Teaching in the Real World: Numbers

Teaching in the Real World - Numbers

You go outside and you’ll find numbers. Not hard. Everything has numbers on them: buildings, cars, signs. But can you find them in order?

I walked out of my office and found…











Make it a game with your children.  I hide and go seek to see how fast they can find the numbers in sequence.  Also, notice how some items had a lot of numbers on them, making it easy for your child to get all the numbers at one time.  That’s cheating.  Imagine if your child found this on their walk:


This is not gonna fly!  Make it challenging.  Make them search.  Then make them go beyond ten.


Teaching in the Real World: Hot and Cold

Teaching in the Real World - Hot and Cold

Newborn means staying at home… a lot.  Forces me to think too.

Your home can be a place for classification.  There’s colors and shapes, but that is to be assumed.  How about temperature?  Classifying objects, through touch, if they are hot or cold?

I’m walking around my home, but you could be out and about, like a department or grocery store.

Ask your child “See that over there.  Do you think it is hot or cold?”


Choose items that are obviously hot or cold.  Choosing room temperature water is not a good choice. Have the child guess, then attempt to touch to test their guess.

Safety is involved here too.  Here is a prime example…


There are things that you obviously don’t want the child to touch because they are too hot or too cold.  For those objects, you say “That’s hot, and it’s too hot for us to touch.”

Learning is good, but safety is paramount.

Teaching in the Real World: Symbols

Teaching in the Real World - Symbols

San Francisco has many signs: stop signs, no-turn signs.. (ahem, street cleaning signs).  Signs – for children – are similar to letters; they stand for something.  These symbols have a meaning behind them.

One of the first letters a child learns is the first letter in their name.  However, they probably already know what a stop sign or a green light means.  And almost any child knows what this means…

McDonalsI’m loving it… kids are loving it too.

Children are observers and can learn things simply by walking down the street and associating meaning to them.  Not surprising.  Symbols that are associated with meaningful experiences are filed under long-term memory (like happy meals).

Symbols and signs are all over the place.  And, if a child doesn’t know a sign, then a learning opportunity is presented.

Ask the child to point which way cars can go.

When this appears, what does it mean the child can do?

San Francisco pedestrians have time limits.

There are all kinds of signs you’ll see while walking (at least in San Francisco).  But take a look around.  You’re children are and they’re learning.

… I want a McRib.

Teaching in the Real World: Colors

Teaching in the Real World - TemplateTeaching colors requires visuals.  You can’t teach Red by saying it.  You need to show Red.

I have a coffee table in my home and it’s black.  If I had children and I were teaching them colors, I would say “This table is black.”  Then, I would find another example. “My shirt is black.”  I would continue to find example after example to reinforce black.

You can turn this into a game.  I took a sheet of printer paper, folded it in half long-ways and short-ways (hot dog style and hamburger style). Now there are four spaces.  I got four different color markers, wrote the name’s of the colors, and then colored under those squares.

DSC03915 copyHave your child walk around the house and find objects that are the same color.  Look everywhere.

DSC03907Something red…Yes!

DSC03909If possible, take those items and put them on your child’s paper.  For example, the tops of these cooking spray cans.

DSC03913 copyAbove are the items I found just looking around the house.  I’ve done this with my classroom students.  The game is like a treasure hunt.  Furthermore, they are reinforcing color concepts by looking for the color, touching the color, and matching the color.  Oh yeh!  Learning happening here!


Teaching in the Real World: Shapes

Teaching in the Real World - Shapes

As a child, I loved playing Nintendo.  You know?  The original.  The one that had the rectangle controllers and red circle buttons.  Classic.  Mario was my favorite game.  I would have dreams at night about finally getting to the castle with the princess inside.

“Gilbert, we’re going to the store.  Turn off the game.” said my Mom.

“Ugh.” said the little me inside.  Gotta turn off the Nintendo.

But, that did not mean that I had to turn off Mario.  I went around the store still playing the game.  My mom thought I liked touching anything and everything that was in the store.  Not true.  I was imagining that my hand was Mario and the boxes where the lands I had to navigate.  When I reached the end of the aisle, I completed the level.  “Ooooh! The cereal aisle is next!” as I anticipated hopping over the Tony the Tiger and the rooster on the corn flakes box.

As fun as that is, I – along with my mom and dad – were very fortunate that I did not break anything on my Nintendo adventures (in fact, they should have probably unplugged me for awhile.)  Still, if and when I’m blessed with my own children, they’ll have fun, but I’ll have some tricks up my sleeve to keep them occupied in the store.

For example: Shapes

It’s easy to look around the store and find shapes.  You’ll just have to make it a game.  Like, playing the game “I Spy.” If your child does not know a lot of shapes, then stick to one shape.  Such as, “Let’s see where we can find circles in the store.”  You can up the difficulty from there.

IMG_20130627_155756I spy with my little eye a white circle. (Target approves this game as well.)

Some diamonds to sit on for a short break.

I spy with my little eye a square (and a sale).

I’ve observed a lot of parents giving their children cell phones to play games.  I see this practice as a way to keep the child quiet and occupied while shopping (and give the parent some temporary peace while shopping).  I’m not against that.  We all need our breaks.  But also take the time to engage with your child that is fun and meaningful.  The more teaching/parental skills you have, the less stress you’ll be under.  Trust me!

Teaching in the Real World: Patterns

Teaching in the Real World - Patterns

Children explore the world because everything is new.  Without any knowledge or preconceived notions, children take the world for what it is.  As adults, adopting this perspective – viewing the world in wonder – goes a long way to understanding and teaching children.

Anything can be modified or morphed into a learning experience.  For example: patterns.  The easiest way to describe a pattern to a child is by giving examples.  Like, saying blue, red, blue, red and so forth.  Patterns go back and forth, back and forth at least two times.

There are different kinds of patterns and teachers use letters to describe the types.  They are AB, ABC, ABB, AAB, ABCD and so on.  An example of an ABC pattern would be yellow, red, blue, yellow, red, blue…

You should make examples to see if children understand the concept.  Like, get fruit and make red, orange, red, red, orange, purple and ask the child “Is this a pattern?”  Seeing wrong examples reinforces the correct concepts.

Now, don’t stick to just colors.  Anything can be a pattern.  I walked around Pacifica, CA with my camera and snapped pictures of patterns I could find.


Post, space, post, space, post, space…


Rectangle, line, rectangle, line, rectangle, line…

Patterns can be below or above.

When you’re teaching a child a pattern, this is what you can do.  First, point out the pattern and say what it is (“Oh, look a pattern! Wood, line, wood, line, wood line”). Next, encourage the child to repeat the pattern with you.  Finally, see if the child can do it on their own.  Even if they mess up, give them praise for trying (praise encourages children to try again).