Monday, January 08, 2007

Uplifting experience

Decided to make our bread making session into a science lesson today. We talked about yeast and its properties and why it is important in bread making. The Accidental Scientist: Science of Cooking and Zoom Sci provided some good ideas for experiments. We made yeast-air balloons or to be more precise yeast-carbon dioxide balloons. If you want to try this at home you will need the following:

1. 6 bottles (these need to be all the same if it is to be a fair test. We ended up using Grolsch -bottles as I couldn't find any others that were all the same. Its a good job Christmas has just been otherwise I think we would have struggled to find enough bottles).
2. Dried yeast - enough for half a teaspoon per bottle
3. Warm water
4. 6 balloons
5. Measuring jug
6. Various sugary liquids (we used apple juice, orange juice, treacle, mashed banana, lemonade).

1. Fill each bottle a quarter full with warm water
2. Add half a teaspoon of yeast to each bottle
3. Fill the first bottle half way full with one of the sugary liquids
4. Fill the second, third, fourth and fifth bottles with different sugary liquids. Make sure you add the same amount of liquid to each bottle.
5. Fill the sixth bottle half way full with water. This is the control.
6. Put a balloon over the opening of each bottle. The ballon that inflates the most will show which liquid produces the most carbon dioxide.

We decided to check our balloons at 30 minute intervals. Initially the banana mixture produced the most carbon dioxide, followed by the treacle, apple, lemonade, orange and water respectively. After several hours the treacle solution had produced the most carbon dioxide followed by the orange, mashed banana, apple, lemonade and water.

Next bread making day I think we will look at why gluten is important.

On a trip into the village to buy balloons for our experiment Thea spotted Issue 1 of The Art of Knitting, special offer 99p. If you want to learn how to knit its a good buy, with Issue 1 you get a set of 4.5mm needles, two balls of yarn, and a DVD showing you how to knit. The DVD is very straightforward and easy to follow. Even if you don't buy any other issues this one is worth getting. Thea has taught herself to cast on from the DVD.

This afternoon I spent time with James going through his Toe By Toe work book and Letts Maths Basics. His reading is definately improving but his fluency is still not what it should be. However, the main thing is he is happy and he now sees that he can read.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's great that James is making progress. Even better that he is happy with the progress he is making.

It's important to focus on decoding skills first - fluency can wait.

Once he has completed a Toe by Toe page you can go back to it to improve fluency. Ideally, this should be at least a week after he has finished the page. Personally, I do not do this with nonsense word pages, but I would not rule them out if specific skills need reinforcing.

Ask James to read down a column of words. He should be able to read them OK. If some weaknesses have crept back in then work on these in the usual Toe by Toe manner.

Assuming he can read all the words in a column OK, then you can start looking for fluency improvements.

You can add a fun element by introducing a timer. If not, just keep asking him to read the list of words a little faster each time until he is reading at a normal speed. Add variety by reading upwards from the bottom of the column. If you do use a timer, spend a little time reading lists of words yourself, out loud, and noting the time it takes. There is plenty of room on the page to note the number of seconds above or below the column.

You are looking for James to read the words at a normal, or slightly faster than normal, reading speed. It should not be ponderously slow, or indistinctly fast. Most important of all, you should watch James eyes to ensure he is reading the words. If in doubt ask him to underline the words with his finger as he reads them.

What this does is increase the amount of repetition from the 3 ticks, and introduces a speed element. This will encourage James to decode the words automatically, without thinking too much about the rules.

You can also use this technique on the sentence pages. Once James can read a sentence at an acceptable time, you can introduce an additional element by asking simple questions about the sentence. This is not a memory test - James can check back before he answers, but you should expect a response fairly quickly. When James is reading at an acceptable rate, this technique encourages him to think about the meaning of text. It is the first step towards reading comprehension.

I have more information about these techniques at
Unfortunately, I'm still working on the site, but there should be enough information to help. If there isn't, please feel free to contact me at any time.


P.S. Thank you - your blog has inspired me to resume work on my Toe by Toe guides.
More at
Hope you don't mind.