Easter ideas and crafts for the home and classroom - Part 2

Easter collage

Welcome back to Part 2 of the Easter Series by Creating A Learning Environment. We had an overwhelming response to the Part 1blog, so we were very excited to put together the second instalment.

If you would like to have a look at our very successful Part 1 blog of the series: 3 Great Easter Crafts to Do in the classroom or home, click on the link below:

3 Great Easter Crafts to do in the Classroom or home

For this blog we will introduce you to another 9 Easter ideas that would be great to do with children in any classroom or home in the weeks leading up to Easter.

Easter Garlands

Nothing says celebrations more than holiday garlands. Easter is no different. There are so many options out there that would bring colour and fun to your Easter celebration. Children love cutting and threading silhouettes onto string. Why not be creative with different shapes or different types of paper. Below are some images that will hopefully bring inspiration to your household or classroom.

Garlandimgres




Table centerpieces

This is a fun creative idea that children can create independently or with others. The child could use a variety of Easter decorations to create their own table centerpiece for the dining table at home, or little group table decorations for their school desks.

tablecenterpiece

Shaving Cream eggs

If your child likes mess and fun, this is the one for them. Spray a lot of shaving cream on a biscuit tray and put drops of food colouring all over it. (neon food colours work best for brighter colours) Using a straw mix the colours around to create a marble effect. Put the eggs on the shaving cream and wait 10 minutes. Wash the shaving cream off the egg with cold water. Put the other half of the egg back into the shaving cream and repeat process.

shaving-cream-dyed-easter-eggs-shaving-cream-dyed-easter-eggs




Wooden spoon Easter ideas

These are a great inexpensive decoration idea that can be put in a table centrepiece or in a cake. Children will love to come up with their own ideas.

woodenspooneaster

Wooden bunnies

If you have bits of old wood lying around, why not turn them into these cute little bunnies. Give the wood a white wash and using scrap material, ribbon, wire, buttons, paper and paint, transform them into these colourful creatures.

Wooden-Bunnies

Cross wreath

If you would like to focus on the true meaning of Easter, this beautiful cross wreath would be a great activity to do with a child. It could be hung on any door or wall. Gather some twigs, fake flowers and use wire to attach them all together.

crosswreath




3 Crosses

If talking to your child about the events of holy week, making this 3 cross artwork will give them an activity to express the true meaning of Easter. This could be displayed in the classroom or at home.

3 crosses

Bunny door

This is a cute and creative way to decorate your classroom door or house door.

bunny door

Easter Tree

eastertreeNothing symbolises new life, more than a tree. All you need to do is find a couple of small branches and secure them in a pot. After they are secured you can attach any Easter decorations you like. In the Easter Part 1 blog, there is a great recipe to make Salt Easter egg hanging decorations. They would go great on this tree. The link to this is:

3 Great Easter Crafts to do in the classroom or home

Hopefully these 9 crafts have triggered your creative juices and you are excited about trying some with your class or child at home. Next week we will be putting on the last blog of the Easter series. Make sure you check it out as it will be full of delicious Easter treats that you can make with children.

If you are enjoying reading our blogs, make sure you look at our other blogs as well. We now have over 50 blogs published. The top 3 are:

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

20 Ways to help your child learn their sight words

Are you a helicopter parent? The parenting method taking the first world countries by storm

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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7 Tips To Help Children Stay On A Task

Getting your child to stay on a set school task for more than 10 minutes can be a mammoth struggle in many households. I have spoken to many parents over the years, who believe that the homework struggle can add a lot of stress to their home environment.

In the same way, many parents of pre-schoolers also worry that their child who will attend primary school in the next year is unable to stay on a task for more than 10 minutes. This could mean that their child wanders from activity to activity, not really engaging with any task, they could only do a task for 2 minutes and then tell everyone they are finished or they could simply need their parents to sit with them during play in order to stay at an activity.

Whilst at school, children need to develop their own concentration in order to complete a task or work constantly on a task for a given time. Each task is given a time limit within the classroom and it depends of the type of task and the age of the child.

In the first year of schooling, it is expected that children can work for at least 10 minutes independently. This means that children need to work by themselves or with a group of children without teacher interaction. In the standard classroom the ratio of teacher to student is around 1 teacher to 30 students. If the teacher spent equal amounts of time with each student, in an average day of 5 hours of learning time, a teacher would spend approximately 10 minutes with each student.

It is important to help your child develop these focusing skills in order to enable them to persist at a task, complete a task and be motivated to do a task to the best of their ability. Here are 7 tips that can help children develop their focusing skills.

  1. Set routine

routineI cannot stress the importance of a routine enough times. Children thrive on knowing what is coming next and find comfort with predictability.

For a child aged between 5 – 12 years old, this could be seen through an afternoon routine. A timetable could be visible so the expectations are very clear for what they should be doing. The routine could incorporate things like outside play, free choice, homework, dinner, shower, reading, tv etc

For a pre-schooler, this could be seen through a visual timetable that has pictures of all the parts of the day and the activities that they will be doing. It would incorporate “quiet/rest time” which is a time in the day when they need to play independently without adult interaction.

  1. Physical activity first

physicalactivityBefore getting a child of any age to sit down quietly and complete a task, it is important that they have an opportunity to move their bodies around prior to this activity. Children of all ages can not sit still for very long (nor should they be expected too) therefore get them to do a physical activity before a homework task or quiet activity to expend some energy.

  1. Meaningful learning

meaningful tasksJust like adults, children will find it difficult to focus on a task that is boring. Boring activities are those tasks that are not meaningful to that child. Ask a child to complete a task that is meaningful to their own world, it will be hard to stop them from playing/completing it.

For children aged between 5 -12 years old, use their obsessions or talents to develop other areas that are weaker. Eg If they are struggling to write and they love soccer, get them to write a letter to their favourite soccer player and send it. Turn some homework tasks into games to make them more interactive.

For a pre-schooler, set up tasks they will help them to develop skills in an engaging and interesting way. For example, set up a few buckets of water and give them a variety of water equipment to let them experiment with. For example measuring cups, pipettes (medicine dropper), panadol baby dispensers, containers with holes etc

  1. Break tasks into small manageable activities

breakingChildren need guidance in splitting a task into more manageable chunks. Help them break the task into two smaller parts or even four smaller parts. They can write down each part or draw a picture of each part and tick each one off when it is complete. This helps the child follow a sequence, feel success throughout the task and focus on one step at a time. Trying to tackle a whole task at once can be very overwhelming.

  1. Use a timer

timerThis is a secret weapon for parents and educators. Time is a very abstract concept so a timer will help children be able to visualise the time spent on a task. Start off with quick tasks (cleaning teeth, brushing hair) to teach them about how a timer works. After they understand the concept start with tasks or play activities for 10 minutes and work towards increasing it depending on your child’s age.

  1. Self monitoring cards

monitorThis is another tool that educators use for the younger students. These are picture cards that demonstrate what the child should be doing if they are on task. It could have a picture of lips closed, holding a pencil correctly, feet flat on the floor, eyes looking at the task etc. The cards are placed on the child’s table so they can see them throughout the task. It is a great idea to discuss the cards before each task to remind them of what you expect.

  1. Set goals

goalsHave the child set goals for themselves that are realistic. This enables them to have ownership over their learning. A goal might be, I am going to write 2 sentences and then try and shoot a goal in the basketball ring.

I hope you have enjoyed the second blog in our series Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten. Encouraging your child to develop their own concentration and focus is important for children of all ages.

I will continue this School Preparation Series in January 2016. Next week we are going to start our 12 days of Christmas craft series. Make sure you stay tuned.

Thank you to everyone for your support of CREATING A LEARNING ENVIRONMENT. Our blogs are reaching so many people thanks to the amount of shares and likes we receive.

Until next time…

Kelly Pisani

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Preparing your child for Kindergarten: 10 Tips for The Reluctant Writer

This week’s blog will commence our new series, “Preparing your child for Kindergarten”. This series aims to tackle some of the most common issues facing parents of children who are about to start Kindergarten in the New Year. The blogs will be filled with practical examples and give lots of ideas of how to ensure that your child’s transition is a smooth one.

The first blog in this series deals with the issue of pre-schoolers who are reluctant writers. Before I begin this blog, I want to make it very clear that it is not expected that children are able to write words or even letters before commencing Kindergarten. However; by the age of 4 – 5 years old, most children become interested in print and how we use it to communicate messages.

It is very common for a child to begin Kindergarten, being able to write their name and for some, they are able to identify the names of the letters in their name as well. There are children, however, who are very reluctant to pick up a pencil and therefore parents become concerned that their child will struggle in their first year of formal schooling.

This is by far the most common issue I get asked about. Many parents want to know how they can motivate their child to write their name or even participate in drawing activities. Below is a list of 10 facts that will help all concerned parents of reluctant writers.

  1. Pre writing skills

imgresBefore children can start writing formal letters they need to be given MANY opportunities to participate in activities that develop pre writing skills. They need to be able to draw straight lines from top to the bottom, humps, zig zags and draw circles (preferably anti clockwise). I like to get children to do this through their drawings. I encourage them to draw rain or grass or flower stems that incorporate a lot of straight lines. I get them to draw waves or clouds for hump practice, zig zag patterns on clothing and circles for faces and eyes for circle practice.

  1. Do it with them

imgres-1Children love to spend time with grown ups, so this would be a perfect opportunity to do something with them. You need to ensure that it does not become a teaching session where a child can become quite stressed. Simply drawing a picture with your child will develop all the pre writing skills that they need. Make sure you talk about what you are drawing and ask them to talk about what they are drawing. This is where you can gently guide them by saying “I like to draw my lines from top to bottom because it is easier”

  1. Variety of tools

imgres-2It is essential that children are exposed to a variety of tools to write with. They need to work with larger tools such as thick chalk and thick paintbrushes to develop their skills and then move onto thinner chalk, markers, crayons and pencils.

  1. Writing must be meaningful

imgresChildren will only want to write something if it is meaningful to them. Get them to write a word on your grocery list (like ham) and take them shopping with you to buy that item. When there is a purpose for their writing, children are really motivated to do it.

  1. Give them ownership

imgres-1Talk about the importance of writing their name on their artwork when they attend preschool or daycare. Explain to them that their name is special and it belongs to them. Start with the first letter and then you can fill in the rest. When they are confident with that, move on by getting them to write the first 2 letters.

  1. Forming letters

imgres-2It is important to not enforce the correct formation of letters straight away. At the beginning, children need lots of opportunities to explore writing and they need a no fail environment to motivate them to keep going. Once your child begins writing letters often, you may mention to them the correct way to form that letter. But remember it is still in the experimental phase.

  1. No lines

imagesChildren should not be writing on lines until they are writing lots of sentences and are very confident with their letter formations. We should not restrict children to write straight at such an early stage. They need lots of room to form their letters.

  1. Restricting their size

Try not to restrict the size of their writing as well. Children start big and as they develop it will naturally get smaller.

  1. Fine motor skills

imgres-3Many children who are reluctant writers have poor fine motor skills. As a result I tend to find reluctant writers also struggle to operate small tools such as scissors. If your child finds it difficult to use their pincer grip (thumb and index finger) to pull coins out of play dough or thread small beads on string or open and close pegs with their pincer grip they may have underdeveloped fine motor skills. This will need to be checked out by an Occupational Therapist as soon as possible.

  1. Use what they like

Most children have a few obsessions and it is important to tap into it to motivate them in an area that they may struggle with. Get them to write the toy they really want for Christmas on a paper and send it to Santa or get them to write one of their friend’s name on an invitation for their party.

The key to motivating reluctant writers is to create a no failure environment, ensure that the writing activity is meaningful to them and make the activities fun which you both can enjoy.

I hope that this first blog in the new series “Preparing your child for Kindergarten” gives you food for thought in how to encourage your child to start writing.

Our next blog in the series will be dealing with the issue of how to keep your child engaged in a task for longer than 5 minutes.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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How To Get Your Child To Put Others First This Christmas Time

Can you believe that we are in November already? Where has 2015 gone? Once November hits, we all know that our calendars start filling up quickly, the shops put out all their Christmas decorations and we definitely begin the silly season!!

We live in such an egocentric society that tries to condition us into thinking that we need certain products to achieve happiness. Even children are targeted through advertising in believing that they NEED the latest toy, even if they already have one hundred similar ones at home. At Christmas time, it seems that this mentality is heightened and people are under so much stress to get everything they need to make it a “special time”.

I have decided that for Christmas 2015, I am challenging this notation and I am wondering how many others also feel the need to try something different.

This Christmas season my personal challenge is to teach my children about the importance of thinking about others and the notation of giving to people, not in the superficial sense but by giving their time and effort to bring others happiness. Is this not the true meaning of Christmas?

How do we do this, so children understand the importance of giving that will be appropriate to their age? I have come up with the idea of a challenge calendar for the month of December. It will work the same as the normal Chocolate Countdown Calendars that can be bought. Each day, a door is opened that matches the date. Behind the door will be a challenge that the child must complete before the end of the day. At dinner time, each member of the family can discuss the challenge and how they met it.

You may want to make up all the challenges with your child at the end of November and you can randomly put them behind different doors. For younger children, like my own (4 years and 2 years), the parent can make up all the challenges and complete the challenges with them.

Some inspirational quotes that my family will live by in the month of December

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give” Winston Churchill

“No one ever became poor by giving” Anne Frank

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted” Aesop

“If you can not feed one hundred people, then feed just one” Mother Teresa

This idea of the Challenge Calendar would work well in both a home environment or a school classroom. Below are 4 examples of what it could look like but be as creative as you want.

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images-1  images-2

 

 

 

 

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So the tricky part will be coming up with 24 challenges that your child or children would be able to complete. I have written some ideas for different age groups to help you create your own.

Age group : 2 - 8 years Challenges

  • Shop for a new toy and donate it to a Christmas appeal (eg KMART Wishing Tree)
  • Make Christmas cards and take them to a nursing home
  • Donate 3 toys to a Charitable organisation
  • Donate 3 pieces of clothing to a charitable organisation
  • Give extra love to a pet or animal (eg take for a walk, play with them, wash them)
  • Draw a picture of a relative and send it to them
  • Help your parent make dinner for the family
  • Sing a Christmas Carol to a grandparent
  • Make a christmas hamper (full of non perishable items) and give to a charity
  • Donate some of your money to a charity

Age group: 9 - 15 years Challenges

  • Perform a random act of kindness to a stranger
  • Do something around the house to help a family member
  • Visit a relative you have not seen for a while
  • Give 5 honest compliments to people
  • Be a secret santa to someone (give a small gift to someone and not tell them it was from you)
  • Write a letter of gratitude to someone and send it
  • Donate some of your money to a charity
  • Play a game with a younger child
  • Volunteer for something to help others
  • Have a conversation with someone you have never spoke to
  • Make a plate of food for a neighbour (eg could be cookies, a cake etc)
  • Thank a volunteer who helps people

I hope this blog will inspire you to create your own Challenge Calendar for your family or class. Christmas is the time of giving so lets try to spread this special message for Christmas 2015.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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10 Ways To Help Your Child With Math

The teaching of Mathematics has changed significantly over the past 20 years. No longer are we focusing on ensuring children learn processes but ensuring that children understand concepts and have a variety of strategies to solve mathematical problems.

FDPpuzzlesIt can be quite difficult for parents during Math homework time as the problem solving methods that they were taught are very different to how their children are being taught.

Below is a list of 10 ideas that parents can use to help teach Mathematics to their child.




1. Always have maths equipment at home that is easily accessible

CountingChildren need to participate in real world mathematics. This means Mathematics is part of every day life and children need to engage with it in order to be a successful person in our society. It is important to have rulers, scales, measuring cups, tape measures and calculators at home to enable children to use them when they need it. Children need to see adults and help adults when using mathematical equipment as well. This could include, helping to cook by measuring ingredients or helping to use a measuring tape to see how long something is in the home.

2. Use Mathematical Language in your everyday conversation. 

imgres-5It is very easy to fall into the trap of using the same words to describe many things. A classic example of this is the word “big”. Using big to describe the height of something or the length of something or the weight of something or the volume of something does not give the child enough exposure to mathematical language. Adults could use words like “tall” or “high” to describe height, “long” or “short” to describe length and “heavy” or “light” to describe weight. It is important that we use to the correct language to help our children form the right understandings about these mathematical concepts.

3. Give your child time to answer a question

searchAs parents and educators, our main role in educating our children is to facilitate learning not to determine what a child will learn and how a child should learn. Children need time to process questions and process what they need to do in order to solve a task. They need to go through a few steps (even though it may not be the most efficient strategy) it is important to give them time. If we always rush in to “help”, the child will always come to expect this and not try to use any strategies that they do have. If your child comes to you with a question, try and think of another question to ask them that will guide them to the answer. For example, if a child asks you what is 33 + 99, you could ask them if they know what 99 is close to. Then encourage them to go back and think about that and see if they can come up with anything.




4. Always ask how they got to an answer

images-1We may be elated to see that a child has solved a question correctly but getting the correct answer does not really give the teacher or parent much information about their mathematical thinking around a particular concept. We must always ask the child to explain how they solved it. If they can explain their strategy and tell you why they did it, it will prove that they have a very solid understanding about that concept. For example if the student solved the above addition task by saying 132 it shows that they have an understanding of addition. But what level of understanding do they have? Asking them to explain how they got to their answer will shed more light onto this. For example if they said “I drew 99 lines and added another 33 lines and then counted them all”, this shows a very low level strategy to solve an addition problem. If they said “I added 9 and 3 and that was 12, then I put the 2 down and put the 1 near the 9 and then added 9, 1 and 3 which was 13. I then wrote 13 next to the 2 which gave me 132.”, it shows that they have learnt the process of pen and paper trading, but they do not have a good understanding of why they are doing this process. If they said “99 is close to 100 so I just added 100 and 32, because I took away 1 from 33 so I could make it 100”, this shows a very high level strategy that is efficient and shows a solid foundation. Yes they all got it correct but their problem solving strategies explain a lot about the child’s level of understanding.

5. Worksheets

imgres-3Thinking about the information above, it is obvious why worksheets (drill and practice) do not help a child understand a concept. Worksheets and mathematical text books are all about practising processes over and over again until it becomes second nature. Worksheets do not allow conversation about how they solved a problem as it is very limiting and its whole purpose is to teach a process strategy not the concept. It is far better asking a child to record as many number problems that would equal to 20 as they can. This open ended task invites the child to show what they know and areas that they need further development. This question could be asked at children of all ages as the depth of answers should increase with the age of a child. For example it would be expected that children in Year 6 could use fractions, decimals, basic algebra, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction and squared numbers in their answers.

6. The Number Triad

searchIt is important for children to have a strong number sense as this is essential for all areas of Mathematics. Children need to be able to understand the three parts of a number, also known as the number triad. They need to know what the number looks like (symbol), how to read the number (words) and be able to make that number (quantity). As parents and educators, we can expose them to lots of numbers in the environment eg number plates, house numbers and speed limit signs, we can ask them to read numbers that we come across eg read a telephone number that you need to type into a phone and we can constantly ask them to make a number with a collection eg ask them to get you 14 potatoes for a potato salad you are making. All three areas of a number need to be developed to have a strong number sense.

7. Ask the teacher

teacher-meeting-467x267[1]If you are struggling to work out the best way to help your child in a particular area for Mathematics just ask their teacher. Most teachers are more than happy to help by running mini maths lessons for parents to help them understand the way Mathematics is taught in the 21st century classroom.

8. The relationship between Literacy and Numeracy

imgresMost children struggle in Mathematics due to the language of Mathematics. They may not be familiar with particular terms so it necessary to ensure that a child is comprehending the words in a maths task just as much as the mathematical concept behind it. If a Mathematics question is asking a student to find the second least favourite food in a survey, they need to have a good understanding of the words “second” and “least” before they can even attempt to answer the problem.

9. Compare things

imgres-1Encourage your child to compare the size, shape or orientation of objects. Get them to order items from largest to smallest or lightest to heaviest. This should be done during their play. For example, if they are playing with containers in water get them to try and order the containers from the container that holds the most water (largest volume) to the container that holds the least (smallest volume)




10. Develop all areas of Mathematics

imgres-2It is easy to just develop the Number concepts such as Place Value, Fractions, Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division. Equal time needs to be placed on other areas of Mathematics like Measurement (length, area, volume/capacity, mass, time), Data (surveys, graphs, charts) and Space and Geometry (3D, 2D, Position). All these areas need to be developed in context. It needs to mean something to the child in order for them to learn and understand it.

I hope these 10 ideas have given you something to think about.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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10 Free Boredom Busters for School Holidays

School holidays has come upon us again and there are parents everywhere looking for some inspiration for ideas to keep their children entertained that wont break the budget yet still are engaging. Look no further than the latest blog from CREATING A LEARNING ENVIRONMENT.

Welcome to my newest blog “10 Free Boredom Busters for School Holidays”. I draw my inspiration this week from the famous saying “the best things in life are free”. I have collated 10 great inexpensive activities that will keep your children occupied for hours. All have a great educational benefit as well.

Below are two ideas for organising these 10 boredom busters which will be easy to do in any household.

School holidays activity chart

boredom-busters-fridgeHave all the activities written out in categories. Next to the chart have a holiday calendar with all the days written. Get the children to allocate the activities on particular days. Fill in all the day trips that you have organised as well so the children will know ahead of time their schedule for each day. This will prevent your children constantly asking you what will be happening on each day.

Boredom busters jar

imgresWrite all the activities on single pieces of paper and put them in the boredom busters jar. Each day your children can select one activity to complete by closing their eyes and picking a paper from the jar.

 

The 10 Free Boredom Busters for School Holidays

1. Painting Garden rocks - Art 

garden rocksFind garden rocks in your backyard or go for a walk and collect them. Select a variety of paint colours and get creative. This image shows some ideas that you may want to try.

 

2. Flower pressing - Art

flowerpressingCollect a variety of flowers. Lay them on baking paper with paper towel on top. Put another piece of paper towel and then baking paper on top of it. Stack some heavy books (or bricks if you have them) on top of it all. Leave it for 24 hours.

 

3. Library - Literacy

libraryLocal libraries usually put on some free holiday sessions for children. Check out your council’s website for more details. If not, why not sign your children up to become a member and borrow some books, DVDs and toys.

 

4. Animal homes - Science

animal-densGo for a walk in some bushland close to your house. Encourage the children to make animal homes using items that they find in the bush. This could include dens or nests.

 

 

5. Recycling Craft - Art

recyclingcraftCollect all your recyclable goods and put in a large tub. Give the children markers, sticky tape, glue and some other bits and pieces and see what they can create.

 

6. Chalk drawing - Art

chalkdrawingGive the children a box of chalk and send them outside to create. They may draw roads for a bike track or a maze or even some pictures. Chalk can wash off anything so let them go wild.

 

7. Cooking - Food

bakingHave a list of child friendly recipes that you can make with your child. These might include pizza, pasta, cakes or something else. Cooking is a great activity for a rainy day.

 

8. Mason Jar craft - Art

3-mason-jar-aquariumGive children some mason jars and some items that they can use to create some different worlds. The worlds could be under the sea, outer space, in the snow, in the desert or an imaginary world. Fill up with coloured water (filtered water and food colouring work best) and add some glitter.

 

9. Egg Drop - Science

eggdropGet your children to create a container that would keep an egg safe while it is dropped from a height. They may need to modify their design a few times if the egg keeps cracking. Ensure you have a few cartons of eggs for this experiment. Try dropping the egg capsule from differing heights.

 

10. Decorating Cookies - Art

decoratecookiesMake some cookie dough with your children and use a variety of cookie cutters to cut out cookies. Bake them and after they have cooled set up a decorating station with lots of edible items that they can use.

 

 

I hope you have found some inspiration by reading this post. Happy holidays and I hope everyone stays safe during this period.

Until next time…

Kelly Pisani

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3 Games That Will Give Your Preschooler A Head Start In Mathematics and English

As parents we all want to give our child the best start in life. We want to give them as many opportunities as possible to reach their full potential. We aim to create the best learning environment at home to enable them to develop their skills in many areas. This is particularly true when it comes to education.

ImaginationThis blog focuses on games that you can play with your preschooler to give them a head start in understanding numeracy (mathematics) and literacy (English) concepts prior to Kindergarten.

Children learn best through play experiences. It is very important for children to direct their own play and have a lot of opportunities to do this. However, if your preschool child is anything like mine, you will be constantly nagged to participate in the same game with them, over and over again. For my daughter, it is playing the “baby game” and her baby is always doing the wrong thing and needing to go to the timeout corner. There are only so many times I have the enthusiasm to play this game.

Playing with your child is important and a parent’s enthusiasm is equally as important. Playing a game together that stimulates imagination, stretches their vocabulary and teaching important educational concepts can be very rewarding for both the child and parent.

As parents, we can maximise their learning by setting up games that have a purpose of teaching them about Mathematics and English while still being very engaging and above all, fun! Children learn new concepts at the point of need. This means that children are only ready to learn a new skill if it is important for them at that exact time. (e.g. learn to write their name on their painting so they don’t mix it up with others)

Below is a list of 3 imaginative games that target these learning outcomes and a list of parent tips to get the best out of each game.

1. Doctors and Nurses

doctorsAll children experience going to the doctors and visiting the nurse at some stage before they go to school. Unfortunately for some, a little more often than others. This is a familar context (situation) for your child, so your child will be really engaged with this game.

How to set it up

Get your child to talk to you about what you would need to set up for this game. You would need to include a space for a doctors room with a table, doctors equipment, somewhere to lay down and some pencils and paper. You would also need a waiting area, with a small table and chair for the receptionist, chairs for patients to sit, books for people to read and pens and paper for reception.

Parent tips on playing the game

  1. Be as creative as you can with your costumes. Get your child to help you write some name tags that could be used when you or your child is playing a character. Talk about the names and sounds of all the letters on each name tag. (literacy) Name tags could include Doctors, nurses, receptionists and patients
  2. Get your child to play different roles. You also play a role so they can see what you say and what you do when you play a character. Children learn so much through observation. Play the receptionist role first, and demonstrate how you write down the patients name, what time their appointment is and then you put it into a tray for the doctor. You could focus on showing your child the clock and show them where the hands of the clock have to be to show that time. (Mathematics) Encourage your child to keep watching the clock until it is their appointment time.
  3. You and your child can make up forms that patients need to fill in when they arrive. It could have a space for the name, age, doctor they are seeing and time of the appointment. (Literacy) Have your child write the words with your guidance.
  4. In the doctors room you could get the doctor to check the temperature, blood pressure, look at sore body parts, conduct an X-ray, give advice on what to do to get better, give a needle and write out a prescription for medicine. You can help the child write out a prescription and draw a picture to represent it. (literacy)
  5. Get the patient to pay at the reception when they have finished their appointment. (Have play money and use each coin as one dollar). The child has to count the amount of coins that they have to give the receptionist. (Mathematics)

You can play this game over and over again with a different scenario. Get your child to play different roles constantly and give them lots of praise for communicating in character.

2. Post Office

images-2A post office environment may be less familar to young children but it offers so many opportunities for children to learn literacy and numeracy concepts. You could take your child to a post office before you play it so they have some understanding of what happens in a post office and what its purpose is to the community.

How to set it up

Get your child to talk to you about what you would need to set up for this game. You would need to include a table for where the post office assistant will sit, an area for customers to write letters, put stamps on and get their parcels ready to be sent, an area for customers to line up and a post box to put all letters and parcels in.

Parent tips on playing the game

  1. Get your child to help you to collect and sort all the equipment that you need for the game. You will need to gather blank pieces of paper, small envelopes, large envelops, pencils, stamps, bubble wrap and sticky tape. (You can make envelops and stamps out of paper or cardboard) Get your child to write labels for each of the stationary to put up in the post office so the customers know where to find them on the shelves. (literacy) Do not forget to include how much they are. (mathematics)
  2. Get the customer to buy some stationary that they need to send a letter to someone they know. They will need to purchase the paper, pencil, stamp and envelop from the front counter. Ask lots of questions to your child about what they have. (e.g. how many things are you buying?, if you bought another pencil what would your new number be? - Mathematics)
  3. Help your child construct a letter to someone they know. Focus on the structure of a letter. (who is it to?, what do you want to say? who is it from?) Get your child to help you identify the sounds and names of the letters being used. (literacy)
  4. Show your child what we put on an envelope (the name and address of the recipient on the front, the sender details on the back, the stamp on the top right hand corner of the front of the envelope) - Literacy
  5. Get your child to write an invitation for a party to send. Focus on the structure of the invitation (who, what, where, when, rsvp) Ask your child how many invitations would you need to send to your whole family? - Mathematics
  6. Make a parcel to send to someone. Wrap it in bubble wrap and explain why we have to protect it. Explain the whole process of how their parcel gets from the post office to the person they are sending it to. Your child may want to role play that process.
  7. Talk about the price of stamps. (you can make up a simple amount e.g. $1) Ask them if they needed 3 stamps how much it would cost? (Mathematics)

After playing this game many times you might want to take your child to the post office to send a real letter to a friend or family member. You can get them to buy the stamp, put it on the letter and then put the letter in the post box. This will translate their knowledge into the real world.

3. Toy shop
cashierSetting up a toy shop is a great activity for your preschooler as it combines their love of toys with learning about numeracy and literacy concepts. Taking your child to the shops and pointing out all the environmental print (print of everyday) in a shop will help give you and your child ideas of what your toy shop might look like.

How to set it up

Dedicate an area in your house to be used as a toy shop for a couple of days. It is important not to pack it up as soon as you have finished as this game could be played each day so your child can build on the skills he/ she has learnt on the previous day. Use lots of print in the toy shop to help your child with the beginning stages of reading.

Parent tips on playing the game

  1. Let your child choose a name for the shop and together make a poster with the shops name on it. Focus your child’s attention on the letter names and sounds in the name of the shop. (Literacy)
  2. Encourage your child to set up the toys in lines and count how many he/she has of each type of toy (13 - cars, 16 - soft animal toys) Get your child to record how many they have with a numeral and picture on a sheet. When someone buys a toy they can cross off one of them so they always know how many they have on their shelves. (Mathematics)
  3. Make advertisements with your child to encourage family members to buy toys from their shop. Stick them up around the house. (Literacy)
  4. Assign dollar amounts to each toy and make a sign to stick near the toy. Talk about how we write money amounts. Talk about the dollar sign with your child. (Mathematics)
  5. Count dollar coins to pay for toys being bought (Mathematics)
  6. The child can give customers a receipt documenting what they have purchased. Parents can help with spelling or they could use the signs in the shop to help spell toy names. (Literacy)

The best gift you can give your child is a variety of experiences. Although many of us are time poor, it is essential that we make as much time as possible to play and communicate with our young children. Playing is how children learn. As parents if we invest a little time in preparing purposeful play, children will reap the rewards of having a deeper knowledge and understanding of many numeracy and literacy concepts.

For more information about creating the best learning environment for your child please visit my website http://creatingalearningenvironment.com or my Facebook page regularly.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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What is the “best” way to teach reading to children who are learning English.

Welcome to my next blog about reading with children who are learning English.

Recently I have been involved in some professional learning about reading and what impacts on it. As part of the professional learning, I read a Chapter titled “Building Bridges to text” in a book called “English Learners, Academic literacy and thinking” by Pauline Gibbons. Below is my summary of this text and my own opinion on how to ensure that children who are learning English are able to comprehend the texts that they are reading.

In multicultural nations, like Australia, many children begin school with a very limited understanding about English. These children usually speak another language at home or have been looked after by their grandparents (who do not speak English fluently) while their parents work. These children have not been exposed to the correct structure of spoken English and therefore need a lot of assistance when learning to read English texts.

Not only do they find the concepts about print (how a text works eg front cover, left to right, read left page first) difficult to understand, but their field knowledge is very limited as well. Field knowledge is the understanding about our world and making connections through experience. This is an area that many children struggle with, not just children who have English as a second or even third language. The texts that beginning readers are given cover a variety of topics. The text could be about a circus, playground, airport, another culture, swimming lessons, farm, making bread etc. If children are not familiar with these topics, they will need a lot of assistance to build their field knowledge to enable them to comprehend the text.

Remember the most important goal of learning to read is for a child to understand what they are reading. Reading fluently is important and does relate to comprehension but most of the time parents focus on this at the cost of a child not understanding the text.

Approaches to teaching reading for children learning English

1. Traditional or phonics based approach

imgresThis approach focuses on the child learning all their sounds to be able to work out written symbols. An educator would start with individual letters, then simple sight words, then the sounds that are made with two or more letters. After they have gained confidence with this, they would move onto simple sentences that focus on repetition. All early reader texts rely on repetition.

The disadvantage of this approach is that the child is able to make few links to what they already know from their own language. Reading can become a very abstract process for these children as the sounds do not match their first language.

2. Whole language approach

imgres-1This approach focuses on the child learning about the whole text by recognising what type of text it is, predicting what the text is about and using their own knowledge about the subject to bring meaning to the text. Good readers draw on three types of knowledge when reading a text; semanic knowledge (knowledge about the world), Syntactic knowledge (knowledge about the structure of the language) and graphophonic knowledge (letter-sound realtionships). This approach aims to combine all these types of knowledge when trying to read a text.

The disadvantage of this approach is that the child may not be familiar with the texts subject or familiar with the structure of the language that will help them predict what the sentences will be about.

3. Interactive approach

imagesThis approach is the combination of the traditional and the whole language approaches. A child learns about predictive and decoding (working out) skills depending on the type of text being read. What an educator does before reading a text with a child is very important to how successfully a child will be able to read it.

4. Critical approach

researchingThis approach focuses on a child being able to question and analyse a text in which they have been exposed to. They learn that no text is “neutral” as an author always has a particular context and the reader also has their own context. This means that we all see things differently depending on who we are. Words such as discovery, invasion and colonisation all have a particular context that refers to one event.

5. Social and cultural approach

reading 1This approach focuses on the understanding that reading is a cultural and social practice. Each society places a different value on it. Some children come from cultures that value oral story telling whereas some value  picture books or factual texts or religious texts such as the bible. This approach guides the educator in selecting particular texts for a child and the nature of the classroom discussion around reading.

Not one approach has all the answers. As educators and parents we need to use all of these approaches at different times depending on the needs of the child. I hope this has given you insight into the many factors that influence the skill of learning to read, especially for a child who is learning English.

Please share this article with all your staff and parents to ensure we all have access to information that will help our children reach their potential.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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How to increase your child’s achievement through a “growth mindset”

How do we motivate a child to work hard and achieve?  Is there a secret? How does one teach a child about motivation?

My blog this week explores the idea of children’s success related to their motivation intent. How to motivate a child is a question that many parents and educators of children ask everyday.

Everything we say and do sends a message to children. Some of these messages will increase a child’s level of motivation, whilst others will be the complete opposite.

In a survey conducted by the Canadian Education Association, over 80% of parents indicated that they “thought it was necessary to praise children’s intelligence to give them confidence in their abilities and motivate them to succeed.”(Boosting achievement with messages that motivate by Carol S Dweck) Unfortunately recent research indicates that this theory is wrong!

The research suggests that the most resilient and motivated children are the ones that believe that intelligence is not fixed (born with it mentality) rather it is something that can be developed through effort and learning. This research really emphasises the point that the key to achievement is what a child believes about intelligence.

The fixed mindset

A child with a fixed mindset will limit his or her chances to achieve. They want to look “smart” at all costs and do not like to undertake a task that may provide some challenges for them. Children with a fixed mindset tend to follow three rules:

1. Don’t make mistakes

mistakesA child with a fixed mindset believes that making mistakes shows a lack of ability. They would believe that the mistake indicates that they are not good at that particular area and would try to avoid it in the future.

2. Don’t work hard

imgres-3A child with a fixed mindset believes that intelligent people should not have to work hard. If you work hard, it means that you have low intelligence and indicates a limited ability. The idea that high effort equals low ability is one of the worst beliefs fixed mindset children have. (Boosting achievement with messages that motivate by Carol S Dweck)

3. If you make mistakes, don’t try and repair them

imgres-4A child with a fixed mindset is only interested in whether an answer is right or wrong. If they get an answer wrong, they tend to not care about what the correct answer was. They do not want to correct their errors and understand the concept for future learning.

The growth mindset

A child with a growth mindset is focused on the learning instead of the grades. Their main aim is to build on previous understanding and push themselves to the next level. Although they are not fixed on achievement, achievement usually goes hand in hand with this mindset. Children with a growth mindset tend to follow three rules:

1. Take on challenges

imagesA child with a growth mindset often accepts many challenges that they could fail at. They want to stretch their abilities and learn new things.

 

2. Work hard

imgres-3A child with a growth mindset believes that the harder you work at something, the better you will be at it. They do not believe that you are born with high intelligence or low intelligence but you can work hard and get success.

3. Confront your mistakes and correct them

imgres-3A child with a growth mindset is very eager to remedy their mistakes and learn from them. They want to focus on their mistake and get feedback to show them where they went wrong.

Let us return to the initial questions I posed at the beginning of the article. How do we get our children to be motivated and work hard in order to achieve? The new question that we should ask ourselves is “How do we get our children to have a growth mindset and not a fixed one?

As parents and educators we need to focus on the process or journey that the child undertakes instead of the finished product. We can give praise to a child in regards to their persistence, strategies used, their change of thinking due to new learning, their questioning, critical thinking and creative ideas.

We can celebrate how a child solved a problem or how they undertook a difficult challenge. This is what will motivate a child to have a growth mindset. They need to see us as the parents and educators going through this process as well and observe how we deal with difficult and frustrating setbacks within a task.

It is great to praise a child’s finished task (a child loves this intellegence praise) however, praising a child’s process which could be their effort, concentration, choices and persistence is more powerful to help a child achieve, have confidence and be a motivated learner.

I would like to thank a good friend and work colleague, Leanne for alerting me to this new research. This blog is dedicated to you.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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10 Ways To Help Your Child Prepare A Speech

Your child comes home from school and explains that they need to prepare a speech to deliver to their class in a couple of weeks. Where do you begin? How do you guide them to write and deliver the best speech that they can?

Look no further than “Creating A learning Environment’s” latest blog. In this blog, author, Kelly Pisani gives parents and educators 10 ways to help children prepare a speech. Remember if you find this article useful please share with all your friends and family.

Welcome to my next blog which focuses on 10 ways to help your child prepare their speech. Many parents feel overwhelmed when it comes to helping their child write and deliver a speech to an audience. It may be because of their own previous experience or that they don’t understand how a successful speech is structured and what presenting skills are important for a speech to be engaging.

Please find below my 10 best tips on preparing a successful speech:

1. Research the topic

researchingChildren are either given a topic, given a list of possible topics or given the opportunity to write a speech about anything they want. It does not matter how a topic has been selected but it is important for the child to engage in some research about it, to gain a deeper level of understanding. Work with your child to try and locate some factual evidence that supports their point of view. Adding quotes from well respected professionals, current statistics and current new headlines will give a lot of substance to their speech.

2. Know the purpose and who the audience will be.

audienceKnowing the purpose of the speech will help you guide your child in achieving the aim of the task. Commonly in primary school, a speech is given to present an assessment, to persuade, to instruct, to engage, to enter into a public speaking competition or to entertain. The speech’s purpose may be a combination of a few of these. The speech should be written with the purpose in mind. It will influence what you put in the speech and how it is delivered.

It is equally as important to know the audience. Will it be said to children, to adults, to an external adjudicating panel or a combination of these? This will influence the type of vocabulary in the speech, the types of stories that should be said and the type of humour (if any) that could be included in the speech.

3. Structure of a speech and time limit

stopwatchIn most cases, children are given a strict time limit that their speech must be said in. If it is too short, there is not enough information in the speech and if the speech goes over time, it means there is too much content and it should be revised. Children need to say their speech in a slow, yet purposeful way. It is important that they are clear and use intonation in their voice to emphasis key points. Most children are nervous and rush through their speech. Encourage your child to say it slowly as their speech will have more impact as the audience will understand what is being said.

Most speeches should follow the simple structure of introduction, arguments with supporting evidence and finishing off with the conclusion. Use the time limit as a rough guide of how long each part should be. 20% of the time should be for the introduction, 70% of the time for the arguments with supporting evidence and 10% of the time for the conclusion.

4. Importance of a draft

assessmentsIt is essential that a child’s speech is their speech. It is very easy to “take over” and write what you believe they should say. You need to find a way of guiding your child, yet it is important that their ideas are directing the way the speech is constructed. Work on one part of the structure of the speech at a time. Writing a whole speech can be daunting so tackle a small section at a time. Ideally the introduction and conclusion are written after the main part of the speech has been written. Your child needs to understand that a speech can be modified many times. It can even be modified when they are practising their “finished speech” as something they said might not sound correct or flow properly. A speech is an evolution of ideas and children need to be encouraged to make lots of changes throughout the process of preparing a speech.

5. Eye contact

eyecontactGiving a speech is not the same as reading a speech. Many children do not focus on their presentation skills and only focus on writing the speech. Eye contact is essential to ensure the audience is engaged. If a child is not looking at the audience it can be seen, that they lack confidence, have not practised it enough or it can cause the audience to lose interest. If your child finds it difficult to look at people in the audience, encourage them to look at the hair on the audience’s heads. This way they can focus on the hair of people instead of their faces. The audience will not know that the child is doing it.

6. Engaging introduction

Publicspeaking1It is important that an introduction is engaging. The child needs to grab the audience’s attention from the second they start delivering their speech. With this in mind, we should not encourage a child to start with “Good morning …. or Good afternoon …” The first few words are vital to set the audience up for an engaging speech. If the introduction is written after the main part of the speech, the child will have a clear understanding of how to introduce it. How can we encourage children to write an interesting introduction? Your child may want to start with a story that emphasises what they are going to be talking about. They may start with “Imagine you are …..” or “By the end of this speech 500 people will …” or “Bang, woosh, whip …..” or ” I’ve got a secret …” There are so many ways to spark interest from your audience. After your child has said their story etc, then they can say their greetings to the audience. Eg Good morning adjudicators, peers and fellow competitors, today I am here to tell you about ….”

7. A powerful conclusion

microphoneGet your child to think about what they want the audience to take away from their speech. Is there a clear message that they want everyone to think about? This is what they need to include in the conclusion. Asking questions in the conclusion can be a powerful way to encourage the audience to think about the content that has been delivered. The last sentence is the most powerful. Usually I encourage a child to pose a question eg What will you do when you are faced with this choice? or give a reminder to the audience eg “Next time you throw rubbish in the ocean remember all the lives that you are endangering” There is some debate, whether you need to thank the audience for listening. I always discourage this as I want the audience to remember the last thing that has been said and I do not want it to be “Thank you”

8. Using gestures

gesturesAdding some gestures throughout the speech will add interest for the audience and also help the child emphasise key points. Over using gestures can make the speech turn into a dramatic performance. The general rule is one gesture per 30 seconds. Gestures could include using fingers when counting, palms out when asking a question or moving one hand when saying a key point.

9. Use of palm cards

palmcardsIt is important that your child knows their speech. If they want people to listen then they need to be engaging. Constantly looking down at palm cards makes it difficult for the audience to stay focused. The palm cards should be used as a reminder for your child for the next part of the speech. We call them palm cards because the speech should be written on small cards that fit in the palm of their hands. Business cards make the best palm cards for speeches. Ensure that the palm cards are numbered to make it easier to check they are in order.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

imgresIn order to get better at anything, we need to practice. Children should practise in front of the mirror in order to evaluate their eye contact, gestures and posture. A child needs to stand still, project their voice and practise with a microphone (if this is what they will have to do when it is time to deliver their speech in the classroom or competition) Have them deliver their speech in a variety of environments and in front of many different family members.

Public speaking is an essential skill that our children need. It will give them confidence, help them to structure their ideas and be able to give their opinion in a clear and concise manner.

I hope this gives you lots of useful tips and that the information is clear enough for you to be able to put this advice into practice the next time your child tells you that they need to prepare a speech.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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