By Christine Marchant
If you have read my previous posts, you’ll notice that I have a system for teaching 5-W-H questions. Levels one through three deal with concrete who, what, where, when, why, and how questions, while level four is concerned with asking the child about what can happen in the future. It’s quite easy to teach the first two levels. When the child becomes more aware of their world, and isn’t easily entertained by the simple flash cards or photos, the teaching becomes more challenging. I find that they are now more interested in the games. I like to try plenty of new games to test the child’s interest and to see if the game will match the goal. We play the game at least three times with no target goals. This is how I build the interest and desire to play the game. The goal here is to create a strong desire to play the game. At this level, it’s the game and the interactions with the people that keep the child involved and wanting to cooperate. It doesn’t matter what the game is, as long as you explain to the child that the reason you are doing the sessions is to help the child achieve the targets. Hopefully, at this level, you’ve already created a relationship of trust and honesty. This is my favorite level of the relationship with the child because they are opened enough to actually understand why you are spending the time with them. They are usually enthusiastic about achieving their goals. I explain to the child that we play the game with no targets and then when we really enjoy the game we add the targets.
While playing the games, I use a LOT of WE, US, OUR, and TEAM WORK language to motivate the child and let her know that we are working together. The language you use will determine the attitude of the child. They LOVE to take ownership of their learning. By this level, they seldom resist doing their “work.” The games are now a fun way to make the sessions go faster. They may MOAN and GROAN or ROLL their eyes, and declare “you’re the meanest aide EVER!!” BUT, it’s all said in laughter and good cheer. If you have a good relationship with them, you play along, then say, “OK! Let’s get down to business, and get it done. ” If you don’t have a relationship with the child and are just jumping in, don’t start at this level!! If I were to start teaching the 5-W-H without knowing the child, I would ALWAYS start at a lower level and see where the child is, then move up the levels, in the same order, at the speed that matches the child. This level is based entirely on trust and a relationship with the child.
Teaching what happens after is the trickiest part for children because it requires abstract thinking. It’s been proven that we can envision the past easier than the future. The future is difficult because it can be any possibility. The past now seems more concrete than the future because it’s easier to prove. If you have one of those children that LOVE to argue and declare that a dragon has super powers and can possibly run for government in the future, LET IT GO!!!! Don’t argue with the child, but try to remember the goal! At this point, the goal is opening their minds to future possibilities, not to debate what the future actually can be (natural consequences will take care of that). Here is my method:
1) Find books and tons of photos that show a ton of details. I use books, flash cards, random photos, even advertisement photos.
2) Bring out their favorite game and lay the photos beside the game.
3) At this level, the child already knows the expectations.
4) Start the game. The first player looks at the picture and describes what she sees. This is important because this gives the story as they see it. It’s concrete, so use concrete language like “the people are in the boat”, “the dog is in the water”, or “the waves are huge”.
5) All the players look at the picture, then agree or disagree with the player’s description.
6) The player then says what the possible future may be. Using the language, “I think the waves will push the boat over”, “I think they will rescue the dog”, or “I think the people in the boat will be beamed up by aliens”. It doesn’t matter what the child says. The goal is not to correct the child’s idea of the future. The goal is to have the child be flexible in their thinking. If it’s dark, you can leave it, or have your version of the future when it’s your turn. Do NOT correct the child during their turn. It’s their turn and you can damage the relationship if you are constantly correcting the child on their turn. Save that for another goal, at another time.
7) When the child is finished predicting, the turn is over and they take their turn playing the game. Often by this level, the interest can be more into the predicting than playing the game. If the child wants to go on and on with their predictions, let them because the game is not the goal. This does not go on for hours. Whenever you choose to teach a target, you choose the system and how long it will last. You can set the expectation as an open ended game, which is with a timer, or closed ended one, which is with the number of turns.
8) I alternate between the open and closed ended. We seldom ever finish the game at this level, which is not a big deal.
9) Never let the game go for more than ten minutes for the very young, and fifteen for the older children. Put on the timer, and when it goes off, you say, “Do you want the game to be over?” or “Do you want to play for another ten or fifteen minutes?”.
10) If they choose game over, you can smile and say it was a fun game. If they choose to play, set the timer. If they want more, you tell them that you will play it at the next session, and then keep your word.
This is the end of sharing how I teach 5-W-H questions. In the future, I will share the different approaches I take. The system always stays the same, but the approach and materials change. As I said in earlier posts, I’m not a therapist or have formal education in teaching. I am a mom for thirty-one years and have lots of experience with children from parenting and running a private day home for twenty years. I was also a nanny in between and during doing those jobs. I have also been a child development facilitator for five years. I hope you enjoyed my posts, and found at least one tip to help you teach the 5-W-H questions!