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____.