Developing good speaking and listening skills along with a wide vocabulary knowledge is an important part of your child’s phonological awareness development and phonics pre-skills base. So, it is not surprising that if a child has a weakness in these areas, they may struggle in learning to read and write.
The summer holidays are the perfect time to start working on supporting your child to develop the skill sets needed for learning to read.
How do we do this?
Last week we looked at the importance of different types of play. By giving your child the opportunity to experience the different types of play you will also be supporting them to build their speaking and listening skills as well as broadening their vocabulary.
Developing these skills is not all about paper and pencil worksheet activities (though these help later on).
So, it is the perfect time to go out and play or, as is often the case, stay indoors and play.
Play is often thought of as a frivolous pastime rather than a practical and meaningful one. However, here at Teach Children Ltd we see play as a vital part of a child’s physical, emotional, social and intellectual growth and well-being.
There has been considerable research over the years on play, which supports our point of view, with the consensus being that children need to experience five different types of play (Dr.D Whitebread, 2012). These five types of play are roughly based on the developmental opportunities they provide, especially if it is child driven rather than adult lead.
In our update parent section of the Teach Handwriting website we have a new ‘Learning Through Play’ section. Here you will find games and activities ideas to suit all ages.
If you click on the ‘Games’ button or follow the link (https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/games.html) you will find games split into the five types of play, which will help you encourage your child to experience them all.
This wide range of play opportunities will also support your child in developing their gross and fine motor, communication and turn taking skills.
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 storyline 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.
Phonological Awareness Games and Book Sharing Ideas
Phonological awareness relates to our sensitivity and understanding of the sound structures of our oral language. It enables us to progress from our awareness of large sound units (words in sentences) to smaller sound units (phonemes in words).
Our phonological awareness develops over time and the depth of that awareness is based on the range of experiences we have. Research suggests that our phonological awareness begins in the womb at about 24 weeks and is continually built upon throughout our lives. We tend to think of children going through ten distinct phonological stages; the later stages being related to phonics.
Children are taught to read in schools through phonics; the association between sounds (phonemes) to written alphabet letters (graphemes).
Phonics reading is the process of firstly segmenting the written word into letters, or letter combinations, then associating known sounds to those letters and finally blending the sounds together to form words (decoding). If a child is weak in any of the phonological awareness stages before those relating to phonics, then they will struggle with learning to read.
Because of the nature of how we develop our phonological awareness games and activities cannot easily be split into categories. Playing, drawing, writing, singing and book sharing all require you to talk with your child highlighting sounds, words and rhythms of language.
Here are some games and activities to help you:
Singing and sharing nursery rhymes is a great way to help children hear sounds in words because the words are drawn out and the sounds highlighted or exaggerated.
Clapping, bouncing or tapping to songs and rhymes helps to highlight the syllables of the words. A syllable is the largest phonological unit (one or a group of sounds) of a word and is like the rhythmic beat of the word.
Pointing out the sounds you hear, such as animal or environmental noises, and explaining what is making that noise.
Playing games or singing songs where you and your child can make noises such as animal sounds (Old MacDonald had a farm) or vehicle noises (The Wheels on the Bus).
Drawing animals or other everyday objects that have a distinct sound, naming them and making the sound they produce.
What books should you choose?
Books with sounds of animals and other objects that make sounds
Books formatted from songs
Books with rhyme and alliteration
Any book really, remember your local library can help you to choose a good range of books to share with your child if you are not sure.
Book Sharing Tips
Don’t be shy, make animal and object noises. If you are self-conscious about it your child will pick up on this. No one thinks twice about an adult making what may appear to be strange noises if they are sharing them with a child (it’s when you forget they are not with you and you do it that they tend to look at a you a bit funny).
Talk about whether the words in a book rhyme or not. Point out the rhyming words, make up other rhyming words for any of the words in the book. Remember they do not have to be real words they can be silly funny words that pick up the rhyming sounds in the original word.
It is important to remember for some children saying a word that rhymes with one you have given can be very difficult, if not impossible. So, don’t stress them out with this, it is often easier for them to recognise a rhyme than to make one. You could ask them to tell you if two words you give rhyme or not. If they find this easy try giving them three words with only two that rhyme and ask them to identify the rhyming words.
After sharing the book pick out words that you can clap out the syllables for. You could make this into a jumping or hopping game instead. With older children ask then to tell you how many syllables the word has and then to check their answer by counting the number of claps or jumps they make.
Play an ‘I Spy’ game using the pictures in the book looking for rhyming words for instance by giving clues such as; “It is red and rhymes with the word sock.” The answer is clock.
At about the age of 4 years old children start to develop an understanding that words can be split into sound parts (syllables) and that these parts give the word its rhythm. A syllable is the largest phonological unit (one or a group of sounds) of a word and is like the rhythmic beat of the word.
They should be able to orally blend syllables together to form words and segment words into syllables.
A fun activity to help develop syllable understanding:
How Many Syllables?
Children love to clap out the number of syllables in a word. It is important to say the word at a normal speed rather than really slowly as this can distort the word and make it difficult to hear the syllables. To start with a child just needs to be able to recognize them by clapping, stamping or jumping for each syllable of a word; they don’t need to be able to count them. It is thought that only about 50% of children can count out the syllables by the age of 4, so you can do the counting for them.
Spoken syllables are organised around the vowel sounds, making counting them easy; as the jaw drops when the vowel sound is spoken in the syllable. Try placing your hand under your jaw with your mouth closed before you say a word. Start with ‘cat’ you will notice the jaw drops once, this is because it is a one syllable (monosyllabic) word.
Most children will find it easier to identify syllables in compound words to start with. A compound word is formed by two words (root words) put together such as: sunset, hotdog, snowman and postman. They find it easier because the jaw tends to drop quite distinctly as we say the vowel sound in each of the root words and because we tend to say these words slowly.
Young children develop their vocabulary and understanding of sound patterns within words through word play.
Rhyme awareness and the enjoyment of alliteration begins early, usually between the ages of 2 and 3 years old (Stage 3 of phonological awareness). This develops in to an important tool, supporting a child in developing an understanding of how words are formed and the sound patterns within them. These are important pre-phonics skills a child needs to develop to support their future ability to succeed with phonics, reading and writing.
This Rhyme awareness is supported and developed through the singing of songs and nursery rhymes and finger chants. Alliteration (words that begin with the same sounds) such as ‘Sammy snake slithers silently’, which children love to hear in rhymes and stories, also supports their word knowledge and understanding of sounds in words.
Being able to repeat, and join in with, short phrases they have anticipated in a story or rhyme, is another important step in a child beginning to understand the use of words in stories and story structure; such as, “I’ll huff and puff and blow your house down!” in the story of The Three Little Pigs.
For more information on this, and other pre-phonics skills (Phonological Awareness) your child develops through from birth to 7 +years old, check out the Pre-phonics section of our website:
These games are designed to help a child learn about the different levels of sound, pitch, tone and volume.
Skittle Band – Use, or make, a drum stick (wooden spoons are good for this) and explore with your child the different sounds the drum stick makes against objects made of different materials, such as steel saucepan, another wooden spoon, plastic bottles etc. Choose items that are safe and you are happy for them to play with. You could photograph the objects, record the sounds they make, or video (on your phone), to play back and talk about later on. Try moving the activity outside for a different sound quality experience.
Orchestral Conductor – Once your child is happy and enjoys playing and making sounds, with different objects and instruments, try the conductor game. You can use your hands or a baton to point and encourage them to play certain sounds just like an orchestral conductor does, but make sure you have a clear stop gesture which your child will understand (you may need to say stop at the same time as the gesture to begin with, but they will soon get the idea). Then swap places and you become the musician and they the conductor; it may not be a classic you create but it is great fun. As your child develops their skills you can add new elements and hand gestures to make the sound louder or softer.
Musical Bottles – Use plastic bottles with different amounts of water/sand in them and different things as a beater. Talk about how:
Low/deep or high pitched a sound is compared with another.
Using different beaters can change the quality of the sound when used on the same bottle.
Using different amounts of pressure to hit the bottle makes the sound louder (harsher) or quieter (softer).
Try organizing the bottles in order of pitch to create a musical instrument and using this as part of the Orchestral Conductor game. You could number each bottle or use a different picture on the bottle as a way of encouraging your child to play the bottles in different orders (making music).
This is the last in our ‘Speaking and Listening Development’ series we hope you have found it useful and enjoyed the games and activities!
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.
The idea is to identify and talk about different sounds in different locations; in the park or at home in different rooms. Ask the child to listen for a moment (timed activity 30 seconds to start with then increase) and to pick out different sounds they can hear. Some will be close and easier to identify; other sounds may be further away and require more focused concentration to work out what they may be.
Sound Scanning Questions to help:
What can you hear that is far away?
What can you hear that is close by?
What can you hear that is loud?
What can you hear that is quiet?
What can you hear that makes a high-pitched sound?
What can you hear that makes a low-pitched sound?
What can you hear that sounds big?
What can you hear that sounds small?
Listening Walk Activities- You could record some of the sounds heard and talked about on the walk. Try changing the ‘What can you …?’ questions to ‘What did you…?’ Depending on your child’s age they may be able to draw a sound scape picture showing all the things they heard on the walk.
Where is the Sound? – The aim of the game is finding out where the sound is coming from. Start by using something that makes a good clear sound. Ask your child to cover their eyes (can use a blindfold) and have them sit or stand in the middle of the room. Move around the room, starting not too far away from them and make the sound. Pause between each sound to give your child time to settle and focus on it before you make the next sound. Try to keep an even, slow pace. The aim is for your child to point in the direction they believe the sound is coming from. Gradually move further away, maintaining the same sound level. Swap places with your child, so you have to guess where the sound is coming from.
To make it more challenging:
Change the volume of the noise.
Change the object that is making the noise.
Change the speed (rhythm), as well as the location, at which the sounds are made.
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.
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.