Language learning resource

Does your library do this?  Mine does.  They have Mango for libraries.


Isn’t that fabulous?
If, like me, you live in a monolingual home then having access to an online option is a great bonus.  Did I mention it’s free to library members?  No?  Well it is.
What an excellent way to get a taster of many, many languages.  When you find the one you like you can always find an ‘in real life’ teacher to work with as well as working quietly away in your own home.

Did I mention it is portable?  No? Well it is.  Add the app to your phone and you can be as anti-social as you like in the gym while stretching your language skills.

If you’re a Wellingtonian, just click on the nifty picture and it will take you to the blog post about the new addition to their digital collection.  Enjoy!

If you are not in Wellington, it may be time to investigate your local library’s digital collection.  You may be happy to find it there too.




Do you read your children poetry?

I remember being very ambivalent about poetry at school.  I don’t ever really recall understanding meter and how to structure a poem.  I could probably barely tell you the difference between a haiku and an epigram.

I finally enjoyed reading poetry when we studied the War Poets, and Wilfred Owen in particular.  I’m still shaky on the technical aspects, but I am now willing to learn.  My little people are clearly not of an age where understanding the differences between poetic styles and the technical aspects of poetry construction are necessary.  However, I am keen for them to learn rhythm and word play through poetry.  So I have been trying to make sure we always have at least one book of poems for reading when we bring a bag of books back from the library.

The latest book is from the “I Can Read!” series and it is called Dizzy Dinosaurs: Silly Dino Poems.
So far we have a couple of hits from this volume.  Admittedly, the cute dinosaur cartoons are helping my cause.  Here is the current favourite:

School Rules
by Sarah Hansen

No chomping
No romping
No treading on tails
No clawing
No climbing
No gnawing your nails
No roaring
No soaring
No sharpening teeth
No stamping
No stalking
Small friends to eat

These are rules
All dinos must follow
They keep school safe –
So no one gets swallowed!

I am convinced that this is a great favourite, not only because of the rhyming and rhythm, but because it is accompanied by a picture of a small, very toothy dinosaur about to bite the tail of a larger, clearly the teacher, dinosaur.

So, what are your children’s favourite poems?

Moveable Alphabet

Miss Oh Waily has always been in love with numbers, with the odd little bit of interest in letters thrown in just for variation.  I have been waiting patiently for her to show her sensitive period for reading and interest in all things writing.  Would she oblige me? No, not really.

So, in true lack of patience style, I have begun to work up more opportunities to stimulate her interest in letters.  We have had the sandpaper letters for some time now, and have had a variety of applications for the iPad for about the same amount of time. These have been used quite happily.  We have a moveable alphabet app for the iPad, but I wanted something tactile too.  However, I didn’t want to pay over NZ$ 100 for a nice wooden set of type just on the off chance that it wouldn’t be used at all.  Instead I chose to visit Montessori Print Shop and pay for a downloadable version that included lesson instructions.

I know I could have created a simple set for myself, or used a free one from the internet, but seriously at the price charged by MPS it would have taken me more time and effort than this modest outlay to gain a variety of alphabet colour options and find, then format, all of the picture images included.

The hardest part of putting all of this together was finding a box for storage.  In the end I had to go with a box in which the letters sit at a slant rather than lie down in.  Other than that one hitch, the semi-homemade moveable type is now available for use.  Here is what it looks like:

Moveable Alphabet

And here are some of Miss Oh’s efforts with the pictures and alphabet.  Can you tell that she likes the capital letters?

Letters 1

And what would our photographs be like if some of the soft animals didn’t get in on the act?
The "at" words

We started with the “c m a t” combinations and extended it to include all of the simple three letter “at” words.  Miss Oh seemed happy to do this, but I think is still reserved about her letters enough that it will be done with my encouragement and participation for a little while longer.

So long as it is fun and not a chore for her then we will keep it up.

Object Box Alternative

This past week I thought I would try again with Miss Oh and letters.
She knows their names and most of the sounds.  We play I Spy to help with sound recognition and for fun, but other than that and the odd bit of writing Miss Oh is just not that bothered about them.

It isn’t a great concern to me.  She likes books and having stories.  She likes me to point out the words.  She even asks me to write messages for her to copy, especially for cards she makes.  So it isn’t as though she is totally disinterested.   But I thought I would give it another nudge with a different game.  This is a home made alternative to the Object Boxes.  For those unfamiliar with this aspect of Montessori, here is a link to some details about it and a working example of someone using it.

Now I don’t have the luxury of access to lots of miniature objects.  Cost and actual existence of them being the main issues.  Unlike our American cousins we simply don’t have the population base to stock lots of these little knick-knack toys and at a tiny cost too.
So, my home made version was part I Spy, Treasure Hunt and Object Box.

I took a medium sized basket and added one of the sandpaper letters to it.

Empty M

Then Miss Oh was asked to go find 5 objects from around the house that started with the “muh” sound.  And this is what she brought back.


And for those of you who can count, yes there are only 4 objects.  I would be the fifth, but it is hard to be in and take the photograph at the same time without a tripod.

We took turn about.  Miss Oh chose another of the starting letters (c, m, a, t) for me to find, and it made me more aware of how difficult the game can be, despite obviously knowing a large number of nouns.

And here is her other effort, the C box.


She really enjoyed this, so it will be on the list of games to continue to play while Master Oh is having his middle of the day siesta.

What games do you play for fun that helps your kids learn about their language?
I’d love to know.