Posts tagged ‘Learning’

Review/Extension Activity: Sometimes, Always, or Never

When you get your kids to think and then they ask you to do it again, you know you have a winner.

This is a versatile activity that can be adapted for any setting, time frame, and group dynamic. It engages students in processing vocabulary and ideas, helping them get comfortable and familiar with new words without any memorization pressure. Preparation and setup can be as easy as you need it to be. Here is the basic idea with one simple variation:

Create a list of statements about the topic you wish to explore or review. The statements should be sometimes, always, or never true. For example, here are some of my statements from a lesson about quadrilaterals:

A rhombus is a square

A rectangle is a parallelogram

A parallelogram has a right angle

A quadrilateral has 4 acute angles

A quadrilateral has exactly 2 right angles

I played the game with intensive students individually or in pairs, so I did it as a board game: Take any follow-the-path game board and randomly label the spaces sometimes, always, and never. In turns, each player picks up a statement card, reads the statement, and decides whether it is sometimes, always, or never true. The player must PROVE or at least reasonably demonstrate their answer through logic or examples. Often, the student develops their answer through the process of proving it. They can sketch examples, look up a definition in a reference book, and discuss with others. Some of the students surprised me – and themselves! – with the insights this process brought out. Once the players are collectively satisfied with the answer, the player moves to the next unoccupied matching spot. The game can be adapted to different game boards or simply collecting cards. Adapt for levels of knowledge/memory by making different reference resources available (or not). When students are already familiar with the way this works, you can make it an independent center activity for groups or individuals. You can have students make up the statements and then pool them together. Making up statements for a S/A/N game center can be an “early finisher” activity.

Another way to play that limits it to more of a categorization exercise is to write just the words on the card instead of full statements. Make several copies of each. Then, students draw the cards and place them on a template that looks like this:

A ______________ is a _________________

This will result in many of the same permutations you might have created in the first place, but it’s easier to prepare and adds a fun randomness.

This activity works especially well with topics involving a lot of categorization or attributes. Try it in science:

An elephant is a mammal.

A bird can fly.

A reptile lives in the desert.

Or in social studies. Or even in grammar. I love metacognition!

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May 19, 2013 at 1:36 pm Leave a comment

Your Baby Can Read – But Should He?

You have probably seen the ads for this program blinking all over the web in recent years, perhaps especially if you frequent baby-related sites. You may even have been offered a “FREE trial!!!” After seeing that enough times, you might have considered signing up – after all, what do you have to lose? Quite a lot, in fact. Read on.

1. Wasted Time: As the “teach your baby to read” people will be eager to tell you, the first couple of years are a critical window of opportunity for brain development. Toddlers are extremely busy people – mine certainly is. She has a lot to learn. But reading isn’t on her list for another few years. At this stage, it’s much more important for her to play. Playing in age-appropriate ways will help her develop gross and fine motor skills, social skills, and a sense of how stuff works. More on that in future posts.

2. Missing Socialization: Arguably the most important thing for a baby to learn during their “window of opportunity” is how to get along with all those other people in the world. Research shows there are no shortcuts for this. No program will ever substitute for old-fashioned quality time with Mom, Dad, or just about anyone else.

3. Too Much TV: The abovementioned only account for part of the reason the AAP recommends minimal screen time for babies. Besides the missed opportunities, screen time may even be inherently harmful. We might never know for sure, but my gut (and some good empirical studies) tells me this can’t be what G-d had in mind when He made our brains.

4. Wrong Window: Evidence strongly suggests that reading readiness is, at least for many children, a stage of brain development that goes beyond simply learning the skills. If we wait five or six years (approximately, and allowing for individual variations), reading is likely to come more easily, more naturally, and through the right parts of the brain.

5. Burnout: Still not convinced that there’s really much to lose? Studies have shown that children who learn academic skills before the normal developmental time frame are more likely to get sick and tired of them when their peers are just getting fired up. Remember how excited you were to read your first book? Well, I don’t either. But remember how excited your child or student was? Can you visualize that same excitement in someone who’s known how to read since before they were toilet trained?

I could probably go on. Maybe I will sometime. But for now, the above reasons are enough to make me wait. There is no known advantage in knowing how to read a handful of basic words before preschool. Meanwhile, we have other learning to take care of, much of which will actually help pave the way for reading in the not-so-distant future.

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October 23, 2011 at 6:05 am Leave a comment


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