03 November 2013

Sight Word Activity

For anyone that has been following along with my frustration at Seth's first year of school...a quick update and then an activity I've created that seems to work really well for Seth learning his sight words.

We've decided to keep him in Prep (kindergarten) for one more year, and I am really looking forward to it.  He is a very bright boy but he is currently at the bottom of his class and because we want him to learn things like leadership skills and to build confidence...being frustrated with his work isn't going to help that. So we told him that his dad and I thought that since he is such a good encourager and teacher (which he is) we thought it would be good for him to do prep again so he can help out the kids just coming into prep.  He thought this was a GREAT idea and is really looking forward to be able to do those things next year.

One of the areas we have had trouble with is sight words...he had 100 words to know by the end of the year (he couldn't recognize his alphabet at the start of the year...which made this very tricky) and he currently knows probably around 20.  But he loves to cut shapes out of paper and tape them together to create different creatures and so I came up with 'Sight Word Creatures'

I began by printing out one of his sight words in large block letters...I started with 'the' because it was one of his early sight words that he just couldn't seem to get.  I made sure to comment several times throughout the project about what word it was and asked him a few times as well so he was familiar with it.

Then I had him cut it out (good fine motor skill activity) and we discussed how he could cut each letter in one place to make different shapes.

Then it was up to him to put the shapes together how he wanted and tape them together and this is what he came up with.  He taped it with regular scotch tape and then I taped over it with masking tape so it would be easy to colour over.

Then we mounted it on a piece of paper and I had him write the word himself.  This all worked better than I had anticipated.  It took him a couple days to complete because he got distracted with some other things, but when I asked him to write the word on the piece of paper we mounted it on he was able to do it with no help from me, he was also able to recognize it in a book we were reading when I asked him.  Now I'm looking forward to replacing our wall of alphabet letters into our wall of 'Sight Word Creatures'.  And his sister couldn't help but assist in showing it off (you will probably also notice he had a haircut between when he started and when he finished!)

06 October 2013

'You of Little Faith' vs 'Faith as small as a Mustard Seed'

I was recently reading the story of Jesus healing the demon possessed boy. The disciples tried and failed to cast out the demon first, and after Jesus successfully does so, the disciples asked why they couldn't do it. Jesus’ reply in Matthew 17:20 (in the NIV) was as follows:

“Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

I had originally read this scripture in the NKJV (enjoying that one at the moment)…but the NKJV says “Because of your unbelief” compared to “Because you have so little faith” in the NIV.  So I went back to the Greek and found the word is ‘oligopistian’ which is literally ‘little or low quality faith’…which implies the disciples had SOME faith, but just not enough to do the job…but wait…Jesus goes on to say “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed… nothing is impossible for you”.  (The mustard seed being tiny, Jesus is implying that you only need a little faith)  So what’s the difference?  Was Jesus splitting hairs?? Did the disciples have faith, but just not quite in the amount the size of a mustard seed?!   Of course this seems ridiculous…so what’s the difference between the disciples ‘little faith’ and what Jesus calls ‘faith the size of a mustard seed’?

This is what I found (sticking with the NIV):

In regards to ‘little faith’ - Matthew 14:31 - when Peter walks on water and then begins to sink – “You of little faith (same word as in Matthew 17:20),” he said, “why did you doubt”

In regards to ‘faith the size of a mustard seed’ - Mark 11:23 - “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” (see also Matthew 21:21)

So what’s the difference? Doubt.

When we have faith in God that does not doubt, it is so potent that even a tiny little bit (the size of a mustard seed) is enough to do the impossible.

Next question…how do we have faith that doesn't doubt? It seems to be that it’s not just as simple as deciding you are not going to doubt (I tried).

One thing I found in John 20:27 in reference to 'doubting Thomas'

"Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.'"

It is interesting to note that when Jesus tells Thomas to put his finger in Jesus' hand, the verb is in the present imperative.  The present imperative in Greek is described as a call to a long term commitment.  Jesus is not just asking Thomas to touch his hand once...he is in fact commanding him to a way of life - to a continual action.  And once Thomas touches his hand, Jesus commands Thomas to a greater intimacy of placing his hand in Jesus' side...again an habitual action.  After these two commands, Jesus says to Thomas "stop doubting and believe."

It is when we are actively abiding as a way of life, in the one who gives life, that we then have the ability to stop doubting and believe...

19 September 2013

Water into Wine - a study

Whenever I have read the story of Jesus turning water into wine, it has always bothered me. It is the first miracle that Jesus performs and heralds the beginning of his public ministry, yet this miracle consists of creating a beverage at a party.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry he heals loads of people, feeds multitudes with a little bread and some fish, and yet, his very first miracle to reveal his glory was to make a beverage!

I figured I must be missing something and so I endeavoured to do a bit of study and see if I couldn't grasp some greater meaning that I was missing…and I found a few things so I thought I’d share for anyone who is interested and may have felt the same about this miracle. This is not an exhaustive study, nor is it the final say, it’s just some things I've found and thought I would share.

The story is recounted in John 2:1-11 if you want to refresh your memory.
(Scripture quoted in NKJV)

It is important to firstly note that wine is used to describe the blood that Jesus shed on the cross.

So here we have a wedding. Weddings are used in the bible as an allusion to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus uses weddings in some of his parables. The Church is the bride of Christ…I could go on and on.

Next we have “six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews.” (v.6) that Jesus has the servants fill full of water which he then turns into wine…

For those who are interested in the significance of numbers in the bible, six is the number for man/labour and leans toward imperfection (this is not sound doctrine so you can disagree if you like, but it’s pretty widely agreed upon…you can Google it if you want to look a bit more into it).

And so these six stone waterpots get filled with water, the Jewish custom for cleansing, and get turned into wine. They begin by representing the Law, the traditional way of purification but when Jesus is finished with them, they represent the new covenant.
“Then he took the cup (of wine), and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28)
The servants then draw some out and take it to the master of the feast as directed by Jesus and the master of the feast drinks it and says… “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine till now!” (V.10).  Just as the wine Jesus made was better than the first, so is the new covenant better than the old
“For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.” (Hebrews 10:1)

I believe this is just scratching at the surface of what is in this part of scripture…but it has given me a much greater appreciation of Jesus’ first miracle and my mind is buzzing at the significance that is oozing out of it. It is the perfect miracle to represent what Jesus had come to the earth for…For all those who are willing to come to the wedding feast, he offers to imperfect man with his substandard way of doing things, the opportunity to be transformed by his blood. This miracle showed that Jesus was about to usher in the new covenant...I wonder how many people at that wedding missed the point as badly as I always have...

10 September 2013

Prayer Life

I’d like to go through a little exercise for those who are willing…

Think of someone in your life who inspires you in your walk with God.  Someone who encourages you to do better and move forward.  Someone you love to hear from because they almost always add something to your life.  It doesn’t have to be someone you know personally.

Now, imagine this person said they wanted to stay at your house with you for a week to help you to grow and work with you in your daily life to encourage and teach you. 

And so this person comes to stay with you, but you have to go to work and you tell them you have a party to go to after work which will probably go quite late so don’t bother waiting up.  When you get home from this party that person is awake sitting at the table waiting for you, but you are exhausted and so you say goodnight.

When you get up the next morning that person is already up sitting quietly waiting for you, but you just remembered you have to meet someone for breakfast so off you go…and when you get back a few hours later you are so full from a big breakfast you sit down and turn on the TV. 

This goes on in a similar way all week and at the end of the week you have a horrible day at work and when you get home and see this person waiting for you, you get angry and say:

“You said you came here to help me grow and to be there for me and I feel like I don’t know you any better than before you came.  We’ve barely spoken while you’ve been here, and I’m certainly no better a person with you than without you!”

Now, of course this is completely ridiculous for obvious reasons…but this is what we do to God.  I found myself crying out to God one day “why do you feel so far away?” I was going through a rough time so where was God?And I realized it wasn’t that He was far away, it was that I hadn’t been taking the time to spend with Him…and yet I found myself blaming Him for his distance.  The truth is, He is there ALL THE TIME just waiting for us to make time for him…

15 May 2013

Teaching My Son the Basics

Due to popular demand (actually, just one of my friends asked me to) I am writing the current post to go through the ways we are trying to teach my son the basics like fine motor skills, numbers and letters.  He is currently in Prep and a little behind (see previous post for more detail).

(Update: Just found this website with a lot of great ideas!  http://lessonplanningwithme.blogspot.com.au/.
She's got a list of themes on the left hand side, so areas that you need some ideas in are easy to find!)

Because all he did all day was run around and climb trees, there hadn't been much development in the area of fine motor skills...he was about to go into prep and he had barely ever picked up a pencil, much less held it properly!  I had no idea how to teach him to hold a pencil without holding his fingers in the right spot myself...until I found this great trick. I can take no credit for it, I just found it as I was searching the net for an answer.  Simply take a tissue (or half a tissue) have your son/daughter hold with their ring and pinky finger - leaving their thumb, index and middle finger free.  Then give them a pencil to hold...it worked like magic.  One step down...a million to go.  The secondary problem with my son not having much experience holding a pencil was that his fine motor skills were pretty weak...he had no interest spending loads of time drawing pictures so here is what we did...

In order to get him interested in using a pencil more often, I bought him a journal (he actually had this idea himself after watching 'How to Train Your Dragon'...the boy in it had a journal that he drew maps and inventions in).  He loved drawing maps in it with 'x' marking the spot (a great way to teach him the letter 'x') and I told him he was only aloud to use the journal if he held his pencil properly...

He also got a present from his Aunty from the Australian Geographic store that was a block of dirt with gems in it he had to dig out (see picture) ...great way to use those finger muscles!  Other things we did was giving him a thin piece of rope and getting him to tie knots for us to undo...then we would tie knots for him to undo.  Playdough is another good one, playing with stickers, stringing noodles etc...there are heaps of ideas that can be found with a simple Google search...but the above ones our son had the most interest in.

Next...the alphabet and sight words...*sigh*.  This is a big one because although he could sing the alphabet song, he couldn't recognize ANY letters (or numbers for that matter).  The first thing we did was tell him that once he learned all his letters we would take him to the zoo.  I made up half page letters with pictures on them (i.e. the letter 'Aa' with an apple) to put up on the wall that we go through on a regular basis (I don't push this...if he really isn't interested on a particular day I just leave it - sometimes a reminder about the zoo is enough to get him interested).  I started with only a couple of letters and didn't put more up until he knew those...slowly the wall is getting filled up.  The other thing I do with those is let him colour in the picture on a letter once he knows it well.  From what I understand it is better to teach them the sound of the word and not worry so much about the name of the letter...that way they can sound out words.

An idea I have had which I have yet to try out is painting letters on rocks and doing a bit of a treasure hunt.  I've tried being silly with a letter...my son loves to see me dance around the house making funny faces and making funny noises with the letters...I tend to do this one when no one else is around...

Reading Eggs is a great online game for learning letters and words.  Luckily his school has paid for it because they use it at school.  And because it's online he is able to use it at home as well...otherwise it does cost.

Sight words are a bit tricky since my son doesn't yet know his alphabet, but we go through them a bit.  I've got a chart set up for star stickers and I point out any sight words as I'm reading him a book.  I will tell him there is the word 'the' (for example) on a particular page and if he finds it he gets a sticker.  His teacher gave me a board game with the sight words written in blocks and you roll some dice and land on a word...

I also found the idea of using labels and putting individual letters on duplo legos.  Letters can be put together to make words...honestly my son isn't interested in this at the moment...maybe when he's a bit older...this can also be used for numbers (he was a bit more interested in this).

Finally numbers...as stated above numbers can be put on duplo legos so they can be stacked in order.  One big hit I had was drawing a sort of 'hop scotch' with numbers on the sidewalk.  I'd pick a number he had to jump to.  This way he had to try to recognize the number on the ground to jump to.  This could also be done with a few letters at a time.

Variation is, I think, the key...not pushing, being creative and being silly.  I have gotten a lot of feed back from parents who have kept their kids (mostly sons) back a year or letting them repeat prep/kindergarten and I have heard no regrets...yet I have heard a few stories of parents who didn't do this when it was suggested and wished they had.

If you have any more ideas or things you've tried that have worked for you PLEASE leave me a comment I'd love to have more ways to teach my boy!

19 March 2013

What I wish someone would have told me before my son started school…

First let me set the stage, because I realize that depending on where you live, the situation could be very different.  My son just started Prep in Queensland Australia…prep is what they call the year before grade 1 in Queensland.  The school year begins at the end of January and if your child will be turning 5 on or before June 30th of that year he or she can begin school.  My son turns 5 at the end of May so he began school this January at the age of about 4 1/2.  This was great because he was getting really bored at home and with two other younger children to look after, it was hard to keep him entertained with something besides the TV.

My expectation of his year at Prep was that he would be learning his ABC’s and 123’s with a lot of cutting and pasting in between and because he is a boy and has no interest in sitting down and learning anything of the sort at home, I’ve let him run around and climb trees and do whatever else strikes his fancy (except when he is roaring incessantly at his sisters)…turns out things have changed since I was in school…

Prep’s have to learn 100 words by the end of the year, and he’s got 12 words he is supposed to be able to read by the finish of this term (which is a week away).  They have to be able to recognize their numbers and begin to write words…

When I discovered all of this I was a touch overwhelmed to say the least.  I can’t imagine the pressure on the teachers trying to teach kids all this stuff, and because my son never went to preschool, he did not have any exposure to this stuff.  I’m not quite sure what the ‘policy makers’ think this is going to accomplish..
We are now working hard with him at home, trying to let him be the boy he is and get his play time, but also teach him to recognize all his letters and numbers and to read all at the same time!!!

I’m not posting this to get any sympathy.  Worst case scenario is that he will have to do his prep year over again, and that’s not all that bad.  But I have found as I have talked with parents of children who aren’t at school yet, they had no idea what was awaiting them.  If I had known this, we would have worked more with my son to recognize his letters and numbers before going to school so that there wasn’t so much pressure on him…

So I thought I would put it out into the universe of the internet for anyone who might benefit from having this knowledge when you can work on it without the time restraint of school.  If you are reading this and know someone who has young kids not yet in school, please give them the heads up!!

I’d also be curious to know if other parents have found a similar situation in other states in Australia as well as other countries??

If you are interested to know what strategies we are using to teach our Son the plethora of things he needs to know, while not making him completely bored out of his brain…leave a comment and I will put something together to post.  My younger two kids are girls, so I am expecting it to be easier teaching them as I have found girls take to this stuff quicker than boys.