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Learning Tools Multilingual Products reviewed on 702!

Products to facilitate second language acquisition

Learning Tools had a boost on Saturday morning when our Multilingual Products – Viva Vocab and Conversation Station were reviewed on Radio 702  Weekend Breakfast with Phemelo Motene.

 

Many thanks to Talent Whisperer, and all around inspiring Nikki Bush for doing such a great job for us.

Learning Tools has developed two products to be used to introduce and enhance the acquisition of a second language.  The can be used, for example, to introduce a rural child to English, or introduce an urban child to Zulu.  They are also designed to enhance vocabulary development and to stimulate Critical Thinking and conversation in the second language.

These products currently support English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa, but are able to support any South African language needed.

Historically a second language has been taught with a focus on grammar and sentences first and then onto vocabulary.  Recently, however, many teachers have realised that learning vocabulary first leads to an easier transition into the second language.  Learning grammar and how to construct sentences is easier once the child has a reasonable base of vocabulary to draw on.

The development of the African Voice products is based on this concept of building a solid foundation of vocabulary in the second language before tackling other aspects of the language.

Conversation Station –

This game is all about stimulating conversation, and building vocabulary.  Each card has a truly South African photo on the one side, and critical thinking questions in all four of the target languages on the reverse.  It also has a list of vocabulary words along the bottom.  The questions are asked initially in Mother Tongue, and the vocabulary is introduced in the Second Language.

Viva Vocab –

Is a specialised vocabulary building game.  It is a flash card game – with a picture of an object on the one side, and the vocabulary word on the reverse.  The vocabulary is repeated in the target languages.  Viva Vocab has over 250 of the CAPS vocabulary words.  These words are categorised, and each category is colour coded.  The phonetic transcription of the word is included with each language.  This assists the learner to begin pronouncing the word in the right way.

We would LOVE you to try these – please contact me is you would like more info? sarah@learningtools.co.za

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Working Memory – what is it? And how can we improve it?

Working Memory

You’ve heard of Short-Term Memory, and Long-Term Memory – so what is Working Memory?  Working Memory is an area of the brain that we use while we are manipulating information.   Working Memory is used for carrying out complex tasks such as learning, reasoning and comprehension.  It is a limited space when comparing it to Long-Term memory, and it is also temporary.  The best analogy I have come across compares Working Memory to a diner plate.  We would use the diner plate for food and once the food is finished, we can reuse it again.  Working Memory is much the same.  We will use our working memory for a specific task, and after that is completed the area is “cleaned” and we can reuse it.

Working Memory forms part of the Executive Function of the brain.  Executive Functioning is what helps people plan, organise and complete tasks.  Working Memory is fundamental to learning.  It is through our working memory that we recall information, and can use that information for the task at hand.  Working Memory helps us pay attention, and maintain focus during a task.  For example, if a learner is performing a Long Division maths problem, it is the Working Memory that will help the learner follow the steps necessary to work out the problem.

Working Memory has two parts to it – we have an Auditory Working Memory, and a Visual Working Memory.  The Auditory Working Memory is a part we use to manipulate information we have heard and Visual Working Memory is the information we have seen.

Working memory touches all aspects of learning, and following instructions.  Issues arise for learners when their Working Memory is weak, and not functioning effectively. Going back to the plate analogy, if your plate isn’t big enough, it won’t hold enough.  I have a cousin who headed up a team of people for one of our big banks.  During a particularly stressful project one of her employees pleaded that he had “too much on his plate” and could not complete the task at hand.  My cousin retorted saying “well, get a bigger plate”.  We have often laughed about this as it is so out of character for my cousin’s personality.  If you were to meet my cousin you would never believe she could be so hard.  But what do we do when our learners “need a bigger plate”??  How do we improve learner’s Working Memory??

The good news is that working memory can be trained!  We can work on our working memory like we would exercise a muscle.  Research has shown that learners who have both auditory and visual stimuli at the same time retain the information and are able to use the information better.  This indicates that to get the best out of our working memory, we need to “feed” our brains both auditory and visual information.

To understand how our brains can use the auditory and visual parts of our working memory, let’s have a look at spelling.  A lot of learners who have working memory deficits are poor spellers.  They will learn the spelling for the week, and after the test they forget the words instantly.  What is happening here is the learners are using their Visual Memory for the spelling words, and not using their Auditory Memory.  To improve their working memory, learners need to “hear” the sounds within the words, not just visually recognise the words.  By using both the Auditory and Visual Working Memory together, the output is improved spelling.

Similarly, learners who have a poor working memory often don’t comprehend what they have read as effectively as others.  By engaging in “active reading” techniques, learners with poor working memories can hold onto more information.  Active reading involves jotting down notes, using highlighters for important sections, and reading aloud so that the learners can hear as well as see the text.

So how do we improve our child’s working memory?  Here are 8 boosters suggested by Understood.org (Morin, 2017)

  1. Work on Visual Skills
  2. Have your child teach you
  3. Suggest games that use Visual memory
  4. Play cards
  5. Active Reading
  6. Chunk Information into smaller bites
  7. Make it Multisensory
  8. Help Make the connections

References

Heyman, N. (2012, July 9). Auditory Memory: In one ear and out of the other? Retrieved from http://nikkiheyman.co.za: http://nikkiheyman.co.za/auditory-memory-in-one-ear-and-out-of-the-other/

McDougall, B. (2017, June 8). How Working Memory Gets Gobbled Up | The Importance of Letter Formation. Retrieved from https://thehappyhandwriter.co.za: https://thehappyhandwriter.co.za/how-working-memory-gets-gobbled-up-the-importance-of-letter-formation/

McLeod, S. A. (2012). Working Memory. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org: https://www.simplypsychology.org/working%20memory.html

Morin, A. (2017). 8 Working Memory Boosters . Retrieved from www.understood.org: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/learning-at-home/homework-study-skills/8-working-memory-boosters

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Multilingualism – what does it mean, and how can we achieve it?

Products to facilitate second language acquisition

I attended a most fascinating talk on Multilingualism last night – thank you Bellavista SHARE for the evening.  It was given by the Esteemed Professor Heila Jordaan, who is very worth listening to if you ever get a chance.  I will share a few of the salient points.

Living in South Africa, Multilingualism is part of our fabric (Multilingualism is defined as the ability to communicate in more than one language).  It is part of who we are to a greater or lesser degree. Many of us have a smattering of a few of the 11 South African official languages, but what does it mean to be truly multilingual?  And how can we achieve this?

The goal for multilingualism is more than being able to communicate orally in the second language.  To be truly multilingual we need to be able to read, write, think and learn in a second language

Being multilingual has both educational and cognitive advantages.  Learning another language enriches our brains, and there are other benefits in terms of the executive function of our frontal lobes.  Socially, living in South Africa, being multilingual gives children a huge advantage in terms of identity, and ability to integrate in society.

Given that the majority of the South African education is given in English, most of our children are forced into being Multilingual whether they are motivated to or not.

Second Language acquisition is not a fast process.  It takes time, and there is a process that needs to be followed.  Learners need the time and space to go through the stages of learning the second language.  The factors that affect Second Language Acquisition are:

  • The QUALITY of the language instruction – this is the key cornerstone to learning a language
  • The quantity of time spent on the language
  • The motivation of the pupil
  • The personality of the pupil
  • Language learning aptitude
  • And the level of development of the first language.

It was the last point that really resonated with me.  We often see cases where the mother tongue has been abandoned in favour of the new language.  The idea behind this is to assist the child with acquiring the new language.  But interestingly, research point to the fact that this approach leads to a detriment of both languages.

The relationship between the first language and the second language is critical.  There is a Threshold Theory which I would encourage you to look into if you are interested, but the gist is – the effects of multilingualism are positive when BOTH languages are developed and maintained.

The resounding point is – don’t stop the first language to help the child learn the second language!

My sister-in-law and I have developed African Voice, which is a range of two products that assist with Second Language Acquisition.  These products are used to introduce and enhance the acquisition of a second language.  The can be used, for example, to introduce a rural child to English, or introduce an urban child to Zulu.  They are also designed to enhance vocabulary development and to stimulate Critical Thinking and conversation in the second language.

African Voice products currently support English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa, but are able to support any South African language needed.

The development of the African Voice products is based on this concept of building a solid foundation of vocabulary in the second language before tackling other aspects of the language.

Conversation Station – This game is all about stimulating conversation, and building vocabulary.  Each card has a truly South African photo on the one side, and critical thinking questions in all four of the target languages on the reverse.  It also has a list of vocabulary words along the bottom.  The questions are asked initially in Mother Tongue, and the vocabulary is introduced in the Second Language.

Viva Vocab –is a specialised vocabulary building game.  It is a flash card game – with a picture of an object on the one side, and the vocabulary word on the reverse.  The vocabulary is repeated in the target languages.  Viva Vocab has over 250 of the CAPS vocabulary words.  These words are categorised, and each category is colour coded.  The phonetic transcription of the word is included with each language.  This assists the learner to begin pronouncing the word in the right way.

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The building blocks of geometry

Shapeometry educational game to develop reasoning skills.

Shapes are the building blocks of geometry. Learning about shapes is a fundamental step in the basics of maths. Children need to start to understand what the properties of shape are, and how to classify shapes. Why do we need Geometry? Geometry is necessary for us to discover patterns, find areas, volumes, lengths and angles, and better understand the world around us. In the Primary school children are taught the fundamentals of geometry beginning with shapes.

Here are a few products that can enhance the learning experience.

Folding Geometric Shapes – R680.00

The Folding Geometric Shapes set includes eight three-dimensional shapes: cube, cylinder, cone, square pyramid, triangular pyramid, hexagonal prism,
rectangular prism, and triangular prism. The set is unique because it shows the shapes in a solid form as well as the net.

Number and Shape Dominoes – R375.00

This is a resource aimed at reinforcing the basic principles of early geometric shapes, and encouraging children to practice them. Number and Shape Dominoes combines an image of a 2D shape, and a basic description of the shape. For example: “is round” or “square” or “four corners and four equal sides”

ShapeOmetry – R360.00
ShapeOmetry is a fun way to help students develop key math skills and strategies. ShapeOmetry will help students develop spatial, abstract, and quantitative reasoning skills. Through hands-on play, students will build key mathematical understandings such as part-to-whole relationships, important skills that will serve them as they advance into later grades.

Fractions

Fractions can be seen as daunting to children at first. Using fun fractions games for children is a great way for to reinforce the concepts being taught. Through playing the game children have an opportunity to practice the skills being taught. The game can often show the teacher if the children are understanding the concepts being taught, or if more consolidation is necessary.

Match a Fraction Snap Game – R240.00
Match a Fraction is a simple snap game. It is a card game where half the cards have fractions images on them, and the other half have the fraction on them. Children need to find the matching fractions and win the cards.
Fraction Dominoes – R245.00

A fun twist on traditional dominoes! Reinforce Fractions by matching the image to the numeric fraction. Dominoes can be matched in 3 ways – numeric to fraction fraction to fraction or numeric to numeric.

Fraction Addition and Subtraction Bones – R550.00

Fractions can be seen as daunting to children at first. The task of adding and subtracting fractions can be even more so. If children have enough opportunity to practice working with fractions, they will become more accurate and less apprehensive. Using Fraction Addition and Subtraction Bones are an excellent resource for offering this ype of practice.

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Building a good foundation in reading – starting with VOWELS

Vowel Games

Learning letter sounds is one of the first steps in learning to read. And while most consonant sounds come easily to kids, vowel sounds can be an entirely different monster. For one, vowel sounds are not “felt” as much in the mouth as most consonant sounds, making it harder for kids to hear them. Vowel sounds can also be spelled several different ways, making reading and spelling them tricky {even for some adults}.

Vowels are the building blocks of words. By practicing to understand and hear vowels properly, you will also improve spelling; reading; speech; and comprehension.

Below are a few products to help your kids practice and master vowel sounds!

Vowel Owls – R520.00
Help students distinguish long from short vowels in single-syllable words using engaging picture cards. Sort the cards into the correct owls labelled with the vowels.

Short Vowel Dominoes – R410.00

Phonics Short Vowel Dominoes are a fun, hands-on way for beginning readers to practice word-formation skills and build their confidence on the road to reading success. Included are 84 dominoes with high-utility consonants (s, t, m, f, r, b, l, etc.) and 27 phonograms (word families)

Consonant-Vowel-Consonant Bones (40 in a pack) – R470.00

CVC short vowel words are the best place to start when children are learning to read. Because the patterns for short vowels are much more consistent than the patterns for long vowel words, making them easier read and spell. CVC words are the foundation of Phonemic awareness. They are used as the first step to sounding out and reading words.

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Learning Science with the Bones Series

It is always so exciting to find new products, and introduce them to the South African market. Just in we have some exciting new Science Games – these are especially for the Senior Primary phase, and I know the teachers are going to love them.

Food Chain Flip Chart and Food Chain Bones

The food chain range has been designed to facilitate children’s understanding of food chains. The illustrations offer the teacher the opportunity to develop discussions on feeding habits, diets, and energy transfer through the various species.

Life Cycles Flip Chart and Life Cycles Bones

The Life Cycle range has been designed to facilitate children’s understanding of life cycles. The illustrations offer the teacher the opportunity to develop discussions on characteristics, similarities, differences of the various species. Life Cycle Flip chart can be used in conjunction with our Life Cycle Bones.

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Educational Toys for the Family

Kinetic sand is a 3D building toy that mimics the physical properties of wet sand.

Learning is always more fun when the whole family can enjoy it together. These education toys for the family offers a valuable opportunity for families to play and learn together.

Kinetic Sand: Construction Zone

Kinetic sand is a three-dimensional construction toy that mimics the physical properties of wet sand.
Kinetic sand was originally designed for sculpting, but is commonly sold as indoor play sand for children. In appearance it resembles light brown sugar. It can be molded, it sticks to itself, but not to most other materials or surfaces, and best of all it doesn’t dry out. If it is spilled onto the floor it can be cleaned up easily, as it is attracted to itself!

Double Visual Perception Card Game

It is a game of speed, visual perception and reflexes. Even adults will enjoy this game. It’s a simple tin of 55 round playing cards. Every card has 8 symbols on it, selected from a possible 50 (heart, bomb, lips, waving hand, car, etc.) Each card shares one, and only one, matching symbol with every other card in the deck. The trick is to spot the matching symbol. Visual perception is the key to this fast paced game. Players race to find the one matching image between one card and another. Symbols may be different sizes and placed on any part of the card, making them difficult to spot.

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Have Fun While Learning Language

Super Sleuth Parts of Speech Game

English is questionably the most complicated language to learn. It rates up there with Russian, Finnish and Mandarin. It is stacked with rules, but there are also so many exceptions to the rules, which doesn’t really make it any easier. So, learning English is not just a question of learning the rules – it’s about learning the many exceptions to the rules as well. Hence, trying to put the “fun” into a language lesson is hard work. For this reason, I have compiled a list of some great language games that can assist you in your language endeavour – All available to buy at Learning Tools.

Lickety Quick

Lickety Quick is a fast paced word building game great for both children and adults.

Read more here.

Super Sleuth

Super Sleuth is a fabulous vocabulary game. Play detective to master synonyms, antonyms, homophones, and multiple-meaning words.

Read more here.

BrainBox English

Grammar, punctuation, and spelling: Let BrainBox English come to the rescue, helping you sort out pronouns from prepositions, adverbs from apostrophes and synonyms from syllables.

Read more here.

Learning language can be fun!