How To Bring A Book Alive – Experiments And Games

El used to attend an enrichment centre, and I quite like some of the activities where the children would conduct science experiments or engage in games related to a book.

One famous book, I’m going on a bear hunt, was used by the teachers to create an exploration for the children. They made the children walk through a puddle of water (a basin of water was placed there), walk through tall grasses (streamers were used), and then wandered into a dark cave (lights were switched off). The children were led through the entire room. Experiential learning takes place, and the students had fun.

There is another story about a crow who searches for water, only to find water in a narrow beak jar. The teacher wore a mask of a crow, and then tried to drink water from a jar. True enough, she could not reach the water. Then, she guided the children to place pebbles into the jar, and true enough, the water level rose and the beak could finally reach the water.

On another occasion, there was a story about a little pig who was a postman. It delivered letters for the other animals. The teachers made a card box to resemble a mail box, and children had to deliver letters. They had to hop through a path, and climb up a few steps to deliver a letter.

One more lesson that I could remember was to teach the children about fishing and magnets. The children went around the room to attract fish with a magnetic fishing rod. There is a good example here about a simple activity of fishing with magnetsyou can do at home. They had also used little nets to catch fish toys. They also learnt the concept of density, where certain items float, while others sink.

Fishing with magnets by billaday

Fishing with magnets by billaday

I enjoyed the lessons more than my son did, as he was pretty non-responsive then, but then again, he was very young then. Perhaps if there was more room for quiet time, he might have enjoyed them more. However, the school did a good job of incorporating science and other activities into the story telling.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time and energy to try to bring these books alive, apart from the use of my voice when reading books with El. I am not sure whether his current school teaches science.

Baby Talk

Do you go ‘goo goo ga ga’ with babies? Do you talk in proper sentences or do you baby talk?

My parents seem to love to make sounds to get Gar to respond. They told me that my grandfather loved to say ‘Ah Ging’ and the baby will follow. It’s supposed to mean ‘Ah Gong’ or grandfather. They were mildly successful with El for one time only. However, they would be met with silence most of the time. Gar simply doesn’t like baby talk.

Sing to him, speak to him about the day, about his features, or anything else, and he will respond with lots of cooing and a wide range of sounds. I would ask him questions, and he would answer in his own way, and I would pause to let him answer, and then respond accordingly, as if I had really understood his words. Just a few days ago, I thought I heard ‘mummy’ in one of his babbling sessions.

In language acquisition for babies, they need to hear adult talk. They will get used to the sounds of the language, and they will start watching your mouth as you make the sounds. Face them when you are talking.

There is a four-step process in speech production according to Levelt (1989). First, you conceptualise the thought. Second, you formulate the words into appropriate syntax. Third, you articulate the sounds, and fourth, you self-monitor your speech. I am fascinated by this and wrote about this in my Critical Inquiry paper for my MEd. The only difference is instead of articulating sounds, students type words. People are able to learn a language through typing, as there is internal dialogue when they type. It gives them time to self regulate if there is asynchronous computer-mediated communication.

El typing ABC

El typing ABC

If we do not allow the babies to hear what your language sounds like, then they will take a long time. In fact, very young children are able to reach the first two stages. Before El could talk, he was already thinking, and formulating the words. He was just unable to articulate the sounds. I know this because instead of articulating the sounds, he typed out the words he wanted to say on his netbook. He was typing out A to Z, our names, and even the lyrics of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star when he was a year old plus. He only started speaking after 2 years, and even then, he was spelling words more than saying the actual words.

In another case, an autistic child, Carly Fleischmann, did not speak a words until she was a pre teen. She was given a lap top, and she started typing. Soon, she was writing long essays to explain what was going through her mind. It was like a magic switch that had turned on for her.

Some people teach their babies sign language so that they could express themselves. I did not really do this, but I had a few sign words for carrying and eating. I do not have sufficient data that babies who have learnt sign language pick up language more easily, or it could delay their speech. I only know that technology may just be the key to unlock the vast thoughts that are going through our little children’s minds.

Obsession With Dinosaurs

El in his Stegosaurus costume for his book week

El in his Stegosaurus costume for his book week

A few months back, El was obsessed with dinosaurs. It started innocently, when I had a little pull out book, and it introduced a few common dinosaurs to him, such as the T-Rex, triceratops  and stegosaurus.

A parent in his weekend class told me that she had brought her son to the Singapore Science Centre, and he liked the dinosaurs even though he was scared. We brought him there, and I kept imitating the dinosaur sounds and actions to make it less scary for him. He loved the dinosaurs, and the love affair started there.

I was at a book sale, and I picked up a dinosaur book. We happened to have a dinner with some relatives, so I brought it along to entertain him. Boy, he was totally amazed by the book. I went through the dinosaur names (really tough), and there were colourful pictures, each showing the sizes, and the type of diet they had. A young girl was sitting beside me, so I also showed her the book and she liked it as well.

From then on, he started learning the names, the pronunciation, and he went on youtube to search for dinosaur abc. He has this inexplicable urge to learn everything in alphabetical order. Perhaps it was the Zoophonics that started this craze.

He must have watched the video a hundred times.

Then came along book week in his preschool, with only 1 week notice! How on earth was I going to rent a dinosaur costume that he was willing to wear? There was no time to order anything online. In the end, I decided to make one.

My friends gave me ideas on how to make it work. So I got a jacket and his school cap, used velcro on foam triangular cutouts, and stuck on them to form the spines of a stegosaurus. I think his teachers loved it, and he liked it too.

A few months later, his father brought him to an exhibition at Plaza Singapura. I did not go, and so I asked him about the dinosaurs.

Me: what 4 dinosaurs did you see today?
El: andesaurus, pterosaur, and… And i-don’t-know-saurus.


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