Life in New Zealand has changed rapidly. Our borders are closed, domestic travel restricted, our schools and shops closed, and we are asked to remain at home in order to restrict the spread of Covid-19. Cars are now to be used only for essential travel (the doctor, pharmacy, or supermarket) and people may only leave their house to walk nearby. Social distancing is everything.
Our big field trip for today was walking to the top of the driveway and drawing pictures that the kids in the houses nearby can see from their windows. Creating chalk, with a few simple ingredients from the supermarket, has been both art and science. It’s also a way to share a little love and kindness with the community around us.
Why not bring a little colour to yours?
How to make home made chalk
Waxed paper / baking paper
Sellotape or rubber bands
Note: Alternative ingredients include plaster of paris + tempera paint, or a 1:2 ratio of very finely crushed eggshell + flour.
Prepare your moulds. Toilet paper rolls are a good size; I find a bread knife does a good job of sawing longer cardboard inner tubes into parts.
Cover the bottom of your cardboard tubes with waxed paper and tape / elastic band into place. You then want to roll more waxed paper and slot it inside (you may need to trim to size).
Pour cornstarch into a bowl and then add food colouring of your choice. Slowly add water and mix well. You want to add just enough water to create a very thick [viscous] mixture.
Pour or spoon the mix into your moulds.
Pop into a hot water cupboard (or somewhere warm to dry). You want as much of the water to evaporate as possible to dry before use (about 24-48 hrs).
You can then removed from the moulds and let the kids have fun!
If you add too much water then it will have difficulty drying (and remaining contained within the moulds). Never fear! Treat it as a chemistry and physics lesson all-in-one for the kids. You have just created a non-Newtonian fluid 🙂 You can take your ooblek outside for messy play fun with the kids. Pour it into your hands and watch how it becomes a solid if you clench your fist but magically liquefies if you release the pressure!
Today’s word is brought to you by Miss 5 and the colour pink!
Learning to read and spell with phonics
Classrooms around the world take all kinds of different approaches to learning to read, write, and spell. In New Zealand, research studies (McNeill & Kirk, 2014) found that most teachers did not teach their students phonemes, how to spell phonologically, sound-letter relationships, or spelling patterns. Understanding how to decode language is especially important for children with special learning needs, such as dyslexia and auditory processing disorder, as they require an explicit understanding of these topics (exposure to print media and general literacy is not enough to create an implicit understanding or ‘osmosis’ effect).
It is important to teach a phonological awareness of each alphabet sound (what ‘sound’ does the letter make). A good place to start can be putting a light coating of shaving foam in a flat tray and tracing the upper case letter with your finger while making the accompanying sound. After modelling, encourage the student to make 3-5 attempts. Speculate together what words might start with that sound. Tip: If dyslexia is indicated or they are struggling to distinguish letters, focus on capital letters as these are easier to differentiate visually.
When moving onto words, a good place to start is with short vowel ‘a’ as several phonics words families can be taught together. It’s common to start with CVC words [consonant-vowel-consonant].
When teaching an explicit awareness of phonemic awareness, ‘SAT’ is composed of: 3 letters, 1 syllable, and 3 phonemes. Within the -at phonically decodable word family are multiple words that have the same onset-rime.
Syllable: A unit of sequential speech sounds containing a vowel and any consonants preceding or following that vowel. (Henry, 2010. p.314)
Phoneme: The smallest unit of sound that conveys a distinction in meaning. (Henry, 2010, p.312).
Onset-rime: The onset is the initial consonant or consonants within a syllable. The rime is the vowel and any consonant that follows, within the syllable. (Nicholson & Dymock, 2015.p.87)
High frequency words
Activities to try
Make or buy laminated upper case letter mats. Ask the student to help you make each of the letters needed to make one of the CVC words above. While making the letter, explain that there is a sound that matches the letter and model making it,
When the word is complete, show how to sound out the letters to make the word.
Using toys, containers, or pictures drawn on paper, create a ‘treasure chest’ for real words and a ‘rubbish bin’ for fake words.
Use 3D letters to make one of the words above; let’s use CAT as an example. Demonstrate how to sound out the letters. Ask the student if they think it is a real word or fake word. Write CAT on a strip of paper and place it in the treasure chest.
Ask the student to remove the first sound [C] and swap it for a different one. Let’s say they add ‘L’. Ask the student if they think LAT is a real word or fake word. Write LAT on a strip of paper and place it in the rubbish bin.
Explicitly discuss how the end sound (-at) is staying the same and ask if they can think of any words that rhyme with CAT. Demonstrate with another word such as HAT.
For some learners, it can be difficult to focus on ‘flat’ worksheets and working with kinaesthetic 3D letters can be more helpful. If the entire alphabet is placed in front of them and they are asked to spell RAT this may be visually overwhelming. Try scaffolding the activity:
Level 1: Have the word (and a picture) on a card in front of you. Model spelling the word with the 3D letters and sounding out each letter. Point out that you are matching the letters with the order on the card.
Level 2: Place on the letters that are needed in front of you. Explain to the student that you were trying to write [MAT] but the letters got muddled. Sound out the letters in the word and ask the student if they can put the letters in the right order to match the sounds.
Level 3: Place five letters in front of you. Advise the student that you feel they know the word [MAT] so you have a game that is a little harder. Explain that three of the letters are needed to spell the word and two of the letters are tricks. Sound out the letters in the word and ask the student if they can put the letters in the right order to match the sounds.
You might find that they identify the correct letters but place them in the wrong order. Praise them for finding the right letters and help place them in the correct order. Teach them that there is a pattern that they can learn for this phonic word family. Show them how the -at words they have been learning all have -at at the end and only change the beginning letter.
Create your own sliding phonics strips. These are a great visual activity for showing how changing a phoneme can alter the word.
Show students how to chunk words into their individual phonemes by using phoneme boxes. Explicitly discuss the difference between the number of letters that a word has and the number of sounds that a word has.
Students are likely to begin with CVC words where there are three letters and three sounds. The English language is full of all kinds of oddities (with its blend of Anglo-Saxon, Romance languages, and Greek roots). They will go on to encounter words like M|OO|N which has 4 letters / 3 phonemes; or CL|O|CK which has 5 letters / 3 phonemes.
It can be helpful to pick up a visual phoneme chart that shows all 44 sounds of spoken English and gives examples of their use.
Pigments are molecules that contain colour and the ones in red cabbage juice ( anthocyanin ) are pretty special. By adding a base or acid, we can both change their shape and their colour! The pigments are easy to collect and the basis for two easy home experiments: Colour Changing Magic Potions and Making Litmus Paper.
First, you will need to collect some magic molecules from a red cabbage: click here to find out how.
You don’t need expensive chemistry kits containing dangerous chemicals to have fun doing science at home. This simple (and colourful) experiment will help you make you own litmus paper so that you can test acids and bases using simple household ingredients. You can also test these by making a colour changing magic potion!
First, you will need to collect some magic molecules from a red cabbage: click here to find out how.
You will need your red cabbage juice (cooled and strained) and some paper towels. I folded mine twice to make thick squares.
Quickly dip / submerge the paper towels into the red cabbage juice. Don’t hold them under for too long as you want them to collect the colour pigments but not get so soggy that they fall apart. It’s a little like candle dipping – you may need to do a couple of dips to get a good colour.
Place the purple paper towels on a clean tray (that won’t stain) and put them somewhere warm (like the hot water cupboard) to dry until the next day.
You now have litmus paper! Cut them into strips for easy dipping.
Directions – Part 2
Using glasses or small bowls prepare the solutions that you want to test. Your litmus paper will stay purple in ph neutral solutions, turn red-pink in acidic solutions, and turn blue in basic solutions.
Bases: soapy water, baking soda, baking powder.
Acids: vinegar, lemon juice.
Don’t worry if your experiment doesn’t go perfectly (ours didn’t!); simply use it as a talking point to discuss why things didn’t turn out as expected. In our case, the detergent and baking powder didn’t dissolve properly which meant that out litmus paper stayed purple (recognising the ph neutral water). For more ideas on common acids and bases: click here.
Peanut Butter Cookies (Vegan). Free from dairy, egg, and soy.
These are a soft chewy peanut butter cookie with a hint of chocolate that went down very well with an audience of young taste testers. They are comparatively low in sugar with good amounts of fat, fibre, and protein. For a crunchier cookie try these Chocolate Peanut Butter breakfast cookies.
I note that the peanut butter used contains only two ingredients: peanuts + salt. It’s also easy to make peanut butter at home as an alternative to commercial brands containing sugar, molasses, and hydrogenated oils.
This delicious slice is full of goodness from almonds, brazil nuts, and cashew nuts. It can be served as a dessert or be frozen and added to school lunches. I wish I’d found such an easy way to make allergy free chocolate earlier!
As an autism and allergy mum, this is also a great way to add some important trace minerals to a restricted diet. It deliberately has quite a smooth texture (which is why I have opted for coconut flour over dessicated coconut).
NOTE: This is a small batch perfect for an 18x15cm pyrex dish; feel free to double the recipe for a larger quantity.
These sweet treats are high in natural goodness and fruit fibres, do not contain refined sugar, and contain valuable trace minerals from the almond, brazil, and cashew nut butter.
There are a few different ways that you can make this recipe and I have endeavoured to include options without over-cluttering. Keep in mind when subbing ingredients whether it will impact the recipe overall; i.e. coconut oil or butter will solidify in cold temperatures and hold a gluten free version together better than rice bran oil; using almond meal rather than flour will give a substantially different texture. Similarly, you can create a different texture by mashing the banana by hand + grating the apple; (for our family a smooth texture is imperative for sensory reasons).
For three energetic young taste testers, I made these containing gluten but free from soy, dairy, and egg. Feel free to adapt the recipe so that it works for you and your family.
1 cup flour + 30g fine instant oats
OR: 1/2 cup sunflower flour (or almond flour) + 1/2 cup gluten free oat flour
The often invisible cognitive load of food allergy families involves both time and heartache.
It’s needing to educate staff at childcare or schooling facilities that although lunchbox items may look similar to what other kids eat that varied allergies and intolerances haven’t magically gone away.
There are hours spent at home and with medical support staff planning nutritional intake (and addressing deficits). Special allergy free brands are researched and sought (often involving a substantially higher cost and extra driving time to that one special location that stocks a particular item but nothing else on your allergy list – meaning multiple item specific trips). Hours can be spent researching not just allergy free recipes but in needing to substitute ingredient (x), is there a risk of cross-reactivity from ingredient (y), in which case do you start all over again looking at a different ingredient or consider ingredient (z) as a back up?
Then there’s the extra time spent milling special flours from scratch because it’s too expensive to buy them pre-milled when you’re juggling multiple allergies/intolerances. There’s the time spent cooking and pureeing fruits and vegetables (not to mention washing up afterwards) so that you can make your own customized smoothie pops or home baking that incorporates ‘safe’ foods and ‘safe’ textures. There is the time spent agonizing over whether to make one allergy free meal for everyone or to make multiple meals each night. There is needing to pack food every time you leave the house because you can’t buy anything safe and easy to eat when out.
There is the heart ache of seeing your child sad because their friends have foods that they can’t have; of needing to take a packed lunchbox every time there’s a shared food event at their education facility or church or playdate or birthday party etc… There is the anxiety over trusting food that someone else has made (especially when you find yourself having to quite literally pull that awesome looking food item out of your child’s hands because someone has rushed over in the realization that they gave you the wrong information). For those with anaphylaxis, there is the ongoing anxiety around epi-pens, emergency hospital visits, and the daily concern of how easy it would be for a fatal accident to occur.
There is the emotional distress of wanting your child to find joy in food and knowing that instead there may be an invisible ribbon of anxiety. There is the heart ache every time you have to deny your child something because it will simply make them sick. There’s also the challenge of trying to explain to them why the doctor’s want them to have a tiny little bit of something but only every now and then (i.e. once every four days) and why it’s not ok for them to have more or to eat it when they’re not specifically being given it by mummy or daddy (or whomever their primary carer is).
There is the extra anxiety and tears and restricted eating because someone said something thoughtless in front of them about their food and now they are scared to eat.
There is wanting to wrap them up in your arms; to have them know just how much they are loved and that you would put in these invisible hours for them a thousand times over to ease their way just a little bit.