Felt Alphabets

I decided to spend the weekend making felt alphabets to decorate the living room – it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be!

feltstencils

I bought felt from Daiso at $2 per pack of 5 – total $12 for 30 pieces. The felt measured 18 x 18cm.  Then, using printed outlines of alphabets as stencils, I drew the letters onto the felt and cut out the alphabets.

Dletters

Here’s my completed product! I stuck these felt letters onto the window and cupboards around the living room.

EFGHIJ

STUVWX

Samantha enjoys going up to the alphabets and touching them. I use these for tactile stimulation now. When she gets older, I intend to use them to teach her how to read and write the alphabets (by tracing the felt letters).

Here are some other websites for more (technically challenging) alphabet felt and related projects!

  1. Stuffed felt alphabets
  2. Wool alphabets
  3. Making a felt board (I will get down to this one day)
  4. Magnetic felt alphabets

Arguments Against Flashcards

Having published so much about Shichida and flashcards, I may have come across as a strong advocate for flashcard use, but till this day I still remain uncertain whether it is truly beneficial. To maintain some balance here are some of my findings against flashcards-

I came across this blog, written by a mum who started as a firm believer in Glenn Doman’s methods but realised later that she was wrong.

The article she has written is long, but it talks about her experience with Glenn Doman’s methods and was a really good, thought provoking read for me – Am I doing more harm than good to Samantha?

I have previously written about the whole word approach and its controversies in a previous post. In her article, she writes about her experiences with flashing words to her child, only to find out much later that he was still not able to read (I don’t believe that it is due to her lack of commitment to the teaching system, her devotion is shown by the numerous ‘bits’ Powerpoints that she has made and put up on her website for all to download).

Her argument is valid and I cannot help but agree with her, At the same time, I notice some similarities with the Shichida method-

  • the use of flashcards
  • the claim that all children are born geniuses
  • no one in Philadelphia seemed to know about the Institutes (I have spoken to a few Japanese mothers and none of them seem to have heard of the Shichida Method. I find it unusual if it is supposed to be so popular.)
It is very easy for us to fall victim to programs that claim ‘brain enrichment’, especially in our highly competitive society, where children have to take a high-stakes PSLE at 12 years of age. What is really good for our children? Unfortunately there is too much contrasting information and ‘noise’ out there that clouds our judgement..

Here’s another article online written by Dr Pat Wolfe, an education consultant who has written books and gives talks on the application of brain research to educational practice. It is a well-written article that lays down the bare facts, and leaves reader to make his own final conclusion. There are also a few other articles on the same site that are good reads too. What I take away from reading all this is that one should not place too much emphasis on flashcards, educational DVDs, etc, as the child learns best by having ‘natural interaction’ with the world.

Last, but definitely not the least (in fact, if there is anything you should read it has to be this), a good book for all parents interested in learning about the research behind the importance of play is ‘Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less‘. You can find a sample of the book (almost the whole book is available for free here) on Google Books.

Shichida Lesson Plan

A few of my friends have been asking about Shichida lessons because they intend to sign up for it, so I decided to put up this detailed breakdown of class activities for babies 6 months to 1 year old. Every lesson that I have attended thus far has stuck to this basic framework, thus I am able to reproduce it from memory!

The reason why I’m posting this is because I believe everyone should have the right to make an informed decision. The school doesn’t have trial lessons, neither do they allow people to observe lessons before signing up, so many parents may be signing up for a term of lessons, only to find out later that it is not to their liking..

(I apologise if this post is too text-heavy without any images. I’m not sure if any of the images are copyright so all I can do is provide external links to images of the items used during the activities)

Do note that this lesson plan is probably only applicable to younger students (babies), as I think they have more complex activities for older children.

  • All lessons start with a 30 second Welcome song in Japanese. This song is unique and I can’t find it on Youtube or anywhere else on the web.
  • Teacher announces the day, date and asks students to look out of the window to see if it is a sunny, cloudy or rainy day.
  • Blowing / Breathing exercise: There is a hand-made toy with a string or ribbon attached (for example, a monkey with a sting for its tail, an elephant with a ribbon for its trunk), and the students are asked to give a short blow and a long blow to make the string or ribbon move. Blowing/Breathing is said to help the students relax for the class.
  • Image training: They call this ‘image training’; to me it’s just pretend play. In this short (less than 5 minute) segment, the students pretend to do certain activities with the help of their parent. This activity is changed every lesson and can range from pretending to fly a kite to pretending to be a butterfly (please see my previous posts for more examples)
  • Clairvoyance game: The teacher will hide a picture card behind one of two larger pictures, and ask the students to guess where that picture card is. (For example, there is a picture of a bee. Is it hiding behind the red flower or the blue flower?) (Note: I don’t find how this can be clairvoyance if the teacher knows where the card is..it’s probably teacher-and-student telepathy at best)
  • Telepathy game: The execution of this activity is roughly the same as clairvoyance game, except now the parent hides the card instead of the teacher, and sends ‘mental signals’ to the child to tell the child where the card is.
  • ‘Hand reading’ game: The parent gets two cards, one which is blank and the other with a picture. With both cards placed face down, the child is supposed to sense which card has the picture (some pictures ’emit’ certain sensations such as warmth or coldness).
  • Sentences for daily life: A 1 minute video. Drawings of people doing their daily activities are flashed on the screen, with a concurrent voice-over description (For example, ‘I get on the escalator’, ‘I eat my breakfast’). The images that are flashed can be purchased from the local School (it’s called sentence structure) and from the Japanese Shichida website (if you reside in Japan). The same set of images are shown for 4 weeks in a row, with the voice-over removed on the last week (only the images are shown).

(Note: For more images and information, you may wish to visit these two blogs (they are in Japanese but they have put up pictures of the product –http://yun1211.blog59.fc2.com/blog-entry-1374.htmlhttp://englishtimewithakr.blogspot.sg/2013/06/3.html)

  • Flashcards on the TV screen: A series of about 30 pictures with a common theme (for example, animals) are flashed on the TV screen, with its name being read out at the same time. English is used for the first four lessons, followed by mandarin for the next four, and subsequently other languages (Italian, Spanish, Korean, etc) are used. The pictures flashed are exactly the same as the ones I purchased from the china website, so I believe this video can also be purchased from the Japanese Shichida school..
  • Flashcards: about 20-25 sets of flashcards are then flashed to the children. The sets have about 10 cards each and are mainly hand drawn. Some of the cards are identical to the ones I purchased from the china website as well. The same cards are used for 4 weeks. On the final week there is one quiz question (for example, the teacher will ask the students to pick the card with 43 dots, from a choice of 2 cards)
  • Eye training: Using a picture with a bell attached, the teacher makes the children look to the left, right, up and down in a fixed fashion. The way the teacher moves the item is similar to what is shown on this website (minus the star pattern).
  • Photo memory: The children are shown a picture for 8-10 seconds, and then asked to pick out the correct picture from 2 choices.
  • Photo memory part 2: The children are shown a picture with a sequence of objects. After 8-10 seconds they are each given the picture and asked to arrange the objects in the correct sequence.
  • Linking memory: The children are told a ridiculous story that links 5 unrelated objects together. Following that, the children are given pictures of each item and asked to arrange the pictures in the order that they appeared in the story. Subsequently, the cards are all turned face down, and the kids asked to ‘sense’ and pick out 2 named objects. Here’s a good blog post about it.
  • Speed reading: The children are each given a picture book (7 pages, each page with one short line of text) and we all proceed to read the book in time with a recording that is played in the background. We then re-read the book, at twice the speed. The same book is read for 4 weeks. 
(Note: These books are the ‘speak up stories’ from the Shichida website. You can find it on amazon too!)
  • Sawako: This is a short story about a little child called Sawako, that is told using flashcards. The first time the story is told in English. The second time the story is told in a foreign language (Korean, Italian, etc). This is a product from the Shichida website. The same story is repeated for 4 weeks, before a new story is used.
  • Shichida musical: A song is sung by the teacher, supplemented by picture flashcards relevant to the song. These songs are unique to the Shichida class (I have never heard them anywhere else), and are repeated for 4 weeks before they are changed.
Following which, are a series of about 14 activities the teacher calls ‘left brain’ activities.

  • Singing of the ABC alphabet song (They sing it in a strange way, that is again unique to the school) while pointing to the individual alphabets on a laminated A4 card.
  • Phonics song (the same song every week, for 15 weeks, and counting..).
  • One or two activities that involves shapes.
  • One or two activities that involves numbers/counting.
  • Watching a japanese video that teaches two addition/subtraction/multiplication/divison equations (This is again probably from the Japanese Shichida School)
  • An activity that involves sorting out items according to the alphabet letter they start with.
  • An activity that involves tracing outlines of letters with fingers.
  • A short abacus activity where the teacher shows counting with the abacus.
  • Recently, there is ‘homework’: The babies/toddlers (well, the parents actually) are supposed to complete a ‘picture dictionary’, two to three alphabets a week.
  • Finger training: The children get a chance to practice fine motor activity, for example holding a crayon, or inserting a straw into a cup, etc.
The class ends with a Goodbye song in Japanese..and all this is done in the short span of slightly under 60 minutes..so each activity only takes about 1 minute or so (factoring in the few seconds needed to distribute/collect back the activity materials and occasional screaming children disrupting the class).

I hope this post clears up the mystery surrounding the Shichida lesson plans for interested parents! I will be happy to address any further questions..

Shichida Week 17

For pretend play today we all pretended to be kangaroos – we were given small furry pouches to tie around the child’s waist, and they had to hop to the back of the class to pick up an object. I thought that the activity was too advanced for the children. Samantha can’t even stand independently, let alone hop..so I ended up carrying her by her underarms and bouncing her to the back of the class.

Here are some of the other activities we had (again, very similar to previous lessons):

  • Learning about shapes by attaching shapes to a picture (with velcro)
  • Forming a picture of a diamond with four blocks – each block had a triangle printed on it, by putting the four blocks together, a diamond can be formed
  • Using fingers to trace the letters P and R
  • Sorting out pictures of objects that start with the letters ‘P’ and ‘R’
  • Learning about long and short – cards with two lengths of string/ribbon attached were given to the children so that the could compare the long string with the short string
  • Colouring a picture of an ice cream cone with a crayon

Review of ‘My Favourite Genius’ Flashcards

I recently bought a set of flashcards from the local school. This was not part of the ‘recommended buys’ for under 1 year of age, but I bought it anyway, as I thought it would be good to have more flashcards.

my favourite genius

my favourite genius back

It comprises 21 sets of flashcards, with varying themes.

Each set has one cover card and 8 flashcards.The flashcards are all cartoon pictures.

my favourite genius 2

Most of the flashcard themes are ok, but there are some strange ones – there is one set ‘dreams’, which I think is quite..innovative.

my favourite genius 1

The set cost $72.50. The cost per card works out to 38 cents per card (if you include the title cards) and 43 cents per card (if you don’t count the title cards. (For comparison,  the China set that I bought that was 41 cents per card.)

Here are some of the issues I had with this set-

  • All the cards had their top right hand corners cut, so it facilitates taking the cards out of the box, but it doesn’t help differentiating one set from another during a flashcard session. I had to invert every other set of cards so that their corners were opposite to each other.
  • The concepts in this product are more ‘advanced’ than just teaching normal nouns or names of common items, so I think this is probably meant for slightly older toddlers (I don’t find it suitable for a baby under one year of age – I would rather flash pictures of fruits and vegetables to them) Ok, this is my fault since I bought it without the school’s recommendation.
  • One of the sets was labeled ‘memories’ and you were supposed to attach your photos to the cards. While this is quite a nice deviation from the ‘usual’ flashcards, I find it a waste of my money to be paying 38 cents each for blank flashcards. I would think most people buy these flashcard sets so that they can save the time and effort of making these cards themselves right?

Overall, a rather costly set. It is a fair buy if you are desperate for a new set of flashcards to show and are not so particular of the occasionally unusual flashcard themes.