Monday, 24 September 2012

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School Time/Skoletid/上课时间 - Letter f


Duration: 6.15 - 8pm (1 hour 45 mins)

Montessori Time:

I plan to introduce 3 letters a week every alternating day. Today, we traced the sandpaper letter f and went through the f sound strip from Brilliant Minds Montessori:


We did the pre-handwriting activity of drawing lines with thick markers:
 
 
 
 
To introduce some variation and to reinforce the letter f, we traced letter f with from 1+1+1=1 with playdough instead. Tracing it with the playdough seems to be a big hit and more effective than stamping and sticking stickers as Joshua paid more attention and tried hard to place the playdough and form it into the shape of f to place it within the line. I have made a mental note of it and will try to use playdough for "tracing" letters:
 

 
Joshua requested to play more with playdough. So I gave him 10 more minutes on the timer. When the bell rang, I asked him to clean up. It was a good day today - he helped to put all the molds back into the container and made these figurines (but I helped him with the last one):
 
 
Blanket Time:

We read a Bible Story for children with the letter f from The Baby Bible ABCs board book (as well as letter e story although it was not part of today's plan, but Joshua requested for it):
 

 
 
 
We read a Chinese book about classroom, and we compared it to the classroom of Joshua's Chinese class on Saturday to make it relevant for him:
 
 
Desk Time:

We did sound-to-letter matching letter cmf worksheet where Joshua identifed for example the picture of the cat by name of the letter, etc. He didn't quite understand the concept of this worksheet, but after a few examples, he got the hang of it and began to realise that all these things start with the letter. I think such worksheets help reinforce the sandpaper letter learning and it is of a great help - one of the strengths of Brilliant Minds Montessori's concept:
 
 
 
We did a sheet of the Chinese workbook:
 
 
Quiet Time:

We read the letter f verse from The ABC Bible Verse Book:
  
  
 

 
Additional Information:

So far so good. Today has been good. Joshua (3Y6M19D) seems to be slowly getting into the habit of following curriculum. I hope this will continue into a good habit for both him and me. We followed the curriculum is from Brilliant Minds Montessori:
 


 


Saturday, 22 September 2012

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English Phonetics, Writing and Reading Curriculum

We are slowly getting more organized and I think it is about time that we follow a curriculum to ensure that all grounds are covered. As I mentioned in the last School Time post that I bought the Brillant Minds Montessori Reading and Writing Kit Program. Here is how the curriculum overview and order go with phonics, writing and reading:

1. Lowercase Sandpaper Letters

• Trace the lowercase Montessori sandpaper letters daily using 2 fingers and saying its sound "k".
• Do this one set at a time preferably in this order: cmf, pta, wno, hgz, jib, rkl, suv, dye and qx.
• Move on to the next set when your child has mastered a set.

2. Letter Sound strips

• After tracing the set of letters, present the corresponding sound strips for cmf.

• Starting with the letter c sound strip, point to the c and say "k"; point to the picture of the cat and say "k... cat"; point to the cow and say". Do the same for the rest of the pictures, ending by pointing to the cursive c which for Joshua, it is easier for him to grasp the concept of cursive if I say, "dancing... k".

• Repeat for the remaining sound strips of the set (m and f).

• When your child has mastered a letter sound, place the sound strip on a key ring.

3. Uppercase Sandpaper Letters

• Introduce the capital sandpaper letters by encouraging your child to trace and match them to the lowercase counterparts.
 

4. Pre-handwriting Skills: Drawing Lines

• Have your child draw lines within the boundaries with 5 different fat-tipped markers.

• Encourage your child to concentrate on staying within the provided lines.

• The program advises that this exercise should be repeated daily, and provided a CD of worksheets (As it is copyright protected, I could not share them here).


Here is a good video on how to demonstrate pre-handwriting activity:


5. Pre-handwriting Skills: Spatial Orientation & Fine Motor Development

• After drawing lines, use the same sheet to paste pasta, another handwriting preparation spatial orientation and fine motor development lesson in the program.

• You can prepare such a worksheet by drawing two lines and assisting your child to place the glue line on the worksheet until he is proficient in doing this himself.

• Have your child paste pasta, beans, etc. between the line by following the glue line.

• Joshua counted all the way to 24 while pasting the pasta. It has been fun for him:





• After Joshua has finished, I find it helpful to file his work up as follows:
  

 6. Tracing Letters with pasting stickers

To reinforce the letter C, trace the letter C today  from 1+1+1=1. You can use stickers, stamp, pebbles, petals, play dough, etc. to trace the letter:




 
 

7. Sound-to-Letter Matching & Writing

• Prerequisite skills are the sandpaper letters and sound strips activities.

• Present the letter c worksheet for the child to identify the picture of the cat by name of the letter:


• Have your child choose and circle the correct starting letter of the word (help him if needed).

• Repeat this worksheet several times until mastered, but it is ok to present the other worksheets in the set before mastery on the particular worksheets occurs, but remember to rotate the unmastered sheets.

8. Letter-to-Sound Matching

• Prerequisite skills are the sound to letter matching worksheets.

• Present the letter c worksheet and ask your child to choose and circle the pictures which start with the letter c sound (help him if needed).

• Repeat this worksheet several times until mastered, but it is ok to present the other worksheets in the set before mastery on the particular worksheets occurs, but remember to rotate the unmastered sheets.


9. Writing Letters

• Prerequisite skills are the mastery of the level 2 Handwriting Preparation activities and at least introductory experience and practice on the Level 3 materials.

• Introduce the worksheet in the following sequence: l, v, x, z, w, i, k, t, f, h, m, n, u, o, b, d, c, e, a, r, s, j, y, g, p and q.

10. Writing the First Letter of a Word

• Prerequisite skills are the worksheets in Part 1 and the Writing Letters Activites.

• Present the first worksheet and ask the child to identify the first picture by writing the correct first letter for each word (help him if needed).

• Repeat this worksheet several times until mastered, but it is ok to present the other worksheets in the set before mastery on the particular worksheets occurs, but remember to rotate the unmastered sheets.

11. Reading Stories with Short Vowels

• Prerequisite skills are strong knowledge of the phonetic sounds of the alphabet letters.

• Read to your child the book "The Rob and Max Story Collection for Early Readers":



• Prior to reading, the program recommends a review of the following letter sounds for each story respectively:

Story 1: w, o, h, i, p
Story 2: t, s
Story 3: r, b, f, a, l, u, n
Story 4: m, x, q, e, d
Story 5: j, k, v, y

12. The Silent e Rule

• Prerequisite is basic writing skills.

• Introduce the Silent e Rule worksheet, explain the rule that when words end with an e, the first vowel of the word says its name, and the ending e is silent e.g. bike.

• Encourage your child to write the correct vowel sound in each of the words in the worksheet.

13. The 2 Vowel Rule

• Prerequisite is basic writing skills.

• Introduce the 2 Vowel Rule worksheet, explain the rule that when 2 vowels appear together in a word, the first one says its name and the second one is silent, i.e. when 2 vowels go walking, the first one does the talking, e.g. seat.

• Encourage your child to write the correct vowel sound in each of the words in the worksheet.

14. Reading Stories with Long Vowels

• Prerequisite is completion of the first volume of "The Rob and Max Story Collection".

• Read to your child the book "The Rob and Max Story Collection for Early Readers Volume 2: The Long Vowels":



• Prior to reading, the program recommends a review of the following letter sounds for each story respectively:

Story 1: a
Story 2: e
Story 3: i
Story 4: o
Story 5: u

Additional Information:

At 89 USD, the Brilliant Minds Montessori Reading and Writing Kit is expensive if you consider only the tangible items contained in the kit - only the sandpaper Letters. But I think that value comes from the thought and concept behind it, the tons of worksheets included in the CD and its effectiveness.

I find it simple to implement and I am glad to have a well-organized curriculum that is not too complicated to follow.

I sometimes get confused by all the activities when I read in blogs and books - they are all very good, but rather ad hoc and haphazard. However, I find that the author's ability to design a concise, systematic and simple program that take into account the most important elements is of great value to me. Everything is served nicely as a kit with 190 worksheets, making my life easier as a working mom.

I will try to follow the systematic approach to phonetics, writing and reading as suggested by the curriculum and work towards having Joshua completing the program. It nevertheless still requires self-discipline and determination from me as well as self- motivation and desire from Joshua, so please pray along with me in our journey towards English literacy.

You can have a glimpse of the Brillant Minds Motnessori Reading and Writing Program from Amazon:



I wish there is something similar in the market available for teaching Chinese effectively to early readers. However, there isn't. Currently, Chinese is taught to children in a very traditional Chinese way that does not quite inspire love for learning. It is more about discipline and rote-learning. I will have to develop the Chinese curriculum myself. It is exciting, and I have lots of ideas, but I am constrained by time as a working mom.

I will give an update to this curriculum in this post after we have completed it.

We also bought the Brilliant Minds Maths Curriculum (only the CD, but not the materials, as we bought our Montessori materials elsewhere), and I am looking forward to try it once our Montessori materials arrive (the packages are currently at the Danish customs).

Friday, 21 September 2012

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Montessori Activity: Hundred Board


Age: From 4 years old

Activity Duration: 15 - 30 minutes

Objectives:
1. To teach numeral 1 to 100 in a logical way.

Materials:
1. 1 hundred board with number chips 1 - 100
2. 1 mat or tray

Directions:
1. Bring out the hundred board.
2. Layout out the chips and category from left to right.
3. Find the numeral 1, say its name and put it on the upper left of corner square.
4. Find the numeral 2, say its name and put it on the right of the Chip 1 (You could ask child to help you find the numeral).
5. Continue with all the 100 chips and encourage child to work with you until whole chips are filled in.
6. When finished, put back the chips, and encourage your child try on his own another round (on the same day if he still has the stamina or another day)

Video Demonstration:

Tips:
When child can do the work independently and correctly, have him write the numbers on squared paper of long row of paper from 1 to 100.

Cost:
Bingo 40 DKK (7 USD) at Tiger.

Additional Information:
We played Bingo during Joshua's Chinese class on Saturday. The bigger kids serve as bankers in the game. I bought this Bingo set today, and Joshua wanted to try out being the banker. I was pleasantly surprised that he understood the concept of being the banker completely. But he could not recognize all the numerals to 100. So I convinced him to go "back to basics" to present him the "hundred board". We completed up to 30 this evening, before he lost concentration (and me too as I got tired of counting the chip one-by-one to 90!) Joshua could count up to 30, with a few errors in between, in fact, and loosely up to 99 (he understood the concept of the teens. So if I start him off with the tens, he could continue the teens). I have not started the tens and teens board yet, but this is an indication that Joshua is ready for it. I am still waiting for the shipment of Montessori materials to arrive. In fact they have arrived, but still clearing the Danish customs.

This Bingo set serves as the cheapo version of the Montessori Hundred Board made of card board, but it does the job at less than half the cost of the real Montessori materials. It is however only up to 90 instead of 100. The chips are round, instead of square. We own both this cheap version and the expensive Montessori version. Out of vanity, I just wanted to further test out Maria Montessori's hypothesis that tools for children have to be beautiful and attractive i.e. made of wood.

Verdict: Joshua is taking to this cardboard cheapo version well. Our real beautiful version has not arrived yet. I will update it this post after the experiment.

You can get the real version made of wood from Amazon:
  


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

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School Time/Skoletid/上课时间


Duration: 7 - 7.30pm (30 mins)

Montessori Time:

We are slowly getting more organized and I think it is about time that we follow a curriculum. I bought the Brillant Minds Montessori Reading and Writing Kit Program and started the first lesson yesterday.




Today, we did the pre-handwriting activity of drawing lines with thick markers. We did it on the mat, but I will slowly transit it to the desk. The program advises that this exercise should be repeated daily, and provided a CD of worksheets (As it is copyright protected, I could not share them here). We will try. So far today, Joshua has enjoyed it a lot, but the novelty may wear off.

 
After drawing lines, we used the same sheet to paste pasta, another handwriting preparation spatial orientation and fine motor development lesson in the program. Joshua counted all the way to 24 while pasting the pasta. It has been fun for him:
 
 
 
To reinforce the letter C that we started yesterday and continuing with stickers, we traced letter C today with stickers from 1+1+1=1:

 
 
Blanket Time:

Joshua heard the story of the Little Red Riding Hood in Danish at his kindergarten today. Coordinating with his kindergarten, this evening I read him the same story in Chinese as part of our trilingualism pursuit:
 



 
Desk Time:

Joshua did one page of his Chinese worksheet today. He could have done more, but now that he has dropped his mid-day nap, he was overtired.


 
 

 
 

Monday, 17 September 2012

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Montessori Activity: Counting and Numeral Recognition with Stickers



Age: From 3.5 years old

Objectives:
1. To teach counting and numeral recognition in a fun way.
2. To teach the concept of zero in a concrete way.
3. To train fine motor skills.

Materials:
1. 1 counting worksheet (Confessions of a Homeschooler has a fantastic one you can download here)
2. Small stickers
3. 1 tray

Directions:
1. Demonstrate by pasting one sticker on the card called "One" and two stickers on the card called "Two", saying: "Joshua, this is one, it gets one sticker... this is two, it gets two stickers. This is three, how many stickers should it gets?"

2. Next go to the Zero card and ask: "This is zero, how many stickers should it get?" Your child should say none. If he does not say none, you can tell him that it is zero, zero means empty. Thus, it does not get any stickers.

3. Encourage your child to try to do the same for the remaining labels "Three" to "Five".

4. Next lay out the cards from 6 - 10 and count them with your child.

5. Then isolate Card 6 and ask your child to paste them with stickers. Review the answer with him and have him repeat after you saying, "Six".

6. Encourage your child to trace the numeral 6 with pasting stickers as part of hand-writing preparation activity.

7. Depending on your child, continue with Card 7 to Card 10 the following day, isolating Card 7.... then Card 8... so as not to overwhelm the child.

Additional Information:
This is a modern variation of the Montessori Maths activity - The Spindle Box. Kids just love stickers. Thus, any activities with stickers would be a great hit. If you have a boy, you can give him stickers with cars, transportation, dinosaurs, etc. During School Time this evening, Joshua (3Y6M12D) tried this activity and it has engaged his interest. It will create good feelings for School Time for the child. He completed until Card 6.

At this age, you could give your child smaller stickers, which are more challenging to peel and stick, and thus work further on his fine motor skills. I bought my stickers from Tiger or Søstrene Grene from Copenhagen.

We also reviewed the names of the objects on the stickers, and he learned a new word in English and Mandarin today - Submarine.

Apart from this, we also did some homework. Joshua requested an activity that he could use his pencil to draw. Thus, for us montessori manipulative-based activities and Desk Time truly complement each other. For more information about our concept of School Time, read here.

Practising counting by pasting stickers - also trains precision skills and fine motor skills at the same, killing a few "birds" with one stone
The joy of completing a task - a joy to the child.. and mom alike :-)
Tracing Numeral 6 with pasting stickers as part of hand-writing preparation activity




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J Summary (3Y6M12D) - Story-Telling

At 3.5 years old, J is growing less attached to Stuart, his training teddy-bear. If Stuart is not there, he could go to sleep without requesting for it. I am glad that he is growing less attached to his teddy-bear, as this also shows that he is growing into a boy now. Oh, how fast he is growing up...

J's Danish has improved tremendously. He narrated to us the whole story, which he heard for the first time at the Danish kindergarten, "The Goldilocks and the Three Bears" in much details. This was the first time, we asked him to tell us a story, and he had amazed us. I should ask him to tell me the stories he heard at the kindergarten from now on.

I have also been very busy brushing up my Science skills. J started asking what does catapillar eats, grasshopper eats, insects eat, earthworms eat, spiders eat. He also wants to know what eat spiders. I realize that I don't know my Science quite so well, apart from generally what these animals eat. But I guess, I don't have to know so specific all the scientific detailed food chain right? I have never been so hard-working in studying until after I have become a mom...

I have been very busy lately reading up and studying Montessori Elementary and Primary programme for Maths. It has taken a lot of my free time, but I also enjoy it thoroughly. What a joy it is to be able to do that, though I have to be careful not to go overboard.



Monday, 10 September 2012

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Montessori Activity: Sandpaper Name



Age: From 3 years old

Activity Duration: 5 - 10 minutes

Objectives:
1. To strengthen the child's feel for letters.
2. To teach tracing of the child's name in a fun way.

Materials:
1. 1 piece of sandpaper
2. 1 piece of coloured or black paper.

Directions:
1. Cut the letters in your child's name out of sandpaper.

2. Get him to follow their forms with his fingers.

Additional Information:
I found this idea from the book "Play & Learn: 1001 Fun Activities for Baby and Child". At 3.5 years old, Joshua might be a little too old for this, but I will try it and see how it goes.



Updates 17.9.2012: I tried it this evening, and Joshua wasn't at all thrilled about it. I will put it aside for now. Joshua has never been quite thrilled with all the "Sandpaper" letters that I had made for him since he was a baby. I have to admit - I am not artistic enough nor have the hand skills to make craft. It is a pain for me to do all those crafts. But the strange thing is that he likes the real Montessori Sandpaper Letters:



I contemplated it a lot, before deciding to put purchase the Sandpaper Letters, which arrived yesterday, as it is very expensive. Also I wondered about Maria Montessori's belief that beautiful objects would attract the children, and all Montessori materials are made of wood to perfection and beauty. I was wrong, and Maria Montessori is right. Ok, that means that Joshua didn't think that my "work-of-art" is attractive enough for him. It is made of cheap cardboard instead of wood. But in anyway, I am glad that Joshua is taking to like to real Sandpaper Letters.

If you are good with hand crafts, don't rush to purchase the real Sandpaper Letters just yet. Your child may like what you have made for him/her, and it will be a lot cheaper. All children are different.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

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Baby Equipment

I am making a list of baby equipment that we use for my sister in Singapore who is expecting. Please note that this post is not completed yet, but I am publishing it nevertheless. More items and description will be added.

1. Bugaboo Prams

We actually bought two prams - the traditional Danish large pram and Bugaboo - both are equally expensive. But having experienced using both, we really think that the Bugaboo is the best pram in the world, if not one of the best - not because it is used by the Hollywood celebrities, but because it is so well-designed and versatile. It is compact and fits easily into our small car. We don't have to feel that we are "moving home", when we take the pram along on car-ride. The front wheels are movable 360- degree, making it a joy to manuvuer it in cities such as Copenhagen or even Singapore. It is very sturdy, compared to Combifix, which is popular in Singapore. And as a bonus, it is very trendy-looking. Joshua used it until he was three years old. The only draw-back is that the front wheels are relatively small (although still bigger and stronger than Combifix), and they get stuck once in a while in gaps on the road, but we could live with it for all the other benefits it provides.

As for the big chunky Danish prams such as Odder, I did not use it much. It is too cumblesome for a small Asian-built mom. I had a hard time pushing it and seeing Joshua's face, because it was so high. We sold it away after having it sitting in our basement for a year.

For the Bugaboo, our favourite colour is beige top cover and brown or grey bottom. If you are buying one, our advice is to get a light colour such as a beige top. The heat from the sun would not be trapped and it would thus be more comfortable for your baby. In fact, I could not understand why black top is the most popular in Denmark. But being Asian, I guess I am more practical and go for the light colour. A darker bottom however makes it easier to keep it clean and shiny looking.

Bugaboo is available in Amazon:



2. Baby Blanket

Baby blanket to wrap the baby and give baby a secure snug is one of the basic items to have:





3. High Chair

I love the Danish brand Stokke Tripp Trapp highchair for its versatility. It grows with the child, as it is adjustable. However, it is very expensive. But it is very durable and has a very pleasing design. It is however, heavy, since it is made of wood. But that is not a problem for us, since we have a rule at home that Joshua has to take his meal at the dining table and nowhere else. I see how some nannies and grandparents run after their toddlers, trying to feed them their meals in Singapore, which is a very tiring thing to do. Besides that, it is bad table manners. I avoid it from happening by making sure that Joshua has his meal from day one at 6 months old at the dining table. This chair is good but very expensive - good for the design-conscious parents like us. If it is too expensive, don't be disappointed, the next good alternative is the IKEA highchair . It is cheap, light - thus easy to handle and does the job well. In fact, we have two. We use the IKEA high chair for travel and as a spare, when we have young guests visiting us. The Stokke Tripp Trapp highchair is available in Amazon:


5. Glass Milk Feeding Bottle

I prefer glass milk bottles as they can be sterilized in the dishwasher without worries about degrading plastic. I also don't really trust that BPA free-bottles are chemical leaking proof - try putting very hot water or milk into a plastic bottle, BPA free or not. Glass is a more "organic" material, and would not have such risk with very hot milk. Furthermore, plastic BPA free bottles become scratched up and it is hard to make sure the the inside is clean because of the plastic. With glass, you can feel that squeaky clean feeling and can see that the bottle is clean. You can pour very hot water in these and let them cool to put formula in later. You can't do that to plastic without worrying about chemicals will leak into the milk. I like the wide-neck version and I use the Japanese Pigeon brand. But wide-neck glass bottle is available from Amazon too. I used alternating between 2-3 bottles, when  Joshua was a baby:

6. Baby Activity Books

When Joshua was born, I scratched my head over the baby activities that I could do with him. I love the comprehensiveness of this book. Besides that, it is very colourful and simple to follow. Each activitiy is self-contained in one shor paragraph, making it an easy and pleasant read for time-pressed and sleep-deprived moms of infants. What is good value about this book is that it contains fun and educational activities for children all the way until 5 years old. So one can grow with the book:




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