Tagged with " Reading"

No Limits, Please!

In our adult roles as parents, carers, teachers and educators it is inevitable that a large part of our responsibility encompasses placing limits on our children. As responsible adults, it falls on us to limit the amount of television they watch or the number of sweets and chocolates they can have in a day. Perhaps we think about how we can limit negative behaviour and encourage positive behaviour instead. These types of limits are necessary for the good of the child. However, not all limits are positive and sometimes they seem unnecessary and may often be detrimental.

I first became aware of these potentially detrimental (often unnecessary) limits when Georgia started at nursery school. It all started when I learnt more about the phonics system that is in use here in the UK to teach reading.

Georgia spends a lot of time with books and surrounded by books (a confession here: My main weakness is shopping for neither clothes nor shoes but books!). We first started looking at alphabet books and learning letters by their letter names and their relevant phonetical sounds. So from about 2, she knew that an ‘A’ (letter name) sounded ‘ah’ (phonetical sound) and so on.

Later on when she started at nursery school, she came home referring to letters, bizzarely, only by their phonetical sounds. This was when I did a bit more digging around on the Web and found out that children here are not taught letter names for fear that they would get confused!

So 4-6 year olds are ONLY taught the phonetical sounds of each letter without being told their letter names (I don’t know why they bother to teach the ABC song then really). At some point in their primary school life, probably at about 7 or 8 years of age, these children who up until then have only referred to letters by their phonetical sounds are then taught the letter names.

What baffles me completely is why there exists the assumption that children would find it confusing to learn letter names along-side letter sounds? My personal opinion and experience tells me that such limits are very unnecessary and often only serve to tell the children that they are inferior and incapable, while the fact is, if these limits are removed they are actually very capable of much greater achievements.

How would you know something is difficult, if you didn’t know that it was hard in the first place? In my book, children do not have enough experience to know whether things are easy or hard, they may have a preference, likes and dislikes, but with no prior experience, the perception of something difficult is often a ‘borrowed’ concept.

I observed a similar ‘self-limiting’ experience recently with music instruction.

Georgia’s school participates in a fantastic scheme called The Infants’ Strings Project. Through this project, all children at Reception (4-5 year olds) are taught to play the violin and some are offered the cello.

We too have a quarter sized cello at home and Georgia and I have been ‘playing’ with it for the past year and a half now. As I found it quite difficult to get hold of cello instruction books suitable for 3.5 year olds, I decided to design a very simple set of notes based on a music staff with some visually appealing images.

So we had notes for C, G, D and A (the open strings on the cello) printed on a staff with the bass clef and the music count. I also incorporated different note values. Because it did not occur to me that it might be difficult for Georgia, and I carried on teaching her based on ‘normal’ music notes. I found that it took only a couple of tries before she actually recognised and remembered the notes. In short, she could actually read music.

We have recently started formal music lessons with a lovely teacher who also participates in the Infant Strings Project and I found out from her that the children are only taught to recognise coloured notes (a colour denotes a note) without a staff and without note values.

This seemed to be yet another case of telling the children what they cannot do without actually letting them try to reach their potential.

Would you believe then, with no limits attached – the deaf can hear and the blind can see?

Take the case of (Think and Grow Rich, 1937) Napoleon Hill’s son, Blair, born without ears and on further examination, apparently had no possibility of hearing, and yet with unmistakable belief and no limits he was eventually able to gain most if not all of his hearing (with a hearing aid).

If this is not convincing enough, hear Caroline Casey for yourself….and remember – No Limits!

Observations and Reflections: Hard Reading-ers

Lately I’ve noticed that I’ve started reflecting a little bit more about what I remember from my ‘growing up’ years and how Georgia’s experiences are.

The phrase ‘Hard Reading-ers’ that Georgia dropped in to conversation yesterday morning, just before school, made me reflect about how and when I first realised that  academic achievement was or rather had to be an important goal. I actually remember the exact moment the realisation occurred.

It was in Standard 3, I was nine, I was walking up wooden steps in the ‘old’ block of my primary school, Convent Pulau Tikus, Penang, Malaysia. It wasn’t as if, prior to that, I didn’t know about results and Report Books or that I did not know we had tests to take. I suppose prior to that, it never bothered me, luckily I suppose, because good results came fairly easily. Perhaps because, thankfully, my parents didn’t quite make an issue out of it.

Anyway, I digress (this is a blog about Parenting Georgia!) what I wondered really was, how aware she was of what she was capable of (in terms of academics), and whether this had any bearing on the things or work she had done in school.

She has never felt the need to tell me about what other children are doing in school, or in particular how able they are in their learning, but what I have noticed is that several of her little friends have commented on her reading books, and they have asked, how come she gets different, (harder) ones.

Clearly (or it seems clear to me) from these types of comments, they are quite aware of how they are compared with their peers (self-comparisons?), although I have never noticed this with Georgia, I do wonder why? Yet, perhaps it’s because we do so much with her that it’s a given, the work from school is going to be easy, and our conversations on her school experience focus mainly on the social aspects of it. Who did you sit with at lunch time?  What games did you play? Learning questions, are always secondary or maybe even tertiary :).

I wonder if someone will come along and point out, that my realisation of results and academics equate to a ‘loss of childhood’. I am most certain that was not the case though, as the thing that struck me most was, all it did was ignite a hugely competitive fire, I HAD to have straight As, bar Art, PE and Chinese.

Do you remember your first important realisations? Have they affected you or the way you parent?

Conversations with Georgia: Hard Reading-ers

This morning as we were getting ready for school, we had this conversation.

G: James said that all the Hard Readingers have to go to the front.
Me: What is Hard Readingers? And where is ‘front’?
G: Hard Readingers are the people who read hard books, loh (Hokkien accent). We have to go to the front at Assembly.
Me: OIC.

So apparently, Georgia is a Hard Readinger. I suppose if they knew, she would also be a Hard Math-er, Hard Cello-er, Hard Writer (that one’s correct ;)) and we would be Hard Demanders!

Apr 9, 2011 - Books, Learning, Parenting, School    6 Comments

You are what you read…

If the saying ‘You are what you read’ is true, and a large part of me firmly believes so, I am seriously worried about the reading books that are being sent home from school; Georgia’s school and I imagine hundreds of other schools around the country.

If I digress a bit, and generalise an awful lot, and very much through an immigrant’s eyes, Britain and the British are well known as a country of ‘moaners’. They admit it themselves, everything and anything is always ‘dark and gloom’.

In fact, I have a lovely lovely sweet neighbour who is a lovely chap except everytime I’ve ever spoken to him, he complains about something, or other, usually the weather, which he has absolutely no control over! Nothing is ever right.

Anyway, back to those dreaded reading books. Georgia’s reading books from school are from the Oxford Reading Tree series. They’ve been around a while, I gather and I suppose in itself, from an educational perspective, they are fairly well written with step-wise developments on words with progressively more words per page.

What I just can’t get over are the stories and how depressingly negative they are! Bif, Chip and Kipper along with Wilf and Wilma, are on the whole pretty interesting characters (well, as interesting as pen-drawn characters can get). But the things they get up to and the conversations they have though are enough to make me want to slit my wrists! (No kidding!)

At The SeasideTake for example, the latest story Georgia brought home. It’s called At the Seaside.

The words of the story go like this:
The family went on holiday. Wilf and Wilma went, too.
The hotel had burned down. ‘Sorry’ said the man.
They looked at a new hotel. ‘Too expensive,’ said Mum.
They looked at an old hotel. ‘No, thank you,’ said Dad.
Every hotel was full. ‘Sorry!’ said everyone.
They had to go home. But the car broke down.
A farmer stopped his tractor. ‘Can I help?’ he said.
The farmer had a bus. ‘You can stay here,’ he said.
‘What a good holiday!’ said Wilf.

Copyrights OUP 1989

At least this book ends in a slightly more positive note, but really, surely it’s not necessary for children to have such a depressingly negative start. I must add, though, even in the books with slightly perkier or funnier stories, they typically end with ‘Oh no!’

Do you think these (infant and primary school) 5-year old’s reading books could have been a significant contributing factor to how ‘negative’ (again, gross generalisation here!) British society has become?

I’m sorry but give me Dr Seuss any day!

Mar 28, 2011 - Family, Learning, Life, Parenting, School    No Comments

Parents’ Evening – Meeting and then Raising the bar, Good or Bad?

Last week, on Thursday (24th March 2011), was Parents’ Evening. It was the second formal Parents’ Evening, we’ve had since Georgia started at Reception. Technically it was Parents’ afternoon, given that our scheduled time was at 3:20 pm….still minor details

It was really nice that this time round, there was more news, perhaps because a good 7 months have passed since the children started school, and having had more time to both get to know the children and work with them to assess their capabilities and standards, there was simply more information to share.

Georgia’s class teacher was as always, approachable, friendly and very reassuring in wanting to know if there were any ‘issues’; C was mentioned (by me), given that we have almost constantly on a daily basis been regaled with ‘Tales of C’. Beyond that, Georgia is doing very well in academic terms.

That aside, similar to the last Parent’s meeting, new targets for achievements were set. This consisted with a prior conversation, between teacher and Georgia, in which Georgia was asked, what she thought she was already good at. This time, she said ‘writing’. And two targets were set for her, a) to spell words independently and b) to count in 2s.

Now here comes the bit about ‘raising’…you see, we have been doing, well, singing to be exact, multiplication tables, and at this point, Georgia actually already knows her 2 times tables. I was actually really surprised to find that, that she can recall the answers to most, if not all, the 2 times tables, but mainly because she’s learnt them by singing along to a multiplication CD.

We have been trying to reinforce the idea through a work book that explains multiplication using ‘sets of’ and so far, I think Georgia  understands the concept.

So mean (maybe, Tiger, is a more accurate description) mummy that I am, I actually asked for more than just the 2s. It didn’t take very much to convince Georgia’s teacher that she actually already knew the 2 times tables, and she promptly added to the Counting in 2s….10s and 5s.

So there we have it…it’s all my fault, that Georgia is going to have to learn the 10 times and 5 times tables as well, (I think she already does know the 10s), and it’ll add a couple more weeks on to her achievements progress.

She is to colour in a pretty picture of ‘presents’; one present to be coloured in for every time she manages to complete related tasks. When all the presents are coloured in, she is to take the sheet in for a ‘reward’. As school’s reward consists of a certificate, Georgia has asked “Will you get me a real reward too?”

“Yes Georgia, of course I will.” After all, it’s partly or rather entirely (!)  my fault, there are more targets now. Still…

Well done Georgie girl!

Jul 23, 2008 - Books, Parenting    No Comments

Books Read

Books  from Caldicot Library that Georgia has read these past two weeks from 8 July – 22 July.

Sharing a Shell by Julia Donaldson
A Cuddle for Claude by David Wojtowycz ***favourite!
Carlo Likes Reading by Jessica Spanyol
That’s Why? by Babette Cole
Please be Quiet by Mary Murphy ***another favourite
One to Ten and Back Again by Nick Sharratt and Sue Heap ***another favourite
The Busy Busy Day by Claire Freedman and Daniel Howarth
What Pet to Get? by Emma Dodd