Meet the cutest, smartest Wonder Women in town! To launch our year of Wonder, we created our own Wonder Woman costumes that we'll wear sometimes while we research and explore our wonders. With the help of my amazing daughter who was off school today, we put together our arm bands (bracelets) and headbands (tiaras).
These girls are strong. They are brave. They can do hard things. This year we're going to explore what it means to be curious and full of wonder. Some activities will be guided but hopefully as the year progresses they'll be able to explore more wonders on their own.
We cut. We glued (no one got burned from the hot glue gun -- yay!). We colored. We posed. And most importantly, we got absolutely covered with glitter, which is enough to make anyone happy.
They were quite proud of their finished products!
After an absolutely perfect summer break, I'm back in Mumbai and happy to see the girls today. They've grown!
I've stewed long and hard about how to best help them this coming year during our time together. I've reflected on various activities we've tried, what's worked, what hasn't, what they've enjoyed balanced with what they need, what is most helpful but also fun...it's not an easy process. What would you do if you were given these girls for a few hours a month?
They may have limited physical surroundings, but they are incredibly bright and strong and keep me on my toes. They get bored easily, want all the bells and whistles of anything we do online, and it's challenging to motivate them and keep them engaged. Generally they don't like to do anything hard or anything that isn't fun. What child does?
Yet, I have a responsibility to try to help them increase their literacy. Specifically, my goals with them are:
So, given what I know of them and what we've experienced together so far, I've decided on a theme this year I want to try:
That's our word. It's our year of Wonder. I want them to foster their innate curiosity about the world. To ask questions. To find answers. To reach and explore. To travel virtually. To discover. Ultimately...to think. To learn how technology helps us think and solve problems and find answers and demonstrate what we've learned.
This is the mystery box. They asked me lots of questions to guess what was inside. While they hoped it was chocolate, it wasn't. They shook it. They asked questions like, "Is it a ball?" Nope. After a few guesses they were done and wanted to open it. I pushed them to ask me different types of questions that I could answer yes or no. They began to narrow it down. It was an animal. Not a real animal but a toy animal. A big animal. A brownish animal. It lives in India. Not a cow. Our youngest girl guessed it: an elephant! She was so proud and got to open it.
After talking about our upcoming plan for the next little while, including types of questions and question words, we decorated question marks.
It was an analog activity no one was very excited about, but I wanted to lay the foundation and we'll use these in future projects.
So, exciting things are in store! Wonder what? Wait and see.
Today I teamed up with my parents who are regular volunteers. We began with another few chapters from Maniac Magee. Though they were restless, they are enjoying the story and can relate to it. We then alternated through a few activities: working on some art, working on Storybird, coding, and their reading bingo cards. Only two girls had kept track of their cards so they got an extra prize. The others started again and we made our way through. They wanted to mark things off quickly with little effort, but I made them work hard to get each stamp and a prize. Almost all had done some form of reading this week.
We need to work on an organizing system for the books and it's far from an ideal situation, but I'm happy to have any of them reading anything at all. It's summer and they're busy with lots of activities, so any reading is a bonus.
I won't be back for a few months since it's soon my summer, but I'll spend some time thinking through what our plan is for this next year and how to best support them. As always, the privilege is mine and these are wonderful girls.
Today we had some of the girls over to our house since they are out of school. It was their first time here and we really enjoyed it!
We launched our very informal summer reading program to try to get them more excited about reading. It's a long shot and a complicated problem that won't be solved soon, but every small effort helps.
I grew up around good libraries and lots of books and reading has always been part of my life. For these girls, reading is a chore, something they associate with school. They don't have the opportunity, setup, comfortable space, nor the desire to read much at home. They all can read but don't enjoy it, and they hardly, if ever, get so caught up in a book they can't put it down. I would imagine they would love to travel to other worlds through words on a page, to escape their life and explore other lives, but it doesn't work that way for them.
So, today we gathered some stuffed animals, found a comfy place to sit, and read out loud from Maniac Magee, a favorite. We defined big words like legend.
They had some free reading time to choose books from piles and attempt to cross off some of their reading bingo squares. They didn't want to read – they wanted to play – but we set a timer and everyone read for 20 minutes. We'll see how well they do before we meet them again next week, if anyone will do any reading on their own.
We posed for some pictures
Next, they rotated through stations where they could choose from a few activities in each area and get a stamp.
Think station had books, electronic snap circuits, and a microscope where we looked at all sorts of cool slides (housefly mouth parts and fern leaf were favorites).
Design station had Keva planks, brain flakes, kinetic sand and tools, Zoob tools, Legos, and various other manipulatives. Most liked the kinetic sand and baking tools and they 'made' cupcakes and other goodies.
Play station was a favorite and the girls played games, marbles, built a race track and tested for the best cars, and of course...carrom is always a hit.
Create station had art supplies and beads. R. made a heart out of beads and we ironed it to meld it.
After a great lunch of yellow daal and rice...
...we pulled the girls in a few at a time for some baking and they were great helpers. We made donuts and air popped popcorn.
After a swimming and watching Moana, it was time to say farewell till next time
This week marked the beginning of Spring, and even though it's warm all year 'round in Mumbai I still wanted to celebrate.
We brainstormed quite a bit to get started, which is always a bit frustrating for these girls. They like to dive right in to using the computers. We came up with some words that have to do with springtime and beauty and taking care of our earth. I had them think of a beautiful place they have visited and we came up with a list.
They also used a springtime and Earth Day word list I linked to from our Symbaloo webmix if they needed extra help or ideas.
First, we tackled acrostic poems. They didn't seem to have done these before and it was new for them. We chose our topic word and brainstormed words to go with it. Using ReadWriteThink's tool, one girl made her own about earth and the others collaborated together and typed the same poem on their own computers about Spring.
I told them that my kids love to give acrostic poems to others as gifts. If they ever want to give someone a birthday present and don't have any money, they can always write an acrostic poem using that person's name and write words about them. They seemed to like that idea.
Next we attempted Haiku's. These were harder and a good challenge. They had learned the concept but hadn't really been able to practice. ReadWriteThink's haiku tool makes it really easy and there was a lot of clapping out syllables until they got it just right.
We finished by working in Storybird on Spring and Earth Day books to be completed next time.
In todays’ outreach efforts my theme was WORDS. We started with playing the Heads Up app and the girls loved it. Each took a turn putting the phone on their forehead while the other girls tried to get her to guess what it was. It was most interesting for me to watch what they knew vs. what they didn’t. Elephant and taxi, for example, were easy. Several words (which I sadly can't remember) that were commonplace for me are just not part of their experience.
Next, I used my Word Yahtzee die and they each rolled a letter and took two minutes to write down as many words that begin with that letter. Some used names of friends or nearby places. Others used common objects. It’s tricky thinking under pressure like that. I found myself struggling with A words.
We then used flashcards of common colors and classroom objects and they had to act out what the object was. One girl had “tape” and we struggled guessing it until she ran into the next room and grabbed some newspaper and started wrapping an item like a present. Perfect.
The girls then experimented with word clouds. We had a few technical issues so I wasn’t able to save their work, but they took the words they had gathered and created a variety of word cloud shapes and using different colors using Tagul and ABCYa. We’ll have to come back to that because I love word clouds as a learning tool.
We turned that same words list into word search puzzles and practiced solving them. We did a bit of work on our Storybird stories and did some listen-and-repeat activities within BrainPop ESL.
Like any other kids, they don’t like doing things that are hard and would rather jump around to different activities, and I’m still exploring the right balance between giving choice and options and having them focus on a hard task and see it through.
All in all, they reinforced many skills today without even realizing it (navigation, typing, copy/paste, customizing, vocabulary, explaining, writing, fine motor skills, etc.).
In the spirit of Valentines Day, I challenged the girls to make hearts using the binary alphabet similar to these. It was a concept they caught on to very quickly and needed little guidance. I'm told that Hindi, which many of them speak, is at its core a binary language so maybe that's in part why.
Using the ASCII binary alphabet, they chose three colors of beads: one for 0, one for 1, one for a space. Some did their name, some did the name of a friend, some did the word LOVE. This activity helps with foundational coding concepts and also improves fine motor skills.
Today I only had 3 girls which was perfect to practice offline coding using the Robot Turtles board game. It's made for young children, which I told them, but it really reinforces some foundational coding concepts that make it easier when we do more challenging coding online. They liked it, probably because I kept it fast-paced and we increased difficulty quickly by adding in new challenges. I liked that they became even more confident using basic commands and seeing immediate results from their program.
I've been wanting to have the girls try Storybird for awhile and today was the day. I've used this site for a few years and have taught a creative writing class built around it. The reason I like it so much is that it spurs creativity and reverses the usual writing process. Usually when writing, the story is thought up first and then illustrated. This site pools collections from professional illustrators together and users select which illustrations they will use...and then craft their story from it. I love this idea and the illustrations are beautiful.
Part of the fun of working with these girls is trying new things and seeing how they'll do. I try not to give too many directions or parameters and I watch closely what their thought process is. We read a book I had written using this tool just to get them thinking. They then got started choosing their artwork and adding some text. Some got started right away, others struggled.
One girl kept asking me, "What do I write?" Staring at a blank page is hard for any of us. Part of the magic of today was watching them get going, glance at their neighbor's ideas, take the plunge and start to write. When it came time to wrap things up, most wanted to keep going. They were genuinely proud of their efforts and we high-fived on being published authors.
Here are their books. Not bad for a first draft in an hour's time!
Today was all about Stop Motion! I'm pretty sure this was a new concept for the girls. They've taken heaps of photos and videos using a device of some sort, but this is different.
To provide context, we discussed animation and how it used to be made using many different drawings, strewn together to depict motion. We then took photos and pieced them together to make movies. We made still things–solid things–move.
One of my goals with these girls is to foster their creative and innovative spirits. They are extremely bright and have many who care for them. I want to build on all of that and give them even more opportunity to think in ways they may not do very often. I brought a few piles of small objects (cubes, Jenga bricks, and Brain Flakes). I gave them a very short how-to on the Stop Motion app and showed them a few examples. Then I stood back while they tried, adjusted, and tried again.
Stop Motion takes patience, steadiness, and perseverance. It doesn't come together after just one try. One girl became frustrated, even bored, and asked to do something else. I encouraged her to keep trying and then she wouldn't stop. She got into it and changed the effects of her Jenga tower structure, background, and took great pride in her work.
That's what it's about.
Here are a few examples, made by them with very little help from me. I offered encouragement and later did a few minor technical edits before publishing. This work is theirs.
Watch all their videos here (they are super short and you can see their thought process evolve).
Today with the girls I focused on English language support. I knew they wouldn't jump up and down for joy – and they didn't – but they solidified some skills and had enough fun to press through.
I intended to use Duolingo, an engaging language support platform, and I created logins for each student, set them up as a class, and assigned certain tasks for them to complete. I figured it would either be too easy or hard but that we'd eventually find what was about right. Instead, due to complications I couldn't overcome in the moment (the text was in Hindi as they practiced their English, so I couldn't help them know where to click and navigate through lessons. Also, not all of them are fluent in Hindi and typing in Hindi text on the keyboard wasn't possible.) So, that was a bit of a bust. Hopefully next time I'll succeed at configuring it better or find a different tool.
We switched over to BrainPopESL. They each took a placement test and it walked them through appropriate lessons and videos accordingly. Even the older girls seemed engaged and in various vocabulary and grammar activities.
So, they made it through. With a few minutes left we practiced some typing and the older girls are all 20WPM or higher. I challenged them to try it without looking so much at their hands, but they are in a good spot.
Next up: hands-on, offline!
In Nepali, didi means older sister and is often used to describe one who works for you, one you respect, one who walks beside you on your journey. I work hard to bring teachers, parents, and students the best educational technology tools out there that educate, engage, and empower. Enjoy!