Developing #Listening & #Speaking Skills – Word Awareness

A good word awareness (receptive and expressive language) is a key phonics skill.

Receptive language is how we take in and understand language; it is what we hear, see and read. This also includes body language and environmental clues. All these elements help us to interpret a situation and give it its meaning, so that we can understand what is being communicated. We do not need to be able to produce language to receive and understand it, so infants and toddlers understand far more than they can express (expressive language).

Expressive language is our ability to put our thoughts, needs and wants into words and sentences in a way that makes sense and is grammatically correct. A baby’s expressive language to begin with is based on cries and gestures and then moves to sound making, gestures and body language signals. We use this expressive language when we speak and write. When babies and toddlers move to speaking words, they have a limited vocabulary which is why they can get frustrated when we do not understand them.

Helping a child build their vocabulary (word awareness – receptive & expressive language) is vital if they are to continue to develop good communication skills. Talking, explaining, sharing and playing are all important as well as making sure that you pronounce words clearly and correctly for a child to hear. A child may not have developed all the skills needed to copy you accurately but they will store the sound pattern information for later use. The more they hear the correct sound patterns the sooner they will start to use them themselves.

Click the link for ‘Tips to Help Develop Word Awareness (Receptive & Expressive Language)’: https://www.teachphonics.co.uk/word-awareness.html

The Importance of Small Talk!

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 is now part of the I Can organisation and has a great range of information and guidance for parents and professionals: https://ican.org.uk/

Different Types of Talk

There are different types of talk:

  • Business Talk – this is when we use more everyday instructional and informational kinds of vocabulary and sentence structures.
  • Play Talk/Rich Talk – this is more conversational, informal and descriptive.
  • Small Talk – this is everyday chatter or conversations, informal and often less descriptive and more factual.
  • Parentese – this research has shown is how babies prefer you to talk to them using regular words (normal adult vocabulary) in a slightly higher pitched and more sing-song way.

It is important that a child is exposed to the different types of talk as it helps them to build their vocabulary (word awareness – receptive & expressive language) this is vital if they are to continue to develop good communication skills.

The Difference Between Receptive and Expressive Language

Receptive language is how we take in and understand language; it is what we hear, see and read. This also includes body language and environmental clues. All these elements help us to interpret a situation and give it its meaning, so that we can understand what is being communicated. We do not need to be able to produce language to receive and understand it, so infants and toddlers understand far more than they can express (expressive language).

Expressive language is our ability to put our thoughts, needs and wants into words and sentences in a way that makes sense and is grammatically correct. A baby’s expressive language to begin with is based on cries and gestures and then moves to sound making, gestures and body language signals. We use this expressive language when we speak and write. When babies and toddlers move to speaking words, they have a limited vocabulary which is why they can get frustrated when we do not understand them.

Good word awareness (receptive and expressive language) is a key pre- phonics skill.

Click the link for ‘Tips to Help Develop Word Awareness (Receptive & Expressive Language)’: https://www.teachphonics.co.uk/word-awareness.html

#Christmas Fun to Develop Vocabulary Skills

Learning new words (vocabulary) and their meaning begins with earlier play opportunities. Activities, that use play-dough type modelling materials, are great for developing the language knowledge relating to touch, texture, actions and instructional language. Words such as: cold, warm, soft, hard, smooth, rough, gritty, roll, squeeze, squash and pull.

An added benefit to these types of activities is that they also support your child in developing their hand and finger strength, bilateral coordination, sensory perception and for learning and perfecting different grips for using tools.

Salt Dough

So, why not make some great salt dough Christmas gifts and tree decorations with your child. Not only will they melt the hearts of those who receive them but you will be developing your child’s fine motor skills (needed for good handwriting) while having fun; can’t be bad!

For a salt dough recipe that I have found good to use with children go to our ‘More fun handwriting activities’ page (https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/more-activities.html ) in the Parent section of our Teach Handwriting website ( https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/ ) and just download the ‘Salt Dough Modelling’ pdf.

#Christmas Finger Printing a Fun Way to Support Language Development

Hand and finger printing can be a fun way of getting your child used to touching, using different textured mediums and descriptive language associated with it. Such as: slimy, smooth, slippery, squidgy, wet, dry, squelch, ooze, press, push down, harder, softer, gentle, lift, light and dark.

Printing activities also help your child to start to become aware of how to control the amount of pressure they use and to develop a vocabulary to describe the different range of pressures required. Learning to control the amount of pressure exerted and how it feels can be very difficult for some children and it takes time and a range of experiences to develop these skills.

There are some fabulous printing ideas out on the internet; one of my favourite art resources is The Usborne Art Idea Books. Hand and finger printing can create some amazing artwork which can be used to make wonderful personalised Christmas cards, tags and paper.

Who could not be charmed by these fun thumb and fingertip snowmen or robins or delighted by a hand print angel or Father Christmas?

For other useful tips on printing and setting up a printing work station, check out our ‘More fun handwriting activities’ in our Parents section of our teachhandwriting.co.uk website under Learning Through Play: https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/more-activities.html

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!

Summer Fun – Think more Play, Play and Play!!!

The last thing you and your child probably want to think about right now is handwriting or phonics and getting ready for next term; and quite right too!

So, don’t think about it in the conventional way of practise, practise and practise.

Think more play, play and play!!!

Children learn so much through just playing; developing physical, mental, communication and vocabulary strengths and skills, which all support them at school and with learning.

Once introduced to a new game or activity children will very often take it and make it their own, making new rules and introducing extra characters or challenges.

The skill as a parent is remembering to let go of your preconceived ideas about how a game should be played and letting your child take the initiative.

If you provide the opportunities, it is amazing how they will take on the challenge of inventing a new game or (in their eyes) improving an existing one.

This does not have to cost a penny; use the toys they already have or make games using empty plastic bottles or cardboard tubes.

The following types of play can support and develop the key strengths and skills your child needs for handwriting and you have not had to mention school or homework.

  • The local play park is a fantastic free resource; running, jumping, crawling and climbing can all be encouraged. If your child is a little reluctant then it may well be that they are unsure how to do some of these activities. Explain when jumping that they needed to land on their feet and bend their knees as they land. Start small and as their confidence grows so does the height or distance they jump. Climbing can be scary for some children so again explain how to climb, moving one hand or foot at a time so that there are always three other points of contact.
  • If you are lucky enough to have a garden then mud play is messy but so much fun, it can be contained in a small area and will not only make you a cool adult but, if you join in, it will knock years off you (have a go, it is a great free therapy session).
  • Skittle games are always fun, extend the activity by decorating the skittles (plastic bottles or cardboard tubes) using anything from crayons, paint or even dress them up as people or animals.

Enjoy!

Summer Fun – Water, water everywhere!

The SUN is meant to be out which makes it time for the water fights and games to begin.

It is August so 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!

How can water fights and games, where you can get wet, be handwriting and phonics homework?

You will be encouraging your child to develop their hand strength, co-ordination and eye tracking skills (all handwriting skills). However, these games are also fantastic for developing sound and word awareness skills.

Try mimicking the sounds that the water makes as it drips on to the floor or hits the targets; use directional language to support your child’s aiming skills; describe how the objects move when hit: bouncing, rolling or flying and talk through the emotions evoked through playing the games.

As well as supporting your child in developing a whole range of physical and language skills you will also increase your cool adult status.

Some fun water games:

  • Try setting up a target wall, using chalk to draw the targets.
    • How many of the targets can you hit with water squirted from a water pistol or squeeze bottle in a set time.
    • How many targets can be washed off.
  • Set up a skittles range.
    • Each skittle hit with water can be worth a certain number of points, or the distance of the skittles may affect their value.
    • A time trial game to hit all the skittles. If you are using plastic bottles as skittles try making some of them a little heavier by putting sand or dirt in them to make it a bit harder to knock them over.
  • Move the object race games.
    • A light toy/ball has to be moved by squirts of water over a distance.
    • A range of objects moved in to target areas to gain points.

The only limitation is you and your child’s imagination and trust me kids never tire of finding new ways to play with water (but then again neither do many adults)!

Homework has never been so much FUN!

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.