the child with the “count on” strategy in mathematics. For example if a child had 23 apples and a friend gave them 4 more, they could start with 23 in their head and continue counting four more (24, 25, 26, 27) instead of starting at 1 and counting to 27. Children are exposed to lots of language in mathematics and it is important they understand the terms, more and less and before and after to achieve this growth point. This growth point is usually achieved between 6 - 8 years old.

Parent tips for working with a child to achieve this growth point.

•  Focus on counting which moves from one decade to another (e.g. Asking your child to start at 45 and count forwards by ones. The focus is to see if they can go from the 40’s to the 50’s confidently. Then ask them to start at 45 and count backwards by ones. The focus is to see if they can go from the 40’s to the 30’s confidently).
• Constantly use lots of terms to ask the same counting question. Children need to be exposed to as many mathematical terms as possible in order to answer questions. Some children get ‘stuck’ on a growth point as they do not understand a particular mathematical term. (e.g. Tell the child to pick any number between 30 - 120. Once they have picked a number, say 67 ask them what is one less or the number before or what it would be if you took one away, or what it would be if you subtract 1. The child needs to understand all these terms. Then you could ask them what is the number after, or one more, or add one or plus one)
• The biggest error that a child usually makes to keep them from achieving this growth point is knowing the numbers beyond 109. So many children will say 120 after 109. It is important for children to see the numbers in a line (not a table that is usually on posters) so they realise that numbers increase in size as we count forwards. So many children only have experiences of counting up to 100 and this really limits their abilities. Even though we as adults recognise the patterns of numbers children do not. Encourage your child to start at 105 and count forwards or 116 and count backwards. Get your child to make the number 109 with blocks and 120 with blocks and show them that there are many numbers between.
• Allow your child many opportunities to make numbers over 100. Children need to know numbers in a triad. They need to know what the numeral is, what the name of the number is and what the amount of the number looks like. A lot of parents and teachers take away the maths equipment too early and this creates a lot of set backs to children’s mathematical development. Encourage your child to prove their understanding with equipment.

Growth Point 4 - Can count from 0 by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s

This growth point is about the child recognising simple number patterns by counting by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s. We need to help the child realise that we count by these patterns to make counting quicker and more efficient. We need children to learn how to choose the the most efficient type of counting for each situation. For example if we had 11 pairs of socks, we could count the socks by 2’s or if there were 6 bunches of 10 flowers, we could count the flowers by 10’s) This growth point is usually achieved between 7 - 9 years old.

Parent tips for working with a child to achieve this growth point.

• Get your child to watch you count objects during your everyday life by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s. You could also get your child to do it with you. (pairs of socks when doing the laundry, counting how much money you have in coins - 10 cent pieces or 5 cent pieces)
• Rote count by 2’s, 5,s and 10,s in the car, or on a walk and any other time you have quiet time with your child. Make sure you always go past 109.
• Write out a number line and get your child to colour in all the numbers that you say when you count by 2’s. You can do the same with 5’s and 10’s. Try not to use a table (where numbers are in rows and after each decade the numbers start a new row) as children need to see that numbers are linear (increase in size as a pattern) We have a lot of children who say that the number before 39 is 29 as it is the number on top of it in a table.

Growth Point 5 - Being given a non zero starting point, count by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s

This growth point is about the child using their knowledge of number patterns to count by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s starting from a number that is not usually in the rote learnt pattern. For example the child can start at 4 and count by 5’s. (4, 9, 14, 19, 24, 29 etc) They need to be able to count by these patterns in both a forward and backward direction. This growth point is usually achieved between 8 - 10 years old.

Parent tips for working with a child to achieve this growth point.

• Practise saying number patterns with your child by saying one number each. Make sure you start at a number that is not normally in their rote learnt pattern. You could take turns at saying numbers in the pattern.
• Write out a number line and get your child to colour in all the numbers that you say when you count by 2’s from a number that is not normally in the rote learn pattern. You can do the same with 5’s and 10’s.
• Get the child to continue patterns that you have written down. Eg 86, 76, 66, 56, 46, _____,  ________, ________
• You can expose your child to the concept that there are numbers that are smaller than 0. Talk about temperatures in cold countries that can get to minus degrees. A thermometer is a number line that goes vertical instead of horizontal.

Growth Point 6 - Can count from a non zero starting point by any single digit number and can apply counting skills in a practical task.

This growth point is about the child being able to count by 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s, 6’s, 7’s, 8’s and 9’s from any number. They can confidently count forwards and backwards by any of these number patterns. They also need to be able to use this skill and apply it to solving mathematical problems. It is important that children are able to communicate how they solved a problem in order for them to have a deep understanding of it. This growth point is usually achieved between 9 - 12 years old.

Parent tips for working with a child to achieve this growth point.

• Practise saying number patterns with your child by saying one number each. Make sure you start at a number that is not normally in their rote learnt pattern. You could take turns at saying numbers in the pattern. (Count forwards and backwards by 3’s, 4’s, 6’s, 7’s, 8’s, 9’s)
• Ask your child questions about multiple numbers before and after a given number. (e.g. 3 more than 124, 6 less than 133, 8 after 89, 9 before 121)
• Practise counting negative numbers. (For example start at 3 and count backwards by 4’s. : 3, -1, -5, -9, -13, -17)
• Make up mathematical problems that require counting to solve it. (Eg There were 6 tables at a wedding. One table had 9 people on it and the other tables had 8. How many people altogether?)

Growth Point 7 - Counting using fractions and decimals

This growth point is about the child counting by numbers that are less than a whole. They can confidently count using fractions and decimals. For example they can count by halves, quarters, fifths, sixths, tenths etc. They can successfully count forwards and backwards using fractions and decimals. This growth point is usually achieved from 10 years old to the beginning years of high school.

Parent tips for working with a child to achieve this growth point.

• Practise counting by fractions with your child. Talk about pizzas or cakes to give them a context (a real life situation) You could take turns at saying numbers in the pattern. (half, one, one and a half, two, two and a half, three) or (by fifths - one fifth, two fifths, three fifths, four fifths, one, one and one fifth etc)
• Practise counting by decimals with your child. You could take turns at saying numbers in the pattern. (count forwards by 0.6 starting at 0.7 : 0.7, 1.3, 1.9, 2.5)

The main focus of teaching your child mathematics is having lots and lots of conversation about it. Mathematics is very literacy (English) based and in order for your child to succeed they need to have a deep understanding of many mathematical terms. We have moved on from textbooks and rote learning that we experienced when we went to school to having a focus on children learning concepts for a deeper knowledge and understanding of mathematics.

I hope you have found this first blog in the series “How To Teach Mathematics To Young Children” useful and informative. The next blog will be about The growth points of place value, which is another domain that has a large impact on a child’s number sense. I hope you have been able to work out what growth point your child is at in counting and have found the strategies that you can do with your child useful to help them move onto the next growth point.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog about counting. I look forward to hearing any thoughts or comments that you have.

Until next time …….

Kelly Pisani

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Exposing children to a variety of texts in both fiction and non fiction categories will enable them to understand that all texts have a purpose. Children need to have knowledge about the purpose of an author to have a deep comprehension of the text.

Welcome to my third and final blog in the series “How to read with your child” In this blog we focus on different texts we should be exposing our children to at different ages. This exposure will help build a solid foundation for your child in knowing about text types in our world and as a result give them more opportunities to develop their understanding about reading.

It is very easy to get into the habit of just exposing your child to picture books and story based books. There are so many wonderful story books out there that offer so much to a child. Even though these are extremely important, there is a whole other genre of reading that many children are not exposed to before school. Non fiction texts or Factual texts are very important to beginning readers. These texts give information about our world and are written in a different structure compared to fiction (story) texts. We need children to be exposed to all types of texts in order to give them a solid foundation in literacy.

Another aspect of reading that will be referred to in this blog is “Environmental Print”. Environmental print is simply the print of everyday life. It could be signs, advertisements, labels or logos. For beginning readers this print can help the child understand the purpose of letters and the use of letters in words.

A description of what to read to a child of a particular age and parent tips for that age group are listed below.

Age Group : Babies to 2 years old

This is the time when a child’s language is emerging. They are experimenting with different sounds and working out how to put sounds together to make words. This is a stage of rapid growth and learning and it is essential to give a child in this stage as many opportunities to develop their communication skills as possible. A child in this age learns through play. One aspect of play is reading. Simple non fiction (fact) texts are great to read with your child. Encouraging your child to point to objects on the page (or a parent points) and naming that object will help a child learn new words. Reading simple stories that are repetitive will help develop your child’s understanding of how our language works.

Recommended Fiction (story) texts for age group

• Spot books by Eric Hill
• Five Little Monkey’s Jumping On The Bed by Eileen Christelow
• Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
• Are You My Mother? By P.D Eastman
• That’s Not My … Books by Usborne Children’s books
• Moo, Baa, La, La, La by Sandra Boynton

Recommended Non Fiction (Fact) texts for age group

• Baby’s Very First Little Book of Farm Animals - Usborne (Publisher)
• Spot’s Fun First Words by Eric Hill
• Babies - Baby Einstein (Publisher)

Environmental Print

• For a child closer to 2 years old you can encourage them to find their name on objects (drink bottle, lunch box)
• Focus on the letters of their name and the sounds they make. (Their name is important to them, therefore learning about it can be very motivating)
• Shop names - Pointing out the names of shops to the child

Parent tips

At this age children need to be involved in a lot of conversation to develop their communication skills. This can occur successfully during reading time with your child. While reading a farm book together, try getting your child to make the sounds of the different animals when you point to them in a book. Talk to them about the animals and what things they do. For a child closer to 2 years old, point to the name of the animal (e.g. cow) on the page and tell them that it says the word “cow”. With a fiction book, encourage your child to read the book with you. You need to read the book many times for the child to remember some of the words. (especially the end word of rhyming sentences)

Age Group : 2 to 4 years old

This stage will see your child move from saying two words together (mum’s car, big ball) to complex sentences. It is another stage of rapid growth and learning. Children in this age group becoming increasingly aware of the world around them. This is an ideal time to point out all the environmental print around them. Children in this age group are interested in “why” things are the way they are, so using this thirst for knowledge with reading non fiction (fact) texts will help them make meaning of our world. They become very interested in story lines and how a problem is solved in the story. Children will begin to “pick up” how our written language works, but by pointing some features out (eg letters, words, punctuation) it will help to form the beginning stages of reading.

Recommended Fiction (story) texts for age group

2-3 year olds

• Can I cuddle the moon by Kerry Brown
• Koala Lou by Mem Fox
• Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd
• Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox
• The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
• Brown Bear, Brown bear, What do your see by Eric Carle and Bill Martin Jr

3 - 4 year olds

• Who Sank the Boat by Pamela Allen
• Belinda by Pamela Allen
• Alexander’s outing by Pamela Allen
• Goodnight moon by Margaret Wise Brown
• Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

Recommended Non Fiction (Fact) texts for age group

• From Tadpole to Frog by David Steward
• From Seed to Sunflower by Gerald Legg
• From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Gerald Legg
• From Egg to Chicken by Gerald Legg

Environmental Print

• Reading their name in a variety of situations (finding their name tag amongst others, finding their painting with their name, their name on a piece of clothing)
• Signs in the environment (toilet signs, carpark sign, speed limits, own street sign, number plates on cars, stop signs, crossing signs, packets on food)
• Reading shop names (Kmart, Coles, Woolworthes, Post Office, McDonalds)

Parent tips

• While going for a walk, encourage your child to say the names and sounds of letters on number plates
• Don’t limit your child to reading ‘books’ (whether fiction or non fiction). At reading time choose other types of texts.
• During reading time read a few invitations that you have received for different celebrations. Point out features like who it is addressed to?, what is the party?, where it is?, Who is it from?, What is an RSVP? When is it?
• During reading time read a few cards that you have received for a particular occasion. (birthday, christmas, christening) Point out features like who it is addressed to?, what is their message?, who is it from? What is common in most cards?

Age Group : 4 to 6 years old

Children in this age group are usually in daycare, preschool or Kindergarten. They are getting exposed to lots of texts and environmental print in their educational setting. An educational setting can open up a whole new world to children with a variety of new and exciting texts. The home environment can support this by using lots of environmental print and reading a variety of texts during reading time. It is said that in order for a child to learn something new, they need to have 200 “hits” at it. This means that a child needs to have at least 200 different reading experiences before they are even ready to start reading. This is the important stage to ensure that they are getting a variety of quality learning experiences about reading prior to beginning “big school”. It will give them such a good start to formal education.

Recommended Fiction (story) texts for age group

• Hunwick’s Egg by Mem Fox
• Shoe’s from Grandpa by Mem Fox
• The Cat in the Hat by Dr Suess
• Animalia by Graeme Base
• Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
• We’re going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Oxenbury

Recommended Non Fiction (Fact) texts for age group

• Books about our body eg senses
• Books about People eg occupations

Environmental Print

• Reading their name in a variety of situations

Parent tips

• Don’t limit your child to reading ‘books’ (whether fiction or non fiction). At reading time choose other types of texts.
• Make a poster with your child using information about a text they are reading. You can write most of the words. Include labels and diagrams as this is a very important aspect of texts. Explain to your child how to read them.
• Do activities about the fiction (story) books that you read. Do a craft activity, Draw a picture of the main character, role play the story, change the story to have a different ending. These activities will help a child comprehend the story and help with sequencing events.
• Use labels around your house to increase the “environmental print”

Age Group : 6 to 8 years old

Recommended Fiction (story) texts for age group

• Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
• Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
• One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr Seuss
• Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Suess
• Alexander and the very horrible, no good, very bad day by Judith Voirst
• The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

Early chapter books

• 1 - Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne
• 2 - Cam Jansen by David A. Adler
• 3 - Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol
• 4 - Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows
• 5 - Humphrey by Betty G. Birney
• 6 - Geronimo Stilton (Scholastic Corporation)
• 7 - Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo
• 8 - Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
• 9 - Frankly Frannie by AJ Stern
• 10 - The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron
• 11 - Agatha: Girl of Mystery
• 12 - Keena Ford by Melissa Thomson
• 13 - Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
• 14 - Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Allison McGhee,
• 15 - Roald Dahl Stories

Recommended Non Fiction (Fact) texts for age group

Environmental print

• Reading words from a word wall (wall full of words in a classroom)
• Reading words on signs, diagrams, labels
• Reading words around them to help them with spelling them

Parent tips

• Get your child to read instructions of how to do something e.g. how to put together something or reading a recipe
• Get your child to make their own books. This will allow you to know if your child has a great understanding of how a book work. (Eg A factual book about a particular animal. Does it have a contents page?, page numbers, title, author, glossary)
• Visit your local library often and borrow a variety of books

Age Group : 8 to 10 years old

Children of this age are beginning to read harder texts on more complex topics. The fiction books they read have more complicated story plots as well as many sub plots. Some children can sound like they are reading quite well but they actually have low levels of comprehension (understanding what they have read). It is important that we do not rush children onto harder books without having the comprehension to match. Asking lots of questions and having lots of conversation about the book can really improve a child’s comprehension. A lot of children read chapter books at this stage but sharing a picture book with harder themes can have many benefits. Discussing themes and issues with your child that appear in a picture book of chapter book helps their knowledge and understanding of the world. At this stage children need to have lots of experiences with factual texts to become efficient at locating the correct information. This will help their research skills for projects they are working on for all subjects.

Recommended Fiction (story) texts for age group

• Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr Suess
• The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
• The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
• The True story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
• Prince Cinders by Babette Cole
• An Ordinary Day by Libby Gleeson

Chapter books

• The Croc Ate My Homework by Stephan Pastis
• Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce
• Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja by Marcus Emerson
• Timmy Failure by Stephan Pastis
• Wayside School by Louis Sachar
• The Alice Stories: Our Australian Girl by Davina Bell
• Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
• Specky Magee by Felice Arena and Garry Lyon
• Give Peas a Chance by Morris Gleitzman
• Our Australian Girl: Lina at the Games (Book 3) by Sally Rippin and Lucia Masciullo
• Do You Dare? Bushranger’s Boys 1841 by Alison Lloyd

Recommended Non Fiction (Fact) texts for age group

• Websites
• Newspaper articles
• Encyclopaedias (online)
• Dictionary

Parent tips

• Have a copy of a chapter book for yourself and your child (Borrow copies from the library) Read one chapter. (Take turns at reading paragraphs or read the chapter in your heads) At the end of the chapter have a discussion about what was read. Ask some questions to your child starting with the word “Why”
• If a particular theme or issue comes up in a text, discuss with your child and then do something proactive about it. (Eg Refugees - Donate clothing or money to an organisation that helps refugees in Australia). Be as creative as you can.

The best gift you can give your child is a variety of experiences. It is wonderful to read about different aspects of our world, but for a child to experience these things first hand is remarkable. This will help them build their own connections and will help them to bring their own experiences into their reading. Share your love of reading with your child. Show them how we can be taken into another world with a story or learn some fascinating facts with a non fiction text.

I have really enjoyed writing this series of blogs about “How to read with your child”. I hope it has given you a lot of insight into the skill of reading and possible ideas to do with your child.

My next series will be about “Mathematics and young children” My first blog will be about the stages of counting. I am sure this will interest a lot of people.

Keep liking and sharing. I am so thankful for all your support.

Until next time ……

Kelly Pisani

It's only fair to share...

Welcome to my second blog in the series “How to read to your young child” This blog outlines the strategies (or tools) that children need, to decode (work out) words that they are unsure about while reading. All these strategies need to be developed to enable the child to become an efficient reader.

In my experience, most parents tend to focus on one or two strategies to help their child work out a word. These are usually “Sound it out” or just tell the child what the word is straight away. Unfortunately neither one is helpful to the child!!

Why we never say “Sound it out” to a child

“Sound it out” was a familiar statement used by many teachers and parents in the 70’s, 80’s and even 90’s. It requires the child to look at each letter in a word and say the corresponding sound. The English language is a complicated one. There are many spelling rules that we follow; however, there are many exceptions to these rules. It is a phonetically irregular language that doesn’t always follow the expected pattern.

Consider the word ‘rough’ - How would a child sound this word out? If they did, it would sound completely different to what the word really is. Then there is the other problem of letter patterns changing their sound from word to word. If you think of the ‘sound chunk’ ough; does it have the same sound in the following words; thought, dough, through, drought?

“Sounding it out” really confuses beginning readers and struggling readers. It is not a successful strategy in working out unknown words.

Why we do not tell the child the word straight away

Usually if a child cannot “sound an unknown word out” the parent resorts to telling them the word. This really limits a child’s ability and offers them no alternatives to problem solve the word for themselves. What happens if you were not there? Would the child have any idea as to how they could work out the word?

Now let’s look at the reading strategies that will benefit your child. I like to think of these as tools for your child’s reading toolbox. Each tool has a different purpose and when used correctly can help a child solve an unknown word successfully.

Strategy Number 1: Look at the picture

Encourage your child to look at the picture to help them work out what the text might be. In simple books, the texts match the pictures exactly. As the books get more complex, the pictures still relate to the text but they do not always show everything that is written in the text.

Text relating very strongly to the picture – excerpt taken from “Where is the Green Sheep” by Mem Fox

This is one of the first strategies that your child should become an expert at. Many parents tell me that they cover the picture when their child reads so the child doesn’t “cheat” by looking at the picture. Looking at the picture is a very efficient problem solving strategy for beginning readers. If a child is reading and gets stuck on a word, tell them to look at the picture carefully and try reading the sentence again.

Tip for parents: Do a picture walk through the book with the child before reading the text. This means you talk about each picture with your child and you may focus your child on a particular aspect of the picture that will come up in the text. This will emphasise to your child the importance of pictures in a book.

This strategy is another great one for beginning readers. Using this strategy with the strategy of looking at the pictures will help your child think of a word that makes sense in the sentence. Getting your child to make the initial sound with their mouth will help the word “pop” out if they are reading in a smooth reading voice.

For example if the sentence is “A sheep lives on a farm” and your child is stuck on the word ‘farm’, encourage them to make the first sound of the word (f) with their mouth and it may just come out if they are listening to what they are reading. If they have stopped reading, give them the instruction to get their mouth in position to make the first sound and then tell them to have another go at the sentence and this time try not to stop.

Tip for parents: Encourage your child to read like they talk. A lot of children resort to a “robot type” reading which stops the child from understanding what they are reading as it is very disjointed. You want them to read, like they are talking so when they come to a word they don’t know and they get their mouth ready to make the first sound, it will usually just come out.

Strategy Number 3: Does it make sense?

The main goal of reading is for the child to comprehend (understand) what he/she is reading. They constantly need to be reminded that if they read something that doesn’t sound right, that they need to have another go at reading it. Parents can help with this by asking them if what they read made sense. By the parent repeating what the child said , they will be able to hear that what they said does not make sense. This is a strategy that develops over time as their reading ability improves.

Tip for parents: Record your child reading on your phone, iPad or any other recording device. Let your child watch it and ask them to comment on what they did well and what they could do better. Children love watching themselves and this can be a powerful tool to teach them how important it is to listen to how they read while they read.

Strategy Number 4: Sound chunks

This is a strategy used to help the child look at the entire word to see if they can use any prior knowledge they have about the sounds that letters make together or prefixes (letters added to the beginning of a word e.g. un, dis, in) or suffixes (letters added to the end of words e.g. ed, ing, less) Parents can help the child locate these in an unknown word.

Parents tip: Always try to get the child to come up with the word by asking the right questions. This will lead them to ask their own questions to themselves while reading if this is a common practice that you do with them. For example “Do you notice anything at the end of the word? ”

Strategy Number 5 : Little words in a big word

A lot of words in our language are made up of smaller words. Children can look for known words in a larger word to help them work out the entire word. Using this strategy with the “Does it make sense” strategy can help your child  work out a word.

Parents Tip: The child needs to have a good knowledge of sight words (words that are rote learnt by sight) to be efficient at this strategy. Practice sight words often with your child and encourage them to find them in texts that they are reading. Examples of sight words are; I, am, in, on, look, like, here, there, is, it,

Above all, reading needs to be enjoyable. If you find that your child is struggling on every second or third word, the book is too hard for them. We want children to be challenged but also experience a sense of accomplishment. Too often I hear about the arguments family’s experience to get their child to want to read each night (or day). Give your children time to develop their reading. Pushing harder books onto them too early will do more damage than good.

When a child finishes reading a book make sure you praise them for using some strategies to work out unknown words. Flick back to the page or pages that they worked out a word on and show them what they did again. Emphasis how proud you are of them that they are working out words independently.

If your child has tried to work out the word by using different strategies and they were unsuccessful, the parent can say the word and ask the child to reread that sentence.

Thank you for taking the time to read my second blog from the series “How to read to your young child”. I will be finishing off this series next week with my blog “What to read with your young child”

If you liked this blog and found it informative and useful please share it with your friends and family. I look forward to hearing any thoughts or comments that you have.

Until next time …….

Kelly Pisani

It's only fair to share...

Reading a book with your little one is a time honoured tradition that many households continue today. Sharing a book can open your child’s mind to imaginative worlds or help them discover facts about something in our world.

As a primary school teacher, I am often asked many questions about the best strategies to use when listening to a child read or about what aspects to focus on when reading to a child. There is a lot of information about learning to read so I thought I would break it up into three blogs in a series titled “How to read with your young child”. This is the first blog of the series focusing on Print concepts.

In order for children to read they need to know how a book works. This is what teachers call “Print Concepts”. Most children are expected to know about some of these concepts prior to starting school, while others are developed through Kindergarten and Year 1. In NSW schools, children are tested on their knowledge of Print Concepts at the beginning of Kindergarten, end of Kindergarten, Year 1 and at any other point for “at risk” readers (children not meeting benchmarks). It is important for parents to have a good understanding about Print Concepts in order to help develop their child’s understanding of them. Most parents refer to print concepts while reading to their child without even realising it.

For children aged 2 to 7 years old it is important to articulate the print concepts every time you read to your child. Talking about how a book works, engages your child in a conversation with you, which will help deepen their understanding of reading.

Below is a list of the print concepts that children should understand in the early phases of learning to read.

1. Can locate the front of the book

This is a fairly simple one but children only become confident with this if they have lots and lots of experiences with books. They need to watch you locate the front as well as pointing it out to you while they are handling the book.

Ideas to try for this concept

• Hand the child the book in different ways and see if they can turn the book into the right position ready to read
• Ask the child to point to the front of the book, the back of the book and the spine of the book
• Ask the child where the name of the book is (title)
• Ask the child what does an author do and what an illustrator does. See if they can locate the names on the front cover, if not, show them
• Ask the child to open the book to where the story begins

2. Knows the difference between a picture and words

This is another basic concept that needs to be known before a child can learn to read. They need to understand the idea of the print carrying the message and the picture supporting the print.

Ideas to try for this concept

• Ask the child to point to the picture and describe what is happening in the picture
• Point out interesting parts of the picture that is written about in the print
• Focus the child’s attention on the words and explain that we read the words on a page
• Ask the child where they (or a parent) would start reading from (as long as they point to any text, they understand this concept)

Children who have had a lot of exposure to books would already understand that the text is what is being read. The next concept would be to understand where we start reading from and which direction we read in.

Ideas to try for this concept

• A parent points out which page they would read first (left, then right) A parent could ask the child this question before they start reading. eg Can you point to the page that I read first
• If there is more than one block of text on the page, a parent could ask the child what words do I read first? (top then bottom)
• The parent points out what word they read first and use their finger to show the direction that they will be reading on the first line (child can copy by running their finger under the first line of text from left to right)
• The parent points out what happens when they finish reading the first line (sweep around to the start of the next line) Again the child can copy with their finger showing the return sweep.

4. The difference between a letter and a word

Many parents are overjoyed when their child can read a word from a flash card or read a word written by itself on a piece of paper or on a whiteboard. This is a big achievement but what is even better, is if they can point out this word in context (within a sentence or story). Reading is a complicated skill and children rely on adults to be clear about literacy to help them develop their own meaning. We need to guide them in understanding that letters make sounds and putting letters together make words and putting words together make sentences. This is a concept that takes a while to understand.

Ideas to try for this concept

• A parent points out a letter in a word. They ask questions like: Do you know what the name of this letter is? Do you know what sound this letter makes?
• A parent points out a word in a sentence. They ask questions like: How many words are in this sentence? How many words are on this page?
• Child points to the first word, last word, a word starting with a particular letter
• Give the child two cards and ask them to use them as curtains that open (pull cards apart from each other) and close (put the cards next to each other) to show a letter in a word and a word in a sentence.

5. One to One Correspondence

Children need to learn that each word on the page represents each word that is read. The child needs to be able to point to each word when the corresponding word is read by their parent or themselves.

Ideas to try for this concept

• Get the child to point with their index finger under each word that is read
• Get the child to use a pointer or pencil under each word that is read

6. Understanding of simple punctuation

Children need to see that there are other aspects of text that help the reader to read. The use of punctuation helps the reader, read fluently and with expression

Ideas to try for this concept

• A parent can point to the full stop and tell the child why we use full stops (to indicate the end of a sentence)
• A parent can point to a question mark and tell the child why we use a question mark. (to indicate a question has been asked)
• A parent can point to a exclamation mark and tell the child why we use an exclamation mark ( to emphasise something)
• A parent can point to speech marks/quotation marks and tell the child why use speech marks (to indicate a character is talking)

The main focus of teaching your child to read is having lots and lots of conversation about it. Not only are you reading the text but also teaching your child how a book works.