Friday, August 23, 2019

How to improve your child's listening comprehension

Storytelling Session for kids @ Advaitam HSR Layout Bangalore
Listening is one of the first senses to be activated in a child while still in the mothers womb. Listening is one of the most important part of our learning process throughout over lives. It is even more so important during early childhood education.

Listening is a medium or source of getting information or instructions. Once the data is received we need to make "sense" of the data and proceed with the next steps. Classroom education is predominantly listening based. We have teachers providing verbal information or explanation and children listening and learning. This means the child has to listen and also understand to complete the learning process.

This is, however, not the case. As we grow older our focus shifts to reading and talking. This means we are learning more visually i.e looking/reading than by listening. A lot has been written about difference between hearing and listening. The real outcome is the comprehending part where you make "sense" of all that you have heard.

Today, children are far more visually distracted to actually focus and pay attention to that is being spoken. Take this example, if you are listening to a song and want to focus deeper, what do you do? Well most of us close our eyes. Yes, the visual senses do tend to dominate and hence listening take a back seat.

Listening comprehension is a very important part of learning and understanding process. Children need to make the effort to focus on listening to teachers in the classroom and comprehending the information. In order to improve your child's listening skills you can engage them in the following easy activities / exercises:
1) Storytelling: This is by far one of the most useful activities. It must be noted that storytelling is not passive listening but also engaging in question and answer at the end of the session. In this session a short story is told and then the teacher should ask questions related to the story. This will ensure that children pay attention and are involved actively.

2) Chinese whisper or telephone: This is a fun activity which children enjoy a lot. In this activity children stand in a line and the first child whispers a message in the ear of the next child. This keep on going till the last child in the queue speaks out the message and the objective is that the final message is the same. However on many occasions this is not the case.

3) Follow the instructions: In this game children have to listen to a complex steps of instructions end to end once. Then they have to execute the instructions in the same sequence. This activity will be fun and entertaining for them.

4) Spot the error: In this game the speaker will talk about a topic and provide lots of information about it. In the process the speaker will intentionally mention erroneous information which the listener need to identify and call out immediately. 

Listening comprehension is very important for children and any issues with it will lead to learning difficulties. In order to overcome visual distractions, children need to consciously make an effort to focus on listening in the classroom environment.

Please do comment and share your thoughts as well.

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Monday, August 19, 2019

How to improve handwriting of your child

How to improve handwriting of kids

As of writing this article, writing is still very much an important aspect of education in India and scoring good marks.

When we started Advaitam in 2011 we knew based on what we saw in the classroom environment that writing is going to become major challenge for the new generation. Beautiful and stylish handwriting would slowly but surely vanish with the advent of the mobile phone. We hear a lot of parents saying that their child just do not like to write. However the education sector in India is not yet ready to cope up with the rapid change.

when we started our handwriting improvement classes for kids, our key focus was to make children write in a neat and legible manner, be it cursive or print English alphabets. Once the child show good improvement on this part, the next step is to increase the writing speed while keeping it legible.

As a parent how would your improve your child's handwriting? Is your child just starting to learn writing now? Or is your child already in a higher grade and needs to improve handwriting? Strategies will change based on the age and writing style. Below are some key strategies that may be applied and mind you these are not the only ones.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice: If there is one thing that you can do to improve anything is practice it again & again. With handwriting as well it is the same. Be ready to make your child practice regularly every day.

  • Start early: Include a pencil as one of your child's toy. Children generally get building blocks, cars, cartoon soft toys etc once they reach around 2 years. Give them a toy pencil. You will find a lot of foam based pencil toys. Show them how to use during play time. Then move on to thick pencil shaped crayons. One common mistake is that parents wait way too long to introduce pencil to their child.

  • Be consistent: Ensure that your child gets enough time to scribble and write as part of play. Buy an erasable writing board as well.

  • Focus on the grip: Throughout the toddler years focus on how your child grips the pencil and correct the grip early in to a tripod grip.

  • Academic writing: Once they start writing in school be quick to help your child write with a proper pencil and ensure they follow the proper tripod grip and stress free posture.

  • Join a handwriting class: If for some reason you child needs handwriting improvement, then join a proper handwriting class and ensure your child attends regularly and adapts to the changes quickly.

  • Encourage hobby writing: Try to develop a hobby around writing, maybe encourage story or essay writing.

  • Join a drawing class: Drawing does help as it essentially is writing. Encourage them to draw things of their interest. This will definitely work towards them actually enjoying using the pencil.

  • Left handed: if your child is left handed then writing is going to be unnatural for them. Encourage them whenever possible. Help them arrive at a good paper and hand position based on their natural style of writing.
If you focus on the above strategies, you have a good chance of ensuring that your child enjoys writing.

If you have experiences in working with your child's handwriting, please so share in the comments section.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

How lack of parent commitment towards their child's education is affecting the child's learning process

Sunil is a 7 year old studying in 2nd grade. In the recent parent-teacher-meeting (PTM), Sunil's parents were updated on the terrible progress of their child in school. The class teacher said that the child cannot read and write as expected from a 2nd grader. The parents were aware but just didn't want to confront this issue. They had admitted their child in one of the best known preschool brands with huge infrastructure. However their child went through the entire preschool without learning to read or write. They had invested lakhs in the fees and don't know how this could have happened.

The HARD fact: They didn't invest their personal time in the child's education!

Both the parents are well educated and working. They get the best things for their child, be it clothes, toys, food etc. They make sure they go on a trip every long weekend, summer vacation and sometimes during school days, as well, to fulfill their travel dreams. In this jet-setting lifestyle they have forgotten the simple rule of spending some quality time with their child's school work, classwork & homework. They didn't realize that they need to also look in to academic stages of their child like the right age to hold pencil, read books and write sentences. 

Consider this, to resolve the handwriting issue, the parents enroll their child in a handwriting improvement class. However, they just can't let go of their lifestyle. The child does not attend the class regularly. Absenteeism is taking a toll on the child's progress. Every time the child shows some improvement they go on a break and when they get back, the child is back to square one. What could have been rectified in 3 dedicated months, is not working even after 6 months. And even after all this, the parents don't want to take responsibility of their child's poor performance. They complain that the handwriting class is not working. They want the handwriting to improve within a matter of few sessions! What they are forgetting is that typically a child starts writing sometime in nursery and by UKG the handwriting basics are done. Normally handwriting is learnt over 3 years in school. Skills like handwriting, phonics, speech etc cannot be improved overnight. Children need time to comprehend and adopt the change.

This is the case in almost all aspects, be it sports, arts, academics etc. One of the main reasons of children unable to excel is due to parents lack of consistency, persistence and commitment. Today there is an epidemic like situation of learning issues in children. What was considered a very simple learning skill 20 years ago e.g. handwriting, is now a major learning issue for many children. Parents need to re-look at their priorities. A minor change in their lifestyle can hugely benefit their child's learning process. 


Friday, October 20, 2017

Handwriting issues in kids and it's relation to smartphones

Handwriting is still an important aspect in primary and secondary education while writing this article! BTW, It's 2nd half of 2017.

Quite dramatic as it may sound, the fact is technology is bringing in massive, massive change in day to day behavior of the child. The current education system is not keeping up with this change and appears to be from the stone age. Children are learning more and faster, thanks to the internet and the way to consume this knowledge is by using smartphone or tablet.

Smartphones and tablets have now reduced to just a screen and you can use gestures to get work done. Now voice is the new hero which means you can just talk to your smartphone and it will do the work and give you a voice update. With artificial intelligence lurking around the corner, you may also not need to talk in future! :)

As you can see, we are now living in a world where the keyboard is defunct and using a pen is stone age era. However, the fact remains that the entire education system is built around using the pencil and pen.

Let's take a step back and get some perspective on this. A person born in 2010 is expected to write his way through the academic period. However the first thing this child gets to play at home is the large screen phablet. At 12 months old this child can play most of the games on the phone and by 24 months the child can open Youtube and search for the best cartoons on his own. By 36 months the child is handed a pencil and asked to write letters and words. This come as a huge shock to the child. Holding a pencil seems to be a challenge. Based on my own observation I see around 50% children having issue in holding the pencil with the correct grip and position which will help them in writing efficiently. Out of this, almost half of them end up with handwriting issues like legibility and speed.

These kids just HATE to write. That's right. Many kids just don't like writing. They can't see the point of writing. It is cumbersome and slow process. It doesn't feel natural. Their hand hurts. Even if they have the right grip and know to write the letters, they just don't want to write. They may as well use gesture or voice and get the work done if they could have it their way.

Handwriting issues are rising at an alarming rate. Parents and teachers are clueless how to address this issue. This issue has to be tackled first at home right from the toddler years where they have still not started going to school. Here parents need to take the initiative by delaying the exposure of the child to the phone. I have seen parents offloading their work to the phone. Instead of parents engaging the child personally, they are now used to giving their phone to the child instead and sparring themselves the challenge of entertaining their own child. And this behavior is observed across the board e.g. fathers, mothers, grandparents, working or non-working.

Children should be involved in fine motor developmental activities (non-technology) first at home. Parents are wrong in expecting that the school is responsible for everything academic end-to-end. Children spend more time at home and parents are fully responsible to what they learn at home. Parents should inculcate the writing habit through play and being assertive. Remember parents, writing is the only option today to perform in school. Making your child write does not mount to cruelty! Think of it from a different angle. Delayed speech or walking is a major issue. If your 6 year old child can't speak or walk it's a major concern. Writing is similar from an academic perspective, make sure your child builds the writing skills during the preschool period.

Limit or even better completely avoid your child's exposure to gesture based games on the phone. These games conditions your child to using gestures to do things at an early age which may not be a good thing for your child. This is just one issue technology brings in to your child's life. As a parent, you need to make the right choice so that your child does not suffer academically.

There is a good chance that writing may lose relevance in future, however till that time, there is no escaping it and children still need to learn writing.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

How to ensure your child’s overall development

All parents are constantly on the lookout for courses and programs which can help their children in academy and extra curricular areas. The objective of these courses are from improving academic areas like phonics, handwriting, grammar, spellings etc to improving their motor skills. Some parents look to take the existing skills to the next level which normally would not be covered in regular school curriculum, for example, a child make be already good in story writing skills and the parent would look towards providing support to realise the child’s full potential by joining a creative writing course. Another example could be in fine arts, a child may be showing great potential in fine arts and could attend advanced course to further enhance the skill.

Today parents are not only ensuring the child gets academic support but also have an eye on how to enhance the overall development of their children. The overall development of a child boils down to the following key aspects
  • Intellectual and Cognitive
  • Social and Emotional
  • Speech and Language
  • Physical and Motor skills
  • Creativity and Imagination
In order to touch all these aspects, parents need to consciously take up different courses for their children over a period of time. This also ensures that the child gets the right exposure at the right time. Given the importance of these courses, parents should look at the experience, approach and continuity of the teachers. Parents should look for teachers and academies who provide personalized courses for children. This helps in ensuring the effectiveness of the courses to a large extent.

Working on the overall development of your child is a continuous process. Parents need to be updated on the latest developments at the same time ensuring strong foundation for their children. This all rounded approach will become an asset and build a solid foundation for your child’s future.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Why children and parents come back year after year for Advaitam’s Summer Camp? The secret revealed :)

sunSummer Camps are the best time to catch up on things your child really enjoys doing. It means different things to different people. For some it means learning a totally new skill e.g. Chess, while for some it’s about upgrading your skill e.g. moving from casual painting to say water colour on canvas or abstract art and others just do nothing Smile and take it easy. The options are unlimited and opportunities abundant!
The secret lies in the depth and approach of our programs. All summer camp programs are derived from our award winning year long programs. These programs are outcome of the years of research in content design, actual deployment in courses and fine tuning based on the response and feedback observed over the years and the approach in conducting the programs. This needs tremendous focus on child psychology and latest trends not to mention the enjoyment factor. But can all these factors be know? Yes, if you are monitoring it for years! You can see or “foresee” patterns and try new things and invent Smile new ways of doing things. In short, gather intelligence and use it to fine tune your services. All this at great value.
At Advaitam, children continue for years not only for the year long programs but also children come back year after year for the summer camps. We know them individually and have seen them grow older over the years Smile. We have had children waiting for months for new programs being launched when they could join elsewhere. That’s trust and we go all out to keep it. We get great satisfaction in seeing them enjoy their time, the laughter and smiles and that’s the “kick” that makes us tick.


Pets or …….. NOT?

I guess every child has dreamt of having a pet and many made it a reality. There are numerous research on how pets help humans emotionally to overcome grief, illness and other issues. Not to forget the sheer joy we get from having them in our lives. They become part of you and family. Soon you no longer see them as a pet but like any of your family members. 

However, many-a-times, the pet is not as happy as you. I can only say to what I have observed around me. I intend to explore what are we teaching our kids by keeping pets.
To begin, well, we can “buy” a pet from a shop as do we buy the groceries or the cellphone. There is a feeling of pets being looked at as a commodity with a price on it’s head. I think adopting is the more appropriate way when no monetary transaction is involved. Do you buy a family member??

That brings me to the second most important point “INTENT”. I guess every action we do has an intent. Why did you buy the pet? What is your expectations? Here are some quite common and worst factors
- they look cute when they are small!
- It is the most “in thing” to do…. look at our neighbours!
- It will be a good deterrent against robbers and thieves
- It would be a great experience to take part in a pet show!

I have seen a family adopt a street puppy because it was very cute and within one year they closed the grown dog out of their gate. It was no longer cute and looked like the typical stray dog! The puppy had grown dependent on the family so much that it had lost touch with living on the streets. It didn’t have any street survival skills. The dog stuck around the gate for a couple of days and had to run for it’s life with it’s tail between it’s legs, when attacked by the local street dog pack. I never saw it again.

I know people who have bought exotic birds and puppies. There is social pressure to own one. The gold fish is the classic. They are inside a cage or tied up for most of their lives. Not a good situation for the pet. I have seen many such pets being abandoned because it is becoming too expensive to maintain them. Many have some disease and it’s left to die on the road.

Then there is the security dog mostly bought and given to the security guard as a companion on leash. The dog stays under the security cabin on a meter long leash for rest of it’s life. It barks through out the day and night and is fed to the extent of being obese.
So what message are we passing on to our children?

It’s normal to treat animals as commodities and we can do all this just because we can!

We give life imprisonment to human criminals as punishment and still believe it’s ok to keep animals in confinement for our pleasure, It’s ok to keep them on a leash for most part of their lives
Sad smile
What if animals keep us, humans, as pets? I always thought that the movie planet of the apes was THE movie to show to children. Children may get a lesson on the meaning of freedom and respect in true sense.

Animal rights needs to be brought to the fore before pets are adopted. This has to be done right from school with a dedicated chapter on it. As we teach “do not lie”, “do not pollute” we should also teach “do not take away others (humans & animals) freedom”.  Ministry of Education and education boards.. are you listening?


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Top 10 reasons why parents choose Advaitam Child Enrichment & Day care centre for their children


1. Great programs at one place:

As a parent you are most likely taking you child to different afterschool and weekend programs. One common issue is that, more often than not, you have to ferry you child to various institutes in your location since a single institute may not cater to other programs. This issue gets considerably addressed at Advaitam where you can enrol your child for multiple programs and save travel time considerably. Many programs means more options for you child. You could enrol for one program for sometime and later switch to another program easily. This brings in the much needed variety for your child. Further, you need not worry about the safety of your child and quality of the programs since this is taken care completely by Advaitam team to give you a predictable and assured quality service. You child is also comfortable going to a known place.

2. Highly researched and advanced curriculum / approach:

You will often come across institutes offering programs with no relevance to the new generation child, they still follow obsolete curriculum and ancient teaching approach. The result is that the child is bored quickly and most likely discontinue the program. At Advaitam, all programs are continuously evolving so as to maintain relevance to the new generation. Most of the programs have no end date and children can continue for years at the same place. The children get to see and do new things all the time.

3. Individualized Attention

The name “Advaitam” means “unique” in sanskrit. The founding philosophy of Advaitam is to work with each child on an individual level. We believe that every child deserves to be dealt individually and we put in all our efforts in understanding each child, how they respond to brain stimulus and what works for that child. We pride ourselves in making a difference to each and every child. While there are institutes who bench mark their performance on volume (no of children), we would like to bench mark on the depth of interaction with each child. More the depth more the impact.

4. World class learning aids and kits

We believe in providing world class, best of the breed learning aids, tools and kits to our students be it indigenous or imported. We try to get the best products to enable learning to the best possible extent. We are not a brand shop that is restricted to a particular brand of kit. It is very important that children get the best possible exposure to learning. As parents it may be impractical to purchase expensive kits due to issues with maintaining them and getting full value for the money. At Advaitam, children get exposure to great tools at the fraction of the price. It’s a win-win situation for parents which ever way you look at it.

5. Secure, energetic and vibrant environment:

In today’s world it would be foolish to believe that environment does not make a difference in learning. It definitely makes an impact by taking away concerns regarding security, hygiene and negativity. At Advaitam, security and hygiene is of utmost importance. The entire place exults positive energy and vibrancy.

6. Skilled and Experienced team:

Advaitam takes away the concern related to finding appropriately skilled teachers for your child. Advaitam has a stringent screening process to get the right teachers with the right skills, experience, attitude and passion for various programs. We believe that teachers who are passionate about their subject pass on the excitement to the students. Children pickup on the excitement quickly and that in turn helps in the learning process. We do not conduct programs with standby teachers who do not have the skills and attitude.

7. Flexible scheduling of programs:

All the programs are scheduled as per the convenience of the children and parents. Appropriate compensatory system is in place in case any child misses a session due to exams, illness etc. Programs are distributed across the week and at various times to enable children to enrol to as many programs as possible. Thus parents can bring their child to a known and trusted place which also gives them a peace of mind.

8. Year long (after school / weekends) and Summer programs:

No matter which time of the year it is, there are always programs available for your child. You can join any batch at any time since the approach is individualized and not as batches. A child can set their own pace of learning. Year long programs are available as as after school and weekend batches. These programs are typically continuous and not have any end dates. During summer vacations there are programs available through out the day and in convenient packages as per your need. You can choose the programs you want and the duration. It can’t get better than this!

9. Great Value:

Advaitam believes that all the above facilities need not come at a premium. All programs can be packaged to suit you requirement and multiple options are available to cater to various spending needs. One way of looking at this is, a trip to a movie or treat at a burger joint is costlier than a session of most of our programs. So value lies in how you look at your childs extra curricular needs.

10. Day care with a difference:

Advaitam’s Day care plus program helps you utilize your childs time at day care in a very productive and meaningful manner. The enriched day care facility at Advaitam is a departure from the standard mundane day care you have been used to earlier.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Parents! Don’t try to make adults out of your 8 year olds

acThough this is a very broad topic and applicable in a lot of scenarios, I am restricting the scope to scenarios observed during enrichment sessions.

It is not uncommon to see parents taking an active interest in their childs learning and progress in afterschool activities. This is good and helps in ensuring the child is getting the desired benefits. However, as part of this, parents sometimes tend to have unrealistic expectations on the application of the learning. For example, let’s say the 8 year old child has learned about gears and it’s mechanical advantage as part a session. I have seen parents asking the child “How will you use gears to solve other problems”. This is a very open question for even adults to answer. When the child starts to explain the project, the parent asks “what did you to learn if you can’t answer this!”. I guess the parent is expecting a mature and adult-like reply from the child. What they miss is the child perspective at that point in time. Other similar cases include telling the child that the experiment was so easy or small. Maybe for an adult it may look easy, but once you get down to doing, it’s definitely not easy. 

Another scenario is bombarding the child with information, which can be appreciated only by knowledgeable adults. This, I guess, is intended to give the child an edge above the rest. The result, child talking about some science concept without any perspective and context about it. I think there is only so much a child of a certain age can understand about the theory of relativity Smile. Then there are the parents who would actually have an elaborate question & answer session right then at the centre, which leaves the child miserable throughout the session in fear of the Q&A at the end of the session. This kind of pressure not only discourages that child from attending further sessions, but also make them feel low on self esteem.

I think that “some” parents want the child to be 10 yrs more knowledgeable than other kids, may be. But realistically It works better for the child if they are given enough freedom to explore open ended pursuits without having to answer for it!


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Children need to be inspired

When I think of my school/college teachers, I visualize most of them hurriedly teaching a topic, basically going through the motions of transferring textbook knowledge to me. In a class room of about 50, nobody cared how many actually understood what was taught in that  session. That was the job of exams/assessments right? Well, there were many kids in class who did all the study at home and just came to class for attendance sake. They did score good grades :)

Coming back to teachers, is it not the teachers responsibility to "try" and spark the interest of the student in the subject they teach? Try and capture their imagination, transfer their passion for the subject to the students? unlock their minds? I think of the movie Matrix (part 1), where Morpheus and Neo are locked in a Kung Fu fight inside the simulation. Morpheus tries successfully to make Neo see beyond the obvious thus unlocking his mind. Morpheus keeps saying that he can only show him the door and Neo would have to walk through it. For me, that's classic, that's how it should be, THAT'S UTOPIA :)

How many teachers really like the topic they teach? Are they passionate about the subject? say History, how many teachers actually go beyond the textbook and bring in excitement? Not many. Children need to be inspired at a very young age, they get inspired by the Cartoon characters in TV shows. Teachers who have such a major share of a child's life should make the effort to inspire the young minds. This does not need additional time and it does not require you to work individually with each student. I think it is a matter of getting the attention of students by engaging their minds with questioning, reasoning and depth of the subject. Making them look forward to the next time. Does this need a PHD or certification? Nope, it needs a conscious effort from the teacher to be mentally present in the class their are teaching :). An inspired child always grows up to change the world and inspire the future generations.