Monday, 31 March 2014


If we want our children to have a healthy attitude towards homework, we need to start changing our own attitude towards it. I have noticed many teachers and parents celebrate when there is no homework given. Step back and think what you are conveying to the children. You are making them think, ‘homework is a task’, ‘homework is something that is not fun’ and ‘the days you don’t get homework are the best days’!

The children are so malleable at young age that you can really mold their personality and more importantly their attitude towards things. Try being excited about homework in front of them and they will be more motivated to attempt it. And again basic principles of how to deal with children apply- don't make it look like a task and don’t leave them alone to do it. In my class, the days I don’t give homework, I apologize to my students that I couldn’t organize for any, and I would definitely have some ready for them soon. My students think that it is a privilege to get homework, they enjoy doing it and I never have late submissions!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Joy of Creating

Instead of sending your child to the structured art classes in your neighbourhood, which claim to enhance creativity but in fact restrict it, try keeping a box of material that she can manipulate, mix and match and make something out of, within her reach.

(For classrooms and homes)

The Creativity Box may consist of stationery items such as:
  • child-friendly scissors of different kinds including the zigzag ones
  • liquid glue and sticks
  • scotch tape, colourful tapes
  • blu-tack
  • stampers of different designs
  • stapler
  • paperclips
  • stickers
  • paintbrushes, paints
  • colourful pens, glitter pens, felt pens, crayons, pencils, erasers
  • coloured paper- butter paper, construction paper, tracing paper, cardboard paper

And material such as:
  • old cds
  • old greeting cards and envelopes
  • ribbons
  • yarn- cotton and wool
  • used toilet paper and towel rolls
  • egg cartons
  • popsicle sticks
  • seashells, pistachio shells
  • pencil shavings
  • sequins
  • cotton wool
  • empty soap and paste boxes
  • anything that may be waste material could be included

How to do it:

You can spread a mat and sit down with your child, with the material in front of you. Allow her to do it herself, choose what she wants to do and take little risks. Try not criticizing or telling her that that’s not the way you draw or cut, this is not a triangle, let me show you and other such comments that might be discouraging and demeaning. If it’s not a proper circle, let it go. Focus on process and not the product. Don’t aim for perfection. Let it be fully open-ended. You can suggest ideas but don't make it seem like a task.

Gently encourage her to do it herself. At times she will ask you to do something for her like draw a circle, then just draw it out for her instead of saying I want you to do it.  Plus she might have the inhibition to do it because others may have told her she can’t do it. She will watch you do it and next time she will try it out herself. Remember to balance it out.

Appreciate whatever little or ridiculous thing she creates. Be specific with your praise. For example, say something like ‘I liked the colours you have used’ instead of saying ‘it’s very good’. So the child believes that you are genuine in your praise. Put up her artwork around your house. It could be anything from just a square paper with coloured tape stuck on it to a 3D mobile.

Don’t discard her artwork in front of her. After a few days you can discard them but do it discreetly.

Benefits of it:
  • builds self-confidence
  • enhances fine-motor skills
  • enhances attention span and engagement
  • builds language skills (conversational and descriptive language, sentence structure, vocabulary, etc.)
  • enhances sequencing ability- what did you do first, what did you do next, etc
  • children start seeing waste material in a new light- teaches concepts of recycling, reducing and reusing
  • enhances estimation abilities- for e.g. how long a ribbon will I need to cover the edges of the picture frame I am making, how much liquid glue will I need to stick this piece of paper onto the cardboard
  • children become aware of properties of different material like butter paper, corrugated sheet, bubble paper, popsicle sticks, cotton wool etc.
  • children  understand that some materials can undergo change and some can’t, for example, cotton wool will look different if you soak it in water but a plastic bottle cap will remain the same.

   So you see just a simple tool can cover so many subjects- Language, Math, Science, Environmental Science, Visual Arts and enhance the child's confidence. 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Cleanup Time

Many of us struggle to get our children to clean up after their play. It seems like a chore to us as well as to them. At times we land into a battle, which leads to much yelling and frustration. I have reflected on it and analyzed it in terms of child psychology. If we keep cleanup matter-of-fact and have a positive attitude towards it ourselves the children will be more cooperative. I have listed down some simple tips to start with:

1.     Never say ‘clean up’, say ‘let’s clean up’, so the child doesn’t feel how she would get this insurmountable job done. If you make her believe that you are with her in it and you will help her do it, she will feel that cleanup is doable. Don’t worry that she may want you to clean up with her all the time. Trust me she won’t do it forever.

2.     Balance it out- there would be times when your child would be too exhausted after play to put away her toys and she may or may not tell you that. On those days just do it yourself. By doing this you are indicating that you understand and it’s no big deal to clean up. Next time she will do it more willingly. Remember you are setting up an example all the time.

3.     Never make cleanup look like a compulsion. If she says, ‘I won’t clean up because I don’t want to, then you can say, ‘Ok, I will do it’. You may think that she doesn’t care or she didn’t even pay attention to it, or she will tell you that all the time, but you have to believe that something is going through her mind and she will get the message that it’s not so bad to clean up after all.

4.     Give logical reasons why you should put away your things in their proper place. You can say things like ‘If you don’t put your crayons back in their place, next time you won’t know where to find them’.

My 6-year old puts her things away and it’s ingrained into her. I help her a bit as and when she needs it or I feel like helping her, but I think my job is done, she has the right attitude to put away her things and she knows why it is important. It required much patience in the beginning, but now it’s a breeze.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Author Study

I hope you read to your children on a daily basis, and I hope the parents of older children (6 to 8years olds) also read ‘with’ them on a regular basis even though the children can read by themselves at this age.

Try reading a few books by the same author for a few days at a stretch. In this way children not only get familiar with the names of the authors but also start paying attention to the author’s writing style. After you have read a few books of a chosen author, read to them a little about the author. They will be amazed to know that authors are real life people with their own interests and unique writing style. Also ask them to draw similarities and differences between books of the same author and different authors’ different writing styles.

Some celebrated authors that you can start with are Eric Carle, Kevin Henkes, Leo Lionni, Julia Donaldson, Roger Hargreaves and Robert Munsch. Many of them have their own website and many of their books are available as audio books online. Just type in the name of the book and the author in any search engine and you will come across many of them. Some websites even let you communicate with the authors. Recently my class wrote to Robert Munsch and much to their amazement he replied! Our children were ecstatic and they love to read his books even more now as they have a real life connect, a real experience to associate him with!

Just a little background of the author can multiply children’s interest in literature ten-fold!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Instilling Religious Open-mindedness and Tolerance

In my classroom, we offer a short prayer every morning as a routine. There used to be one Sanskrit prayer that we used to say for a very long time without even realizing that we had left it at that! Then one day it occurred to me to ask students if they could say a prayer that they offer in their homes. Instantly there was much interest in this proposition. So now every morning any one student in my class is free to come up and offer her/his own prayer and everyone else stands in respect for it. I am so glad we follow this- it sends the message across that all religions are valued. And I can see that the students are getting more comfortable and confident saying the prayer out loud in their own dialect.