The Magic Number 5

Okay I am going to say it…I really don’t like kids. I know that sounds bad, but let me explain. I love children. I love to watch them grow and learn. I have the ability to understand how their little brains work and to help them sense of things. They have awesome cuddles and sometimes they can be so irresistible. But I cannot stand whining, crying, temper tantrums, snot, motor mouths, and kids who ask questions faster than you can answer them for no reason. And in the spirit of going back to school for all of you moms who are thinking the same thing I just said, this post is about educating our little…angels.

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I get a lot of questions about education and how to teach kids certain things. My students’ parents always call me to ask me homework questions even when their child is not in my class. I find this interesting since I’ve been known as Ms. Cutthroat instead of Ms. Cutno. Obviously, I am not always their favorite teacher, but I know how to get the job done. Don’t know why they would be afraid of somebody who isn’t even 5 feet tall anyway (hehe).

So anyway, if you have a little one at home, this may help you. It is never too late to make sure your child has grasped these key things. I call it The Magic Number 5.

1. THE ALPHABET: Your child should understand that the alphabet consists of 26 letters. They should know how to identify and write all of them. Teach them the sounds of each. They should be able to identify the sounds as quickly as they can identify the letters. From there, they should know how to put multiple sounds together. In education, we call these chunks and blends and word families. There are tons of activities for these things all over the internet and Pinterest. My son loves Super Why, which is a cartoon that teaches all of these skills to help children read. Another good resource is Starfall. It is a website and an app. Every pre-k and kindergarten teacher uses this site.

2. SIGHT WORDS: So important! Introducing kids to these early is helpful. These are words that can be read from memorization. These words are the most commonly used. If your child is having difficulty learning phonics, teaching them to recognize these words can give them confidence when reading. At least there are some guaranteed words on a page that they can read. These too can be found all over the internet and are listed by grade. Don’t limit your child to the age appropriate words. It’s never too early to teach these. I used to give grades for being able to identify these words orally. It was a good way to boost students grades when I was forced to use other stupid assessments I didn’t agree with. There is an app called Endless Reader that my son loves, but beware because the characters on this game are completely crazy monsters who have my child acting like he is on a constant sugar high. Another app that is great is simply called Sight Words. It has great games that kids like, too.

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3. NUMBERS: Like the alphabet this has to be taught with fidelity. Some kids are better at math than reading and will grasp this quickly, but others wont. Teach your child the basic numerals 0-9. Have them practice counting and writing numbers. Count by two’s, three’s, etc. Use things to count like coins, beans, candy, toys or anything you have around the house. Do activities like grab a handful of an object and guess how many you have then count them. Count from any number. Children need to be able to continue counting from any number. Ask questions like what number comes before 5 and after 5. Number sense is sooooo important. Kids can’t begin to add and subtract numbers until they truly understand value. And without knowing value a calculator is a useless tool.  Exactly how much is 5? It is more than 3 but a lot less than 100. Endless Numbers is another one of those monster apps that is great.

4. MENTAL MATH and OPERATIONS: Once a child masters number sense, they will be great at mental math. I have seen so many kids struggle with counting on their fingers (and adults). One thing I do agree with Common Core on is teaching kids strategies to be able to quickly compute. Children should be able to quickly add and subtract numbers in their heads. There are many activities you can do with dice and playing cards. You can find these on Pinterest.

You can’t really find the answers to a math problem unless you understand what the operations mean. You would be surprised how many kids can’t express what it means to add, subtract, multiply, or divide. If you don’t understand this when you leave elementary school you are screwed when you get to algebra.

5. BRAINS and COMMON SENSE: If you teach your child anything you will be exercising their brains, but don’t forget the common sense. Teach them to think through problems and let them make decisions and mistakes. The best way to make

sure your child is unsuccessful in school is to not let them think for themselves. It only takes a couple of times of being wrong to shut a child down. Once they feel like they aren’t as smart as others they will stop trying. Give them plenty of opportunities to be wrong and learn from mistakes at home. And let them lose! A little disappointment in the comfort of your own home can prepare you for the horrible world of your peers.  Gotta have tough skin these days!

Whew! I am a rusty teacher. That took me a long time! I hope this has been helpful to someone because my brain hurts!!!!

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