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Big Learning News 9-28-05

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 3:28 September 28, 2005

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Table of Contents

Math Moment: World Population Clock
Sparking love of reading
Activity: Towers of Hanoi Puzzle

Web Site: Retro TV Commercials


Hurricane Relief

If your family would like to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, try these links:

American Red Cross: www.redcross.org

Network for Good: http://www.networkforgood.org/topics/animal_environ/hurricanes/: This site has links to lots of other relief organizations.


Math Moment

World Population Clock

http://www.ibiblio.org/lunarbin/worldpop

Is it just me, or is it getting crowded? That's the feeling you get watching the World Population Clock, which keeps a mathematically-estimated running total of the world population, allowing for births and deaths.

Copy down the number and have your child stick the commas in - that 6-billion-plus number is hard to read without them. Set a one-minute timer and see how much the population changed in just one minute - this is a good informal experience with rates (the population increases by x people per minute). No doubt your child will want to figure out how many more people that would be every day.

 

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Sparking a love of reading

I subscribe to quite a few e-mail lists, and one of them recently had a discussion about reluctant readers. Elizabeth Enders wrote this thoughtful list of suggestions which I liked very much. She kindly gave me permission to share her suggestions with all of you.

She writes,

"Here is what I have done with my own children AND with children in a reading/mentoring program I've run at our local elementary school:

First, I read a LOT of juvenile literature myself (picture books and "chapter" books), so I am able to recommend something to them that I have particularly enjoyed. I prefer well written fiction -- there are Newbery books written at a 3rd grade level appropriate for advanced early readers.

After I have selected a book, I settle down to read it to my child.  I read perhaps only the first chapter.  As soon as I can see that they are "hooked," (which only happens if it is a compelling story -- let's be honest!) I come up with a reason that I must stop reading (maybe I have to go cook dinner or do some laundry)... and I offer to continue reading with them "tomorrow" OR -- they may continue reading the book themselves.  Usually, they choose to continue reading the book themselves, to find out what happens next.  Before they know it, they've read the entire book and are ready for another.

I have found that by reading books that are slightly challenging (not too easy), they "magically" increase vocabulary and become better readers and writers. The trick, I think, is to choose good literature to begin with.

Nonfiction books are similar -- choose books which are interesting to your child, and before giving them the book, talk enthusiastically about the subject, and maybe mention something you know, and something you'd like to learn.  Say, "Let's find out!" and look at the book together -- OR, if they are reading to themselves, ask them later what they have learned, and engage them in a discussion about it.  They love hearing that THEY have taught YOU something.

We also read the newspaper together and discuss what's happening in the world.

One other thing -- It saddens me that once kids reach second grade, they are discouraged from reading beautifully written and illustrated picture books (much better written than those formula "chapter" books).  Many picture books are written at quite a high level (6th grade and above).  Some are even written for adults.  The pictures do a lot to keep struggling readers engaged AND help them put the words in context.

Last ideas:  I send notes in my children's lunch boxes (they are ages 9 and 11).  I send email messages to them.  They enjoy reading them and sending messages back to me.  We also enjoy writing silly stories together, where we take turns adding sentences, and then reading it back to the group.  Reading and writing don't always have to be about books."

Thanks, Elizabeth.


Other suggestions that were posted included letting kids read in bed after their official bed time, exploring other forms of literature like graphic novels, and encouraging kids to read to younger relatives. Also, one writer defended chapter and series books, because they're comfortable for kids and any reading is better than no reading.

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Activity

Towers of Hanoi Puzzle

http://www.mazeworks.com/hanoi/

This is an online version of a classic puzzle that kids solve by developing a pattern of moves. The object is to move a pile of disks from one post to another, moving one at a time and never putting a larger disk on a smaller one (this makes a lot more sense if you look at the actual puzzle). After you move the first disk, the puzzle will tell you the minimum number of moves required to solve the puzzle - it's 7 for 3 disks, 1023 for 10 disks!

Encourage your child to start with just three disks, then add more when they've solved the easiest case.

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Web Site

Retro TV Commercials

http://www.tvparty.com/vaultcomsat.html

Pretend you're giving your child a media literacy lesson ("My, haven't selling techniques become more sophisticated since the 1960's!"), while you secretly indulge yourself in a bit of nostalgia. These old commercials for cereal and toys have a charming hokiness and jingles you'll be singing all day.

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