Tag Archives: Uganda

Language Games Build Speech Skills and Family Bonds!

The following post is by Laura Dodson, a mom to five wonderful boys.  Last year, Laura, her husband, and their 2 sons adopted three boys from Uganda, and she shares their remarkable journey in her blog! Here Laura describes how language games have been tremendous tools in helping her boys in speech therapy!

The Dodson Family

In the fall of 2008, our family embarked on a new journey: adoption.  We were matched with 2 little boys ages 3 and 4.  We were informed the youngest, Daniel, was hearing impaired and the oldest, Jeremiah, had some speech issues.  After much prayer, we decided these boys were to be our new sons–4 sons in all!

After several months of filling out paperwork [5 inches thick. yes, i measured.] and obtaining clearance from the US government, a little surprise package was added to the mix. A 5 year old package! We were flabbergasted to say the least, but overjoyed at the addition of a third boy, Alan.  (Yes, we thought we were a little crazy but a little crazy is good. right? right!)

Daniel Dodson

The summer of 2009 was a whir lwind. We made two trips to Uganda totaling 7 weeks in country.  On the last trip, our homegrown sons Joshua and Caleb, were able to come with us. We were blessed beyond measure they could see where their new brothers were born and the caring home where they spent the first years of their lives.  We landed on US soil September 24, 2009.

During our first year home, it was discovered that Daniel’s hearing impairment was due 4 years worth of thick, gluey fluid in his ears. A gracious doctor in our hometown donated her services and performed the surgery free of charge. [due to our sagging economy, Jeff had lost his job duri ng our first trip to Uganda]. We were ecstatic to learn that his hearing was fully restored.

Over the last several months, Daniel and Jeremiah have begun speech therapy. We have a wonderful therapist who comes to our home twice a week helping the boys learn various sounds, conversational language, and master other goals like categorizing, and responding to questions appropriately.  I have learned volumes from her.  Therapy is game based and that is where I learned about Zingo! and S’Match.

Jeremiah Dodson

Our homegrown boys, Joshua and Caleb, are teens. We had very little in the preschooler game department J Our therapist gave us materials to practice with Daniel and Jeremiah on the days she wasn’t here.  You know what that means!  Shopping!

Alan Dodson

We purchased Zingo! and What’s Gnu?  As we play Zingo!, the boys must answer questions in complete sentences such as, “Do you have the house?”  “No. I do not have the house.”  or “Who has the tree?”  Daniel answers, “Jeremiah has the tree.”

If they draw a tile they have on their card they say, “I have the heart.”  I must confess, that I’ve never really liked playing games.  However, Zingo! has become a favorite of mine and the boys like it, too.

In S’Match, the therapist is teaching the boys about categories and same or different. She asks questions like, “Are these the same?” Depending on what they’ve spun, and subsequently drawn, their answer takes some brain power.  They are developing good thinking skills as they observe their cards.  The colors may match, but if the spinner says ‘category’ they need to look past the matching colors and focus on the pictures. It’s a challenge. We plan on acquiring this game so we can reinforce what they’re learning from her.

We are more than pleased with the pr ogress our two youngest sons are making with their speech, thinking and language skills.  Playing games like Zingo! makes learning tough skills enjoyable for all!  Just last weekend, I caught our teens playing Zingo! with their little brothers.  My heart spilled over with joy.  This first year has been a toughie in so many ways, but we’re on the upswing.  And if a game like Zingo! can not only help with language, but build familial bonds as well, then I say money well spent!

A Visit from Uganda!

In 2008, ThinkFun donated several sets of MathDice to the Arlington Academy of Hope (AAH), a US-supported primary school in poverty-stricken rural Eastern Uganda.

We received an update and photos last year from an American volunteer teacher, and this spring we were contacted by Elisa Joseph Anders, a local parent who produced From One Village, a documentary on this remarkable school (video is embedded at the bottom of this post).

We were thrilled to learn from Elisa that AAH Headmaster Thomas Kisolo Kitandwe was planning a visit to the area, and even more excited to learn that he hoped to spend an afternoon at ThinkFun further exploring ways in which games like MathDice could be integrated into the learning experience of his students!

We spent a very productive afternoon listening as Headmaster Thomas shared both his desire to stretch his students’ critical thinking skills through game play and the struggles he faces in a country in which students’ future prospects are dictated by a their performance on a single, incredibly rigorous exam.  The Ugandan schools follow a rote learning model, in which students are to accustomed to having opportunities to explore and play as part of their learning.

However, seeing the flexible mathematical thinking a game like MathDice can foster sparked an idea with Headmaster Thomas, and we spent a long time brainstorming ways in which his teachers could integrate more experiential game-based learning into the curriculum to stretch students and better prepare them to be problem solvers and creative thinkers in the 21st century.

Also as part of his visit, Headmaster Thomas joined us to celebrate the 7th Annual Arlington County MathDice Competition!

We are very excited to continue to support the Arlington Academy of Hope and work with Headmaster Thomas and his staff to find ways to integrate thinking games into the lives of his students!

To learn more, here is the fabulous documentary which details the incredible work being done at this school! Enjoy!

MathDice in Uganda!

This guest post is by Cynthia Margeson, a retired teacher from Arlington, Virginia, who has been teaching for the past five years at the Arlington Academy of Hope (AAH), a U.S.- supported primary school located in poverty-stricken rural Eastern Uganda. The school, with 325 students from 1st through 7th grades, was founded by Arlington residents John and Joyce Wanda, who emigrated from Uganda in 1996.

MathDice have traveled all the way to Uganda!

Students at AAH learn largely by rote. They have few learning materials other than books. Using manipulatives similar to MathDice is unheard of in most Ugandan schools. We were so excited when ThinkFun donated MathDice to AAH — we knew this would be a fun and engaging way to help students develop critical thinking skills.

In January 2009, I took 100 sets of MathDice with me on my annual trip to AAH. Upon my arrival in Uganda, I held a workshop for teachers to teach them how children can learn to apply their math skills through games such as MathDice. I then taught them to play MathDice. The upper grade teachers were immediately convinced and introduced MathDice to their students. Teachers of younger grades decided to simplify the game for their students by using just the operations of addition and subtraction to reach the target number.

The students love playing MathDice. We always have a group of eager learners. It is wonderful to see how they are learning as they play. In addition to class time, they usually play during lunch. The photos show AAH students playing MathDice in the library and the courtyard.

AAH plans to share MathDice with its graduates who are in secondary school when they come back to the village during term breaks. Current Primary 6 (6th grade) and Primary 7 (7th grade) students are excitedly looking forward to challenging the graduates to a Math Dice tournament! AAH also hopes to introduce MathDice to neighboring villages.

AAH is extremely grateful to ThinkFun for donating these MathDice to them. MathDice are making a huge difference at this school in rural Uganda by expanding the AAH students’ math skills, and they are having fun doing it! Thank you, Bill and Charlotte!

MathDice have made it to international status!

Interested in using MathDice with your students?  We’ve got oodles of free resources for you!  Download practice sheets and MathDice-themed games for your classroom!