The following post is by contributor Robin Zipporah of Not-Ever-Still.
My sweet kindergarten girl is a beginning reader. She can read almost anything, slowly, as long as she doesn’t get frustrated or lose patience. Her handwriting is the same – it’s quite good, really, but sometimes when she’s tired or hurrying she still transposes those Bs and Ds or draws a backwards 9.
She’s like many smart kids, I think – she’s quite capable but she has perfectionist tendencies and because she is bright, she’s not accustomed enough to confronting challenge. Put those two qualities together, and sometimes she gives up entirely too easily. She wants help or declares her disinterest in favor of coloring or another activity.
So I’ve been intentionally building in little bits of reading and writing practice into our regular daily activities…without, you know, really drawing attention to the fact that we’re practicing anything. They aren’t drastic and they don’t take too much time; mostly they’re little ways of changing our routines. And as a bonus, they’re so much more than reading and writing activities – they’re fostering self-sufficiency and confidence in my girl.
Here are a few of my favorites:
My hands are wet
My daughter will notice a new birthday party invitation hanging on the fridge or a colorful flyer tucked in with the newspaper. But let’s say I’m washing the dishes (or changing her brother’s diaper, or pouring her sister some milk – you can imagine it, right?). Instead of saying, “give me a second” and turning off the faucet and grabbing the dishtowel and meeting her at the fridge, now I’ll just continue with the dishes and say to her, “why don’t you read it to me?” Her curiosity sustains her through the challenge, and if she struggles on the harder elements I’ll ask her to spell the word to me, and I’ll let her know what it spells before she continues on to the next one.
Photo by qwrrty
About once a week I take my sweet girl out to her favorite pasta place for a little mama-daughter alone time. Invariably, she wonders why the food (we just ordered) hasn’t arrived yet. If this were a date with her two-year-old brother, I’d be pulling the matchbox cars out of my purse, and if it were with her four-year-old sister, I’d pull out the old Altoids tin filled with crayons. But for her, I pull out a pen and I flatten the paper ring that held our silverware in its napkins. “Let’s play with math!” She loves to practice addition and subtraction on her fingers (and mine), so I write out a few equations. She writes out the answers.
The digital allure
Is your six-year-old a list-maker? Mine sure is: she’s made lists of the next 40 or so costumes she plans to wear at future dress-up occasions; the order of what books we should read next; the hierarchical ranking of her most favorite colors. She loves to talk about her lists but once they grow beyond three or so items, I can’t remember them long-term. I’ve taken to handing her my iPad and now she has her own set of files in the Notes tab. When she makes her lists in digital format, she’s no longer practicing her handwriting, but she is practicing spelling and typing – another important skill. She is allowed to type whatever she wants…as long as she reads it back to me when she’s done.
Photo by arimoore
Since I’ve identified intentional moments for adding in reading and writing throughout her play time, I’ve seen a real confidence boost in her skills. These are just things we do with 20 seconds here and five minutes there. None of them feel like worksheets or forced practice time; they’re just little modifications to some of the moments of our day. I don’t think she’s even realized how much she’s been practicing or how fluent her reading and writing have become, but I certainly have. Now she’ll try so much harder and longer before the frustration sets in, and I’m so proud of her.
How do you encourage your kids to grow their academic skills? Tell me your tricks!