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Thursday, September 30, 2010

If Only There Were Such Fun ways to Learn

Back in my time- I would have topped in Geography!!
The kids are being taught countries in school. They go over National symbols, monuments currency (aargh) and some more such scary things apart from spotting them in the map.
For the sake of reinforcement and also for exercising their brain with new and different creative challenges, I searched for map based games. Here is what I found- map puzzles which have the option of countries with outline so that it is easy to place the pieces in the right slot. I was surprised how quickly the kids were able to spot the correct slots for even a tiny country like Taiwan and even remember the locations of some of the countries they had slotted. What I liked was that they developed their own mnemonics as they moved along- Russia looks like a dragon or Bangladesh looks like a palm tree.
These maps are downloadable and fun to do!
They had also done an adaptation of a lovely song in school which helped them recall the names of quite a few countries.

Like Me and You
Music by Raffi, D. Pike
© 1985 Homeland Publishing
From the album One light, One Sun
Janet lives in England, Pierre lives in France
Bonnie lives in Canada
Ahmed lives in Egypt, Moshe lives in Israel
Bruce lives in Australia,
Ching lives in China, Olga lives in Russia
Ingrid lives in Germany
Gita lives in India, Pablo lives in Spain
Jose lives in Colombia
Chorus: And each one is much like another
A child of a mother and a father
A very special son or daughter
A lot like me and you.
Koji lives in Japan, Nina lives in Chile
Farida lives in Pakistan
Zosia lives in Poland, Manuel lives in Brazil
Maria livers in Italy.
Kofi lives in Ghana, Rahim lives in Iran
Rosa lives in Paraguay
Meja lives in Kenya, Demetri lives in Greece
Sue lives in America.
I am also making them work sheets for the countries they are covering in school. And I was amazed that they could recall the design of the flags quite well and woulkd describe the colour and number of stars etc very easily later on. I plan to print out a world map and make them stick the flags of the places that they have learnt as they move along.
And may be look at something innovative like eat noodles the day they do China or wear a Hat the day they do South America.
Let us hope they find it fun. I do not want to burden them but just make learning a fun experience and make it as much possible as a game rather than something scary, dreary and tedious- something that should be avoided.
Coming back to my favourite topic- reading- I discovered a site that seems to be very interesting and systematic for teaching kids to read. This method called Bricks and mortar system follows a very step-by-step approach to learn words without trying to guess the pronunciation. I have not tried it yet but plan to print the disks out and try with the kids because I find they do a lot of guess work when they come across an unfamiliar word.
And here's something on time practice

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

You Know That Your Home Needs a Pet

Ojas starts cribbing at the chicken shop- Mamma, I want to take the chicken home- we must have a pet.
Me- But you have Duggi in Pondicherry- he is your pet
Ojas- no - I don't want a scary pet. I want a chicken.
Anticlimax- the chicken breaks free and flaps around near the kids and Ojas and Tejas jump about squealing.
But let me tell you- chicken can be scary too. We used to have hens and chickens when we were younger. The mothe rhen was err- a mother hen- very calm and collected and would not protest when every morning I would lift her backside and pull out an egg from under her. She would quietly get into the larder, push some spare bowls and even a bulb under her and sit calmly.
The chickens that were hatched- well, the 2 male ones- very aptly 1 in brown and 1 in white were not so easy going. Especially the white one was well- a murderous lot. He had to be kept separte from the rest of the brood. HE wouldnot hesitate to "strangle" the mother also.
Now we had a huge field in the back yard where we had patches of veggies- potatoes, okra, beans etc with dividers in between. Sis and I would walk up every morning on these dividers to inspect the produce.
And like 2 mini villains- these male chickens would follow us. We would finish inspecting and take an about turn and ... dhan te naan.. the 2 villains would be facing us- proverbial arms akimbo.
We couldn't run across because the veggie patches were there and we had to necessarily walk back the same path. We would edge past the chicks shaking in fear and the 2 nasty pieces of work would eagerly and viciously peck at our ankles- bruising them very badly.
So much for gentle pets.

Anyway, back to present- one evening Ojas, Tejas walk back to the house and Ojas exclaims-
Tejas- look- we have a pet now- pointing upwards
Lo and Behold- a dirty dull grey moth has decorated itself on the ceiling and the kids "lovingly" swat at it with their hand fan/ bat/ racket/ wicket and squeal to b picked up so that they can touch the "pet" with their afore mentioned weapons!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Grandparents' Day

The kids are to celebrate Grandparents' day in school. They have to prepare a sheet with pictures of their grandparents and take it to school. Here's what they are doing.
The theme is the special moments of their life that they have celebrated with their grandparents. Which could be either a special occassion or celebration or just a normal slice of life moment!
Take a look...

Friday, September 24, 2010


We were discussing the food chain in the car this morning.
Tejas gives an example of food chain-
Chicken was eating the worm and Lion came and ate the chicken and gave the bone to the doggie!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Geographically Speaking

Geography was not my strong point in the school days. I remember placing Allahabad in Maharashtra in one of the Map tests. However, with time and many train journeys and associating with people of different states/ nations, I can say that I have become fairly good in Geography.

The kids are doing countries of the world in school. They learn about the culture, food, dress code and many other stuff incuding pointing them out in the map.

I foind an interesting and interactive site that has some interesting games on geography- I have not really explored the entire site but apart from games, it also has a lot of information on the country/ continent.

The site also has other subjects- we explored the food chain game and it was quite fun.

The school is also doing hindi sight words. I found and this site quite interesting for worksheets and this site good for advanced reading - stories were quite good for practice- incidentally the same that we used in our school days.

I also made them sight word sheets for further practice and am doing hindi writing using a workbook so that they get better in recognizing the letters. This is my own drive to help them start reading hindi because in school it is just elementary sight word / picture recognition whereas we were able to read simple readers in prep class.

Monday, September 20, 2010

This PTA Meeting

Had me shitting bricks. I expected a set back with Ojas as he has clearly not taken the separation very positively.
Tejas has blossomed and done very well, made a lot of friends and has picked up on his reading. The teached is also impressed with his answers to concepts and he seems to be picking up unique answers rather than the generic like answering "white tiger" for endangered species. He also follows up answers with explanations- like explaining the meaning of extinct.

Ojas has become moody in class and there are periods when he does not answer stuff that he definitely knows like which class and school he studies in. He has a very sharp memory - he remembers all the Hindi sight words that are being taught in class- and great recalling abilities wrt concepts and gives answers that are beyond his level- but he refuses to read at times. We suspect he knows but he doesn't want to answer. Though in Jr Kg, he was among the most extrovert kids and would be the first one to answer in class.
I recall one day I wrote "APPLE" on his white board and asked him to read it out. He rubbed it off saying I don't know. I got angry and immediately he rewrote APPLE and said - see I have written apple again.
I also thought he may refuse to make friends because according to him, Tejas is his friend. But the teacher assured us that he has made plenty of friends.
So we are to give him more time to get used to the separation, keep him interested and practice a lot without making it dull for him.
Already I can see an improvement in terms of reading and word spotting as I do the bed time stories with him. So... just wish us luck...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Patch Work

Ojas- Mamma, your dress is tootie (torn). I will buy you a new one
Tejas- gets a cellotape and sticks it on the tear.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Research says that children as young as 4 years can understand irony or sarcasm.
Well, not only understand, they can make ironical / sarcastic statements too.

Ojas- Mamma, I want my toy
Mamma trying to avoid- where is your toy?
Ojas- sarcasm dipping- you don't know where toys are kept?

But evidently, potty humour is not their forte

Mamma- giggles at his serious expression while doing the job
Tejas- in serious tone- Laugh मत कारो

Or Ojas- Mamma, we should not say B for Buttocks in class.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How Do I Read?

The September I Can Read Carnival is being held at the Book Chook- a celebration of easy readers and easy chapter books. This post is on some tips on reading with children.
The methods that I feel helps in the reading are-
1. Reviewing sight words with the kids actively using flash cards, daily exercises or reading easy readers or sight word drill- these are a set of 220 words that form the foundation of reading. Take a look at any pre school book- you will find the same set of words being repeated in most of the books. This repetitive reading of the same set of words helps the children in polishing their word recognition skills.
2. Activity Books- Most of these books will have exercises that require kids to fill in the missing alphabets or match the picture with the right word or simple word searches and grids. I find these activity books as multipurpose- it is fun and it is also educative- the child does not feel that he is doing something regimental.
3. Phonics- My kids do a lot of guess work while reading- At that moment, I ask them to focus on the alphabet sound so that they can self correct.
4. Reading a lot- Earlier I was more interested in doing a good story with them. But now the focus is on reading so I pick up simple sight word abundant books so that the kids can read along with me. And I never skip the sentences in order to move the story quicly and neither do I explain in my own words because now they are watching me read every word!
5. Competition- I make the kids take turns in reading each page so that it does not become too tiring for one of them. We also play teacher teacher and make the kids the teacher on rotation - and then one must watch them "teach" the words to me or the sibling!
6. 5 word exercise- 5 random words are practiced actively on a day - we shamelessly divert from the phonics focus and make them "by heart" and throw them surprise spelling quiz over the day.
7. Word Spotting- in product wrappers, bill boards, other books, TV

On this note, I small anecdote.
Me, trying to make Ojas read the word - Black
Me- What is this written? This is a colour. Which colour can you think of with B?
Ojas- Blue
Helpfully, Tejas picks up a book and discretely rubs a finger over the black colour on the book cover.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Puns and Negotiations

Tejas- Mamma कौन corn लाया?

Ojas and Dadda are having a mock quarrel
Ojas- Dadda- stop! I will give you kissie..ok!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tamil Nadu

Tejas- If there is Tamil Nadu, where are Hindi Nadu and English Nadu?

Tejas- Why didn't you buy me the toy
Me- I did not go to office so I have no money
Tejas- so take from bank
Me- there is no money in the bank
Tejas - then use the card

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Micro Managing

Years ago, I fell in love with the microwave. Or rather, the idea of a machine that can cook in a jiffy. Or a cooking contraption that has a light bulb inside to easily display what's going on inside- unlike an OTG.
Lots of people lamented that they use their microwave only for re-heating. And yet others warned that Microwave cooking is actually harmful for the health.
Microwave was on top priority in my purchase list post marriage and the love affair has started since then.
The first few months I experimented rapidly- I baked cakes, I made carrot halwa, pasta, veggies, chicken, rice, masala peanuts. I experimented with browning, used various modes- convection, grill, micro.
Along with my microwave, I had got a Sanjeev Kapoor cook book and a free cooking class from not Sanjeev Kapoor. This lady went about saying - actually, it is trial and error everytime someone would ask a question on cooking methodology.
Well, I smirked at her and went about doing exactly what she said- Trial and not so many Errors before coming up with my own set of cheat rules for microwave cooking.

- Focus on Positives
The main advantage of microwaving is time saving and the main disadvantage is no browning. So I use this simple rule to decide my cooking mode- When time saving is required- like a caramel pudding that takes a looooong time to get baked in convection mode- I go for a 6 minute microwaving- quick and easy.
Whereas when browning is needed- I go for grill mode after a quick micro mode to "cook" the stuff fast.

- Never Ignore the Experts
I swear by the Sanjeev Kapoor cookbook as it is written for the users of my microwave brand. Whenever I am confused by what power or which mode or how much time, I refer the book and replicate the specifics and make adjustments according to the item I am cooking.

- Compare and Contrast
If it takes as much or more time to cook a particular dish in the microwave as compared to doing on the gas, I don't bother to microwave. Like daals, rajma/ chana/ chole family or rice.

- Combine
Want to have the best of both worlds? The deep rich taste of kadahi masala and the baked notes of the oven- quickly fry the spices / onions in the kadahi and bung the rest of the ingredients with the fried masala into the micro- I often do that with my pasta when I want a combo of fried veggie taste and baked cheese.

- Non Veg
Yes- it cooks as well, sometimes even better in the microwave- I blindly trust the preset "roast chicken" mode for fish, chicken or mutton (keema is what I have tried).

- Cutting Down number of Steps
I really do not like cooking anything that requires too many stages and steps. Therefore the first thing I do when I look at a recipe is to cut down the steps required. Which is what I do when I look at the microwave recipes too. If the steps involved are taking too many dishes or pre cooking various ingredients in separate steps, I rather go for cooking on the gas and vice versa.
I have discovered a carrot halwa is easier to do in the microwave whereas a kheer is easier on the gas. But again, that's my own perception.

- Want a brown note?
Last evening I was making fish curry. I had two options- to deep fry and dip in the curry or just stew- Stew would be heathy but bland and deep fried would be very very delicious. I choose the best of both worlds- Ground all the usual ingredients, mixed them well with the fish, added a little oil and put the dish in my favourite chicken roast mode. The spices and the fish browned and gave me a pseudo fried feel without the overt oily sensation that lingers after eating fried fish - so healthy & tasty!

So who says Microwave is only good for heating?

Monday, September 06, 2010

Eating Out is Becoming Expensive Day by Day

Where do you want to eat?
Kids- KFC

Where do you want to eat?
Ojas- That roll mutton I ate naa, and there were grapes and cucumber
Me- Copper Chimmney
Ojas- Nooooooo were they also gave grape, cucumber....

(He means Mutton seekh kabab and the place is specifically Kabab Factory where they serve salads before the kabab course)