Home Math Tips: Charts and Tables

There’s nothing like keeping a good collection of charts and tables handy for learning math facts, practising skip counting, understanding positive and negative numbers with a number line, and other basic mathematical computations, as well as learning algebraic formulas, geometric shapes and more. There are lots of these charts and tables downloadable for free from the internet, and I’ve created a few, too, which you can download below 🙂

Skip counting and money-counting chart: skip counting chart Clip out the chart from each page and tape together into one long chart to practice skip counting by 1s (with pennies), 5s (with nickels), 10s (with dimes), 25s (with quarters) … up to 100!

Skip counting by 2s chart: skip count by 2s chart Clip out the chart from the two pages and tape together into a single chart. Skip count by odd numbers using the black numbers and skip count by even numbers using the red numbers. Up to 100!

Doubles addition tricks: doubles addition tricks Use this fun illustrated chart to memorise addition doubles up to 9 + 9

Addition chart up to 9+9=18: addition and subtraction chart Note that this “addition table” chart can be used for both addition and subtraction!

Multiplication chart up to 10×10=100: multiplication and division chart Note that this “times table” chart can be used for both multiplication and division!

100 chart: Google “100 charts” and you’ll find lots of free downloadable choices. You might want to look at several of them to pick the one(s) you’d find most useful!

Number lines: Google “number lines” and again, you’ll find lots of free downloadable choices. Look at several of them to pick the one(s) you’d find most useful. You might want to download one that just has positive numbers and one that has both positive and negative numbers. Also look for number lines with fractions and/or decimals.

Place value charts: Google “place value charts” and once more you’ll find lots of free downloadable choices. Look at several to pick the one(s) you’d find most useful. You might want to start with a simple hundreds/tens/one chart for your younger children and one with numbers up to a million (or more) for older children.

Other math charts: There are lots of other useful math charts and tables available. You can just Google “math charts” or you can look for specific charts such as geometric shape charts and geometric formula charts, weights and measurement charts, graph charts, math symbol charts, order of operations charts, number property charts, and much more. Whatever aspect of math your children are working on, there’s certain to be a great reference chart or table to help them understand the concepts and memorise the necessary facts.

Hope this has been helpful 🙂

More “Home Math Tips” posts:
Games and family fun
Charts and tables
Books and workbooks
Online sites
Tips for kinesthetic learners
Unit studies

Posted in math, math charts and tables downloadables, math facts, math games and activities, math manipulatives | Leave a comment

Home Math Tips: Manipulatives

Is your child (and maybe you, too) struggling with math? Time for manipulatives!

Why are manipulatives so awesome? Here are some reasons:

  • learn by doing
  • hands-on, kinesthetic learning
  • great for both individuals and small groups
  • explore, develop reasoning and problem-solving skills
  • understand concepts through manipulating them: learn abstract ideas through concrete representations
  • personalised, individualised ways of learning
  • create a positive learning environment–fun!

What are manipulatives? You might think of an abacus, plastic/paper money sets, tangram sets, Math U See blocks, dice, coins and bills, lego blocks and mega-blocks, analogue clocks, the 9 times multiplication facts finger method, beans or macaroni, and bundles of popsicle sticks. But there are so many more options…

Of course, you can go out and buy manipulatives. It’s quite the industry! It’s also expensive most of the time, so you might want to consider the free or low-cost alternatives below–but if you want to purchase them (or get ideas to create your own) here are a couple of sites you might want to check out:

So… Before you go out and empty your wallet (which would be too bad, because real coins and bills make great manipulatives for counting, math facts, handling money, learning to skip count [use pennies to count by 1s, nickels to count by 5s, dimes by 10s, quarters by 25s]….and they’re also fun to spend on things you really want instead of expensive plastic math manipulatives!), check around the house. You might be surprised how many math manipulatives you already have!

Start with the obvious math items: paper, pencils, graph paper, white board and erasable writers or blackboard and chalk, calculators, rulers (regular school ones, carpenters’ rulers out in the workshed, tape measures in mom’s sewing box…), sidewalk chalk…

Then start thinking about hands-on household items and activities that are lots of fun, are hands-on and kinesthetic: skip ropes and trampoline (for counting), home science experiments (especially “kitchen science” experiments like measuring and mixing vinegar and baking soda and then using the results to bake cakes or alternatively shoot off 2 litre pop bottle rockets or build volcanoes on the kitchen table…er… I mean, outside where it doesn’t matter if you make a mess), or practising fractions by dividing and eating pie), playing with measuring cups in the bathtub… well, you get the idea!

And then, of course, you can make your own math manipulatives:

  • Counting cans to drop items in as you count: recycled yogurt-style plastic containers or tin cans (make sure the edges aren’t sharp)
  • Square colour tiles: just use your lego type blocks, or go out and collect pebbles (different natural colours or can be painted), or you can check with craft or building supply stores for scrap mini-tiles
  • Snap cubes, math link cubes: lego-style and mega blocks
  • Sorting trays: recycled tinfoil pie plates, deli containers, etc. Use popsicle sticks or cardboard for dividers. Or use egg cartons or muffin pans or the containers for homemade popsicles!
  • Plastic animal-shape counters: use animal, fish, or other shaped crackers–and allow the kids to eat them as a reward for finishing their math. Or count real things: silverware (while setting the table), sock and other laundry sorting (counting by 1s and 2s, patterns, pairs…)
  • Plastic 2D geometric shapes: make your own with coloured paper, cardboard, etc. When the children measure, draw, and cut out their own shapes, they learn so much more about geometry than when they fill in mindless worksheets!
  • Plastic 3D geometric shapes: use items from around the house. Examples: for rectangular prisms, use books or cereal boxes. For cylinders use canned food tins or toilet paper rolls. For cones, use ice cream cones (then fill them with ice cream and eat them–you deserve it after a successful math lesson, right?). At building sites or furniture building shops, ask permission to dig through scrap piles for smaller wood scraps in different shapes.
  • Cuisenaire Rods or other base ten blocks: make your own using coloured paper or cardboard; or snap lego-style blocks together in groups of ones, tens, hundreds, etc.
  • Dot dice: borrow from your collection of table games. (Just remember to put them back or your next table game session will get off to a frustrating start!)
  • Number dice, number operations dice, picture dice: write numbers or operations or pictures on stickers on your kids’ wooden or plastic blocks (go to the dollar store and get those handy, cheap, round, coloured stickers meant for yard sales)
  • Real geometry: measure tents, TV screens, cupboards, mattresses, table tops…and build real things to learn to use geometry in real-life applications.
  • Fractions: use food! Increasing/decreasing recipes, cutting pies and fruit and cheese…and eat them, naturally.
  • Timers for learning to tell seconds, minutes, etc.: use the kitchen timer (even the one on the microwave)…and real analogue clocks on the wall, alarm clocks, wrist watches, etc. (If you’re afraid of breaking your household ones, get used ones cheap from the thrift store!).
  • Sand timers: Use the kitchen egg timer or boardgame timers (and yes, put them back right after, please).
  • Magnetic or foam numbers: make your own with cardboard, or foam from that old mattress or from the foam in the computer packing box, or better yet, make them with sandpaper: the texture makes them extra-kinesthetic!
  • Tangrams: Have your children make your own by cutting up coloured paper into shapes.
  • Place value mats, number line mats, etc.: make your own–or download free ones online.
  • Geoboards: Make your own with pegboard scraps, screws and nuts, and multi-colored elastic bands from the dollar store; or use a block of wood and nails and dollar store elastic bands (not sure what geoboards are, or how to use them? Check out: https://nrich.maths.org/10060
  • Plastic buttons for counting: raid Grandma’s button box!
  • Category sorting: Use ordinary household items; raid the toy box; go to yard sales or thrift stores and get bags of miscellaneous small toys to sort.

For excellent free PDFs on how to use different kinds of math manipulatives: http://www.edugains.ca/newsite/math/manipulative_use.html (The PDFs also include ones on how to use more advanced math manipulatives such as algebra tiles and a geometer’s sketchpad for the Pythagorean theorem. The site also has a 19-minute video on how to use hands-on manipulatives. Handy!)

What other tips do you have for using math manipulatives? Please share them in the comments. Thanks!

More “Home Math Tips” posts:
Games and family fun
Charts and tables
Books and workbooks
Online sites
Tips for kinesthetic learners
Unit studies

Posted in home learning, homeschooling, learning resources, math, math games and activities, math manipulatives, tutoring | Leave a comment

Home Math Tips: Games and Family Fun

There is quite an industry out there offering “math learning games” — and charging quite extravagant rates for many of their offerings. While some of the games are quite useful, before you empty your bank account here are some suggestions for low-cost or free alternatives.

Card Games:
An ordinary set of playing cards (available at your local dollar store, or more likely already in a drawer in your house) can provide hours of math-related learning fun. Old-fashioned games like “crazy 8s” or “concentration” or “go fish” or “snap” are a good place to start. These simple games build skills such as focus and concentration, number recognition, number patterns, matching, math facts, strategy, score keeping, and even help develop your child’s fine motor skills and memory skills. Good instructions for some of these games can be found at kidspot.com  or at thespruce.com  For more ideas, google “card games for kids.”

You can of course also purchase card games like UNO or Old Maid or Multiplication War, which are also often available at your dollar store or local thrift store.

Dice can also be used in similar ways to cards. You can google “dice games for math” or “dice games for kids” to get loads of great ideas. If you do want to buy an excellent guide to math-centered dice games (and the dice and cards to go with them), I suggest the Shuffling Into Math set.

Flash Cards:
Every dollar store carries a wide selection of math flash cards for math facts like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division (or you can even make your own with index cards). If your child isn’t enthusiastic with ordinary flashcards, lots of them are available with themes such as “Disney Princesses” or “Superheroes” which may make them more appealing. There are also flash card sets for math skills such as telling time, counting money, and number words (one, two, three…first, second, third…). Besides using these sets simply as flash cards, you can also use them for many of the childhood card games listed above in the card game section.

Table Games:
While there are many table games made specifically for practising math skills, you might be surprised to find that you have lots of “math table games” around your house already–or check with the grandparents or the used games section at the thrift store.

  • Dominoes are great for counting, matching, adding or subtracting or multiplying (and lining them up on edge, and sending them flying with a gentle push from one end–a fun reward after the “math” time); there are also “triomino” versions and even “Winnie the Pooh” versions.
  • Yahtzee provides lots of practice with addition and multiplication, as well as strategy and patterning.
  • Snakes and Ladders is a perennial favourite, helping with counting and with good sportsmanship skills when those snakes get in the way!
  • Tile rummy style games are great for pattern recognition (both numbers and colours) and strategy–and offer a challenge to all ages of family members and friends.
  • Bingo is a great way to practice quick number recognition; specific versions are also available for practice of math facts, such as multiplication bingo–or you can use an ordinary bingo set and, instead of saying the number, turn it into an equation–for example, instead of saying, “Under the B–5, you could say, under the B–3 plus 2.”
  • Games like “Clue” or “Parcheesi” or other games that involve rolling dice and moving around the game board are great for practising counting and adding (if you use 2 or 3 dice).
  • Monopoly-style games involve money skills, counting, and addition.
  • Some table games require filling in charts.

And while you’re playing these table games, many of them also develop reading and writing skills as well as math skills, not to mention developing good sportsmanship and having family fun.

Online games:
Many websites offer great math skills video games for free. Try out different ones and see which of them your kids enjoy; watch out for the variety of skills each game develops. Some sites with good online games (and there are many more) include:

Outdoor children’s games:
Lots of common outdoor kids games are great opportunities for practising math skills and provide physical activities for kids who learn kinesthetically. “Mother, May I?”  is good practice for counting (up to 10 or so). Running races provide opportunities for measuring distances and clocking and comparing times. Hopscotch can involve counting squares while jumping; skipping, bouncing balls, and other similar activities are also great as opportunities to count (try skip-counting, too). Toss balls and measure distances. There are so many options–involve your children in coming up with ideas!

Sports and other activities:
Involving your child in sports is a great way to develop math skills–whether the child is participating or watching. Learning strategies, keeping score, measuring and marking lines for the games, keeping track of percentages of wins and losses, determining probabilities of which team might win… sports are full of mathematical possibilities!

Math is also involved in lots of other outdoor activities. Trips to the local pond or walks through the woods can involve record-keeping of the number of turtles sunning on a log, or the number of species of birds in the trees. Record the temperature at different times of days and graph it, along with recording other weather phenomena. Combine your outdoor science, social studies, language arts and math in all your outdoor activities! Plan and set up your garden beds or plan to landscape your yard (A great “backyard mapping” activity is found at the Canadian Wildlife Federation site )

Planning a family vacation or just driving around town? Map reading is a great way to use math skills–determine distances, learn to use map charts, learn to use mapping scales, develop navigation skills, compare the distances of different routes. On road trips, keep track of speed zones for the driver, watch for distance signs and determine how far you’ve already travelled (knowing the total distance to start), play “I Spy” (“I spy [number] of [description of thing”]. Record licence plate numbers (and provinces/states) and make a chart of given items (such as stop signs and gas stations) and record “how many.” Play “I Spy” (“I spy [number] of [describe item]”).

“Real Life” Math:
Probably the best way to encourage and help children who are struggling with math is to present it to them in practical, “real life” situations. Does your child have a passion or deep interest in a topic or activity? Keep an eye out for all the possible ways that math is involved with that interest, and do “hands-on” math instead of focusing on math textbooks or workbooks (refer to them for ideas of different math aspects). A love of building with Lego blocks, for example, can involve counting, sorting, patterning, math facts memorization, geometry (perimeter, area, etc.), physics (with electronic Lego components), percentages, fractions and decimals, and much more. What could an interest in baseball or remote control toys or cooking or coding or solving mysteries lead to, math-wise? Be imaginative!

Also, look for math in the world around you. Such simple, everyday activities as setting the table, baking, turning on the thermostat or checking the thermometer, telling time (digital and analogue), keeping track of your favourite sports team, using the calendar and so on, all involve practical, hands-on math. Make it a “game” for the whole family to spot ways math is used every day–and then dive in and take advantage of those opportunities to learn math in fun, practical ways.

Share your ideas:
What other games and fun family activities can you think of that encourage and develop math learning and skills? Please share them in the comments! Thank you!

“Home Math Tips” posts:
Games and family fun
Charts and tables
Books and workbooks
Online sites
Tips for kinesthetic learners
Unit studies


Posted in learning games, learning resources, math, math facts, math games and activities, passions and interests | Leave a comment

Tons of Tutoring Tips and Topics

Do you have questions about getting a tutor for your child (or yourself)? Such as … Can tutoring help your child (and you as a parent)? Is it affordable? Is it worth it? What is it all about? How does it work? How can you find a tutor who will focus on your child’s particular needs? Or do you wonder if you are capable of tutoring your child at home? (Yes, you can–and this site also provides lots of specific, practical, easy advice!)

If you’ve had questions like this, you’ve come to the right place! This site features tons of tutoring tips and topics–about traditional tutoring, and parent-tutoring at home–that will answer all your questions. You can find a detailed list and links to all the posts on the tutoring topics page–but here’s a quick overview!

First, this site features posts directly related to the topic of tutoring:

  • Who needs tutors and why–school children, homeschooled children, college and university students, adults
  • How to choose the right tutor–tutoring purposes, your tutoring needs, how to hire a tutor, tutoring locations, tutoring alternatives, types of tutors
  • Meeting with a potential tutor–what to expect, questions to ask, tutor-client agreements
  • What happens at tutoring sessions
  • Individualised tutoring–tutor qualifications and experience, how tutors plan individualised programs and sessions, learning styles, student progress and learning support
  • Tutoring for adult learners
  • Tutoring costs–different rates and why qualified tutors charge what they do, private tutors vs tutoring companies, alternatives
  • Tutor characteristics–and why you need to consider them in choosing a tutor
  • Supplies you need–for tutoring sessions and for tutoring back-up at home
  • Goal-setting for your child’s learning–for tutoring, homeschooling, homework help, and for life-long learning
  • Tutor-learner relationships and the learning team–tutors, teachers, parents, and other learning helpers
  • Why children need tutors–featuring a real conversation between a tutor and a grade four student
  • How I as a tutor can help you–information on my tutoring services and availability

Second, this site contains many posts giving easy, practical advice on how parents can be excellent tutors for their children at home:

  • Using phonics and other methods to help your child read: using word chunks to sound out words, using rhyme to learn sounds, short vowel sound tips, learning letters and sounds, spelling tips, sight word tips, using word families for reading and spelling, sounds spelled in a variety of way, how to read difficult words, long vowel sound tips, blended sounds and multi-syllabic words, word endings, blends and digraphs, punctuation tips
  • Using children’s’ books to help you child read better: read and do, Scooby Doo books, book reading for young readers, how to discuss picture book stories with your child, nursery rhymes, learning with songs and poetry, learning themes based on favourite children’s books and series
  • Fun activities to encourage reading: children’s book creating and journaling, learning games, creative memory tricks for sounds and letters, following your child’s passions and interests
  • Thoughts about using workbooks and worksheets
  • Learning together with other children
  • Some specific reading problems: handwriting tips, letter confusion, solutions for “tracking” difficulties when reading, speech issues, copy work
  • Exam study tips and memory tips
  • A full series of posts on “How to be a Great Parent-Tutor” — for both homeschool parents and parents of school children: why children need parent-tutors, important activities parent-tutors can do well, building good parent-tutor and child relationships, learning styles/intelligences/behaviours, developing individualised tutoring, monitoring your child’s progress, some basic learning goals, home tutoring resources, tutoring sessions at home, a focus on primary grades, a focus on intermediate grades, when to hire a tutor, tutor costs–and alternatives, all kinds of learning activities you can do at home
  • Tips for when children (and adults too) “hate reading”: modeling reading and read-aloud, distractions and health issues, negative influences and reading as a chore, poor methods of teaching reading, lack of reading materials and negative attitudes, dyslexia and other learning differences, practical tips to encourage reading

Third, this site contains lots of original, free downloadable materials:

  • For a full list of free downloadable materials, including topics related to learning activities, math, French, English language arts, children’s books, and more, go to this page: Freebies.

We’re also adding new topics on this site:

  • Tips for children with special needs: activities and resources for children with perceptual issues
  • Math tips: (coming soon)

And finally, we’ve created lots of super-useful booklets and learning themes–for Free or Low-Cost:

You will also find lots of great lessons and lesson plans at my store at Teachers Pay Teachers. There are booklets on learning math facts, memory and learning strategies, handwriting tips, tongue twisters to help with speech, book reports, homonyms, reading and writing activities, as well as lesson plans for Learning Themes based on favourite children’s book series.

Learn more about my tutoring services and workshops:

You can also find out more about my tutoring services here and my workshops here. 

What topics would you like to see covered on this site? Please share your requests in the comments of this post–or contact me

Thank you!


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Activities and Resources for Children with Perceptual Issues

Does your child have perceptual issues? Are you looking for ideas for activities and resources? Here are some solutions I have used successfully with tutoring students, both those who attend school and those who are homeschooled. Lots of them are very inexpensive, or you can even make your own. Having your child help make them is also helpful for the child’s skill development.

  • Old Maid and other matching card games. There are also matching card games such as for Disney’s Princesses or for Superheroes and such. They cost a little more, but for some children they may prove very motivating.
  • EZ as ABC and similar matching puzzles  (useful for both visual perception and matching letter names with sounds–letters on one side of the puzzle pieces, matching picture on opposite side)
  • Alphabet Train and similar alphabet puzzles – large size puzzle pieces allow children to handle them with their hands and walk on and feel them with their feet while looking at the large letters and saying the letter, sound, and word. Some also include the “ABC song” which children can listen to and sing along with while walking letter to letter.
  • Whiteboard and large erasable markers: allow children to see and write in large size and with various colours
  • Recipe For Reading – a phonics program that has been around for a long time, and has proved its worth for children who are having difficulty reading. While you can purchase lots of “extras” (cards, workbooks, storybooks, etc.), the manual is inexpensive and provides all the information you need. You can easily create your own cards–having your child help create the cards may even be more effective 🙂
  • I must say, though, that the Recipe For Reading Alphabet Stories are often very helpful for children with perceptual (and other) difficulties! And they enjoy them! You can also get a CD that goes with them, so they can listen and read along.
  • Magnetic letters – to learn letters and make words. You can often purchase very inexpensive sets from a dollar store–but try to get sets with both uppercase and lowercase letters. Alternatively, you may find sets of foam letters or cardboard letters. You could also cut out letters from pieces of sandpaper. The goal is to have letters your child can feel as well as see. Your child can close his or her eyes, feel the letter, name it, say its sound, give an action word (verb) and a naming word (noun) that have that letter and sound, and even make sentences and stories that use those sounds and words.
  • Basic Sight Word cards. While you can purchase these kinds of cards, you can easily make your own, using Dolch word lists. If possible, have your child help make the cards. You can write the words lightly, and your child can trace them and say them–say the letters and then the word.
  • Animals of All Kinds flash cards are motivating for children who have a a special interest in animals–the pictures match the names of the animals, helping children to see how letters match with sounds.
  • For math practice, you can, of course, get number flash cards, addition and subtraction flash cards, and so on–very inexpensively at dollar stores, thrift stores and yard sales!
  • You can also get magnetic (or foam or cardboard) numbers, or make sandpaper ones, and use them in a similar way to letters, as above. Again, “feel” is often more effective than sight for children with perceptual issues.
  • Children with perceptual issues often have difficulty writing both standard manuscript letters and cursive letters. But they may find it easier to use D’Nealian letters, which are a “mid-way” between standard manuscript and cursive. While you can purchase workbooks, there are also many free options online, including ones you can customise to suit your child’s needs and interests.
  • You might want to check out my Easy to Learn series of booklets, ranging in price from free to $1 or $2. You can get them at my store at TeachersPayTeachers.com. I originally created them for a student with perceptual issues (though they’re useful for all kinds of kids, as they provide many alternative and practical ways of learning). They cover all kinds of topics, including math, reading, writing, memory, tongue twisters, book reports, and much more. You’ll also find lots of different “Learning Themes” based on popular children’s books, series, films, and so on, which you may find very helpful and motivational to children who love the particular themes.
  • Children with perceptual difficulties often find it difficult to follow written directions. A workbook that I have found very helpful is Reading Comprehension Following Directions from Frank Schaffer Publications, though you can also find other worksheets and workbooks online as well.
  • Children seem to love playing Bingo. And there are many forms of bingo available–alphabet bingo, number bingo, multiplication bingo, addition bingo, and more. Check out game sections in thrift stores or at yard sales for some great deals!
  • Puppets can be very helpful for children with perceptual issues. For example, using animal puppets, you can discuss the animals, and then your children can put animal puppets on their hands and “be that animal,” using the animal voice, acting like the animal, making up stories involving the animal, creating plays and so on. This is a great activity to do with a group of children; those with perceptual or other learning difficulties will feel “equal” to their peers who don’t have these kinds of difficulties.
  • Helping Children Overcome Learning Disabilities (by Jerome Rosner) is a classic and very practical handbook. It shows you how to test your child’s visual analysis skills, using dot matrices, then interpret the test results, and finally, it provides lots of visual perceptual skill exercises using a geoboard–which most kids love doing (and it’s easy to create your own Geoboard)! It also shows you how to test your child’s auditory analysis skills very simply by having the child repeat certain words after you and then change the word slightly; then helps you interpret the test results, and finally, it provides lots of simple and fun auditory perceptual exercises–which children enjoy as well. The manual also teaches you to apply the child’s perceptual skill learning to reading, spelling, handwriting, and arithmetic. It also includes excellent decoding activities using many common decoding units (at/om/em/etc.)–which is also useful for children who are having difficulty with reading multi-syllable words.
  • Table games are always popular with children, and are a great “break” and/or “reward” along with more formal learning activities. Games which are fun–but also have good learning aspects (don’t tell them!)– include UpWords, Jr. Boggle, Jr. Scrabble, Snakes and Ladders, Battleship, Yahtzee, dominoes and so on. Some children also really enjoy the Brain Quest Trivia Questions card series–start with the Kindergarten and Grade 1 levels and work up. They are often available at thrift stores and yard sales. Children who are having difficulty learning to read and write can still feel really great about how many of the trivia questions they can answers. (There are also related workbooks and apps).
  • The rhythm and rhyme of poetry can be really helpful for children struggling with perceptual issues, as they can “hear” –and easily learn, even memorize”– poems and song lyrics. If the poetry also relates to a child’s life and thoughts, all the better. And if the poems are available as manuscript and cursive worksheets which the child can trace and/or copy–wonderful! I highly recommend the set of R.L. Stevenson “A Child’s Garden of Verses” handwriting sheets from printnpractice.com. While you’re at it, be sure to check out all their other worksheets! This site is a goldmine–math, phonics, grammar, spelling, handwriting, colouring pages–they have them all!
  • Keeping with the theme of rhyme and rhythm, there are lots of books with CDs which feature songs that children can sing along with to learn all their different math facts, such as this times tables book.
  • Children with perceptual issues may have difficulties with reading and writing and even auditory issues–but they often have developed the ability to memorize easily and enjoy hands-on activities–so drama is a great activity to try. Lots of favourite children’s stories (like The Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Three Little Pigs, and so on) have been re-written as plays for children, or you can create your own plays–or best, read a story to your children so they really “get” it, and then have them turn it into a dramatic production. The more familiar they become with it, the more likely they will want to read the story for themselves–and many of these stories have been written in multiple versions over time, and children enjoy reading through the different versions for ideas to improve upon their play!
  • A popular learning tool with pretty much all my students has been the Discovery Toys “Think It Through Match Mates” sets, which cover various math concepts, reading, and more, ranging from very simple to more complex levels–and including very useful perceptual activities. Another item you can often find at yard sales and thrift stores!
  • All children seem to love electronic learning games. There are so many free apps with all kinds of “flash cards” and many other fun learning games. They make a wonderful reward or break time activity … and you’ll rarely have trouble convincing them to do “homework” or “practice” in video game/apps formats.
  • Touch Math can be a good option for children struggling with math–addition and subtraction especially. It is a semi-kinesthetic approach which can be a useful method for children with visual perceptual difficulties. For that matter, any child having difficulty memorizing those math facts will find this useful! The Touch Math website has a variety of worksheets from their workbooks that you can print out and try with your child for free–well worth experimenting with, and purchasing if it works for your child.
  • Cat’s Cradle is a traditional child’s game which can be very helpful for children with perceptual difficulties, helping them to learn to focus visually. If you don’t remember how to do it from your own childhood, just google “cat’s cradle game” and you’ll find all kinds of instructions–written and videos. There are even some great books out there that explain it clearly. Definitely an activity the whole family can enjoy together!
  • Sometimes the excitement of being a “published author” can be really motivating for a child struggling with perceptual (and other) issues. Go out into your neighbourhood or to a park or other interesting place–or even go on vacation–and have your child gather materials to prepare their own simple website. Encourage your child to take photographs or video, write down words they want to remember, even tape record them saying what they want to remember. If you go to an “attraction” like an amusement park or museum, collect brochures and other materials the child can read and home, and use for spelling and writing. Back home, help your child create a webpage of those adventures. Actually, your children might end up teaching you how! Kids love technology and it can be a great way for them to develop their skills.
  • Writing postcards or creating colourful greeting cards to send to grandparents, friends, and penpals require only a few written words but are very motivating for children who are struggling with perceptual issues–especially when they receive return “snail mail” from the people they’ve written too (ask people to print clearly so the child can read the return mail easily). Alternatively, find someone willing to email back and forth with the child!
  • A useful exercise for children with visual perception difficulties is to practice making 2D representations of simple 3D shaped items (books, cubes, kleenex or cereal boxes, etc.). As their ability improves, start introducing items with slightly more complex shapes.
  • Use topics the child is especially interested in–when a child is really “into” a certain topic, he or she will be much more motivated to read, write and listen. A topic like “superheroes” can involve a wide variety of experiences (physics, costume-making, story-writing and reading, creating comics, writing film reviews, creating and playing games, and on it goes!).
  • Encourage “freewriting” — for every story you want the child to “write correctly,” give them freedom to write and illustrate stories any way they want, without checking or correcting it. Same with reading–let the child have plenty of opportunity to choose and read whatever he or she wants, even if it seems too easy, or silly–or even too difficult. Also be willing to take dictation when your child wants to create a story or poem. Print clearly in large letters so your child can read it, and even copy or trace it–but don’t insist on that. Interviews can also be fun.
  • Books that teach basic drawing and cartooning skills can be very helpful for children with visual perception difficulties. Let them choose ones that focus on something they are interested in–animals, popular cartoon characters, princesses, superheroes, or whatever. Even if it seems like it might be too difficult, let them try. They can always trace the ones in the book to start with, and then try to copy, and finally develop their own illustrations–and it’s a great way to work with visual perception and to develop fine motor and handwriting skills.
  • Wipe-off books (with erasable markers), such as Easy Wipe Off Cursive Writing, can be a real help as children can easily “erase” their work and do it over and over until they get it “right.” When a child finally gets a page to a stage that they are proud of, photograph it and post it up for them to admire and be proud of.
  • There are a variety of workbooks especially designed for children with perceptual issues, such as this “Level 1 Perceptual Activities” and there are websites with downloadable worksheets such as edHelper.com’s Visual Perceptual Skills worksheets. Just google “visual perceptual skills worksheets” or “auditory perceptual skills worksheets.”
  • Dot to dot worksheets and workbooks can be a lot of fun and also can be helpful for children with visual perceptual difficulties. Start with very simple dot to dots, and work up to more complex ones.

I hope this has been helpful for you! Do you have other tips for helping out children with visual or auditory perceptual issues? Please share them in the comments! Thanks!

(If you live in the Penticton, BC area, and would like some assistance in helping your child, or some tutoring, check out my tutoring services page.


Posted in alphabet, homeschooling, learning differences/disabilities, learning resources, learning tips, passions and interests, perceptual issues, printing and handwriting, reading, rhymes | Leave a comment

Practical Tips to Encourage Reading

This is the final post (#7) in the series “When Children–and Adults Too–Hate Reading”

Here are a whole selection of practical tips to convert reluctant or even “hating” readers to people who love reading. Pick a few that you think might work for you and your family and get started–today!

  • Listen to a story, then retell it to someone in your own words–and dictate it to someone who can write it down for you (or use a software voice dictation program) and then read it. Or just make up your own story, and dictate it (or write or type it, if you like) and then read it, and even illustrate and publish it.
  • Think about reading in different ways. Literal reading is just reading what is on the page (and retelling it just as it is). Inferential reading is like “reading between the lines” and trying to think about what else the writer is saying or what the underlying message is, besides the actual words. Comprehension is “thinking about it”, deciding if you agree or not and why, and figuring out how you can apply it or compare it to your own life. When you’re reading with your children, use all these methods as you read to your child and/or listen to them read, and then discuss the reading at these different levels.
  • After reading (or listening, or watching a show, or playing a game, or just thinking about or discussing something), read and research to find out answers to questions you have about the topic.
  • Try different read-aloud methods: simple reading aloud, taking turns; echo reading (you read a short section aloud, then the child reads after you); unison reading (read aloud together); reader’s theatre (especially useful in stories with dialogue: each reader takes the part of a different character and reads the section like a live theatre production; one person can be the “narrator” for the non-dialogue parts. Reading short plays can also be fun like this).
  • When you’re traveling somewhere new, use “Google Map” (or an ordinary paper map) to get directions, and be the co-pilot or navigator, reading and giving the directions to the driver.
  • Read and follow instructions for making things, putting things together, repairing things, etc.
  • Some children (and adults!) find charts and graphs very interesting. Math and science books and materials are packed with these. Use them as a motivation to further reading.
  • Some early-reader books have a “children’s line” at the top of the page with simple reading, and a more detailed part at the bottom for a more advanced reader to read. When early readers hear the “adult” parts, they pick up more and more words and are soon able to read both parts. Then they can read the “adult” parts to younger siblings and help them read the “child” parts.
  • Hire an experienced tutor to teach reading skills to your child–or to teach you how to teach reading skills to your child. Also get to know your child’s teacher, ask for advice on what you can do at home, and if possible, sit in on a few reading lessons in your child’s classroom to pick up ideas. Learn about whole reading, phonics, and other approaches to reading, and experiment to see what works for your child (and you).
  • Lots and lots and lots of family discussion around the dinner table! For a lot of families, this is a “lost art” but it really is one you need to find and use! Discuss all kinds of topics of interest to each family member–and then if questions come up, run to the bookshelf or the internet, and search for answers. Of course, include everyone in the search. These kinds of discussions not only create readers, but they also are a perfect way to create people who are thoughtful, adventurous, life-long learners who want to seek out knowledge and travel the world and the universe, whether in “real” ways or from the comfort of their favourite reading chair!
  • Biographies of people that are of interest to your children can be a great way to encourage reading. Let the children initially choose their own characters/people, but as time goes by, you can read biographies of people you’d like your children to know about, and as they see you reading, and hear you read aloud choice bits and pieces from the book (or magazine article or blog post or whatever), they’re likely to want to dig in and read more themselves.
  • Create stories together (sentence by sentence or paragraph by paragraph), record them, and then read them. Illustrate and share/publish, too!
  • Allow hesitant readers to read a selection silently (or aloud to themselves) first, then read it aloud to one other person they feel comfortable with, and then to a small group. Practice makes perfect, and this method allows them to learn to read aloud without worrying about being embarrassed by their mistakes.
  • After reading together, have interesting discussions about what was read. Especially compare the reading to your child’s own life experiences and knowledge. Make it personal and real. If the child has learned how to do something, and would like to try it, if possible find a way to make that happen.
  • Listen to taped stories and novels, while reading along. A great way to learn new vocabulary and learn to read with expression.
  • Also watch movies or play video games that have been made from the story. (Or vice versa). Discuss how the book/story and movie compare. What is similar? Different? Which is better–the book or the movie? Which came first? Why is one better than the other? What has been left out or added? Why do you think that was done?
  • When planning for your next family vacation, order brochures from Chambers of Commerce or government or other tourism groups in the area you plan to visit. Encourage your children (or non-reading adults) to look at and read the brochures, and plan the vacation together. Encourage them to find out more on websites, or from books and materials at the library or documentaries or videos. When you go on the vacation, take along the brochures and along the way pick up more brochures, postcards, receipts, tickets, etc., and take photos. Take along scrapbooks, and have the children make their own records of the vacation, cutting out and glueing from the brochures and other items, and writing in family activities and events. Encourage the children, on return, to share their stories with grandparents, other relatives, friends, and classmates, reading aloud to them, answering questions, etc. Remember, reading and writing and speaking and listening are like peas and carrots and corn and beans–they all go together.
  • Involve your children in activities that involve reading–clubs and lessons, church/temple, Sunday School, choir, singing lessons, sports in which the coach includes “blackboard time,” and so on.
  • Poetry is often a great way to interest children who are reluctant readers. Start with fun and simple poems like nursery rhymes and limericks. At first, stick to poetry that tells a simple story. For some children, the rhyme and rhythm and quick, short stories really make reading fun and easy. Encourage them to memorize short pieces, and then, even if they can’t read all the words, they can still “read” them to younger children or other audiences. If they have trouble memorizing, choose ones with tunes to sing or chant, like “Three Blind Mice” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Sunday-school songs and campfire songs (such as are sung at groups like Scouts and Guides) are also a great way for children to learn to read (and memorize), and for active children, choose ones that have “actions” (My kids and grandkids have all loved “Only a boy named David, only a little sling…” and “The wise man build his house upon a rock”).
  • Reading time with special adults in a child’s life, such as grandparents, or aunts or uncles, or even a “big teenage cousin” or favourite neighbour can be very motivating. It makes reading a “treat.”
  • Encourage hesitant readers to read aloud initially to a pet or a stuffy (or a human they really trust). Then to younger siblings or friends who admire a “big kid who can already read” even if the reading isn’t totally fluent. Then to parents and other trustworthy adults. And finally to reading groups in school, etc. If your child is really terrified of “group reading” in the classroom, have a discussion with your child’s teacher, explain what you are doing at home, and ask the teacher to allow your child to just listen until he or she is ready to read aloud in the class. If the teacher insists that some classroom read-aloud MUST be done, ask if your child can read to their best friend in the class, or to the teacher or teacher assistant, or a kindly adult volunteer in a quiet corner, or perhaps in the library or an office space. Also see if the child can take part in “One to One Reading” or other similar programs with trained volunteers–these can be wonderful confidence and skill builders.
  • When the child starts getting “antsy” while reading, change activities. Perhaps play a game of “hangman” or a flashcard game with “sight word” cards. Stop reading words, and look at and discuss pictures.
  • Prepare the child for reading by looking at and discussing front and back covers of the book, reading about the author, looking at the pictures in the book, thinking about what might “happen next” and so on. You might also look through the book yourself, ahead of time, and pick out words you know your child will struggle with, and introduce them before the reading. And of course, always find ways for the child to relate the story or subject matter to his/her own life experiences, knowledge, and interests.
  • Talk about “What I want to do when I grow up” with your child. Get books from the library that talk about that job, or even better, arrange for someone you know who does that job to talk to your child about it (and even allow the child to job-shadow for half an hour or so, if possible). Discuss (and let the child “see”) how important reading is to the job(s) and/or future educational opportunities your child is interested in.
  • Think “outside the box” when searching for reading materials your child might enjoy. Christmas catalogues are almost always of interest! Comics, how-tos, brochures from hockey games or other activities can be of great interest to many children who otherwise seem to “hate reading.” Gradually expand their reading materials, following their interests and passions into a broad variety of subject areas. For example, a child who loves the “chemistry kit” they got for a birthday gift (or the baking soda and vinegar experiment in science), can expand their related interests into mathematics, broader chemistry, biology, cooking and baking, history and cultures, technology, geography, and on and on. And of course novels that involve chemistry in some way!
  • Play table games, like Monopoly, that require reading. (And for kids who dislike math, play table games like Snakes and Ladders or Tile Rummy that require counting).
  • Help your child find a penpal (or 2 or 3) from different places. Kids who won’t read much else are eager to read letters from others their age who live in different places and have different kinds of lives. Also encourage grandparents and others to write letters to the grandkids. Note: There is something especially wonderful about snail mail; just remind adults to write in manuscript rather than cursive to children who haven’t yet learned cursive. Oh! On the topic of snail mail, encourage your children to send away for written materials like brochures, etc. Snail mail is so exciting for children who get very little of it! And encourage them to enter stories or drawings to children’s magazines that have those spaces; some local newspapers also have children’s spaces, and some schools “publish” writing and illustrations by the students. Children get so excited when they see their work in print (even in a simple newsletter) and are apt to want to read what the other children wrote … and then look beyond to see what else is in there.
  • For homeschoolers, get involved with your local homeschool support groups. Give your children opportunities to see other children reading, and do activities and lessons together that involve reading. Learn from each other.
  • Have books and other reading materials all over your home, in locations that are at eye level for your children–bedside tables, child-sized bookcases in play areas, a bookcase outdoors in the playhouse or tree fort, in the back seat of the car … and in places where distractions lie! Place really interesting reading materials on top of or beside the TV, computer, etc.! Distract the kids (and adults) from the electronics by providing awesome reading instead.

Do you have tips or anecdotes related to encouraging non-readers to become avid readers? We’d love to have you share them in the comments! Thank you!

Check out all the posts in this series, “When Children–and Adults Too–Hate Reading”:

Model Reading and Read Aloud
Distractions and Health Issues
Negative Influences and Reading as a Chore
Poor Methods of Teaching Reading
Lack of Reading Materials and Negative Attitudes
Dyslexia and Other Learning Differences
Practical Tips to Encourage Reading

Posted in family learning, life-long learning, parent-tutoring, reading | Leave a comment

Dyslexia and Other Learning Differences

This is post #6 in the series “When Children–and Adults Too–Hate Reading”

Dyslexia and other learning differences:
If all the reading issues and/or methods we’ve discussed in our previous posts in this series (see links at the end of this post) don’t seem to be working, it is possible that your child (or yourself or another adult in the family) who “hates reading” does have a “learning difference” (aka “learning disability”) such as dyslexia.

In the past 40 to 50 years, huge progress has been made in developing methods that help people to learn to read, using alternative approaches that work with individual learning styles and challenges. You can access diagnosis and help through school programs (though sometimes this involves quite long waiting times) or from private professionals such as child psychologists (though costly, this is an important investment, and be sure to check any “medical insurance” coverage your employer or other insurance provider offers. There are insurances that do cover this kind of testing, and you may not even realise you have this coverage. Check it out!).

You can also get help from community groups and from college students who are learning these skills and are looking for youngsters (or adults) to practice with, and from private tutors. Teachers are often available at lunch time or before and after school to provide extra help.

There are also lots of practical books and online materials available, and parents can get great ideas with a little research.

Finally, consider, as a parent, getting some tutoring from a qualified tutor on how to help your child read, and then use what you’ve learned to work with your children (or even with other adults in your family). Some schools and/or college extended learning programs also offer workshops on these topics. Or, of course, you can sign up your child to get tutoring directly from a tutor with training and experience in dealing with dyslexia and other learning differences; you might also ask to “sit in” on some of the tutoring sessions so you can learn how to continue to work with your child at home between lessons.

Do you have tips or anecdotes related to encouraging non-readers to become avid readers? We’d love to have you share them in the comments! Thank you!

Check out all the posts in this series, “When Children–and Adults Too–Hate Reading”:

Model Reading and Read Aloud
Distractions and Health Issues
Negative Influences and Reading as a Chore
Poor Methods of Teaching Reading
Lack of Reading Materials and Negative Attitudes
Dyslexia and Other Learning Differences
Practical Tips to Encourage Reading

Posted in family learning, learning differences/disabilities, learning resources, reading, tutoring | Leave a comment