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.
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:
The term ‘Simple View of Reading’ used by schools may seem strange as there is nothing simple about learning to read.
‘The Simple View of Reading’ was adopted by the Government in 2007 and now underpins the English National Curriculum’s programmes of study for reading at Key Stage 1 and 2.
Even though reading, the ability to decode the word and extract the correct meaning of the words, is a complex set of skills; ‘the Simple View of Reading’ conceptual framework (Stuart et al. 2008, cited Hoover and Gough, 1986) reduces it down to two key components:
- Word recognition – the ability to decode unknown words and recognise printed words.
- Language comprehension – the ability to understand the spoken words and use this process to understand the written text.
Reading Comprehension = Decoding x Linguistic Comprehension
So in theory a child’s reading comprehension ability can be predicted by looking at their decoding and linguistic (spoken language) comprehension abilities (Johnston & Watson, 2007).
When using ‘the Simple View of Reading’ as the basis for teaching reading it becomes clearer as to why:
- A high quality phonics scheme is required, which the Rose Report (2006) explains ‘…is not a ‘strategy’ so much as a body of knowledge, skills and understanding that has to be learned.’ (page 20) [This teaches children how to decode.]
- A language rich environment to develop and encourage linguistic comprehension is vital.
Johnston.R. and Watson.J. ‘Teaching Synthetic Phonics’, 2007, Pub: Learning Matters, Sage Publication Ltd.
Rose.J. ’Independent review of the teaching of early reading: final report March 2006’ Pub: DfES Publications
‘The simple view of reading and evidence based practice’ Rhona Stainthorp Institute of Education, Reading University, Morag Stuart, Institute of Education, University of London (2008) Pdf downloaded from internet
Some fun indoor activities may be the order of the day if the half term weather proves not to be so hot.
This is a very simple idea which children love because they can take greater ownership of it. The aim of the activity is to help build up hand and finger strength through using the pegs; however it can have a dual purpose, helping to keep track of the week by using it as a timetable or for learning spellings or maths activities, as well as supporting the development of language skills.
You do not need anything fancy, just some string (for the washing line), clothes pegs and pieces of paper or card to peg onto the washing line. The washing line can be a permanent fixture or you can just pop it up when you need to use it.
The clothes line needs to be at a height suitable for your child to peg things on to (placed against a wall is a safe option so that no-one can walk into it by accident and hurt themselves).
There are a whole range of games that can be played using this simple washing line and pegs concept:
- Memory games – Get your child to peg up 5 to 10 different pictures or items on the line. Then give them 1 minute to remember the items. Once the time is up ask them to look away, or close their eyes, and then you remove one or more of the items. Get them to look back at the line. Can they work out what is missing?
- You could try just moving one or two of the items around. Can they figure out which ones are in the wrong place and put them back in their correct place?
- Try swapping an item for something new, which your child did not hang up on the line. Can they work out which is the new item on the line?
- Odd One Out – Hang pictures on the line that belong together. Can they pick out the odd item on the line and explain why it is the odd one out.
- They could all be pictures of fruit with a picture of some clothing
- They could be shapes with straight sides and one with curves
- They could all be animals but all are wild with only one being domestic
- Sorting – Ask your child to sort all the pictures or items from a selection and to hang all the identical things on the washing line. They could all be the same;
- Pattern Work – Using pictures, different colour and shaped paper or items create different patterns. The patterns can be based on colour, size or type of object. You can create a pattern sequence on the washing line and then ask your child to try and copy the sequence. Can they explain the pattern and create their own for you to copy and explain?
- Pairing or What is the Same? – Hang a range of pictures or items on the line, making sure that some of the items can be paired together because they are exactly the same. They could match because;
- They are exactly the same e.g. a pair of socks
- Match numbers to a picture with the same number of items on
- Match capital to lower-case letters
- Or have items that can be put together because they are both from the same set, for example they are types of fruit or are the same colour.
Next week is half-term for many of us and The SUN should be out which makes it time for the water fights and games to begin.
It will soon be June, the weather should be perfect, so why not set up water squirting games in the garden. The kids are waterproof and everything else will dry out, eventually!
This week on our Teach Handwriting Blog we have encouraged water fights and games for developing a child’s 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)!
Yesterday I shared a link to an article “Language unlocks reading: supporting early language and reading for every child” (https://literacytrust.org.uk/…/al…/language-unlocks-reading/) which highlights the importance of developing a child’s vocabulary.
Here at Teach Phonics we are always saying how important speaking, listening and vocabulary building is for all children. As I commented yesterday if a child does not hear or use a wide range of words they cannot develop their phonics skills. A child needs to experience a wide variety of word so they can learn how to make and use all the sounds required in the English language. This doesn’t happen by chance it has to be experienced and taught.
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.
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.
- 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 and descriptions to the words as well as 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 word not used in everyday conversation.
- Non-fiction books (informational, instructional, true stories) -as they use different words to friction (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 it with a familiar one.
- 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 answering the same questions over and over again.
How to Develop a Child’s Interest in Books and Reading
Research suggests that children who enjoy books are more likely to want to learn to read and will keep trying even when they find it hard. Therefore, it is important to keep their interaction around books a positive one.
Books come in all shapes and sizes and are made from various materials.
- Have a few bath books. even if most of the time your baby or toddler just chews on them, they will be handling a book and possibly turning the pages. Giving you the opportunity to talk about the pictures with them.
- Try to have a range of cloth, hard books and suitable picture books around the house and in your child’s play area so they can pick them up at any time. This way they can explore them for themselves, (even if it is to give them a quick chew on) not as an adult sharing activity.
Through Drawing & Writing
Drawing and making your own simple story book can be a great way of getting your child interested in books and reading. Children love to hear stories about them. Simple homemade books about them can be a great way of introducing children to books and reading. This can be a very effective approach to encourage reluctant readers.
- Draw simple pictures with, or for, your child and talk through what you are drawing, for example; a picture of a house with matchstick people. The pictures could be telling the events of the day for example going to the park or walking the dog.
- If drawing is not your thing (like me) use fuzzy felt instead to make a picture to share the story of their day.
Through Songs and Nursery Rhymes
Children’s songs and nursery rhymes cover a wide range of concepts such as going through every day sequences 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. Some introduce concept such as size, numbers, colours and shapes. While others tell stories for example ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ or ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt’ by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury.
Sharing books that enable you and your child to sing along (retell) their favourite songs and nursery rhymes means that the child knows what to expect and that they are going to have fun and enjoy the experience. Over time you will then be able to introduce books with new songs and nursery rhymes, building on your child’s positive experience of other book sharing sessions with you. Remember you may have to revert back to the old favourite time and time again, but stick with it.
Through Book Sharing
What books should you choose?
- Pick children’s books you enjoy
- Pick books your child enjoys
- Give your child time to choose and look at books (your local library is a great place for this).
- Follow your child’s interests
- Use ‘true’ books and stories (not those specifically written for developing phonics knowledge or rigidly structured reading scheme books for teaching and learning to read, these will come from school and serve a different purpose).
Book Sharing Tips
- Remember that a child’s age personality, mood and stage of development will affect how they interact with the book.
- Keep the interaction around the book positive and fun, if you are not enjoying it your child will pick up on this.
- Keep your child involved, remember you do not have to read the book word for word, it is the positive sharing experience that is important.
- If your child does not seem interested in reading or sharing books, start slowly by sharing /reading one or two pages at a time. Keep the interaction positive and over time their interest will grow.
- If your child is showing no interest then try again another time.
- When reading a book with your child that you really like then tell them that you like the book or story. Your child may not agree with you and insist on their favourite book which after reading for the 500th time you may be bored with but keep with it, there will be another favourite book!
- Try to share books throughout the day not just at nap and bed times. I found having a couple of books in my bag really useful as I could then share a book with one of my girl’s while the other was swimming or with them both while waiting for the bus or sharing tea and cake in a café.
- Read with your child every day. There are some days where this just seems impossible to manage. Remember one minute is better than no minutes and it does not have to be a book you are reading, there are lots of environment reading matter you could use such as painting/pictures, posters, advertisement, road signs and maps.