Saturday, January 16, 2010

Teacher or parent? Games for those moments of indecision

We want to support our children but at the same time we don’t want to end up being yet another teacher. The way we were taught isn’t necessarily the same as they are teaching now and we don’t want to confuse them with our methods. After all the reason they came to us in the first place is because they are already confused.
Having worked in education for over 25 years, I have found various ways of having fun with children and at the same time teaching them skills and techniques which have come from them. If you would like some of these games boards then email me and I will send you a copy of two or three which I, and the children, have enjoyed playing with.
So what can we do with children when on journeys or at times when they have to be occupied and quiet?
One my mother used to do with me was to guess how long a minute was. I was to be quiet and work out what felt like 1 minute, 2 minutes and 5 minutes. It not only helped me stay quiet but it also taught me to gauge time, a skill much needed in this world. She would also do it with distance; how long will it take us to get to …. if we keep driving at this speed…if we keep walking…
Another way to keep their minds working is to use the alphabet as the foundation of creating lists of words which are all linked by their type. For example, animals could be; alligator, badger, cat, dog, elephant and so on, until they get to zebra. This could be played in turn so each person has to come up with one for a specific letter. The trick here is not to give the child the answer but to give them a clue which will help them find the word in their head. In school one of the most difficult thing to get children to do is to write using the whole of their word knowledge. Games such as this help them revisit their internal vocabulary list and as with most things, the more you use it the easier it is to access it. I have used this game with Christmas words, animals, countries, towns, people’s names, Easter, and of course to revise subjects.
The alphabet can also be used as a way of developing really long sentences, another skill children have to develop. An example of this would be; a bold, courageous, dog edged fiercely, growling. It gets children to use descriptive words more and again accesses their vocabulary bank as well as extends it because of the words they hear others use. In games like this it is always a good idea to have an adult playing as well.
A lovely one many of the children enjoy is the wandering story. This can be done on a computer, which increases their typing skills, or verbally, which increases their ability to communicate clearly and fluently.
On a computer start a story with three sentences you make up. The child then does another three sentences which continue the story. This you do back and forth until a plot begins to develop. If done without any comment between you it is amazing how much skill starts to pour out onto the page. I have done this with children of all ages up to 13 years and the results have been amazing.
Imagine this translated into speech and you have story that becomes told. These can get really exciting and it’s amazing how quickly the children become engrossed in it.
Packs of cards have always been an excellent tool for basic maths. Take out all the picture cards save the aces and read these as 1. Now split the pack between those who are playing the game. The aim is to continuously add together the cards as they turn over one by one. If you make a mistake, you have to pick up the pile of cards and start again; the aim is to be the first one with no cards left. Try it this way for subtraction, but make sure you feel confident about it too. Again no picture cards start with the number 250 and as you turn over a card subtract that from the total. An example would be 250 – [10 hearts] = 240-[7 clubs] =233 and so on. Again a mistake means you pick up the pile and the winner is the first one to get rid of all their cards.
Another way to use cards is to do multiplication. Take two cards from the top of the pile, turn them over and multiply them together. This concentrates on the simple times tables 1 – 10 and is perfect for any Primary pupil.
So there are a few ideas to be going on with and I will add more as time goes on. If you have any ideas you think would be good on the Blog, email me your ideas and I will include them here. Let’s face it; we have children because we want them not because we fancy becoming teachers when they start school. So let’s stay their parents, enjoy them and leave the hard task of teaching to the teachers!

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