Friday, December 28, 2012

Video Game Battles with Tweens

My 11.5 year old got a GameStop gift card for Christmas, so of course he asked me for two days, "When can we go to GameStop?" He had his heart set on the new Assassin's Creed game for his PS3. So we went this afternoon, and of course the first thing I asked was if it was possible to turn off the gore/language/nudity. He did not know. Well...turns out, you can't. So we stepped out of line to discuss.

Let me rephrase that...we stepped out of line so I could let him down gently. I know he was crushed. But he knows where I stand. I am mostly concerned about the f-bombs that the sales associate said were dropped constantly in the game, and this is an issue right now because he is at that age where he needs to control the things that his mouth wants to say out loud. It's not like he never hears the word, but hearing it over and over, combined with the other negative attributes of the's just too much for his age. I know he was really upset, but he did not argue. His eyes turned red and a little watery. I felt so bad, but knew I was doing the right thing.

A sales associate tried to help us find something else to spend the $50, and I almost gave up when my son said, "There's only one other thing I want..." I followed him to another section of the store where he showed me this large box. "But it's $75 and I only have $50." I reminded him of the check he got from his grandmother, and he lit up.

The box he was holding looked more his speed. It had these cute little figures in them and the box was brightly colored, more age appropriate, and even "E" 10+ rating. This means it's appropriate for ages ten and up. PERFECT! I'd never seen the Skylanders Giants before, and the sales associate pointed to all the figures on the wall nearby. Holy cow! I guess on the bright side, he will always know what he wants for birthdays and Christmases if he keeps playing these games...

As we checked out, when we got in the car, and again when we walked in the house, I told my son how proud of him I was. Not only did he pick out what looks like a great game for him, he didn't try to talk me out of my decision. This was a huge turning point for us. For the past month, his behavior has been exceptional, and this was just the icing on the cake. Have we crossed a bridge to adulthood? I don't know...maybe.

Anyway, the set is super cool. One of the figures sits on the light up "Portal of Power" which lights up the figure, which you can bring to life in the video game. We have the PS3 version, but it's available in numerous other platforms. It is available at a better price at Amazon. Learn more about it by clicking the image below. If you have a son who is in that "stage" maybe he will enjoy this as well!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Teaching Metric Conversions

This is a great way to teach metric conversions to your child. Study the board first, then I'll explain.
First, the mnemonic device...King Henry Doesn't [usually] Drink Chocolate Milk. You can use the same one, or have your child make up one s/he remembers. Each of these stands for a prefix as you can see in red. The [unit] can be gram, meter, or liter, depending on the conversion they are asked to solve.

You can see one problem in green, and how it is solved on the chart. We want to know how many kg is 200g? So we go to our chart and start at "g," because it is our base unit. We need to end up at kg, because that is what we are converting to. We jump from one prefix to the next, until we arrive at the unit we need (kg in this case). We jumped 3 to the left. Therefore, we will move our decimal 3 places to the left. As you can see in the drawing, we end up with .200 kg or .2 kg.

In the blue, we want to convert 3m to mm. Again, we start at our base unit, m, and jump until we end up at mm (3 times). We jumped to the right, so our decimal will move 3 places to the right.

Kids will ask...What is hecto? What is deka? What is deci? The truth is, they don't need to know these. Tell them what each prefix stands for, but realize that they will NEVER be asked to convert to these, because we simply don't use them. They are really just place holders. If they leave them out of the chart, they won't jump while they need to know they exist, they will never use these prefixes. This chart will help them "see" why they are moving the decimal and they will learn pretty quickly how many jumps it is to go all the way from kilo to milli (6) or vice versa (still 6!)

If you have struggled with metric conversions and have some anxiety about teaching them to your child, sit down and make this chart for yourself and then work some problems out. Use this as a TOOL to go along with your child's textbook, which will go more in depth with how the metric system is based on tens, etc. You know your child better than anyone, but I suggest using this chart ONLY with one unit at first, probably meters. Have your child understand how it works first, and THEN say, "Hey, guess works for grams and liters, too!" Trying all three in the beginning is probably too much if you are working with a 3rd or 4th grader. Older kids are less rigid and can assimilate easier with different units.

If you have any questions, please ask!

Here is another great conversion tool!

Teaching Conversions to the Right Brained Child

Right brained children work better when they can see things in pictures. When converting from one unit of measure to another, this image will help ALL children remember, but especially right-brained children who might not remember it otherwise.
This image "says" that 1 gallon = 4 qts. 1 qt = 2 pts. 1 pt. = 2 cups, etc. many pints in a gallon? How many cups in a gallon? How many cups in 4 gallons? All can be solved quickly by using this picture. Kids might have 2-3 days of unit conversions before moving on to something else. If they draw this 2-3 times, they will remember it on their own, and eventually, will be able to see it in their heads.

On a test, such as a state assessment, they cannot bring this in with them, but they can jot it down real quick when a conversion problem pops up. Now if you remember, there might be 2-3 of these on the whole test. Why bother to teach them this for just a couple of answers? Well, I've needed this info in real it IS one of those things that is helpful to just know.

Tom Woods