Art based literacy


So my daughter can read now. What to do next to improve her other language skills such as spelling, grammar and reading comprehension? Ideally I dont want to break up the language into spelling, grammar etc until she is older. I want to instil the love of reading into her heart, inshaAllah. I love reading classic literature myself, religious or otherwise. And I would love for my children to develop reading for pleasure as a hobby.

Books can take us to places we have not been and probably will never have a chance to visit. And books introduce us to people we would never have a chance to meet in real life. So, ultimately, books-emphasis should be on good living books– help us to broaden our horizon. So, I just want my daughters to develop the love of reading. And I believe if children keep reading, their spelling and grammar just comes along naturally because they would have enough exposure to good literature, where writing and expression of ideas are stylistic and the grammar is perfect.

So, in order to have more engaging literacy sessions, I have come up with the following plan to progress with Sumayya and Safiyya’s language skills.

Sumayya is now very fluent reader. She can even read my books and my SISTERS magazines as well, Alhamdulillah. Safiyya has learned all the phonics but she can not blend them to make a word. She seems to be better at sight-reading. She remembers words by sight but when I ask to join and blend certain sounds she looks at me blankly lol. Anyway, here is the plan inshaAllah.

For spelling and grammar– short lessons, art based activity, use as less worksheets as possible. More attention on developing their imagination and organize arts/crafts session 2-3 times a week on the subject that they are most interested at a time. Make the craft and try to write some sentences (Sumayya) and some words (Safiyya) based on their own experience. It is almost like a writing a diary. When Sumayya is a little older I will start using prepared dictation for spelling inshaAllah. And with Safiyya we will continue with MTS 3 set cards and Jolly Phonics flashcards in addition to our art based literacy sessions.

For comprehension skills– Narration. I always ask Sumayya to narrate me the stories she has been reading, in English and in Uzbek. She knows stories have beginning, middle and end. She usually retells the events of a story in the right order of sequence. She should extract the conclusion or morale from the story and we have a little discussion. Again, this can be done just on the go, whether I am cooking or we are travelling etc. And it is very effective, Alhamdulillah. Safiyya is not that good at narrating but if I provide some visuals to go with the story (i.e sequencing cards) then she makes the effort to narrate.

So, last week they made a nest and a flamingo. Sumayya loves birds and always trying to make a conversation with them. So they both made these.

Then I wrote some sentences for Sumayya leaving some blank spaces to fill in. She read and completed the sentences. For Safiyya we did N is for Nest, F is for Flamingo and she did tracing letters N and F.


Qur’an centred activities


Alhamdulillah wonderful sister um an Numan over at A Muslim Child is Born  has put together word workbooks for small surahs from Juzu Amma. We have done surah Al Fatiha, surah Al Ikhlas and surah An Nas so far. Alhamdulillah the girls enjoyed it, so did I. It is perfect material to introduce children to learn how to blend Arabic sounds and to actually read the Qur’an in Arabic. The books provide variety of activities such as tracing, cut/paste, matching words from ayah, word hunting and sequencing the ayah in the right order of the surah etc.

Reading the ayah and finding the same word as in the box below. Sumayya could easily read ayah aloud and Safiyya can recognize the same word by sight only.

Cut and paste the words in the relevant boxes (matching the words to its shadow in the boxes). Again Sumayya was reading them aloud and Safiyya was doing the pasting by sight recognition.

Matching the words on the right to the words on the left

We played the following board game from surah Al Ikhlas . Alhamdulillah it was fun and engaging game for my 3 year old too.

We  usually do lots of word hunting with Sumayya on mushaf. I always ask her to count the number of ayah in a surah she recites, find the last ayah, or ayah Nx, find one of the high frequency words within that surah. Alhamdulillah she is able to follow the Arabic print with her fingers. Usually she recites better when she follows the print with her finger. I think when she sees the next letter (i.e wow with fatha- wa) it prompts the next ayah in her head and she doesnt pause or doesnt get stuck. If she is reciting solely off her memory without looking at mushaf, I will help her to remember the next ayah whenever she pauses. Usually she pauses because she gets confused with similar ayah that come in different surahs. For example, Surah Inshiqaq, Surah Intifar and Surah Takweer have lots of similar words and word combinations and thus I too get confused when reciting off my memory, subhanAllah, never mind the 5 year old.

So, because of the previous work on mus’haf, Sumayya found these too easy. And she keeps asking me to print her long surahs, like surah Al Fajr word workbook. She wants to do the same worksheets for her surahs. The girls have divided the surahs of Juzu Amma between themselves. It is Safiyya’s surahs from Nas to Takathur, and surahs from Qaria to Naba belong to Sumayya.

Below are some more sample pages. I encourage all mothers to try these word workbooks for introducing reading the Qur’an. Although Sumayya found them too easy, it was a good reinforcement for her to do. And it was a bit challenging for Safiyya . She can recognize words to match by sight, she can do letter hunting and she can do cut/paste activity easily. So, she is doing well re sight-recognition of words. But she can not blend them and couldnt read individual words aloud. So, it would be ideal to do these again when she is 4 inshaAllah.

The importance of outdoors


I have read a lot about the importance of spending time outdoors in nature for young children (as well as adults). We live in houses stuffed with everything and kids love running, jumping and large space more than anything in the world. Well, at least the first 6-7 years of their lives :).

If we think about children’s first 5 years, most of their development is physical. First we get happy to see them rolling from side to side, then reaching for things and holding rattles in their hands. Then comes the joy of crawling, standing holding on to things, walking. Almost all their milestones are something physical. First 5 years are so important to develop children physically. This is the time where they need most opportunity to develop their lifetime physical skills such as climbing, jumping, running and swimming etc. Their childhood don’t come back and it is hard to teach older ones to appreciate the nature and being outdoors if they are not trained from young age.

The importance of outdoors and spending time in the nature is emphasized by most home-school advocates and educators. Charlotte Mason, 19th century educator, encouraged all her students to spend great amount of time outdoors, noticing the changes in weather and nature. Her students kept a nature notebook and would record their nature collections. “Our forefathers and generations before them lived in the fields, had so much to do with nature and were in harmony with it. Our houses are small, no space and so artificial for young minds to develop” that was her talking in mid 1800’s. I can just imagine what she would say now.

Even in Montessori method, spending time outdoors developing multi-sensory and motor skills are mentioned time and again. Doman and Waldorf stresses the importance of being able to swim from young age. These physical developments and abilities make children more confident and make their brain more active. Very often we underestimate what children learn from by just going for regular walks or playing in playgrounds. Often they will invent things, collect things and come to conclusions about how environment, nature, trees, animals etc around them function through seasons.

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Math Manipulatives


In order to accommodate Safiyya’s learning style, I have decided to use more math manipulatives during our math sessions. Math manipulatives are things like beads, sticks, legos, building blocks, marbles, matching/sequencing/flashcards. In a nutshell, they are both visual and touch-and-feel items that are used to grasp math concepts. These are ideal for children who are kinaesthetic learners. I have taught numbers/colors/shapes/repeating patterns etc using math manipulatives to both of my daughters. But Sumayya was ok with math worksheets, workbooks and me explaining concepts and occasionally doing math manipulative activity. Safiyya, on the other hand, requires more actively engaging activities, SubhanAllah so different :)

Currently they both have workbooks from  Autumn Childrens Books. In addition we are doing addition time tables with popsicle sticks. I remember sometime ago Sumayya was able to add and substract numbers 0-20. Then we were not practising substraction/addition as much. She is confident with addition problems using numbers 0-10 and she can add them up mentally or starts using fingers whenever she is stuck in her head. Currently we are doing one more/two more/three more/four more addition timetables using all the numbers 0-20.  If the added sum is more than 10 I invite her to use popsicle sticks and she can add any number using them. Then she records all that she did in her math notebook

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