Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Thirsty Crow Story (in Marathi)

We love the fact that today many publishers are working actively towards promoting children's books in regional languages. At The Story Palce, we are keenly working at incorporating Hindi and Marathi books (Tulika and Pratham Books) in our storytelling sessions, and building lesson plans around them.

As part of our research, I picked up a Marathi story today, and tried it out with my 4-year-old daughter. Since we live in Mumbai, Maharashtra, she has been exposed to a fair share of Marathi through the house help at home. The help has been speaking Marathi to my daughter since three years now, so my daughter has a good understanding of the language and can speak Marathi well (better than me).
This morning's story was "The Thirsty Crow" in Marathi, a story that we have all heard as children. I read the story slowly, explaining each part as I read it. The illustrations in the book were very simple and helped a great deal in understanding the sequence of events in the story.

After the story was over, I asked my daughter, if it was really possible to bring up water in a pot by putting stones in it. She just shrugged her shoulders. It made me think, that as a child I too had heard this story, but I never ever thought of finding out if the pebble thing worked. So, here was a chance to satisfy my curiosity and my daughter's too.

We went to the kitchen, and filled little water in a glass. I told her to pretend that she was a crow, and to try drinking the water by putting her mouth in the glass. Since the water level was low, she couldn't reach the water. So, we decided to do what the crow did. We collected some stones and put them in the glass. Slowly, slowly, the water rose up in the glass, and eventually it reached the top. The little pretend crow could drink it and satisfy her thirst!

I explained that the stones occupied space at the bottom of the glass, and pushed the water up. Later, we discussed what we (humans) would do in such a situation, one option was to lift the glass with our hands and drink water, and the other was to use a straw and suck up the water. 

Who ever thought that a simple story could be so so so much fun!

If you have read children's stories in regional languages, then do share your recommendation list with us. 

Saturday, 25 August 2012

A Story About Clouds (Continuation to the How We Teach Science Through Stories)

Today we conducted our third science storytelling session, and the theme for the day was clouds.

We began by reading "The Little Cloud" by Eric Carle. The children enjoyed looking at the pictures in the book, and kept guessing what the little cloud would turn into on the next page. After the story was over, we looked at a picture that explained how clouds are formed. 

But, seeing is believing, so next stop was the experiment table. We poured boiling hot water in a glass, and then covered it with another glass bowl. In the glass bowl, we glued little bits of cotton, that were our clouds. When the glass was covered with the bowl, the vapor from the hot water started rising up. It would take a while for the cotton to become moist with the vapor, so we left the glass on the table and proceeded to the third activity.

We handed the Science Story Log Sheet to each child. In the sheet were pictures of different cloud types. The children clipped the sheets onto their clipboards and we went over to the terrace to observe the clouds in the sky. 

It was a bright sunny day, and the children observed the different types of clouds in the sky and compared them to the pictures in the worksheet. They circled the pictures that were the same as what they saw in the sky.

After we returned back to class, we looked at the glass with hot water. The vapor from the water had risen up and settled on the inside surface of the glass bowl. We peeled off the cotton from the inside of the bowl and felt that it was moist. 

We concluded that the suns's rays heat water in the water bodies; the water vapor rises up in the sky and when it cools it forms water droplets. Many such water droplets come together to form clouds!

The final wrap-up activity for the day was to make our own cloud art. We mixed equal parts of glue and shaving cream in a bowl, and handed it to the children to play with. The children had a fun time spreading the mixture on paper and making their own little clouds!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Phonics Storytelling Workshops

We have recently started our Phonics Storytelling Workshops. I never learnt phonics in school. I learnt the letters as A, B and C, and then I learnt spellings and therefore learnt to read. I became aware of phonics when my daughter started going to school. I did my little research on the Internet, and was amazed with what I learnt!

Phonics refers to the sounds that the English alphabets make. The words we read are made up of small sound segments, 44 in all. If children learn these 44 sounds, then they can connect the sounds to the letters they read, and will thus be able to pronounce a word. Likewise, if they hear a word, they can break it into sound segments and can tell how it is spelt. So, in short, phonics is about learning the 44 sounds.

At The Story Place, we teach the 44 sounds through stories. Each letter represents a character, who has his/her own personality, and each personality makes a unique sound and has a unique shape.

When children sit for our storytelling sessions, they don’t look at alphabets, they look at characters. They listen to a story about the character, and listen to songs about the sound the character makes and how the character gets its shape.

Later, when they see a letter, they relate the letter to its character, and then they recall the sound it makes! Doesn’t that sound like a fun way to learn the English alphabets?

If you are interested in learning about phonics or if you’d like to become a phonics trainer or if you’d like your child to attend our storytelling sessions, then write to us at or visit our Facebook page ( more details.

Monday, 28 May 2012

What Next?

We've had a wonderful summer!

Our Geography themed story session - Around the World in 7 Stories has had a fabulous response and has been a resounding success across bookstores in Mumbai. Our eager participants and their parents have been asking us "What Next?"

Well, as the next step, we plan to setup "The Story Place Nook" in Mumbai city. At our Nook, we will tell stories and continue taking children into the enchanting world of stories. And through those stories we'll teach them a little bit of Math, Science, History and Geography. It's going to be a lot of fun and exploration combined with some bits of hands-on activities and experiments.

Do let us know what you think about our plan, and if you would like your kids to become members of our Nook.

Your feedback and thoughts are very valuable to us, and will help us move our little dream to the next phase. So please do spare a minute and write your thoughts in the comment box, and of course please pass the word around :-)

Thanking you in advance.
The Story Place Team

Monday, 14 May 2012

Our Story Recipe

Many people have been asking us where we get our stories from. Well, some of our stories are originals from books, but we don't literally read the story from the book. We retell the story in our own words; we add extra bits of information or twists and turns to enable children participation in the story. We also remix and retell stories, this would mean that we combine two short stories together and retell it as one new story. And then there are some stories that we create on our own.

Through each of our story, we teach some concepts to children. Hence, the story is never told as is. We split the story into many parts, then we add bits of learning concepts into it and finally we weave it all together. What you get at the end is a new, interactive and engaging version of an old story!

Stories are often set in real or imaginary worlds. They have characters, a theme, a plot, action, adventure and drama. So in one way, the stage, the script and the acts are already defined for us. All we do is figure out what "learning concept" can be built into the story. For example, through our story (this one's our creation) "Adventures of Johnny Dragon", we take children on an Asian tour. Along with Johnny Dragon, we visit Japan, China, Sri Lanka and a few other countries.
Through Johnny Dragon's adventure we learnt facts about volcanoes in Japan; we also found out the length of the Great Wall of China and learnt about some Chinese inventions. The children participate in the story too. They read the clues and guess which country Johnny visits next. They also share their knowledge about each country and decide how Johnny should travel from one destination to another. Children by nature are very creative; they provide their ideas and thoughts and make Johnny's adventure even more interesting.

At the end, each storytelling session becomes an amazing learning experience - for us and for the children. So, if you'd like your children to be part of a creative storytelling session, then check out our schedule and do come visit us. Because, we'd love to build a new story along with you!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Three Stories, Three Continents and a Whole Lot of Fun

We've completed three out of seven stories from our series "Around the World in 7 Stories". We conceived the theme purely out of our lack of interest in Geography. We realized that if we were to create a story series around Geography, it would mean that we read through the subject force ourselves to think of how it can be put forth in an interesting manner to children. Today, three stories later, we are quite happy with our work, and so are the children.

We've completed three continents so far - North America, Asia and Africa. We began our preparations by creating a plan for all seven continents. In the plan we decided what aspect of Geography we should cover. We decided to stick to providing basic facts about each continent - number of countries, landmarks, languages and unique facts.

The next step was to find interesting stories. We spent many week reading as many as stories as we could. And then the stories were remixed and tailored into our version so that they could revolve around a continent. It wasn't easy in the beginning, but slowly we got the hang of it.

We decided to use the laptop (technology) as a supporting tool during our storytelling sessions. The laptop is used to show pictures of continent and countries, and is not used to display a slide show of the images from the story, because we want to leave the "imagination" part to the children.

Children who have attended the three stories know the location of all seven continents. They know names of animals that are unique to North America, they followed a trail in Asia and learnt about volcanoes of Japan, inventions from China and facts about Sri Lanka and Israel, and finally they know about the unique creatures living in the Madagascar Island of Africa and the number of languages people speak in Africa. And all this they learnt through a story!

It has been a fun experience so far, and we our now busy working on the stories for the remaining four continents.

So if you'd like your kids to learn some unique facts about continents, or if you'd like to revise your Geography knowledge, then come attend our storytelling sessions. We'd love to travel the world with you!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

What We Learnt from The Three Little Pigs

Last Sunday, I read the classic story "The Three Little Pigs" to my 3-year old. After we read the story, she pretended to be the big bad wolf, and went around huffing and puffing trying to blow down things. 

Watching her do that gave me an idea to extend the story into a little playtime activity. We made clay figures for the three pigs. Then, we decided to build a house for each of them. We looked around the house for material that could be used to build the houses. We zeroed down on three items - Popsicle stick house, Lego block house and a Straw (drinking straw) house.

We spent a few hours building each house and then placed the pigs inside it. Then, the little one pretended to be the big bad wolf, and huffed and puffed, and tried to blow down each house. Needless to say, the Straw house was the easiest to fall followed by the Popsicle stick house. And, the Lego block house stayed put.

The story and activity were a fantastic way to spend the Sunday afternoon. And the little one learnt some basic fundamentals of construction. Our next step will be to figure out how we can make the Popsicle and Straw houses stronger, maybe use a combination of building material.

There's no limit to how we can use a story to teach concepts. The Three Little Pigs story can also be used to teach about weather. For older children, it can be extended to learn about why people in different parts of the world construct houses differently. It could also lend itself to a math activity, where you determine the amount of sticks or blocks needed to construct a small or big house.

So, the next time you want to teach your child some concepts, read them a story and extend it into an activity. They will enjoy their reading and activity time and will also learn concepts incidentally.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Around the World in 7 Stories

We've been busy preparing for our summer storytelling sessions - Around the World in 7 Stories, and hence we haven't been able to post any blogs in the past few weeks.

It has been a fun experience preparing for the storytelling sessions, and we have also managed to update our own geography knowledge :).

The storytelling sessions start from 18th April 2012.

We'll begin each storytelling session with a song about the 7 continents. Then, we'll pick one continent and walk children through the famous places in it. Through our visual-walk, we'll tell them some amazing facts about the continent and give some information about the land forms and wildlife in the continent. We'll then lead them into an enchanting story from the continent.

At the end of the session, the children will do a craft activity and make a souvenir related to the story or the continent.

Did we mention, we are giving away passports to the children too? Each time they visit a continent, they get a stamp in their passport.

So, if you'd like your children to take a trip around the world, come visit us at the Landmark Book Stores in Mumbai.
  • Every Wednesday, 4pm-5pm at Landmark Book Store, Inorbit Mall, Vashi
  • Every Thursday, 4pm-5pm at Landmark Book Store, Infiniti Mall, Andheri (W)
We hope to see you there!

Friday, 30 March 2012

Mythological Tales with a Twist

We have all grown up listening to mythological stories and watching episodes and these day cartoon shows about them. So one is never too inclined to pick up a mythological story book. But, what if there was a book that created new funny short stories from the large epic, and the short stories bound back to the epic in some way. Wouldn't that be interesting?

I found one such book yesterday - Tail Tales (Volume 1) by Hema Vaidyanathan. It's a small story book with beautiful illustrations. Through the book, Hema tells us two short stories, and each is derived from the mythological epic, Ramayana. 

At first glance, I was skeptical about the book, because I assumed it would be another retell of the Ramayana story. But I was quite surprised when I flipped through the pages. Hema has beautifully taken characters out of the Ramayana and built stories around them. And the stories link back to the roles the characters played in the Ramayana. After I read both stories, my verdict was "simply fantastic!”

I read the book to my three-year old and she enjoyed the story and loved the beautiful illustrations. When she grows up and hears/reads the story of the Ramayana, she'll be able to understand how certain characters in the epic got their powers.

If you'd like to revisit epic stories and see them through a new perspective, check out

Monday, 26 March 2012

What Makes a Green Tree go Pink?

This weekend my 3-year old and I took a nature walk in our locality. The little one noticed that the tree outside our apartment building was beginning to turn pink. Small pink flowers have sprung up and have given the otherwise green tree, a pink glow. While we walked, we observed other changes in the trees around us. And she had questions about why the trees were changing at this time of the year. I realized that this was a good time to introduce the concept of seasons. When we came home, I quickly browsed through the book cupboard and picked out story books related to seasons.

First we read The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree, a short story about a boy Arnold and his apple tree. Through the story, children observe how the Apple Tree changes throughout the year and how Arnold comes up with new play activities for each season. Then, we drew four empty blocks on a sheet of paper, one for each season (spring, summer, fall and winter). In each block we drew a picture of how the tree looks at that time of the year. Finally, we drew another picture of the apple tree and named its basic parts (roots, trunk, branch, leaf and fruits).

Then, we read another book, Spring Is Here!, a cute story about a Mole and a Bear. The story takes us through the Mole's journey of discovering that spring has arrived, and his efforts to wake up his friend Bear. The book has wonderful illustrations and sound words that make it a complete entertaining read for children.

The little one now has some understanding of seasons and spring is her favorite season (as of now). Do your little ones know about seasons? 

Check out these fun titles that introduce the science behind seasons.

  • Tell Me a Season by Mary McKenna Siddals
  • The Reasons for Seasons by Gail Gibbons
  • Sunshine Makes the Seasons by Franklyn M. Branley

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

World Sparrow Day

It was World Sparrow Day yesterday (March 20). The day is celebrated to raise an awareness about the declining population of the house sparrow. We did our bit by putting up a bird feeder and a bird house for the sparrows. My three-year old was excited seeing the sparrow feeder and waited in the balcony all day for the sparrows to arrive. They haven't discovered the feeder or the house yet.

The next step was to Google sparrows, to learn about them and to understand their behavior. Read somewhere that the house sparrow is not a water bird and bathes itself in dust (didn't know that). It was interesting to find out amazing facts about the tiny little brown birds that chirp on my window in the afternoons. And, now, I can give them the"I know all about you" look.

The three-year old was disappointed at not seeing any sparrows in the balcony. So to cheer her up, I decided to read her some bird stories. We read The Perfect Nest, a funny story about a cat who builds a nest to attract a chicken, and then dreams of making yummy omelets from the eggs that the chicken lays. Things go as per plan and the chicken comes to live in the nest, but later a duck and a goose also arrive. And crazy chaos follows thereafter.

Next we picked up a picture book about birds - About Birds: A Guide for Children. The book has beautiful illustrations and simple text that introduces birds to children. Finally, we wrapped up our day by drawing some bird pictures.

Birds and other creatures always fascinate children. It's wonderful to watch them gape in awe as they realize how different these creatures are from them. 

If you want to introduce your children to the wonderful world or birds and animals, check out some of these interesting titles.

  • Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
  • Edward the Emu  
  • Owl Babies 
  • Take Along Guide Series - Caterpillar, Bugs & Butterflies, Frogs, Toads & Turtles, Snakes, Salamanders & Lizards
Visit to read about World Sparrow Day.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Little Curious Cats

You know how growing up toddlers always have a "But why..." question. They always want an explanation for everything that's happening around them. 

Research says that curiosity helps children explore and discover the world around them. They try out things and in their own way understand "cause and effect" - if I press the bunny's tummy it will giggle or if I turn the bottle over, the water will spill. And, when they don't understand why something happens, then they ask "Why".

A curious child is always searching for answers, which is good, because curiosity stimulates their development. Of course, after a certain point, their curiosity would lead them to try things that are not safe. This would mean that they would need constant supervision if we let them explore everything around them, and that, is not always possible. 

So, most parents tend to prevent their children from exploring things beyond a "safe environment", for the safety of the children. Also, many times children ask us "Why", and we may ourselves not know or not be sure of the answer, and won't be able to give them the information to quench their thirst. Thus, in some way, knowingly or unknowingly we become the "barrier" that prevents them from being curious.

Wouldn't it be wonderful, if there was a way to keep them curious and fed with information, while ensuring that they are safe? Is there such a way?

Yes, there is! The answer lies in books! And, I am not talking about the "Tell me Why" or "Encyclopedia" series. I am talking about story books that engage them through a story, and in the process they learn facts about the world around them.

Here are some fabulous titles to carry in your bag or keep in the car:
  • Oscar Science series - There are many titles in this series. Each title tells a story about how Oscar the curious kitten explores things around him and learns science facts.
    • Oscar and the Frog – A book about growing
    • Oscar and the Cricket – A book about moving and rolling
    • Oscar and the Bird – A book about electricity
  • Let’s Read and Find Out Science series – The books in this series are ideal for 5-years and above. The books have stories and hands-on activities that children can try.
    • Forces Make Things Move
    • Gravity is a Mystery
    • The Moon Seems to Change
  • Amazing Science series – The Simple Machines titles in this series are a great way to learn Physics fundamentals. Each title describes how simple machines work and their uses.
    • Tires, Spokes and Sprockets – A book about wheels and axles
    • Pull, Lift and Lower – A book about pulleys
    • Scoop, Seesaw and Raise – A book about levers
So, go on and give your children books that fuel their curiosity and development and watch them grow into little experts!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Learning through Stories from the Past

Convincing children to study history is a challenge most parents and teachers face. History as a subject is a narration of events that happened in the past. Most curriculum books simply state the events in a chronological order and briefly describe the event. And, leave the student with the difficult task of memorizing the information.

Last week, my niece was struggling with memorizing a history (state board) chapter for her Class 8 exams. The topic was The Rule of the Marathas of Thanjavur.

To help her with the lesson, I decided to read it. T
he textbook chapter provides a short brief about when each ruler took charge of the throne, the activities they did during their reign and who their successor was. I had to read it three times to understand how all the Maratha rulers were connected and how each successor came to be. I had to also do some bit of Internet research to fill in important links that the textbook had left out. What I achieved at the end of my three-hour research was the plot to an interesting story.

Once the picture was clear in my mind, I built a family-tree structure that listed the name of each ruler and their relation with their predecessor. I also added the period for each ruler, so I automatically had an order to the events in the story. The final part was being a little creative in writing a narrative of the lesson. 

In my narrative, I added personality traits for each character and added interesting information about the place (setting) where the event occurred. To bring a little more excitement, I added some bit of drama to describe the downfall of a ruler and the circumstances that led to the selection of the next successor.
 The whole narrative fit in two sheets of paper (A4 size). Finally, I added the family-tree on the cover page and put a flow-chart on the last page.

When my niece read the story I had built, she was thrilled. She didn't feel like she was studying history, because she was not reading a history lesson, she was reading a story! At the end, she could retell the story, which meant that she was easily able to recall the names of the rulers, the events and the causes.

History is a story, a story of the past. If it is simply stated, as in textbooks, it fails to engage children. But, if the same story is narrated in an interesting way, it can change the way children perceive history as a subject. 
It's not possible for parents or teachers to research and rewrite every chapter in an interesting way. But, you can have children read historical fiction story books. They provide a great way for children to visualize the setting and understand the cause and effect of wars and other historic events. 

Check out some of these titles:

  • Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
  • Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp
  • King George: What Was His Problem?: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About the American Revolution

Friday, 9 March 2012

Dr. Seuss = Entertained & Delighted Children

Do you know the sound of a hippo chewing gum or two gold fishes kissing? Well, if you don't then you need to read Mr. Brown can Moo! Can You? by the one and only Dr. Seuss!

Dr. Seuss books are wonderful for every age group. Last evening I read two to my daughter - Mr. Brown can Moon! Can You? and Are You My Mother? We've read these books before and they are still fun when we read them again!

Mr. Brown Can Moo is full of silly noises; as I read the book, my three-year old repeated the noises that Mr. Brown can make. And my one-year old son watched us with amusement. Later, we went around the house exploring different objects and noting the sounds they made. 

The next book for the evening was Are You My Mother, a little adventure story about a baby bird searching for his mother. As the bird searches for his mother, he meets different animals and things and wonders if they are his mother. Through the little bird's adventures, children learn a little bit about visible characteristics, and can quickly understand why the cat or the cow cannot be the little bird's mother.

Dr. Seuss books are always on our bookshelf, in our bag and in the car. And when I see my daughter, cuddled up in a corner, reading a book and giggling, I know she is reading Dr. Seuss. 

So, if you thought that only TV shows and tablet Apps can entertain children these days, you ought to check out Dr. Seuss, and who knows you might be entertained yourself!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Learning via Summer Workshops & Camps

The meaning of summer vacations changed for us, as we grew. Up to grade four, summer vacations meant fun and play. But after grade five, it was more about preparing for the new term in advance. I remember how some part of our story book and outdoor activity time got replaced with the new term books (usually passed on from cousins or friends who were in the higher grade) and worksheets.

My mom would insist that I read one lesson each day, and make notes about it. That way I would be a step ahead when school term began. In some way, I could understand that she was suggesting this for my benefit. But, I did not like the fact that my story book and outdoor play time were being replaced by textbooks.

With school studies and pressure increasing each day, I am sure many parents today, would also want their children to prepare for the next term in advance. But, what if we could make this preparation activity fun?

As summer arrives, so do summer workshops and camps. A little bit of research will help you find a list of activities going on around your area. You can find out the details and enroll them in the one's that will not only be fun but will also help them hone some skills.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Language learning workshops - Learning a new language as part of a fun workshop will help them brush up their second or third language subjects.
  • Project modeling workshops - Making aerodynamic model toys or creating Lego houses and bridges will help them learn some geometry and science skills.
  • Science workshops - Science workshops teach science through experiments and activities.  
  • Summer camps - Summer camps provide a great opportunity to hone social skills, and make children independent. Plus, summer camp means lots of physical activities. 
  • Sports workshops - Sports workshops, such as swimming or rock climbing help develop self-discipline, teamwork and confidence. 
  • Storytelling workshops - Theme-based storytelling workshops are a great way to learn about places and cultures. Check out Around the World in 7 stories (our storytelling summer workshop) on our Facebook page. 
Summer workshops and camps allow children to interact, explore, do and learn, and it's all centered around having fun!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Talking Boards & Teachers = Fun Learning

This is continuation to our earlier post Talking Books or Storytellers. In this post we explore the combined role of Talking Boards and Teachers in making learning a fun experience.

Today, the blackboards in schools are being replaced with
digital interactive whiteboards. But does that mean that the real class teacher will also be replaced by a digital teacher? More importantly the question is "CAN" the class teacher be replaced by a digital teacher?

In my opinion, the answer (undoubtedly) to that question is "No!" Interactive whiteboards are not here to replace the teacher, but, they are here to enhance the learning experience for students.

I see the interactive whiteboard as a fantastic assistant to the teacher. Most lessons delivered via whiteboards attempt to teach concepts by showing detailed audio-visual animations. Thus, taking away some theoretical teaching workload from the teacher.

This means that the teacher has more time to prepare projects, worksheets and other activities, which gives students a chance to apply their learning. Since the audio-visual content is available on a central server, and is usually broken into small-length topics, teachers can combine topics and subjects and make learning more fun.

For example, the pattern of electronic configuration (Chemistry) can be co-related to Arithmetic Progression (Algebra). Or, a Geography lesson about p
ollution (acid rain) can be combined with a Chemistry lesson that explains how acid rain is formed. Or, a Geometry lesson on lines and angles can be combined with a Geography lesson on bridges and building architecture.

By itself, the interactive whiteboard would just be an audio-visual kit. It is the teacher who can use his/her expertise to create endless combinations, and make the digital experience more relevant and fun for the students. 

Friday, 2 March 2012

Talking Books or Storytellers?

In the movie, Moneyball, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) uses the phrase "Adapt or Die", while convincing his team to embrace the new baseball player selection system.

I believe that the phrase "Adapt or Die" applies to everyone, everywhere and even to storytelling. The trend of storytelling began even before the time of our grand parents. We've all grown up listening to grandma's stories. As times changed, books replaced grandmas, and today digital content is replacing books.

But does that mean story telling is dead? Not really, even today we still like to listen to a story, if it is told well. 
However, the method of story telling can be changed to adapt to today's digital generation preferences.

Storytellers can choose to use 
digital media as a supporting tool to enhance their story telling experience. They can create a slide show of visuals and change slides, as they narrate a story. And, audio effects can be added to enhance the experience.   
But the media can only be a supporting tool. Because, the media cannot replace the giggles and chuckles that are heard when a storyteller makes a funny or grumpy face, or rolls his/her eyes or does funny moves to enact a character's style or changes his/her voice to change the mood of the story, or interacts with the children and makes them a part of the story.

Do you agree?

Which would you prefer - a child watching a story or a child being part of a story?

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Let's Honor the Pigs

Did you know, March 1 is celebrated as National Pig Day in the United States? People celebrate this day by tying pink ribbon pigtails around trees, in honor of the pigs!

What do you plan to do on this day? Here are some suggestions:

Read some pig stories: 

  • Three Little Pigs: The classic story of how three pig brothers build a house using different material, and what happens when the Big Bad Wolf attacks their house.
  • Babe, The Gallant Pig: The story of Babe, an orphan pig, who gets adopted by Hogget, a farmer. The book takes readers through Babe’s adventures and misadventures in the farm.
  • Pigsty: A funny story about a boy, Wendell Fultz, who keeps his room messy all the time. But things take a complete turn when some pigs show up and make a bigger mess, making Wendell realize the importance of living in a clean place.

Make some pig craft:

  • Make a pig ear hair band: Cut out pig ear shapes and stick them on a hair band.
  • Make a piggy bank: Cover an old tissue box with pink paper, leaving a small portion of the slot open. Draw a pig face on another card paper and stick it to one end of the box, and stick a curly tail on the other end.
  • Make a pig wall hanging: Cover an old CD with pink paper. Make paper cutouts for the pigs eyes and ears and stick them on the CD. Dip a cotton ball in pink colour and use it for the nose. Put two small circles on the nose for the snout.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Baking with Math

Baking is a great fun activity to do with kids. Kids enjoy making funny shapes with the dough, beating the batter and not to forget gobbling the gooey paste before you can even put it in the oven. 

I've always enjoyed baking with my daughter, and this Sunday while we baked together, she also learnt some bit of Math.

Our baking session began with measuring the ingredients and putting them in a bowl to make the dough. Once the dough was ready, I gave her some in a small bowl, so she could make her own funny shaped cookies. She immediately noticed that my bowl had more dough than hers, and therefore concluded that I would make more cookies than her. (Lesson 1: Greater quantity means more, lesser quantity means less)

She decided to make worm-shaped cookies. So she flattened and rolled the dough to make some yummy worms. At the end, she had lined up 20 cookie worms. She quickly realized that some worms were longer than the others. And the little perfectionist that she is, she insisted on making them again so that they were all the same length. We took one worm, and marked its length on a Popsicle stick. And then as she made new worms, she measured them against the Popsicle stick marking and adjusted their length to get them all in one size. (Lesson 2: Using a tool to measure length)

Once the worms were ready, she wanted to give them chocolate chip eyes. Together, we counted the number of chocolate chips required for each worm, and then picked out 40 chips from the jar to put on the worms. (Lesson 3: Multiplication)

Finally we put our trays in the oven to bake. While we waited, we labeled the cookie jars for each family member. We calculated how many total cookies would be baked and how we could divide them equally among all. (Lesson 4: Division).

There were 2 extra cookies left, after dividing them equally between all. So, we treated ourselves to the two cookies, as a reward for a good job done!

Math is so much more fun when it is learnt through an activity, rather than as a subject. Projects are a great way to reinforce math skills in kids. And, if you can't find enough time to do projects with your kids, then buy them some story books that will take them into the fascinating world of Math. 

Check out these interesting titles:
  • Mummy Math - An Adventure in Geometry
  • What's Your Angle, Pythagoras? - A Math Adventure
  • Equal Shmequal

Monday, 27 February 2012

If I Had a World Map...

Have you ever thought of beginning the school term with a world map? Yes, the world map, which would serve as the mind map for the entire year.

As we start a term, for each lesson we learn, we can put flags on the world map. For example, the first chapter in English, Class 8 is set in Birdport, England; so as the class reads the chapter, the teacher can write the name of the lesson on a little red flag, and then she/he can place the flag on Birdport, England. Teachers can have different colour flags for their subject. 

Some subjects like science and math may not be location specific, so in such cases, students can be encouraged to find the history about the scientist or mathematician associated with the topic. And, then they can put a flag on the place where the scientist or mathematician belongs.

Imagine how colourful the map would look at the end of the year. Yes, it may look cluttered, but it will be filled with colourful flags, and the students will be amazed to realize all the places they visited in their school term! It'll also bring a different excitement to their study - they may be able to better remember concepts or facts because they can associate them with places on the map.

A world map can also be put up at home. The kids can use it for the school term flag idea mentioned above. Or, together, the family can use it for other activities.
We can put flags to indicate: 

  • Places we visited during holidays 
  • Places we would like to visit
  • Places famous for our favorite delicacies
  • Places where our family and friends are settled
  • Locations of the story or novel we read or our favorite movie
The map would be like a chart that tells you the story about the people who live in the house, don't you think?
If you had a world map, what would you put on it?

Friday, 24 February 2012

Fun Science

Our day on February 18 began with a nice surprise. The morning edition of Times of India, Mumbai had a packet of tomato seeds pasted on the front page. The seeds were part of the Kissan ketchup ad campaign, and an innovative one I must say. The ad provided a packet of tomato seeds and listed the steps to plant them, and grow a tomato plant. More information was provided on their website.

Needless to say, my to-do item for the weekend was to buy a nice pot and plant the seed, along with my daughter. We'll be taking milestone pictures of our plant project and then we'll create a picture sequence that shows the journey of a tomato - from seed to plant.

Science always lends itself to interesting projects that we can do at home with our kids, not necessarily as part of studies, but just as an activity. Experiments allow kids to observe and infer how things work. Very young kids (toddlers) may not understand the scientific reasoning behind things, but they do understand some bit of cause and effect, and their sharp minds remember things.

Experiments with older kids are more fun, because their inquisitive nature makes activities more challenging; they always want to know "why". And they don't need to visit a lab to quench their inquisitiveness, because science is all around us.

Here are some fun activities that you can do with kids, and have them conclude why or how things happened.
  • Which toys float and which toys sink in the bath tub?
  • Focus the flashlight on the wall and block it with your hand and observe shadows (older kids can conclude why shadows are formed)
  • Race cars of different sizes (body and wheels) and find out which ones go fast
  • What happens if we don't water plants?
And if you are a working parent, and can't find enough time to do activities with your kids, you need not feel guilty. Because, you can buy your kids story books that teach science.

Check out the Magic School Bus series. They have books for different reader levels, which take children on amazing science adventures!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Around the World in 8 1/2 days with Judy Moody

This is in continuation to our earlier post about making Geography interesting for kids.

Around the World in 8 1/2 days is a book by Megan McDonald. The book is about Judy Moody, a grade three student who makes a new friend in school - Amy Namey. At first Judy doesn't like Amy, but a thought from her little brother Stink, makes Judy change her mind. Judy and Amy soon become best friends and members of the "My-name-is-a-poem" club.

As their friendship progresses, Judy, Amy and the other grade three students, take the reader through a journey around the world, which is their school project. Besides finding fun facts about different places in the world, the readers also learn about the importance of friendship.

Things like Bubblegum Alley, ABC (already been chewed gum), make your own gum kit and the pizza table tower keep the reader entertained and giggling, and make this book a fantastico (as Judy would say it) read for 5-7 year old children.

Putting FUN into Learning

As a child, Social Studies was not one of my favourite subjects. And that's probably because our textbooks stated facts in a plain manner and no one really explained the importance/relevance of learning about places and cultures.
My kids are still small, but I already have ideas on how to make Geography interesting for them (without letting them know). Sharing my ideas with you...
  1. The world map - Each year we travel to some place (India or aborad) during summer vaccations - it'll be a good idea to have kids do some research about the destination they will be visiting, and create their own tour guide.

    As an after activity, they can create a photo album about their visit to the place and also write about their holiday.
  2. Stories - Stories are a wonderful resource to learn about people and culture. As children read books, have them write a short report about the location (non-fictional) where the story was set - the report can include list of interesting places mentioned in the story, lifestyle, culture and any other features.
  3. Music - They say music knows no boundaries - today thanks to satellite radio and television, we have access to channels that play different world music. Have children select a music theme/type/genre and find out its origin and how culture of a place impacts the music
  4. Food - This is my favourite category. Each time you take your kids out to a speciality restaurant, ask them to read the items on the menu. They can select 2-3 items and do some research to find out the origin of the food - right from where the crop is produced to which country the dish belongs to.
I hope you find these useful, and if you like them, do write back and let me know, so I am encouraged to write more. And yes, if you can think of any other ideas, please share them too.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

My Magical Pitara

Summer Holidays are coming up, and as my almost 4-yr old daughter will gear up for her holidays, I wish I too can go back to being a child and enjoy the summer holidays. Summer holidays for me meant spending the mornings and afternoons reading books and escaping into the fantasy world of stories and evenings were meant for outdoor fun.

We were given a monthly book budget each month, and we could use the money to buy any book of our choice. It was their way of encouraging the reading habit, and it worked!!!

I had a cupboard full of books - adventure, fiction, humour, knowledge - it was all there. The cupboard was my magical pitara. Any time I felt bored, lonely or down, I would go to my magical pitara and pull out a book that would transform me into a different world.

Books were and still are my best friend. And that's why today, when I have my own 2 little kids, I spend some afternoons with them telling them stories. In fact, I enjoy story telling so much, that I am tempted to start a story telling venture for children.

What do you that a good idea? If you have a bunch of kids who would enjoy listening to a story, then drop me a line, I would love to conduct a story telling session for them.