How to get kids playing again: Make play appealing

A teacher’s take on letting kids play, Pt.2

Your child doesn’t play outside much, because he ‘doesn’t want to’? Well that’s just too bad. Let’s come up with some ideas to get that kid off his butt and out to get some Vitamin-D…

In A teacher’s take on letting kids play… I wrote about the decline in self-guided, outdoors play for children. A recent comment from a parent of one of my students has me feeling quite frustrated. The mother commented in passing that, “[My son] doesn’t just go outside and play much – he’d rather play Minecraft.” Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that I bit my tongue and opted not to ask, “Um, so who was it that bought him the iPad, downloaded the game and allows him to spend so much time engaging in such a sedentary activity?” Don’t get me wrong, technology is great and I have nothing against iPads, Minecraft, or even letting kids have some downtime, but…
Her comments made me realise that in that above-mentioend blog post, I had forgotten one key thing that we as adults can do to get kids playing again. Here’s the simple advice I gave her.

1) Make play appealing.

Imagine sitting a kid down in a chair, at a table with nothing on it, and asking that child to go wild, have fun. You wouldn’t, would you? Perhaps we slightly over-estimate the ability of children to just make things up as they go along. Sure, they are endlessly creative, innovative and imaginative, but at the end of the day, if the prospects are to go outside alone and try to figure out a game to play that will keep themselves entertained enough, with resources that are either missing or that they don’t know how to use, versus plonking down for some screen-time to play a game that they know is guaranteed fun (such as Minecraft – my students don’t shut up about it!) or to watch their favourite show; it’s no real surprise that many kids will choose the latter.

Kids are becoming such un-skilled ‘players’, that I’ve been taking my own grade outside during class time, to help them learn new games, teaching them games to play alone, in small groups or big groups. Helping them learn what you can do with various materials ranging from the traditional (balls, skipping ropes, etc.) to those which require a little more imagination (eg. what can we do with 2 old tyres, some paper and pencils, a length of rope and some sticks?). As a teacher, I wouldn’t just say to my young students, “Go ahead, do math!” So why should I expect them to just go outside at recess and instinctively know what to do? Let alone, figuring out how to have fun by themselves when they’re sent out to play in their own backyard.

Make play appealing by giving a few ideas, perhaps teaching them some games and actually playing outside with them if they’re not one to do so independently. Model yourself, how exciting play can be. Show kids that you love and value play.

Further to that, my original list comprised four other factors…
2) Provide children with the time to play.
That is, don’t over-schedule kids. Even allow them to get bored as that will force them to truly direct their own play.
3) Provide children with the space and freedom to play.
Obviously this is dependent on where you live and safety must be a priority, but maybe we could loosen the harness.
4) Provide children with the resources to play.
For example, construction materials, balls, scooters, sketch pads, rather than iPhones or DVDs. Don’t spend a fortune – You can find most things for free in council throw-outs, or get things on-the-cheap at charity stores.
5) Leave the rest to them! Don’t assume we know what’s best.
Let children make friends with the kids that they want and play the games that they want.

There’s been a bunch of great articles written on the importance of play. It’s a no-brainer, really, but if you’d like to read about why our young people should be out in the sunshine, getting grubby and active, here are some good places to start:
• ‘Why Our Children Need to Get Outside and Engage With Nature‘ (The Guardian)
• ‘Over-protected, Over-organised… Why Kids Needs More Time to Run and Play‘ (The Sydney Morning Herald)
• ‘The Play Deficit‘ (Aeon Magazine)
• ‘All Work and No Play: Why Your Kids Are More Anxious, Depressed‘ (The Atlantic)

Teachling <Twitter>

Handy Hints For Helping Children Learn At Home, Pt.2

A teacher’s take on how you can help your child succeed…

Click to read Handy Hints For Helping Children Learn At Home, Pt.1, Tips 1–5.

No. 6. “Know Your Child’s ‘Down time’”
Here, Andrew Fuller isn’t referring to that relaxing ‘down time’ we have when we’re surrounded by candles, having a bath with a glass of vino. He’s talking of the time at which you don’t learn new information as well as you do at other times. “As a rough guide, think of the time they go to sleep, then think of the time they usually wake up, calculate the midpoint of their sleep, add twelve hours and around that time is their “down time”. For example, if your child sleeps from 9.30 pm to 7 am, the midpoint of their sleep is 2.00 am. Adding twelve hours takes us to 2.00 pm”. 2.00 pm therefore, is the time at which that child’s brain is in ‘downtime’, switching off and least likely to be primed for quality learning. This is the perfect time to engage in hands on activities, play, relaxation, crafts, sport and other activities that are less taxing on the ‘academic’ parts of the brain.

No. 7 “Eat a good breakfast”
“If your Mum ever said have fish or eggs for breakfast because it’s brain food, she was right! As long as it’s medically safe to do so, a breakfast that is high in protein (think cheese, milk, bacon, eggs) and lower in carbohydrates (think cereal, orange juice and toast) promotes concentration and learning. Also encourage your child to drink lots of water- the brain runs on it! Students who don’t eat breakfast are not only more likely to gain weight; they will also have to work harder than others to do well at school.” Ew, fish for breakfast. I think parents can exercise common sense here. Obviously, Coco Pops every day for breakfast – although delish! – are not the best choice. Or worse, no breakfast at all. Give your child the right fuel!

No. 7 “Use Music”
“There is a growing evidence to suggest that playing instrumental music softly in the background enhances learning.” Avoid music that’s likely to be distracting, such as pop songs that they’ll want to just sing along to, instead of knuckling in to their homework!

No. 8 “Use aromas”
“Most people have had the experience of smelling a particular aroma and having a series of memories flood back. Partly this is because your olfactory nerve is directly linked to the hippocampus, which is the part of your brain where memories are integrated. The aromas most often associated with improvements in concentration and memory are lemon, basil and rosemary.”

No. 9 “Monitor their use of video and computer games”
“Video games are incredibly popular and give a sense of great mastery, challenge and involvement. Boys particularly use video games in a social way. It is important to realise that the use of video and computer games is not completely passive. Too much playing of these games can be negative. These games can be so compelling they become addictive. While some games require quite intricate problem solving, the skills learned on these games do not appear to readily transfer into other arenas of life. Very few of the games require creative problem solving or an opportunity to be an active participant in determining a story line. Some exposure to computer games is good. Too much, though, can be toxic. Sadly, there is no research that tells us what the right amount of time spent of computer games should be so you’ll need to think about the balance of your child’s life and their range of activities and interests.” Treat TV similarly.

No. 10. “Help them to build the essentials skills for success”
“Three of the skills needed for success at school (and in most areas of life) are concentration, memory and sequencing or getting things in the right order. The games that parents play with their children such as Snap, Uno, Concentration, Battleships, Monopoly, Chess, Jigsaw puzzles all play an incredibly important role in developing these skills of success. Computer versions of these games are not as effective in helping children develop these skills. To really help your child to succeed at school every so often switch off the TV, unplug the computer and pull out a game.”

No. 11. “Limit the amount of part-time work”
“Senior secondary students should not work more than ten hours a week at a part-time job. If they do so, there is clear evidence that their marks will suffer.”

Download the summary at http://www.andrewfuller.com.au/free/AndrewFullersHandyHints.pdf, extracted from Andrew Fuller’s “Help Your Child Succeed At School”.

Also read this post I reblogged, about What NOT To Do If You Want Your Child To Succeed, based on the article The Overprotected Kid.

What other Handy Hints for improving learning at home do you know of? Please share them in the comments section below!

Teachling<WordPress> < Twitter>

Handy Hints For Helping Children Learn At Home, Pt.1

A teacher’s take on how you can help your child succeed…

It’s Parenting 101. Limiting TV time, making sure your child gets plenty of sleep and helping them set up a designated learning space. Yes, it’s common sense. But hey, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded.

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It goes without saying that a school isn’t the only place learning occurs. You’ve previously heard my thoughts on why I’m not fond of homeworkand that I think kids should get more opportunities to play and just be kids, but alas, parents are always asking me what they can do, to help their child’s learning. It’s actually a question I love to hear as it demonstrates a parent’s understanding that learning is a partnership between home and school; child, family and teacher. Naturally, different children need extra help with different academic areas, but this list – based on Andrew Fuller’s “Help Your Child Succeed At School” – outlines the basics.

  1. Most Learning Doesn’t Happen At School!
    “Children spend only 15% of their time at school. They spend more time asleep (33%) than they do at school. Most of their time (52%) is at home, awake, mucking around, playing, and learning about life and it’s what they do with that time that is important.” Remember that you play a much great role in your child’s education than their teacher.
  2. The Learning Space – Getting Organised
    Work with your child to create a dedicated space where they can do homework, projects and read. As you know from their bedroom, kids have trouble keeping things neat and tidy! They’ll need help with this initially, but you can help them figure out ways of keeping their stationary in order, the workspace clear and clutter free.
  1. The Learning Space – Lighting
    “Natural or indirect lighting such as a desk lamp is best for learning. It is best for your child not to study under fluorescent lighting as it is related to raised cortisol levels in the blood stream (an indicator of anxiety and agitation). Cortisol also suppresses language functions.”
  1. Limit TV/ Computer/ iPad Time, Of course!
    Don’t make them go cold turkey. An hour and a half per day is plenty. That’s not to say they should be doing ‘homework’ for the rest of the time: Arts, crafts, playing outside, listening to and making music, socialising, relaxing, family time, the list goes on. Oh, and keep electronics out of the bedroom and away from their ‘learning space’.
  2. Plenty Of Sleep!
    “A good nights sleep (at least 8 hours) is essential for optimal brain functioning at school. Memory consolidation occurs during sleep especially during dream (or REM) sleep. During the normal 8-9 hours of sleep, five dream (REM) cycles occur. Adolescents getting only 5-6 hours of sleep lose out on the last two REM cycles and thereby reduce the amount of time the brain has to consolidate information.Teenagers need as much sleep as children, partly because their brains are doing so much development. Always remember there is no such thing as a sleep bank. So just because you slept 10 hours one night doesn’t mean you can get away with only sleeping six hours the next night. Students who don’t get enough sleep have to work much harder to do well at school.”

 Follow https://teachling.wordpress.com/  to read Handy Hints For Helping Children Learn At Home, Pt.2.

Teachling<WordPress> < Twitter>

Download the full summary of Andrew Fuller’s version at http://www.andrewfuller.com.au/free/AndrewFullersHandyHints.pdf.

Image sourced from here

What does 6×4 mean?

A teacher’s take on visualising multiplication…

I saw this blog post a while ago on reflectivemaths and after commenting, put it aside. However, recently working on some early multiplication concepts with my own students has brought it back to mind.

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So, does 6×4 mean 6 lots of 4 or 4 lots of 6?

The reply by the above-mentioned blogger was “bearing in mind the answers the same of course. I’d say you start with 6 and then multiply by 4. So 4 lots of 6

That makes a lot of sense. Though, my initial response is that I visualise 6×4  as “6 fours”. “x” essentially meaning “lots of”, rather than “times”. As in, 6×4 is 6 lots of 4, or 6 times 4 things (6 packets of 4 pens) rather than 6 things times 4 (4 packets of 6 pens). But yes, regardless, we still get 24 pens either way!

My school has been working with a Maths coach on childrens’ misconceptions, and multiplication is always a confusing topic. To try and stop confusing our students, we talk multiplication in terms of “6 fours” rather than “6 times 4” or “6 lots of 4”. This aims to take the confusion out of the “x”. Further, “6 fours” acknowledges 4 as it’s own whole. Whereas, the 4 in “6 times 4” means children are seeing it as “4 ones”. Basically, why can’t 4 be it’s own being (first version)? Why should 4 only ever be seen as a quantity of ones (second version)? In saying that though, the 4 pens I mentioned above still labels poor 4 as 4 ones.

Again though, the answer is still 24, no matter which way you look at it.

Thinking in terms of ‘repeat addition’ – the concept I was working on with my 7 year olds – do you see 6×4 as essentially 4+4+4+4+4+4 or 6+6+6+6?

What about those good old “times tables”? Going through the 2s, for example, do you start with “1×2=2, 2×2 =4, 3×2=6, 4×2=8”? Or “2×1=2, 2×2=4, 2×3=6, 2×4=8”? Again, even though the answers are of course the same, I think the way you say it makes a huge difference to how the concept is visualised. Hence why, again to try and stop misconceptions, we do 2s as doubles now. That is, “double 1 is 2, double 2 is 4, double 3 is 6, double 4 is 8”.

Maybe the best solution is just to present young children with all possibilities, so that at the end of the day, they can ‘connect’ with whichever way they prefer. 6×4 might be “6 times 4”, “6 lots of 4”, “6 fours”, “6+6+6+6”, “4+4+4+4+4+4”, arrays, maybe even “double double 6”. If the answer is the same, does it matter how we get there?

Teachling<WordPress> < Twitter>

 

 

The highs and lows of teaching: From making a difference, building great relationships and shaping the future, to homework, reports and helicopter parents.

A teacher’s reflection on 6 months of blogging…

13,000 words later and I feel like I’ll never get sick of posting. Over the past 6 months I’ve had the joy of having some good chats with fellow educators like the experienced, very enthusiastic and full-of-ideas Norah Colvin, to new teachers such as the very switched-on and similarly enthusiastic Cultivating Questioners, as well as blogs such as ijstock and Cognition Education. Let’s admit it, every blogger loves to get comments! When a comment comes through from people of the same wavelength as you, it’s always exciting, isn’t it!

More than a chance to network, hear from other people that are passionate about education (teachers and parents alike) and learn new things, blogging is a great chance to just hammer your thoughts out on a keyboard, send them into cyberspace and get things off your chest. Particularly when you work in a profession which is constantly evolving, and which there seems as though there’ll never be a manual on ‘how to teach’. Therefore, all schools do things differently and of course, you’re never going to agree with everything that goes on within your school and system. It’s always nice to hear you’re not the only one!

I started this blog to share My 2 Cents on a range of education-related topics. Long story short, one of my rabbits was sick, and after consulting ‘Dr Google’, I discovered that hardly any professionals post useful advice relating to their profession online. I felt, as a teacher, that I could easily write about what I do, and that it might help a parent, a teacher, anyone. Thus began, “A teacher’s take…”

A summary of my posts:
A teacher’s take on getting your kids to school on time… And why it’s the least you can do…
A teacher’s take on why schools should scrap ‘grades’, and give kids real ‘feedback’…
A teacher’s take on rethinking education…
Ken Robinson’s take on how we should be viewing education…
Ken Robinson’s take on schools, and how they kill creativity…
A teacher’s take on letting kids play…
A teacher’s take on positive teacher-student relationships…
A teacher’s take on student reports… And why they’re a waste of my time!
A teacher’s take on homework…
An Australian teacher’s take on America’s Common Core…
A teacher’s take on parent-teacher relationships…
A teacher’s take on respecting teachers, pt2…
A teacher’s take on respecting teachers, pt1…
A teacher’s take on earning respect from students…
A teacher’s take on positive thoughts and how kids let negative thoughts consume them…
A teacher’s take on independence and helicopter parents…
A teacher’s take on the jargon of explicit teaching…
A teacher’s take on “How Children Learn”…
A teacher’s take on self-help and parenting advice…
A teacher’s take on blogs…

Teachling <WordPress> < Twitter>

Ding, Ding, Ding – Why are half my students still not here?

A teacher’s take on getting your kids to school on time… And why it’s the least you could do.

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A couple of weeks into the new school year here in Australia and one thing is frustrating me more than assessments, meetings and a new bunch of rascals combined. PARENTS! Specifically, why is it so darn hard to get your kid to school on time? Seriously?! 9am can’t be that hard, considering we teachers are there before 8am every day (That may come as a surprise to those that think we work 9-3:30, hehe).

Before I rant, let me chuck in some quotes, to prove it’s not just me… Michael Grose’s Parenting Ideas website is fantastic if you haven’t explored it already. He says here that “School absenteeism is a huge problem in Australia – and much of it is parent-condoned”. Shockingly, the average student misses 12-15 days of school each year (doesn’t sound like that much really, however…), which equates to a full school year lost over the span of their education. Yikes!

Grose continues that “Australian kids spend only 15% of their total time at school. They spend more time asleep than they do at school. So we need to maximise every day to get full value. That means turning up to school every day, on time”. There are always a few stragglers, coming into class late, whose parents bring them to the door after the bell has gone, give them their cuddles, say their goodbyes, holding up the start of the school day for the whole class. One day last week, we didn’t actually start the school day until 9:07 (Even then, one boy didn’t arrive until 9:45!). When the bell rang at 9am (following a ‘warning bell’ at 8:57) only half of my class were present! Let’s say though, very conservatively, that the beginning of my class’s school day is held up for just 2 minutes each day. That’s almost 7 hours missed across the year; more than a full school day.

Last year I had a perpetually late mother get stroppy with me for, and I quote, “You don’t acknowledge me in the mornings when I bring _ into the class!” For real? You bring your son into class late every day and you want me to engage you in conversation, despite that fact that you’re contributing to the whole class losing more than a full day of school this year?

Punctuality isn’t just about teachers griping about a lost couple of minutes. It affects all students in a class and is a problem all around the world, with some UK schools beginning to issue fines to parents of tardy students!

Parents, get your kids to school on time. Better yet, get them to school 5 or 10 minutes early. That will give them a chance to have a chat to their buddies, maybe have a quick run-around outside, unpack their bags and come into class to get settled. They’re ready to start the school day when the bell rings.

The alternative is to rush around in the morning, get them to school late, give them no time to socialise and get settled, and come into class late, embarrassed and ashamed that the whole class is waiting on them and that they haven’t had time to organise their belongings.

Why it’s the least [many parents] could do:
No doubt ‘Parent’ is becoming fewer and fewer peoples’ full-time job.  Most parents now are so-called ‘working parents’. Of course this means you’re going to be busy, busy, busy. Not only are you thinking about your child constantly and caring for them; organising play-dates, planning dinner, getting the kids to their sport games, music lessons, trying to get on top of the house-work. You’re also holding down your own job, rushing around to meetings and so on. As a result, more and more parents are taking a hands-off approach to their child’s formal education. With less time in your day, you might not be able to get to school during the day to help in the classroom or attend excursions. With nights a blur, parents are often telling me there’s no time for homework (if you’ve read my post about homework you’ll know that I’m not too fussed about that, anyway!), and are often too busy or tired to get to school for parent-teacher meetings and information nights. If you’re one of these parents – and rest assured I am by no means ‘having a dig’ at you – then, at the very least, the extend of your involvement with your child’s schooling is making sure they’re at school every day, and that they’re there on time.

Teachers are there to support you and help you give your child the best possible start to their life. Sometimes, you need to help us to help them. Get your kids to school on time.

–          Teachling <WordPress> <Tumblr> < Twitter>

More from Teachling:
A teacher’s take on why schools should scrap ‘grades’, and give kids real ‘feedback’…
A teacher’s take on letting kids play…
A teacher’s take on parent-teacher relationships…

Further reading:
Heidi Scrimgeour’s “Late for school again: But does it really matter?
Livia McCoy’s “Student absences: They hurt more than you might think
DEECD’s “Every day counts: The importance of full-time attendance
Michael Grose’s “It’s not ok to be away… Or to be late to school

Image credit:
http://www.parentdish.co.uk/back-to-school/late-for-school-again-but-does-it-matter/

Let Kids Be Kids pt.2

A teacher’s take on letting kids play…

“Play is what children do, when afforded the independence, opportunity, time and space to determine their own behaviour.” (Play For Life)

I almost called this post “A teacher’s take our ‘nanny society’, and why we seem so bent on destroying childhoods”, but then I thought it sounded too ‘preachy’. Anyway…

Everyone loves to reminisce on their time spent as a kid, riding bikes around the suburbs, playing impromptu sport championships in the streets, daydream of building an insanely cool tree-house and having a good hard crack at turning that dream into a reality, failing miserably but still loving it, having hobbies that we chose for ourselves, coming home after dark and fearing the wrath of your parents, making friends with anyone and everyone, always being able to find something to do on the weekend; loving every second of our freedom!

Let’s fast forward 20 years and see our current kids reflect on, um, rushing home from school and sitting on the couch and swiping away at their iPhones. We can’t blame them, though. Afterall, who is it that buys them their gadgets, restricts their freedom, schedules their lives to the minute, chooses their hobbies for them, ‘nanny’ them, ‘helicopter’? I’ve blogged previously about helicopter parenting and taking away freedom with over-scheduling, but what about taking away play?

Play is actually disappearing at a horrifying rate from childrens’ lives. Just think geographically for a moment. 40 years ago, children would stray far and wide from their home. Go to the beach or to a movie with a few friends and shock horror, no adults. Miles from home, building and crashing billy-carts and getting up to who-knows-what. 20 years ago, kids couldn’t get away with quite so much mischief, but could still hop on their bikes and feel free and safe to roam their local streets, meet up with pals and make sure they we home by dark. Now many children would not even be allowed outside of their own fence without their parent! Parents of young children, would you allow you child to get away with the far-reaching play that you spent your childhood doing? Certainly, you wouldn’t let them get up to the kind of play that your parents got up to. Gee, now that would just be downright bonkers, right? But honestly, why not?

The reduced role of play in childhoods is becoming such as epidemic in today’s nanny society that organisitions such as Play For Life are trying to actively get kids playing again. You know, real playing!  Using their imaginations, innovating, designing and making, cooperative play, socialising, experimenting and making mistakes, creating, physical play, outdoors play – the kind of play that is essential to learning.

As adults, what can we do?
We can provide children with the time to play. That is, don’t over-schedule kids. Even allow them to get bored as that will force them to truly direct their own play.
We can provide children with the space and freedom to play. Obviously this is dependent on where you live and safety must be a priority, but maybe we could loosen the harness.
We can provide children with the resources to play. For example, construction materials, balls, scooters, sketch pads, rather than iPhones or DVDs.
Leave the rest to them! Don’t assume we know what’s best. Let children make friends with the kids that they want and play the games that they want.

At the school I teach at, children aren’t allowed to bring swap cards to school in case they get upset over a ‘bad swap’. In other words, the kids aren’t resilient and we’re not doing them any favours by pandering to them. Kids aren’t allowed to play with sticks in case they use them as a weapon. In other words, the kids aren’t accustomed to physical play, but instead of teaching them how to play, we’re banning them from any rough-and-tumble in case someone gets hurt. No running is allowed on the quad in case someone falls over and scrapes their knees on the bitumen. In other words, we’re wrapping them in cotton wool instead of allowing them to discover their own limits. Yes, the list of things that children are allowed to do is getting smaller and in doing that, we’re taking away vital opportunities for them to learn, grow, be happy and make memories.

Let’s see non-adult-directed play re-enter childrens’ lives. Let’s give children the time, space, freedom and resources to play.

Still not convinced?  >>> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vt7DoWmahu0 <<< (Language warning!)