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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Learning by Playing

The other day I attended a labor law conference in order to stay on top of things related to my original job in Human Resources. The people who organize it are doing a great job hiring a few lawyers who actually manage to present the boring topic in a way that is relevant to us. Sometimes even fun. (Did you know that as an employee it's "safer" - as in you can't get fired on the spot - to bite your boss in the arm so he needs stitches, than to call him a greedy a******?)

Other lectures were of the purely theoretical kind.

Yawn. 

Thankful for breaks!


Blue sky :-)

SBUX next door :-)

They let us out at 4:30pm, so I managed to get home, make dinner and get out of the house in time for an event at our elementary school. They were going to tell us about the recent project week they had.

What I expected:

Sit there for an hour, watch a slide show on a dozen different courses, secretly yawn, meet some fellow parents (D! A! Where were you?), have a glass of water, go home.

Instead the principal introduced us to Mrs F, a learning coach. 

Lovely lady, very sharp. Fun, too. She gave us an introduction on our brain halves.



Then she asked us to discuss what we thought helped our kids memorizing subject matters best: reading, listening, watching, saying it out loud themselves, doing it themselves. 

She told us about kids she coaches. They tell her "I keep reading the stuff I'm supposed to study, it just won't stick!" She encourages them to draw mind maps, discuss the topics with friends, use flash cards, try to figure out what questions the teacher might ask and to repeat everything five times.



With children as young as ours most of the learning happened through playing, she explained. (Then why on earth do they have to go to school every day if they don't even play there? Just saying.) 

That's where this year's project week comes in!

Learning by playing was their motto!

Colin got to choose from a dozen different classes. He signed up for "games from all over the world". Even though he may have expected something completely different (he likes his flags, national anthems, capitals and other facts and figures) and certainly not doing crafts every day, he had a good time. 

They got a punch card at the beginning of the week with sections for every continent which allowed them to fly to a different one every morning.

The main messages were "diversity" and "most kids don't have pricey toys and still get to have fun playing". 






On Friday all the groups met at the gym and presented what they had done. Of course my Mom got herself an invite to take pictures :-)


I especially liked what the group "small games made big" did: they laid out a chess board pattern on their class room floor, and every kid was a chess piece. They will never forget the moves that rooks, bishops and knights do, ever! 
Just imagine the dynamics in this group… that led to assign the king and queen! ;-)

Speaking of small and large… The groups, as you may have noticed, were mixed. Kindergarten through 4th grade. 

5th and 6th graders went skiing. Oh wait, these days it's not called "ski camp" anymore because some do snowboarding. Others don't do snow sports at all, still it's called "snow camp". It's gotta have a name, right?

Others got busy with cards, marbles, puppets, role play, musical instruments...


One group went to the forest, others rediscovered games that their grandparents played and brainstormed and invented toys that their own kids might play in the far future.

Then the lady told us it was time for us parents to play and learn!

She started by having us close our eyes, and she snuck to a spot in the room and knocked on the wall. We had to point our fingers to where we thought she was.

Then she got serious. Math! 
"Draw a square containing 16 cells". 

OK. I could do that.
"Now insert the results of the following multiplications: 4x8, 6x9, 7x7, 5x4, 8x6, …"

Geez, she was proceeding rather quickly! 

"Not so fast!" I heard myself shrieking. Three people were looking at me:
  • Husband, smiling, asking "need some help?"
  • Colin's teacher, big grin (I know, I know, my son is better at this!)
  • A fellow Mom whom I dislike, was very smug about it "c'mon now, it's not hard!"
Under my breath, I hissed "wait 'till we do it in *French…"

When everybody was ready, Mrs F was kind enough to repeat all the numbers we were supposed to have in our cells, which gave me a chance to correct some mistakes. Don't laugh.


K who was sitting behind me was joking that the next time we were going to meet, instead of having coffee and chatting, we needed to practice math. 

"I don't think so. How about a round of BS Bingo instead" I suggested.


Then we played Bingo. Mrs F called a number, and we crossed it off. 

It didn't take long, and people started shouting BINGO. 

Then she said "48", and the Mom who thought she was so very smart, was like "WHAT? 48? I don't have 48!" 

Hahaha, I was mentally sticking out my tongue at her. 

*I remembered a parent teacher meeting back in Kindergarten. We were supposed to bring a book we liked as a kid and a book that our kid likes, and use those books to introduce ourselves to the group. Actually I mentioned "French grammar lady" in a post back then!

Moving on. 

Time for a break. "Give me a victory sign!" Our learning coach said.

Great! Now go like this (we use it to say "perfect", but I understand in other cultures it's rude):


Now back to victory! And switch! And back, can you go faster?

Didn't she say we were getting a break..?

The next exercise was about words, yay! 

Create 14 compound words:

BOOK   LIFT    BOAT   MOON   STORM   BREAD   LIGHT
CUP   BLACK   POP   HOUSE   BASKET   WORK   NEWS  
WORM   OUT   SHOP   WINNER   SHIP   BUTTER   BALL
HOME   PAPER   SNOW  DOOR   CORN   SPACE   BOARD
     
(It's much tougher to limit yourself to 14. I had way too many words). Of course we did it in German. I created a whole new bunch of words just for you! :-)

There was a game referring to our visual memory. She showed us a picture with about 10 items and asked us to memorize them. Then she removed one. That was easy. Then she removed two, then she switched positions. This was fun! 



It was great to challenge us parents on skills we don't use in our every day life. 
Also I'm glad my son is better at math than I am - if not how was I supposed to help him?

That's it for today. 

Tomorrow there's going to be a Funny Friday Post. 

On April 1st, and it's not a joke, I'll start with one post per day, throughout the whole month of April, starting with the letter A. It's part of the annual A-Z challenge that I signed up for. 
If you'd like to play along, you've got time till next week! Let me know, and I'll visit your posts!