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 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 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.

Word Play – Syllable Awareness & Counting

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.

Word Play – Treasure Hunts and Hide & Seek Activities

Treasure hunt and hide & seek games are a great way to teach a child directional and placement (prepositions) language. It is important for a child to learn directional and placement vocabulary so that they can both understand instructions given and share information themselves, such as; ‘put your cup on the table’ or to say ‘teddy in car’.

Through treasure hunts and hide & seek games you can introduce new directional and placement language in a fun and exciting way. There are a number of different ways to approach this:

  • You can give verbal instructions to the hidden treasure.
  • You could create a map for them to follow and ask them to talk through the map, supporting with new language as necessary.
  • You could use a mixture of verbal and map clues.
  • For older children get them to hide the treasure and give you instructions, or draw a map.
  • If you have more than one treasure to find make the most exciting piece more difficult to find.

The important thing is the language shared. Words and phrases to use are: left, right, straight on, forward, backwards, about turn, turn around, up, down, higher, lower, stop, next to, in front, beside, underneath, on top of, behind, on the left of, on the right of, outside, and inside.

Treasure hunts and hide & seek games are a great whole class or family activity and you are never too young or too old to join in!

The Power of ‘Old MacDonald’ – Sound Play Developing #Phonemic Knowledge

Sound Play with ‘Old MacDonald’

Spring and all that we often associate with this time of year is upon us: lambs, chicks and new life. This in turn prompted memories of singing ‘Old MacDonald had a Farm’, with my own children. A strange connection; maybe!

But, maybe not! Through the making of animal noises and the repetition of the ‘e i e i o’ refrain the girls were learning to play with sounds. Through the song they were learning how to make sounds through changing their mouth shape, the position of their tongue and controlling their breathing.

When they couldn’t make a particular animal noise we just moved to the next animal on the farm, because it is a fun song, so no pressure. Next time we sang the song, the animals were still all included and over time they learnt to make all the animal sounds. Which, by happy coincidence, are the same sounds (phonemes) needed in our everyday speech.

The great thing about Old MacDonald and his farm is that he also has tractors, a quad bike and depending on where he lives even a helicopter. The list of vehicles and additional animals is endless, especially if he opens up his own zoo next to the farm!

Old MacDonald and other nursery rhymes/songs all help to build and teach a child how to make the sounds required for pronouncing words. They offer a child the opportunity to practice making sounds which they may otherwise have no experience of in their normal everyday life. They will store this sound making information for later use as they mature and extend their vocabulary, which in turn supports their phonics knowledge, which impacts on their reading ability.

Spring/Easter Drawing Activity Ideas – Supporting Language & Pre-handwriting Pattern Development

The Easter holiday break is upon us!

We have put together some quick step by step Easter drawing ideas for you to try, using basic shapes such as circles, rectangles and triangles. It is amazing how, by using these simple shapes, you and your child can create fantastic Spring/Easter: cards, pictures mobiles or bunting: http://bit.ly/2kyeo3w

Drawing pictures is a great way to help your child develop their pre-handwriting strokes and shape forming skills. As well as supporting shape, colour, pattern and language development.

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.

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.