Summer Fun – Get Cooking!

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!

Developing Speaking and Listening Skills: Play – the great starting point!

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?

PLAY!!!

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).

For fun game ideas go to our ‘Big to small’ (https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/big-to-small.html) or games (https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/games.html)sections.

All these can be found in our Learning Through Play in the new parents’ area of the website: https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/parents.html

Enjoy the summer break with your child and learn to play again.

To Play is to Learn!

The summer holidays are here!

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.

                                                             So, to play is to learn!

Bibliography Dr.D. Whitebread, April 2012: ‘The Importance of Play’; Commissioned for the Toy Industries of Europe:  http://www.importanceofplay.eu/IMG/pdf/dr_david_whitebread_-_the_importance_of_play.pdf

Developing and Supporting Your Child’s Reading Journey – Week 6

Letter Knowledge

Letter knowledge is understanding;

  • That the same letter can look different, for example, a lower-case letter ‘b’ looks different from a capital letter ‘B’. Letters will also look different depending on which font type is being used or if it is handwritten, for example, an Arial font letter ‘g’ looks different from a Calibri font ‘g’.
  • That letters have names and the same name is used for that letter even when they look different, so the lower-case letter ‘a’ and its capital letter form ‘A’ are both called ‘ay’.
  • That letters (graphemes) are used to represent sounds (phonemes) in words. Teaching the unique letter names of the alphabet is an important pre-phonics skill. A letter or combination of letters can represent more than one sound and so the only way of identifying alphabet letters when we talk about them is to use their unique names.

Developing Letter Knowledge:

Through Play:

  • Sorting and Matching Games- use plastic or wooden letters, alphabet letter flash cards; can they group all the lower-case letters together, or all the capital letters or all the different letter ‘ay’s’ together.
  • Kim’s Games – use plastic or wooden letters, alphabet letter flash cards. Using a few letters at a time, place 5 to 10 on a tray and let your child look at them and talk through which letters are there. Cover with a tea towel and ask your child to look away, then remove 1 or 2 of the letters. Then ask your child to look back and remove the tea towel. Can they spot which letters are missing.
  • Detective Games– focus on identifying individual letters of the alphabet and naming them, this can be played at home or when out and about.
  • Leap Frog – use the letters of the alphabet on home-made paper lily pads. Use the letter names to identify the target lily pad for your child to either jump onto or to throw a bean bag/soft toy on to.
  • Skittles and Throwing Games – use letters of the alphabet on the targets and use the letter names as a way of identifying which of the targets your child is aiming for.

Through Drawing/Writing:

  • 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).
  • Making and drawing their own story book.
  • Learning to write letters correctly (see our Teach Handwriting Website: http://bit.ly/2F9P7cI)

Through Songs/Nursery Rhymes:

  • Singing Alphabet Songs, try singing it to different tunes.
  • Make up Your Own Rap – point to the letters as the rap is said.

Through Talk:

  • Talk about letters as being shapes made up of straight, curves and diagonal lines.
  • Look at the letters in your child’s name, talk about the fact that the first letter in their name is always a capital letter and that normally the other letters are lower-case letters.
  • Point out, especially for slightly older children, that lower-case letters are about half the size of the capital letters.
  • Compare letters looking at what is the same and different about them.
  • When taking about letters use the letter name as well as the sound it is making in the word, remember a letter is often used to represent more than one sound. The letter ‘a’ can be used to represent different sounds in the following words: ant, apron, was, and any (just 4 of the eight sounds it is used to represent).

Through Book Sharing:

What books to choose?

  • Books with shapes
  • Books where you have to find things (like I spy)
  • Alphabet books
  • Books which use different font styles in the pictures and text.

Book Sharing Tips:

  • Alphabet books do not need to be read from cover to cover. Let your child choose which letters they want to look at.
  • Trace the letters with your finger or let your child trace it (make sure you trace the letter using the correct formation orientation, encourage your child to do the same).
  • Talk about the pictures in alphabet books before focusing on the letter, its name and the sound it can make.
  • Show your child the first letter in their name and then look for that letter in the book.
  • Show and talk about how some letters are in their capital form and others in their lower-case form. Can they find other examples of the letters?
  • Choose two letters to talk about: How do they look alike? How do they look different? What shapes/line styles are they made up of?

Developing and Supporting Your Child’s Reading Journey – Week 5

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:

Through Play:

  • 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.

Through Drawing/Writing:

  • 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.

Through Talk:

  • 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
  • Poetry books
  • Non-fiction books

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.

Developing and Supporting Your Child’s Reading Journey – Week 4

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:

Through Play

  • 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.

Through Drawing/Writing

  • 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.

Through Talk

  • 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;
  • Comics;
  • 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.
  • Explain what a glossary is in a book.

Developing and Supporting Your Child’s Reading Journey – Week 3

Vocabulary Development for Comprehension

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.

Vocabulary building:

Through Play:

  • 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.

Through Drawing/Writing

  • 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).

Through Talk

  • 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.

Sound Scanning Games to Develop Listening Skills – Part 4

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.

Games

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.

Have Fun!

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!