Develop Listening Skills Part 3 – Sound Screen/Barrier Games

Last week we explained the three things required for good listening skills:

  • To pay attention – being able to focus on a particular voice or sound by filtering out other voices and ambient noises.
  • To concentrate on the voice or sounds to take in the information, building the stamina needed to listen for extended periods of time.
  • To interpret that information to gain meaning – comprehension.

Here are some games to help build these skills.

These games are designed to help a child learn how to block out ambient noises so that they focus and concentrate on one particular sound.

Create a barrier between you and your child so that they cannot see the object you are going to use to make noises with and see if they can guess the object. Try to use objects that make sounds that occur around them a lot of the time, for example keys rattling together or wooden blocks being knocked together. There are many variations of the game that can be played but you need to make sure your child has the opportunity to experience the sounds with the relevant object beforehand so they don’t get frustrated by the game.

  • Mrs Blog has a box… To the tune of Old Macdonald changing the name as best fits the situation. Place a box, on its side with a number of objects inside that make a noise (choose items your child is familiar with the sound of), between you and your child so they can’t see what is in the box. Start singing “My mummy has a box ee, i, ee, i, o and in that box she has…” Stop and gesture to encourage your child to listen (maybe a cupped hand to your ear) then pick one of the objects and make a sound; your child then tries to guess what it is. Continue to sing but imitating the sound of the object you played, which your child can now see. If it was a bunch of keys for example; “with a jingle, jangle here and a jingle jangle there, my mummy has a box ee, i, ee, i, o.” Swap places so your child can choose an object in the box, change the song so you are using their name, for example “My James has a box…”
  • Same or Different?  Place a barrier between you and your child so they cannot see which object you will use to make a sound and that you duck behind so they cannot see your face when you make vocal sounds.  This can be played at different levels. At the basic level using animal noises such as baa, moo, woof etc. A more complex level would be to use shakers with different size things inside to make different shaking sounds. Plastic containers or bags of the same size and type can be used to make the shakers with different small items in such as dried pea, rice, sand or small coins, pebbles or small Lego bricks. Make the noise once and then repeat either with the same noise or a different one. The child then says if they were the same or different.
  • Copy Cat!  Place a barrier between you and your child so they cannot see which object you will use to make a sound and that you duck behind so they cannot see your face when you make vocal sounds.  You will need two set of the same objects, a set for you and one for your child. The aim of the game is for you to make a noise with either an object or your voice and for your child to copy that sound choosing the correct object in front of them or using their voice as you did. The game can become more complicated as you mix a number of sounds using objects and your voice. Swap roles so that your child becomes the leader of the game and you have to copy them.

Have Fun! N.B. Be careful of small objects, especially those escaping from shakers, as these can be a choke hazard.

What is listening? – Part 2

Listening is a complicated skill that requires children to learn how to pay attention – being able to focus on a particular voice or sound by filtering out other voices and ambient noises. They then have to concentrate on the voice or sounds to take in the information, building the stamina needed to listen for extended periods of time. Then they have to interpret that information to gain meaning – comprehension.

The usual approach to teaching children to listen is based on three behaviours:

  1. Sitting or standing still
  2. Looking at the person who is speaking
  3. Thinking about what the person is saying or said

However, just because your child is replicating these behaviours doesn’t mean they are listening.

It is also surprising how often children are happy to follow steps 1 and 2 but completely miss step 3.

This is not surprising really as listening is not a set of behaviours but a set of skills that need to be taught and developed, starting from birth.

A child with poor listening skills will find it difficult to complete tasks, as they have not taken in all the information and so not understood the full extent of the task, or what was required of them. This can lead to a child flitting from one activity to another and never finishing anything, slowing down their learning. They also miss out on the sense of achievement and feeling of pride when a task is completed. This helps to build a child’s confidence, self-esteem and self-motivation to try again or attempt a more challenging task.

For many children good listening skills do not develop naturally, they have to be taught!

The Importance of Small Talk & Conversational Turn Taking – Week 1

Don’t underestimate the importance of everyday chatter or conversation (‘Small Talk’), children develop and learn a great deal through ‘Small Talk’ with adults and other children.

What do we mean by ‘Small Talk’?

With babies it is the kind of talk that explains what we are doing, what they are doing, where we are going and what we can see.  As they get older our verbal exchanges increase as we support their receptive and expressive vocabulary development. Through these exchanges we also support their general language development and understanding of how words are pronounced, basic sentence structure and using the correct tense.

When we talk with a child we demonstrate and model the use of language in real time so that it has meaning. For instance, a child may point and say “cat” and we would respond with “Yes, the cat is sleeping.” Or we may correct the child and say “That is a dog.” If we could we would point to a cat and explain the difference. We also correct mispronunciation of words and correct tense issues in the same way; repeating the word or sentence using the correct pronunciation or tense back to the child.

For more tips and advice try our tips page: http://bit.ly/2ncjzYn

The Communication Trust has a link to a free downloadable booklet called Small Talk which is a very useful guide for understanding how your child learns to talk from birth to age 5:

https://www.thecommunicationtrust.org.uk/resources/resources/resources-for-parents/small-talk.aspx

Conversational Turn Taking

We covered this a couple of weeks ago but I think it is useful to recap the main points again here as it supports the development of ‘Small Talk’:

Children need to learn when to talk and when to listen; for this to happen they need to do the following:

  • Actively Listen to the other person. This means:
    • Concentrate on the words being said, by blocking out other environmental noises and voices.
    • For most children and adults this also means looking at the person, watching their facial expression and body language.
    • Listening for the verbal cues and/or changes in the tone of voice that signifies that the person has finished speaking.
    • Recognising that it is either your turn to respond by formulating a reply or not.
  • Formulate a Response. This means:
    • Extracting meaning – taking understanding from the words that have been spoken.
    • Mentally searching for words to compile a grammatically correct set of sentences.
    • In young children this can take time, not because they do not have the answer, because they just take longer to recall and formulate their responses. This is due to the constant acquisition of new language and understanding of the grammatical conventions that need to be applied.
  • Communicate Response. This means
    • Speaking clearly, pronouncing words correctly in coherent sentences.
    • Using socially appropriate facial expressions and body language to accompany the response.
    • Using the appropriate verbal cues and/or changes in the tone of voice that allow the other person to understand it is now their turn.
  • Wait. This means giving time for the other person to formulate their response.
  • Actively Listen to the other person.

Developing a Child’s Speaking and Listening Skills is Vital!

It is not just the key to literacy success but an essential social communication skill.

Sadly, with the closure of schools over the last year due to the COVID-19 situation schools are reporting ever increasing concerns over the decline in young children’s speaking and listening skills. So, over the next 7 weeks, we are looking again at the different developmental elements of speaking and listening; providing practical games and activities to help build a child’s skills. 

Week 1. The Importance of Small Talk & Conversational Turn Taking Skills

Week 2. What is Listening?

Week 3. Games to Develop Listening Skills – Sound Screen Games

Week 4. Games to Develop Listening Skills – Sound Scanning Games

Week 5. Games to develop Listening Skills – Music Fun

Week 6. Accents – Phonemic awareness & Phonics

Week 7. Games to develop Listening Skills – Phonemic Awareness

Turn Taking Skills – Part 2 – Play

This week we will look at turn taking in play a skill children need to learn to take part in meaningful interaction with others. These interactions are a vital part of children’s physical, emotional, social and intellectual growth and wellbeing.

Children need to learn the importance of waiting for their turn when playing with others, something many find hard to understand to begin with.  

Like most skills it needs to be taught and practised and is part of our phonological awareness development as it requires us to learn an associated vocabulary along with facial and other physical cue.

A child who is taught and given lots of practise at taking turns will find interacting and playing with others easier later on.

Turn taking is easy to implement into everyday activities and play and something you probably do anyway, without even thinking about it

Here are some ideas to help you to support your child:

  • Try to use the phrase “My turn”, “Your turn” or “Daddy’s turn” (name a third person) when playing or doing an activity such as sharing a book.
  • Toddlers have a short attention span so keep the turn short to start with.
  • Physical games such as rolling and kicking a ball or running and jumping activities can help to encourage turn taking and learning to wait for your turn. Again, don’t make the turns too long and to help keep your child engaged while you have your turn, talk with them about what you are doing during your turn and when they are having theirs.
  • Count Down or Up – To help young children develop an understanding that if they wait, they will get their turn, explain that you will count to 10 and then it is time to swap and someone else has a turn, count to 10 again and return the toy or wanted object to your child. It won’t take long for them to understand that they will get their turn without a fuss.
  • Turn Time – As your child gets older try using a timer/clock to help them increase the time scale between taking turns. Try not to make the gaps between turns too long to start with, as young children find the concept of time very difficult, 1 minute might as well be an hour in their eyes. Show clearly a start point and the finish point for the time scale so your child can watch or come back and check the passing of time. Don’t be tempted to ignore the timer if it is your child’s turn, make sure they are offered the toy or turn that is due to them, otherwise they will feel cheated and some of the trust is lost.
  • As children get older, playing card and board games helps to further develop their turn taking skills.

Turn Taking Skills – Part 1 – Conversation

This week we will look at turn taking in conversation a skill children need to learn to take part in meaningful interaction with others. These interactions are a vital part of children’s physical, emotional, social and intellectual growth and wellbeing.

Children need to learn that in conversation they need to take turns listening and speaking.

This is more complex process than we often give it credit for as often we, especially in our busy lives, can be guilty of only listening to reply rather than listening to understand.

Children need to learn when to talk and when to listen; for this to happen they need to do the following:

  • Actively Listen to the other person. This means:
    • Concentrate on the words being said, by blocking out other environmental noises and voices.
    • For most children and adults this also means looking at the person, watching their facial expression and body language.
    • Recognising that it is either your turn to respond by formulating a reply or not.
  • Formulate a Response. This means:
    • Extracting meaning – taking understanding from the words that have been spoken.
    • Mentally searching for words to compile a grammatically correct set of sentences.

In young children this can take time, not because they do not have the answer, because they just take longer to recall and formulate their responses. This is due to the constant acquisition of new language and understanding of the grammatical conventions that need to be applied.

  • Communicate Response. This means
    • Speaking clearly, pronouncing words correctly in coherent sentences.
    • Using socially appropriate facial expressions and body language to accompany the response.
    • Using the appropriate verbal cues and/or changes in the tone of voice that allow the other person to understand it is now their turn.
  • Wait. This means giving time for the other person to formulate their response.
  • Actively Listen to the other person.

Learning these skills takes time and needs to be taught as well as modelled by those around the children. It begins very early on for instance, when we talk to a baby, as if expecting an answer. As a baby starts to make cooing and babbling sounds, they begin to respond to you in those gaps, their first conversations.

Something that is worth remembering:

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” (Dalai Lama)

Are you Teaching #Phonics or #Handwriting?

Teaching your child at home can be a big challenge for so many reasons.

So here is a tip that might just help a little.

When confronted with a lesson from school think about what it is that they are asking your child to do.

For instance, if it is a lesson teaching something about phonics then that is all you and your child should be focused on. Yes, you may have been told that your child needs to work on their handwriting but this is not the time to do that. This is pure phonics time.

When supporting your child with their phonics work they will have to write letters and words. The important thing is for your child to have a go at writing the letters correctly, especially those they have been taught or are learning to form them.

Remember they may not have been taught how to form the letters correctly yet. So, ask them to just have a go. Now is not the time to teach them handwriting; it is the phonics skill you are supporting. This way your child will not get confused or frustrated with the sudden changes in focus. The phonics lesson will then be more appropriately focused, quicker and successful.

If your child has been asked to do a handwriting lesson then that is all that you and your child should focus on – learning to form their letters correctly or how to join them. Learning phonics skills or spelling is not the important element in the lesson. The only thing that should be commented on and discussed is the handwriting.

It is important to remember that handwriting and learning the phonics system of a language are two very different skill sets. They should be taught separately, as trying to combine the two can cause your child to become confused and frustrated.  

What are CVC Words in #Phonics?

With many parents sadly having to tackle home learning again; we thought it would be useful to re-run this blog from last year explaining CVC words in phonics.

The letter C means a consonant letter is required.

The letter V means that a vowel letter is required.

So, a CVC word is one that has a consonant letter followed by a vowel and then a consonant as in the following examples:

cat    dog    mat

There are 26 letters in the English alphabet and these can be split in to two categories:

Vowels – ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘i’, ‘o’, ‘u’ and the letter ‘y’, when it is used as a semi-vowel, in words such as by, my and fly.

Consonants – ‘b’, ‘c’, ‘d’, ‘f’, ‘g’, ‘h’, ‘j’, ‘k’, ‘l’, ‘m’, ‘n’, ‘p’, ‘q’, ‘r’, ‘s’, ‘t’, ‘v’, ‘w’, ‘x’, ‘z’ and the letter ‘y’ when it is being used as a consonant, in words such as yak and yam.

Schools will often use the abbreviation CV, CVC, CVCC words when sending home phonics work or suggestions for phonics games. It is also used by many phonics computer games, activity programs and schemes.

Here are some examples for:

#Christmas Finger Printing a Fun Way to Support Language Development

Hand and finger printing can be a fun way of getting your child used to touching, using different textured mediums and descriptive language associated with it. Such as: slimy, smooth, slippery, squidgy, wet, dry, squelch, ooze, press, push down, harder, softer, gentle, lift, light and dark.

Printing activities also help your child to start to become aware of how to control the amount of pressure they use and to develop a vocabulary to describe the different range of pressures required. Learning to control the amount of pressure exerted and how it feels can be very difficult for some children and it takes time and a range of experiences to develop these skills.

There are some fabulous printing ideas out on the internet; one of my favourite art resources is The Usborne Art Idea Books. Hand and finger printing can create some amazing artwork which can be used to make wonderful personalised Christmas cards, tags and paper.

Who could not be charmed by these fun thumb and fingertip snowmen or robins or delighted by a hand print angel or Father Christmas?

For other useful tips on printing and setting up a printing work station (http://bit.ly/35Z7pWQ), check out our ‘More fun handwriting activities, where you can talk about the effects of using different pressure, in our Resources section: http://bit.ly/2kyeo3w

#Christmas Fun to Develop Vocabulary Skills

Learning new words (vocabulary) and their meaning begins with earlier play opportunities. Activities, that use play-dough type modelling materials, are great for developing the language knowledge relating to touch, texture, actions and instructional language. Words such as: cold, warm, soft, hard, smooth, rough, gritty, roll, squeeze, squash and pull.

An added benefit to these types of activities is that they also support your child in developing their hand and finger strength, bilateral coordination, sensory perception and for learning and perfecting different grips for using tools.

Salt Dough

So, why not make some great salt dough Christmas gifts and tree decorations with your child. Not only will they melt the hearts of those who receive them but you will be developing your child’s fine motor skills (needed for good handwriting) while having fun; can’t be bad!

For a salt dough recipe that I have found good to use with children go to our ‘More fun handwriting activities’ page (http://bit.ly/2kyeo3w ) in our Resources section of our Teach Handwriting website: https://www.teachhandwriting.co.uk/ ) and just download the ‘Salt Dough Modelling’ pdf (http://bit.ly/2Y9pVcn).