Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Development of Spoken English:Part 1

Your young child has just learnt to speak in English! Every time she says a few words, your heart is filled with joy. You feel proud of your little one and her newly acquired skill.

One day, she comes running to you and says “Mama, my dress is tear”

How would you react?

Would you smile and correct her sentence gently?

Would you get worked up and point out her mistake to her?

Would you worry that your child is not speaking correct English and that she may never learn?

It is perfectly normal for young children to make mistakes while learning a new language. It is nothing to get worried about.

The next time you catch yourself stressing over your child’s wrong English, take a minute to focus on the miracle of language development in young children. Very young children learn to speak without any effort on the part of the adults.

And isn’t it natural that while learning any new skill, mistakes happen?

So, what should one do when children speak wrong English?

All you need to do is repeat the correct version of the sentence. It’s as simple as that!

So, when your child says, “Mama, my dress is tear”, you can repeat the sentence correctly, “Oh, your dress is torn.”

That’s it.

With time, children do learn the correct usage of English. Correcting every mistake, scolding or making fun of the child for her improper usage of words can indeed be demoralising for her.

Appreciate the child’s effort in learning to speak a new language. Appreciate the child’s capability. And begin to trust the same capability to take care of so called mistakes. Continue to do your part of providing gentle exposure to good English and the child’s innate capacities will take care of the rest.

For more ideas on exposing children to the English language, check out the subsequent post in this series. 

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Children and Respect

A young child is working on an activity that requires him to match animals to their favourite food.

The teacher walks in.

“Stop doing that. Start doing the alphabet activity you learnt yesterday” she orders.

The child continues working on his activity.

The teacher repeats her order in a stronger tone of voice.

‘I said stop doing that,”

The child, forced to obey, puts his activity material back rather reluctantly. 

He then begins the alphabet activity.

Did you observe what happened?

Two things happened.

  1. The child lost an opportunity to exercise his “thinking” muscle- He was trying to figure out how to match the animals with their favourite food, when he was forced to stop.
  2. More importantly, the child was not respected as an individual in the midst of an activity.

How often do adults (parents and teachers) scold children for interrupting their conversations or not letting them finish important tasks? Yet, the same adults treat the child in a similar manner. How then will the child learn what respect is?

The idea of respecting a child may seem rather strange, especially if you live in a society that places more emphasis on the young respecting the elderly. But think about it. Does age actually have anything to do with respect?

If we want children to learn to respect, it becomes our duty to model respectable behaviour. And that begins with respecting the child!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Children and Colours: Part 1

Do you wish to teach your child about colours?

Read a short story on how a group of five year old children learnt about colours in school one day. See if you find a new perspective on teaching colours to your child. 

The teacher began by telling the children that they were going to learn about colours.

A little girl said “Teacher, I wish to eat colours”,

Upon hearing the child’s words, all the children burst into laughter.

Some of the children told her that eating colours can give her a tummy ache!

After the chatter subsided, the teacher looked at the little girl and merely repeated whatever she just said “You wish to eat colours”.

The little girl nodded.

Now, if your child made the same statement, how would you react?

Would you dismiss it as fantasy and smile back?

Would you take it literally and warn the child that eating colours is dangerous?

Would you view her statement as a stepping stone to a new way of thinking or learning about colours?

Coming back to the story, do you know what the teacher did?

She viewed the child’s statement as a stepping stone to a new way of thinking and learning about colours.

The teacher asked the children a question- “Are many of the things we eat colorful?”

The children thought for a few seconds and pat came the chorus reply “YES!”

Then the teacher said, “So, does that mean we can eat colours?”

“YES!” came back an excited reply from the children.

Guess what? This is how the lesson on colours took off in the teacher’s class that day! The children began naming the colours of all the things they eat. The teacher wrote it all down on the blackboard. The teacher and children identified and spoke about all the colours seen in the classroom and beyond. These exercises helped connect learning to reality. The children were thrilled with the lesson. Subsequently, the children learnt to spell the names of the colours and also wrote them in their notebooks.

Several goals were achieved that day in school-

  1. The children learnt to spell the names of the colours and practised writing them, which was the primary goal set by the syllabus.
  2. They connected their learning to reality by thinking and discussing about colours.
  3. They had fun while learning and understood that learning can be fun.
  4. Thanks to the child who said she felt like eating colours, the children acquired a new perspective on colours.

Often, children say things that do not sound logical to adult ears and adults dismiss such thinking as silly or unnecessary. However, this kind of thinking when encouraged, can take learning to a new level altogether!

Choose to encourage the different thoughts and expressions of your child. Uncover a treasure trove of happy learning experiences for your child!

<p><a href="">Image: Arvind Balaraman /</a></p>

Friday, 20 January 2012

Children and Writing : Part 4

Is your child learning to write simple words in English?

Does he enjoy the activity?

Would you like to make it more interesting for him?

Whether your child is learning to write simple three letter words (like cat & mat) or bigger words (frock & ship) you can get him more interested in writing and make his learning more meaningful.

How do you make it interesting? One way would be to discuss every word your child writes. Here’s a short story that will help you understand this better.

Rohan, a five year old child has to write the word “RED” in his notebook. Before writing, his mother (Mamma) helps him read the word.

Then Mamma says “Rohan, do you know what “RED” is?”

Rohan replies, “RED is a colour Mamma”.

“Okay. Do you spot red anywhere around you?” says Mamma.

This gets Rohan interested. He looks all around to see if he can spot red.

“There I see a red napkin” he says pointing at his napkin lying on the dining table.

“Okay. Do you like the colour red Rohan?” asks Mamma.

“Yes and I also like red apples”, says Rohan with a smile.

Mamma smiles too.

“Okay, so let’s write the word RED now,” says Mamma.

Rohan writes RED in his notebook.

“Okay. Let’s move on to the next word now”, says Mamma.

The next word is “PEN”.

After helping Rohan read the word, Mamma says, “Do you know what a pen is Rohan?”

Rohan thinks for a while and says, “Something that you write with”.

Mamma says, “Okay. Do you see a pen anywhere?”

Rohan looks around and says “There must be one in your bag Mamma.”

“Can you find it Rohan?” says Mamma.

Rohan goes running to fetch Mamma’s pen.

“Okay, let’s write the word PEN now”, says Mamma.

Rohan writes PEN in his notebook.

Once done, Rohan observes the pen and says excitedly, “Mamma, this is a RED PEN!”

Do you see why Rohan was excited? It’s because he just learnt to read and write two new words “red” and “pen” and he found a pen that was red in colour!

Now, this of course happened by chance. It may not always happen. But when you lead children on a path of thinking and learning, they often end up discovering new territory. This new territory may have nothing to do with the immediate lesson (which in Rohan’s case was just writing the words RED and PEN) but it is indeed significant when you look at the bigger picture of the child’s learning.

Do you also see that this kind of thinking and exploration gets children more interested in writing? 

Monday, 16 January 2012

Multiple Intelligences in Winter! Part 3

Here comes the final post on learning about winter on the basis of multiple intelligences!

For those of you who missed the first two parts of this article, here are the links.

In this post, let's explore learning about winter on the basis of inter and intra personal intelligences. Read on...

Interpersonal Intelligence

This exercise will take a little more planning on your part but the effort will be worth it. Arrange to have your child’s friends over at your home on a weekend. Set the theme as “Winter” and inform all the other parents about the same. Ask each child to come prepared to show or do something specific related to winter. It could be anything- dressing up as a snowman  painting a picture of winter, creating something that is typical of winter (winter craft), composing a poem or story on winter, showing a Cd or pictures related to the season etc. Feel free to use your imagination to get more ideas. There are no rules! Once all the children assemble, get them to talk to the group about their individual ideas. For instance, if one child has made up a winter story, encourage her to narrate it to the group. This way each child gets to talk about their unique winter idea, the other children learn to listen to others, they learn to take turns and ask questions. In short, they learn through their interpersonal intelligence. Be aware that not all children will come forward to share. Do not force a child who is hesitant to speak up to share. You can ask the child if you can tell the group about her idea and if she agrees, do acknowledge whatever that child has created by sharing it with the group.  Remember that the children who are quiet are getting exposure to interpersonal interactions and that is more than enough at this point of time. There is no need to pressurise  them to speak.

Intrapersonal Intelligence

  • Remember the walk you took with your child on a cold winter morning? If your child can write, tell her to write about her experience on that day- how she felt, what she saw, what she liked about that morning, what she did not like etc.
  • If your child likes pretend play, encourage her to play with her favourite doll or toy, while pretending that it is winter. Let her do whatever one would do in winter and act it out with her doll. She can act it out herself if she does not prefer doing it with her doll. If you have a boy, he can do something similar with a car or any other toy he prefers.As always, nothing is compulsory.These ideas can always be modified to suit your child's personality. 

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Your Child's Pongal Festival....

With Pongal (Makara Sankranthi) round the corner, it is time for celebrations again!

If you celebrate the festival "Pongal", how about getting your child involved in the celebrations and creating a unique learning experience for her? Read on...

Here is a list of some fun ways for your child to learn about and celebrate Pongal-

  • Observe Nature and its Bounty-  Pongal is celebrated as a harvest festival in some parts of India. So, why not spend some time observing the source of the harvest- NATURE.  Drive to the countryside. Stop to see the fields and the crops growing there. Since sugarcane is an important aspect of Pongal, see if you can visit a sugarcane field. If not, no problem. If you spot farmers working in fields, observe them.  If you can manage to speak to a farmer, nothing like it! You will know first hand about their harvest and it will be interesting for your child as well as you. If driving to the countryside is not a feasible option for you, you can always observe nature in a park close by or in your own garden. Take time to observe the trees, flowers and fruits. Talk about them. Encourage your child to observe and express her thoughts as well.
  • Make a Kite-Kite flying is a part of Pongal celebrations in some regions of India.  If your child enjoys craft, encourage her to make a kite, which she can also fly (if she wants to). She can also just draw and colour a picture of a kite and not necessarily fly it. Nothing is compulsory. It depends on the individual child’s likes and preferences.
  • Pongal Story- Weave a short story around the significance of Pongal and narrate it to your child. Alternately, if your child can read, encourage her to read about the festival on the Internet or from a book.
  • Cooking Fun- If your child likes helping in the kitchen, encourage her to participate in cooking and serving the “Delicacy of the Day”- PONGAL! Enjoy eating it together. If you live in Karnataka or follow the traditions of the state, ask your child if she would like to pack and distribute “Yellu Bella” ( a Karnataka special Sankranti delicacy made of sesame, jaggery, coconut and a type of dal) among her friends. If yes, make arrangements for her to do so. If you are from other Indian states, implement whatever is typical of your traditions and culture in a similar manner.
  • Reflections- Once the celebrations are over, encourage your child to talk or write about all that happened as part of the celebrations- what she enjoyed, what she saw, what she did, what she learnt etc.
As always, keep in mind that all children are different and would not enjoy learning or celebrating exactly as I have described. Be flexible, add your own creative ideas and mix and match in unique ways to celebrate this special occasion.

Have a Happy Festival!!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Multiple Intelligences in Winter! Part 2

Here comes the next post on teaching your child about winter using three other intelligences- musical, bodily-kinaesthetic and naturalist!

(For a better understanding of the present article, check out the link to the preceding article )

(For a better understanding of multiple intelligences in children, read my post

In this post, let's move on to learning about winter using musical, bodily-kinaesthetic and naturalist intelligences as the basis. 

Musical Intelligence

  • Poems- Encourage your child to compose a poem on the winter season. You can assist if necessary. But let the child's effort be more than yours! If you or your child knows to play a musical instrument you can add music to your composition and sing along. Even if you don’t know to play a musical instrument, you can always use household items such as old cardboard boxes, spoons etc to create music.
  • Other Songs- Sing other songs or rhymes on winter. Look for them on the internet or make up your own.

Bodily- Kinaesthetic and Naturalist Intelligence

·         Winter Experience- This should be fun! Wake up early on a chilly weekend. Have a wash. Drink something warm such as milk, hot chocolate or tea. Depending on the severity of winter in your part of the world, dress up in appropriate warm clothing (sweaters, coats, mufflers, gloves, socks) and then set out. Allow your child to dress herself and assist only if necessary. Go to your own garden or to a park nearby. Once out of your house, you will obviously feel the cold. Ask your child about how she feels. Tell her about how you feel in the cold. Walk, play, or just sit still in the park. Do whatever you feel like but keep talking to your child about the cold morning. Don’t force her to talk if she doesn’t want to. Sometimes, children learn through observation alone. Also, don’t make it seem like a test, Let it be fun for your child. If the sun is shining, stand in the sun and see what happens when you feel the sun on your skin. Talk about it. Once back home, have a shower and then apply moisturising cream. Talk about what happens when you use moisturising cream. We all know that we tend to feel a lot hungrier in winter! So, sit down to relish a hearty breakfast at the end of your winter morning experience! Have fun!
·         Winter Dance- Remember the poem your child composed on winter? How about adding some beats to that and shaking a leg? Now, keep in mind that all children would not enjoy dancing. So, if your child is inclined to dance, do a winter dance together and see how much fun it is J

<p><a href="">Image: dan /</a></p>

Friday, 6 January 2012

Multiple Intelligences in Winter! Part 1

It is winter! Before the season ends, why not get your child to explore winter in different ways- using different aspects of her intelligence and several of her capabilities? In short, on the basis of multiple intelligences or MI! 

Every lesson can be done in eight different ways based on the eight intelligences identified by the MI theory. (For a better understanding of multiple intelligences, read my post

Why learn lessons in eight ways when it can easily be done in one go, using one standard style of teaching as well as learning? Why not just explain everything about the winter season to your child like it happens in many schools and learning environments? Well, there is nothing wrong with explaining concepts and if your child prefers this approach, do go ahead. However, explanation of concepts is just one way of learning something. You can always spice lessons up by adopting different approaches. And multiple intelligences offers a very good platform for the same.  

When you present the same lesson to children in different styles, the child absorbs best from those styles that match his dominant intelligences. Besides, he also gets exposure to other intelligences and to different ways of looking at the same thing. This exposure in turn broadens his perspective. This makes learning more meaningful.

So, let’s move on and see how your child can learn about the winter season using all the eight intelligences, in eight different ways! In this post, I have covered three intelligences (visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic & logical). Read subsequent posts for ideas based on the remaining intelligences. So, here comes….

Visual- Spatial Intelligence

  • Winter Collage- Collect pictures of different objects related to the winter season, such as sweaters, socks, gloves, food enjoyed in winter etc. Make a winter season collage together with your child.
  •  Winter Videos- Watch videos related to the winter season on Youtube or other sites.
  • Winter Art-Give your child paper and colours and ask her to draw and colour a picture of a cold day in winter. Allow her to draw and colour as per her perception of the season. Once done, encourage her to talk about her picture.

Verbal-Linguistic and Logical Intelligence

  • Story Fun- Tell your child a story on the winter season. Get innovative and make up your own story. You can also find stories on the internet (if making up your own is not a good option for you).
  • More Story Fun-Encourage your child to make up her own story on the winter season. She can even write it down if she is used to writing. You can assist if need be.
  • Season Logic- Discuss with your child the logic behind seasons- how different seasons occur at different times of the year and how they follow a cyclic pattern. Elaborate on the winter season and talk about the months during which we experience winter.
  • Winter Talk - Together talk about your lifestyle in winter- ask your child about what she feels like eating and drinking in winter, what kind of clothes keep her comfortable,  how the weather is etc. Also, talk about how winter is experienced differently (snowfall, extreme chill) in different locations around the world. If you live in a place that does not experience snowfall, watch photos or videos of snowfall on the Internet. You can also read about winter and its characteristics.


Thursday, 5 January 2012

Think New Parenting Thoughts in 2012!

As we step into a brand new year, take some time to reflect on the following thoughts and if you like it, do make this kind of thinking a part of your life in 2012 and beyond.  

  1. My child is Unique- Make it a point to remind yourself everyday that your child is unique. There is none other like him/her anywhere in the world. This does not mean that he is perfect, for no one is. It only means that he is unique and deserves to be acknowledged for the little person he is. So, whenever you feel that there is something lacking in your child, remind yourself that he is unique. Focus on his strengths and positive attributes. Trust him to mould his own personality. Just be a gentle light that guides him, while empowering him to live his life independently.
  2. Enjoy the Present Moment- It is common for parents to worry about how their children (with all their shortcomings) will cope once grown up- how a sensitive child will learn to be thick skinned, how a shy child will learn the art of social interaction, how a timid child will learn to be assertive and how a slow learner will fare in competitive exams. Worrying endlessly is one option. However, you can always choose another option- focus on the present. Look at your child today. What are her strengths today? How can she make the best of her present circumstances in life? In what way can you help? When you focus on doing the best for your child in the present moment, not only does your child achieve more but she also takes small steps towards a bright future J
  3. Every Day is a New Opportunity- In the course of our journey with children, there will be times when we as adults feel lost, confused, frustrated and guilty. Maybe you were stressed and yelled at your child one day, maybe you said something unreasonable to your child, maybe you hit your child in frustration or maybe you had unfair expectations of your child- we all end up saying and doing inappropriate things with regard to our children, only to regret them later. When you catch yourself feeling low about a possible wrong you did to your child, tell yourself that there is a new opportunity knocking on your door the very next moment. Pick yourself up and try again. And don’t worry about what your children think of you when you make a mistake. Children are sensitive and will know when you are genuine. Besides, everyone makes mistakes. The point is to learn from our mistakes and move on.
 Enjoy your parenting journey in the year 2012!!