EEME makes monthly hands-on project kits and online lessons to teach kids electronics.
Due to COVID-19, my 3rd grade son will continue distance learning. In the spirit of social distancing, we will continue to keep our 4 year old daughter out of preschool. Both have been sheltered at home since March. I have predominantly taken the role of watching over their day-to-day education and am learning a lot on how to be a more effective home educator.
As a break from writing about electronics, STEM, and EEME, I thought I'd share some of the learning tactics I'm employing while working with my son and daughter.
Get ready, get set, kindergarten!
For the last couple of months, I've written mostly about my experience with home educating my soon-to-be 3rd grade son. I wrote about how we've worked together on creating checklists, improving his writing, learning how to ask for clarification, and using a timer to pace his day and not lose track of time.
During this period, I've also been trying to maintain some learning structure for my daughter, who is now 4 and a half years old. I usually try to dedicate a 30 minute chunk of the morning to either read to her, have her draw, or have her thoughtfully create some sort of wood block and/or LEGO DUPLO structure for her stuffies.
As this summer break ends, I have also started thinking about how to prep her for kindergarten in the fall of 2021. I do not aim to have her enter and leave kindergarten at the head of her class. My goal is to have her adequately prepared to minimize any sort of academic frustration.
From what I remember during my son's tenure, kindergarten involved learning numbers, letters, and eventually words - not just how to recognize and read them, but also how to mechanically write them out on paper.
So as a first step, I decided to have my daughter practice writing out numbers! How hard can that be? Just write it over and over again - practice makes perfect right? Well, it turned out not to be that obviously simple!
In the end, I created a couple of worksheets to help my daughter practice her number writing. Below is a write-up about my journey.
Preschool number writing worksheets
Fundamental to learning how to write
As mentioned before, my daughter draws regularly. I generally don't expect da Vinci-like realism. So when she hands me her post-modern abstract art pieces, I don't think much about how she mechanically draws. Turns out she holds a crayon like a kitchen utensil. This method of drawing creates fantastic art that would make Picasso jealous, but doesn't work so well when you need more precision pencil control for writing numbers and letters.
So I showed her to hold her crayon as if she would write - pinchy pinchy, with the crayon resting in between her thumb, pointer, and middle finger. For the next couple of weeks, she would draw by holding the crayon as if she was going to write. Her art pieces still bordered on post-modern abstract, but there was noticeable improvement in her crayon, drawing control as a result.
Are we writing or drawing amoebas?
After a couple of weeks of holding the crayon the "right" way, I felt she was ready to actually practice writing. We swapped the crayon for a pencil. I took a blank piece of paper, wrote the number 2 on it. On another blank piece of paper, I instructed her to try to copy and write the number 2 herself. Good effort but the result looked more like an amoeba than the number 2!?!
I made a couple of observations from her initial effort that resulted in an amoeba:
- She was "drawing" the number 2 - meaning she kept "sketching" back and forth "drawing" out segments of the number 2 rather than "writing" out the number in one continuous stroke.
- She would look up at my number 2 while writing out her number 2 which led to pencil drift.
In her next writing session, instead of having her copy my number 2, I wrote out the number 2 ten times on a piece of paper. Then I simply had her trace over my number 2 with the constraint of not letting her lift up her pencil. This seemed to work better.
Before each number writing session, I'd spend 15 minutes carefully writing out the various numbers on blank pieces of paper for her to "trace". Her confidence in her writing ability increased with each session.
Incrementally increase the difficulty, then crank back
My goal is to have my daughter be able to write the numbers herself, not trace them. So I started modifying how I created the worksheets. Rather than write out the number ten times for her to trace, after the 3rd or so iteration, I would make the exercise slightly more difficult by omitting segments of the number. This forced my daughter to have to actually write "pieces" of the number herself rather than trace the entire time.
Additionally I started meticulously drawing arrows to indicate the stroke direction. What started out as a 15 minute preparation for my daughter's writing session turned in a 30 to 40 minute exercise for me!
To save myself time, I decided to invest a chunk of my morning and digitally create a number of worksheets.
Below is an example of the incremental omission that I mentioned above. To help with progress, you'll also notice that after a couple of numbers missing segments, I'll add back the entire number again. This "easing" of the practice difficulty ensures correct form and helps create a frame of reference during her practice.
Example of increasing, decreasing difficulty
The result is a handful of worksheets for the numbers 2 to 9. We work on one number at a time, a couple of times per week. Before the practice session, I'd simply print out the worksheet and we're ready to go!
Conclusion - sharing is caring
The process of incrementally making a practice session increasingly more difficult, then easier, then more difficult, is a meta-learning process that I use myself to practice my guitar playing (speeding up, slowing down, breaking up complex riffs into smaller pieces, then reintegrating it back into the main riff, then breaking it up again, etc).
Rather than have other parents like me suffer through the tedious task of making these worksheets, I'd thought to just share the ones I made.
Here are the links to the PDF worksheets which you can print out yourself:
- Preschool worksheet to practice writing numbers 2 to 5
- Preschool worksheet to practice writing numbers 6 to 9
As each week passes, my daughter's number writing and pencil control improves. I'll be working on some worksheets for letters as well so stay tuned for those!
If you found these worksheets helpful, feel free to share this post with other parents/families.
If you are looking for hands-on electronics kits for your 7-12 year old kid, we are still shipping during this COVID-19 fiasco. Each kit is paired with its own online curriculum to teach your family how to build the circuit as well as how the circuit works.
You can learn with EEME in three ways:
Subscribe to our monthly kits - each month we send you a new project.
Make a one-time purchase of our 9 project set - which is effectively the first 9 month's of projects.
Thanks so much, stay safe, and happy building!!
Jack "EEME Dad"