It’s report season! - 10 Facts That All Parents Must Know Before Reading Their Child’s Report

Welcome back to Creating A Learning Environment. I can not believe that it is nearly the end of Term 4. Where has this year gone? The end of a Semester, means a very busy time for teachers. This is the time where teachers use all their observations and assessments to provide a formal document about each child in their class, to reflect on what that child has learnt and developed over the two terms.

This blog will look into the world of “grading” for reports and give parents information about what they need to know before they even open their child’s report.

New South Wales Primary schools send student reports home twice a year. The first one being at the end of Semester 1 (End of Term 2) and the second one at the end of Semester 2 (End of Term 4). The report’s aim is to give parents information about their child and give the parent an understanding of whether their child is meeting benchmarks for their age.

Reports can cause a lot of mixed emotions for many households. It can be a time of celebration of a child’s achievement or a realisation that your child is struggling to meet the expected level of a particular grade. With all situations, reports need to be used as a conversation starter between you and your child and between you and your child’s teacher.

Below is a list of 10 facts that all parents need to know before they read their child’s report.

1. The Board Of Studies - What is a KLA?

BoS%20Logo[1]The Board of Studies is the governing body for the implementation of teaching and assessing of students in NSW. They are responsible for setting the core curriculum that is being taught in schools and regulates how much time is allocated to the teaching of each KLA (Key Learning Area). A Key Learning Area is a term used to name a particular area of study.  There are 6 KLA’s in Primary School. They are English, Mathematics, Human Society and Its Environment (History), Science, Creative Arts and Personal Development, Health and Physical Education. Some schools may have the addition of Religious Education as their seventh KLA. All these KLA’s need to be assessed by a child’s teacher and a child is given a grade for each of these KLA’s on their reports.

2. Time allocation for each KLA

KLAsSchools are restricted to how much time they can allocate to the teaching of each KLA. Teachers must assess each child for each KLA in the allocated time per week. In Primary school the time allocations are; English (25%-35%), Mathematics (20%), Science (6%-10%), HSIE (6%-10%), Creative Arts (6%-10%), PDHPE (6%-10%) and additional time for Religious Education, assemblies etc (up to 20%). As a general guide 6%-10% is usually 1.5 - 2.5hrs in a typical teaching week. Many infant classes use combined units to incorporate a few KLA’s in the one learning experience.

3. Stages in Primary Education

children readingThere are 4 stages in Primary Education. Early Stage 1 is Kindergarten, Stage 1 is Years 1-2, Stage 2 is Years 3-4 and Stage 3 is Years 5-6. There are many different types of schools within NSW. Some schools operate in year groups and some schools operate in stage groups. Some schools operate in single classrooms while others have open learning (a few classes work in their own space in a large room). All students are different and they thrive differently in different environments. All schools are bound by the same curriculum, time allocation for teaching each KLA and grading responsibilities, however, schools can chose the best way to deliver the teaching and learning experiences to their students.

4. Outcomes

teacher assessingEach KLA has outcomes that address a particular concept in the area of study that is related to what stage level the child is at. Teachers assess whether a child has not achieved, achieved or has gone beyond each outcome at the particular stage of each KLA. A teacher must look at the child’s achievement across all the outcomes in a KLA that have been taught and then communicate that to the parent and child in the form of a grade for that KLA. An example of a Kindergarten outcome in Mathematics is “Counts to 30, and orders, reads and represents numbers in the range 0 to 20”

5. Kindergarten grading

reading 1Kindergarten is the only grade in Primary school that does not have “Grades”. Teachers generally communicate a child’s achievement in relation to them achieving an outcome or working towards an outcome. This is their first year at “formal schooling” and being it is its own stage, grading does not commence until the children move into Stage 1.

6. What does a “C” mean?

Grade AThis is an area that causes the most stress to parents as the meanings of grades have changed a lot since they went to school. Most parents want their child to receive an “A” but many parents do not realise how difficult it really is to receive an “A”. A “C” is given to a student who is meeting all the requirements of that stage level. They are able to work efficiently in the classroom and achieve all benchmarks at that stage. Most students, as a result, will receive a “C”. Even though some parents are not happy with their child’s “C” for a KLA, it actually informs them that their child is doing exactly what they are meant to be doing.

7. How a teacher grades

assessmentsGrading is not an easy task. Many students can be on the border line of two grades. Two students could receive a “C” for a KLA but one could actually be a high C (nearly a B) and the other could be a low C (just higher than a D). Even though each grade could have such a big spectrum this is not written on the report. A teacher must use all the assessments completed, written evidence in work books and their own observations to give one grade for an entire KLA. They must look at everything that has been taught during the Semester and the contribution that the child has made to group tasks, individual tasks, projects and class discussions to get an overall achievement level.

8. Student’s strengths

littleboyParents may find a grade unjust for their child if their child may be particularly gifted in an area of that KLA. For example, If a child is a particularly gifted skier and they receive a “C” for PDHPE, their parent may believe that this grade is not a reflection of their child. What the parent does not realise, is that within each KLA there are many strands that need to be taught. In PDHPE there are several strands. All health modules, Dance, Gymnastics, Games and Sports, and Active Lifestyle. This child may be gifted in Skiing but that is only one sport out of many that may or may not be taught within the school. They may achieve at a “normal” level with all other sports and their understanding of the theory component associated to PDHPE, so their average grade for all areas of PDHPE is a “C”. This is reflected in all KLA’s.

9. Report Comments

ParentsreadingReport comments can be particularly difficult for a teacher. They are restricted by how many characters they can write and also how they are allowed to describe different learning attributes of a student. The best advice I have for parents is LISTEN in your parent-teacher interviews. This is a time where teachers can go into more detail about your child and show you examples of your child’s work. They can suggest specific activities you could do at home with your child that targets your child’s area of weakness. Always attend the parent-teacher interviews as they usually offer so much more information than a grade on a paper.

10. Working out a plan

parentteacherPrior to reading a child’s report, a parent generally has a good idea of their child’s academic ability. If you have concerns about your child’s rate of development and reading their report supports your thoughts, speak to the child’s class teacher about it. Just because a child is struggling it does not always mean that they will struggle for the rest of their educational journey. Work out a plan with your child’s teacher about the next steps that you or the school will undertake to identify what your child’s additional learning needs may be. This could include going to a GP, having a speech or hearing assessment or having an observation survey completed by an OT or specialised teacher. Early intervention is the key, so the earlier you identify the extra needs of your child, the more success your child will have. Always book a date for the next meeting with the teacher in order to discuss what has been completed since the previous meeting.

Grades of an A,B,C, D or E enables parents to have a small insight into the academic abilities of their child. Teachers encourage parents to not use grades as the only way to judge their child’s success at school. They need to also think about their child’s social and emotional development as a factor in assessing a child’s “success” at school.

If your child has special needs and you and their teacher believes that “no benefit” will come from your child reading all “E’s” in their report, you can request to have a report with no grades and just comments. The special need’s teacher at your school can offer more information about this idea.

Reports cause a lot of stress for children, parents and teachers. Always remember to use reports as a way of starting communication with your child about their strengths and weaknesses at school. Try not to compare their grades with their peers or with other siblings. Use it to get your child to set some academic goals they want to achieve before the end of next Semester.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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Early intervention matters: Gross motor skills

Welcome to my second blog in the series “Early intervention matters”. In this blog I look at the importance of gross motor skills and how to ensure children are meeting the required milestones.

imgresMany children in school have poor gross motor skills. Children today, are not engaging in as much outside play compared to twenty years ago. They are not given the same opportunities that we were given to develop gross motor skills. It is quite scary that many children in Kindergarten are unable to catch a ball, balance on one foot or walk up and down stairs confidently.

Even though children may have underdeveloped gross motor skills due to lack of experience, there are many children that have underdeveloped gross motor skills due to a muscle condition. It is important to have an assessment with a paediatric physiotherapist if you or your child’s teacher are concerned with their gross motor skills.

imgres-2According to “Therapies for Kids” Paediatric Physiotherapists are movement specialists for babies, children and adolescents. It is a clinical area of physiotherapy that aims to improve a child’s movement abilities through the use of methods such as movement training, strengthening, exercise, stretching, adapted equipment, motor learning and play as well as education.

Should you be worried about your child?

Below is a list of gross motor skills that children of a particular age should achieve before starting school. If your child is unable to perform any of these skills by the end of their first year of school you should see a paediatric physiotherapist to check that there are no developmental concerns.

3 year olds

  • able to climb jungle gyms and ladders
  • walks up and down stairs with alternating feet
  • catches an object by using their body
  • able to walk on their tip toes
  • able to pedal on a tricycle
  • stand on one foot
  • jump with two feet
  • walks forward and backwards on a line

4 year olds

  • stands on one foot for at least 5 seconds
  • able to hop on one foot at least 3 times
  • jumps over an object and lands with 2 feet
  • runs around obstacles
  • easily catch, bounce, throw and kick a ball
  • get dressed with little assistance
  • running is more controlled (stop and start on demand)

5 year olds

  • walk up and down stairs while holding something
  • hangs from a bar for 5 seconds
  • skips on alternate feet
  • jump over a skipping rope
  • do somersaults
  • walk on a balance beam
  • catches a small ball with hands only

imgres-1Children need many opportunities to develop their gross motor skills. This can be done through organised, structured play like team sports or unstructured play like climbing playground equipment or a tree. Parents will need to realise that there is always a chance that your child will get hurt while playing, but underdeveloped gross motor skills will certainly increase the chance of your child having a more serious injury in their future.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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Early Intervention Matters: Speech and Language Development

Welcome to my new blog series “Early Intervention Matters”. Through this series I will look at all the different services available for children and how each can make a big impact on a child. Each blog will have a different focus and will give useful information about which children would benefit from the particular intervention.

Early intervention is so important for children. It enables the child to start targeted therapy to work on skills that are underdeveloped. It is essential that parents work closely with day-care teachers and preschool teachers to establish if there are any concerns with their child. If in doubt, get them assessed by a professional. Children under the age of 6 are high priority for all paediatric speech pathologists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

images-1In this first blog, I will focus on the importance of addressing speech and language development concerns. A lot of children begin primary school with a communication delay that has been undiagnosed. They may have trouble with their speech with includes their articulation or phonological skills, their fluency or their voice. They may have trouble with their language, which could include understanding others (receptive) or expressing themselves.

If there are any concerns with your child’s speech or language development, teachers will immediately request for an assessment to be conducted by a speech pathologist. There are a variety of assessments that can be done and depending on the findings, children can be “funded” to get extra support in the classroom. Unfortunately, most parents are in denial and do not want their child “labelled” with a diagnosis. Speech and Language issues are extremely undiagnosed because parents do not get their child assessed early and therefore their child will struggle in a formal school setting.

According to the American Speech – Language- Hearing Association the three goals of speech and language early intervention are:

1) Prevention: to hinder the occurrence of a communication disorder or delay by providing Early Intervention (EI) services to at-risk children and their families before an official diagnosis of a communication disorder is made.

2) Remediation: to provide EI services to children and their families who have already been diagnosed with a communication disorder or delay to decrease the long term occurrence or adverse impact that the communication disorder could possibly have on children later in life.

3) Compensation: to provide effective and functional communication strategies or intervention to children and their families with disabilities or impairment that is irreversible to increase the children’s quality of life.

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Does your child who is aged between 5 to 12 years old need to be seen by a speech pathologist? Look at the list below to see if your child is able to do these specific skills at each age. (This milestone checklist has been compiled by the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association) If they can not do some of these, most teachers will strongly recommend a speech and language assessment.

 5 – 6 Years old

 Listening

  • Follow 1-2 simple directions in a sequence
  • Listen to and understand age-appropriate stories read aloud
  • Follow a simple conversation

Speaking

  • Be understood by most people
  • Answer simple “yes/no” questions
  • Answer open-ended questions (e.g., “What did you have for lunch today?”)
  • Retell a story or talk about an event
  • Participate appropriately in conversations
  • Show interest in and start conversations

Reading

  • Know how a book works (e.g., read from left to right and top to bottom in English)
  • Understand that spoken words are made up of sounds
  • Identify words that rhyme (e.g., cat and hat)
  • Compare and match words based on their sounds
  • Understand that letters represent speech sounds and match sounds to letters
  • Identify upper- and lowercase letters
  • Recognise some words by sight
  • “Read” a few picture books from memory
  • Imitate reading by talking about pictures in a book

Writing

  • Print own first and last name
  • Draw a picture that tells a story and label and write about the picture
  • Write upper- and lowercase letters (may not be clearly written)
  • Beginning to write simple sentences

6 – 7 Years old

Listening

  • Remember information
  • Respond to instructions
  • Follow 2-3 step directions in a sequence

Speaking

  • Be easily understood
  • Answer more complex “yes/no” questions
  • Tell and retell stories and events in a logical order
  • Express ideas with a variety of complete sentences
  • Use most parts of speech (grammar) correctly
  • Ask and respond to “wh” questions (who, what, where, when, why)
  • Stay on topic and take turns in conversation
  • Give directions
  • Start conversations

Reading

  • Create rhyming words
  • Identify all sounds in short words
  • Blend separate sounds to form words
  • Match spoken words with print
  • Know how a book works (e.g., read from left to right and top to bottom in English)
  • Identify letters, words, and sentences
  • Sound out words when reading
  • Have a sight vocabulary of 100 common words
  • Read grade-level material fluently
  • Understand what is read

Writing

  • Express ideas through writing
  • Print clearly
  • Spell frequently used words correctly
  • Begin each sentence with capital letters and use ending punctuation
  • Write a variety of stories, journal entries, or letters/notes

7 – 8 Years old

Listening

  • Follow 3-4 oral directions in a sequence
  • Understand direction words (e.g., location, space, and time words)
  • Correctly answer questions about a grade-level story

Speaking

  • Be easily understood
  • Answer more complex “yes/no” questions
  • Ask and answer “wh” questions (e.g., who, what, where, when, why)
  • Use increasingly complex sentence structures
  • Clarify and explain words and ideas
  • Give directions with 3-4 steps
  • Use oral language to inform, to persuade, and to entertain
  • Stay on topic, take turns, and use appropriate eye contact during conversation
  • Open and close conversation appropriately

Reading

  • Have fully mastered phonics/sound awareness
  • Associate speech sounds, syllables, words, and phrases with their written forms
  • Recognise many words by sight
  • Use meaning clues when reading (e.g., pictures, titles/headings, information in the story)
  • Reread and self-correct when necessary
  • Locate information to answer questions
  • Explain key elements of a story (e.g., main idea, main characters, plot)
  • Use own experience to predict and justify what will happen in grade-level stories
  • Read, paraphrase/retell a story in a sequence
  • Read grade-level stories, poetry, or dramatic text silently and aloud with fluency
  • Read spontaneously
  • Identify and use spelling patterns in words when reading

Writing

  • Write legibly
  • Use a variety of sentence types in writing essays, poetry, or short stories (fiction and nonfiction)
  • Use basic punctuation and capitalisation appropriately
  • Organise writing to include beginning, middle, and end
  • Spell frequently used words correctly
  • Progress from inventive spelling (e.g., spelling by sound) to more accurate spelling

8 - 9 Years old

Listening

  • Listen attentively in group situations
  • Understand grade-level material

Speaking

  • Speak clearly with an appropriate voice
  • Ask and respond to questions
  • Participate in conversations and group discussions
  • Use subject-related vocabulary
  • Stay on topic, use appropriate eye contact, and take turns in conversation
  • Summarise a story accurately
  • Explain what has been learned

Reading

  • Demonstrate full mastery of basic phonics
  • Use word analysis skills when reading
  • Use clues from language content and structure to help understand what is read
  • Predict and justify what will happen next in stories and compare and contrast stories
  • Ask and answer questions regarding reading material
  • Use acquired information to learn about new topics
  • Read grade-level books fluently (fiction and nonfiction)
  • Reread and correct errors when necessary

Writing

  • Plan, organise, revise, and edit
  • Include details in writing
  • Write stories, letters, simple explanations, and brief reports
  • Spell simple words correctly, correct most spelling independently, and use a dictionary to correct spelling
  • Write clearly in cursive

9 – 10 Years old

Listening

  • Listen to and understand information presented by others
  • Form opinions based on evidence
  • Listen for specific purposes

Speaking

  • Use words appropriately in conversation
  • Use language effectively for a variety of purposes
  • Understand some figurative language (e.g., “I’m on fire!)
  • Participate in group discussions
  • Give accurate directions to others
  • Summarise and restate ideas
  • Organise information for clarity
  • Use subject area information and vocabulary (e.g., social studies) for learning
  • Make effective oral presentations

Reading

  • Read for specific purposes
  • Read grade-level books fluently
  • Use previously learned information to understand new material
  • Follow written directions
  • Take brief notes
  • Link information learned to different subjects
  • Learn meanings of new words through knowledge of word origins, synonyms, and multiple meanings
  • Use reference materials (e.g., dictionary)
  • Explain the author’s purpose and writing style
  • Read and understand a variety of types of literature, including fiction, nonfiction, historical fiction, and poetry
  • Compare and contrast in content areas
  • Make inferences from texts
  • Paraphrase content, including the main idea and details

Writing

  • Write effective stories and explanations, including several paragraphs about the same topic
  • Develop a plan for writing, including a beginning, middle, and end
  • Organise writing to convey a central idea
  • Edit final copies for grammar, punctuation, and spelling

10 – 11 Years old

Listening

  • Listen and draw conclusions in subject area learning activities

Speaking

  • Make planned oral presentations appropriate to the audience
  • Maintain eye contact and use gestures, facial expressions, and appropriate voice during group presentations
  • Participate in class discussions across subject areas
  • Summarise main points
  • Report about information gathered in group activities

Reading

  • Read grade-level books fluently
  • Learn meanings of unfamiliar words through knowledge of root words, prefixes, and suffixes
  • Prioritise information according to the purpose of reading
  • Read a variety of literary forms
  • Describe development of character and plot
  • Describe characteristics of poetry
  • Analyse author’s language and style
  • Use reference materials to support opinions

Writing

  • Write for a variety of purposes
  • Use vocabulary effectively
  • Vary sentence structure
  • Revise writing for clarity
  • Edit final copies

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One of the limitations of many speech therapy services is the availability and flexibility of appointment times. Many parents find it difficult to juggle work, school and other commitments to make an appointment. We need services that can adapt to the ever changing society that we now live. A few speech pathology services are trying to be more flexible to allow more children to have access to this service.

“Modern Speechie” offers one of these services. It is an innovative and personalised speech pathology service operating in the Inner West of Sydney. It is a mobile service where sessions are conducted within the child’s home, child care or school setting. This enables the speech pathologist to tailor the best service that meets the needs of each child and their family. Sessions are available on the weekend; which is a big bonus for many families. To contact them directly you can go to their website http://www.modernspeechie.com.au/ or visit their Facebook page.

I hope in reading this blog, you realise the importance of early intervention for speech and language development for children. The next blog will focus on the service that paediatric physiotherapy can offer families.

Knowing this information is important for parents so please share the link so everyone can be well informed.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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10 Facts About Primary School Homework That All Parents Should Know.

Welcome to my next blog in my new series “Current issues a primary school teacher faces”. In this blog I focus on homework from the perspective of a teacher and convey 10 of my concerns with homework which many parents may not be aware of.

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Homework tasks are varied a lot between schools. Some schools have policies regarding how much homework is given while others are dependent on the classroom teacher. There may be set tasks for the week or fortnight for all classes in the grade or each class might operate quite separately. Whatever the set up, most teachers share the same concerns regarding it. Below is a list of 10 concerns that I have as a teacher that I would like to share with you all.

1. Homework is given to satisfy parents

Most parents still believe that the education system is the same as what it was when they went to school. They are happy with what they learnt at school and hope that their child gets the same type of education that they did. With anything, as time goes on, things change as we begin to know more about that subject. We know so much more about the optimum learning environments and how children learn compared to ten years ago. I do not believe that traditional homework fits into our new understanding about children’s learning. Some parents however, still want homework as they believe it is an important aspect of education.

2. Marking homework takes precious time away from the learning.

If homework is set, the expectation is that it should be marked. If children have spent time working on something that the teacher has given, it is only right that the teacher sights it. When does the teacher do this? There are two ways that this usually is done. Either as a whole class or after school has finished. I see a problem with both, to be honest. If it is marked during class time, it cuts into the precious learning time of the students. If it is done after school, it cuts into precious planning time of the teacher. Teachers need this valuable time to ensure that the next learning experiences in their classrooms are meaningful and targeted to their students’ needs.

3. Homework can not be targeted to each child

Teachers can not be expected to set homework tasks that are specific to each child. The learning experiences that are specific to each child are done in the classroom under the instruction of the teacher. Many homework tasks are quite pointless to some children as they find the tasks too easy or too difficult. What is the point of homework in the model of “one size suits all”?

4. Parents requesting more homework

Children in today’s primary school work harder than ever before. Every minute needs to be accounted for. I find it hard to fathom that parents request more homework when their child is already working a 6 hour day, completing many after school activities and completing set homework tasks. When do the children have time to play outside in an unstructured format or help with the family chores?

5. Homework can turn into busy work

Homework tasks tend to be revision of learnt concepts. Revision is important if it has a purpose. EG Need to know multiplication facts to answer a mathematics problem. If children are churning through pages and pages of information for no real meaningful purpose they will forget the information as quick as they have learnt it.

5. The relationship with the learning inside the classroom

Many parents believe that homework gives an insight into what is happening in the classroom. This may be true in some cases but most tasks are set due to them being easy to mark, the child can complete it independently and the tasks can be completed within 30 minutes. I believe parents can support the learning that is happening in the classroom through better, more meaningful ways. Borrow a novel that you can read with your child, that has content related to what they are learning about or take them on your own excursion on the weekend to a place that will support the topic they are learning about. Most teachers give out a term overview so you will know ahead of time what they will be focusing on.

6. Homework for the whole family

I have heard of many parents expressing their hatred when it comes to homework. The main reason is because it causes so much stress in their family due to the child not wanting to do it or the child getting frustrated with a parent because they cant understand what to do or the lack of time to complete homework. Is this really the atmosphere we want in our homes at night after not seeing each other all day? What benefit is homework really bringing to the families of our students?

 7. What is important for homework

Children need to be encouraged to read and have a love of learning. If your child is particularly interested in a topic, they will develop more skills by conducting their own research into it then completing set tasks that are not linked with anything else. If your child is having difficulty with a concept, consider how to make the learning experience meaningful and your child will develop quickly. Your child needs to have a variety of experiences. This is what should be important.

8. Question the amount of homework

As a teacher I would LOVE parents to come and negotiate the amount of homework given to their child. Schools generally have a basic format per grade that satisfies parents and teachers. Discussing the amount of homework in Primary school gives you more control about how your child will be set up for the year. I believe reading every night and working on a personal project should be enough for all 5 - 12 year olds.

9. Preparing for Highschool

Many parents want their child to have a lot of homework in the upper grades in order to prepare them for high school. We need to think about what is the purpose of education. Is it to always be preparing for the next stage of education or developing children’s concepts in the present? We need to give children plenty of opportunities to develop their own skills and understanding of the world and I do not believe that a large amount of homework supports this notion.

10. Let the teachers do the teaching

Time and time again I hear parents complaining about not knowing how to teach a particular concept to their child that has come up in their homework, as the method that they have been taught at school is no longer focused on in the 21st century classroom. Although homework should be revision, many children still need parents to help answer tasks. As a teacher, I would prefer to set reading tasks and a special project that the child is interested in for homework and leave the teaching to me in the classroom.

Many teachers view homework differently. I believe it is time that parents take a stand against ridiculously large amounts of homework that does not benefit their child. As a teacher and parent I worry about the busyness of our lives and I want children to be able to be children. They have their whole lives to be adults so why are we pushing so much onto them at a young age. Let us focus on giving our children meaningful learning experiences and not piles and piles of busy work.

I would love everyone to share my blog to encourage parents and teachers to ensure that our children have time to be children.

Please leave your comments as I would love to hear your thoughts on homework in primary school.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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15 Ways To Learn Fractions, Decimals and Percentages

Welcome to the final blog in the series “How to help your older child”. In this blog we look at the world of fractions, decimals and percentages.

As children get older, it seems like it is a habit to remove equipment and games from teaching Mathematics. I strongly believe that as children get older it is more important to have resources and meaningful learning experiences to keep students engaged in more complex thinking and more difficult concepts. How do we achieve this? The answer needs to be by making the learning fun, interesting and important to the world of the child.

Unfortunately the teaching of fractions, decimals and percentages usually goes hand in hand with the use of worksheets and text books. Does this constitute as fun, interesting and meaningful to the child? Create a love of mathematics not a learning experience that is dreaded, with a child who is full of anxiety and an area they have no success at. (Think about your experience of Mathematics at school. Do you have a love for the subject? What engaging methods did your teachers use to help you understand mathematical concepts? - if any)

Some Facts About Teaching Fractions, Decimals and Percentages

  • Try to teach them together so the child realises the relationship between all of them
  • When reading a fraction always use the correct terminology eg 6/8 should be read as six eighths, not six over eight
  • When reading decimals always use the correct terminology eg 0.43 should be read as 43 hundredths, not zero point four three
  • Use equipment to show parts of a whole
  • Fractions, decimals and percentages need to be taught as part of a whole and part of many. (eg Part of a whole - cutting up one orange and Part of many - how many of one colour lolly in a packet of colourful lollies)

Please find below a list of 15 games that children can play to develop their concepts about Fractions, Decimals and Percentages.

1. Chalk pictures

chalk fractionsChildren draw a variety of shapes and divide them up into equal sections. Once they have divided up a shape equally they can colour some parts and say the fraction, decimal and percentage relating to their drawing.




2. Play-dough

PlaydoughfractionsChildren make shapes with play-dough and use a plastic knife to divide the shape into equal parts. Once they have divided it up equally they can remove some parts and explain using fractions, decimals and percentages terminology how much they have taken and how much they have left.

3. Fraction Bingo

fraction bingoMake up a bingo card with different representations of fractions. All players have a different bingo card. All the fraction cards are placed in a bag and the caller picks one at a time out. The caller reads the fraction out and players cover up the relevant fraction if it appears on their board. First player with all their fraction pictures covers calls out bingo and becomes the winner.

4. Fraction picture

fraction pictureChildren can make a picture (eg ice-cream bowl) with a variety of colours/flavours. After they complete it, they must describe the amount of colours using the fractions, decimals and percentage terminology. EG 20% of my ice-cream is chocolate or two fifths of my ice-cream is chocolate. (start with objects out of 10 to make it easier)

5. Colour fractions

colourfulfractionsGet your child to cut five equal paper strips using a different colour for each. They can then cut each one up in different ways ensuring that each section of the strip is equal. They can cut one strip in half, one in thirds, one in quarters, one in fifths etc. Let them experiment with more strips. They can paste them all next to each other to help them understand equivalent fractions. EG, A half is the same as two quarters.

6. Clothesline

fractionslineCut up some cardboard and write a variety of fractions, decimals and percentages on them. Give them to your child and see if they can peg them up on string from lowest to highest. They may need to peg some underneath each other to show that they are the same. This will help them with transferring their knowledge to a number line.

7. Puzzles

FDPpuzzlesHave children create their own puzzles that match the same fraction, decimal or percentage together. They may even make up a few and give it to somebody else to put back together.

 

 

8. Bottle caps

FDPmatchingcapsWrite a variety of fractions, decimals and percentage on the back of bottle caps. Hide all the caps around the room or house. Your child must find all caps (make sure you tell your child how many there are) and then pair up caps that mean the same thing. EG two quarters and 50%.

9. Dominoes

fdpdominoesCreate fractions, decimals and percentages dominoes out of cardboard. Children need to put the dominoes next to each other that mean the same.

 

10. Deck of cards

FDPdeckofcardsMake your own set of playing cards but use fractions, decimals or percentages. Get children to play go fish or memory or pairs with these cards. This will help children to read the fraction, decimal or percentage properly.

 

11. Expanded decimals

decimalexpanderMake up a variety of decimals using tenths, hundredths and thousandths. Pick a colour for each place value, EG Tenths are green. Get your child to select 2 or 3 cards - they must be different colours. Put them together and read the decimal. Take them apart and start again.

12. Decimal cups

DecimalcupsUsing styrofoam cups, write numbers 0-10 around the rim. One cup will need to have a decimal point. One person calls out a decimal eg 3 and 23 hundredths. The child must make this using the cups.

13. Ordering decimals

orderingdecimalsHave a variety of decimal numbers written. Children can work independently or in pairs to order the numbers from smallest to largest. They could work out where each number would go on a number line and use equipment to represent the decimal.

14. Food bag

foodpercentPut a variety of coloured lollies in a mystery bag. The child tips out the contents of the bag and groups matching colours together. They could then describe the bag using fractions, decimals and percentages.

15. Plastic eggs

FDPeggmatchUse a plastic egg that can be separated in half. Write a fraction, decimal or percentage on one half and a matching one on the other. Do this for as many eggs that you have. Take all the eggs apart, mix them up and get your child to match the correct ones together.

Hopefully these 15 games will help your children to be engaged and enthusiastic towards learning fractions, decimals and percentages. Knowing the relationship between them all, will help children solve mathematical problems.

Please share this blog if you have found it insightful and if you believe it offers practical information that your can implement at home or in the classroom. Remember to email a copy of it to yourself for reference later on.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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20 Great Ways To Learn Multiplication Facts - Times Tables

Welcome to my second blog in my new series focusing on how to support the older child in Primary school. In this blog I share 20 great ways that can help children learn multiplication facts, or more commonly known as times tables.

Let me point out from the beginning, that before helping your child to remember multiplication facts, it is essential that they have an understanding of the concept of multiplication. Multiplication and division can be taught together as they are the opposite operations of each other. Children need to experience both operations together to gain a deep knowledge about the idea of multiplying and dividing.

It is important to expose your child to a variety of terms relating to multiplication so they have a greater vocabulary when it comes to mathematics. Below are examples of two concepts that can be used in multiplication problems.

“Groups of”

applesThis is when objects are placed in groups. You can multiply the amount of objects in one group by the amount of groups.




“Rows of”

imagesThis is when objects are placed in rows. You can multiply the amount of objects in one row by the amount of rows.

Children need to understand the both concepts above as well as knowing the terms multiply, times, product (answer to a multiplication problem) and factors (the numbers that are multiplied together).

Here are some strategies that your child may use to work out a multiplication problem (3 x 5=) before the facts become known. These are the strategies taught in younger years.

1. Repeated addition : 5 + 5 + 5 = 15   or   3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 15

2. Skip count: 5, 10, 15      or       3, 6, 9, 12, 15

3. Use a times table chart

4. Draw a picture  imgres-1

5. Draw an array

imgres

 

 

 

Once the child has a clear understanding of multiplication, it is then time to learn all their facts. Most teachers set a particular times table per week that the children must revise. Below is a list of 20 ways to help children remember multiplication facts.

1. Memory Game

memoryWrite a multiplication question on one card and the answer on another. Do this for as many facts as you want. Turn all the cards over and your child needs to find the matching cards.

 

2. Nine times table trick up to times by ten.

9xtablesHave your child put all their fingers up. If the question is 9 x 6, they put their sixth finger down. The answer is shown on their fingers. The amount of fingers in front of the finger that is down is the tens number and the amount of fingers after the finger that is down is the ones number. Therefore the answer is 54.

3. Dominoes

dominoesTurn all the dominoes over. Take turns flipping the dominoes over and multiplying the two numbers. You can make it harder by flipping one domino over and adding the dots together and turning over another domino and adding those dots together. Then you could multiply the two higher numbers together.

4. Multiplication jumping

jumponanswerHave all the answers of a particular times table set (eg 5 times tables) written on different cards (or the facts that your child struggles with remembering). Spread them out on the floor. Call out a multiplication question, eg 5 x 6 and the child has to quickly find the answer and jump on it.

5. Dice roll

GridpaperPrint off some grid paper or use grid paper from a maths book. Roll two dice and draw the rectangle or square on the grid paper. Your child then writes the multiplication fact and answer inside the shape.

6. Egg Carton Multiplication

EggcartongameWrite the numbers one to twelve in each hole of an empty egg carton. Put two objects inside the carton and close the lid. Shake the egg carton up and open it. The child says the multiplication question and answer depending on what hole the objects are in. Eg 4 x 3 = 12

7. Karate belts

karatebeltsGet your child to pretend they are a multiplication ninja. In order to get their new belt they must be able to answer all their multiplication facts set on that particular belt. All the multiplication facts for a set (eg 7 times tables) must be in random order to avoid the child just skip counting.

8. Groups of

groupsofRoll the dice and record the multiplication fact using a “groups of” representation. They could do the same for a “rows of” representation (also known as an array).

 

 

9. Multiplies game

multiplesMake a card with a number in the middle. On the outside of the card put lots of different numbers (some multiplies of the number and some not). Your child then uses pegs to pick all the correct multiplies. You can list the correct numbers on the back of the card.

10. Multiplication Jenga

jengaWrite multiplication questions and stick on the side of slim building blocks. Stack the blocks up (3 going one way and then the next three blocks going the other way - just like Jenga) Your child takes time to slide out one of the blocks without knocking down the tower. They need to answer the multiplication fact on the block they got out.

11. Multiplication board game

MultiboardgameMake up a board game with multiplication questions on each square. If your child lands on a square they need to answer the question before they roll for their next go.

 

 

12. Multiply cut outs

numbermultisUse large number cutouts and a texta. Your child writes all the multiplies or multiplication facts associated with that number on the inside.

 

 

13. Number fishing

numberfishingUse magnetic numbers and a string with a paper clip on it. Your child puts the “fishing line” into a bucket with the magnetic numbers and “catches” a number. They need to repeat this to get a second number. They can then multiply the two numbers together.

 14. Multiplication Bingo

images-1Each child has a bingo card with numbers that will become the answers to multiplication facts. Play the game with one child or a few children. If playing with a few, make sure they all have different bingo cards. The caller reads out a multiplication fact and if the answer in on the card, the player puts an object on it. Once all numbers on the card have objects on it, the child can call out “Bingo”.

15. Multiplication Snakes and Ladders

imgres-2Play snakes and ladders with a twist. Each square will have a multiplication fact that the child must answer before they have their next go.

 

16. Multiplication soccer

dcac1bac36106350e19e6122ea144a6dWrite numbers all over a soccer ball. The child throws the ball up and catches it. They look at which numbers their thumbs are touching and multiply them together. If they get the correct answer they can shoot the ball 2 metres from the goal post. If they get it in the goal, they move back another 2 metres and answer a new multiplication fact. The aim is to get back as far as they can. If they get the answer wrong or miss the goal, they must start again. For every correct answer they move 2 metres further away from the goal.

17. Multiplication Battle Ships

images-1Use a battle ship card that has an x and y axis with numbers on each axis. Get each player to draw some battle ships that are 1 ship that is 3 squares long, 2 ships that are 2 squares long and 3 ships that are 1 square long (altogether there would be 6 ships). Each player takes turns to try and work out where the other players ships are without looking. They ask if there is a ship at 6  x 8  position as well as saying the answer. Always start with the y axis. The player puts a counter on successful hits. Whoever sinks all the ships first is the winner.

18. Pack of cards

imagesShuffle a deck of cards and split in half. Turn over a card from each pile and multiply them together. Jacks represent 10, Queens represent 11, Kings represent 12 and Aces represent 1.

19. Multiplication Songs

images-2There are a variety of multiplication songs out there. Get your child to listen to a song for each set of times tables. You can listen to these songs through youtube or buy a CD online.

20. Multiplication with Clocks

searchGet your child to look at the clock and state the numbers that the hands are pointing to. Multiply them together and say the answer. It would be great to use a clock where a partner can turn the hands to various numbers.

Hopefully these 20 ideas will help your children to be engaged and enthusiastic towards learning their multiplication facts. Knowing multiplication facts will help children solve mathematical problems. Ensure that your children have a solid understanding of multiplication before rote learning the facts.

Please share this blog if you have found it insightful and if you believe it offers practical information that your can implement at home or in the classroom. Remember to email a copy of it to yourself for reference later on.

Until next time …timestable

Kelly Pisani

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How To Read With Your Older Child

Welcome to the first blog in my next series focusing on the older child in Primary school. There is so much information for parents and educators on how to help children in the younger grades achieve their potential but it seems to taper off when a child reaches 9 or 10 years old. In this series, I aim to give lots of practical advice and tips to help parents of children aged 9 - 12 years old to be able to support the learning which is going on in the classroom, at home.

This first blog “How to read with your older child” will outline 5 ways that parents can support the reading development of their child. All children in the middle to upper grades of Primary school are given mandatory reading each night as part of their homework task. Most parents are at a loss, as to how to support their independent reader to ensure that their child is understanding the information from their more complex texts.

Like with a younger child, the love of reading needs to be the focus. Unfortunately as children get older, support for reading at home gets less and less as parents expect that children sit and read independently without any interaction. Reading is seen as a solitary task and any difficulties the child is having may go undetected. If they find reading difficult, especially comprehending what they are reading, they will begin to dislike this task and it will cause bigger issues in the future.

A great quote I always refer to is that “comprehension, floats on conversation”. This is very true for the older child. They need many opportunities to discuss the harder themes, more difficult vocabulary and more complex sentence structure that becomes present in their harder texts they are given to read.

Below is a list of 5 activities that you could do with your child when they have the homework task of reading for a specific amount of time. They are all engaging and aim to help your child have a better understanding of what they are reading. Maybe you can try these with your child every second night.

1. The child plays the role of predicator

images-1Whether your child is about to read a new text or start a new chapter, it is very important for them to be able to predict what could happen. This skill will give you an indication of whether they understand how texts work, can use information of previous texts or chapters to guide their thoughts and to see if they are understanding the plot or themes occurring in the text.

Parent tips

  • Get your child to tell you verbally what has happened (the events) in a previous chapter and what they predict could happen next.
  • Get your child to tell you what a character has been like in previous chapters and what they predict they could be like in the next one.
  • Get your child to give you examples to back up their prediction. Eg I predict the main character will get detention for not handing in homework because in the previous chapter the teacher said that if he forgets his homework again there will be consequences.
  • After the child has read a chapter, get them to come back and let you know if their prediction was right.

2. The child plays the role of clarifier

imgres-1As the child gets older they will be exposed to more challenging texts which will have a higher level of vocabulary. It is essential that children learn the skills to be able to work out what a word means by the context that it is in. A dictionary can also play a role, but we want the child to problem solve first and use it to check what they think.

Parent tips

  • Give your child a sticky note and get them to write down three words or phrases that they find difficult in the text while reading. After reading for the specified time, get your child to tell you the words/phrases. Encourage them to read the paragraph aloud to you that contains the difficult word or phrase and get them to have a go at explaining what it could be.
  • Get your child to try and put any difficult words in their own sentences to see if they understand what it means.
  • Have your child think of synonyms (words that mean the same) that the author could have used instead. Have a discussion with them as to why the author may have chosen that word. Eg despised instead of not liked.
  • Discuss any issues or difficult topics that may have come up during the chapter. It could be the emotions associated with a character dealing with a situation eg bullying, death, sickness, loneliness. Get your child to see the situation from a variety of character perspectives. A parent could ask them, why do you think the character acted like that?

3. The child plays the role of Questioner

Unknown-2Being able to ask a “good” question will give you an understanding of the comprehension skills of your child. A child needs to be able to ask questions that require a deeper understanding to answer them. Asking the right questions in life will indicate that the child knows his/her weakness and can get clarification to keep developing their understanding. Starting questions with “how” and “why” will encourage this deeper understanding.

Parent tips

  • Get your child to read a chapter aloud to you. After that, get them to read it again independently. They can then form 2 or 3 questions about the plot, issues or characters that start with how or why. Have a discussion about the chapter using the questions as a focus.
  • Encourage your child to research about a particular issue or topic that may come up in the text, relating to a question they have. Eg finding out more information about conditions in the depression that might impact of what people did to survive. This research could come about from a question like “Why did the main character steal a loaf of bread, when he knew he could go to gaol?
  • Encourage your child to ask two questions about why an author has used a particular format or character to convey a message. Eg Why does the author use diary entries in the book? Have a discussion about how authors have their own perspective and that impacts on how the text is written.
  • You can also answer their questions by referring to the text to show your child how you need to use what is written and your understanding about the world to form your answer.

4. The child plays the role of Summariser

imgresA child needs to be about to summarise the main points or events that occur in their text. They need to understand what is important and how it contributes to the purpose of the text.

 

Parent tips

  • Get your child to retell what they just read. Ensure that they give you lots of information as you have not read it.
  • Get your child to write a summary of the text that they have read that is less than 60 words. (a, is, I count as words). This will help them to become more succinct.
  • Get your child to explain the changes in a particular character during that chapter. Ensure they tell you how and why they have changed. Ask them how they are like that character and how they are unlike that character.
  • Get your child to tell you the purpose of that chapter or text. Why does the author include it or write about it. Your child needs to give evidence from the text justifying why they think that.

5. The child plays the role of Applier

imagesA child needs to be able to understand what they have read and use this knowledge to apply it to another aspect of their lives. This is a very difficult concept as it requires two steps for children to undertake.

Parent tips

  • After your child has read the chapter or entire text get them to write down 2 new facts they have learnt that they did not know before. Get them to share their discoveries with you.
  • Get your child to suggest ways that they can use their new understanding in their own lives. (eg Cyber bullying is a really big problem now - The child says to protect themselves from it they will not go on the internet after 8pm to reduce the risk)
  • Have a discussion with your child about issues that have come up in the text and how to solve problems if they do arise.

All Primary school children need to be engaged in three different reading experiences. The three experiences are modelled, guided and independent. When a child gets older (9-12 years old), they tend to be only involved in independent reading at home. We need to ensure as parents and educators, to give as many modelled and guided reading opportunities as possible to lay a really strong foundation of reading skills. Older children still need to hear adults read, as they will hear the fluency and reading strategies needed for more challenging texts. Read a variety of texts aloud to your child as much as possible. Continue to get your older child to read to you now and again and praise them for their developing comprehension skills.

I hope this blog has given you some practical ideas on how to continue to guide your child’s reading skills when they are older. Please continue to share, comment and spread the word about CREATING A LEARNING ENVIRONMENT. I really appreciate all your support and feedback.

Until next time …readwitholderchild

Kelly Pisani

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10 science experiments every child should experience

science experimentsWelcome to my next blog in the holiday series. In this post I focus on the value of children conducting science experiments at home and in the classroom.

Science is a key learning area that is not taught well in Australian primary schools compared to other countries. Maybe this is the result of many teachers not having a deep understanding about scientific concepts or that parents place a higher emphasis on numeracy and literacy concepts. Regardless of the reason, it is our role as educators and parents to ensure that children are having the opportunity to conduct a variety of science experiments which will help them form a strong understanding about the world around them.

I have put together a list of 10 inexpensive science experiments that can be conducted at home by children from the ages of 3 - 12 years old. Try one or all of them with your child and see your child develop their knowledge about a specific scientific concept.

1. Water movement experiment

Water movement

Materials needed: Cabbage leaves, containers, water, food dye

Concept taught: Osmosis (diffusion of water through cells) Plants rely on osmosis to move water from the roots to the tallest part of the plant.

 

1. Pour an equal amount of water into a few containers

2. Put a few drops of different coloured food dye in each container

3. Put a large cabbage leaf in each container

4. Observe cabbage leaves over a 2 week period

2. Rock Candy experiment

rock candyMaterials needed: 2-3 cups of sugar, 1 cup of water, jars, candy flavouring, food colouring, skewers, large saucepan, pegs

Concepts taught: Learning about solutes and solvents. The solute (sugar) is mixed with a solvent (water) to make a super saturated solution. After taking the solution off the heat, the sugar will begin to crystallise.

1. Dissolve a cup of sugar in a cup of water over heat in a saucepan.

2. Slowly add more and more sugar until no more will dissolve. (the water will look cloudy)

3. Take the saucepan off the heat and add the candy flavouring if desired and allow solution to cool.

4. Cut the skewers to the right length, soak the end in water and roll the end of the skewer in sugar. Allow the sticks to dry completely.

5. Pour sugar solution equally into jars. You can add a few drops of different food colouring dyes to each jar.

6. Put a dried sugar coated skewer in each jar and secure with a peg. Make sure that the skewer is not touching any part of the jar.

7. Observe skewers over 2 weeks. (The children can eat the rock candy when the experiment is over)

3. Plant maze experiment

PlantgrowingMaterials needed: shoe box, extra cardboard, scissors, broad bean plant

Concept taught: Plants need light to grow. Plants grow towards the light.

 

 

1. Cut a small hole at one end of the shoe box. Ensure that all other holes are taped up so only the hole you made will let light in.

2. Cut two pieces of cardboard and stick one of the left (a third of the way up and one on the right. (two thirds of the way up)

3. Stand the shoe box up ensuring the hole is up the top. Put the broad bean plant down the bottom sidewards. (ensure the broad bean plant is well watered)

4. Put the shoe box lid back on and secure with tape. Put shoe box in a sunny position near a window.

5. Open the shoe box in 4 to 5 days and observe the results.

4. Elephant toothpaste experiment

FoamMaterials needed: 1/2 a cup of 6% hydrogen peroxide, empty soft drink bottle, tray, food colouring, dishwashing liquid, warm water, yeast

 

Concept taught: Chemical reactions using a catalyst. The hydrogen peroxide breaks down into oxygen and water. The large volume of oxygen quickly explodes out of the bottle.

1. Put an empty soft drink bottle in the middle of a tray.

2. Mix the hydrogen peroxide, 3 drops of food colouring and a squirt of dishwashing liquid in the soft drink bottle.

3. In a separate container, mix 1 tsp of  yeast and 2 tbsp of warm water.

4. Pour the yeast mixture into the soft drink bottle and watch the chemical reaction.

5. Dissolving egg shells experiment

imagesMaterials needed: 4 clear cups, 4 eggs, vinegar,water

Concept taught: Acid base reactions. The vinegar is an acid and dissolves the eggshell which is made up of calcium carbonate (a base). When the acid and base react carbon dioxide is formed (seen as bubbles in the experiment)

  1. Put 1 egg in each clear cup.
  2. Add vinegar to two of the cups and water to the other two cups. (ensure each egg is submerged by the liquid in their cup)
  3. Observe the results over 7 days and compare the eggs that were covered in vinegar to the eggs covered in water.

6. Walking on eggs experiment

walkoneggsMaterials needed: many large trays of eggs, plastic sheet

Concept taught: Shapes of objects effect how pressure is distributed.

1. Put down a plastic sheet and lay a few trays of eggs together on it

2. Walk over the trays of eggs ensuring your feet are flat when walking

3. Walk over the eggs on heels or toes to see if it makes any difference

7. Lava lamp experiment

LavalampMaterials needed: One soft drink bottle, water, vegetable oil, food colouring, Alka-Seltzer tablet broken up

Concept taught: Oil and water do not mix. Oil is less dense and will stay above the water. The food colouring will drop through the oil and mix with the water. The tablet (citric acid and baking soda) releases carbon dioxide gas and the bubbles rise to the top, taking coloured water with it. When the gas is released at the top the coloured water will drop down again.

1. Fill the soft drink bottle a third of the way with water.

2. Fill the rest of the bottle with vegetable oil.

3. Add a couple of drops of food colouring into the soft drink bottle.

4. Add the broken Alka-Seltzer tablet into the soft drink bottle.

5. Observe results. When the experiment has finished, you can add another tablet to watch it again.

8. Make a thermometer

thermometerMaterials needed: 500ml jar, straw, clay, water, rubbing alcohol, food colouring, marker

Concept taught: Convection (the process of liquid expanding and contracting as a result of temperature) When a liquid is heated, it becomes less dense and expands. It will rise up on the thermometer (the straw). When the liquid is cooled, it contracts, becomes dense and goes down on the thermometer (the straw).

1. Fill up the empty jar with equal amounts of water and rubbing alcohol until it is ¼ of the way up the jar.

2. Put a few drops of food colouring in the liquid to make it easier to see.

3. Put the cap back on the jar and secure it with tape.

4. Mix up the liquid

5. Put a hole in the centre of the cap so a clear straw can fit through. (try to make the hole a similar size to the straw)

6. Make sure the straw is in the liquid but does not touch the bottom of the jar.

7. Use clay around the straw to ensure the jar is air tight and to hold the straw in position.

8. Draw a line on the jar with a marker to indicate room temperature.

9. Put the thermometer in different places to see what happens (eg direct sunlight, fridge)

9. Liquid explosion experiment

dietcokeMaterials needed: One bottle of diet coke, roll of mentos

Concept taught: The effect of carbon dioxide. Each mentos candy has lots of little pits over it, which means they have lots of great places for carbon dioxide bubbles to form. After all of the gas is released, the liquid is pushed out of the bottle at a great speed to form a big soft drink blast.

1. Stand the bottle of diet coke upright with the lid off in the middle of a large area.

2. Ensure everyone is standing clear

3. Unwrap the mentos roll and put all of them into the diet coke at the same time. (This can be quite tricky as you need them to go in very quickly)

4. Run into the safety zone and watch the reaction.

10. Bacteria/germs experiment

potato bacteria growthMaterials needed: two potatoes, zip lock bags, a variety of surfaces

Concept taught: The best surfaces for bacteria to grow. Bacteria are microscopic organisms that live everywhere. Certain conditions cause bacteria to be more prevalent than others. The importance of hygiene can be discussed after observing the results.

1. Wash hands with warm soapy water before commencing experiment.

2. Cut two potatoes into slices using a clean knife.

3. Label 8 zip lock bags with the surfaces : hands, mouth, toilet, dirt, floor, sink, bin lid, bench

4. Take one potato slice and rub it all over your hands. Once done put it in the corresponding bag and zip it up.

5. Repeat process with the other 7 surfaces.

6. Put bags in a dark warm spot for 1 - 2 weeks.

7. Observe which potato slice had the most mould as bacteria helps mould grow.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and are enthusiastic to try some of these at home or in your classroom. Science gets children to ask questions and clarify their own understanding of how our world works. For older children, encourage them to try and explain the science behind each experiment.

Next week I will be starting a blog series aimed at educators and parents of children aged 8 - 12 years old. Please continue to share, comment and spread the news about CREATING A LEARNING ENVIRONMENT.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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20 Ways To Help Your Child Learn Their Sounds

Sound Collage

Welcome to my third blog in the series “Literacy in the Primary Classroom”. In this blog I focus on how educators and parents can use games in their home and classroom to help children learn sounds successfully.




Learning the sounds that letters make in our alphabet are the building blocks to writing and reading. Children need to have a comprehensive understanding and knowledge of the relationship between the letter and the sound.  This will give them a solid foundation to learn to read and write efficiently.

Children begin learning sounds before they start primary school. They may know the sound of the letter that begins their name or the sound of a letter of their favourite toy. As you have probably already gathered from my previous blogs, I do not encourage parents and educators to only use flashcards to help a child learn a concept. Learning in context is the best way that children learn anything. It needs to mean something to the child in order for them to store the information in their brain.

Enabling your child to learn their sounds in a fun environment is pivotal to their success. There are so many quick games that the child could play independently, with a sibling or a parent which gives the child a meaningful learning environment to learn their sounds successfully.




It is important for your child to be exposed to lowercase and uppercase letters. Children need to learn that we mainly write in lower case letters and only use uppercase letters for the beginning of a sentence or beginning of a proper noun. So many children begin school writing their entire name using capital letters. Please discourage this as it is a very hard habit to break.

Once children have learnt most of the sounds of the alphabet, they need to be exposed to sounds that letters make when they are together. For example phonic blends like ch, sh, ar, ou, er and ing.

Below is a list of 20 sound games that can be played at home and at school. Not only do they give your child an opportunity to learn their sounds but they also are fun and engaging learning activities. All these games are versatile so you can use single sounds or more complicated sound patterns in the games depending of your child’s needs. 

1. Hammer sounds

HammerPut a sticker of a letter on each block of wood. Have a mystery bag that has objects that begin with each letter. Have the child put their hand into the bag without looking and pull out one object. The child needs to say the name of the object and say what letter it starts with. They can then hammer down the corresponding letter on the wood while making the letter’s sound.




2. Padlock sounds

PadlocksHave a variety of padlocks with matching keys. On each padlock, put a sticker of an object. Write the beginning letter of the object on the corresponding keys. Lock all the padlocks and put in a tub. Mix up all the keys as well. The child must look at each object, determine the starting sound and use the correct letter key to open it. Ensure that the child says the correct sound for the letter.

3. Musical sounds

musical soundsWrite all the sounds on different pieces of paper and spread around the outside of a large table. Get you child to use their finger or a toy to move around onto each letter while the music is on. When the music stops, the child must stop on that sound. They must say the name and sound of that letter (or letter pattern)

4. Plastic egg match

lettersoneggsUsing plastic eggs, write the lower case and upper case letter on each half of the egg. Take all the eggs apart and mix them up in a tub. The child can match all the correct halves back together while saying their name and sound. (There are many plastic eggs in the shops at the moment due to Easter)

5. Paper plate sounds

fb1cabdd2b26c35d78711e1baee6f9adUsing a paper plate, write all the upper case letters around the outside. Have the matching lower case letters on single pegs. The child must match all the letters/sounds together while saying the letter names and sounds.

6. Sound catch

WaterFill up a small container with water. Write the letter/sounds on ping pong balls. The child must use a net to catch a ping pong ball and say the name and sound before putting it into their fishing bucket.

7. Shaving cream tray

c563165f34fc9fc6d7b8f5431f6edbf6Fill a mini cupcake tray with shaving cream. Gently put a piece of paper on each with a letter/sound written on it. The child must say the letter sound and name before they can push the piece of paper down to the bottom of the cupcake tin. Children love squashing the shaving cream. This has always been a successful game for me.

8. Toy match

matchtoysWrite letters/sounds all over a large piece of paper. Have a collection of little toys that all begin with one of the letters/sounds on the paper. The child must put each little toy on the corresponding letter/sound while saying the name and sound of that letter.

9. Simple sound board game

17eb72ea5d54cc1397b0c5613fa95f40Make up a simple snake like board game that has all the sounds that your child is working on. Have a little toy to be the player’s piece. The child rolls the dice and moves that many spots. They must say the letter name, sound and a word that begins (or has it in if you prefer) with that sound before they can have another turn.

10. Sound Popcorn

soundpopcornWrite the letter/sound on outlines of popcorn and put them in a popcorn bag. The child needs to choose a piece of popcorn and put it on their popcorn paper template in the correct spot (or colour in or cross off) while saying the name and sound of the letter.

11. Sound water spray

waterspraysoundsUse chalk on a blackboard or pavement to write the letters/sounds that your child is working on. The child must say the correct name and sound of the letter before they can use the water spray to take it away.

12. Bulldozer sounds

bulldozersoundsMake a track for a bulldozer to go along. You can use tape, lines on a piece of paper or lines in the sand. Have the child use their bulldozer to pick up the letters/sounds along the way. They must say the letter name and sound.

13. Matching spoons

spoonsWrite all uppercase letters on the tip of coloured spoons. Write all lowercase letters on the base of clear spoons. Mix all the spoons up and the child must put the a clear spoon on top of the matching coloured spoon to make a pair. They must say the name and sound when they have formed a pair.

14. Scavenger hunt

scavenger huntHave all the letters/sounds written on separate pieces of paper. The child must search the home or classroom to find an object that starts with each letter/sound. They place the object on the letter and continue until the 10 minute time limit is up. Then they have to say all the sounds they were able to find and the ones they could not.

15. Treasure hunt

treasure huntHide letters/sounds in a sandpit or in the soil. The child must dig around to find all the hidden sound fossils. (you could write the letters on dinosaur bone shapes). The child would then say all the sounds they have found.

16. Alphabet toss

alphabettossWrite all the letters/sounds on balls or beanbags. The child picks up a ball or beanbag, says the name and sound and tries to throw it into one of the baskets in front of them.

17. Alphabet hide

alphabethideandseekWrite all the letters of the alphabet on different blocks of Duplo. Hide them around the house or classroom. The child must find them all and correctly order them in an alphabet tower. They must say the name and sound of each letter.

18. Feed the Monster

Feed-the-Alphabet-Monster-466x1000Make a monster out of an empty wipe container. Have all the letters/sounds written on pieces of paper. The child feeds the monster the letters (letters written on old bottle caps) and the monster makes the sound of the letter they are eating. The child can be the voice of the monster. Alternatively this can be a two player game. One child feeds the monster, the other is the monster who makes the sounds.

19. Dice game

dicegameMake a template similar to this image. The child rolls the dice and colours in the first sound in that row. They must say the letter name and sound. Before the game starts they need to guess which row they think will be coloured in first.

20. Sound I spy

Phonics-I-spy-discovery-bottle-game-680x915Put a variety of objects in a bottle. Write their corresponding letters on a sheet. Fill the rest of the bottle up with rice or sand. The child shakes the bottle around and when they find an object they must say the first sound of that object and cross the letter off on their sheet. They need to cross off all letters.

It is important that children engage in meaningful learning experiences in order to gain the knowledge and understanding about a subject matter. Have fun with your child as they begin to learn their sounds. Always try to point out letters in our environment to make connections for your child.

I hope this blog has given you some useful information about incorporating some interesting sound games at home and in the classroom. Playing these games will help your child learn their sounds in a fun and meaningful way, instead of just using flash cards.

Until next time…

Kelly Pisani

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20 Ways To Help Your Child Learn Their Sight Words

Welcome to my second blog in the series “Literacy in the Primary Classroom”. In this blog I focus on how educators and parents can use games in their home and classroom to help children learn sight words successfully.

When children begin Primary School they are usually given a list of sight words to learn each week. Sight words are the frequently used words that come up in beginner reading books. Children need to learn these words by sight as it is very difficult to use sound knowledge to work out these words.

In order to be a successful reader in the early years of Primary School, children need to have a good recollection of high frequency sight words. The first 100 sight words are listed in the following table:
th[8]Teachers use sight words in all literacy activities in the classroom. Children learn these words in context in a classroom. Learning in context is the best way that children learn anything. It needs to mean something to the child in order for them to store the information in their brain. Sight word practice is commonly set as a homework task. Unfortunately most parents get the child to just read the words on the sight words list given and believe that this will enable the child to learn their words. There are so many quick games that the child could play independently, with a sibling or a parent which gives the child a meaningful learning environment to learn their sight words successfully.

Below is a list of 20 sight word games that can be played at home and at school. Not only do they give your child an opportunity to learn their sight words but they also are fun and engaging learning activities.

1. Memory game

memoryCut up cardboard or paper into rectangles and write each sight word on two of them. After all sight words are written, mix them up and turn them over so you can not see them. The child turns over two cards and reads the sight word on each. If they pick the same word they can keep the pair. If they pick two different words, they need to turn them back over and try to remember where each word is.





2. Sight Word Dominoes

sightworddominosCut paper or cardboard into rectangles and draw a line across the halfway mark. Write two sight words on the card; one at each end. Ensure that you use each sight word a couple of times. Get your child to start matching the domino cards together. The child must read each word before they put it down.

 

 

3. Sight Word Car Park

sightwordparkingMake a mini car park for your child to park their toy cars in. Write a sight word in each car spot and get the child to read it before they park their car in it. You could also do this on a larger scale if you have room outside. Using chalk draw up some large car spots with sight words written in each. Your child can ride their bike, scooter or ride on car in each spot.

 

4. Scavenger Hunt

sightwordhuntWrite all the sight words on post it notes and stick them around your house or backyard. The child needs to find all their sight words and stick them on the sight word clipboard. They must read them before they stick them on.

 

 




5. Bingo Game

sightwordbingoMake bingo cards with all the sight words and get your child to either read out the words for the family to play bingo or have a bingo card and mark off the words that are said. The player that has all the sight words on their card crossed off first is the winner.

 

 

6. Cupcake tray sight word

throwgamesWrite one sight word on each patty case. Put all the patty cases in the muffin tin. Have your child throw a small object into the tin. The child must read the word of the patty case that the object landed on. The object of the game is to be able to throw an object on each patty case.

7. Sight word fishing

sightwordfishingMake a little fishing rod with a magnet on the end. (use a ruler or stick with a string attached). Have all the sight words written on fish cut outs and attach a paper clip to each. (the magnet will attach to the paper clip) The child needs to catch a fish and read the sight word on that fish. They continue to catch fish until all fish have been caught.

 

 




8. Leap frog

SightwordwalkWrite out each sight word on different pieces of paper. Get your child to be a frog and leap onto each paper. They need to read each sight word that they leap onto.

 

 

9. Basketball dribbling

dribbling sight word gameHave your child dribble their basketball around each sight word on the ground. They must read each word correctly then they can shoot for goal. A parent could also call out a sight word and the child could dribble up to that one and back again.

 

10. Soccer Sight Words

Sight-Word-Soccer-A-fun-way-to-move-and-learn-while-you-are-practicing-sight-or-spelling-wordsHave the child go around each cone that has a sight word on it. They must read the sight word before progressing to the next one. You can set up the cones in different arrangements so they need to read the sight words in different orders.

 

 

 

11. Beach ball fun

beach ball 1Write sight words all over a beach ball. Throw the ball with your child and get them to read the words that their thumbs are touching.

 

 




12. Plastic spoons

sightwordspoonsWrite all the sight words on little pockets. Split each sight word up on two plastic spoons. When all the sight words have been written on the spoons, put the spoons in a big pile. Get the child to put the correct spoons in each pocket and read each sight word as they complete it.

13. Plastic Cups

sightwordcupsWrite all the sight words on plastic cups. Get the child to read each one. If they are successful, they can start building their sight word cup tower. When the entire tower is completed, they can throw a ball at it, to knock it down.

 

14. Matching pegs

sightwordmatchWrite all sight words on large pop sticks. One word on each stick. Write all the letters of each sight word on each peg. Get the child to make each sight word by pegging the correct letters onto the pop stick.

15. Water bombs

sightwordbaloonsWrite each sight word on a water balloon and if the child reads it successfully they get to throw it.

 

16. Sight word hopscotch

sightwordhopscotchDraw up a couple of different hopscotch outlines. Write a sight word in each box. The child needs to read each sight word as they hop or jump on it.

 

 

17. Simple board game

sightwordboardgameDraw up a simple board game that has circles or squares for a player’s piece to move onto. Use a dice to instruct how many spots a player’s piece will move. The player must read the sight word that their player’s piece lands on.

 

 

18. Fried eggs

002Draw many fried eggs and put a sight word on the back of each. When the child reads a sight word they can pick it up with an egg flipper and flip it the correct way.

 

 

19. Fly squat

sightwordsplatWrite each sight word on a piece of paper or cardboard. The child has a fly squatter and hits one of the words. They need to read the word that they hit and they keep that one. Whoever has the most at the end of the game wins.

 

20. Pop stick sight words

SightwordpaddlepopsWrite each sight word on a large pop stick. On three of the pop sticks, write “try again”. Put all the pop sticks in a large cup that is not see through. Each player takes a turn to pick a pop stick and read the sight word. If a player picks up a “try again” pop stick they have to put all their pop sticks back. The first person with the decided number of pop sticks is the winner. (If you only have a few sight words, you could write each multiple times)

It is important that children engage in meaningful learning experiences in order to gain the knowledge and understanding about a subject matter. Have fun with your child as they begin to learn to read the high frequency words. Always try to point out these words in our environment to make connections for your child.

I hope this blog has given you some useful information about incorporating some interesting sight word games at home and in the classroom. Playing these games will help your child learn their sight words in a fun and meaningful way, instead of just using flash cards.

If you have found this blog useful why not check out our other blogs that all focus on different educational topics.

Are you a helicopter parent?

20 great ways to learn multiplication facts

What K-2 teachers want parents to know - Reading Levels

Until next time…

Kelly PisaniSightwordscollage

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