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Bookmark Monday: Medieval Math

So sue me, I like corny math story books. But with a title like Sir Cumference and the King’s Tens, you’re not just that wee bit curious of the content?

Noticing that the King has been rather gloomy of late, Lady Di of Ameter suggests to her husband, Sir Cumference the idea of hosting a surprise birthday party for the King. Which is a great idea, except now the castle is burgeoning with guests and more are arriving by the minute, and Lady Di needs a way to figure out how many lunches she needs to tell the cook to prepare.

With the help of the Knights of the Round Table – Sir Kell, Sir Tangent and Sir Lionel Segment, Sir Cumference and Lady Di of Ameter must quickly figure out the most time-efficient and accurate method of counting the total number of guests.

How do we do it?

Line them all in a straight line and count?….Too slow….

Form small circles and total the sum of parts? …Too exhausting…

What next?

Cindy Neuschwander cleverly introduces “place value” in an entertaining and engaging way as the story makes use of tents to illustrate the concept by separating the 9,999 guests that show up for King Arthur’s party into nine groups of one thousand, nine groups of one hundred, nine groups of ten and nine single guests, divided into four tents or number neighbourhoods.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for the rest of the Sir Cumference series now.

Huzzah for more corny math storybooks!

Singapore National Day Craft: Aerial Flypast

Each year, the number of planes and models used for the aerial flypast varies. This year, nine fighter jets will execute the enhanced aerial flypast.

We chose to make five airplanes in our craft to represent the five stars on the Singapore flag, which stand for the nation’s ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality.

That was the plan. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 😛

Okay, fine…

The plain truth is that was all we could wrangle from the kids, the rest they wanted to fly all over the room. Sigh.

But I digress. What I really wanted to say is that this craft allows you the flexibility to make as many planes as you like and arrange them in any formation you choose. 🙂

So –

You will need the following materials: Artblock sheets, blue watercolour paint, paintbrush and palette, water, cotton wool/pads, old magazines, craft glue.

1. In the palette, mix the blue watercolour paint until you achieve a very watery consistency.  This is to create a watery watercolour wash to cover the artblock in light sky blue.

2. Apply the watercolour wash to the entire artblock sheet.  Leave to dry.

3. In the meantime, tear the old magazine sheets into little rectangles, and fold tiny paper airplanes.

4. Paste the paper airplanes in whatever formation you desire, we did this in a fan out formation. (Tip: When you paste the airplanes down, hold it down for a short moment, pinning the centre flap of the paper plane between two fingers, so that the wings don’t spread when drying)

5. Tear up the cotton wool/pads and paste  a cloud trail pattern of your choosing.

And you’re done!

Singapore National Day Craft: Fly our flag

I don’t know about you but my favourite segments of the National Day Parade are without a doubt, the fly past and military defence showcase. And with this year’s theme – Salute to 45 Years of National Service in Singapore, I am anticipating an even more impressive show.

Last Saturday evening, I happened to be attending a wedding dinner at the Fullerton Hotel. When I heard the deafening roar of the jet engines as I entered the lift on the first floor, it was all I could do to hurry on to the fifth floor roof garden…only to find that the Fullerton’s roof garden is enclosed. Bummer! So much for hoping to be able to catch a free glimpse.

Anyway.
I found 20 craft sticks in our art bureau, and decided we would do a little “Fly our Flag” craft.

You will need the following materials: 10 plain craft sticks (for each child), craft glue, red and white acrylic paints, brushes and palette, twine or string, toy helicopter.

1. Take 8 craft sticks and line them up in in a single column. Apply craft glue down the left and right hand side of the column, and paste one craft stick on each side perpendicular to the rows. Leave to dry.

2. When dry, paint the top 4 rows with red acrylic paint, and the bottom 4 rows with white. Leave to dry.

3. Paint on a crescent moon and five stars. (We tried this both with a skinny paintbrush and a Q-tip, both seem to work fairly well, very good for testing fine motor dexterity). Again, leave to dry.

4. When dry, using twine or string, tie the flag to the helicopter and you’ll have your own little fly past model ready for when the aerial segment comes on.

Bookmark Monday: A Harold

There is a branch of comedy theatre called improvisation comedy, improv for short. And in the improv world, there is a category called a Harold.

Actors get up onstage, without any idea whatsoever of what character they will play or what plot they will act out. They take a few random suggestions from the audience, and then without consultation with each other, put together a play from scratch.

Amazing? Yes.

Entirely random?  Not quite.

What may appear random and spontaneous is actually an art form governed by a series of rules, and all the actors must abide by those rules. One of the key rules that makes a successful improv play is agreement – characters must accept everything that happens to them, and responses must always be in the positive.

And so we find similar elements too, in Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon.

I’m not sure if the two are related, or one was an inspiration for the other.

Johnson’s Harold is delightfully imaginative and always positive.

Armed with just his trusty purple crayon, Harold decides to go for a walk in the moonlight, so he draws a crescent moon. He draws a path to walk on…but after a while, the path seems to lead nowhere, so he draws a shortcut.

Through a forest…but he doesn’t want it to be a big forest, so he draws just a single tree. An apple tree. That will produce red juicy apples in season. These apples should be guarded, so he draws a dragon. It’s a fierce one, so fierce it frightens even Harold himself!

Stepping back and unaware that his trembling hands are drawing an ocean behind him, Harold suddenly finds himself way into the deep. But some quick thinking saves the day (the night?) as Harold draws himself a boat. With a sail.

Saved…by quick thinking. And the moon follows along. After a while, Harold grows tired of sailing and anchors the boat to look for land.  The beach makes him think of a picnic.  So he draws a picnic, with all his favourite flavours of pie. There’s more…get yourself a copy and read on to find out the adventures of Harold.

First published in 1955, this timeless classic is simple yet exciting without being boisterous. In his own quiet manner, Harold shows adults and children alike, the marvelous stories and experiences one can create with a little imagination and a lot of clever creative thinking.

Have a couple of purple crayons handy – after reading, you might well be inspired to take off on a little walk by moonlight of your own with your child(ren). 🙂

Bookmark Monday: Downside up and back round again

If you like optical illusions and tessellations, you might find D.B. Johnson’s Palazzo Inverso fascinating.

A story about an apprentice named Mauk, his job is to help the Master design and build a grand Palazzo. Every day is the same, and on an ordinary day like any other, Mauk wakes up, and goes through the motions like he always does.  But something strange is afoot – the bricklayers are spilling bricks on the ceiling and workers are falling down stairs, the water in the fountain is falling up instead of down and everything appears all mixed up.

The Master blames Mauk for all the mayhem. But Mauk only sharpens the pencils, he isn’t allowed to draw.

Except…at times when the Master was looking out the window, Mauk might have turned the drawing round just a tiny bit and the Master never having noticed this, never realized what a strange Palazzo he was drawing.

This is a continuously looping story, which means you read it from the front to back, and then turn the book upside-down (and see what happens with the picture!) and read from the back all the way to the front again. Great fun!

Notes to the parent: 

  1. For more supplemental activities on optical illusions and tessellations, readers based in Singapore should check out the “Mathematics Everywhere and Everyday” and “The Mind’s Eye” sections at the Singapore Science Centre.
  2. You can also click here for an online version of the story.  But seriously – the print version is a lot more engaging, and allows you to take your time to pore over the intricacies of the pictures.  Which I still haven’t got enough of. 🙂

Excerpt from D.B. Johnsons’s website:

The apprentice Mauk is an entirely fictional character who takes his nickname and his inspiration from the work of Dutch artist M. C. Escher (1898-1972). Escher’s skill at playing with perspective and tricking people into seeing his version of three–dimensional space made him world famous.                   

In a work called Ascending and Descending, Escher drew stairs that lead down and around a building’s inner courtyard, yet appear to go back and end where they began. These endless loops going nowhere became his trademark. He was fascinated by stairs and realized that with a few carefully drawn steps he could take a person out of the real world and into his world of the impossible.    

Bookmark Monday: Who’s Theo LeSieg, it’s quite a clever nick!

So sue me for being behind time, but I just found out that Dr. Seuss has a series of books he wrote to be illustrated by others, and for those books, he used the name Theo LeSieg – his real name was Theodor Geisel, LeSieg is his surname, Geisel, spelled backwards.

We’re generally quite selective over the Dr Seuss books we pick. Some just have so many nonsense words, and our kids make up enough nonsense words in a day to rival the good doctor – there’s a limit to how many I can take!

But with our latest find from the library: “Ten Apples Up on Top!”,

I’m thinking that it might be worth checking out the rest of the LeSieg series.

Ten Apples is written with the usual synopsis of zany characters doing silly stuff in high action speed sequences, but it retains the signature rhyming style Seuss(?), Geisel(?), LeSieg(?) is known for.  I like the fact that the text uses simple – and real – words that’s approachable for beginner readers and also can be extended for teaching beginner arithmetic as well.

Click below if you’d like to watch a dramatized reading of the book.

Bookmark Monday: You’re Mean, Lily Jean

A new neighbour moves in next door and sisters Carly and Sandy find themselves a new playmate in Lily Jean. Or do they?

Lily Jean only wants to play with Sandy and repeatedly attempts to exclude Carly, her younger sister. And when that doesn’t work, she relegates Carly to subjugate roles – the baby, the dog or the cow – leaving Sandy in a conflicted position.

Tired of the bratty and obnoxious Lily Jean, Carly figures out a way to turn the tables and the sisters present Lily Jean her options – either play nice or don’t play with them at all.

Kady MacDonald Denton’s watercolours are calm, sweet and elegant, but yet succeed in conveying effectively the obviously uncalm and unsweet actions and emotions in play.

Frieda Wishinsky has created a great book that discusses the issue of playground politics, presents solutions without coming across as preachy or heavy, and equips parents and children to identify the difference between having fun vs. being bullied vs. being a bully.

Lily Jean is suitably depicted as the typical smug, overconfident and bossy bully. Children will easily recognize in her the Lily Jeans of their own playground or playdate interactions and perhaps take away some clever, non-violent tips in dealing with a bully or overbearing character as a first level attempt to resolution without requiring adult mediation.

I think it also is a good resource to impart to siblings the value and importance of looking out and caring for each other, and that they are strong as individuals but unstoppable as a team.  Phyllis from All Things Beautiful summarizes the sibling creed values succinctly; click here for the original source article.

As a footnote, I also like the fact that Sandy and Carly are shown as not just playing girly girl games in their make-believe play. They play house, but they also play at dragons and knights, explorers and pirates and mountain climbers and astronauts. Very subtle and very cool! 😀

Bookmark Monday: Happy Endings

To teach me grammar when I was a child, my dad bought me a thick hardcover copy of Macmillan’s English, filled with chapters and myriad examples on the eight parts of speech and their usage. And of course, the requisite accompanying grammar drills.

It’s a very good book. But at the end of the day it’s a text book.

And while there will always be a place for grammar text books on our shelves, I have now just recently discovered this genre called “language art picture books”.

A story about suffixes?  I’m intrigued enough to scooch in a little nook on the shelf for it.

The storyline is a little corny and a little wacky but I liked it, I had a good laugh. And I also like that in fifteen minutes, I could have a quick dive into learning about suffixes, what they are and what they do.

There is a guide at the back that lists common suffixes and their functions, e.g. adding to a noun to make it plural, adding to an adjective to make a noun, adding to a noun to make an adjective, adding to a noun to make it go away, or adding to a work to make it full of itself, and some rules for adding suffixes to words.

Other language art picture books by Robin Pulver and Lynn Rowe Reed include Punctuation Takes a Vacation, Silent Letters Loud and Clear, and Nouns and Verbs Have A Field Day. 

While the series appears to have received mixed reviews, I frankly do think that it’s pretty good.  Because it’s hard work to write a good story. It must be even more challenging to write an entertaining story underpinned with the objective of teaching grammar.

I wouldn’t have the gumption, even if I mustered up all earnestness, so I’m really thankful someone out there is fearless enough to do it.

Three cheers for word endings, and three even louder cheers for writers of language arts picture books. 🙂

Bookmark Monday: Press Here

In this era where interactive is associated with reliance (sometimes too much) on the iPhone or iPad and apps and all sorts of technological gadgetry, it is incredibly refreshing to find a book (a book!) that successfully achieves a true interactive, experiential engagement with the reader on print, the oldest media on earth.

This week’s Bookmark Monday review, Press Here by Hervè Tullet, was inspired by a friend of ours, who showed DH and DD this book when we visited their home on the weekend.

Absolutely captivating on several levels for the following reasons:-

  • Use as a teaching tool to reinforce basic language and mathematical building blocks – colours, numbers, counting, left, right, relative sizes and pattern recognition.
  • Perfect as a read-aloud with parent and child, or self-read.
  • Thoroughly engaging, and really, your imagination is the limit.

The cover is simply designed with a single yellow dot, inviting the reader to “Press Here”.

And when you do, off you go then, on this magical interactive journey, following the narration from first through to last page, every page a captivating change from the previous, reacting to whatever action you’d done in the prior page. 

Watch the dots multiply and move around the page as you tap, rub and blow on them, or tilt and shake the book. And watch them grow and shrink in reaction to single and multiple claps.

And watch your child’s face – it will be a priceless experience! 😉

Related activity:

Check out this link on Amazon to get a preview via a free printable to make your own Press Here mini-activity book, and some supplementary activity sheets as well.