Saturday, 12 November 2011

Integration of Art and Writing Skills

Tell me how many children throw a tantrum when you ask them to write the same alphabets again and again. Here is a way S integrated art and writing skills, created a fun experience for himself.

Few days back, we did some tape resist painting and S enjoyed it so much. I admired his poised attitude during the process. When I posted our tape resist painting, Mommy Labs connected with our activity and remembered how they enjoyed tape resist arts. They bonded again to come up with some beautiful tape resist paintings. S got inspired by one of their paintings that had intricate black colored designs. An idea that triggered in his mind after viewing those pictures is to doodle Kannada ( an Indian language) alphabets in the un-taped spaces. And here, he came up with an artful Kannada alphabets.

So, now we know that not only is art healing, colourful and fun, it also helps children integrate learning. Writing has not been that easy for him in his early years just as it is to any other child. Though he writes and reads English very well nowadays, any kind of alphabets writing when we try to explore other languages, reminds him of the difficult days he went through in his early years. 

He used to always be scared for being a slow writer. He even came up with an idea during this activity to address that. He started playing 'start-stop', a fun game that he invented. The game is to watch the time he took to complete each un-taped area. He loudly counted the number of seconds it took for him to write an alphabet in one un-taped area. This helped him develop a timing sense too and most important, he was giggling throughout the time. 

I realized that integration of learning with something that the children love to do will ease their fear and help them maximize their potentials with grace. 

Enjoy Learning and Sharing

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Exploring 3D Shapes

Lately, we have been integrating Math and art a lot. In an attempt to explore 3 D shapes, my sweet heart ended up making many colourful models . And the joy doubles when we are able to accomplish such work with the very simple materials that we have at home. Being a dominant spatial learner, my boy thoroughly enjoyed this activity since comprehending 3 D images and shapes is very easy for him. 

While parents and educators are worried nowadays that children are starting to loose focus by the stimulation of high energy distractions from the surrounding environment, this is one such activity that can really slow down a child and take them to the meditative world. For my son, what kept him occupied and challenged was to get the structure of the car he made, to put the model upright without having it to fall. Though it was challenging for him, he looked very calm and focused. It was an opportunity for me to observe him and understand that he will not give up. 

What activities have you done that really was relaxing for you and at the same time helped you to integrate a key concept in learning?

Enjoy learning and sharing.

Art Influences Imagination

"Logic will get you from A to Z, imagination will get you everywhere" - Albert Einstein.

Can you teach a child to imagine? How can one be imaginative? Is it natural? Can I really unleash imagination in someone else? Well, sharing my experience about how a child can powerfully and beautifully unleash his imagination when an educator gets curious about their work. 

It all started with a tape resist art that we chose to do. An initial discussion about tape resist painting was good enough for him to be curious and jump in to work on it. With some help in holding the tapes initially, he was ready to start colouring and was on his own. Here is what we got.

Well, honestly, through my eyes it was a piece of art with tapes pasted and the gaps were colored. It looked beautiful and fantastic, the child liked to do it. But that was not actually where it ended through the eyes of my son. I have this habit of asking open ended questions while coaching or facilitating learning, mainly because I am a professional coach trained in Co Active coaching model. 

Here is the link if you would like to know more about Co Active coaching.

One of the cornerstones of Co Active coaching is that the client/learner is naturally creative, whole and resourceful and that they have the answers or they can find the answers. The job of a Co-Active Coach is to ask powerful questions, listen and empower to elicit the skills and creativity a client already possesses, rather than instruct or advise. Hence, asking open ended and powerful questions has always been a part of my facilitation style.

Once he finished his work, I just asked him couple questions related to what does the art mean to him and how does he visualize it.  The very next moment, he started to explain, "I will tell you. The green color and the baby pink color is the beautiful lotus flower in the middle. Near the lotus, you see a red rose garden. In between the lotus and red rose garden is the grassland. On the other side, you can see a big strawberry farm and below it is the soil area where there are no flowers. And the blue patch is the big west swimming pool . On the south east, is maple tree full of orange autumn leaves (he is very fond of maple leaves)." He went on to add that the blue patch on top of the lotus is the smaller swimming pool towards north, a rose garden in north west area, the yellow patch in north east is the park and the other two yellow patches are the western parks and the list went on and on. All I could do was just listen and visualize a beautiful farm, garden, swimming pools, mango groves etc through his guided imagery.

Such is the imagination of a child which is very vivid and beautiful. I was amazed by the creativity he demonstrated, firstly to visualize nature in few patches of oil pastel colors and secondly his mastery in the way he integrated Geography with this art to reinforce his knowledge about directions. If I had not asked the open ended question, I may not have come to know about his visualization. I was very happy to understand his creative imagination . 

One precious gift that we can give our children is to ask questions, listen to them keenly and lovingly, not impose our ideas unto them. This is nothing about teaching creativity, but it is very much about understanding how creative they naturally are.  Mainly, it is about being curious and being interested in them. In cases where children demonstrates vivid imaginative skills, it is expected that the educators accept unusual ideas and not be judgmental about their ideas. While a visually dominant child can demonstrate such strong visualization skills naturally, guided imagery has been proved to be a positive way of helping all children in general to visualize in order to encourage imagination. Either ways, the child actually imagines and 'Imagining" is a higher order thinking that helps anyone to communicate in a unique way, creatively think to form original and innovative ideas.

There are times when the educator gets creative and introduces own concepts and ideas to the learner, which could be a requirement too. Learning is a beautiful and connected dance between the teacher and the student in which  both take the role of the learners and dance in the moment.

Have you ever noticed that children keeps imagining about wonderful things? If not, it is time to observe them, start a conversation with them to allow them to guide us, so we can learn lots and lots from them about their dream world. 

Enjoy learning and sharing.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Understanding different Learning Styles

So, why should an educator even bother to understand different learning styles? Before I answer this question, I would like to share with you a little story.

Many say that children learn a lot through practical life activities. Practical life activities helps a child understand his/her environment and how it works. The child feels valued and the practical life activities increases the child's self esteem since the activity focuses on inclusiveness and sends them a message that they have an important role in the family. I involved my son in one such activity few days back. I asked my son to prepare a shopping list. I gave him a paper and pencil and asked him to write the heading "Things to buy" and I went in to my kitchen to continue my cooking. I started to tell one by one all the things that we needed to buy and I heard answers "yes, mommy.. I finished adding" for each item I was mentioning. After I was done with listing all the items, I told my son, "now, keep the list safely and let us get ready to go for shopping in  few minutes". My son shouted, "Wait, I need to color". I wondered, "What do you need to colour?". I went towards my son to find out what he has done with the shopping list. To my surprise , I saw a cart full of items represented as a beautiful picture. I could not believe someone would represent everything in pictures. And, he did that so fast and you may want to take a look at the shopping list below. The shopping list had beautiful representation of ghee(clarified butter), greens, salt, okra, apple juice, Kellogg chocos, wheat bran flour, lentils, bread and jam.

Knowledge and information need not be expressed only through words. There are some people who like to express through images and pictures. Sarah Major in her article 'Moving More to Center with Visual Learners' says, "Most children from ages 4 to 7 learn best through images since they're at the stage in which the right hemisphere (gestalt brain) is rapidly developing as a normal neurological function. Many children naturally are strongly visual in their learning style. According to the experts, this percentage of all children is pretty high."

She adds, "Children who have spent a great portion of their time immersed in media such as television, video games, computer games all develop a strong visual sense. Even if their neurological wiring would have been predominantly left-brained, their experiences in life create a strong right brain and make them visual learners. " which is very relevant to the children of 21st century who has more access to visual imageries around them in their environment nowadays.

So, coming back to our question, "Why do we have to understand different learning styles?". A simple answer could be this - it is no point to invest time and energy in instructional strategies that is not suitable for the learner. Only if the educator work with the learner's style, the probability of learner's understanding increases. I came across a video which actually can give the answer we are looking for. Take a look at this video.

Animal School

It is about having alternate methods to teaching and learning. It would be a boon for everyone if education system can be more flexible in providing alternate methods to teaching thereby being inclusive of all kinds of learners. All it means is that if my S chose to express the shopping list in visuals, that is who he is and he is intelligent in expressing that way. Forcing him to express through words is not an effective way to nurture his joy for learning, atleast in the beginning years. Though, it is possible to nurture whole brain development in children while they are growing.

Educator need not be savvy in expressing in different ways. It is just enough if the child is allowed freedom to express knowledge the way he/she wants to. Another story from the learning journey with my son would clarify this. It was the first time S was going to do oil painting. He asked me, "So, how do I use this". I had no idea how to do oil painting. I am not an artist, but I am his facilitator in his learning process. So, I did a quick painting and showed it to him, "this is what I have done, you could paint whatever you want to paint". The only thing I assured him is that he is free to paint whatever he wants to, can use paints lavishly and that he need not worry about messing his shirt and the table. The table was well arranged to handle the mess. I went away and came back later to see this wonderful first oil painting that he did.

He said that it is a van in the dark moon light. There is so much depth in his painting and I was amazed. This is a seven year old's first oil painting. And you surely might want to take a look at the facilitator's (and that is me) painting.

I didn't feel that my painting had that much depth and as you can see, definitely his painting is better than mine. That shows that the educator need not be an expert in all areas. it is only about providing freedom and an environment where in they can be original and their expertise is nourished. 

Here are some of the other paintings done by DS with in few days since he made his first painting.

That was Oswald in the Blue Ocean. The following picture he says is Tsunami in Japan.

The green coloured things are cars and buses floating. When asked why he has used the red color, he said people dying in Tsunami reminds red colour for him.

S is very fond of gem stones, particularly diamonds. Here is an attempt to paint a diamond. 

What I learnt as an educator in our oil painting adventure is that I don't have to possess all kinds of skills similar to my learner. All I have to do is allow freedom for the child to express in a safe and peaceful environment in a way he/she wants to express. If I would have prepared a shopping list, it would have been expressed only through words. In order for educators to nurture children's creativity, it is very important to understand their learning styles. Simply being aware of learner's strengths and weaknesses to learning styles will allow creative learning.

Enjoy Learning. Registered & Protected

Friday, 2 September 2011

Using patterns to teach Math facts

Memorizing has been used as a practice in many schools and it involves rote learning. While this method can be used in certain cases like teaching phonics in the beginning years; it still acts as an ineffective method in many other cases. When it comes to teaching Math facts, rather than forcing children to memorize hundreds of facts, they can be taught to learn the facts by understanding and applying simple patterns. Since this is more visual, it attracts the young learner to grasp complex concepts in an efficent and easy manner. Hence, memorization need not be the primary method to learn Math facts.

Here is an attempt to teach addition facts using patterns. The child was asked to make 6  using a pattern. By just coloring the grids using two colors in a particular fixed pattern, the learner was automatically able to write the corresponding addition facts. Moreover, the objective here is to make sure that the learner understands that there is a fixed pattern in the diagram as well as in the addition statements. The following pictures shows how a diagram with a pattern is drawn for making 6 and 5. The two broken pieces that looks like puzzle pieces gives a clue for the learner to recognize the fixed pattern. Here, the young learner can easily notice that one set of numbers/grids are increasing from the top and the other set of numbers/grids are decreasing from the top.

Let us take a look at another pattern that can be used to write addition facts with great ease. The only skill the learner needs to master is to be able to create a mental picture of the fixed pattern in order to come up with the addition facts.

Either of the above fixed pattern will help the learner to write addition facts with great ease. With more practise, it would become easier to write addition facts for any given number.


After practising for couple times, when the first grader was asked to write addition facts for number 15 , it took few minutes for him to write these facts.

This week, we started to make an addition book and this is what goes in the first page.

More fun pages to be created in our addition book. I appreciate your inputs if you have any more ideas for our addition book which is in the making. I enjoy learning and sharing with you.