Teaching the 5-W-H Questions: Part 3

By Christine Marchant

If you read my previous posts, you’d notice that I have a system to teaching the 5-W-H questions.

By the time the child has surpassed level two and is ready for level three, he is not impressed with the ‘preschool’ attempts.  The magnetic fishing and the Caribou games no longer hold his interest.  Using basic pictures will often bore him to death!  There is no right or wrong way to teach, but the best way is to match your system to the child’s learning style.  It is important to observe if the child is an active or passive learner.  The active learner loves games and action. The passive learner prefers work sheets, scrabble and card games etc.  I have watched many therapists teach the 5-W-H questions to children.  Most of them are for younger children, I have had a few older children that are a bigger challenge.  The little children are happy with ANY game you come up with, while the older ones are more tricky.  With the older children, I find just saying: “this is our target—this is what we are doing and when we are finished, then you can play your game” is the more effective.  We set up their favorite game, then we do “target” then your turn, “target” then your turn.  My rules are that we do two cycles of “target’ games, then we do one game “free style” game.  Free style is playing the game any way the child wants to.  It’s ok if the child rigs it for them to win EVERY TIME!   I don’t care!  Just get the child hooked.

Teaching before and after is often a challenge.  It’s vague and abstract thinking.  It’s been proven that we can envision the past easier than the future.  That’s why I teach “before” first.

1) Find books or photos that show a TON of details in each photo.  I use books, flash cards, and random photos saved on to my Ipad.

2) I bring out their favorite game, then the photos.

3) At this level, the child is already hooked into the program.  The first player looks at the photo, and describes what is in the photo, then says what he thinks might have happened just before this photo.

4) The other players can agree or disagree.  This opens an interesting conversation.

5) Follow the same pattern that I shared in the previous posts:

What do you suppose happened before the girl fell off her bike?

Who do you suppose she was with?

Why do you suppose she fall off the bike?

Where do you suppose she was?

When do you suppose this happened?

How did we come up with the “before” information?

6) When all players are satisfied with the answers, the player takes their turn.

7) By providing their favorite game, the child is usually motivated to do the “work”.

8) Sometimes, at this level, the child finds it difficult and tries to avoid the “work”.  If this happens, just sit quiet and say, first we do the “target” then you can play the game. The desire to play usually is enough.

I find it very rewarding to see the children go on this journey.  I love seeing the look of amazement and understanding in their eyes as they become more aware of their world.  I decided in high school that I wanted to work with children and I’ve enjoyed every year.  I have one more post on this topic, which involves teaching “after” and then I move on to teaching other aspects of language.

Teaching the 5-W-H Questions: Part 2

By Christine Marchant

I am sharing my experiences as a mom for 30 years, a Day Home Provider for 20 years, and a Child Development Facilitator for 5 years.  The first post in this series was sharing the first basic level of how to teach the 5-W-H questions, which are “who, what, where, when, why how” to a child.  If you read my earlier post, you would have read one of the ways I taught the 5-W-H questions.  There are MANY different ways to teach it.  This is only one of the ways I found to be successful.  If the child doesn’t have that basic level of understanding, trying to teach any higher level is possible, but is more difficult.  Exposing the child to “social thinking” is a tricky thing to teach…. Ok, it actually isn’t.  I was finding it complicated, until I realized that I’ve been doing it for years.  Today, I have chosen one of the many ways.  I decided to stay with the formula I wrote about previously.

Level two deals with more abstract ideas and requires a little more effort and preparing than level one.  It is important to pick one system or formula and stay with it throughout the whole journey.  Children like patterns and like to know what is expected and it’s more consistent.  When choosing what approach you will take, you need to know what type of learner the child is and what will keep their attention.  An active learner prefers games and action and a passive learner enjoys worksheets, using dry erase pens, etc.  The next important step is to assess what level the child is.  ALWAYS teach at the child’s level.  The next step is to always teach responsibly.  No one knows what someone else is feeling or thinking etc.  This is why it drives me CRAZY when I see an adult saying, “what is the boy thinking?” or “What is he feeling?” or “where is the boy?”.  The first level, you can do this.  It’s concrete, and that the level the child is.  After that, I prefer to say, “What do you suppose the person is thinking?” I try not to tell the child that a picture is a boy or girl.  I try not to label the gender, but instead follow the lead of the child.  If the child insists the child in a dress is a boy, I don’t correct him or try to convince him it is a girl.  (I gloss over it) because It’s not my place to enforce my opinion on to the children.  Keep the goal in mind!!  We are teaching 5-W-H not genders.

I found looking at simple photos and asking the 5-W-H questions gets stale FAST!  The child gets bored easily.  They are very clever.  Not all the 5-W-H questions are relevant to every photo.  I prefer photos with LOTS of details and actions.  Sometimes all questions are not applicable to every photo.  My favorite way to teach is through books.  I go to a thrift store and for $1, I buy books with a lot of expressions and emotions.  I glue blank paper over ALL of the typing.  YES!  Deface that book!  Then I look at each page and type out my own 5-W-H questions that are relevant to what the picture is showing.  This sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t.  I just glue on the level I’m currently teaching.  I then add more questions as the child achieves their goals.  I start one level at a time.  You can use the same book for the entire journey.  Don’t put all the levels at once.  In level 2, we are exposing the child to “what is the person thinking” and “what is the person feeling.”  You can use different books, every child has different interests.  You can put your books in your tool box and pull out different books, as long as you stay with the same system.  Keep the “thinking” questions to the left page and the “feeling” questions to the right page.  Stay consistent.  This comes in handy when you have an active learner.  I will describe the games I use for my active learners at a later date.

Here is an example of the book I made this week for my older child:

I covered the original story, and I typed “thinking” questions on the left page.

What do you suppose the Mom is thinking?

What do you suppose the child is thinking ?

Why do you suppose the Mom is thinking?

Why do you suppose the child is thinking?

Who else may be thinking ?

Where do you suppose they are?

When do you suppose this is happening ?

How can you tell Mom is thinking?

How can you tell the child is thinking?

You can talk about their expressions, or how the body is showing what they may be thinking.  Look!  The Mom’s eyes are large and round, her hands are in the air, etc.  What do you think she’s thinking about? Etc.  Then on the right page, I typed “feeling” questions.

What do you think the Mom is feeling?

What do you think the child is feeling?

Who else may be feeling?

Why do you think the Mom is feeling?

Why do you think the child is feeling?

Where do you suppose this is happening ?

When do you suppose this is happening ?

How can you tell Mom is feeling?

How can you tell the child is feeling?

There are no right or wrong answers.  I use this as a conversation starter and encourage a discussion or even debate about what the character is feeling.  As we go along the journey, this easy going approach has the child feeling good and positive about sharing ideas and debating each person’s opinions etc.  This teaches the child that other people have their own thoughts and feelings and they are sometimes different than what the child believes.

At the first glance, it looks like it isn’t teaching social thinking.  “Ask your Mom, how are you.”  “Ask your brother why he is crying,”  etc.  I found the child wasn’t able to do that in a genuine inquiry.  They ask that because they are taught to ask those questions.  You take a book, and you are ‘discovering’ these questions.  There are no right or wrong questions and answers, but a genuine conversation happens.  It is an exchange of ideas.  The child’s awareness blooms and they are genuinely interested in the people and things around them.

The next post will be sharing my experiences in teaching the 5-W-H before and after the picture we are looking at.  Exposing the child to an even deeper level of thinking about what could have happened earlier to cause this person to be thinking___ or feeling____.

The Importance of Outdoor Play

By Simran Saroya

Outdoor is essential in a child’s life just as fruits and vegetables are. Natural elements incorporated into a child’s play is very important, it allows them to start understanding this world and how it works as well as build knowledge. Allowing the child to play outdoors will strengthen muscle strength and coordination, allow for deeper exploration and help them gain self-confidence.  

 Sometimes we think that a playground MUST be present for a child to have fun. In reality, a child can have fun in any environment with almost anything. From swinging on the swing and gaining a new perspective to digging in the dirt and analyzing the world around them. By adding additional equipment for your child to use outdoors you are adding to their learning through play but it is not necessarily needed. 

 Through this exciting process it was always nice to have someone accompany them. Having a buddy while discovering new things always make things more exciting. Being present and engaged with the child is a fun way to help your child learn new skills and information. An adult being present to answer their curious questions will allow the child to deeper understand the concept and build/ strengthen your relationship. There are six crucial benefits to keep in mind when your child wants to play outside. 

  1. Learning 
  1. Building Social Skills 
  1. Being Creative 
  1. Health 
  1. Exploring New Environments 

A child playing alongside peers or adults is co-learning and co-imagining which actually helps with building social skills and benefits their learning. Acorns may just look like acorns to us adults but to a child it could be food play or a treasure, you never know what their little minds will come up with. Roleplay is the most common way a child mimics the adults around them. This behavior is having them use their imaginative and creative side to come up with these scenarios. Using their imagination allows them to be creative and explore further and deeper into their play. Playing outside also has long term health benefits such as reduction of stress, regulation of the body and vitamin D consumption.  

 Now, you may be stuck with the question “How do I get my child to play outside?”. 

 In the world of technology today it is getting harder and harder to get their minds less engaged in screens and more engaged in the natural environments. Some ideas I can suggest include the following: to have a picnic, draw with chalk, turn on the sprinklers, go find some treasure or even ride bicycles together or with a friend. The chilly winter shouldn’t’ stop you either! In the winter the child can build snowmen, snow angels and paint the snow. Summer or winter, the child will find something to do outdoors regardless of the situation. Being prepared for the weather is the adults job, let the children do the rest. 

 Remember: Play does not have to be structured, let the child take the lead sometimes!

The Importance of Indoor Play

By: Simran Saroya

Sometimes we feel that it is easy to hand our children the iPad or phone to keep them occupied. Even on a snow day or a rainy day there are ways to make these situations positive interactions. Giving them a phone or tablet is easy but not the most interesting choice for your child. Indoor play can consist of more stimulating, fun and active play that will help your child’s brain develop.

When we think about indoor play, we talk about roleplaying, games and engagement opportunities. If you are baking cookies, having the child present and engaged is a form of play for them where they can use their senses and create something new. When thinking about play we should consider all five senses: look, listen, touch, smell and taste. Where can my child use these five senses with me?

Through play children are able to create healthy brain architecture which allows them to have better peer social interactions, use their imagination and creativity and engage with the world around them. Play is so important for children; it is the foundation to all the learning that is going to happen here on forward.  Play can also strengthen physical, emotional and cognitive strength within the child.

Now indoor play, how do you play inside on a rainy day or a day where the outdoors is not easily accessible? Here is a list of things you can do indoors with your child!

  1. Board games
  2. Scavenger hunt
  3. Make slime!
  4. Cook with your child (cookies, jello, rice krispies, or even prep for dinner)
  5. Read stories
  6. Visit an indoor play place (Telus Spark, Glenbow, swimming, Calgary public library)

Let your child take the lead and have them decide what they would like to do indoors with you or with a friend. This way the child feels a sense of independence in choosing an activity or game. Children create and preserve friendships through play therefore indoor and outdoor play are both essential in a child’s growth and development.

Understanding the benefits in your child’s play can be a bit confusing. Play fosters cognitive growth meaning that is essential for healthy brain development. Sometimes we believe that play must have a goal behind it, a structure to it. In reality, free play positively affects neurological connections by making those circuits in the brain stronger. Free play will allow your child to build communication skills, self-confidence and intelligence. Through play children become less anxious and more resilient to deal with real life situations. Once the adults in the child’s life understand how important it is to play, the child will benefit and the adults will benefit. Promoting play as quality time spent indoors will strengthen your relationship with your child and allow for meaning making and a world of connections to be brought to the table. It is amazing what their little minds can come up with!

Hooray for reading with your child!

By: Stephanie Magnussen

Most parents know that it is important to read to their children.  Many parents do this naturally before bed even when their children are very young.  Children crave language and pick up on so much of what parents say in conversation during the day, but book reading is another opportunity to add words and phrases that may not naturally occur in everyday speech.  This exposure to language adds variety to the input kids are getting on a daily basis and can increase their language abilities.

The more you read to your child, the more language she will potentially acquire early on.  When parents read to their child, they use more diverse vocabulary and rephrase sentences in different ways, exposing children to varied sentence structure.  We have all noticed that as we get older, it gets harder and harder to master a new language.  Children learn an entirely new language within their first few years of life without even realizing they are mastering such a complicated skill.  During these impressionable years, it is important to expose children to not only lots of vocabulary, but different ways of saying things.  Books give parents the opportunity to get out of their daily way of speaking and add some different flavor to the language they are exposing to their children.  It also gives kids the chance to directly engage with the words and phrases on the page.

There are easy principles that can be applied to the way a parent reads to this child that can promote language development.  This method of dialogic reading can be used for typically developing children as well to increase language skills!  Parents can and should start reading to their children as early as eight months to aid in their language development.

  1. Guess the plot of the book after reading the title. The first time you and your child read a book, read the cover page to your child.  Encourage her to guess what the book could be about and take your time talking about this.

 

  1. Point to the words on the page as you read. Once you have read a book to your child one time through, point to the words as you are reading them.  You can name some of the letters and identify which one is the same as the first letter in her name.

 

  1. Expand on your child’s sentence. If a child says “blue,” the parent can respond and say “Yes, the kite is blue and so is the sky!”

 

  1. Model, model model! If a child cannot answer the question, simply say “That is a kite.  Can you say kite?”  This will instill a sense of accomplishment when they can repeat or attempt the word even if they were not able to find it the first time.  Then, later on, when they have learned the word, give them praise!

 

  1. Pause reading and respond to what a child is interested in on the page. Sometimes a child will point to or name something while a parent is reading.  Pause and expand on this by giving context to what she has named.  For example, “Yes, that is a kite and we can fly kites on windy days.”  This is also a good opportunity to talk about the story.  You can ask, “Remember when he flew the kite?” or “Have you ever flown a kite?”

 

  1. Prompt your child to read with you. Leave out the last word in a sentence and encourage your child to fill it in.

 

  1. Have fun! Reading can be free flowing with pauses to talk about interesting things on the page.  Parents can engage a child by asking her to help turn the page, encourage turn taking by pointing to objects and naming them, etc.  There should not be any pressure associated with reading and children should feel encouraged.  Make reading into a game or activity that you can share with your child!

 

Connecting with a Multidisciplinary Approach

By: Stephanie Magnussen

Although it may seem apparent that a child needs specific help, there usually are many layers to an individual’s needs.  For example, if a child has a speech delay, the parent may request that he sees a speech pathologist.  But why does this child have a speech delay?  Is there is a sensory need that is not being met, or are there developmental delays or behavioral issues at work?  Kids are complicated little people, and it’s important to remember that what we see is only the tip of the iceberg.  It’s really beneficial for a group of therapists to explore what lies beneath the surface to give the child the most effective strategies to thrive academically, socially, and mentally.

Perhaps the short term goals for a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder are maintaining eye contact and increased vocabulary, and the long term goals are independence and integration into a typical classroom.  The speech pathologist will develop activities that increase vocabulary, while the occupational therapist creates drills for promoting eye contact, and the psychologist may make social stories that build confidence and promote more appropriate social behavior.  Just having one therapist would not be the most advantageous for the child and family in this case.  The parents are also part of the multidisciplinary team.  They must be on board with practicing what the therapists are working on and provide a supportive environment for the child to thrive under this team approach.

At Connecting Dots, all of the therapists are registered health care professionals with Master’s level education.  They all work together and share ideas on how to set a child up for success by using each of their expertise.  If a child is exhibiting disfluent speech or a stutter, and therefore struggling socially at school, of course we want to promote smooth speech, but there may be other issues to address.  The child may have motor planning deficits which result in disfluent speech.  The speech pathologist can work on an action plan for smooth speech, while the occupational therapist develops a plan to promote increased ability for the muscles to make the correct movements for speech.  Psychologists are also a key part of this multidisciplinary approach.  Communication is not just the words that we speak, but also our ability to interact with those around us.  Any disability can be stressful for a child, and may result in anxiety and social isolation.  A psychologist can identify activities and games that will help a child excel socially.

As an aide at Connecting Dots, I have been fortunate to work with speech pathologists, occupational therapists, and psychologists and have seen the gains my clients are making by working on each piece of their puzzle.   Every child’s background and needs are so diverse, and an individualized plan with input from different types of therapists allows the team to work on gains for the child in a holistic manner.  It is truly a team approach between the therapists, aides, and family members.