There is a thing to be said about repetition… you can’t escape it. If you are no genius, then the bad news is, repetition helps memory. The good news is, repetition helps memory.
It’s no different when it comes to literacy and numeracy for young children. From the start, I wanted to establish a mind set in B that numbers are fun!
Confession: I had a fear of numbers when I was younger, it’s funny to say it as an adult, but they didn’t seem very friendly to me, in fact, they were scary. The weird thing is that it wasn’t that I was at the bottom of the class, but numbers… they just rattled me. In fact I still remember occasions in primary school where I would cry – tearing silently would be a more accurate description) on the way to school and this would sometimes co-incide with a certain bird calling in the morning which went too-woooooo, too – wooooo. Which is why, as much as I love nature, I can’t say I care too much about hearing the call of this particular bird – brings back the math herbie jeerbies in me! This feeling of paralysis and helplessness is much scarier than Oculus or The Conjuring. Conjur nothing on an exam and feel the horrors!
I learnt 20 years too late (thru my father in law, a Math academician) that this is called math anxiety. Let’s hope B inherited that side of the math genes.
I digress, but anyway, I noticed how much she loved playing snakes and ladders so I decided to deconstruct the game and add a literacy twist of my own.
First, I drew a Snakes and Ladders board sans numbers. Made it interesting and cute (ya gotta appeal to the kid! ) by adding adorable frogs, snails, butterflies and flowers. Make it feel like writing on it is like a walk in the park, literally! Painted it with bright colours.
Next was the stickers. The printing shop did give me a few strange looks when I requested that the snakes and ladders images be printing on high quality laminate sticker paper.
“You sure ah?” said the printer.
“Yes, it’s for children. The sticker cannot tear when they are sticking it and sometimes, they might change their mind and take out the sticker right after sticking it. So the sticker has to be strong.” I replied.
“This sticker paper, top quality… your children so “garang” ah, sticker also need to be so strong?!!”, said Mr Sticker Printer.
He obviously does not have children but he did a good job and I was pleased with the result.
Then, I thought, “Aha! let’s add another dimension to it. Value add with literacy skills” So a set of 220 Dolch Sight Words* got printed and the game plan is that is you land on the head of the snake, you get an escape pass if you can read all 10 words on the card.
So finally, it was all ready for her to play and I was pretty happy that she really enjoyed doing it and I discovered that B is a thrill seeker … first she stuck a long snake three steps before reaching the finish.. I said, “Wah, you are so cruel… 3 steps before winning, your player can get eaten up!” and then she said, ” No problem, there is a ladder on the next square after you land at the bottom of the snake… if you are lucky, you can get another ladder after that and you can get win in 2 steps!”
The beauty and optimism of a young child!
In fact, she had so much fun planning her stickers that she designed another board the very next day.
* Sight words are high frequency words in the English language. Most of these words do not spell phonetically as what the word sounds like and the meanings are also conceptual in nature… so to help the early reader, it is easier for them to recognise and read the words by sight. Hence the term, “sight words”.