A walk to the stables

A walk to the stables
Tamerin at the horses: we walked there on Thursday and talked rugby nearly all the way!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Holiday Preparations

School holidays started today for me! Tammy and family fly to Hermanus to see the whales today!

After the successes we had with the discussions, reading and comprehension exercises on the Southern Right Whales and Hermanus, we did similar exercises on three different Cape Town themes yesterday. At least we only discussed the themes and read through the papers on the themes. Tamerin will do the "Fill in the missing words" exercises on these papers the rest of the week with her Mom. (Schools officially close for a week on Friday, so if she does school work this week, they can still count as school days - a requirement by the Department of Education.)

The themes we chose were Jan van Riebeeck and the Castle of Good Hope (the oldest building in South Africa), The history of the winelands, How wine is made and Parliament. Hopefully the family will visit the Castle of Good Hope and at least have a look at the Parliament building - even if they do not do go inside. I know they plan a visit to a wine farm. Tamerin should be able to understand most of what goes on and hopefully be able to talk about her experiences.

I have written the papers mindful of her reading vocabulary, i.e. I tried not to use too many new words. When writing about the castle for instance I wrote about the 5 corners of the castle instead of "bastions". When writing about Parliament I wrote Department of "Money" instead of "Treasury".

It is not about the facts being 100% correct, but about reading with ease, reading with understanding and being able to talk about it. There was not enough time to really practice talking about these themes, but she practised questions like "Daddy can we please drive past the Parliament?"

The whales are a different matter. It seems our speech practice worked: according to Tammy's mother, she told a friend all about the whales - something she had never done before. This shows me we are on the right track! I am so proud of Tammy.

She understood the story of Jan van Riebeeck very well even though she struggled to say his name! When I asked her (as part of the comprehension exercise) whether the Castle of Good Hope is the one that he built, she answered "No, his castle was destroyed." (Destroyed nogal! The word did not even feature in my article! I think she picked up the word, when we read Kim Possible) Anyway, her answer was correct. Jan van Riebeeck's castle did not last because he had used mud and wood to build it!

I pray that the family will have a safe journey, that Tammy's sick grandfather will get better and that Tammy will be able to use her basic knowledge of the holiday destinations to enjoy her holiday more! Have a wonderful time Tammy!

Please email me at miekie@nes.co.za if you are interested in the theme worksheets. It is not so much about the facts, but the method used to encourage reading with understanding.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hermanus, History and Outings

Tammy at the Union Buildings
Tammy at the Monument of the Unknown Child in Salvokop.
In preparation of the family holiday next Tuesday, I copied a website of Hermanus and edited it e.g. I changed "champagne air" to fresh air, "meandering cliff paths" to cliff paths and "historic village" to old village. There was stilll plenty of new sight words for Tammy to master in the usual match, choose and name method. This took only a few minutes and then she could read the "website". It included several words that she would not find in her reader e.g kilometres, breathtaking scenery, coastline. After reading it, I asked questions about it, e.g. "Why is Hermanuas a well loved holiday destination?" "Is it an old town or a modern town?" "What can you see if you go walking on the paths?"

My aim was to get her to read fluently, to read with understanding and most importantly to be able to converse about a topic that is very current in her family! Speech is still slow, but it is improving by leaps and bounds. Tamerin amazes me!

On Thursday, there was a power cut and we could not use the computer. So instead we discussed the history of South Africa! Starting with why Jan van Riebeeck came to South Africa, to the Great Trek and after the Great Trek: the beginnings of Pretoria and the Anglo Boer War.
I drew pictures to explain as we went along. Later we looked at History in Picture.

I had to attend the unveiling of the Monument of the Unknown Child in Salvokop the next day. I planned to take Tammy to the Voortrekker Monument afterwards, but time ran out and we'll do this outing next term.

Anyway, we still did some history: we went to the Union buildings where President Mbeki's office is. It gave us time to again talk about government and paliament: the place where they make laws. At the Union buildings we had a view of all most places we were planning to go to: the Voortrekker Monument and the City hall and even The Freedom Park in Salvokop. We drove down "Church Street" and revised the story of how Pretoria started around a church.

At the city hall, we looked at the statues of Chief Tshwane, Andries Pretorius and his son Marthinus Pretorius after whom Pretoria was name. Then we drove down "Paul Kruger Street" to go to church square - where there no longer is a church, but a statue of Paul Kruger.

(What a pity the powers that be, want to change the street names! They are really helpful in reinforcing history!)

Tamerin seemed intrigued by the history, but could not easily recall the names of the people (statues) she saw. The word "statue" made a big impression however! (What did we see at the City Hall? Statues!)

I plan to make a few worksheets on South African History in Cape Town. There will be very little time to do the base work on Monday, but hopefully we'll be able to cover enough so that she can do a history sheet on Jan van Riebeeck's castle (fort), one on the winelands and one on parliament. We have touched on these subjects, but need to revise. If she does work sheets the first week of their 2 week holiday, these days will be counted as school days. She will have to take along her weather chart and register as well!

Why history? Well history helps with a sense of identity. In Tamerin's case, the facts are not important, but understanding where the family are, what they are looking at and why they are doing that, will help her to really feel included when the family goes on outings during their stay in the Cape. If she can join in the conversations, it will enhance her self- image. I am convinced that these discussions stimulate her to think and to consentrate. We will continue with "speeches" (like the one we had on the Southern Right Whale) once they get back.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sewing a T-shirt Sewing and Speech Progress

Tamerin is busy pinnng the sleeve to her T-sleeve. Today she has sewn so neatly, I am very happy. Yesterday, she had to unpick quite a bit. Pinning T-shirt material is not easy: she struggles to get the edges of the material to meet and yet, she succeeds surprisingly well! After the sleeves, she has to do the neck line. Please pray that this will come out neatly! It will be a big dissapointment if the shirt is an embarrasment to wear! So far it looks OK - not as neat as the skirt, but not too bad.

She is not keen on sewing, but was nonetheless very proud to show her work to her Grandmother when she visited on Tuesday. The idea is that the T-shirt will be finished in time for their holidays at the coast, so I am putting on a little pressure here. (Besides I need my sewing machine at home!) We had better choose an easier project for the last term, but the way she is working now, we might consider another "easy" garment.

Her speech on the Southern Right Whale is coming along very promisingly! She really tries hard.

What a joy to see her progress! Praise God for such an obedient, eager child.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Southern Right Whale Continues

Tamerin is still very keen to learn about the whales. I combined the facts we have learned so far into a "speech" which we are now practising - i.e. she must not only read the piece, but tell it to an audience. To do that, she had to decide which word in each sentence should be emphasised. Was I pleasantly surprised: she pointed to the main subject of each sentence! There is real understanding here. After we had underlined the main words on the first version, she had to make these words bold and colourful on the computer, before we printed the new "speech" version. Besides practising computer skills, this exerise forced her to read with attention.

After practising "telling" the facts, I asked her to form the questions on the piece. Although the questions were not grammatically correct, she had a good idea of what to ask and how to ask. I gave the answers and sometimes asked her to answer her own questions and the oral results were quite good.

Her homework for today is to type the answers to the questions on the computer. I am looking forward to see her efforts, although I know that written work is often still a problem. Nevertheless God, a big thank you for her progress here!

We have started to read for 1 minute periods and to count the words read and deduct the number of words that she did not know. She enjoys this and I think it will really help her with fluency. Thanks for the tip!

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Southern Right Whale

Tamerin's family are going to the Whale Festival at the end of September. The Southern Right Whales come up to the South African coast to have their babies in Spring, before journeying back to Antacrica and are often seen from the coastal towns around Cape Town - especially from Hermanus, where the Whale Festival is held annually.

Tamerin is very interested in the whales, so instead of continuing with her self chosen reader, My Secret Unicorn, I looked up basic facts about the whales and wrote short, simple paragraphs about these interesting creatures. We then looked at videos and pictures on the internet, read and discussed the pieces I wrote and finally she did comprehension on these pieces:
a) Filled in missing words in a copy of the essay e.g. The Southern ...........Whale is found in
the oceans of the southern ...................................... (She knows the words hemisphere!)
To do this she has to read with attention and if she does not the word look it up in the
original paragraph above.
b) Answered questions e.g. "Where do the whales live?" "Do they eat big fish or small
This method has really helped her to read with understanding and to improve her ability to answer questions. (At the beginning of the year, she did not know the difference between question words like Where, when, why etc. There has been a vast improvement since then, but she still finds it a challenge.) I loved her answer to "Why don't they hunt the Southern Right Whales any more?" They must have babies. If she took the answer from the paragraph, it would have been something about the law prohibiting hunting. Her answer showed real understanding of the whole issue and an ability to think. A new milestone has been reached!

Interestingly the Southern Right Whales were so called by hunters, because they swam slowly and had a lot of blubber. This made them easy to catch and when dead they did not sink. To make sure Tammy understood why they did not sink, we had experiments with margarine and oil in water.

We also measured off how big the whales are: as big as their swimming pool room. One baleen plate is as high as a door (2 m) and as wide as a ruler (30 cm). A whale eats about 400 kg of plankton a day! That is about 7 Tammy's a day (if Tammy was made out of tiny, tiny little fish).

I suppose knowing facts about whales are not really important for a handicapped child, but she was so keen to learn more about them, that it made the whole project very worthwhile. When given a choice she would rather read about and discuss whales, than My Secret Unicorn.

As always, life itself presents the curriculum for Tamerin. I pray that this whale project will enable her to understand more when they watch whales and or exhibitions at the festival and that her interest will be in the whales and not only in what there is to be eaten. I am convinced that her family will be pleasanty surprised by what she knows....!

Unfortunately I was sick for four of the five days this week, so we are a bit behind schedule.