Wednesday, January 10, 2007

School Cards

One of our challenges with AJ, an only child with two work-at-home parents, is encouraging him to play by himself. He is so used to being around all the time, that he would usually rather be entertained. It’s not that he doesn’t like playing alone – he gets into his own little world. But sometimes he has trouble getting started.

Yesterday we invented a new game, which AJ has dubbed “School Cards.” AJ loves to play school and we also want to encourage him to work on some of the subjects he doesn’t yet get at school. So we sat down together and came up with a list of all the things we could think of that you could do at school. My list included:

Language Arts
History and Geography
Foreign Language
Gym (indoors)
Recess (outdoors)

AJ added:

Rest time
Snack time
Story time

We got a stack of 3x5 cards and wrote the name of each subject on the back of one card. On the other side, we started writing lists of possible activities. For example, for Language Arts, we included things like “Read a book,” “Write a story,” “Write about something that happened to you yesterday,” “Do one handwriting worksheet,” “Take a vocabulary quiz,” “Play Mad-Libs.”

The process of writing our ideas was interesting for AJ, because he had to think about what kinds of skills went into some of the things he likes to do. We included some games like Uno and Sorry under math, because they require addition and subtraction. We put Rush Hour under Math too, because it involves spatial imagination. We also considered putting it under art, though, because AJ thought he cars were like sculpture and because spatial ideas are important in art too. We put other games under language arts (Guess Who) and gym (Twister, Hullabaloo) and even science (Mousetrap).

I didn’t have any particular plan for how to use the cards. I just wanted a tool we could turn to when we were short of ideas for things to do. I wanted it to be a tool we could use to play together but one that AJ could also use to jumpstart his own play.

AJ definitely has his own ideas about the cards. Yesterday he divided them into work and break time (the latter included gym, recess, snack, story time (because that’s when I read to him instead of him reading to me), and rest time). He alternated pulling cards out of each deck, balancing out work and play. It kept him busy all morning. At lunch time, he was begging to do “just one more.” In the morning, we practiced addition and subtraction to four columns, read a book about China and looked at it on our globe, wrote in his journal, read a book in English and another in Spanish, wrote down some new Spanish words, looked through the telescope and microscope, built an obstacle course in the family room and raced through it, had a snack, and played music and danced to it.

Today he tried another tack. He arranged the cards into a schedule and is going through it systematically. This morning we had science (more microscope investigations) and gym (his weekly gymnastics class) before we had to go run errands.

I like the way this game is making his mind work. He’s thinking about how skills learned in different activities relate to one another. He’s also aware of keeping some balance in his pursuits. I hope to keep adding to our activity lists over time.

1 comment:

lemming said...

AJ makes snack time a priority: good choice, good choice. This bodes well.