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Memo to self: Homework is for children, not for parents!

I helped Otto with her homework today.

By that, I mean that I sat there and encouraged her to write, and read questions out to her, and generally cheered her on.

And watched while she got the answers WRONG. Two of them, anyway.

And then I obsessed, because that is what I do, about what the correct etiquette is. I know that her answers are wrong, and I know why they are wrong, and I could explain that to her. But I am not sure that I would use the same language as her teachers … so in the end, I left it. Given that she’s new at the school, I think they are still assessing where she’s at, so that made this an easier decision.

I have heard several friends complain that they were up to 1 or 2am, finishing their child’s science assignment. I have helped the Bigster with layout and presentation on some of her assignments, and have suggested sometimes that she needed to write more, or do more research. But I do draw the line at actually doing the work for them.

I understand the impulse to just fix it up, though!

Fraser does chess homework with Otto, and they play the problems out on a chess board. He prompts her to look for her mistakes, and she generally does – but he wouldn’t give the answers to her. I guess that’s where we draw the line.

Meanwhile, we have some more assessment results in. Like I said earlier, she’s a full year behind in maths, but she’s already catching that up somewhat now that she has a workbook to work through. The bigger concern, to me, is her reading. Which is weird, because her reading level is apparently OK for Year 3. It’s just that it has barely progressed at all since we got back from Germany at the end of 2009. We’re working on that, too, though.

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2 Comments

Posted by on August 7, 2011 in children, education, parenting, school

 

One week down

Otto’s first week at her new school has gone really well. She’s been tired, but not excessively so, and has seemed happy and settled.

Things she has liked:

  • her friends, who remembered her from her “trial” days in May. She seems to have two particular friends, but the small group of children seems to be quite cohesive and welcoming/inclusive.
  • having a desk!
  • her new school bag. Also lunch box, drink bottle, etc.
  • school slippers!
  • having a fridge and microwave – well, access to them. Lunch boxes go in the fridge in the morning, and there is a microwave in each classroom which the children use during “second lunch”.
  • exercise books and textbooks. She is still waiting for a couple, as the teachers establish what level she is working at.
  • having her drink bottle on her desk all day.
  • choir/singing practice.
  • communication book – we sign this every day. And write notes and stuff.
  • parent/teacher appointments – every week, the teachers post their times in case parents want to meet with them to discuss their child’s progress (or anything else). (OK, this is something Otto couldn’t care less about, but we like it)
  • the library. She has already borrowed two books and a CD. And next week, she will start to bring home readers as well.
  • having a fountain pen!

Things that are taking a bit of time (as expected):

  • learning to write with a fountain pen (especially as she is left-handed)
  • getting to know other parents (me!) 🙂

Things she needs to catch up on:

  • maths – she’s a full year behind. We are confident that she will catch up, but she is currently working out of a Year 2 workbook – she understands that it’s the right level, though. We’ve talked about maybe bringing her book home next weekend so she can do a little homework.
  • cursive script – she’s never learnt “joined up writing”. And the other children are using a slightly different script than she is. Again, this won’t take long to remedy.

We are feeling great.

She’ll catch up with some friends from her old school tomorrow. We’re hoping it doesn’t unsettle her. I don’t think there will be any teasing – these kids are more the “I have missed you!” type. And she will skite about the extra 6 days’ holiday. And then they will just play.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on July 29, 2011 in education, school

 

New beginnings

Here we are, half way through the year, and things are looking up. It’s been a long time since I posted anything here, because things have been hideously stressful and I really didn’t feel the need to inflict that on the whole entire internet. Or even my personal part of it.

Anyway, the worst of the stress is now officially Over. Readers of my Twitter account will know that we made the Fateful Decision in May to move Otto to a new school in the middle of the school year, rather than waiting for the end. There were lots of reasons for this but the main one was that we were starting to worry that her (old) school was failing the children so badly that she wouldn’t actually be accepted into Year 4 next year if she stayed there. There’s a whole rant about culture of mediocrity there that I am valiantly suppressing. You can take it as read, if you like. This was 90% of the reason for the move but the other two parts are more fun to talk about.

Which brings me to my next reason: I was turning into an angry, bitter person with nothing better to do than find fault. And make buzzword bingo cards to share with Fraser during school events. Like this one, of which I am secretly rather proud:

create, creative learning

scaffolding

exploration

space(s)

experiences

outcomes

development

diverse

community

child-centred

environment

leadership

neighbourhood

interacting

collaboration

one-to-one

journey

agreement

reflect, reflection

ICT / new technologies

21st century

engagement

conceptual

professional

And finally, there is a side benefit: I am no longer Involved With The School. No longer a member of School Council, no longer convening one subcommittee (Community Relations, now there’s irony!) and participating in another. I am free to help out at the new school without paying lip-service to something that I disagree with. Which of course is not exactly something I am good at.

The best thing, though, is that we can look forward to the rest of the school year. Bigster has blossomed this year as she started high school – she comes home every day with stories of the wonderful things she has done that day. That’s what we want for Otto too – and that’s what she did after her two “trial” days at the new school.

Of course, leaving her school wasn’t easy. I think it’s telling that her complaint was “Why do I have to leave in the middle of the year?” and not “Why do I have to leave at all?”. I put in a lot of work to make the transition as easy as possible. We bought gifts for her teachers (have no real issues with them, the new directions are coming from higher than them) and had a fabulous party for her friends and ours.

OK, so perhaps a Pokies venue is not the most obvious location for a child’s party. But it had an indoor playroom and great food – and we sat and chatted while the kids monstered the play equipment. A good night for all.

Since then, we’ve re-equipped her for school: New schoolbag (trolley case thing), new lunchbox and pencil case. New pencils for the pencil case. It’s all part of our transition to a new school year, so it makes sense for it to be part of our transition to a new school as well.

And we’ve taken the time to visit the old school’s website and check just one page against our Bingo card.

create, creative learning

scaffolding

exploration exploring

space(s) physical environment

experiences

outcomes

development

diverse

community

child-centred children as participants

environment

leadership

neighbourhood

interacting

collaboration

one-to-one

journey

agreement

reflect, reflection

ICT / new technologies

21st century

engagement

conceptual reconceptualising

professional

 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on July 10, 2011 in children, parenting, rant, school

 

School games

Today I had my last week with the game group from 1st term. This group of 11 children have had 8 weeks or so of games with me, starting to play a lot of the games independently. Last week, they taught a range of games to younger children; from next week, they will be teaching their peers.

The school has a recess break from 2 until 2:30, then I game with the kids from 2:30 until about 3:25 or so, when they pack up for the day.

Today, as usual, I arrived at 2. Bigster and one of her friends were in the classroom – they often spend recess time helping me set up. Today, though, four of the boys were also in the classroom – they had planned last week that they would play Pandemic, and they wanted to get an early start. Actually, only 3 of them were in the group; the fourth, a friend of Biggie’s since she was a baby, had just missed out on joining the group but had snuck in this week (and had helped us teach the younger kids last week).

They got set up and taught the new boy how to play, while Bigster and her friend played a few rounds of Blink. Once the bell rang, the rest of the group came in. First thing I heard was “Oh! I want to play Pandemic again!” – and then “Great! The Settlers of Catan, let’s play that!” – so, with a couple of kids missing today, I had a group playing Pandemic, another group playing Settlers, and Bigster and her friend playing a couple of shorter kids’ games as well as Cartagena.

The cooking group finished early, and wandered over to look at the enticing display of the games that school has bought. A couple of those went off to be played, then Pandemic finished with a loss and a couple of boys from the cooking group joined in a big game of Apples to Apples: Kids!

The best thing about today was seeing the children teaching one another to play reasonably complex games, and seeing the other kids’ enthusiasm to join in and learn some of the games.

Next week I’ll get a new group of kids, but any of this group who would like to stay will be welcome to – so the group could reach 20+ students. Our aims will be to get the kids teaching one another to play games, while I teach a small group to play something new.

And my mission is to play 10 days in Asia, Scotland Yard and Through the Desert again, so I can teach any of those next week as well.

Meanwhile, I have a meeting with a teacher on Monday night to talk about how we get these games into use throughout the school. She’s very keen, and has been taking games home to try out/learn. If anyone has suggestions or advice on how we do this, they’d be very welcome; I think that a priority has to be to introduce them to staff – even the people who don’t like games will find something that they enjoy.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on May 1, 2010 in games, school

 

Classroom Games for 6-8 year olds

Despite the Vomit Virus, I kept a commitment today to run a 1-hour game session for 54 year 1-2 children (6-8 year olds) at my children’s school. My doctor cleared me to do it this morning (the quote: “As long as they are not touching your poo, it will be fine”), and I figured it wouldn’t be too horribly hard.

In fact, I was pretty ready to collapse by the end of it. Not that it was a huge effort – it was so much easier than any of the game sessions I have done before – but I really shouldn’t have been up & about.

Here’s what made it easier: HELPERS.

And not just any helpers, but Year 6 students (11-12 year olds) who have been doing the boardgames elective with me.

I got in to school a little early, to brief the helpers on what we would be doing and on which game they would be teaching. Some of them quickly played through their game, others still needed an explanation from me, as they weren’t games that I had selected for the older group to actually play.

Here are the 12 games we took, and how they worked:

  • Spooky Stairs – worked well.
  • Make ‘n’ Break – worked well. One child came up to me afterwards to say this was her favourite. One group got a little bored with it, though.
  • Viva Topo – worked well. Good choice.
  • Giro Galoppo – also worked well, possibly because the child demonstrating it really took the time to work out how to teach it. She was very good at minimising conflict, too – that can be a problem when someone’s horse moves backwards!
  • Gopher It – seemed to work well, although I started the children who obsess about squirrels on the other side of the room!
  • Sherlock – always works well, but we demo with 6 cards rather than with 8. I noticed that the child demonstrating wasn’t always remembering to put the arrows on the outside of the layout.
  • Catch the Match – always works well.
  • Barnyard Critters – also very good for this type of demo. Biggie had this one and said some kids really didn’t get it, so she stopped and talked them through how to solve them. Good girl. The boy who was going to demo this swapped with her as he is a bit colourblind.
  • Pick a Paint – we used the co-operative version. I don’t think the student demonstrating this really understood how to play, so this was less of a success. Need to work on that.
  • Apples to Apples Junior – I had pegged this for the next age group up, and I was right – the younger students had a little trouble with some of the words. Also need to remove American words like cotton candy and diapers (or just write the real words on there – they’re nappies and fairy floss, fercryingoutloud).
  • The Same Game – absolutely dynamite. There’s a new version of this coming out this year, which makes me happy.
  • Halli Galli – always works well.

Lots of tried & trusted games there. Mostly, they’re the games that I’ve recommended school buy and use for setting up its game library – I wanted the children to learn to play games that they’ll be able to play again.

The structure worked well. I talked very briefly about games – that they are something our family enjoys doing, and that we can choose games the same way we choose books – by author, series, pictures, theme, etc. I should also have talked about some rules and how we treat games – saw a few bent cards, although at least none of these kids were **putting game pieces in their mouths** (ugh).

Then the children divided into groups of 4. We ended up with 2 5s and a 6 – but I had planned for that. (I know that I could have had 13 groups of 4, but I had only taken 12 games because I expected that some of the children would be away sick. When you rely on something …)

As I said, each of the older group was ready to demonstrate one game. They scattered themselves around the hall, but in an order – I’d worked it out so that the “bigger” games were separated, as were the memory/observation games, so that none of the children would end up playing the same type of game again. After about 15 minutes, the children rotated to the next group, and then they did this again after another 15 minutes.

At the end, we came together and we talked about how nicely they had played the games, how well they had moved between stations, etc. Two of the children spoke about what their favourite game was (Apples to Apples / Giro Galoppo). We agreed, as a group, that “kittens” is cuter than “my grandad”, and we clapped me for bringing the games, the big kids for teaching them so well, and the small kids for playing so nicely.

I always enjoy days like this, but I couldn’t believe how un-stressful this was, with my fabulous year 6 helpers. Definitely the way to run these events in the future.

I did realise, later, that “can you bring in a variety of games for 54 6-8 year old children” might be considered by some to be a difficult request. Because I had already done the thinking on what to recommend to the school, though, it was pretty straightforward.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 24, 2010 in games, school

 

Tips for teaching games

Here’s something I have thrown together for my game group at school later today. They are aged 10-12, if that is relevant.

Any comments? What have I missed?

The constraint was that I tried to fit it all onto 1 sheet of paper.

Teaching a Game

It’s not easy to teach a game, even one you know well. Here are a few tips:

  • Start with the story. What is the theme of the game?
    • “In The Settlers of Catan, you are colonists settling an island.”
    • “In Cluedo, you are guests in a house where a murder has been committed.”
    • “In Piece o’ Cake, you are sharing out a pie.”
    • “In Pandemic”, we all work together to save the world from diseases.

Sometimes, a game doesn’t really have a theme. Just give the players a very general idea of what happens during the game.

  • Next, tell players how they can win. What is the goal of the game? What is the victory condition?
    • “The first person to set up their colony wins – you need to get to 10 Victory Points.”
    • “You’re trying to solve the murder – the first person to do that correctly is the winner.”
    • “At the end of the game, you add up the number of dollops of whipped cream that you ate. And if you have pie saved, the person with the most of each kind of pie gets points for that too. The winner is the person with the most points.”
    • “Either we cure all 4 diseases, and all win, or we all lose together.”
  • Now tell them when the game ends. Some games may have more than one end game condition.
    • “The game ends as soon as one player reaches 10 VP.”
    • “The game ends as soon as a player has correctly guessed the murderer, the weapon and the location.”
    • “The game ends after we have shared out five pies.”
    • “The game is over when all four of the diseases in the game have cures – that’s if we win. Otherwise, it ends after the 8th disease outbreak or when we run out of disease cubes or cards (in the player deck). It’s OK to get to 0 but once you need more than that it’s all over.”
  • Now you can get into the rules. Try to explain what a player does on their turn – but also make it clear if they can do things on someone else’s turn. Start with the most general rules: What do I need to do on my turn? Don’t re-state a reference card, but do point it out.
    • “Each turn, you roll the dice. Players who have built on a tile with that number all get that resource. You get 1 resource for each settlement and 2 for each city. After that, on your turn, you can trade with other players and/or build roads, settlements and cities, and buy development cards (we’ll look at those in a minute). The costs for all of these are on your player card.”
  • Lastly, you can go into detail about any special rules – or wait until they are needed.
    • “If you roll a 7, something special happens. What you need to know now is: If you have more than 7 cards in your hand, you have to discard half of them. And you round up, so if you have 9 cards you must discard 5.”
      (Later, after a 7 is rolled) “OK, so anyone with more than 7 cards has to discard half.” (To the active player) “Now you get to move this special piece, which is called the Robber. You need to put it on a space, which won’t produce any more resources until the Robber moves again. And then you get to steal a random resource card from someone who has already built on that space!”
  • Try not to give too many strategy hints. Let people work those out for themselves!
 
7 Comments

Posted by on March 19, 2010 in games, school

 

Games at school – Interlude

(10:30:18 PM) MelissaInAU: omg those kids would EXPLODE if I taught them Dominion
(10:30:31 PM) Fraser: You are to do *no* such thing
(10:31:11 PM) MelissaInAU: lol pourquoi?
(10:31:24 PM) Fraser: Why not just sell them crack?

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2010 in games, school