Wednesday 30 September 2015

Summing it up

BabyDoll can somewhat do simple mental sums. She is especially good with numbers within 10. She is able to figure out that 5+2 is 7, or 5+3 etc. But oddly, she cannot do 18+2 or 50+2 LOL. I think the bigger numbers intimidates her.
To be able to do simple addition and subtraction, the child must be very strong in her number order. She must know what comes before and after a number. With that she should be able to do simple sums like 5+1 or even 14+1.
Obviously, Doll isn't strong in her number order when it comes to numbers beyond 20. I felt she just needed a macro view of the number order.
I could use my Daiso blocks but I was too lazy to arrange 100 blocks of wood. I recalled I made this colourful 100 board for Sonshine and decided to use this instead.
I rummaged through my shelf and was overjoyed when I found it!
I simply used colored paper to make each row and divided each row.  I then used circular sticky labels and stuck on the paper. I wrote down the numbers on the labels and viola it is done!
Here's how I helped Doll 'see' and make sense of simple addition above 30. I wrote down the sums.
Let's take a look at 63+2
I gave her a counter, a male fairy counter that is. And told her that 63+2 means, she already has 63 sweets and I gave her 2 more. I had her place her counter on the number 63, the number she had to start with. And told her since she needed to add 2 to 63, she needs to move her fairy up 2 spaces. You will notice this is a bit like playing a board game.
It helped her very well. She continued to the rest of the sums I wrote for her.
by She also dabbled on more sums on her Kindy book. She did herself by using the number chart above.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Comparing readers

I have five sets of purchased readers and one set of readers that Doll brings home from school. Unfortunately for my pockets, I don't use them all. I discovered some were not suitable for teaching Doll to read while some others were right up my alley. Here is my comparison of the readers I have at home. (All of my readers are purchased from Popular bookshop)
This set of readers focuses on sight words.
As you can see, at the top right corner of each booklet, there is an indication of which sight words a book is emphasizing.
The other reader set I own is the 'First Little Readers'. Its target audience is for beginning readers. I suppose that means those who already have some foundation in reading.
A peep inside one of the books.
These two sets are very similar. Most of the words are repeated throughout the books. I bought these readers as I had thought it would be a good start to teach Doll new words.
Now, here is why I have stopped using these two sets for Doll. First, I felt that these readers are not suitable for beginning readers. The words used are too sophisticated (for the lack of a better word) for young readers. I was expecting more like 'This is a ball, this is a doll' type of sentences. But alas it isn't (see picture above). This means, the child must already know quite a good number of words before embarking these readers. Or otherwise, it means the teacher has to spend a lot of time drilling on one book before she can move on to the next. It can be quite tedious.
I found that the books introduce too many new words in a particular book. Although the sentences structure is more or less the same, but the new words only appear once throughout the book. For instance the above picture, the sentence structure on the two pages are the same except for the words 'dragon' and 'astronaut'. So these two words are newly introduced words but they only appear in those two pages.
I would not recommend it if you are teaching a very young reader to read. When I say young, I mean like he or she is just starting out. These readers are not suitable for these group of children. Constant drilling may be required and this may bore and tire the child.  I may use it for more mature readers to further increase their reading vocabulary. Or those who learns to read easily by sight, like my son.

For the same reasons, I do not like the readers Doll's school uses. I thought the introduction of new words were going at too fast a pace especially for children who is just learning to recognise words.

However, it has proven to be quite effective for Doll so far. Doll is learning to read from these readers, surprisingly. I credit it to the teachers who constantly read the same book to the kids for a term, day in day out. And even, extracting some words to teach the children and drilling in the words everyday.
Now that is my point, such readers require massive amount of work and time. For the teachers to do this in school is ok but for lazy parents like me, it is just too much work.
The other reader I own is Bob books. I used to scorn at these books when Sonshine was learning to read. I thought it was too simple, boring and too slow. Also because, he didn't learn to read by phonics more by sight words. But now that I have a different learner in Doll, I cannot help but think this set of reader is fantastic. In fact, it propelled her into reading.
I  highly recommend Bob books for children who are learning to read by phonics. These are especially suitable for those who are learning to blend CVC words. These books give very good opportunities for the child to practise blending and also give them the confidence in reading. When Doll realised she could read the entire book all by herself, it gave her massive confidence in reading. After this, Doll's reading went up by many notches.
Another set of readers I used to roll my eyeballs at is the Peter and Jane series. I had forgotten this was the same reader my teachers used in school to teach me to read. Because of Doll's learning style, I had re-discover the beauty of this series.
Why is this set of readers so popular? Unlike the first two readers I mentioned, Peter and Jane books start off with very simple words. Words that a child can easily relate to. The new words gradually appear and get repeated (like crazy) throughout the book.
I like that they restructure the sentences using the same words. This erases the possibility that the child is memorising. Let me explain. For the first three readers I mentioned, the sentence structure is the same throughout a book. When a child 'reads' it, like when Doll comes back and rattle off her school readers, it makes one wonder if the child is memorising the words (because it get repeated) or she can really read each and every word.
However, in Peter and Jane series, the structure changes but the words are the same. So it forces the child to really look at the words rather than going by the 'rhythm' (like reciting nursery rhymes).
I guess each readers have it strengths. My comparisons are solely based on Doll's learning ability. For her learning style (need repetition and lots of practise), she needs Bob books and Peter and Jane series are the best fit. However, the first three readers are excellent for children who read by sight and pick up reading easily, like my son. To find out which readers suit your child best, you got to know what kind of learner he or she is and then pick out the readers that is most suitable. Well, I had to do a lot of trial and error on that as one can see! But I am glad that I have finally found what works for Doll! Yay! 

Friday 18 September 2015

Reading Mandarin with Wood

One of the things I am adamant to do is to expose Mandarin to Doll. We don't speak Mandarin and are not fluent in the language. Because we are not a mandarin speaking family, it is natural that Doll is adverse to the language.
Mandarin is a difficult language to learn because it cannot be decoded phonetically. The words are pictorial so, it is either you know the word or don't know the word. The other challenging thing is a word can morphed into a totally different word in its pronunciation and meaning with just a few added strokes. It does not help that the intonation of some words are very close to one another.  To learn Mandarin, the only way to go is to memorised the symbols and its sounds. (Psst, that is why I also believe we can learn to read English the same way- purely by sight. It is equally effective)
So anyway, before Doll started school this year, she rejected Mandarin books and had little interest in it. Thanks to the exposure she gets in school, we are fortunate that she is liking the language and sometimes attempts to speak in it, albeit gibberish.
And so, this opportunistic mama capitalised on her growing interest and quickly swoop in to teach her.
So here's what I have been doing.
Doll's school uses these mandarin readers to teach the kids. I notice most kindergarten uses these series too. I don't think the teachers expect them to really recognise the words. The thing is I disagree with their teaching style. Somehow the kids memorises the book without really recognising the words. That is like a thorn in my flesh. I cannot accept that. So whenever Doll brings these readers home, I would make sure she recognises each and every word. Since she is already familiar with the book, it is easier for her to remember the words.
But the good thing is, by term 3, she is beginning to consciously remember the words. Makes my job a lot easier. I just need to revise with her.
I also use these babies to teach her simple words and expose her to the language sentence structure. I like it because the words are repetitive and very simple. It helps that that fonts are large, somehow it makes it easy on the eyes.
We have completed two books and we are on our way to our third.  

I bought this cylinder of Chinese wood blocks for Sonshine actually. But I never got the chance to use it because I couldn't find the right time to use it with him. So I kept it for the longest time until now.
The set includes wooden blocks with Chinese characters on them. The purpose is to combined the characters either at the side or top or bottom to make a word.
Doll learnt these two words in our own reading books. I took these out to give her a visual on how different these two words are. Good thing, she is not confused and could read these words instantly.
And so my brains got itchy and I realised I could also use my Daiso wooden blocks to make my own! The silly thing is that that set does not have all the words I need. So I made my own.
And here's my advice.
You don't have to buy the learning aid at all. You can make your own, it is cheaper and more satisfying!
Again, these were the words she has learn in her school. Since these words look so similar, I made these blocks to help visually discriminate the words. Again, she did not seem to need it as she could read the words however how I slide the wood block.
Onward with our learning!

Thursday 10 September 2015

Counting to 100

Apart from reading, Doll has also been dabbling in a little bit of counting.
I am sort of a lazy parent. I always like to take short cuts. The thought of teaching her the numbers from 1-100 number by number tires me. So I thought of a way to get this done quickly.
She knows her numbers from 1-30 and I sensed that she saw the pattern ie. after every tenths you start with a 1,2,3 etc. To give example, after 20 is 21, 40 is 41 and so on. What she did not know is what comes after the ninth etc. 39, 49, 59,79.
Instead of making her count from 1 to 100, I used my favourite DIY number blocks. I laid out the blocks in sequence, but I left out the tens column. Laying out the blocks gives her the visuals to the number order.
I showed her where to place the tens. I also showed her the pattern. I showed her that after the 40s it is the 50s and then 60s etc. It was easy for her to grasp because she knows her order from 1-10 (I hope I am making sense here).
I also made my usual printables as a follow up to help her drill deeper into her . >O<
I also got her this book in haste. I am fortunate that she enjoys doing such 'work'. She automatically asks for it when the brother is doing his. Ah, the beauty of peer pressure.
But I soon realised she cannot quite do the whole book. I had wrongly thought that kindergarten 2 level is about counting and simple additions. But I was wrong. There are questions similar to number bonds. So it looks like we have to sit out on this one for awhile. 

Monday 7 September 2015

Teaching Doll to read, my journey

I know plenty of Singaporean parents are eager to start their young children to read. So, I will be doing a recap on how I started on Doll. 
But a word of caution, don't be too caught up with it and stress yourself or your child. Remember this, they will eventually learn to read- it doesn't matter how fast or slowly they get there.
However, I believe in exposing the children to read at a very young age. I believe it is possible for even toddlers to recognise simple words. All they need is exposure. Just remember the rule, don't push it. Only go on if your child is ready AND willing to learn.
Doll was definitely ready to learn. When I started her at 2 years old, she could recognise the words I taught her. I started her on reading by sight. I made printables and did activities with her some of them were:
This was one of the printable I made for her to recap what I taught her. I wrote about it here.
Getting her to fix up this 3 letter-word puzzles
(This puzzle can be found in Popular book stores)
Matching objects to the word cards. You can read more about it here.
LeapFrog: Letter Factory
Another thing I did was to let her watch Leapfrog's Letter Factory. It comes highly recommended not just by me but many other parents. I let Doll watch this and she picked up not only the letter sounds but also the alphabets. And that was it, my job was done in teaching her letter sounds, HA!
I love this DVD because the songs are super catchy and it gives superb visual aids to help the child remember the letter sounds. For instance, to help the child remember that 'c' makes it sound, they designed 'c' looking very very c-c-c-c-cold. Sure way for kids to remember!
I continued to teach her to read by sight by making her match printables like these. As she matched the cards, she learnt to recognise each of the words. By the way, I have put this printable for anyone to download. Just click on 'free printable' at the top of the page and select 'weather'. You can also read about this here.
As she picked up more words, I slowly got her to read very simple sentences. I also needed her to understand what she was reading. That's why I did activities like the above to make sure she knows exactly what she is reading.
With all the words she learnt at home, it was enough for her read simple sentences. You can read about it here. By now, she has already turned 3.
Somehow, in between, I became complacent and weary that I sort of slacked for a quite some time. When I was jolted back to this, I tried many ways to speed up her reading vocabulary.
I frantically purchased guided readers like these hoping I could use it as a 'textbook'.
 I even made word cards extracted from the books. Unfortunately, I was lackadaisical and lazed off again. So we didn't see much progress for a while. Also because she started school this year, I had lesser time with her. While I could plan the activities for her, I simply couldn't squeeze in time to teach her. So this year, at 4 years old, we got derailed from our tracks.
I dabbled a little on phonics. Beginning with 'at' words (because she could read the word 'at'). She did beautifully but I stopped there. So for the entire year we did little.
But, we are fortunate that Doll's kindergarten is doing a great job teaching the kids to read. Although, I don't think the children are expected to actually read, the kids do pick up a few words here and there.
By now, I am eager for doll pick up more vocabulary and at a faster pace. I continued to make her read by sight. And yes, I bought another set of readers.
I taught her by the only way I know how- by sight. However, I felt that it was too slow. And she didn't seem to recognise the words as fast as before. She needed a lot more repetition before she can finally remember. 
Moreover, I found out that she could not visually discriminate similar looking words, like 'Monday' and 'monster' both looks the same to her. It got quite a dread doing this because result was slow on top of the limited time we have.  
Until recently, when I saw how my 2 year old nephew could easily read (because of phonics). I turned back to phonics. I never quite believe in phonics. My son and I did away with it so for years , I scorn at the method. But through Doll, I finally see the beauty of phonics.
At first, Doll, struggled with it and again it confirmed my disdain for it. However, after a few tries, she finally managed to breakthrough decoding the words. And when she did, I was blown away by the number of words she could suddenly read! And I didn't have to repeat and repeat and repeat to her like before.
And just like that her reading vocabulary went up by a notch.
While I finally accept phonics, I still believe in sight reading. Many words cannot be decoded phonetically. So, now, I am still teaching her to read by sight but also by phonics.
And this was my arduous journey with her.
Of course, different folks, different strokes. Some kids can simply pick up reading just through read a louds like my son. Parents of these kids have it easy! I had half of it easy....
If you are teaching or thinking of teaching your child to read, remember:
Enjoy the process, don't be stress! 

Saturday 5 September 2015


Recently, I got super frustrated by the slow progress we have making (partly because I didn't invest enough time with her) that I stepped up our phonics reading this week.
At first our phonics learning went very well. She could decode 'at' family words very well. Until she tried 'ug' words. She had a lot of trouble sounding out 'mug' and kept reading it as 'mat' or even 'pup'.
I still remember that despite explaining to her over and over again, she simply couldn't get it. What baffled me was that she could sound out 'bug' but not 'mug' and 'rug'.
I got so frustrated that I smashed our doodle board on the floor in anger. YES, ME! I get into a monster mad mom rage too. We all do right? Keeping it real here.
On hindsight, she couldn't sound out 'mug' and 'rug' possibly because she has never heard nor used these words before. We don't use these words, we always use 'cup' for 'mug' and 'mat' for 'rug'. Now I know why is it important to speak to the child as much as we can. Being familiar to words by hearing also helps the child to decode and read.
So anyway, after that mad rage I hid in my room to calm myself down. Some fairy must have sprinkled some magic dust during this time. Because when I got out, she miraculously could sound out the words. And not just the 'ug' words!
She went on and sounded out ALL the words on these cards that I printed  from 3 Dinosaurs blog. Who would have thought! Don't ask me what happen, I truly have no idea.
Since she was getting the hang of it, I got her a set of BOB books for her to give meaning to her new found skill- read in complete sentences. She's doing very well!
At the same time, she is learning new words from school (mostly sight words). Each time she brings home a reader, I would test her by extracting the words and get her to read them as stand alone. I am happy that she is truly recognising the words and not merely memorising the book.
Together with her new found skill and the words she learnt in school, she is able to read simple books like 'Come back Ben'.
We Have Fun Ladybird Key Words with Peter And Jane 2a  by Murray, W.-HB
I got so excited that I even picked up a Peter and Jane book. Never before! I never like Peter and Jane books but, I looked through the books and found that the methodology works well for Doll. She is about 2a/3a level. But I decided to start her with 2a first. I may or may not continue with this series, let' see!
I am SO glad we have made another step forward after dragging our feet for so long!