Teaching Basic Numeracy & Literacy

There are many different techniques we can use to teach our children Literacy and Numeracy skills. There are also a number of important factors to consider, the most important being the age of the child, and of course, the child’s specific learning style. All children learn differently. My four year old may not yet be able to recite the alphabet or count to 100 like yours, however he is able to impressively colour within the lines. At the age of four, neither child is smarter than the other, they simply learn using different parts of their brain, predominantly. 

Total Physical Response (TPR) is a method of teaching language or vocabulary that can be applied to all young children. It uses physical movement to react to verbal input. This technique can be divided into two sub categories: instructional TPR and educational TPR.

Instructional TPR encourages the child to learn through means of  doing something, or following an instruction. This instruction links different cognitive reactions in the brain (listening and visual) for the child to understand the basics of the word they are expected to write or learn. If we are learning how to count, we will encourage the child to use their fingers, and point to each finger as they are counting. If, for example we are learning how to write the word ear, we would first form an understanding of what ear is. Instructional TPR would guide the student to cup their ear to grasp the concept that we hear with our ears. Once this basic understanding is formed, the child can easier learn to write out the words. Additionally, instructional TPR could be used to guide the child to create a certain letter using their fingers.

Educational TPR looks at the “what” & “how”: 

  • WHAT are literacy and numeracy? 
  • HOW exactly do we teach literacy and numeracy?  

Educational TPR is a method of teaching languages, numeracy, or vocabulary (basic concepts) through using physical movements to get a verbal reaction from the child. Young children are visual learners and at the ages of three or four they are constantly wanting to touch, taste or see things. While a distracted toddler may seem like a difficult student, we should use this to our advantage. A child of three or four is surely not going to sit down quietly and diligently repeat the alphabet, or repeat counting to ten three times. This is where educational TPR comes in: using physical gestures to help the child understand a specific letter, number, word, sentence pattern or even a specific counting pattern. TPR is a method of learning that mimics the way that infants learn their first language. The purpose is to establish a brain link between speech and action to boost language and vocabulary learning. This can include using facial expressions, large hand gestures, body movement or props. The key here is to teach numeracy and literacy in a way that it is linked to an action that the child can physically see!

It is essential to ensure that your child is learning basic literacy and numeracy skills at the right age, and at the right speed for their specific learning needs and style. In the early years of childhood development, literacy is more than just writing and learning letters. It is movement, music, drawing and many other activities which encourage  communication. Just as important is reading and talking to your child from a young age, These are vital first steps in encouraging the development of literacy skills. Use fun outings and activities as a way to teach your child new vocabulary and communicative skills. When it comes to numeracy skills, it is important to remember that it goes beyond merely teaching your child maths and numbers. Teaching them about patterns and shapes can be a fun and interactive introduction to numeracy too. 

This is where BrightSparkz can help you and your child! Our Little Sparkz Kindergarten readiness program focuses on helping children to master essential skills that they will need to enter Kindergarten with confidence. Our fun and interactive program helps to build basic literacy and numeracy skills, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, coordination, memory and improved vocabulary. The program comprises 10 themed lessons made up of worksheets and activities that engage all the senses and encourage learning for children with any learning style. The program is suitable from the age of three upwards, as well as for children currently in Kindergarten needing a refresher on basic skills.

 

Written by Sula Cooper, BrightSparkz Staff & Blog Writer

Building Fine Motor Skills & Co-ordination

The idea of building fine motor skills and coordination may seem daunting! However, these are simple concepts that parents can understand and help to develop in their children. 

  • Fine motor skills involve the use of both your fingers and hands and the coordination of these movements with your smaller muscles. 
  • Coordination is the ability to use various parts of your body together efficiently. 

The big question: How do we as teachers and parents build these skills? 

Fine Motor Skills

When developing fine motor skills necessary to cope with the demands of Grade R, we look at how we can develop the smaller muscles in our hands and fingers. This is done through activities such as:

  • Playing with play dough
  • Creating pasta necklaces
  • Tearing paper
  • Using scissors
  • Using glue to stick paper or other objects 
  • Building puzzles
  • Playing with food and feeding themselves
  • Colouring in
  • Drawing and painting
  • Playing with sand or water
  • Building with blocks or lego
  • Learning to brush their teeth

Coordination

Additionally skills like coordination are also essential when starting Grade R. Parents can assist their children in developing their coordination by:

  • Practicing balancing on one foot
  • Throwing and catching a ball
  • Running 
  • Jumping
  • Walking backwards
  • Playing tug of war
  • Jumping on a trampoline or jumping castle
  • Swimming
  • Playing sports like football or tennis
  • Learning to ride a bicycle or tricycle
  • Learning to play a musical instrument

 

It is important that preschoolers develop their coordination and fine motor skills as these are essential for their development. They help with various daily activities in both the classroom and on the playground. By creating activities that get children to use their fingers and their hands, you’ll be assisting them in developing their fine motor skills.  These skills will build the foundation for writing, being able to pick up and manipulate books, tie shoelaces and do various art activities. By developing coordination, children will show more confidence in walking, running, climbing and will have more fun on the playground. This is important for their self-confidence, and for almost all activities they’ll need to do as an adult. 

How Can BrightSparkz Help?

Not sure where to start? BrightSparkz’s Little Sparkz™ is a fantastic way to introduce the basics of fine motor skills and coordination, as well as some other important skills your child will need in addition, such as memory. During each lesson, your child will have the opportunity to strengthen their pencil grip, practice colouring in, using a paintbrush, using glue to stick objects, handling paper and other materials in art activities, as well as learning to cut. Here’s what a happy Mom had to say about Little Sparkz™:

“In just 3 sessions they went from not being able to cut with scissors at all, to being able to cut out small objects. They also quickly learnt the difference between big and small letters in writing their names. I think all preschool kids would benefit from this program. Big schools seem to expect so much from kids at Kindergarten level and the leap is just too big for most kids. This program really seems to bridge that gap!”

Written by Jade Hales, ECD student and BrightSparkz Blog Writer. This article first appeared on brightsparkz.co.za.

Preparing for Your First Year at University

Well done! You have successfully completed high school and are now eagerly awaiting to embark on the next step of your life – starting university!

university

You may be feeling a mixture of excitement and anxiety, particularly if you are attending a university, college or another tertiary institution far from home or your friends are not attending university with you. This is normal! 

Here are some practical tips to consider to ensure that you are as well-prepared as possible to prevent adding unnecessary stress:

Before University Starts

  • Ensure that all necessary documentation and payments required by the university are up to date as early as possible.
  • Attend all orientation or induction events hosted by the university. These are a great way to meet new people, as well as familiarize yourself with the campus and where you’ll need to be on your first day.
  • If you are commuting, ensure that you know the route, bus or train stops and where to park if you will be driving. Organise a parking token if necessary. 
  • Ensure you have the required resources for your course – you will get a list of all textbooks and requirements which it is best to try and obtain early in the semester so you don’t fall behind. 
  • Buy the necessary stationery – plenty of pens and notepaper if you like to take lots of notes!
  • Pay attention to all communication from the university for your first day instructions. 
  • Start setting an alarm clock, particularly if you’ve got into the habit of sleeping in since the end of school. You need practise and discipline for your new routine????
  • Ensure you have some comfortable shoes – most campuses are vast and you may have to walk a lot (or run) between lectures! What good are pretty shoes if your feet are aching?
  • If you will be living in res, or away from home, make sure you give yourself enough time to move in before university activities start. 
  • If you are living in self-catering digs, buy food for at least the first week.

The First Day (& Week)

  • Set your alarm clock to ensure you will wake up on time.
  • Have a small, healthy breakfast to provide power for your new routine. 
  • Arrive at your first lecture early. This will give you time to get a good seat and time to check the other students out!
  • Become familiar with your timetable and the campus layout so you know where all your lectures are and how much time you’ll need to get there. 
  • Make adequate notes during lectures (or record the lecture on your phone if you can). 
  • Be friendly to the other students (most of whom are feeling exactly like you are) and smile. The 3 best ways to start a conversation? “What are you studying?” “Where are you from?” “Which res are you in?”
  • Get into good study habits from the beginning – once you get home after class, read through your lecture notes to see if you have any gaps in understanding. The university workload is far greater than high school, so you need to keep up from the beginning. You’ll get through the whole high school curriculum of a subject within a month at university!
  • If you are living away from home for the first time, establish some good routines. Ensure you are cooking and eating simple, healthy meals. A fast-food diet will soon lead to weight-gain and illness, as well as impact you ability to focus in lectures. 

university

From Week 2 Onwards

  • Continue establishing healthy habits – exercise if you’re used to it or start exercising if you’re not. This increases oxygen to your brain and helps you concentrate better.
  • If you have to work with a budget for the first time, be responsible with it. Chat to your parents, older siblings or older friends if you’re not sure how to set up your budget.
  • Join some clubs – take up some new interests or continue with established ones. Hobbies are really important for your mental wellbeing, plus they’re a great way to make new friends!
  • Keep in touch with your family regularly (especially if you’re living away from home, it can be hard on your parents and siblings and they will want to know that you’re okay). 
  • Keep up to date with your assignments and assessment projects – the volume of varsity work is great and you will find yourself pulling plenty of all-nighters if you don’t keep up!
  • If you feel like you’re falling behind or struggling, chat to a friend who is competent in the subject or consider engaging the services of a private tutor who has successfully walked the path ahead of you. They may have done the exact course (or a similar one) to what you’re struggling with and be able to identify with you, as well as give you course-specific tips. 

It is best to address all issues sooner rather than later before they get out of hand. Whether you’re struggling with academics, homesickness, depression or anything else, reach out and accept the help from friends, family or professionals. Please do not struggle alone. This will help you adjust easier to the big and exciting life change that is your first year of university and ensure you remember this year as something positive and rewarding!

Remember!

Wow! If this was too much information for you, remember these 3 main tips:

  1. Keep on top of your coursework from Day 1. If you’re struggling, get a tutor.
  2. Keep a healthy lifestyle – exercise, sleep and eat well. 
  3. Be sociable – make new friends in your course or varsity clubs, and keep in touch with family and friends if you’re going to university away from home.

 

This article first appeared on www.brightsparkz.co.za, and was written by Natalie Wilke, BrightSparkz Staff & Blog Writer

Is Your Child Ready for Kindergarten?

The idea of letting your children start big school may seem overwhelming as a parent, as you want to ensure that your child has a successful learning experience. This begs the question: How do parents ensure that their children are ready for kindergarten? One of the answers is to work with your children to help them develop certain skills that ensure school readiness. This task can be broken down into some easy steps: 

  • Help with Physical Development

This aspect involves encouraging the development of coordination, fine motor and gross motor skills and balance. Get your child to practice cutting with scissors, throwing and catching a ball, hopping on one leg, balancing on a beam or a line on the floor, riding a bike or building a puzzle.

 

  • Both Emotional & Social Development are Important

Talking to your child about emotions and how they feel when they are angry or sad is vital. It will enable them to identify their emotions in different situations. Build healthy boundaries and rules for your child as this will be implemented in schools too. Allow your children to have play dates or participate in outside activities where they can learn to socialize, how to share, how to listen and compromise. 

 

  • Develop Literacy & Numeracy Skills

These skills are extremely important in children’s success at kindergarten. No need to include difficult or advanced tasks – just simple activities that give your child simple and fundamental skills that they take with to schools. This can be done by practicing counting with your child, teaching them colours and basic shapes, reading to your child and exposing them to basic sight words.

 

  • Overall Healthy Development

It is important to try to limit the amount of screen time you allow your child and encourage outdoor time or playing with toys instead. Stimulate their senses with a variety of fun activities like tasting different foods (sweet or salty), smelling different scents, hearing and identifying different sounds, for example. Make sure that your child is maintaining a balanced diet and getting all the nutrients and vitamins that they need to grow and develop their body and brain!  

Most importantly, remember that children learn through play, so try to ensure that your child is having fun while learning! This doesn’t have to be time consuming – it’s all about making the small changes in your daily routine to help your child. Instead of TV at night rather read with your child, while driving in the car you can talk to your child and play games. Games can Include I spy, can you spot this? Or counting practice. Make it fun for both you and your child! Lastly, children will mimic you, so make sure you express excitement in this new adventure of their life. They will in turn feel positive as they go on this adventure!

 

  • Little Sparkz to Aid Development

If you’re not sure if your child is ready for kindergarten, or you feel that your child may lack even some of the skills needed to enter kindergarten with confidence, Little Sparkz is the perfect solution! Created by experienced Early Childhood Development educators, Little Sparkz focuses on an introduction to literacy, numeracy, gross and fine motor skills, coordination and memory, through a variety of activities designed to teach your child in a fun and engaging way. Taking your child through the Little Sparkz program will introduce learning as something to enjoy and get excited about, while building your precious bond! 

 

Book your Little Sparkz program today!

Written by Jade Hales, ECD student and BrightSparkz Blog Writer. This article first appeared on brightsparkz.co.za.