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____.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!”
- 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!
- 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?”
- Prompt your child to read with you. Leave out the last word in a sentence and encourage your child to fill it in.
- 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!