Things I Know About Teaching Kids English and Math

I know few things. I suspect many things but I know these for a fact.

Comic Books: Comic books are wonderful for teaching kids to read. Kids learn things faster and better when they’re interested. There are two common ways for kids to learn to read, phonics and whole word. With phonics readers learn to sound words out. Readers learn the rules of English (there are many) and they pronounce words phonetically. With phonics readers may break the word into pieces. With whole word reading the entire word is learned at once. This is the more common way that readers learn in the US.

I don’t believe that one way is better than another, but I do believe that for certain types of learners one way of learning to read will be better than another.

Comic books are perfect for either type of reader. Words like POW and KABAM are fabulous and rewarding for phonics, and sight readers (whole word readers) will enjoy that most words on the page are five letters or less. More importantly they can skip the words they don’t understand and just look at the picture for the story. Because reading is supposed to be fun. Reading at home doesn’t have to challenge them, and not every word needs to be looked up in a dictionary. If they can’t read “beautiful” they can look at a picture and guess that it might say beautiful, for a new reader, this is enough.

Further, kids tend to read comics over and over again, eventually they’ll figure out the missing words, and their meaning without frustration.

Flashcards: You can teach math any way you want. You can teach theory, you can have a spiral curriculum or a flipped classroom. You can have the kids use grids, beads, computers or their fingers, but you still need flashcards. I know that memorization has gone out of style, and that everyone wants kids to have a sense of math. The reality is that they need to know 1 to 12 addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. They don’t need to understand why, that will come later, but they need to memorize these equations. Flashcards can be fun, there are plenty of games to play and a lot of screaming (the good kind) to be had.

Buy some flashcards for the summer and drill the kids. Keep it fun.

Baking: Measuring ingredients will make fractions relevant. It’s the only way I know to show a child that 1/4 is smaller than 1/2 even though 4 is bigger than 2. There’s a lot of reading too, but when chocolate cake converges with math life is good.


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