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Big Learning News 2-24-04

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 2:7 February 24, 2004



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Table of Contents
Weaning Kids Off Children's Music
Book Review: The Kids' Multicultural Cookbook
Web Site: American Sign Language


Weaning Kids off Children's Music

Have you started having nightmares about being trapped in a Raffi concert? Maybe it's time to help your kids transition to something a little more sophisticated. Here are a few things that helped our kids expand their musical horizons.


1. Make a custom collection of your favorite music for the kids, either on CDs (using your computer) or by recording from your CDs or LPs to cassettes. We choose mostly simple, upbeat songs. Each collection includes a variety of artists and musical styles. We make new CDs regularly for our kids, with their newest favorites intermixed with songs they haven't heard yet. The kids seem more willing to listen to a mix than to a whole album by one artist. Plus, having CDs made just for them has helped them bridge the "our music, parent's music" gap. Programs such as MusicMatch (about $20.00 at http://www.musicmatch.com ) and iTunes (free at http://www.apple.com/itunes ) make CD creation much easier. Windows Media Player, included with Windows computers, also lets you burn CDs.


2. Explain song lyrics. We find that when we explain what a song is about, the kids are more likely to enjoy the song. For example, we might say, "They guy in the song had a girlfriend but she decided she loved someone else so now he's sad." Then we give a few examples of how singer expresses the story with particular lyrics, explaining some of the idioms, expressions and metaphors.


3. Talk about the instruments. Our kids have come to enjoy picking out the sounds of familiar instruments. When you hear one you recognize, tell them about it. If you're home, try to find a picture of the instrument to show them. Explain what you like about a particular part of the music.


4. Express your honest enthusiasm. Pick songs you love, and love them out loud. Say, "Oh, I love where that guy with the really low voice comes in!" or "Here's a really funny part!" Enthusiasm really is contagious.

Talk Back : How have you encouraged your kids to try new music? Reply to your newsletter or send your ideas to editor@biglearning.org .


Book Review
The Kids' Multicultural Cookbook by Deanna F. Cook (Williamson, 1995)

A few weeks ago BLN reviewed Evening Meals Around the World . If that piqued your family's interest in international cuisine, you might try Multicultural Cookbook next. This one is for older kids - say ages 6-12, depending on how much help you want to provide. The recipes are very simple, but do require cutting and heating beyond what most six-year-olds can do safely. Each recipe is rated for difficulty (one spoon for easy, two for harder, three for "you may need a grown-up").


Organized regionally, the book supplements recipes with information about regional dining habits, food utensils, and lifestyle, often with hands-on activities. One page describes lunch boxes in Ghana - what they look like and what they're filled with. The section on Africa includes an illustrated lesson on how children there make a cats-cradle type "bunch of bananas" from a loop of string. Photo-illustrated profiles of real kids from each region describe the child's favorite activities and foods. These add-ons make the book a great browse even if you have no intention of making any of the recipes.


This is a children's cookbook, which means some flavor trade-offs were made in the name of simplicity. Spices and preparation sequences are kept to a minimum. If you seek culinary excellence, you might want to pair this book with a more adult-oriented cookbook about the region you're exploring.


Web Site
American Sign Language
http://commtechlab.msu.edu/sites/aslweb/browser.htm

If your kids are interested in American Sign Language, here's a site that makes great use of modern technology. Each sign is shown in full motion video - no static, arrow-filled diagrams to interpret.


The text that accompanies each video explains each sign's origin. For example, as we watch the sign for "cat" - the woman pulls her fingers away from her cheek - we read that the sign is supposed to show a cat's whiskers. These make the signs easier to remember.




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