Wednesday, September 28, 2016

5 Tips for Education on the Go: Make Learning Fun

If you are a busy parent, like me, who’s always on the go from sunup to sundown dropping the kids off at school, heading to work, attending meetings, school functions, and sporting events – Whew! My heart is racing just thinking about everything…then you’ve probably felt guilty for not having enough time or “quality time” with your children. I have two kids (a boy and a girl) who are six years apart, my son is the oldest. I try to use the time we have in the car together as a distraction-free zone. Since I’m a former educator, that means we’re usually doing some type of educational activity on the go. However, it’s all fun, and what child doesn’t enjoy undivided attention from Mom or Dad?

First things first: TURN OFF THE CAR RADIO

Frankly, this is easy for me because I don’t like listening to prank calls, celebrity gossip, or songs that are inappropriate for my children. Plus, without the background noise, you’re able to engage with your child(ren).

1. RECOGNIZING SHAPES AND COLORS: This was the first activity that I started incorporating on the way to our destination. When my son was young, I used traffic signs to reinforce what he was learning in childcare. Fortunately, traffic signs come in many shapes and colors which made this activity much easier.
  • Start with common traffic sign colors:
Red: Red means Stop! S-T-O-P spells stop. We’d do this at traffic lights and stop signs. You can reinforce letter recognition, spelling, and shapes with a stop sign. My son used to sing this song “R-E-D that smells red, that smells red”. He couldn’t pronounce spells correctly
 Green: Green means Go! G-O spells go. Again, the traffic light reinforces this.
Yellow: Yellow means slow down or take caution. That means be careful.  
Orange: Orange means construction. You may see a sign that says “Road Work Ahead” or “Give us a Brake”. Depending on the age of your child, you may use these signs to reinforce reading and the importance of slowing down during maintenance. 
Blue: Blue means you need assistance. The blue sign with the letter H has an H for Hospital.
  • Teach the traffic sign shapes:
An octagon means stop.
An upside down triangle means “yield”, that means slow down. 
A diamond is giving you a warning.  
A circle means railroad crossing. I'd say, "Thomas the Tank Engine rides on railroad tracks." My son was really, really into Thomas the Train.

A pentagon means there is probably a school nearby.
Rectangles come in a variety of colors, so I would just point out the shapes. 

2.      I SPY: Now that your child understands their shapes and colors, you can start playing I Spy. Just remember to point out something that’s quite a distance away to give them time to find it since you're likely driving quickly. You'll want to use road signs, billboards, stores, landmarks — basically, any reading material or object that you can see outside the window. One person looks around to find an object and the other passengers have to guess. Oh, this is also a great time to teach positional and directional words…no more “Look over there” or “Did you see that?”

3.      BOOKS: It’s a good idea to keep some books in the car. I like having my son read to me so that I can hear his fluency and ensure that he’s reading in a fluid, conversational tone. I’ll stop him if his reading is choppy, tell him that it should sound like he’s speaking to me, and have him to reread the sentence. Also, reading aloud allows me to correct any mispronunciations. My daughter can’t read yet; thus, I’ll occasionally have my son read to her. Usually, he’ll read to her on the way to school. 

Here he's reading a book by Melanin Origins

4.     ELAPSED TIME: As a former math teacher, elapsed time is a difficult concept to teach. I’m just trying to get ahead of the curve. Driving is a perfect time to practice this skill. Introduce simpler problems first. If your child is able to see the car's clock, ask them to calculate x number of minutes from the time on the clock. Once they master this task, begin introducing word problems based on your trip.
  • We left home at 11:05 a.m., and it's going to take us 46 minutes to get to Six Flags. What time should we arrive at Six Flags? 
  • Your school starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 3:15 p.m. every day. How long is your school day?
  • Based on the navigation, it should take us 2 hours and 28 minutes to get to x. What time should we arrive?
  • (Another version of the same question) We need to arrive at by 1:00 p.m. What time should we leave home if the drive takes 2 hours and 28 minutes?
5.  TALK! TALK! TALK!: Find ways to spark a meaningful conversation. Talk  about what happened at school, or about your work day. I can’t remember who taught me this questioning strategy, but it helps instead of asking the standard “How was your day?” Ask something like:
  • What was the best/worst thing that happened to you today?
  • What did you learn today that you didn’t know before?
  • What was your favorite part of lunch/recess today? (You have to ask about lunch or recess. They’re usually the highlight of the day.) 


Now, that you’ve established a foundation, you can turn that radio back on. I like news shows. I know…BORING! But sometimes there are great topics, and it gives me an opportunity to discuss current events with my son. Occasionally, my daughter will even chime in if she recognizes a word.

Riding in the car doesn’t have to be all about education. With kids, you’ll be forever young. Turn on the latest tune, let loose, and sing along! And keep those tablets and handhelds handy. There are times when you simply need peace and quiet after a long day, and the kids can entertain themselves.

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