How to Teach Children to be Pragmatic

It’s very important for kids to learn the language of pragmatism from an early age. The pragmatic language involves specific ways of communication, sometimes also known as ‘social skills’. Kids must learn the use of language for different reasons such as greetings, farewells, asking questions, narrating anecdotes, etc. It’s important to change the language based on each type of communication, for example that with a teacher, a peer, a parent, et al. Pragmatic skills also involve turn-taking while talking and not interrupting, introducing new topics, correcting errors or altering something in a different way when a message is not understood the first time, maintaining eye contact and correct body distance while talking, and knowing how to talk to different groups of people (peers versus adults). So what’s the best way to introduce kids to the pragmatic language and help them master it? Check out the following.

Inside My ClassroomImage Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/knittymarie/4802941163

Day-to-day happenings at home contribute significantly in developing a child’s pragmatic language skills. Encourage your child to greet parents and siblings at the breakfast table, say goodbye to whoever is at home while leaving for school, and wish a ‘good night’ before retiring to bed every night. Praise your child if she exhibits good communication skills.

Have you ever thought that the scientific method may be useful in contributing significantly to a child’s pragmatic skills? The scientific method is more than just a way of approaching sciences; it’s a way we live. The scientific method of studying has been developed taking into account our day-to-day lives and therefore devising the best possible way to approach a solution. The approach of the scientific method includes five very pragmatic steps – hypothesis, formulation, experiment, and conclusion. The four steps will help any child even beyond her science lessons – to understand life with a pragmatic approach. So have your child solve such scientific method worksheets which explain each step in detail and inspire her to adopt the approach in her day-to-day life.

Role-playing with children is another great way to help them becomes pragmatic in their approach. Pretend to be a teacher, a peer, a parent, or a stranger and converse with your child. Talk about various problems that are specific to each role and try to elicit a reaction from the child. Here are a few questions for two of the roles mentioned on which you can base the role-play.

Teacher

  • How long does it take you to reach school? Is there a better way to commute?
  • If you forgot to get your stationery on a math project day, what would you do?
  • If there’s just one chalk in the classroom and your friend is using it to demonstrate a problem on the board but you need it urgently for a project that the teacher has assigned to you. How would you approach your friend or tackle the situation?

Peer

  • Your best friend is going for a movie with her neighbor-friends. She insists you accompany her even though you not comfortable with them. How would you react/what would you do?
  • You are appearing for an exam and you notice your neighbor has not got a single pen/pencil with her. You haven’t got any spare stationery either. What would you do?

Practice story telling with the kids. Provide kids with connecting clues and sequences and help them string them together to form a story. For example, to weave a story on a day out to an aquarium with family, supply her with clues such as ‘when did you wake up’, ‘how did you go’, ‘who went with you’, ‘where did you go’, how were the animals at the aquarium’, ‘have you bought any souvenir from there’, ‘would you like to go back to the aquarium on another day’. Give her the freedom to use her imagination to tell the story, so don’t interrupt her if she sneaks in unreal events!

It’s important to be pragmatic and give your child the opportunity to develop her pragmatic side of personality with these tips.

How to Teach Yourself Chemistry – Things you Should Know

If you always wanted to study chemistry but fate willed it otherwise, and going back to school isn’t an option, I have some good news for you. It’s possible to master the basic concepts of chemistry without the benefit of a lab or a teacher. All you need is the internet and a few good sites that allow you to download printable science worksheets for free. Here’s a brief outline of chemistry concepts you will learn as a novice. Most of these have to do with conversion, units and the interaction between atoms and molecules.

Understanding Chemistry

Before you commence your studies, you need to understand what chemistry is, what chemists actually do and know why you want to study the subject. Just pick a middle school science textbook and go through the chemistry section – if you think you can deal with that, you’re all set to go!

Units and measurements

If the above didn’t scare you off, you’re ready to start with the metric system and the commonly used units in chemistry. Once you feel you’ve mastered that, I’d suggest downloading a basic science worksheet and testing yourself. This will also give you more confidence and prep you for further research into the subject.

The scientific method

All scientists, chemists included, study the world in a systematic manner. The scientific method shows you how to collect data, design experiments and analyze the results in an objective way.

Elements and the periodic table

Elements are the primary building blocks of matter. They are organized in the Periodic Table according to their properties. As a budding chemist, you will need to learn what elements are, find out how the periodic table is designed and how to use it to understand the subject better. Again, as with other chemistry topics, there are several useful science worksheets you can use to learn the elements.

Ions, atoms and molecules

Ions are made up of one or multiple elements and have an electrical charge. An atom is a single unit of an element. When atoms come together they form molecules and compounds. You will have to learn how to identify different ions, identify the parts of an atom and learn how to calculate and express quantities.

Chemical formulae, reactions and equations

Chemical formulae depict how many of an ion or atom bond with others of their kind. Molecules and compounds also react with each other in different ways. This is an important part of your chemistry education and you also have to learn to name compounds, predict whether a reaction will occur and write equations to describe them.

I hope this gives you an idea of what you can expect when you start your chemistry education.

Coming Up with a Winning Science Fair Project Idea

So your child is participating in the school science fair, and you’re now trying to help come up with science fair project ideas. Irrespective of whether your child was forced to take part in the science fair or even if science is a much-disliked subject, you can turn the situation around with a winning science fair project idea. Here are six tips to share with your child to ensure (s)he enjoys working on the project, learns a lot in the process and maybe even ends up with a prize!

"Science Fair, 09" by Rich Bowen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Science Fair, 09” by Rich Bowen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

1. Begin Early

The science fair is a long way away, and you figure you have more than enough time to come up with a good science fair project idea and see it through to the end. Great! That’s no reason to put off starting on the project. You never know what complications may arise once you actually begin. Even the seemingly simple task of coming up with a good idea may take a lot more time than expected. The last thing you want is to find out that you have only one week left for the project, and an understandably limited choice of ideas to choose from. With more time in hand, you have the liberty of choosing a topic that truly interests you, spending enough time to do research and understand the topic in detail, and collecting the necessary information in a well thought-out and organized manner. And if you’ve got your eyes on the prize, each of these factors will help differentiate your project from the other good ones on display. Believe me, the judges can tell.

2. Choose a topic that really interests you

The right way to go about finding a good science fair project idea is to begin with your interests. Don’t read through a list of ideas and see whether any of them appeal to you. Rather, take some time to think about what kind of topics get you excited. It doesn’t even have to have a direct link to science. What things make you sit up and pay attention? Sports? Cats? Building things with your own hands? Narrow your list down to a few of your favorite topics and spend some time thinking about them. Most probably you will have to do some additional reading on the topic to come up with a question that interests you. The Google Idea Springboard is a great tool to help you out in this area. You’re likely to spend a few weeks if not months working on your project, so having a topic that you love will keep you interested till the end.

3. Come up with a good question that you can work with

A good science fair project idea begins with a good question. How do you define a good question? Firstly, it should not be a question that has already been answered by someone else. If you design a science fair project around the question ‘Which color light do plants grow best in?’, it is unlikely that you or anyone else will learn anything new from it. The experimental procedure and results for such a project can easily be found on the internet. Even if you do decide to do a project based on a science fair project idea you found online, make sure to change the question and ask something new so that you are experimenting and doing research on a slightly different area. Secondly, the question should truly interest you. Don’t adopt a question that someone else finds interesting or exciting. Use your ‘favorite topics’ list, spend time playing with different ideas in your head and only settle for a question that you would genuinely like to know the answer to. This interest will completely change the way you approach the project.

4. Consider the experimental procedure involved

Remember, while trying to settle on your science fair project idea, that you have to come up with a fool proof method for collecting data to answer your question. Consider the kind of time, energy and resources required to set up your experiment, and realistically evaluate whether it can be accomplished with what is available to you. Also check your experiment for any flaws. Is the data that you are collecting quantifiable? Is there any subjectivity involved? Have you considered and taken care of external factors that may affect your results? If you do not know the right answers to these questions, or how to design your experiment accordingly, you will need to spend some time understanding how to set up a scientific experiment.

5. Feel free to change your question based on your background research

It is entirely possible that as you go about collecting the information you need for your project, you realize that your question isn’t a very good one, or that you think of a better and more interesting one. Feel free to change your question according to your findings. This is where point #1 becomes even more important.

6. Make sure you understand all the concepts involved

Don’t worry about finding a topic that sounds highly complicated or scientific. In fact, the more simple your topic, the better you will be able to work with it. Nobody is expecting Ph.D. level research from you. More importantly, you will find the research and data collection far more difficult if you haven’t fully understood the topic yourself. Feel free to ask for help from an adult or the internet in order to learn more about the topic, but when it comes to the project, do all the thinking and analysis yourself. This will help you immensely when it comes to answering the judges’ questions about your project, and your in-depth understanding will show.

As long as you keep these tips in mind, you can be sure to come up with a science fair project idea that will win you over, impress your audience and maybe even tip the judges’ scales in your favor.

Eco Friendly Ways to Use Water in your Preschool Activities

Preschool activities are a great way to have fun while imparting important skills to preschoolers. Because of their age and developmental stage, there are a wide variety of fun activities that are counted as educational for the young kids. Even simple games like playing catch or building with wooden blocks count as important preschool activities as they help develop fine and gross motor skills. This gives parents and teachers a great deal of freedom in choosing activities that they think their preschoolers would enjoy. Some activities seem to be a universal hit among preschoolers. A good example would be preschool activities involving water. Kids love playing with water, and there are many educational activities that let kids do just that. However, in all the fun and excitement of hosing things down and getting wet, it’s easy to lose track of how much water is getting wasted.

 

 

Also, many parents feel that the little water that goes down the drain in their own homes couldn’t possibly affect the world’s supply of water. However, it’s important to remember that it’s never a question of one house – the same preschool activities are repeated in hundreds of homes across the country, and together the water that gets wasted can indeed impact the water table. Further, people do not need to wait for a drought to start getting serious about water conservation. While Californians are tearing out their lawns to reduce their levels of water consumption, those of us in more blessed locations would still do well to keep tabs on how much water gets wasted at home.

On that note, here are four simple eco-friendly ways to use water in your preschool activities:

Use a container to control spills – Various preschool activities involve transferring water from one container to another. This may be done using a dropper, a sponge, by pouring the water directly from one container to another, or in any other way. When done by five and six year olds, spills are inevitable. Instead of just letting the spilt water go to waste, you can use a larger container to hold the smaller containers in. That way, the water that gets spilt can just be poured back into the smaller containers again.

Play with sprinklers rather than water guns – When playing with water guns, a lot of the sprayed water goes to waste. Even if the kids are playing over a lawn, the water distribution is uneven and doesn’t really substitute for actually watering the lawn. A simple way to work around this issue is to use water sprinklers in your preschool activities. The kids can have a great time jumping over, ducking under or running through the water, and your lawn gets watered at the same time!

Use food coloring to color water – Colored water is pretty cool. It makes simple preschool activities seem more exciting. Kids can pretend to run their own lemonade stand, or have fun mixing the colors to make new ones. But no matter what you do with the colored water, once the preschool activity is over, you need to dispose of it. As long as you’re using food coloring or some other dye that is safe for plants, you can dispose of the water in an eco-friendly manner by using all of it to water the plants.

Choose activities that involve minimum wastage – The next time you search for preschool activities involving water, remember to use one more criterion for shortlisting – how much water is getting wasted. Sure your kids may enjoy hosing down letters or numbers written on the sidewalk according to the questions you call out, but is there absolutely no other way you can revise the numbers with him? It may take a little more effort to find the right activities, and maybe even some creative changes of your own, but if means wasting less water, why not?

As you make these small and simple changes to your preschool activities, you have a great opportunity to discuss water conservation with your kids. By being more environmentally conscious in the way you carry out the activities, you are giving them a valuable lesson in water conservation, and being a great role model that they can emulate as they grow older.

Subtraction game ideas to teach the concepts of ‘difference’ and ‘take away’

Before I start, I’d like to apologize for my blog silence. I tried to schedule as many posts as I could but some of them got lost in the maze that is the internet. I was away on vacation with the family to England (Photos up soon I promise!). What I have learnt in the past few weeks is that clichés are clichés for a reason. You know when people say they need a vacation to recover from a vacation? Oh boy is it true! Meanwhile, I have been able to write this post on Math because homeschooling doesn’t have terms. It’s an ongoing process! :) Hope you are all well. I will catch up with all your blogs soon! 

Experiencing difficulty in learning subtraction is a very common problem early in schools because students fail to move beyond the not-so-foolproof counting strategies of subtraction taught at kindergarten level. A simple solution lies in explaining the concept of subtraction to kids as both ‘take away’ and ‘difference’, helping them to understand the concept clearly. ‘Difference’ can be explained as comparing two numbers while ‘taking away’ can be explained as ‘removing numbers from a larger series of numbers’. M&M candies, cookies, chocolate squares, buttons, cookies, Lego blocks, cheerios, and marshmallows have always been very efficient tools in teaching kids the ‘difference’ and ‘taking away’ concepts. However, when I am not time bound and the kids are eager to learn, I play a few subtraction games with them in order to help them master the concept.

Flip flop math explaining ‘difference’

I stumbled upon this cool subtraction game on Pinterest when I was researching for general math game ideas for my 2 1st graders at home. I improvised on the game suggested by The Teacher’s Cauldron and came up with my own! This is a subtraction game that will help them understand the idea of ‘difference’. You will need a fair collection of sea shells, card stock, plastic laces, glue, scissors, markers, and 2 large sheets of construction paper. Distribute the shells unevenly among the kids and make multiple teams of 2 children each. The idea is to compare the number of sea shells and make a flip flop craft out of their ‘analysis’. If two girls in a team got 6 and 1 shells respectively, they cut out two flip flop bases and write their names on them. Next, have them write the number of shells they got on the flip flop next to their name. Paste the flip flops on the large construction paper and write the ‘difference’ in the space between their flip flops. Follow the image and replace the names with the answers and the addition problems with the number of shells each girl/boy got. Make several such pairs of flip flops for each team. Help them make the straps with the plastic laces and their flip flop craft is ready to go on the soft board.

Burning game explaining ‘take away’

This is a magic math game for kids of 2nd grade. It’s a twist to regular boring games, but must only be tried with necessary precautions in place!

You will need a mix of 3 portions of lemon juice and 1 portion of water, cotton swabs, a candle, a matchbox, papers, and markers to play the subtraction game in the class. Write an addition problem, like in the image, on strips of construction paper.  The only thing that you need to do differently here is write the number that’s hidden under the orange paper with cotton swabs dipped in the lemon juice and water mix. Ask the kids to calculate the number by ‘taking away’ the first digit from the answer, ‘taking away’ 7 from 10 in this case.

Hold the paper over a lit candle for the missing number to gradually reveal itself! The kids will be thrilled to bits to see their prediction appear magically on the paper! Please make necessary precaution and follow safety rules in the class while lighting the candle and holding the paper over it.

Understanding dry ice with science experiments

Many science experiments explain in detail how dry ice can be made but very few list its usage and application. Here is a detailed study of dry ice with possible science experiments, usages, and applications of dry ice in our daily lives.

What is dry ice?

The cold dense white mist produced by solid carbon dioxide in air is commonly known as dry ice. In chemical terms, dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide, a normal part of our earth’s atmosphere. Dry Ice is particularly useful for freezing, and keeping things frozen because of its very cold temperature: -109.3°F or -78.5°C. The coolest thing about dry ice is that it changes from a solid directly to gas without changing into liquid. Wearing insulated gloves is a must while handling dry ice.

Making dry ice –

Follow these easy steps to make dry ice easily.

Supplies

  1. CO2 fire extinguisher or carbon dioxide tank
  2. Cloth bag
  3. Insulated gloves

Directions

  1. Put on your insulated gloves first.
  2. Carefully insert the nozzle of the fire extinguisher into the cloth bag.
  3. Clamp your hand around the mouth of your bag and discharge the fire extinguisher.
  4. Turn off the extinguisher and seal the bag.
  5. You will soon see dry ice in the bag. Store it in the freezer for longevity. 

Science experiments with dry ice

Blowing up balloons –

Supplies:

  1. Balloons
  2. Empty plastic bottle with a narrow mouth
  3. Pellets of dry ice
  4. Insulated gloves

Directions:

  1. Blow up a balloon with your breath and keep it aside.
  2. Put a few pellets of dry ice in a bottle.
  3. Hold a balloon over its mouth and see it getting inflated with the carbon dioxide that releases when the dry ice sublimes.
  4. Once it inflates, tie it up with thread.
  5. Toss up both the balloons in the air and notice their flights.

Observations and questions – Which balloon comes down sooner? Can you explain why?

Explanation – Carbon dioxide is heavier than air which is why the balloon that contains dry ice falls down faster!

Hot pot –

Supplies:

  1. Dry ice
  2. A large pot
  3. Hot water

Directions:

  1. Place a few pellets of dry ice in the pot.
  2. Pour hot water in the pot and watch the cool cloud forming almost immediately.

Observations and questions – How soon does the cloud stop forming? Don’t add any more water till all the cloud is over. How does it happen?

Explanation – Over time, the dry ice will make the water cold and the “smoking” will slow down. Dry ice will blend only with hot water to produce carbon dioxide and smoke.

Aren’t the science experiments cool? They can be easily tried and tested at home with adult supervision and by wearing proper safety gear, especially insulated gloves. Dry ice will get you cold blisters if you don’t use gloves. Have fun with science!

Teachers Speak on Lesson Plans

As a teacher I have often wondered if the routine task of making lesson plans is redundant or essential. What do the other teachers from the U.S. have to say on that? Here’s what I gathered after talking to them.

Lesson Plans: The Not-so-Good

Many feel that lesson plans don’t have any quantitative outcome. A veteran teacher I once met at a conference told me that teachers should step into class with an open mind that is ready for discussion. Relying on pre-made notes and lesson plans is a bad habit. According to her, free-minded teaching is an art.

The typical habit of preparing lesson plans on Sunday evenings seems to have never worked for many a teacher. Though it involves meticulous planning and intensive research, somehow, lesson plans have failed for many teachers who have walked into the classroom with a set list of points and have been unable to effectively answer students’ questions.

However, many teachers agree that self-made lesson plans are more helpful than the ready-made lesson plans available online, if at all we choose to adopt them. The online resources have a broader perspective that cannot be applied to a variety of talent and intellect present in the classroom.

Lesson Plans: A Necessity

Here’s what teachers who swear by lesson plans have to say. Janice, a friend of mine and a teacher for 30 years, says she has walked into the classroom without a lesson plan almost a dozen times in the beginning of her career and it failed every single time. She eventually started to create lesson plans which ran into pages! She started using her own notebooks because the pre-issued standard lesson plan booklets never had enough space to accommodate her elaborate planning. Now that she has retired, young teachers still visit her to borrow her detailed lesson plans as she has tried to include the learning needs of the different kinds of kids she came across during her teaching years. Lesson plans are never “one size fits all”, she adds.

Planning lessons is a learning activity for teachers too. It involves selecting and prioritizing content, choosing activities to introduce kids to the content (unique activities to suit different needs of children), and sampling their learning through assessments. If at all lesson plans are needed in the classroom, they have to have an in-depth representation of the content and a perfect blend of teaching, activities, and assessment. Too much teaching and very little assessment can never make a perfect lesson plan. Teachers suggest that consulting with their colleagues result in the best lesson plans that help them shape the future perfectly!