Category Archives: flash cards

Reduce, reuse, recycle – into a Chinese scrapbook

We love books. We did our first DIY personalised journal in English when B was 18 months and asking more about family, interests, activities and people. I even added a section about preschool before he started. But we never got around to doing a simpler one in Chinese because the thought of ME writing originally in Chinese?  Yikes! 

Reading his first DIY book
Reading his first DIY book

Until now. Having just completed Mandarin Tots at Bibinogs, we both learnt many new words that I wanted to reinforce and keep relevant for him.  Also, while cleaning up the guest room (converted into playroom) and living room before the grandparents return, we found stacks of B’s art pieces, old spiral notebooks and magazines.  So… Time to reduce, reuse and recycle again!  And finally tackle our first Chinese scrapbook together.

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B reading through his very own DIY 读卡书 🙂

Here’s how we made it:  Browse through newspapers and magazines and cut out pictures for your chosen theme or alternately, based on vocabulary he’s learning at school. Print the characters out in large font if you don’t have enrichment class material such as flash cards. Invite him to read (or repeat) the words, match them to the right pictures, helping to cut where possible.  If you have old artwork or cardstock, resize them for your notebook before gluing both pictures and words on it first.  Finally stick them all on the (reinforced) spiral notebooks with double sided tape.  If you don’t have used notebooks, punch a hole on the sides to bind the “book.”

Reduce, reuse, recycle!
Reduce, reuse, recycle!

In our case, we did lots of cutting and glue-ing to work on B’s fine motor skills. He’s also more keen to read Chinese when the books are interactive (flaps, pull out tabs, stickers) … and now, when he’s actually had a hand in making it!

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To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul

Lately, B spontaneously calls out letters he recognises and sometimes sings the A-B-C Song while he pretends to “read” the print. Looks like he’s taking the next step to read WORDS on his own initiative, and not just recite from memory, vocalise or narrate what he sees. What a nice milestone for our brand new 2 year old 🙂 B’s also developed a list of places to ask for when we’re getting ready to go out. To my secret bookworm delight, we hear “go library and read book” almost every other day! Other regulars include “Bus stop and MRT?”, “play outside, playground, park”, “Botanic Gardens” (where he likes feeding the fish), “ama 公公”, “爷爷 奶奶” and his buddies’ “house”, “buy food at Fairprice” (we grocery shop together a lot), “ride toy car/train at shopping mall”, “music” and “Chinese class” (i.e. Kindermusik, Jiggle Wigs, Chengzhu). It’s encouraging to see all the time and effort in immersing him in a print and word-rich environment paying off – from getting his first library card at 7 weeks (!), daily newspaper browsing and storytimes, thematic flashcards if he wants to, and just when we relax, chat and read quietly together.

We couldn’t have done it without the network of public libraries in Singapore, notably the Bishan, Toa Payoh and Central NLB branches. The breadth and depth of parenting, baby and preschool books to toddler/family friendly activities is amazing AND free (or reasonable enough if you’re a foreigner). B’s been exposed to a wider range of authors, formats, topics – in both English and Chinese – than I ever was at his age. The books expand his vocabulary and imagination, plus save us money and reduce clutter with more informed buying (i.e. the read-everyday or hard-to-find ones) mainly online via The Book Depository and Fishpond, Read With Me Mommy and Flip For Joy (for Chinese/bilingual) or at the local Popular bookstores.

Last, a shout out to Fun With Tots, an ongoing series of six library workshops on print motivation, print awareness, phonological awareness, letter knowledge, narrative skills and vocabulary.  I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up with B, but was pleasantly surprised by the dedication of each of the librarians who prepared a handout of notes/resources and facilitated their topics with songs, books, parent/caregiver tips to keep everyone from adults to the little tots engaged. Even though it was close to bedtime (8p), B enjoyed each session and would say “go library at night”!  The only disappointment was that so few folks attended. It‘s ironic that parents prefer to spend money (sometimes up to ~$50-$100 per session) on enrichment classes based on early childhood experts, but can’t make time to visit the library or attend a hands-on workshop together (which BTW, costs $2 per 30 min session). Even if our kids attend daycare or preschool, or we work full time, we should still actively participate in fostering a love of reading, a thirst for knowledge and the capacity to imagine in our kids. Seeing is doing and believing. My dad was dubious when I wanted to borrow books on space for B … who liked it so much that he could name or describe all the planets in the solar system!

SO…. Head on over to your neighbourhood library and browse/borrow some books for the holidays.  You can also find out what’s going on at Bounce, the NLB channel dedicated to kids 0 to 12.  BTW, if like B, your kid is just learning his letters and enjoys music, take a look at all these alphabet songs and see what works best!

 
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. 
The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” 
– Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”

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You can never talk too much … to your kid

I just finished Jill Stamm’s “Bright From The Start” and was encouraged by her section on how live, repetitive interaction boosts early language development.  Her suggestions seem natural – great tips to keep in mind as we language on together.

Bright From The Start
Bright From The Start

Language development begins in utero.  Understanding its use begins as infants interact with family and caregivers, while language acquisition explodes by the time they’re three years old. Babies are born physically equipped to hear distinct language sounds (phonemes). By age one, they tune out words not frequently spoken around them, which in turn, they cannot easily pronounce.  In fact, normal and deaf-signing toddlers go thru similar language development milestones: 1st word (11-14 mos), two word combos (16-22 mos), complex rule-driven communication by 3 years on.  While the ability to read early is not consistently linked to advanced intellectual performance later in a life, it’s increasingly necessary to excel in certain schools, and thus, influence self-esteem et al.

Live, repetitive interaction is not about putting a CD, radio or video on repeat for passive learning nor about having a non-stop verbal diarrhea with your child. Rather try these activities together!

0-6 mos:

  • Use intentional parentese to stimulate brain and extend attention span
  • Speak Multi or Bilingual naturalistically, preferably with dedicated caregivers or playdates
  • Engage him face to face at an appropriate distance, use music, hang photos, selected mobiles
  • Lap read! Enables a visual embrace as you and child are looking at the same object.  Start short (5 min) but frequent, 4 mos on when visual acuity improves and he can reach out to see and touch objects/pages

6-18 mos: 

  • Deliberately point and label objects by name (light, door), attributes of objects, highlighting ones that are same or contrasting ( smooth, rough, big, small, square, round, blue, red), feelings (tired, hungry, happy)
  • Read over and over!  Hold him close, let him turn pages randomly and be hands on (fine motor skill practice). Modulate voice and facial expressions, even use props to invite participation. Vary intonation to match enthusiasm, emotion, meaning.  Intro simple books with 1-2 sentences per page and plenty of rhythm, rhyme, repetition, rhyming songs, and random play with rhyming words. Knowledge (i.e. retention) generally kicks in after two weeks of repetition
  • Talk frequently! Describe actions and objects. Positive tone, conversational interactions. 

18-36 mos:

  • Dialogic reading: Read with children while engaging them throughout.  Describe the illustrations (where’s the frog, how many), describe what they think is happening, predict what might happen next (what’s he doing, where’s he going), personalise ideas (remember the frog at the park?), share feelings about things in the story, leave lines incomplete — let them fill in the blanks!
  • Start simple music lessons (keyboard, violin, percussion). Sing fave songs esp with actions
  • Follow tots lead on interests and expose them to environmental print (EP). Read all around you, ask open ended questions. Differentiate printing vs pictures vs sounds that describe them

3 years on: Phonemic awareness (ability to hear beginning, middle and ending sounds), Phonics (linking sounds to letters) and EP recognition evolves by then too.  
Choose books that match your child’s brain level of engagement.  Stages of a reader (based on cognitive development):

  1. Attends to pictures, doesn’t form stories – picture/photo books, flash cards
  2. Attends to pictures, forms oral stories – creates own story across the pages with “nonsense talk” – listener has to see pictures to follow along 
  3. Attends to pictures, forms written stories – spoken words and intonations sound like reading 
  4. Attends to print – recounts and retells stories they already know while pointing to the print rather than pictures, not actually “reading” 

Recommended tot books (the list is endless, here’s a few from her book)

  1. Interactive/lift the flap – Dr Seuss, Margaret Wise Brown, Karen Katz. Baby Dance (Taylor, A). Fit-A-Shape: Shapes.  Where’s My Fuzzy Blanket (Carter, N). Wheels on the Bus (Stanley, M). Touch and Talk: Make Me Say Moo (Greig, E). Quack Quack, Who’s That? (Noel, D).
  2. Emotions: Winnie the Pooh: Feelings (Smith, R).  WOW! Babies (GEntius). Faces (Miglis, J). Baby Faces (Miller, M). Where the Wild things Are (Sendak, M).  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Viorst, J).  The Selfish Crocodile (Charles, F). Glad Monster, Sad Monster: A Book About Feelings (Emberley, E). No David! (Shannon, D)
  3. Rhyme & Rhythm: Dr Seuss, Margaret Wise Brown. Each Peach Pear Plum (Ahlberg), Moo, Baa, La La La (Boynton). Five Little Ducks (Raffi). Five Little Monkeys (Christelow). This Old Man (Jones). The Itsy Bitsy Spider (Trapani). Find the Puppy (Cox)
  4. Scribbling (Pre-Drawing/Writing):  Crayon World (Santomero), Figure Out Blue’s Clues (Perello). Blue’s Treasure Hunt Notebook (Santomero). Harold and the Purple Crayon (Johnson). Get in Shape to Write (Bongiorno). Messages in the Mailbox; How to Write a Letter (Leedy)
  5. EP books: Cheerios Play Book (Wade).  M&Ms Counting Board book (McGrath). Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Counting Fun Book (McGrath). Kellogg’s Froot Loops (McGrath).  Sun Maid Raisins Playbook (Weir).  Oreo Cookie Counting Book (Albee)
  6. Helping Young Children Learn Language and Literacy: Birth Through Kindergarten (Vukelich, C. Christie, J. Enz, BJ)

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Zoophonics makes ABCs fun

I’d been meaning to try both phonics as well as whole words with B, regardless of the ongoing debate. Besides daily reading, we started regular flash cards (real images, Doman style) with words spoken in English and Chinese after he turned one.  This has improved B’s focus and vocabulary – or at least his comprehension since he’s no talking encyclopedia. Yet, at 15 months.  However after initial alphabet attempts, the latest being Dr Seuss’s ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book, I realised B needed something more “whole brain” to connect the abstract letters with concrete words.  By chance, we stumbled upon Zoophonics when a friend passed us her son’s used cards. I decided to give it a try after researching online and seeing this method adopted in Singapore (e.g. Growing Up Gifted, Zoo-phonics and Safari Preschools). If B remains interested after we run through all 26 lower case merged animal letters (what a mouthful!), I might get the full essential pack.

What's mama going on about zoophonics?
What’s mama going on about zoophonics?

For now, here’s what we’re doing and why:

Zoo-phonics was developed in the mid 1980s by Charlene Wrighton and Gigi Bradshaw, two teachers in Northern California, who developed a strong phonics and physical component to enhance the existing whole language methods. Zoo-phonics introduces alphabet as one thing with 26 parts via a multi-sensory approach involving the whole child, eyes, ears, mouth, mind and body.

  • Endearing animals as letter shapes (visual learning) – Shows animals in the shapes of lowercase letters before teaching the actual letters for easy remembering. Lowercase letters are taught before capital/upper letters as it’s easier for a young child to form a lowercase letter and 95% of reading materials are in lowercase anyways.  In addition, when you flip the Animal Letter Cards around, a “bear” is always a bear but a “b” can easily be a “d” “p” or “q.”
  • Sounds and songs (auditory learning) – Teaches sounds of the letters through the animal names (“a” as in Allie Alligator, etc.), and letter sounds are taught before letter names. The sound of each letter comes through the initial sound of the animal name.
  • Hand and body motions, games and activities (kinesthetic learning) – Introduces a body signal to represents each animal letter, which in turn helps them lock in the learning. Children decode letters (read) and encode letters (spell and write) all at once to songs and what looks like dancing, sucking the stress out of building phonemic awareness.

For 1-2 year olds like B, Zoo-phonics is taught via music and movement, animals and nature, all which he enjoys.  According to them, parents can start as soon as your child is ready to sit for a few minutes and listen to a story.  Teach the individual letter shapes and sounds of the lowercase alphabet with the Animal Letter Cards and Body Movements, which will lay the foundation for all future reading, spelling and writing. Show one Animal Letter Card at a time then reinforce all the letters you have taught previously with the fun games and activities.  Leave the Animal Cards where your child can find them easily and play with them daily!

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Month 11 Week 2: How To Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. – Mark Twain

There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots, the other wings. – Hodding Carter

It took 3+ hours to curl my hair (after 5 years!) so I managed to finish Doman’s book on “How To Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence” as I’d been curious about their approach since that Gymnademics trial class when B was 11 months.

Why start now vs wait for formal school (primary at 6 or nursery/kindergarten at 3)

  • Learning begins from birth
  • The brain grows the most at the early stages
  • The first six years are the genesis of genius, limited only by how much material babies get to learn and how it’s presented
  • All significant brain growth is finished by six years with growth in ability dropping sharply each year
  • See this recent article on how frequent, positive stimulation can make a big difference in the early years 
  • What we do not use, we lose – the human brain has the memory capacity to hold ~3 million hours of TV shows 🙂.  What are we filling ours with? 
    • Input: see, hear, touch, smell, taste
    • Output: mobility, language, manual competence
  • When “teaching,” have fun. Tell your kid how great he is, how much you love him … often!  

How to teach your baby to read:

  • Only humans can read
  • Words must be large, clear, repeated enough, presented enthusiastically
  • The more speed, the more new material, the more joy, the better
  • Suggested sequence: Commonly used words, self/body, home objects, baby’s possessions, foods, animals, actions, colours, modifiers (pairs, opposites), x is a/an/the y z (e.g. “Mango is a sweet yellow fruit”) 
  • Suggested approach: Start with 25 words – 5 new ones 3x/day, mix order. Remove one word/day after 1 week. 5 steps: Single words => couplets => phrases => sentences => books
  • Note: I’m already reading books and flashing words with B but like the sequencing and approach which makes more sense than following the alphabet.  After all, what does “A” or “Z” really mean?!

How to teach your baby encyclopedic knowledge;

  • Suggested approach: Show 10 cards, 10 sec, 3 consecutive days. Intro related facts and sub-categories, list 1 to 12 magnitude of knowledge, expande on sub-categories
  • Suggested categories: biology, history, geography, music, art, math, human physiology, general science, language, literature
  • Note:  Instead of following Doman’s (excessively) detailed “bits of knowledge” specs, I may start a digital catalog instead (on iPad/Windows 8 tablets?). This is environmentally friendly, cost efficient with unlimited capacity given the ample real-life beautiful pictures and facts available online

How to teach your baby math

  • Intro with the facts vs intro “laws” i.e. numerals and symbols
  • Science = branch of knowledge dealing with a body of facts systematically arranged to show the operation of laws
  • Suggested 5 step approach:
  1. Quantity recognition: Use dots and patterns to intro 1 to 20
  2. Equations: Demonstrate additions, subtractions, multiplication, division
    1. Using the same dots, illustrate +, –  and x first
    2. Intro 0 – shift similar quantity dots around (e.g. 5 dots + 0 = 5 dots)
    3. Intro up to 100 (does not have to include all numbers from 20 on)
    4. Illustrate / division
  3. Problem solving: Offer choices, sequencing (e.g. 1, 3, 5, 7), greater less than scenarios
    1. Doman’s overall approach is that teaching/learning should be fun and testing should be limited to games or real-life evidences
    2. Even if they get it wrong, your response should be along the lines of “Good try, that’s actually X, this is Y”
  4. Equalities: Intro (in)equalities, fractions, simple algebra 
  5. Numeral recognition: FINALLY, digits (numbers) as we know them!
    1. Use equalities to show 0-20, mix up the order of dots and numerals 
    2. Intro 1-100 and go beyond 100s
    3. Proceed to equations with numerals

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Month 11 Week 1: Reading intentionally

These are 2 general approaches to boost speech and vocabulary: whole words and phonics. What I’m doing is combining the two when reading to B, supplementing with flash cards and picture books, using some of the tips for tots below (go here for more great reading material and tips!):

1. Your attitude and approach
– joyous and enthusiastic, approach it like a game or adventure
– teach at a time of day when both you and your baby are happy
– best duration for reading sessions is 30 seconds or less
– introduce new material when your child is ready for it – follow his lead
– be consistent with doing your program
– start as early as possible – the younger the child, the easier it is for him to learn
go here for fun ideas on reading out loud to your kid

2. Size and orderliness of reading matter
– the younger the baby, the bigger print should be used!
– size of the print is crucial to your success – very young children have immature visual pathways
– if the print is too small they get frustrated because they have to work so hard to see the type
– make a gradual transition from large to small print and from words to couplets to short sentences to longer sentences one change at a time

3. Read with mom (or primary caregivers like dad or grandparents)
– Doman believes that parents are the best teachers
– their love and confidence in their children provide the best inspiration, regardless if they are with the child the whole day or working and able to spend just a few hours a day

4. Always stop before your baby wants to stop
– one of the most important rules: the child should be begging for more
– if your child gets tired after 5 slides, show just 4, but leave him hungry for more
– don’t bore your child!

5. Keep it fun, fresh yet consistent
– introduce new material often, show it quickly
– if no interest, show it even faster, update even more often (or use sound effects!)
– show less words more often and consistently than more words occasionally
– kids learn by repetition as long as you update your material often enough
– Doman believes testing is a sign of distrust, the opposite of fun. Though … there are games/tricks that can keep your spirits up by showing that your child is actually learning, and can be even more fun for him!

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