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Author Topic: Summary of practical teaching strategy  (Read 12954 times)
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« on: August 27, 2009, 09:18:46 PM »

The following is a lightly edited version of a summary document I wrote for myself, to get my own ideas clear on how to teach my little boy, age 3 years 3 months.  I'm posting this to get feedback but also to see how other people who are "actively teaching" their preschoolers are organizing their time.  Also, bear in mind that this is just my latest version...I've changed my approach 3-4 times in the last year as I explore what's best to do.  Next month we might be doing something else (although I hope not, thinking through all this stuff is hard work!).

My strategy for teaching my boy changes regularly as I think through (what I call) the philosophy of education.  I often lose track of what practical suggestions I make, so this will be the single central document in which my current strategy is contained.  I will write it in such a way that someone could replicate, or at least make some sense of, what I am doing.

1. Prepare a list of broad subjects and prioritize them (roughly).

Currently, the subjects I have divided the subjects I am teaching my boy as follows (these are the headings in a “Curriculum and Progress” document): Language Arts; Mathematics; Social Studies (includes History and Geography); Science; Art and Music; and Practical Skills and Exercise and Fun.  This is also approximately the priority in which I place these things, although Exercise and Fun is to be done every day.

I don’t currently have any plan about precisely how often, or when, to teach what subjects.  But, generally speaking, I do two or three (or more) “sessions” on different aspects of Language Arts daily; Math once a day; Social Studies once a day; Science about every other day (but since we started Chemistry for Every Kid, two or three times a day); Art and Music about every other day; and Practical Skills somewhat less often.

2. List projects under each subject, and update the list of projects weekly.

A “project” can be otherwise described as a topic or focus.  I won’t list my actual projects here, except to give an example, as follows. Under Language Arts I currently have the following: Read lots of casual storybooks; Read and get to appreciate chapter books and “literature”; Get familiar with poetry; Vocabulary Project; Learning to read independently; and Penmanship.

Generally, I think of our educational tasks as falling under some specific project or other.  When we read a book, for example, it is usually with the purpose of pursuing some goal associated with a project.

While there need not be a lot of change from week to week, I should still review the list of projects weekly.  There are some projects that are either on hold or have nothing going on under them.  In these cases, I should either add something, or remove the project (perhaps into a separate document or section).

3. Create a simple list of topics.

In order to know “where I’m going” and have a reasonable idea of which topics to take up next—for example, topics to look for books about—I have made a list of topics, arranged by subject.  There need not be a lot of detail at first, but as I go through my books, presentations, etc., everything should eventually have a “home.”  For each topic, I will have goals briefly stated such as “introduced,” “well covered,” and “covered in depth,” or for long, important books (others are not in the topic list), “started,” “halfway,” and “finished.”

Next, I identified which topics I have started seriously on and which I intend to continue teaching seriously.  I decided that there are rather too many of these.  So—over however many months, at my boy’s pace—finish with those topics, and don’t start any new ones until I have come down to a number of topics that I’m more comfortable with.  The list should still be plenty big so as to accommodate my boy’s changeable tastes; if he seems to be bored with everything, then regardless, it’s time to start some new topics.

4. Do a weekly review.

4a. Review and update the topic list.

The topic list becomes my basic “assignment guide” as well as record-keeping tool.  Do not put a lot of detail in terms of specific books (unless they are really long and meaty books) or presentations.  Instead, make a vague, personal, “global assessment” of where my boy is.  If it seems to you that reading a certain two books constitutes “covered in depth,” for example, then so it is.

4b. For each project, plan to get books and other materials weekly (Fridays), at least.

Since it is possible to get through some projects relatively quickly, and since my boy is constantly making progress, I should keep the various tasks under the projects updated, to make sure that we’re always prepared to do “the next thing.”  That means updating the progress of various projects but also adding to the projects.

Updating materials will require that I sometimes think through the next topics.

But what does take a lot of thought is developing a fairly clear idea of the direction we’re traveling in, and how to get there.

4c. Determine what books you are working through.

It is a bad idea to try to read through too many longer books at one time.  So, list the books you’re currently working on.  Use this list of books when making your weekly plan.  Keep the list limited; if we have too many, try not to add new books until an old book is removed from the list.

Don’t bother trying to read a long, slightly-advanced nonfiction book that my boy will be bored by; prepare to read it first by reading simpler books, and looking at presentations, on the same subject.

4d. Every week, print out and then follow a checklist.

Every week, prepare some sort of checklist of tasks (or, in some cases, task types) for the coming week.  The intention here is not to direct specific studies at specific times, but to make sure that we do cover a full range of topics over the course of a week.


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« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2009, 02:48:38 PM »

Dad dude
This past week I recently came across your post on your child reading "catwings" and I thought it was great.   My son is 26 months and is currently reading all level 1 books fairly easily.  He is also very quick to pick up on new words.  Often times he only needs to see a new word 3-4 times and can thereafter remember it during reading.  I also notice that new books dont intimidate him.  He will often open and pick out words he knows and tries to sound out those he doesn't.   My son gets into moments where he just wants mommy to read to him eventhough I know he can read the book himself.  It is probably because mommy is more entertaining.    I have a feeling that my son may be at the stage your son was at that age.  He is extremely focused on the words when we read and seems to like new vocabulary.   I also try to mix it up by reading books over his level and I notice more and more he will have the patience to read longer paragraphs on his own.  When I catch him reading on his own, if there are 3 or more  sentences on a page he will read the first sentence completely and sometimes continue through the page but other times he will start skipping words and with his finger point(more like fly his finger) randomly to other words on the page and say them and then say "next page" and do the same.  I figure this is his way of independently reading/playing.

While  I think our mixture of stategy on reading and phonics is working well for us now, I would like to see what kiind of suggestions you have for how you introduced concepts like math, science, and social studies.  As for colors and shapes he knew them all by his first first birthday. My son can currently count up to 100 and does some skip counting as well.  He recognizes numerals up to 100 and can combine 2 magnetic numbers to show the  the  numbers that are  greater than 10. (ie. put the number 7 and 2 together to make 72. )  My son was not into the doman math number dots method.  He was very bored by it. He prefers numerals.  He is aware of quantity relationship to numbers and often times goes around counting things (sometimes overcounting just because he knows more numbers)  I'm curious about how you have introduced subjects such as addition  and subtraction? And how long was it before the concepts sunk in and he was able to see random equations and answer them correctly. Also with science and soc. studies.  I'm trying to capitalize on the memorization skills and he knows all his states and capitals and he's currently learning other countries and capitals. As for science I'm stuck on how to go about introducing concepts.  He knows most of his animal/animals within certain categoriesas well as insects and bugs, the solar system and order of planets but I'm not sure how to really approach the learning of science.  Of course everything that he's learning I also make up flashcards so he can learn to read what he's learning.

What kind of advice would you have for me.  My son seems to learn quite easily and fluidly always having fun while learning.  His vocabulary is growing rapidly and he is always game for new things

As for music and Art , I was planning on having my son start piano lessons either at 2 1/2 or 3 years old.  I'm sort of leaning towards 3 since he really does not like to sit still for too long (unless he's reading a book with mom  or playing states planets etc. )  I was thinking about soft mozart since it appears that it may be a little fun for him with colors and shapes etc.  We attend a GYM class that has circle time in the middle of the play area and he finds it real diffiicult to stay in one spot singing or dancing while all the fun gym toys are within his sight.  This is about the only time I can't get him to do as expected. Therefore I struggle with the idea of having him sit through any type of music "lesson"  with a teacher.  And actually I am torn between putting him in preschool next year.  What has been your experience with your son on these matters.

I know I've been a bit long winded but honestly there is even so much more that I would love to get another parents insight on but this will do for now.  Thank you for all the great information you've posted on this site so far.

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« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2009, 08:18:06 PM »

Sounds like you're doing a great job.

For the most part, I don't give advice, I just tell people what we've been doing.

As to math, we're doing a little of everything.  For a long time we were playing "War," but not so much anymore.  Yesterday we bought "Yahtzee Jr.," and he really likes that--which is great, because I'm sure that repeated playing of it will teach him a bunch of good things.  We've also started working through the Singapore Math Kindergarten books, but he isn't too enthused about this so we'll probably take a break from it soon.  I think he's making definite progress.  We haven't done any work on addition and subtraction lately, though he was doing small sums after his 3rd birthday.  But after starting Singapore Math, it has become totally clear to me how and why addition and subtraction are definitely higher-level skills that are built upon things like being able to place numbers in sequence, understanding more and less, being able to "count on," etc.  If anyone is able to train a child (painlessly) how to do automatic or easy addition and subtraction, more power to her.  I'm sure that will help, but in the long run, to really understand math, you've got to develop many other ancillary and (to adults) really obvious-seeming skills.

My approach to math is the same as to everything else: try many different things, do more of what seems to work best (i.e., what the kid likes and gets a lot out of).  I totally agree with the motivations & practices of the people who use Montessori methods to teach the most basic fundamentals of math.

As to science, mostly we read books and work through this Janice VanCleave "experiments" book we have--he's been really fascinated with experiments.  We also look at presentations and videos (he gets a big kick out of Bill Nye the Science Guy).  We also try to talk about what's going on as we take nature walks and such.  A few days ago he dropped a die which bounced around on the table and said, "That's gravity!"

As to "social studies," of course, there's a lot more to it than capitals and country shapes.  I don't mean to disparage that, we did some of that sort of thing too (not for over a year though).  Mostly as far as geography goes we just idly explore maps and the globe.  But there is so much more to understanding the world of people than geography...  For some reason, I've decided that the best goal regarding "social studies" is to give my boy the conceptual background (and there's a lot of it) to allow him to understand and actually like history.  For this he has to know a little about politics and government (especially the general concept of a "leader"), religion, art and architecture, psychology, war & weaponry, types of towns, castles, and settlements, and a zillion little facts.  It helps to have presentations about all these different things.  We started going through "The Story of the World"--very slowly--and I've made him three presentations to go along with it.  To tell the truth, he doesn't like it, which is why we go slowly.  We might give it up and come back to it next year or something.

As to art, it's the same approach--if he doesn't like one way, we'll try another way, and usually something is appealing.  Lately we've been going through The Usborne Art Sticker Book because he really likes stickers (we've done a "Things that Go" sticker book and are now doing an "Animals" sticker book...I really recommend these once your tot has got the finger manipulation skills).  He'll pay attention to my art (and history) presentations once through, but then doesn't want to see it again for a month.  So I've stopped making them...I might eventually finish.  But I am pretty sure he would have been more interested at an earlier age.  When he was about 3 years (or earlier) he just stopped liking my presentations so much, so I stopped making them so often.

Music lessons...I play some, and well, until he has the patience to sit or stand with somebody at the keyboard, I figure, what's the point?  I show him things in micro-lessons, and he can plunk out a C scale one finger at a time, and has started learning hand position and seems interested in melody.  We're taking it slow.  Don't want to turn him off to it, of course!  We bought a teach-your-preschoooler-piano musical package but he's not too interested.

We also listen a lot to classical music these days, not because it "builds the brain" but because of the inherent value of the music itself--i.e., as a subject of study.  Our boy just loves it and listens to it very willingly and with good attention.  I stopped making the "greatest classical pieces" presentations for no good reason but just because I was bored with it, I guess.  I do want to come back to it, he's always liked those.  We started buying these very cheap but very well-done CDs, e.g., The Story of Mozart.  So far we've listened to Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and Tschaikovsky, and we've listened to a couple of them twice.  When I put these on in the car, he just

By the way we've taken to doing a Rosetta Stone language.  He likes it in not-too-frequent doses, but he gets a kick out of it every so often, and we do make progress.


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« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2009, 06:33:42 AM »

Hi Dad Dude,

After reading your very impressive summary I noticed there seems to be no socialising in schedule. Do you take your little boy to playgroup or some other outing and that is listed under fun? Or do not have opportunities in your area for kids groups? Or do you not believe in socialising him yet?



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« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2009, 07:42:58 AM »

Are you a stay-at-home dad? Because you seem to be shouldering a time-consuming lot of education! You might want to look at poetryanimations on Youtube for your poetry.
At what was he when you started this particular structured program?? My 2nd youngest is nearly 2, but i havent been too strict. I plan to get that way though. What to start on first? She is nowhere near Sofics child educationally, and I cant see her learning that much by the time she is 26 months (or 25 months and 6 days)...

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« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2009, 11:35:41 AM »

I loooooove your story of the world concept. Can you please elaborate a bit more on that please. How do you teach it? I have just started teaching my princess a lot about Australia and would love to teach her more, but I want to make it interesting? I am a bit of a history buff myself but I understand just how boring history can be.

Did you start with America and then branch on to England? I am assuming this because a lot of the American system of Government and Australia is based on the English system?  and then how did you branch out?

I would be very interested to know?


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« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2009, 02:21:22 PM »

I work from home and am fortunate enough to be able to choose my own hours.  I work with my boy during meals and after his nap, and that's enough.  His mama also works with him some.  But most of the time lately he's playing with legos by himself.   Wink  Although as I write, he's looking through a new crop of books about pigs, which we got out of the library last night.  Also, I've fallen down on the job as far as the above-described teaching strategy goes.  I'm sure I'll get back into it, but lately I've been verrrry busy.  We still do a wide variety of educational activities.

We don't have a schedule, per se.  We aren't doing any classes yet, no preschool/daycare, and none of our friends have kids of a similar age, so there's been pretty minimal playing with other kids.  This is not by choice.  We'll have to find a play group and/or class sometime soon.

I should have been clearer: I meant The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer--not my concept.  I've just been making some presentations surrounding the first couple chapters of that book.  I introduce vocabulary with pictures, something like Doman might, and then he's much better able to follow what's going on in the book.  We've started with ancient history.  We've read a good number of books (mostly the simple historical biography stories in the "leveled reader" series you can find at bookstores) about U.S. history, but I agree with Bauer that it seems better to start with the ancients and proceed from there.  You can get a rough idea of my approach from my own slideshows, uploaded here on BrillKids.

I guess I started using approaches like this around the time I discovered Doman (and BrillKids!)...a little over a year ago, when he was just past 24 months.  But I cringe at this being described as a "structured program."  The only thing structured about it is how I arrange it on paper and in my own mind, and sometimes it's not very structured there, either.  My little boy pretty much calls the shots.  I frequently pick books for him and make suggestions, but he has veto authority over most stuff, and if he wants to do something educational, we'll do it.  Simply by making suggestions and buying books and making presentations--that's the only way, in practical terms, I implement an educational program.  So it's not very structured at all.

« Last Edit: November 03, 2009, 02:52:38 PM by DadDude » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: November 04, 2009, 02:50:48 AM »

Dad dude,

Thank you for sharing what is working for you and your son.  I completely agree with your assesment of geography barely scratching the surface of s.studies, I really  only got into that because of the M &D wood puzzle since he was so good at learning so many basic things by merely playing with wooden puzzles.   I definitely plan on checking out the Story of the World Book.  I read the reviews on Amazon and I feel that it will definitely serve  my purpose. 

I briefly looked into the Singapore Math and the Chemisty book for experiments and they definitely look promising.  I think that one of the reasons that I did not push the Doman math method was mainly because it did not feel right for my boy.  In retrospect, I think it is because I knew in my gut that all that precursor, what you call real obvious seeming skills, was necessary for him to actually "get" what math is about.  I will definitely be focusing more on cementing the basic math concepts before I continue with any more "math".  So far, we have been doing a little of it but I will be more deliberate about it now.  It's funny but the Thomas the Train engines  are some of my Son's favorite toys   and it will serve nicely to help with these basics when lining up the trains, or putting them beside, in between eachother; the airplane above  etc. 

In respect to Science, I will show my son Bill Nye youtube video and see how he likes it.  It may be a bit sophisticated for him just yet but who knows, he may surprise me and love it.   I recently got the Sid the Science Kid DVDs and my son really loves these videos.  I sit and watch segments with him to show that I am having fun with it too and he is learning some of their catchy tunes.  I was thinking about making some brief colorful presentations to go along with the different segments but I still need to sit down and work it out.  In the meantime, I feel that it is a great video introduction to some basic science, and really my boy just loves the characters. Until I read your response I really wasn't even sure if this was a good idea  however you are so right that you have to capitalize on what works and what seems right for your child. There is no right or wrong way.  I had been second guessing  how to approach Science but now I am more confident that this approach might work for him, and mixing it up with some hands on experiments like you mentioned, will help in completing my boy's science learning experience.   

Also, I don't know how you feel about Dr. Seuss Beginner books, but I find that my son loves  books with the Cat in Hat character..  There are many of these books that are like "concept" books with the added bonus of rhyme.  Since some of these books are above his reading level, I think it is great for introducing new vocab.  And since it's the Cat in the Hat character, he will stay interested throughout most if not all of a book in one sitting. 

Again, thanks for your input and I look forward to seeing more of your posts and plan to use some of your downloads.  It is really great to be able to come onto a forum such as this and find so many like minded parents.

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« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2009, 01:03:37 AM »

dad dude
in many e-mails you said your son didn't like art presentations much . i wrote you a list of art books i read with Tina and she really loves them , also do you do art together , two very good books i recommend : first art by MaryAnn F Kohl and young at art . Christina loves when i call her my little picasso and is very proud of her drawing and paintings hanging on our walls . the more involved with art the more she wants to read about it , may Ann Kohl has wonderful books  that teach you about different styles and give activities that follows that style :
Drawing: It's the Process, Not the Product! (Preschool Art)
Global Art: Activities, Projects and Inventions from Around the World
Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters\
Great American Artists for Kids: Hands-On Art Experiences in the Styles of Great American Masters

and many others



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« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2009, 03:25:23 AM »

Thanks, Viv.  What I meant in those e-mails was not so much that he was not interested in producing art as in my art presentations.  My boy likes to scribble, draw stick men and sometimes other things, practice a few letters, etc.  One thing we haven't done so much, though, is try to follow art (drawing/coloring/painting) activities books like you recommend.  To be honest, I'm not so enthused at the suggestions of the "process not product" approach to art.  I've got an acquaintance (a very very experienced art teacher) who explained this to me at great length.  She maintains that teaching drawing is a skill like teaching piano or reading.  The only really effective way, in all cases, is to learn the elements carefully, to practice...guessing and just "being creative" usually doesn't work so well.  Or anyway so says my acquaintance...


Larry Sanger -
How and Why I Taught My Toddler to Read:
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« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2009, 03:46:28 AM »

i missed this wonderful art resources :

child size masterpieces  books . it is like art bits coming to life . the child can sort pair classify art pieces , a lot more exciting than flashing or watching a presentation .

i  had my doubts in the beginning : should i teach her to draw  or just stand back and watch her scribbling. i got frustrated that for a while she could do nothing but just scribbling and i wondered when the scribbling will show a meaningful picture , than for a while all she wanted to do is drawing letters . i make sure when we read we look at the illustrations and we talk about them , she went through a stage of asking me to draw for her because she couldn't do it , and she got really frustrated . i wouldn't draw for her , i would sit down and scribble , and make lines , if she asked for a train , i will make a long line like a track and ask her to help me make the train . if she asked me to draw a circle i will grap a pencil and go round and round with it on the paper , but never drew a perfect circle near her not so perfect one . we talk about her drawings and she amazes me every day , now she even tries to illustrate the stories we are reading . for a while she would say i cannot draw , i taught her to try to draw with her finger in the air , while observing a tree , a house , any shape . yesterday i put in front of her a pumpkin and asked her to draw it . she first was surprised and said mama i cannot , i told her just look at it this is what artists do sometimes and draw . the pumpkin was really special shape not just round and she got it exactly on paper , than she got all excited , coloring it orange , drawing a face , cutting around it and gluing it on the wall very proud of her achievement .
from just scribbling , she is drawing wales , helicopters , aliens , birds flying in the sky , spaceships , stars , moon ,....


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« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2009, 02:18:13 AM »

Whilst we are talking about art, I saw on Tv the other day that Prince Phillip or Prince Charles (cant remember which) is an accomplished artist. Because royals are taught art. They are taught to paint, draw etc. I dont think it's wrong to teach these things...some might innately be able to express on the outside the images they see, but most cant. So any helping hand is a good thing. There are some TV shows (and of course dvds) of people showing how to paint watercolours etc...just as good as being in an art class, and far cheaper! If it's good enough for royalty, it's good enough for us.

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« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2009, 01:12:35 PM »

Re:  "The Cat in the Hat"  and teaching science

My sister just gave us a set of books from "The Cat in the Hat's Learning Library".  They are what they call "transition" books from fiction to non-fiction.  They still have the familiar rhyming of the Dr.Seuss books but they give LOTS of facts about the highlighted topic.  (sea creatures, weather, dinosaurs, healthy living, insects, space, mammals, birds).  These are a lot of fun (and interesting for Mom & Dad, too!).  I'd recommend the splurge ($14/book - or much cheaper I believe at Costco).

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