Friday 27 April 2012

Counting in Tens

Garden Girl wanted to count to 100 but didn't quite have the patience to get there. She stumbled whenever she reached 29, 39, 49 etc because she didn't know what came next. She was trying numbers such as 'twenty tenty,' and 'thirty twenty tenty', so I thought I would teach her to count in tens so she would know these numbers.

I started with repetiton, repeating the numbers over and over, asking her to say them after me. Ten, Twenty, Thirty, Forty, Fifty, Sixty, Seventy, Eighty, Ninety, One Hundred. She loved how quickly we reached one hundred and soon became familiar with the numbers, although she sometimes got them in the wrong order or missed one out. Now that she was familiar with the sound of the numbers however, I started to explain comparisons with one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten.

I asked her to hold her fingers up and explained the following:

When you count in tens each finger has ten tiny fairies sitting on it, so every finger is really ten fairies and not one finger.

One is the first number, Ten is the first ten, so one finger is ten fairies.
Two begins with the sound 't'. So does 'twenty', so two fingers make twenty fairies.
Three begins with the sound 'th'. So does 'thirty', so three fingers make thirty fairies.
I went on to point out how forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty and ninety all start with the same sound as four, five, six, seven, eight and nine.

All Garden Girl needs to do to count is tens is hold up a finger, say the number in ones and then find the ten that matches. She picked this up surprisingly quickly but she was familiar with all the tens before she started doing this. She knew all the words, just needed to put them in the right order. To keep it fresh in her mind we count in tens on the way to school every morning. It takes less than a minute, but by doing it every day she is starting to know the order without having to think about it.

It is also important to make sure she is aware what she is doing when she counts in tens, which is why I ask her to imagine ten tiny fairies on each finger. In this way she knows that with every finger she is adding a group of ten fairies onto the previous ten fairies. We occasionally use buttons to do the same thing, counting out ten groups of ten buttons and then counting each group in tens. Just being able to recite the numbers is not enough.

Your child needs to understand what it means to count in tens, what it looks like and that with each number you say, you are adding on ten single objects. Doing this visually, with ten groups of ten objects is the most effective way of explaining this. They will need to keep doing it to understand and remember, but only do it once each day or it will become boring. Whilst we count in tens every day, we look at groups of objects when we have a spare five minutes at a weekend. Garden Girl is more interested in reading and writing than numbers so this is enough for her, but if your child is interested in numbers, willing and you have the time, do it every day. The more they do it, the more they will understand and remember.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

c, ck or k at the End of a Word

Garden Girl enjoys writing stories and she uses her knowledge of phonics to spell words, so when it came to the 'c' sound she was using any of the options based on what she fancied using at that time. She had no system for distinguishing which type of 'c' to use, so I suggested this rule to her. The rule is to help her choose which 'c' to use at the end of a word. As with most rules, there are exceptions but if she follows these rules, most of the time she will spell a word correctly and on the few occcassions when it doesn't work she will have to learn that word on its own.

1) Always use 'k' or 'ck' at the end of a word. There are a few words that use 'c' at the end, such as 'torc' but these are so rare you can just learn the words as you come across them.

2) Use 'ck' if a single vowel comes before it eg, back, flock, click, whack

2) Use 'k' if two vowels come before it eg. cook, cloak, oak, beak, break

3) Use 'k' if a consonant comes before it eg, bark, work, folk, bank, ask

Garden Girl is still at the stage of having to be prompted with these rules, but when she asks how to spell a word with a 'c' sound at the end or has got it wrong, I ask her to think through the rules. Is it a consonant or vowel before the sound? Is it one vowel or two? The more frequently she works it out for herself the more confident she gets with the rule and eventually she will be able to work it out herself without a prompt.

Monday 23 April 2012

Why Do We Have a Chin?

Whilst I wouldn't recommend a practical demonstration of why we have a chin, Garden Girl inadvertently did just that a couple of weekends ago. She was pushing one of those big round swings at a playground and didn't move out of the way in time. The swing came at her at head height and knocked her to the floor. It was her chin that took the brunt of the clash. On the way home, after she had been reassured that no-one could see the red marks on her chin, she asked me why we have a chin. I suggested to her that she had just found that out first hand. The chin could be there to protect the more delicate parts of the face from knocks and bumps. I pointed out that if she had not had a chin it would likely have been her mouth that got hit by the swing. The mouth is very important as it lets us eat and speak so we really want to keep it intact.

When we got back I had a little look on the internet to see if this was correct and I found that there are a few suggestions for our chins...

1) To protect the face from knocks
2) To help us speak properly
3) Because it looks good

When I explained the options to Garden Girl she was inclined to go with the protection theory, probably with thoughts of her own sore chin in mind. I am inclined to believe that all of the suggestions are true. Our bodies are complicated and certainly capable of assigning more than one function to a body part.

I had never thought too much about my chin before, but was amused when I came across this article in the Irish Times, that Ernie from Sesame Street had questioned why we have one...

And if you want to watch the song 'One Fine Face' by Ernie and Elmo, you will find it here on You Tube:

Sunday 22 April 2012

Counting Out

Children learn to count, usually by hearing the numbers over and over again. They practise reciting the numbers in order and they listen to parents and teachers counting things, so they gradually learn and remember the order number. However, once a child is able to recite numbers in the correct order they need to be able to apply this to counting out objects. In the early foundation stage this is something which your child will focus on.

At a recent parent consultation Garden Boy's teacher was telling us that counting a row of objects is much easier for your child than counting a group of objects, randomly organised. It is also harder for a child to count out objects by moving the object location. For instance, a child who is asked to put 10 items into a bucket will find it harder to count the objects than a child who is asked to count 10 objects which are organised in a line on the floor.

Garden Boy can count up to well past 20, however I have noticed that when he counts items, he can find it hard to keep track of what he has already counted. He will count some things twice, or he will miss out an item. Practising as much as possible is the best way to improve counting skills. But, as with all maths, it is usually better if the child doesn't realise it is work, so here are some ideas for counting activities.

  • Ask your child to share out sweets. Instead of buying small packets, buy family size packets and when they have sweets ask them to count out a certain number. Change the number each time. If they are interested enough, ask them to count out 3 blue sweets, 5 red ones etc. Do the same with fruit. It will be harder for your child to count 10 grapes into a bowl if they have to pull them off the bunch as well as count them.
  • Be specific about quantities when they are helping you cook. For instance, get them to measure out 4 ounces of raisons with you but then tell them the recipe also needs 12 additional raisons which they can count out for you.
  • If you are packing for a holiday let your child help by counting out the correct number of socks and pants they need to take. Counting into a suitcase will make it harder for them, so when they think they have the right number, ask them to row up the pairs of socks and count them again to double check. They will find this easier and will probably be able to work out themselves if they have made a mistake. Basically, whenever there is an opportunity for them to count for a real reason they will be more willing. Garden Girl loves packing for picnics and holidays and will count things out for me because she wants to help. Garden Boy needs the humour of thinking he might have to go pantless for a day if he doesn't count them out properly. And often he will deliberately count one less so I joke about his bare bottom!
  • When you are reading with your child look at the pictures and count things in them. How many times does a particular cat appear in a book? How many flowers are there on the page? There are also some excellent counting books available. We love, 'Counting Colours'. 
  • Play 'Counting Catch'. Count every throw and then when someone drops the ball, start again and see if you can beat your score. Garden Girl loves trying to reach a higher number. We play 'Counting Football' with Garden Boy and we roll the ball, rather than throw it, with Garden Lass.
  • Play musical instruments and get your child to count how many times you bang the drum, blow the whistle etc. Get them to copy you. Make up songs using different instruments and see if they can remember when you switched instrument. Let them make up tunes for you to copy.
  • Have garden races where they first person to collect 5 stones and put them in a bucket wins, or when they are tidying up, make it a race. The first person to put 10 toys away gets a sticker. 
  • When your child is drawing pictures, ask them to put a certain number of petals on a flower, or a certain number of birds on the sky, or a certain number of spots on the alien.
There are so many opportunities for counting during play. The suggestions above are all good ways of getting your child to do 'hard' counting. The items they are counting are randomly displayed, need counting into something or require your child to be doing something else at the same time, such as throwing a ball or drawing. The more they do this kind of counting, the more skilled they will become.

Saturday 21 April 2012

The Alphabet, Vowels and Consonants

Garden Girl knew her phonic sounds before she knew her alphabet. In the early stages of learning how to read this was not a problem as most of the words she came across were purely phonetic. Children are also taught to write phonetically in the foundation stage. Spelling is not a priority, in as much as children are not expected to spell words correctly, but they are expected to use a correct phonic sound. For instance, when Garden Girl wrote the word 'time' as 'tighm' this was OK because phonetically speaking t - igh - m can be put together to make the correct sounds for the word.

Learning the alphabet however is the first stage in learning how to spell properly. There are reading and spelling rules that rely on knowledge of letter names (the alphabet names) and in particular on knowing which letters of the alphabet are vowels or consonants.

I fully admit that I struggle to tell my children they have written something correctly when in fact the spelling is wrong, even when they have written the word phonetically correct. And yet I do not want to conflict with the way the school is teaching her as this could be very confusing for her. Therefore, when she asks if she has written a word correctly I will always say, 'yes, you have used all the right phonic sounds to make the words. Thats brilliant, well done'. I will then say 'But, I can show you how to spell the word as it is written in books if you want me to?'. If she is interested I will explain to her how to spell the word correctly. For this she needs her knowledge of the alphabet, vowels and consonants.

There are many resources on the internet for learning the alphabet, vowels and consonants. Garden Girl found songs to be the best way, as repetition helped her retain the information. When she needs to know if a letter is a vowel or a consonant I will hear her quietly singing 'a e i o u' to the tune of BINGO. If she sings the letter she is trying to figure out, she knows it is a vowel, if she doesn't she knows it is a consonant. Then she can apply whatever spelling rule I have explained to her.

Once your child has started to learn to read and write, the first and most important thing you can do to help them is to teach them their alphabet, vowels and consonants. It might not seem hugely important at first, when the focus is so much on phonics, but once they become interested in spelling and are reading slightly more advanced books, this knowledge will be invaluable.

If you want resources to help your child learn the alphabet, vowels and consonants have a look at these two websites:

There are lots of resources and ideas on both of these websites. Also, type 'Alphabet Songs' and 'Vowel Songs' into google and you will find loads of songs which are a fun and extremely useful way of helping your child remember their alphabet and vowels.

Friday 13 April 2012

What is a Sonic Boom?

If you live in the South of England you likely will have heard a big loud bang yesterday afternoon which sounded much like thunder. We were dashing from the car in the pouring rain when we heard the loud crash and I made a comment to the children about there being a thunder storm. However, there was no lightening and no further thunder. It seemed a little odd, but in the dash to get dry I thought nothing more about it until Garden Dad came home and asked if we had heard the sonic boom. I explained to our Little Garden Helpers that the thunder we thought we had heard earlier was not actually thunder but a sonic boom. Inevitably, Garden Girl asked 'What is a sonic boom?' and the best I could offer by way of explanation was 'a very loud noise'.

I promised to find out for her and this evening I found a good explanation on the BBC website which talks about things like pressure and the speed of sound. It is worth a watch to get the full explanation, especially if you have older children looking for a more accurate and detailed insight, but I have put together a simpler explantion which I think will be more accessible for young children and which I hope remains more or less scientifically correct.

In very simple terms, the sonic boom yesterday was caused by an aircraft flying so fast that the air it was moving through could not move out of the way fast enough. As the aircraft hit the air it created a loud bang. Apparantly the sound of thunder is created in the same way, as lightening strikes the air at such high speeds that it essentially bangs into the air before it can move out of the way.

To find a fuller explantion take a look at the BBC website here.