Thursday, November 7, 2013

Reading and Writing: Beyond Drills and Spelling Lists

By Joanne A. Jesena

Is your child tired of drills and spelling lists? Your child's reading and writing skills can improve by doing enjoyable and purposeful activities. 


  •  Star them while they're young and make sure they're having fun!

  •  Start exposing your child early to books. Invest in hard cover and soft books for your toddler. They enjoy interactive books such as peek-a-boos. Have a special reading time with Mommy and/ or Daddy for some reading fun and bonding time, too. Keep in mind that usually, the younger the child, the shorter their attention span. So if your one year old squirms out of your lap just after one or two pages, don’t worry! Their attention span will increase as they get older. 
  • Provide your child with different writing materials. Use the clean side of old letters or office papers.
  • Have a special table for your child where he can put his writing materials and write as well.
  • Celebrate all forms of your child’s writing! Be it scribbles, letters, posters, notes or drawings with stories. Post them proudly on the walls or on the ref.
  • Limit your child’s television exposure. Studies suggest no t.v. viewing for children younger than two! If you decide that Sesame Street and Barney are just too irresistible, limit it to a few minutes a day for very young children. Over exposure may make children lose or lessen interest in books. Parents can also watch with their child and make t.v. viewing more interactive by asking the child questions and encouraging the child to be more proactive than merely sitting and watching.
  • Put signs around your home. Label things at home (such as “chair,” “bed,” “table”) and point them out to your child.
  • Have a message board at home. Post messages for your child to read and encourage him to write to you, too.
  • Write letters to each other and leave them in unexpected places such as inside the lunch box, inside the cabinet or under your child’s pillow.
  • Write letters to relatives in far away places and ask them to write back to your child.
  • Have a reading material in every part of your house and make sure to change them every week or every other week.
  • Have special story telling time at home. Invite your neighbors and your child’s friends to listen to a story told by you, another parent or your child! Be imaginative in your presentation.
  • Make home made books. · If your child is still in the scribbling stage, gather some of his works and bind them or staple them together. Make sure to make a cover with a title and the author’s (your child’s) name. Look through the books together with your child.
    · If your child can already explain his drawings, write his explanation or story below his drawings.
    · If your child can already spell, let him write his own story. Don’t worry if he invents his own spelling (beginning spellers usually only write the consonants). Inventing a spelling of a word is a step towards conventional spelling. Provide him with a dictionary (with pictures, if possible) if you want him to find out the conventional way a word is spelled.
  • When in the car or in a mall, read signs that you see. For younger children, merely pointing out and reading the signs for them is enough. As they grow older, help them notice the beginning letters and the other letters that make up a word.
  • Visit bookstores together and choose interesting books to read.
  • Most importantly, show your child you enjoy and value reading and writing. Remember, you are your child’s favorite role model.

    How to Bring the Best Out of Your Child

    By Joanne A. Jesena

        Acknowledge that your child is a unique and special individual. Refrain from comparing him with others, most especially in front of him!

        Praise your child’s positive qualities instead of picking on his negative ones.

        Support his endeavors. Buy him a small basketball hoop if he likes basketball. Enroll him in a class he’s interested in.

        Allow your child to express himself. Be it through writing, drawing, painting, singing and even by speaking out his thoughts, opinions and feelings. Children who are allowed to express themselves develop more healthy self-esteem and are able to take better care of themselves in the outside world.

        Educate yourself regarding the latest studies regarding child-rearing, child development and other related topics. Keeping yourself up to date with the latest studies helps you make informed and smart decisions regarding your child.

        Don’t get caught up with increasing your child’s IQ and leaving behind your child’s EQ. Your child’s emotional stability may even be more important to your child’s well-being than his IQ. A very intelligent child may be able to answer perfectly his exams in school but what is the use of this if he cannot handle his emotions or has difficulty relating with peers and with other people around him?

        Include your child in decision-making. Start with small decisions. As a toddler, it could be about the color of his/her clothes. As a preschooler, it could be the kinds of food s/he will bring to school for snacks. This will help your child develop his thinking skills as well as feel responsible for his/her actions. This will also make your child feel that his/her opinions matter to you.

        Let your child make mistakes. As your child grows older, you will have to let him/her make more independent decisions. Sure, you should always be there to guide him, but there will be times when he will insist in doing something that you feel is not the “right” decision. If the situation is not life threatening and does not endanger your child, let your child decide for himself.

        If his decision fails to give him the results he thought he would get, help him analyze where he went wrong. This is a teachable moment that should not be missed. His learning from his past mistakes will surely help him in making better decisions in the future.

        Let your child solve some problems by himself. Your toddler rolls the ball under the table. He seems clueless as to where it is. Don’t spoil the teachable moment by dropping to the floor to fish out the ball. Let him figure it out.

        Your preschooler is busy making a puzzle. It’s taking him forever. Don’t grab the pieces to make the puzzle yourself. Let him figure it out!

        I’m sure you can think of other situations wherein your child has a problem and you want to solve it for your child. Try to restrain yourself. You may be depriving your child of a teachable moment.

        Give your child some responsibilities around the house. Your toddler can pack away his toys. Your preschooler can put the placemats on the table. Your gradeschooler can put the utensils. As they grow older, increase their responsibility. This will instill in them the value of responsibility and help them feel that they are productive members of the family.

        . Walk your talk. If you want to pass on your values to your child, it’s better to let him/her see you do it than merely hear you say it.

    * The author is the owner and directress of a play school and tutorial center for children. For questions and comments call 636-0658

    Tips on Preparing Your Child For Going (Back) To Preschool

    By Joanne A. Jesena
    Just a little over a month and kids will be going back to school. Are your kids ready?

    If you have a preschooler, you will need more time and effort in preparing him to go back to school.

    Here are some tips to help you out.

        Find out his class schedule and start waking him up at the time that he will need to wake up when classes start. Make sure his nap time is not during class hours. If it is, try to move it to another time so that he will not be sleepy or cranky when he’s back in school and he cannot rest/sleep at his usual nap time.

        Follow a routine at home so that when your child goes (back) to school he will feel comfortable following a routine. Try to make waking up time, eating time, play time, reading time and sleeping time the same everyday.

        Bring your child along when shopping for the things he will need to use and bring to school (bag, lunch box, toothbrush etc.) When possible, let him choose his preference.

        Let him use, at home, the things he will bring to school. This will help your child get use to his things and he will easily recognize what is his in school.

        If possible, arrange for your child to visit his school a few days before classes start. It would also help if he can meet his teacher/s. Teachers are usually already working weeks before classes start. You can ask them if your child may visit the school and meet them. Also if possible, arrange a playgroup with some of the kids that will be his classmates. This will make your child adjust more quickly since he is more familiar with his school, classmates and teacher/s.

        Read books about going to school and prep your child that he, too, will be going to school soon. Talk about the fun things he will do in school.

        Prepare a calendar and mark the days until the beginning of school. Make the first day of school a day to look forward to.

        If your child does not seem interested or enthusiastic about school, ask your child’s teacher ways on how to encourage him. A child’s reluctance to go to school can stem from many factors. Make sure you and the teacher explore all possible reasons so you can arrive at possible solutions. If your child can articulate himself, try asking him why he is reluctant to go to school. Be sensitive to signs that may give you a clue.

    Tips on Helping Your Child Love Math

    (or at least not be afraid of it!)
    By Joanne A. Jesena

    How many of us grew up afraid of math? I know a number who cringe at the sight of numbers to be solved. This does not have to be the case for your children. Here are some tips to help your child get used to numbers and math even at a very young age. The trick is make math a part of your everyday life.

    1. As soon as you feel your child can understand you, introduce mathematics in his life by counting to him. Count food you are about to eat. Count cars you see. Count anything and everything!

    2. Whenever you are preparing your child to do something such as eat, take a bath or pack away his toys, count to him. Remember to count in a gentle and non-threatening way. At first 1-3, then 1-5, then 1-10 and so on. This will not only help your child in rote counting, it will also help your child have a sense of time.

    3. When your child is ready, usually at age 2 1/2, help your child sort toys, clothes and other similar objects. Name the sets of objects such as set of socks, set of shirts etc. This will help your child have a concept of sets and help him be organized too!

    4. Have your child put ordinary objects in containers with numbers. Help your child match numbers with the correct number of objects.

    5. Have a set of blocks at home. While playing with these, help your child count the blocks he used to make things and write them down for him to see. Point out that when you put together some blocks they become as big as some other block (e.g. When you put two squares together they make a rectangle.) When packing away the blocks, put similar shaped blocks together.

    6. If your child is 2 years old and above, you can probably mix, cook and bake together. There are books that give you ideas on easy to cook/ bake goodies. You can mix many things together such as juice, fruits etc. Help your child use measuring cups and spoons. Write and help your child take note of the ingredients and how many cups or spoons you need to use. Count out loud as you put the ingredients in a bowl.

    7. Use a calendar to mark important dates for you and your child. Everyday, look at the calendar with your child and say the date together. If your child is looking forward to an important occasion, mark out the days until the said occasion.

    8. Read number books together. Very young children love books with flaps or peek-a-boos so make sure to buy these kinds.

    9. Play number games together such as number bingo and number domino. This helps children familiarize themselves with numbers and learn to match alike numbers.

    10. Games with dice is a fun way for children to learn to add and enhance their knowledge in adding.

    11. Sing number songs such as Ten Little Indians, Five Little Ducks and Ten Monsters in a Bed.

    12. Post important numbers near your phone and help your child call some of the numbers. Remember to remind your child NOT to play with the phone and use it only when it is important.

    13. For inexpensive purchases, let your child get the money from the wallet. Count the number of peso coins needed to purchase the object or help your child find out how much change the cashier will give him.

    14. Play cashier in your house. Use tokens and pretend to buy and sell things. Help your child give the right number of tokens for his purchase.

    15. Teach your child to string bead, life savers or different kinds of macaroni shells. Make patterns using the beads, life savers or macaroni. You may start the pattern and help your child figure out what's next in the pattern. When your child is older, let him make his own patterns.

    16. To learn patterns, you can also cut different shapes and ask your child to make patterns by pasting the shapes on a paper. You can make patterns of different objects. Then you can make a book of patterns by putting together all sheets of paper where your child glued his patterns.

    17. Children usually love dot-to-dot. When your child shows interest, let him connect number dot-to-dot. I should warn you though to go easy on worksheets. It may not help your child love math if you bombard him with math worksheets. Children who are not ready for worksheets find these pen-and-pencils activities boring and it could turn them off from liking math.

    18. Use play dough to help your child learn concepts such as big and small, long and short, many and few. Simply make objects that will demonstrate to your child the concept you want to teach then ask him to do the same.

    19. Show pictures during each stage of your life (as a baby, pre-schooler, adolescent and so on) and seriate it aaccordingly. Do the same for his pictures although you will probably end up seriating only 2-3 pictures.

    20. Plant a mongo seed and take a picture as it grows or draw each stage of it's growth. Talk about how the mongo seed had to go through stages before it can be a big plant just like humans. Ask your child to seriate the pictures and drawings of how the plant grew.

    These are just some ways to help your child love and learn math at a very young age. One important fact I want to share with you though is that how you present math to your child is how he will view math as well. So if you want child to love math, show him you love math too!

    What Should Your Child Really Learn in Preschool

    (according to the DAP Approach)

    By Joanne A. Jesena
    Published in Philippine Star, 2001

    Too many preschools, too many philosophies but what should your child really learn in preschool? Here are some questions parents frequently ask and the answers according to the DAP approach or the Developmentally Appropriate Practice which believes in educating the whole child, individualized learning and in an integrated, meaningful curriculum.

    1. What is the real purpose of preschool?

    On top of the list is the development of self-esteem. Equally important important are helping your child learn to get along with others, fostering your child’s curiosity and natural love for learning. Your preschool should help your child become lifelong learners and help him discover that learning is both meaningful and enjoyable.

    2. Will my child learn to read and write?

    First, we must realize that reading does not only mean the ability to read word-for-word and neither is writing just the ability to write recognizable letters and words.

    Reading and writing both go through a process before reaching reading and writing as known to many.

    Very young children are already showing pre reading skills when they display knowledge that "reading" starts from the front cover and ends at the back and that pages are turned one at a time. As your child grows older, she will be able to memorize stories in books, read pictures to tell a story, predict what will happen next and find familiar words and letters. These are important strategies that children use to make sense of written language.

    A good reading program will expose your children to a variety of reading materials and will help your child have a positive attitude towards reading. The preschool should view reading not merely as a task but as an enjoyable and purposeful activity. Reading is not confined to looking at and "reading" books but also in "reading" messages, charts and other signs inside and outside the classroom.

    As for writing, before a child can even scribble, he needs to have some control over his fine motor skills. Young children should be provided with activities that will help them strengthen their fine motor skills. These activities include playing with play dough, snipping, painting, building with construction toys (such as blocks and Lego) and finger play. Children need to be exposed to different writing materials. Very young children need to write in bigger pieces of paper as they have less control over their hands than older children do.

    All forms of writing should be celebrated --- even those that do not seem to make any sense to others! You want your child to feel proud of his efforts so that he will continue to experiment and practice writing until he is ready to write the conventional way.

    3. Will my child learn math?

    Math concepts are introduced in activities with materials known as "manipulatives." These include puzzles, construction toys and objects for counting, sorting and classifying. Math concepts are also learned in special as well as everyday activities that interest the children. Counting can be learned even during snack time by looking at shapes of food, counting cookies or cereals and finding out who has more or less number of biscuits. The child is exposed to Math in such a way that he sees it as something both fun and purposeful.

    4. Will my child learn science and social studies?

    When your child asks you why, when and how questions and when he intently looks at an object or he curiously touches and feels unfamiliar objects, your child is already showing interest in science. Your child’s preschool should provide opportunities for your child to explore, invent, think about cause and effect and predict results. Older children go a step further by writing down their predictions and recording and graphing results of their experiments. Ideally, teachers should capture teachable moments during snack time, sand play or anytime of the day, to teach concepts in science.

    A good social studies program helps your child build his sense of self within the larger view of the world and encourages an understanding and appreciation of those who live different lives. Children learn through pictures, stories, field trips and just getting to know each other’s families.

    5. Will art, music and P.E. be part of the curriculum? And what are their importance?

    Art does not only hone a child’s artistic skills but it can also be the core from which many skills are generated. Furthermore it is a good venue for children to express themselves and gain self-confidence. A good classroom has an art project of each child displayed and not merely one or two art works that Teachers view as "the best". At this point, art projects are not valued so much for their artistic quality but more for the effort that the child has exerted in making it.

    Music is an important part of a preschool classroom. It livens up the atmosphere, it is fun for children and it provides opportunities for the use of language, reading and writing skills. Also, songs teach children different concepts.

    Physical education helps children build their strength and muscular coordination as well as their skills in social interaction. A preschool should have equipment appropriate for the different ages of children in the preschool as well as a safe place where the children are free to play and do creative-movement games.

    Now that we’ve tackled the questions that most parents ask about their child’s preschool, I’d like to remind parents that as important as checking if your child’s school will teach the above-mentioned "subjects", is checking if your child’s school will help your child become life-long learners. The preschool should help your child love learning by giving them opportunities to discover that learning is both meaningful and enjoyable. Ask also about their discipline strategy and make sure it is one that is appropriate for your child’s age and one that respects your child’s uniqueness and rights. Make sure the activities are age appropriate too. Remember that young children learn more by doing hands-on activities that are significant to them.

    Your child’s preschool is your partner in enriching your child’s early years so take the time to visit and learn about different preschools and choose one that is best for your child.

    Bake, Cook and Learn!

    By Joanne A. Jesena
    Published in Philippine Star, 2001

    Summer vacation is fast approaching and soon your kids will be running around your home, restless as ever! Put their energies into good use. Cook and bake with them and at the same time, teach them a thing or two about reading, science and math!

    Here are easy to cook and bake recipes for kids as young as one year old! Expect a mess and expect to have lots of fun too!

    Before doing any of these recipes, put on an apron and put one on your child too. Make sure you’ve written the recipe on a cartolina beforehand, for your child to “read” with you. Highlight the first letter of the words or write with a red pen while use a blue or black one for the rest of the letters. This will help your child focus on beginning letters. If possible, draw the ingredients so your child will associate the word with the picture and later on, with the real object too.

    Start the process by reading the recipe together. Take note of beginning letters. Ask your child what is the starting letter of words such as cup, egg, bowl and other familiar words. Ask your child to name the numbers written in the recipe. Help him with fractions and show the measuring spoon/cup that corresponds to the ones mentioned in the recipe. Help your child unlock words by pointing the picture that tells them what the word is.

    It would be nice to warm up or introduce your cooking activity with a book about the food you are about to make.


    It would be nice to start of this recipe by reading a book about baking or about cookies. I recommend the Sesame Street book "The Biggest Cookie in the World."

    What you’ll need:

        2 cups all purpose flour (APF)
        1/4 tsp. salt
        3/4 cups softened butter
        1 large egg
        1 tsp. vanilla extract
        3/4 cup white sugar
        1-2 tbsp. of sugar
        food coloring

    What to do:

    1. Preheat oven to 325 (if you don’t have an oven, you can use a toaster oven)

    2. In a bowl, let your child mix APF and salt

    3. In another bowl, ask your child to cream softened butter and sugar

    4. If your child can crack an egg, let him do so. If not, an adult should crack the egg and place its contents into the bowl with the butter and sugar.

    5. Let your child add the vanilla in the bowl with egg, butter and sugar and mix well

    5. Add all ingredients in a big bowl and blend/mix

    * DO NOT overmix!

    6. Let your child gather dough in a big ball. Younger kids will enjoy pinching and rolling the dough before actually making the big ball.

    7. Help your child wrap the ball in a plastic wrap

    8. Chill in freezer for 5-10 minutes (DO NOT freeze! We need dough that is hard enough to cut but NOT frozen.) Ask your child what he thinks will happen when the dough is placed in the freezer.

    9. When stiff enough, remove dough from freezer and help your child flatten it with a rolling pin.

    10. Give your child cookie or play dough cutters and cut out into desired shape

    11. Ask your child to sprinkle cookies with colored sprinkles and or put nuts and choco chips (optional)

    12. On a separate bowl, ask your child to mix 1-2 teaspoons of sugar with food coloring

    13. Let your child sprinkle colored sugar on cookies.

    14. Bake cookies in oven for about 8 minutes or until sides of cookies show some brown color.

    If you will use a toaster oven, bake cookies for 5 minutes or until sides of cookies show some brown color. DO NOT wait for cookies to turn entirely brown!

    For kids 1-2 years old, they can participate by rolling the dough with their hands, making cookie shapes with plastic cookie cutters and by sprinkling the colored sugar, sprinkles and nuts on top of the cookies.

    For kids 2 1/2 and older, they may participate from the beginning until the end of the process. An adult, though, should be the one to place the cookies in the oven. Teach your child the dangers of touching a hot surface and warn him never to touch the oven.


    You could read and say out loud the Humpty Dumpty story/rhyme before making this.

    What you will need:

        fresh eggs
        iodized salt
        pickles (optional)
        ham (optional)

    What to do.

    1. START by "reading" the recipe together.

    2. Ask your child to touch the egg and ask how it feels (hard, cold)

    Break a fresh egg and show your child how it looks inside

    3. Ask your child what s/he thinks will happen if another egg is placed in a pan with water and boiled.

    4. Ask your child to put eggs (depends on how many you want to use) into a pan.

    5. Ask your child to put water inside the pan (use cups if you want to inject a lesson in math
    ---count the number of cups you need to put in the pan enough water to boil the eggs in)

    6. When the egg is cooked, an adult should take the pan and put the eggs on a bowl.

    7. When egg is cool, let child touch the egg and ask how it feels like (hard, hot/warm)

    8. Let child break the egg and find out how it looks inside. Ask child if it is different from the first egg that was broken. Ask your child why he thinks the inside of the egg changed its appearance.

    9. Let child cut the eggs using a plastic knife.

    10. Let child cut the ham into small pieces.

    10. Put into a bowl

    11. Add mayonnaise, iodized salt, pickles (quantity depends on your taste) and mix

    12. Refrigerate to cool, if desired. Then enjoy with your favorite piece of bread.

    For kids 2 and above, they may participate by cracking the eggs and taking off the shells, as well as cutting and mixing with an adult’s close supervision.

    3. Vegetable Soup

    A nice book about soup is "Stone Soup." You might want to read this before making your own vegetable soup.

    What you will need:

        1 cube of beef or chicken broth
        2 1/2 cups of water
        1 small onion
        1 can of whole kernel corn
        1 carrot
        1/2 cup of chopped cabbage

    What to do:

    1. Let your child pour 2 1/2 cups of water into a pan.

    2. An adult should put the pan on the stove to boil.

    3. With the help of an adult an older child may place the cube into the pan.

    4. An Adult should chop the onions and place it into the pan.

    5. In the meantime, help your child cut out the carrots and cabbage and other vegetables you’d like to include in your vegetable soup.

    6. An adult should open the can of whole kernel corn and place the contents into a bowl.

    7. Let an older child put the vegetables and corn into the pan. Make sure the stove is in low fire.

    Kids aged 2 and older will be able to help in chopping the vegetables. Kids aged 5 and older can help in chopping and putting the vegetables into the pan.

    While cooking and baking, it might not be obvious to your child that he was learning reading (looking and knowing beginning letters and sight reading ingredients), math (counting, learning about fractions and recognizing numbers) as well as science (predicting what will happen, taking note of changes and how this happened) but I’m sure it will be quite obvious that he is having lots of fun!

    How began was stated on March 21, 2002 by me. I was still a medical student then. I got my friend Joanne Jesena, a preschool owner and teacher, to help me out with articles that she published.

    Years later, now with a toddler and another almost here, i decided to convert the website into a blog and keep it going.

    I hope that this will grow and help more parents and children.