Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Movement and Education

In my book reviews years ago, I discussed the scientific studies on movement and the brain. The idea that kids need to move to stimulate the brain has become so accepted in medical and educational circles that it lacks any significant punch these days. It is a common household understanding. I love to see educational environments that are child-centered, where the children work together to research and discover, to question and debate, and mostly, to move their bodies. In my weekly math class, I rely heavily on direction from IXL and SPECTRUM, but in the implementation of these programs, I get the kids to move. For example, after using the pizza pieces from a fractions game to demonstrate fractions, we all pretended to eat the pizza, pass the pizza fractions around, laugh and be silly. They didn't need to sit to do this, they didn't need to be quiet. Simple, I know. But the kids loved it. They wanted more. So, okay, more fractions. We did work in our SPECTRUM workbook, coloring in fractions with bright colors and relating the numbers to our daily lives. And then it was on to the kitchen fraction lesson. You don't need a kitchen to teach fractions, by the way, you just need food. Apples, oranges, bananas, tortillas, sticks of butter to name a few. Cut them up into fractions, eat or use a few, then design what you did on paper. A mini lab. The kids love this kind of hands on stuff, plus they get why we now say things like, Want a half an apple in your lunch today? In my writing class, we have started studying the infamous book report. We are doing this to help them read with purpose. I designed a fun book report questionnaire, which asks the kids to write down the title and author, the setting, plot and what the book means to them. There is space for them to write down important quotes as well. I gave them a large bubble in which to draw their setting. When the kids begin to understand what they are looking for in a book, they then read the book looking for these clues and important details. In our lesson yesterday, we used a simple story from Little Mermaid. The setting was so much fun to talk about, we decided to act it out, swimming all over the house, taking on different roles and using voices of our favorite characters. The kids loved it. Then they returned to add more details to their setting. Next week, when I ask them for the setting of their books, I know they will jump right in with details. They moved to understand the meaning and importance of setting. That movement is so intensely connected to the brain, it is hard to imagine teaching it in a static, seated environment. Seat work, a term I learned recently from an Atlantic article on preschool education, should play a very minor role in an elementary school education. So, get your kids moving. If they have homework, let them move before they sit down to tackle it. If you are introducing a new concept, figure out ways to allow your kids to act it out. Get those amazing brains moving-moving is crucial to learning.

Best Home Tools: Math and Beyond

The discussion around math tools is a hot topic for parents these days. There are so many programs out there and the quality of the math program in schools can vary widely. So, are there some tools that are fail proof, relatively easy to administer and challenging to your kids? Our answer is yes. We hope you will agree. Whether your child needs extra support because he is not meeting his grade level, exceeding his grade level, or just interested in math, these three tools are all you really need. 1). IXL.COM Although the program gives you a few free problems daily, you have to pay for this one. And believe me, it's worth it. Based on your state standards, the program offers fun, challenging, colorful exercises for each grade level. You, the parent, get a weekly update on how your child is progressing. If your child finished one grade level, you can move on to the next. An excellent program to supplement your school's program (and actually, a lot of schools are now using IXL in the classroom-hurray!) and keep your child engaged in the summer. For an additional cost, you can add their language arts, science and social studies programs too. My kids love those. 2) As you move into more challenging math work, and find you need a little lesson yourself to help guide your child, turn to KHANACADEMY.ORG. It's awesome! That's really all that needs to be said. It's free and offers AMAZING video to demonstrate everything from simple addition to calculating slope. 3) And finally, of all the workbooks out there, I love the SPECTRUM series. We use them for math, reading, writing, science and geography. But the list goes on and on. Again, this program is based on standards, so you know if your child has completed a certain grade level, he is ready to move on to the next one. At less than $10/book on Amazon, you really can't go wrong. My kids typically do a few lessons in the mooring after breakfast, when their minds are fresh and they are looking for something to do before school. I put the pile of books on our kitchen table and they choose what they like. Child-centered learning at home can do wonders to support your child at her specific academic level.