Monday, 16 December 2013

Gamifying Literacy, take 2

It all started when I found this little thing at my local game store.

So my challenge was to build a board game around it. I wanted to make a game that was more complex than my last board game; involves some math (and ideally skip counting, since Sasha is working on that concept in class); incorporates strategy and not just probability; requires players to read, write, and move their bodies; and would provide a platform for players to become more familiar with sentence anatomy (nouns, verbs, and adjectives).

Here's what I came up with.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Sasha Says, ep. 23

"The teacher wasn't actually a bad teacher, just the class was misbehavinged."

"You know how I'm a barefoot walker?"

"I look like Santy because I have the same initials. I'm twins with Santa."

"Sometimes I like to see the smell, you know?"

"I wish my hair sticked up. If it was as long as Rapunzel's and it sticked up it could hit the ceiling!"

"I was such a grubber when I was a baby."

"I like to really mess up my hair."


Thursday, 12 December 2013

Twister with a twist

Sasha said she wanted to have our tutoring session at home this week. Usually we're in a cafe, which has its advantages (no toddler or dog or neighbor kid interruptions) and its disadvantages (limitations on resources, space, noise).

At home, Sasha got really excited about the idea of "making a game." After some initial blanking on how the game should work or what it should be about, Sasha realized we could adapt one of her existing games into a reading game. We perused the game closet and she picked Twister.

We selected a bunch of her flash card words to write on strips of masking tape. When I spun the spinner and called out the combination ("Left hand blue!") she had to read aloud the word on whichever circle she picked. (We also tried a version where I just called out a word and she had to hit it, but that was much more physically challenging.)

She's still working on discerning left and right. You can't see it in the picture, but she had me write a big R and L on her corresponding hands and feet to help her figure out which to use on each turn.

She had a great time with this game, and really took ownership over this project. One of the best things I can do as a tutor is to recognize and support opportunities for Sasha to be her own teacher, to tap into her own ingenuity and resourcefulness in meaningful, fun ways.

High fives,

Monday, 2 December 2013


I love documentation. My very favorite places on the internet are "mommyblogs" with really good photography and thoughtful writing. I also really like blogs that supply good ideas and tutorials for play-based learning activities. One of the things I'm most excited about for my impending teaching career is the opportunity to document children's learning. The whole reason I keep this blog is to record my experiences with kids. And even here, where I'm limited by the "not my kids, don't have photo release forms" factors, I still tend heavily toward including images when I can, whether it's pictures of the kids or of our activities.

I just finished my first couple of weeks subbing at Escuela, and even though documentation is not in my job description as a sub, at El's encouragement I've been reveling in the opportunity to snap pictures of the kids at play.

El already took the Documentation class in our grad program (I'll take it in a few months), and she's given me some really great advice for taking good photos of kids:

1. Fully engaged. Try to capture moments when kids are fully engaged in what they are doing. Often, kids won't be smiling in these pictures. They are learning, they are interacting, they are creating.
2. Story. Select pictures that tell a story without needing a caption for context.
3. Kid level. Get down at kid level. Seriously. Pictures taken at the level of children's faces have the effect of making you feel like you're right there in the kid's world, while pictures taken from above (adult level) looking down on kids feel remote and disconnected. Plus, you miss a lot of kids' facial expressions when you're mostly looking at the tops of their heads!
4. Tight shots. Practice taking pictures with tight framing. You often don't need to see a whole kid -- or even a whole face -- to understand the story of what's happening. To some degree, this can be accomplished by cropping photos you've already taken. 
5. Alternate sides. Look for moments that show a different side of a kid than you usually notice, such as a quiet kid yelling, or a high energy kid cuddling calmly with stuffed animals. Capturing these moments will help you keep the whole kid in mind, rather than letting their more dominant characteristics define who they are when you are engaging with them.

With these points in mind, I can already see improvements in the pictures I've been taking of the kids at Escuela, and I've only been at it for two weeks!

So far, most of the pictures I've taken have been on a cell phone or on my crappy point-and-shoot camera. But coupled with my upsurge of enthusiasm for taking good photos of kids is my renewed enthusiasm to learn how to properly use my fancypants dSLR camera. One of my friends who's something of an amateur professional photographer is trying, yet again, to give me camera lessons so I can progress beyond Automatic mode.

I'm very excited for where I can go with my documentation skills.