The important dozen- Why routines are important for children

18th June 2017

Whether you are a parent to a baby /a toddler or a kid any other age,the most generously given advise to you has to be – “You know ,you must get the kids on to a routine if you don’t want trouble later on ”

Setting children into routines? Easier said than done! The daily rigmarole, your work pressure, health issues, family ideas, beliefs and pressures are all as if conniving together to give you excuses to give up. They all seem to be bent upon making you loosen up your disciplined ,schooled self.While I completely empathise and sympathise with you -having gone through the entire  work vs house duties vs child duties and affection vs tiredness vs relaxed discipline cycle myself- fact remains – ROUTINES are very important for children for their balanced growth into healthy, sound teenagers and later on adults.

The entire process of growing up right from the baby’s birth is marked with CHANGE in every aspect of his life.Physical, mental, social and emotional growth all have CHANGE associated with them on almost daily basis. From giving up bottles to their standing as babies of the house to new skills learnt to accepting new people in their lives -read friends, teachers – to coming to terms with their wide range of emotions,childhood is not easy for children.

Routines, while setting children onto the path of RIGHT growth also provide just the right amount of prompting to catch the RIGHT path to growth.

Why are Routines important for Children

  1. Children are scared of change. Routines make them aware of what to expect, thus making themcomfortable and secure in their worlds.
  2. When children know what is expected of them, they are able to live up to those expectations. So Routines work towards makingchildren self confident and foster independence.
  3. Routines help kids totake charge of their own activities, thus helping them develop self discipline. If followed regularly, kids learn to brush teeth, wash, get ready for bed, pack bags in whatever order you prefer without constant reminders. Kids love to be in-charge!

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4. Thus, Routines eliminate unnecessary nagging.You are not Ms No all the time. Activities like napping, TV watching, doing homework, playing go on as casually as possible. Parents stop being the BAD guys.

5.  Routines reduce stress and anxiety for everyone. Kids cooperate and all know what comes next. So no one feels pushed.

6.   Routines help Parents maintain consistency in their expectations.

7.  Success in performing small tasks in Routines strengthen children and lay the foundation for rising to bigger challenges when required .Tasks  like going to school alone etc  come in gradual progression.

8. Routines also help parents incorporate in them special connecting moments like-a hug on meeting for the first time in the morning or/and touching feet of elders or a naming body parts ritual as you dry them after bath(let’s dry your toes…) …

9.   Routines make kids learn the concept of looking forward to things they enjoy.

10.  Routines help your children and their body clocks settle. Ability to nap, eat healthy etc are all linked to routines.

11. Routines help children get onto a schedule – Note : schedules and routines are two different entities.

12.  Last but not the least Routines bond families together – Children build life long associations to routines like entire family having dinner together.
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Having listed and maybe imbibed the above,  it is also a must to realize that too much structure dulls our and children’s sense of spontaneity .So set in routines but with sensitivity, don’t be oppressive be flexible too. Enjoy the bumps and mishaps. Setting routines takes time, effort and consistency .Start now, even babies and toddlers can be set to routines.  Be patient, praise effort not result, focus on what is going well and thus see your children thrive on routines.

 

 

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Technology in the classroom

images4The story so far…There was a time (and in some places it still is)  when technology in the classroom of a school meant either having a room equipped with audio visual devices, usually a tape recorder and a VCR or advertising your school as a smart class equipped school with some classrooms fitted with projectors connected to a new generation writing board called the smart board. It all started with using these facilities in regular periodic classes  showing children educational content.

Those  were the days when teachers were to be coaxed and sometimes forced to make use of the topic wise available electronic academic content at least for a fixed mandatory  number of hours .The content sometimes not up to mark but not easily recognizably so, did serve the purpose of a break from monotonous class schedules for both students and teachers. Teachers mostly stuck with the idea of anything to do with the computers being an automatic referral to the computer teacher! Real beneficiaries of the set up being the top level students with the gap between there content clarity and mastery of a topic being bridged.

A good start no doubt ! What now ?screen_shot_2015-09-29_at_11.00.04_am_137250

Today  the ability  to use technology is not under a scanner at all!  Use of smart phones, social media and fondness for making home videos and picture collages  have very easily taken care of that hurdle! Most good schools today are in a position to use technology as an instructional tool rather than just a subject of instruction. However, complete seamless integration is still a far cry generally.

Need of the hour therefore, is to introduce technology seamlessly into our school lessons and  school work by teachers for both themselves and students. Teachers must comfortably shift from digital to traditional and vice versa as and when required .Students must employ technology daily in the classroom using a variety of tools to complete assignments and create projects that show a deep understanding of content.

Some of the ways of Technology Integration in a School Classroom

  • Teacher specific tools
  • Online learning and blended classrooms
  • Project-based activities
  • Game-based learning
  • Learning with mobile devices
  • Instructional tools like interactive whiteboards and student response systems
  • Web-based projects, explorations, and research
  • Student-created media
  • Collaborative online tools like wikis or google docs
  • Using social media to engage students
  • Flipped classrooms

Some reasons for teacher resistance to the usage:

  • It is hard to affect change in the way one teaches, especially given that many educators work confidently with familiar and proven methods.
  • Already working hard, teachers may understandably be wary of anything with the potential of making  their job more complicated .
  • Using technology or to be more specific  even only electronic academic content  requires meticulous planning and time even if it is for lower classes. The added time might prove to be a deterrent for some.

What might help:

  • Including teachers in the decision making processes to evaluate the extent of use and what to use helps to a certain extent .
  • Though the planning and execution of how new technology will be integrated are important, at the end of the day, what matters most when selecting technology is its ease of use.
  • There can be no substitute for the time spent on planning .Planning HAS to be done with proper time spent on it. This, is where a Head who is himself /herself well planned can help. Regular integration of  time slots for academic content planning right down to the micro level within  the school time schedule itself  is a big help.

Technology, is here to stay  and students today  are coming to class with more and more technical know-how whether a teacher likes it or not. There are still many educators, less familiar and less comfortable with technology than their students, struggling  to seamlessly integrate a growing list of technology tools into their regular curriculum.

So it’s high time we educators came out of our comfortable stupor, stemming out of a superiority claimed due to experience .Let’s decide, we want to reach the top of the pyramid of technology integration or no!

 

 

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Levels of technology integration

The building language series:Language Development In The Kitchen

Involving your children in the kitchen is a great way to consciously work on their language development in a fun way .The idea works simply because by nature, great cooking happens only when a  lot of creativity is used and experimentation  done. Creativity, is what all children possess innately  and experimentation is a process which flourishes if carried out creatively. The idea can be used both by parents at home and teachers at school too.

Cooking together with kids gives us lots of teaching – learning opportunities without compromising on their creative nature. The following lists some of the teaching -learning opportunities I came across and used to great success while working with the kids(ranging from the very young to primary grade kids) in the kitchen:

  • Use of action words such as stir, cut, mix ,roll and spread while practicing the same skills.
  • Could introduce lots of descriptive vocabulary as I  talked about all the ingredients used as we together worked on our creation.
  • A very good way to work on sequencing and story telling skills as you discuss and recall the steps in a recipe.

I  have also tried using the pictures of various ingredients as name recall cards and  various cooking steps as sequencing cards  to great success .

  • A great social skill builder too if more than one child is involved-encourage talk like- Please pass the knife, May I have a turn?
  • Depending on the age group, gradually progressive tasks like gathering ingredients for a particular recipe ,reading and comprehending recipes and even writing own recipes for higher level reading and writing skills can be included.

Language development requires stimulation  by modeling it in front of the learner. That, is where the role of the educator -be it parent or teacher becomes crucial. You need to narrate what you are doing with simple phrases and sentences, emphasize key words and keep on repeating what your child says using extensions and expansions thus giving him exposure to new vocabulary and concepts.

There is a lot more to talk about on the topic-things like what recipes to choose, care to be taken while doing so and so on .Be back with more on the same topic in my next post.

Image credits -Thanks to all my students and faculty who helped me implement  such projects at Udaipur , India.

 

Just an idea- Improving staff communication in schools

Here is something I have tried to great success in schools. I feel improving inter-personal relations in schools along with saving time by avoiding unnecessary  running around and  reducing man-power are challenges any school faces .The  image prepared by me here, says it all.
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Good job! Is praising your child a good idea?- A revisit

A post I wrote last year.A reaffirmation of my belief that the use of a carrot stick dangling at the end of a learning goal does not always serve the purpose.Gradually the use of gifts/praise for motivation  if not used judiciously shifts the focus on the motivational tool rather than the learning task at hand.Use of praise as a motivation tool is to be taken with a pinch of salt.Too much of it and too easy availability can have the reverse effect of lack of drive and enthusiasm to do things.

Good job! Is praising your child a good idea?

Of course, it’s a good idea !  I can hear my detractors getting ready to slam the very thought of questioning the idea. However don’t you think the question should be, how to praise rather than should we praise?

We have all grown up on the Good Boys and Good Girls  of our parents and numerous Uncles and Aunts and Good Children of our teachers in school. I think, justifying the  mentioned titles bestowed on us, as well meant praise by our elders, is what gradually raised doubts regarding the very concept of praise as a means  of  raising self esteem.When showering praise, we elders need to answer a few questions to ourselves –

  • Are we using it to get children to comply with us, adult’s wishes? If yes, are we not taking advantage of their wish for and dependence on adult approval?
  • Are we  stopping them from being self reliant and  making their own judgments? They remain hungry for praise  and seek approval whole of their lives .
  • Are we teaching them to value only the end product rather than the process of a task? Are we not, taking away their delight in their efforts and accomplishments by providing judgmental praise like Good Job!
  • Are we not stopping the child from venturing into the untried or from taking risks due to the  fear of not getting positive feedback? So, the focus has shifted to motivation for getting more praise rather than to motivation for moving ahead, venturing into further realms.

Coming back to the good in praise, we come to the how of it ? Well, just like human behaviour and reactions cannot be generalized, we cannot lay down set rules as to what will work and what won’t push the child in the right direction in case of praise.However, from personal experience,I can, with all my heart say that what works best as always, is HONESTY and a little bit of TACT.

Some guidelines which can be kept in mind while praising children:

  • Give appropriate praise. Instead of simply saying, “You’re great,” try to be specific about what your child did to deserve the positive feedback. You might say, “Waiting until I was off the phone to ask for chocolates was difficult, and I really liked your patience.”
  • Process praise –  An example of process praise is “you tried really hard”     
  • Cheer the good stuff. When you notice your child doing something helpful or nice, let him know how you feel. It’s a great way to reinforce good behavior so he’s more likely to keep doing it.
  • Gossip about your kids. Make praise more effective by letting your child “catch” you whispering a compliment about him to Grandma or Dad.
  • Avoid praise for low-challenge activities or error-free success – as this tells a child that he is only praiseworthy when he completes tasks quickly, easily and perfectly, and does not help a child embrace challenge.
  • Be careful when praising after failure or mistakes – Praise such as “Well done. You did your best” can convey pity. Telling a child to “Try harder” does not give the child any information about how to improve his or her effort . It may be best to provide process praise and identify what the child did accomplish in this case. For example, “You missed the goal, but it was very, very close!”

All said and done we too, cannot be rote learners of the above .Just honest feedback to your child with some of the above in mind will sure work wonders.

So happy praising till the next post!

Apples can be red ,yellow and green- An undervalued teaching point !

Recently I came across a post by a teacher teaching primary classes.The post was a comment on how she went about teaching her children some apple facts.Well, nothing too new  in that! However what caught my eye was one of the facts on the kiddie  work sheet.The fact was…Apples can be red ,yellow and green .There seems to be on the face of it nothing special about it.However, being in contact with kids from varied backgrounds for so long now my attention was caught.

Generally the statement found on most such worksheets is : An apple is red in colour .I am sure, we don’t  want our children to grow up with the rigid and misinformed idea that An apple is only red in colour, for, that is what is implied by the statement An apple is red in colour .Till some time back (in some cases even now) bread is white in colour used to be another such example.

The list of such incomplete and half baked facts fed inadvertently  to children is endless, and gradually they become fixed ideas and sometimes attitudes in the grown up child.Maggie substitutes for the word noodles and all noodles are junk food regardless of the fact that healthier options in the form of wheat noodles  dressed with healthy and not overcooked veggies is ok to eat.The word cold drink  substitutes for any aerated drink  when a cold drink is simply what it means literally A drink which is cold ,could be a milk shake too! Use of the word Mobile (without adding the word phone to it) for a phone which is portable is another such misnomer.

This is a pointer to the fact that mostly when we teach children or even communicate with them when in casual talk/in a class-room situation too, we rarely pay attention to our choice of words and language.In whatever language we are talking to a child,  the teacher and in fact we all grown ups around the child  have to be very particular and sure about its accuracy .

Also the more versatile the usage of the same word by grown ups is, the more eloquent and expressive the child will become gradually, be it in academics or otherwise.