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Learning to write.

May 10, 2016
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This one is a quick activity because let’s be honest, a two year old’s attention span requires VERY quick activities!!

I modeled writing a letter (I chose C not only because it’s the first letter of Carter’s name but also because it only requires the hand to move in one motion). I then drew the dots, explaining to him that a ‘c moves from the top, around and down’ and gave him the texta so he could trace the dots. He loved it!

Really important things to remember with this one:

  • Show them the starting point, which dot to start at.
  • Encouragement and positive reinforcement is really important.
  • Close enough is good enough. They don’t need to trace exactly over the dots.
  • Don’t worry too much about pencil/texta grip. You need to choose your focus. If it’s a tracing activity, forget about the grip-don’t overload them with too much information.
  • Display their work-handwriting is hard work and requires a lot of concentration. put it on the fridge for all to see!!
  • The more experience they have with writing the more confident they will become and the greater strength and control they will have over the pencil. Make it fun and also keep it short and simple.

Carter’s favourites!

May 6, 2016
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We had a lot of fun with this one, and it was so nice to hear his answers! We’ve been talking to Carter about what he likes and doesn’t like and explaining to him that when something is his ‘favourite’ it means he likes it better than anything else. It’s been a great way to introduce new vocabulary.

This morning I ‘interviewed’ him which he absolutely loved!! We talked about his favourite things and I wrote them down, saying the words as I wrote them so that he could see the connection between spoken and written word. We later wrote his least favourite things which was a laugh…apparently we aren’t a fan of sauce or elephants 😉

A quick, fun learning activity that not only introduces new words but is a great way to get an insight into what your little one is thinking!

Scissors and toddlers.

May 5, 2016
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When I was teaching, I was astounded at how many five year olds couldn’t use a pair of scissors. Us teachers would spend hours trying to ‘fill the gaps’ and try to teach them a skill we assumed they would have mastered or at least had experience with before coming to school.

Now I’m a parent I’ve spent the last year hiding the scissors from my toddler. Could you imagine the damage a little boy on the move could cause with a pair of scissors? Plus it took him long enough to grow hair, I’m happy for him to keep it not style it his own way.

What a contradiction! The teacher who expects a child to use scissors with ease versus the parent who is scared of arming their child with that kind of weapon.

Time to meet somewhere in the middle. Under INTENSE supervision Carter has been learning how to use scissors. He’s 2 and a half now and understands that they can only be used when mum or dad are around and he’s enjoying destroying, I mean cutting all the paper he can find. At the moment I’m giving him the freedom to cut any way he likes (later on I will introduce sheets with lines and the focus will become more refined). This week we cut out different foods and labelled them (mummy cut out the blueberries picture to show him what to do), combining some literacy with the cutting activity. He needs some assistance but he’s already gaining some control over the scissors which will later help him when holding a pencil and beginning to write.

Using scissors encourages the fingers to work together, much like holding a pencil does, so by cutting Carter is strengthening these muscles in his fingers as well as his hand whilst also increasing his fine motor skills.

So yes, under close supervision it will benefit your toddler to teach them how to use scissors. Maybe store them on a top shelf though…just in case they become too confident 😉

 

Why I love my Mummy.

May 5, 2016
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There’s lots of books  which will be given as Mother’s Day gifts this Sunday, so for book of the week I’ve decided to share with you my favourite!

Carter was given this book when he was born and the reason I love it is because it’s written by children. Being a Prep Teacher I always heard many stories in my classroom (5 year olds are honest…brutally honest…) and this book demonstrates the innocence and love our little ones have. It’s a beautiful book, illustrated by Daniel Howarth and reminds us that our little ones adore us for many reasons (some which might even surprise us)!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mummies out there 🙂

 

Mini Maestros-why we love it!

May 2, 2016
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I started Carter at Mini Maestros when he was around 6 months old. To be honest at the beginning I didn’t really think he was getting much out of it. During class he seemed disengaged, wouldn’t really join in and half the time I was either chasing him and sitting him back in the circle or trying to get him to at least look semi interested. When it came to re enrollment time I had decided that there would be no point continuing…enter my son who was determined to prove me wrong. Second last class for the term rolled around and Carter found his inner rock star. He knew absolutely everything that had been going on during those lessons and not only had he taken it in but all of a sudden he was confident to have a go. Mini Maestros has taught me about Carter as a learner and it’s benefits have really shown in Carter’s development.

What are the benefits?

  • Oral language skills-he is using language I wouldn’t have even thought to teach him at home;
  • Music-he is learning how to play different instruments as well as rhythm and beat;
  • Social skills-he is learning to share, co-operate, take turns and be in an environment where team work is encouraged with children his own age;
  • Focus and concentration-Carter is a typical boy and wants to be moving constantly. Mini Maestros has taught him to focus and concentrate to learn a new skill;
  • Independence-he’s learning from someone who isn’t my husband, myself or a family member. He respects Michelle as his teacher and loves seeing her each week;
  • Confidence-Carter has quite a timid personality so Mini Maestros provides him with a supportive environment to step out of his comfort zone and try new things;
  • As a parent I’ve also learnt a few things! I’ve been able to watch Carter in a learning environment and have seen first hand how he learns. He observes- taking mental ‘pictures’ of what’s going on and then when he is confident enough he tries it. Now that I know what type of a learner he is, it’s so much easier to help him learn new things. It’s been a fantastic experience for him and I and a year on we are still going to Mini Maestros each week!

Autumn leaves are falling…

April 28, 2016
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As a Teacher I was often asked by parents; “how is my child going in maths? I was never good at it so I want to know how they are doing”. I was surprised how often I heard those words…”I was never good at maths.” To be honest, I said it myself. There seems to be a negative stigma associated with maths, you’re either considered ‘good at it’ or you’re not. It’s often an internal assessment, it seems to be one of those areas in life that people are either confident in or even the thought of solving an equation makes them anxious. Maths is often misunderstood though. When undertaking professional development at my school the year I was pregnant I learnt to think about maths differently. Rather than there being a problem that needed to be solved with one specific method, I was taught to ask open ended questions and allow my students to learn through discovery. It sounds so simple now looking back- but it’s often the case, we think we must get to an answer using one method and we forget that children learn differently, they bring their own knowledge and skills to the table, even as toddlers and they can actually teach us different ways to learn.

So as the autumn leaves begin to fall in Melbourne town, we are outside all rugged up, exploring. Today we are counting the leaves one by one and moving as we count to encourage one to one correspondence. I’ve learnt that Carter needs to be moving and preferably outdoors (typical boy) so I’m learning what works for him and teaching accordingly. At his age it also needs to be quick teaching points so I incorporate some open ended teaching questions into whatever activity we might already be doing. It’s hands on and engaging and he takes ownership.  He’s learning because he is discovering it all himself, and that’s where the authentic learning really happens.

All in a day’s work-Reading for meaning with toddlers.

April 22, 2016
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All in a day’s work is book of the week this week and I have chosen it to focus on comprehension. It’s never too early to begin comprehension with your child- it is an important skill and you can start when they are toddlers-as long as you use books with simple text and short sentences.

All in a day’s work is great for this. Carter loves Thomas so I had his attention and focus straight away and with it’s short, sharp sentences it wasn’t information overload for him. On each page it asks the reader a question and then provides the answer. This is perfect for a literal comprehension focus. Literal comprehension means that the answer is directly stated in the text.

Eg: ‘Some passengers need to get to town, which engine do you think can help? Yes Thomas’s coaches are perfect for delivering passengers.’

After reading this page, many literal comprehension questions can be asked. Examples of these questions include:

  • Which train is helping the passengers?
  • Where do the passengers need to go?
  • How is Thomas helping the passengers?

The first few times we did this, I helped Carter answer the questions. We re-read the text to find the answers and there was lots of discussion using the pictures as a guide.

It’s important to ask the questions at the end of each page, rather than the end of the book allowing your child to answer while the sentences are still fresh in their memory.

By teaching reading for meaning, toddlers will begin to understand that not only do we read for enjoyment but we also gather information from a text. It’s great for their language development too!

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The diggers are coming! Susan Steggall.

April 15, 2016
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Book of the week is for all the trucks and diggers fans out there! We are always on the hunt for books about diggers, and I am constantly trying to find ones that not only have great illustrations but are good quality books. This book is fantastic! The illustrations are designed as a collage-different and very bright and engaging, the text rhymes-encouraging participation through prediction and the text flows across the page and through the illustrations-a different concept making reading with your child a lot more fun! The story also details the process of constructing a house from digging the foundations to the family moving in, therefore children a little bit older might also be interested in this story. Enjoy this read with your little ones.

Number rocks.

April 13, 2016
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We collect rocks everywhere we go. EVERYWHERE!

This week I decided to get creative with some of the rocks (thanks Pinterest) so I’ve painted numbers on them. I chose the numbers 10-20, painted them on the rocks and put them in order for Carter, saying the number as I looked for it. Once I had them all I counted them whilst pointing to each one, demonstrating one to one correspondence and counting out aloud.

There’s so many fun activities you can do with these!

  • Having a number sheet and asking your child to place the rock on the matching number helps to reinforce number identification;
  • Putting the numbers in order from lowest to highest;
  • A treasure hunt is also a fun one, hiding all the rocks and getting your child to say the number as he/she finds them;
  • Painting dots on another set of rocks and then matching the dots with the numeral reinforces the counting process.

Carter loved seeing ‘his rocks’ with numbers on them-it engaged him and he took ownership over the activity-very important as it makes the learning more authentic.

 

Steve Parish story books.

April 7, 2016
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Book of the week comes from a series of books this week-Steve Parish story books.

I love these books for a number of reasons.

  1. The books are printed using cursive font making it easy on the eye for children and also introducing them to the type of writing that is generally used in schools.
  2. The story has been typed in larger text. This is great as because it is bigger it draws a child’s eye to it and if a parent points to the words as they read, a toddler can begin to follow them, learning the reading process. You can also use this opportunity to point out full stops, talking marks, exclamation marks and other grammatical concepts to them as they are big enough for the child to see on the page. They may not pay any attention-but introducing it and continuing to point them out makes a child aware that they exist and eventually they will start to respond and maybe even point them out to you.
  3. The photos as opposed to illustrations is a great change and very engaging for toddlers. Steve Parish’s photos provide many talking points for parents and their children as they get a close up view of the animals like never before!

A great series of books, well worth checking out. IMG_3566