Monthly Archives: June 2014

DO NOT STIFLE CURIOSITY

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“Curiosity killed the cat”, is an old saying. It is used to caution people who let curiosity get the better of them. Here in Nigeria, our society is not traditionally encouraging of people who get curious. People are encouraged to stay with the lakes and the rivers that they know and are used to. As for the things that are strange or appear to have no explanation, we label them “dark” or “evil”. The evil forest. The dark river. The general attitude towards these things is that of keeping off. Don’t be curios; keep off and stay safe.

Yet, curiosity is a great driving force in learning. Whether it s Isaac Newton, some other great inventor, or the everyday person who discovers some new phenomenon or brings new ideas about how to do things, we will find that curiosity is key. So, an apple fell off a tree. Why not pick it up, clean it, eat and go on with your life? But curiosity asked why. Why did this fall from the tree? Why do apples and indeed all fruit fall to the ground? And thus began a quest for knowledge that has resulted in a discovery that has become one of the foundations for physics.

The question, Why? It has siblings like How? When? Where? What? In multiple fields around the world, students, teachers and practitioners keep asking these questions. It is the way forward. Curiosity is key to learning and should be encouraged.

Why does this stream have two outlets, and how is it that one outlet brings out cool water and the other warm? Questions. What can be done with this phenomenon? More questions. While curiosity may have killed the cat in that old story, it is because of curiosity that human civilization makes progress. It is how we learn best. When we go hunting out information and solutions for ourselves because we need convincing and because we need answers, we are at our best in the learning curve.

EASIER WITH SONGS.

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Perhaps most people – if not everyone – remembers songs like ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star”, “The two black birds”, and “Nine green bottles”?

We barely ever forget the things that we learn when music is used as the medium of instruction. From our toddler years till adulthood, music burns things vividly into our minds. Sometimes, it even appears that we forget, but a little trigger and the memories flood back. While persistence, determination and other factors are vital to learning, the media through which the information is delivered is also key, and music as a medium has been effective for centuries.

Why Learn Through Songs and Singing?

So, what is it about songs and singing that makes learning so much fun? Here are a few points:

  1. Music itself is regarded as a language – a universal one that exists in every culture.
  2. It is a natural medium: all over the world, parents sing to their children  every day.
  3. There is a considerable scientific evidence that shows us how songs can help young learners acquire grammar, vocabulary and improve spelling too.
  4. It is fun: The playful use of ideas, words and phrases in a catchy tune and rhythm make a song a fun way to learn.
  5. Memorization: Many of the words and phrases in a song are repetitive, making it easier for anyone to memorize them. Songs have the uncanny ability of getting stuck in our heads. Tunes and lyrics often infiltrate our thoughts and play over and over in our minds. All of these help anyone memorize vocabularies and phrases within the shortest possible time.

The above points are not exhaustive, as there is more to be said about learning through music. So, next time you want anyone to memorize anything in the shortest possible time, perhaps putting it in song isn’t a bad idea.

PS: Check out the range of First Veritas instructional materials in audio and video formats.

WHAT BOOKS HAVE YOU READ RECENTLY?

It is a huge mistake to think that education is a matter for children only. The truth is that education is a life-long affair. Regardless of how old we get, we must constantly be learning or we will become out of touch with present-day realities.

That is why we must all read. We must read regularly and deliberately. We must read to expand our horizons, and to keep up with the fast-changing world that we live in. It is saddening to see students and teachers carrying around old books with outdated information all across our institutions of learning. Yet, new titles with more current information are being released daily globally.

The interesting thing is that it is easier for us to access books today than ever before in the history of humanity. With a few clicks of the mouse, books that are not available in our locations or even countries can be ordered and have shipped to us. There really is no excuse for us to stay uninformed in this day and age.

But books are not the only media available to us. Here are a few others:

  • the web: blogs, research sites, reference websites and more
  • TV
  • radio
  • DVD/CD
  • periodicals and magazines
  • e-magazines

You may not see adequately stocked book stores in your locality. Perhaps you are not even able to afford some of the books that you would love to order online. The internet is a huge library that anyone – young or old – can take advantage of for self development. Anyone in any field can use search engines like Google and Bing to find information on almost any subject or topic under the sun.

We must read. We must keep reading. Whether we are reading paper books or e-books, reading is still the primary (and perhaps most effective) way to learn in today’s world. What books have you read recently?

BEDTIME STORIES

A bedtime story is a traditional form of storytelling, where a story is told to a child at bedtime to prepare the child for sleep. Bedtime stories can be read from a book, or may be made up. The stories tend to be short, with a happy ending.bedtimestories_1356045c

Bedtime stories have many advantages for both adults and children. We will focus on the benefits to the child.

  • sharing a bedtime story with a child builds their vocabulary
  • sharing a bedtime story with a child helps the child to love reading
  • sharing a bedtime story with a child promotes their motor skills, through learning to turn the pages
  • sharing a bedtime story with a child helps improve the child’s memory
  • sharing a bedtime story with a child  reduces the child’s stress levels and can help with better sleep
  • sharing bedtime stories with a child builds a greater bond between parent and child

Telling bedtime stories may not be a popular way of life here, and especially in today’s fast-paced work setting. However, perhaps a parent can fix a day or two a week – possibly weekends – when they can read or tell stories to their children.

There are popular folk tales, as well as stories from other cultures, that almost any child will love and enjoy. Many children stories can be sourced online and from books. First Veritas has a range of story books that you might want to have a look at. The very nice thing about children and stories is that should they like a story, they want to hear it again and again, so there is no pressure to come up with something new each night..

Do you tell your child bedtime stories? Did you get told bedtime stories when you were younger? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below.

We Celebrate You, Fathers!

Fathers-Day-Super-Dad-450x200Father’s Day is a celebration honouring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society. It has long been established that fathers are critical anchors in the society. Studies have shown that a father’s love is just as important to a child’s development as a mother’s, and sometimes more so: “…in some cases, the withdrawal of a father’s love seems to play a bigger role in kids’ problems with personality and psychological adjustment, delinquency, and substance abuse.”

It really is not about who is more important between a mother and a father, but in recognising that the role that fathers play in child development and education is both crucial and unique.

Studies have shown that children with involved fathers:

  • are often better adjusted to socialising,
  • tend to do better academically,
  • tend to do better economically,
  • have better emotional stability,
  • have more meaningful relationships,
  • tend to have less behavioural problems,
  • have a better sense of self respect.

The celebration of Father’s Day was started in the USA in 1910, and has grown worldwide since then. It was Father’s Day just two days ago, and another opportunity to celebrate fatherhood and our fathers. We hope that the fathers among us got some special attention and appreciation on that day.

We celebrate fathers today and always, because we know that your presence in the life of your children makes  difference. We celebrate you because you matter. The time you spend with your children, playing with them, providing care, training them, and helping out with their school work is time well spent. It is an investment that will yield great rewards year after year, and even when you are gone. Many children remember with fondness the precious discussions and exchanges that they had with their fathers.

We hope that you indeed had a happy father’s day! We celebrate you always.

IT IS SOCCER TIME !

Yes; it is soccer time. World Cup time, to be more specific. There is a lot of energy and buzz around this event for the next one month.New Picture (6)

While more conservative people are likely to look upon sports and games as a waste of time for young people, research and studies have shown that physical activity is essential to the total development of the child. In other words, it is essential that young people engage in sporting activity. Not only does it develop the body, it also fine tunes the mind.

The Swiss Academy for Development’s Sports and Development website states:

Sport and physical education is fundamental to the early development of children and youth and the skills learned during play, physical education and sport contribute to the holistic development of young people. Through participation in sport and physical education, young people learn about the importance of key values such as:

  • honesty,
  • teamwork,
  • fair play,
  • respect for themselves and others, and
  • adherence to rules.

Source: http://www.sportanddev.org/en/learnmore/sport_education_and_child_youth_development2/healthy_development_of_children_and_young_people_through_sport/

Is it really a waste of time to let students watch the World Cup, after all, they are not physically involved in the games. Will devoting so much time and energy to watching and analysing players and teams for the next one month contribute anything meaningful to education?

Apart from the fun and recreational benefits that watching a football tournament brings (and these are bona fide benefits themselves), the game of football is a very technical sport, involving analysis and planning. Fans are always constantly scrutinising and analysing the teams they follow and their favorite players. This activity is mentally stimulating and will produce returns that can be beneficial in other areas besides sports.

So, yes, it is soccer time! If your children are into soccer, let them enjoy the season. Just make sure that they do not necessarily neglect studying and other practical school work during the season.

BUILDING A ROBUST VOCABULARY IS IMPORTANT

vocUcover2Your vocabulary is the totality of all the words known and used by you. This hinges a lot of things on your vocabulary. Here are a number of reasons why possessing a larger vocabulary is important:

  1. It improves your vocal and written communication. you are able to say what you mean with finer precision and detail. Sometimes, the difference between one thing and the other is a tiny difference in definition.
  2. A broader vocabulary boosts your thinking and analytic ability. You are able to be more pinpointed in your thinking.
  3. A broader vocabulary will help you understand other people better.
  4. While it may seem vain, a broader vocabulary makes a good impression on others. The more effectively and skilfully you are able to communicate, the better the impression you make on others.

Now that you understand why developing a broader vocabulary is important, how do you go about it? Here are a few tips to help you build a wider vocabulary:

  1. One way to improve your vocabulary is to get a thesaurus, or other books dedicated to helping you do so. For example, First Veritas has a range of books and resources that help students build their vocabulary.
  2. Get a website, a smartphone app or a magazine that provides “word of the day” tips
  3. Read. Read books, newspapers, magazines and everything you can lay your hands on
  4. Listen to people who have a broader vocabulary. Listen to the news.
  5. Then write down the new words that you find as you read and listen, and use those words as often as you can, so that they become a part of your every day thinking processes.

Do not forget: the point of a broader vocabulary is not to confuse or impress others. It is to think and communicate wit greater precision. Start building a more robust vocabulary today.

CONTINUOS DEVELOPMENT FOR EDUCATORS

It is a fast-changing world that we live in. It is one in which everyone, regardless of their vocation, need to continually develop themselves. As educators of everyone else, teacher especially need to continually brush up their knowledge and polish their skills.teachersDev

These can be done in a number of ways:

  1. use free web-based resources to keep abreast of new developments and to broaden exposure
  2. purchase audio-visual materials for use at home
  3. find ways to increase exposure to modern teaching and learning tools
  4. enroll for training courses and developmental programmes. For example, First Veritas runs a  Teachers Institute that offers a suite of structured and comprehensive professional development Programs for teachers as well as school leaders delivered in books, workshop settings and digital/on line access.

In Nigeria at the moment, education is experiencing huge growth and there is a dearth of qualified hands to take on some of the new openings. Many qualified hands too need a wider exposure to international best practices.

While educational institutions need to do whatever they can to provide ongoing training to their teachers and instructors, individuals must also take responsibility for their personal development.

  1. If you are an educator, are you able to use an internet-connected computer proficiently?
  2. Are you able to use the internet as a library and research tool?
  3. Are you up-to-date with the latest discoveries in your field?
  4. Are you able to use a mobile to search out information on the spur of the moment?

These are personal skills that will give you an edge in today’s fast-paced world. The ability to search out information quickly and the ability to stay on the cutting edge will set you apart as an excellent educator. At the end of the day, our passion to improve ourselves is perhaps the most important factor.

WHAT WERE YOUR CHILDHOOD DREAMS ?

We were all once children, and like all children, we had childhood dreams. Many of those dreams changed weekly or monthly. Whatever the intervals, they certainly changed. From wanting to be pilots to policemen, and then engineers, children swing across a range of desires and dreams. This is perfectly healthy, and no adult should have sleepless nights over such childhood fantasies.

Sometimes, a child would come home and announce that when she grew up she would want to marry her father! Kids do say hilarious things. We should never have knee-jerk reactions to such things. It is all part of the process of discovering and becoming. Eventually, with time, everyone settles down with a few things and apply themselves to those things. Years later as an adult, a person may end up adopting a vocation that he never even fantasized about as a child.

Because of the rapid changes going on in the world, especially in the field of technology, certain jobs and roles didn’t even exist ten years ago. As such, it is essential that we keep exposing children to keep them abreast of new developments. Thankfully, the internet is there. Also, there are books and periodicals that serve the purpose as well. Television, if well channelled, can also serve to help continually expose children to how the world is changing. There are television channels devoted to scientific developments and current affairs. Along with educational TV shows and audio-visual products, these are potent resources for ensuring that whatever it is that your children dream of today, they are best equipped for the realities of tomorrow.

In the meantime, over to you: what were your childhood dreams, and how many of them have you embraced as an adult? Do share your stories in the comments section below.

CHILDREN NEED US TO SPEND TIME WITH THEM

If there is one thing that children need – ALL children – it is attention. Not only do they need it, but they should demand it. As  matter of fact, if your child does not demand attention, chances are that they are emotionally unhealthy, which is the more reason why they need that attention.New Picture

The need for attention is not restricted to children. It is a basic human need, and no-one outgrows it. However, it is perhaps strongest in childhood. What are the things that children desire attention for? Children need to know that they are loved and that they matter. In practical terms, what does this mean?

  • We need to meet their basic human needs i.e. the need for food, shelter and clothing. These are the most basic things we can do for our children and wards. For the most part, many parents and guardians stop at this point. Yet, there is more.
  • We need to spend time with our children and wards. We need to talk (not necessarily lecturing and sermonising) with them, play with them and share activities together

Children who do not get this attention unconditionally soon learn that they get it some way or the other when they act up. And so begins a pattern of misbehaviour just because they are starved of attention. In many cases, such children also seek out attention from elsewhere, and some pay for it dearly.

  • Do we hurry up our children when they have things to say to us, or do we sit down, look them in the eye, listen to what they have to say and enjoy the moment with them?
  • Do we treat their opinions like rubbish and  dismiss them when they share things with us, or try to interact with them at their own level and guide them?

There is no way around giving a child attention as parents, guardians and caregivers. Children need us to spend time with them.