Receptive language is how we take in and understand language; it is what we hear, see and read. This also includes body language and environmental clues. All these elements help us to interpret a situation and give it its meaning, so that we can understand what is being communicated. We do not need to be able to produce language to receive and understand it, so infants and toddlers understand far more than they can express (expressive language).
Expressive language is our ability to put our thoughts, needs and wants into words and sentences in a way that makes sense and is grammatically correct. A baby’s expressive language to begin with is based on cries and gestures and then moves to sound making, gestures and body language signals. We use this expressive language when we speak and write. When babies and toddlers move to speaking words, they have a limited vocabulary which is why they can get frustrated when we do not understand them.
A good word awareness (receptive and expressive language) is a key phonics skill.
Helping a child build their vocabulary (word awareness – receptive & expressive language) is vital if they are to continue to develop good communication skills. Talking, explaining, sharing and playing are all important as well as making sure that you pronounce words clearly and correctly for a child to hear. A child may not have developed all the skills needed to copy you accurately but they will store the sound pattern information for later use. The more they hear the correct sound patterns the sooner they will start to use them themselves.
Click the link for ‘Tips to Help Develop Word Awareness (Receptive & Expressive Language)’: http://bit.ly/29LajVk
With the new school year well under way many new parents are being introduced to the world of phonics and the all the technical language associated with it. So we thought we would take this opportunity to demystify some of that technical language.
Phonics is the association of sounds (phonemes) to written alphabet letters (graphemes). For reading (decoding) the phonics coding system is used to convert the written word into sounds. For spelling (encoding) the same phonic coding system is used to covert sounds heard into letters to form written words.
Phonemic awareness is our ability to split words into their smallest sound units (individual phonemes) and to manipulate these sounds through segmentation, blending, substitution, re-ordering and deletion. This is based on what we hear and say, not the written word.
These are developed further later on when phonics is introduced, sound to letter association.
Segmentation – being able to split words into their individual sounds, for example ‘cat’ into c-a-t.
Blending – being able to blend individual sounds together to say a word, for example d-o-g into dog.
Substitution – being able to swap one sound/letter association for another in a word, for example swapping the /k,(k)/ sound in the word ‘cat’ with a /h,(h)/ sound to say the word ‘hat’.
Reordering – being able to swap the sounds/letter association around to create a new word, for example changing the order of the letters in the word ‘cat’ to form the new word ‘act’.
Deletion (omission) – being able to remove a sound/letter association from a word to create a new word, for example removing the /t,(t)/ sound from the word ‘cart’ to say the new word ‘car’.
Good phonemic awareness is the vital skill required before phonics can be introduced successfully as a tool for learning to read and spell.
Watch our ‘Single Word Reading’ animation to see these manipulation skills in action: bit.ly/20JAHSa
After such a long break from school it is good to take some time to check your child has not slipped back.
Playing some simple letter name and sound games can really help get your child (and you) back into school mode.
Some simple game ideas:
You can use words in books, cards, on labels or signs when out and about. Ask your child to point to a particular letter in the word using the letter name. Then ask your child to say the word, or you can say it. Then ask them to tell you what sound the letter is making in that word.
Pick a card at random, using lower-case and capital letter flash cards (you can make your own); show your child and ask them to tell you the name of the letter on the card, and to give you a sound the letter makes. Ask older children to give you the other sounds the letter can make. For older children you can also use cards that have common digraphs (two letters representing one sound) and trigraphs (three letters representing one sound) on.
Play Pelmanism (Memory Game). How to Play:
You will need two sets of flash cards. The cards are thoroughly mixed and spread face down on the table or floor. They can be arranged in a regular pattern or randomly, but they must not overlap.
One player turns over a card, leaving it in the same place, they say what it is (letter name and/or sound) and then turn over another saying what it is. If the two cards match then the player keeps them and has another go. If the cards do not match then the cards are turned back over in the same location as before and it is the next players turn.
The game is finished when all the cards have been matched and the winner is the one with the most pairs.
If you are not sure of all the sounds a letter, or combination of letters, can represent then use our Alphabet Keyboard to help you find the sounds (phonemes): bit.ly/2bUtZae
Cooking is a great fun way to practise getting both hands to work together. This helps to develop coordination, hand and finger strength and dexterity skills; all skills required for handwriting. However, it is amazing how much talk can come from this as well; not just at the time with you but when they share the day’s experience with others later on (developing their phonological awareness).
An added benefit at this time of year is that you can do ‘Pick Your Own’. Getting out and about and encouraging your child to pick their own fruit is not only great fun but another sneaky way of working on their hand and finger strength and dexterity.
There are so many recipes, especially online, for making quick easy great tasting food (make a large batch and freeze the rest).
So, if the sun is shining, or it is just not raining, get out there find your local ‘Pick Your Own’ or check out the bargains at your local shops/market and get cooking!
We are nearly through the summer holidays; six weeks may have seemed like a long time but it is amazing how quickly it passes.
The last thing you and your child probably want to think about right now is handwriting or phonics and getting ready for next term; and quite right too!
So, don’t think about it in the conventional way of practise, practise and practise.
Think more play, play and play!!!
Children learn so much through just playing; developing physical, mental, communication and vocabulary strengths and skills, which all support them at school and with learning.
Once introduced to a new game or activity children will very often take it and make it their own, making new rules and introducing extra characters or challenges.
The skill as a parent is remembering to let go of your preconceived ideas about how a game should be played and letting your child take the initiative.
If you provide the opportunities it is amazing how they will take on the challenge of inventing a new game or (in their eyes) improving an existing one.
This does not have to cost a penny; use the toys they already have or make games using empty plastic bottles or cardboard tubes.
The following types of play can support and develop the key strengths and skills your child needs for handwriting and you have not had to mention school or homework.
The local play park is a fantastic free resource; running, jumping, crawling and climbing can all be encouraged. If your child is a little reluctant then it may well be that they are unsure how to do some of these activities. Explain when jumping that they needed to land on their feet and bend their knees as they land. Start small and as their confidence grows so does the height or distance they jump. Climbing can be scary for some children so again explain how to climb, moving one hand or foot at a time so that there are always three other points of contact.
If you are lucky enough to have a garden then mud play is messy but so much fun, it can be contained in a small area and will not only make you a cool adult but, if you join in, it will knock years off you (have a go, it is a great free therapy session).
Skittle games are always fun, extend the activity by decorating the skittles (plastic bottles or cardboard tubes) using anything from crayons, paint or even dress them up as people or animals.
The SUN is out which makes it time for the water fights and games to begin.
It is August and for once, the weather is perfect, so why not set up water squirting games in the garden. The kids are waterproof and everything else will dry out, eventually!
How can water fights and games, where you can get wet, be handwriting and phonics homework?
You will be encouraging your child to develop their hand strength, co-ordination and eye tracking skills (all handwriting skills). However, these games are also fantastic for developing sound and word awareness skills.
Try mimicking the sounds that the water makes as it drips on to the floor or hits the targets; use directional language to support your child’s aiming skills; describe how the objects move when hit: bouncing, rolling or flying and talk through the emotions evoked through playing the games.
As well as supporting your child in developing a whole range of physical and language skills you will also increase your cool adult status.
Some fun water games:
Try setting up a target wall, using chalk to draw the targets.
How many of the targets can you hit with water squirted from a water pistol or squeeze bottle in a set time.
How many targets can be washed off.
Set up a skittles range.
Each skittle hit with water can be worth a certain number of points, or the distance of the skittles may affect their value.
A time trial game to hit all the skittles. If you are using plastic bottles as skittles try making some of them a little heavier by putting sand or dirt in them to make it a bit harder to knock them over.
Move the object race games.
A light toy/ball has to be moved by squirts of water over a distance.
A range of objects moved in to target areas to gain points.
The only limitation is you and your child’s imagination and trust me kids never tire of finding new ways to play with water (but then again neither do many adults)!
Phase 1 Phonics is the first phase of the Department of Education’s ‘Letter and Sounds’ program. This is designed to focus on developing a child’s speaking and listening skills (phonological awareness).
It focuses on developing their:
Ability to listen attentively
Confidence in speaking to adults and other children
Ability to hear the difference between phonemes (sounds)
Ability to say/repeat clearly the phonemes they hear
To hear a word and then split that word up and say the individual sound (phonemes) that make up that word (segmentation)
This is all about developing their skills through what they hear and say only (phonemic awareness).
To be honest it is all about playing with sounds and words and having fun.
Narrative Skills to Support the Understanding of Different Writing Styles
Narrative skills are based on understanding and using expressive language. This is the kind of language we use to describe things and feelings, to tell events in order and to recall and tell stories.
Children develop their narrative skills over time taking prior knowledge, what they already know, and building on this through:
Conceptual thinking; the development of concepts such as shape, colour, the passing of time; as well as developing and using strategies for problem solving and prediction (thinking skills).
Content knowledge; what they already know about the topic/situation; the ability to relate situations to their own experiences, the ability to sequence events in a logical order as well as to sequence processes such as getting dressed or making things.
Understanding that different genres are set out in different ways, story structure such as that used in fairy tales is different from that used for poetry or informational text (explaining things) or instructional text (how to do something) such as a recipe.
Developing Narrative Skills:
Role play different situations; doctor’s, school, office, shops etc.
Dramatic and imaginative play; acting out stories together using props and/or puppets and toys.
Matching and sorting games to develop understanding of concepts such as colour, shape and size.
Puzzles for developing problem solving skills.
Ask your child to draw pictures for a story and you write the words
Ask your child to draw or write (make mind maps) of the things they already know about something.
Ask them to draw different shapes in different sizes and to use specific colours for them.
With older children make and draw charts and graphs for classifying objects.
Through Songs/Nursery Rhymes:
Children’s songs and nursery rhymes cover a wide range of concepts:
Everyday sequences such as in the nursery rhyme ‘Here we go Round the Mulberry Bush’ which uses the phrase ‘This is the way we…’ to order the event of getting up in the morning.
Introduce concepts such as size, colours, shapes and numbers such as “One, two, three, four, five once I caught a fish alive…”
Tell stories for example ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ or ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt’ by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury.
As your child explores objects, describe them and their uses; compare and contrast objects.
Remember to give your child time to work things out, or to solve a problem. It can take a child several minutes sometimes to process what they have heard and to formulate a response.
Talk about concepts such as shape, colour, size, texture.
Explain and use language that explains where things are in relation to each other (spatial awareness) such as above, below, on top of, next to, first, etc.
Help your child to develop an awareness of time, not just the here and now but what happened in the past and might happen in the future.
Put processes into sequence using things like recipes, making things or how plants grow, the passing of time, weeks, months, seasons etc.
Encourage your child to recount their day or to re-tell a story.
Encourage your child to tell you what they know about something as well as sharing what you know.
When sharing information explain how you learned about it; read it in a book or on the internet or heard it on the TV or radio.
Encourage your child to guess and predict what might happen.
Encourage your child to solve problems or resolve conflicts; if you do it for them explain what you did and why.
Embed conversation into everyday routines such as getting dressed, meal times and bed time.
Through Book Sharing:
What books to choose?
Books that tell a cumulative tale
Books with a natural sequence
Books with a repeated phrase or repetition as part of the story
Book Sharing Tips
Read books on topics that interest your child.
Ask your child to tell you what they know about the book you are reading.
Encourage your child to join in while sharing a book, saying repeated phrases for example.
Read with expression.
Encourage your child to re-tell the story.
Re-read books so that your child can become familiar with the story, making it easier to re-tell the story.
Relate what is happening in the story to your own child’s experiences or ask then to tell you how it might relate to them.
Use props to tell the story to help your child remember the sequence of the story. They may find using props a great way to re-tell you the story.
Encourage your child to talk about the pictures. Take their lead and try to ask open-ended question (those that cannot be answered by yes or no).
Talk about the books you like and what you like about them.
If your child loses interest, try again another time.
Talk about the pictures in a book or sections of a story and let your child tell you their thoughts about what is happening and might happen next.
Print Awareness to Develop Understanding of Reading Conventions
Print Awareness is knowing that print (words) has meaning, including noticing print around them in the environment (posters & street signs) and understanding how to handle the conventions for reading a book. We can often assume that all young children or pre-readers (as not always young children) will develop print awareness naturally. However, research suggests that 95% of their visual attention is directed towards pictures, which in themselves hold a great deal of meaning and often tell the story very effectively.
Pictures/ illustrations in story books and pure picture books are powerful ways to engage children and adults with books, storytelling and reading. This is not to say that pictures are any easy way to interpret a story line as they can hold a great deal of meaning, from simple obvious interpretation to more sophisticated symbolic representation.
Young children and pre-readers need opportunities to explore print and be helped to understand that the written word (print) has meaning. Once they start to see print they will begin to notice it everywhere not just in books but on posters, food packets, menus and street signs.
Again we can often assume that a child or pre-reader knows how to handle a book, however this is not always the case and can be due to a lack of experience with books or different cultural reading conventions. So it is important to check and teach these reading conventions for reading English:
Front cover opens to the left and we read it from the front to the back.
Print on a page is read left to right.
Usually print is read from the top of the page across and down (this may differ slightly in some children’s books).
Supporting Print Awareness:
Use takeaway menus or create your own as part of role playtime, they could have their own café serving up all sorts of interesting dishes for you. A blackboard can be very useful for this, allowing you or your child to write up their own menu for the day.
Travel brochures or leaflets from your local tourist information office are great for role play encouraging new language as well as a different way to explore print as they often have maps and timetables.
Use sticky labels or post it notes to label items or furniture as part of a ‘can you see or find’ game.
Making lists of things to do or a shopping list. Their version of the list may be just squiggles and dots (so don’t rely on this for your shopping trip) but it is the beginning. I would keep the list and get them to tick off things done or items purchased as part of the experience so that it has a genuine purpose (children really like this).
For slightly older children making simple invitations and thank you cards can be fun. Try not to make the messages too long or to write too many as they will get bored and see it as a chore not as fun.
Making and drawing their own story book.
Through Songs/Nursery Rhymes
Showing the printed words to songs and rhymes.
Point out signs, logos and labels when out and about as well as at home.
A lot of print awareness skills are developed through the sharing of books and appropriate on-line material.
Through Book Sharing
What books to choose?
Books that have writing as part of the story;
Books that have writing as part of the picture;
Story books; all types;
Factual (non-fiction) books; all types;
Children’s magazines and newspapers.
Book Sharing Tips
Remember babies will chew and bash the pages of the book as you read. This is normal and part of their learning experience so go with it.
Encourage and let your child turn the pages.
Point to the words of the title as you say them
Explain what the author and illustrator do as you say their names.
Point to words or repeated phrases as you say them or as your child says them. This will also help your child to develop the skill of reading from left to right and from the top of the page down (English).
Point to words of interest and explain how words have spaces between them and why.
To help your child understand how to handle a book use the word ‘front’ and ‘back’ of the book. If you are handed a book upside down or with the ‘back’ cover facing you explain that you have to turn it around or over so that you can read it.
Explain that page numbers help you to find things in the book as well as to help make sure you do not miss any part of the story.
Explain that content pages in story books show the chapters and in factual (non-fiction) they show different subject areas, as well as giving the page numbers on which to find them.
Explain how the index page in non-fiction books work.
Vocabulary is knowing the meaning of words including names of things, feelings, concepts and ideas. The larger a child’s vocabulary (understanding what words mean not just being able to say them) the easier it is for them to understand what they are reading.
The more you talk and share words and their meaning with your child the greater their vocabulary will become.
Introducing and playing sorting games helps your child to build a mental filing cabinet system of categories, this helps them to remember and learn the meaning of words. Start by introducing simple categories of everyday items like food or clothes as their vocabulary increases categories such as colour, size and texture become more appropriate.
As babies handle objects and toys describe how they feel, what they look like or the sound they make
When you are playing with your child add in new words (explain their meaning), descriptions or expand on words they use in play. For example, if you are playing cars with your child you may comment on the size difference or colours between the cars.
Remember children learn new words best when they are learned in context, that is, in a natural setting.
If they are trying to say a word let them finish and then say it back to them clearly and correctly. Do not make them repeat it back to you, they may choose to do so but make it their choice.
When drawing or painting with your child, or they are sharing their pictures with you, talk about the shapes, colours types of lines (straight line or curves line), what you like best about the picture, and the objects you can see.
Through Songs and Nursery Rhymes
Listening of nursery rhymes and children’s song is a good way of helping your child make the distinction between the music and words (language used) in them. It is a good idea to practise this skill when there are no other noise distractions.
Try playing some action songs and rhymes to help your child learn the actions for the rhyme, then let them have a go on their own. Watch them to see if they can do some of the actions at the right time in the song, to see if they are listening for the right cue words. If they are struggling, explain they have to wait for certain words and show them what to do and when to do it.
Nursery and silly rhymes are great ways to introduce your child to rhyming sounds and increase sound play in words.
Singing often slows down our pronunciation of words, helping your child to pick out unusual or rhyming sound patterns. As with reading aloud it can introduce a wider vocabulary for your child.
Finger rhymes and action songs encourage your child to interact with words, the sounds within them and the rhythms they create. Finger rhymes such as ‘Round and Round the Garden’, ‘Pat-a-cake’ and ‘Incy Wincey Spider’. ‘Row, Row Your Boat’ is a lovely whole-body movement song that encourages a rhythmic whole-body motion, which babies and toddler enjoy (as well as the adults).
Speak in ‘parentese’ until a child is about 9 months old as they will listen to you longer and hear more words
Talk about feeling and situations throughout the day.
When your child points at something tell them the name of the object, for example if they point at an apple, say “Apple”.
Explain words or give synonyms
Avoid replacing unfamiliar words with familiar ones (explain the meaning). Remember to try to use the new word in context regularly as repetition of the word will help your child to remember it and reinforce the meaning of the word.
Repeat and expand on what your child says, so if they say “Dog!” you may say “A big dog!” This also helps them to develop an understanding of sentence structure.
Through Book Sharing
What books to choose?
Books with words not used in everyday conversation.
Non-fiction books (informational, instructional, true stories) -as they use different words to fiction (story) books.
Any book really. The language of books in much richer and varied than that of everyday conversation.
Book Sharing Tips
Sharing and talking about the books you are reading helps to build word knowledge, as you point to the pictures, picking out different objects.
Reading out aloud helps to introduce your child to words that they may not experience in their everyday talk. This helps to expose them to new vocabulary and the sounds to be found in those words.
Reading aloud poems and story books with strong rhyme elements, like those found in Dr.Seuss books, helps introduce the new words and rhyming sounds in words.
Try exaggerating the rhyming words to help highlight the sound patterns, making it easier for your child to tune into them.
Explain unfamiliar words; don’t replace them with familiar ones.
When a word has more than one meaning. Talk about the different meanings.
Add descriptive words or more information than in the book.
Encourage your child to talk about the pictures. Add information and ideas to what they have said.
Use words to describe how characters in the book might have felt at a point in the story.
Use words to describe ideas in the story even if they are not used in the book.
Remember children learn new words and their meaning through repetition, so you will need to be patient as you re-read the same story over and over again or answer the same questions over and over again.