Monday, April 30, 2012

Math Around the House

Amy Croker, MAT

Growing up, I was not a big fan of math. It wasn't that fun to me. In fact, it was the subject I dreaded the most and was probably most intimidated by.

I grew up in a very small town in the Florida Panhandle where everybody did really know your name, your Dad's, Mama's and grandparents too. The high school I attended consisted of a few teachers that were on their way out the door to retirement. I think some of them even taught my parents. Put it this way, they were done and ready to wrap up their teaching career! They paid their dues! So by the time I got there, they were not interested in making math fun, trying innovative teaching methods or learning how to best support their students' different learning styles to succeed in a subject like math that some people (mwah!) did not enjoy.

I know math comes easy for some people (that would be my husband, thank God!).  Others have to work at it and may be stronger in other subjects. However, I have always wondered (even with me as the non-math student) if I would have had a more effective learning experience if I had been taught in a way that I could understand it better. Who knows? I do know that you can't rely completely on the teacher to do everything related to the child's education. Parents have to get involved in their child's learning as well. If it were not for my parents, sitting at the kitchen table with me, helping me work through math problems, I may not have passed these classes I dreaded so much.

My point is when parents are actively involved in their children's learning, their children will become more successful learners.

Once I became an elementary school teacher I made it my mission to make math fun and to also educate the parents on our math curriculum, so they could better support their children at home. So in every newsletter, I would give my parents a simple math activity they could do at home or incoporate on the go,while taking their child to swim lessons or running errands. It was that easy and fun too!
I called it "Math Around the House."

Parents, there are plenty of opportunities in your every day life that you can reinforce math concepts. I have listed below some activities that you can easily do "around the house" with your child. I hope that you will print these out and do them with your child, especially this summer, as you get your them ready for the next school year.
  • Cooking-If your children are like mine, they love to help in the kitchen, especially when you are baking something really sweet and yummy. Cooking is full of opportunities to practice math skills such as counting, measuring, estimating, adding, subtracting, temperature and time. For your younger ones, you could even talk about shapes or patterns. For example, different shape cookies or the shape of your pans.
  • Laundry-yes, even with the laundry you can incorporate math and get a little helper to help you sort the clothes. With laundry, you and your child can estimate how many clothes might fit into the washer, but will not overfill it. You could have your child set the wash and then once the laudry is washed and dried, match the socks (if they didn't get lost like ours do). Then, take even further...when folding you can talk about wholes and halves.
  • Collection of things-your child may have a collection of certain things like cars, trains or like my girls princesses and dress-up clothes. With their little collection, you can have your child organize and sort the items by size, shape, color, design or maybe their function. This way, they learn how to classify things.
  • Meal time or Snack Time- you may have a child that takes all day to eat or doesn't eat that well. I have both. So I had to get a little clever with the mealtimes and snack times just so I could get through it without losing my sanity. For example, for breakfast, my girls sometimes eat Nutrigrain waffles. I cut them in eight triangles. So already, I could talk about the shape of the waffle, fractions when cutting and then have them count the pieces of waffles. Once the pieces of waffle are counted, I say, "You have eight pieces of waffle to eat, and if you eat one, how many would you have left?" I keep going with this strategy until the waffle is gone and it will be because they will get so excited about counting and taking (eating) away the waffle. At snack or a treat time, you could have your child estimate how many M&Ms or fruit chews are in the bag, then have them count the pieces, and then sort them by color and type. You could go even further and ask them what type or color they had the most of and the least. This is a great way to reinforce, "more than" and "less than" concepts, which they will use a lot when reading graphs.
  • Money-your child may have piggybank in their room that they love adding coins or dollars to it anytime they can. This is a great time to not only talking about the importance of money and saving, but it is also a good time to simply introduce the name of the coins, their worth and how they are different from each other.
As you can see Math is everywhere! So take advantage of your eager beaver learners and get them excited about learning Math!

On Wednesday, I will be talking about traditional games such a Go Fish and Chutes and Ladders that reinforce great math concepts, as well as some easy homemade math games you can incorporate in your daily routine. All of these games will provide opportunities to talk about sorting, measuring, money, adding, subtracting and estimating.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

It's never too early to start building your child's fine motor skills

It is never too early to provide your child with opportunities that will help build their fine motor skills.This week we have focused on the importance of strong fine motor skills when entering Kindergarten, but it is also important for children as young as 6 months to get to explore and play with toys that will encourage them to use their small finger and hand muscles.

As parents, we often tend to overlook the significance of fine motor skills as we are making sure our child accomplishes many gross motor milestones such as rolling over, sitting up, crawling and finally walking or running, for others. That would be both my girls.

As you watch your child accomplish each milestone, recording each one in their baby book, it is easy to neglect the little things they are able to do. For example, being able to grab a set of keys and shake them or even put in their mouth is allowing your child to learn and discover sounds and texture. When your child starts to pick up blocks and can stack them or maybe sometimes throw or knock them down, they are learning cause and effect and problem solving. When they are introduced to solids and/or finger foods, they are not only learning how to feed themselves and eventually learn how to use untensils, but their training the brain to use hand and eye coordination.  

So as your child is growing, you can see how creating and providing a play area (or learning environment) for your child to strengthen their fine motor skills is extremely important in their development. Think of it as another stepping stone for your child  to learn about the world around them.

Fine motor skills are not just about learning how to write, that comes later after your child has the strength and coordination to grip the pencil and write with it. It is not just about learning how to cut with scissors either. It is more than that once your child is in Kindergarten. It is about self help skills such as being able to get dressed, go to bathroom or zip or button their coat up. All of these jobs require your child to use their fine motor skills. 

So again, I encourage you to start early. Start providing your child with a learning environment that allows them to play with things that make them use their hands and fingers. I have a twenty month old that has gotten stronger every day using her tiny hand muscles and it is because I have always given her an opportunity to color, even paint, play with Play-Dough, build with blocks, play in the bath tub or water table constantly filling up the cups with water and then dumping.  Then, earlier on, the chunky puzzles and books that enticed her to touch, feel and turn the pages to see more.

I hope that just because you have a child that is not going into Kindergarten or even Pre-K, you will not disregard the importance of building their small motor skills. Believe me, they will learn more and even feel confident in themselves.

The following are some activities/items you can do with your child as young as 12 months old to strengthen their fine motor skills. Also, remember to refer back to Monday's post for activities for your soon to be Kindergartener.

  • Spray bottle. Teach them how to use their index finger to spray the water out of the bottle
  • Tearing and crumbling paper. This makes them use their little fingers and they love it!
  • Play-Dough, just manipulating, squeezing and pinching the dough will give them strong hand and finger muscles
  • Stickers, both my girls love them and they have to really be careful in peeling them off the paper so it takes a lot of precision and muscle control.
  • Sponges, just simply have them squeeze out the water when in the bath tub or outside.
  • Lid and containers, my daughter loves to try to match them up with the right container or put things inside the containers
  • Puzzles
  • Shape sorters
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Magna Doodle
  • Different size cups or bowls to fill and dump things. Tea sets are good too.
  • Crayons, chunky or regular to get them in practice of having to grip and hold a writing instrument and put it to paper
  • Blocks, just stacking and building with them not only helps with fine motor but also planning and problem solving.
  • Opening and closing things
  • Finger foods like Cheerios, Goldfish and dried fruit are great to learn how to grip things
We would love your feedback of things that you do with your children to enhance their small motor skills or how this post might have helped or inspired you.



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Unexpected Activities that can strengthen your child's fine motor skills

Amy Croker, MAT, Elem. Education
While my girls and I were enjoying an afternoon on our patio, our usual ritual after school, I decided to change up our same ole routine of blowing bubbles, drawing pictures with sidewalk chalk, playing in the sandbox or kicking around the soccer ball. So I grabbed my one dollar steal at Target, the fun pink flower and green ladybug shaped water bottle, filled it with water, and let my girls' tiny hands go to work. And they absolutely loved it! They had no idea that they were exercising their fingers. They were just having fun!

After the girls of course squirted each other, or more like my 4 year old squirted my 1 1/2 year old and helpless puggle. As you can imagine, my 1 1/2 year old's sweet chubby fingers were not quite strong enough to squirt a bottle, but let me tell you, she was certainly trying her best to get her big sister back! Then, after a couple of tries she decided to go back to playing at the sandtable, something she knew she was pretty good at and enjoyed.

My oldest daughter continued to give her new flower water bottle a workout by watering our flowers, the grass, washing her toys and soccer ball and then decided to get a little more creative by making water pictures on the warm pavement. She got pretty good at it too.

Watering our flowers while strengthen her fingers and hand muscles
So Moms, if you have a child that will be going into Kindergarten next year or even the next, and they might be struggling with holding a pencil or crayon, or has a hard time using scissors, I strongly encourage you to provide opportunities, right now, for your child to develop and strengthen the tiny muscles in their hands. This is just another step (but avery important one) in getting your child ready for Kindergarten.

Once your child gets to Kindergarten or even Pre-K, they will need to be able to grasp the pencil, and control it well enough to write their name, color, use various manipulatives during center time, and cut with scissors. If your child is not able to do these things by Kindergarten, they will really struggle with the daily tasks in their classroom.

Some of you might be thinking right now you don't have time to work on fine motor skills and isn't that what the teacher is supposed to do or maybe you think that you are not creative enough to come up with fun activities for your child to strengthen their hand muscles. Really the activities don't have to be anything overly creative or hard like making your child sit at the table and write their name over and over again.

Every day you can easily incorporate something into what best fits your daily routine and also what you know your child likes to do best. It can be as simple as having them make things with Silly Putter or Play Dough. Or better yet, helping you in the kitchen form the pizza or cookie dough before you bake. Pinching and pulling a part the dough is another great finger exercise.

Using those pinchers to make a heart pizza

Working their hands and fingers with Play Dough

So you get the idea, that it is really easy to find every day opportunities for your child to strengthen their hand and finger muscles with activities that they enjoy the most.

For my girls, they enjoy being outside, so that simple activity of the day was squirting water with a fun water bottle, drawing with sidewalk chalk and pouring sand into one bucket and cup after another. While my oldest was not only strengthen her fine motor skills, she was also practicing writing, while my youngest was using her hands to hold the shovel and scoop the sand into different containers. My girls were just having fun, enjoying each other and learning all at the same time.

Building her finger muscles while drawing with her water bottle

Practicing dexterity with sandtable fun!

So you can do it Moms! I know you can! You may even surprise yourself and come up with more clever ways to practice fine motor and writing with your kids. Would love to hear the new ideas if you do.

On Friday, I will be talking about fun and easy ways you can help your child practice writing their numbers, letters and cutting with scissors. In the meantime, I encourage you to read back over Monday's post and print out the list of items and activities you can do with your child.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Importance of Fine Motor skills

Amy Croker, MAT, Elementary Education

Playdough, Legos, unifix cubes, lacing cards, nuts and bolts, tweezers, tongs, clothespins, eye droppers, newspaper, a deck of cards and the list goes on of the many household items that can strengthen your child's fine motor skills. Who would have thought that playing with Play Dough or blocks could help your child develop their fine motor skills? And there are so many other simple activities that you can easily do to strengthen your child's hand muscles.

You may be asking why is this skill so important to prepare my child for Kindergarten? Every child going into Pre-K and Kindergarten needs to have strong fine motor skills. It is a must in my opinion! Fine motor skills is the foundation that your child needs in order to learn how to write. It helps with learning how to grasp the pencil correctly and control it in their tiny little hands.

As a former Kindergarten teacher, I saw a surprisingly large amount of students coming into my classroom with very weak fine motor skills. It quickly became a challenge for these students to participate in any writing activities or even art projects, where they might have to color, paste or cut paper with scissors.
So in order to further develop my students' fine motor skills, I decided to make sure I had plenty of fun and simple activities that I could integrate into their daily routine and center time.

Alot of the items I have already listed above, and then I have included more at the end of this post of things that you can easily do at home with your child. For example, if you and your child like to play cards, have them shuffle the deck before you start the game. For your younger children, you can start by simply providing blocks for them to stack, sort or place into a shape sorter.

I hope this list will help you as you continue to support and prepare your child for Kindergarten.

More Fine Motor activties to do with your child:

  1. Pick up small objects such as coins, beans, marbles, seeds, buttons, nuts and bolts. Sort them into containers of varying sizes.

  1. Pick  up objects (blocks, cotton balls, pom-poms, crumpled balls of paper, counters, etc. ) using various sized tongs, tweezers or clothesline hooks

  1. Stack objects (i.e. coins, cards, checkers, blocks, etc.)

  1. Screw and unscrew objects such as nuts and bolts, caps from jars, etc.

  1. String beads onto a shoelace
  1. Play with Lite Brite toy

  1. Cut straight and curved lines/shapes drawn on paper, cloth, etc., with scissors

  1. Type

  1. Play piano

  1. Shuffle cards, deal cards one by one, turn cards over

  1.   Roll a pencil between thumb and fingers without dropping it

  1. Stick small objects into play dough or Silly Putty for him/her to pull out

  1. Wind thread on a spool evenly

  2. Put rubber bands around various size containers and objects

  1. Move spoonfuls of small objects from one bowl to another

  1. Do up buttons, zippers, hooks, etc.

  1. Tie shoelaces

  1. Manually sharpen pencils

  1. Put keys into locks to open door

  1. Put paper clips onto paper

Friday, April 20, 2012

10 tips for building social skills

Heather Gillum, PhD, CCC-SLP
Before we move on from social skills, I thought it would be nice to give some more examples of ways to work on social skills that will serve a new kindergartener well.  Here's my top 10--feel fee to chime in with a comment, because I love new ideas.

1. Let (or require) your children speak for themselves--ordering at a restaurant or asking for something they want at a store implicitly teaches the need to speak up, slow down, and speak clearly with adults.

2.  Push the please and thank yous.  A gracious child can get away with almost anything in the classroom.

3.  Put your child on the phone.  Call a relative, neighbor, or family friend when your child has something exciting to share.  This type of conversation teaches that people who weren't there don't know what happened, so you have to give them adequate background information and context.

4.  Put words on emotions.  Be sure your child knows that it is important to use the words that explain how they feel--sick, tired, mad, scared, frustrated--instead of cowering in the corner or going with the classic "stomachache" excuse.  This could save you some unnecessary trips to school to pick up a supposedly sick child.  I've been there, done that when the word my child was looking for was "embarassed" but it came out as "my head really really hurts," AKA, let me think of something that will get me out of here FAST.

5.  Teach compassion.  Use talk alouds (that's teacher-talk for talking to yourself in the earshot of others on purpose, not to be confused with being senile) to let your child in on the compassion you feel for others.  Comments like "I feel sad for Natalie since her dog died," or "I bet Alex is upset that he had to miss the party" demonstrate that you are thinking about others from their perspective.  This comes in handy when your child does something that hurts someone's feelings and you can ask "How do you think that made her feel?"

6.  Practice patience.  If you are on the phone, and your child continually interrupts you, hold your ground and make him wait.  You can't interrupt the teacher when she is teaching, so you shouldn't interrupt mom either. Young children have a very difficult time understanding that things that are okay at home are not okay at school.

7.  Encourage requests for help.  At home it is easy to anticipate every need.  I ask my daughter to put on her shoes, and one minute later I'm asking if she needs help untying them (old habits die hard, although the self-sufficient and slightly mocking look she has started giving me may nip that one in the bud).  The teacher cannot anticipate every need for every child all the time, and children who promptly pipe up and ask for help can get what they need and get on with their work.

8.  Be funny.  Kids like other kids who can tell a joke, make a silly face, or do something silly.  Timing is everything, of course, but appropriate gags are great fun.  Don't discourage them.

9.  Create opportunities for entering ongoing interactions. Full disclosure: this was the topic of my Master's thesis so I probably find this way more interesting than you do, but I think anyone can get a kick out of watching kids who are strangers try to interact.  One of my favorite places to watch this is in a public space like a library where there is a kid center of some sort such as a train table.  The hierarchy of accessing behaviors is wait and hover, move in towards the people you want to play with, make a comment about what the people are playing with, ask a question about it, and flat-out asking to play.  If your child has trouble with this, offer a bit of coaching.

10.  Set a good social skills example.  Spend time as a family with relatives and other families.  Be a good role model for how to get along with others.  Encourage cooperative play with other children.  You may only be thinking about kindergarten and readiness for part of your day, but your child is watching you all the time.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Can't we all just get along?

Heather Gillum, PhD, CCC-SLP
On Monday I posted a link about some of the social skills needed for success in the kindergarten classroom.  That article echoed the sentiments of a national survey of kindergarten teachers that we shared in February (here) and highlighted the importance of cooperation and sensitivity to others.

According to my daughter I'm not a "yeller" as she puts it (which I am assuming is a good thing), but I would like to shout this from a mountaintop:

If your child can read on a third grade level, do two-digit addition and subtraction, tell time, write in cursive and ride a bike BUT cannot get along with other children, has difficulty following directions and dealing with rules, and lacks the emotional regulation to get through the day without a meltdown, your child is not ready for kindergarten.

Ah, I said it.  I feel so much better now.  If your child is socially ready, working on the traditional pre-academic skills is a gift to your child, and will be our focus on the blog this summer.  But if your child is not socially ready, now is the time to be thinking about (1) what you can do to help address these skills and (2) what you will do next fall if kindergarten is not in the cards.  The first step if you have these kinds of concerns for your child is to talk with this year's teacher.  If you ask directly about this you may be surprised how candid she is. But let's take a moment to break down the three areas.

Getting along with peers is key, because good kindergarten classrooms are collaborative environments where students sit together at tables, play together in centers, and share as a group at circle time.  Here are some of the specific skills needed:
  1. Ability to enter an ongoing play situation with other children, going with the flow of ongoing play, and adapting to changes in the play situation.
  2. Communication skills to show disagreement verbally ("No, I'm using this right now") instead of physically (with hands, feet, and teeth--that biting thing especially doesn't go over well).
  3. Negotiation skills ("Can I use that shovel when you are done with it?")
  4. Recognition of when you need to seek out an adult (such as when a child threatens or hurts another child) without becoming a tattler.
  5. Ability to express compassion and kindness, offering appropriate complements, care, and concern.
Concerned about these skills? Have some friends over to play, stay within earshot, and come in and model appropriateness when needed.

Hopefully your child's preschool environment placed a value on compliance--following classroom rules and verbal directions.  This is a good one to discuss with the teacher.  But also pay attention to what happens at home.  Do you ask your child to do something, but then let it slide when it doesn't get done? I have a history of slipping up on this one, and it did not slip by her teachers unnoticed.  Case in point:  one preschool teacher was so surprised by my child's lack of compliance, despite her overall good-natured personality, that she recommended getting her hearing checked. Her hearing was fine, thankfully, but I realized that I needed to tighten the reins a bit.  A little firmness and a lot of consistency at home can go a long way toward shaping up this behavior.  

And finally, emotional regulation.  This is the ability to pull it together at drop off time, go with the flow when transitioning from one activity to the next, manage tiredness without crumbling into a sobbing heap, and handle the hard knocks and minor rejections that are inevitable in day to day life with other kids.  Regard meltdowns as communication, and acknowledge the discontent of the child crying on the floor without reinforcing the excessive display of dissatisfaction. Something like "I know you are mad about (fill in the blank).  We can talk about it when you get up off the floor."
Do not get sucked into the vortex when your child breaks down--they may be amping up the drama as a way to get more attention from you. Because, let's get real, it does tug at a mama's heart to see a child in distress, but your child's teacher is not going to have the same maternal response. If you are struggling with these issues, your pediatrician can be a rich resource on developmental appropriateness.

These social skills may feel a bit more difficult to address than the concrete ABC's and 123's, but they are even more important for kindergarten success.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Social Skills for Kindergarteners

Heather Gillum, PhD, CCC-SLP
This week I'm back with posts on the social skills that are necessary for success in the kindergarten classroom.  In my opinion, social readiness is more important than "academic" readiness, and lack of social readiness would be a legitimate reason for holding a child back a year.  To give you a preview of the skills I'll be talking about, here's a great article from

Friday, April 13, 2012

Shared Book Reading

Heather Gillum, PhD, CCC-SLP
When I imagine a kindergarten classroom and a teacher at her best, I think about shared book reading.  An extension of circle time, this is when big book versions of children's favorite stories are shared with the class as a group.  In my opinion this is the most academically relevant part of the kindergarten day as reading is modeled, explained, and practiced as a group.  Hearing a group of little children sound out words together while they follow the teacher's pointer with their eyes is a magical thing.

The best way to prepare a child for participation in shared book reading is to read to them, of course.  Children who have familiarity with stories are more prone to pay attention during this kind of activity.  Teachers are good at stopping along the way to discuss words that may be unfamiliar, to make predictions about what might happen next in the story, and to ask questions to see if everyone is listening, and doing this at home can help a child shift gears between reading the book and talking about the book.  Children who have the following 6 prerequisite skills and knowledge get the most out of shared book reading:

1.  Ability to pay attention to the story, remembering details so they can be discussed.
2.  Visual tracking skills, following the teacher's pointer as she sounds out the words, laying the foundation for sound-symbol relationships.

3.  Preliminary alphabet knowledge, so that they can chime in when the teacher points out a letter and asks for its name or sound.
4.  Literate vocabulary--these are phrases that are common in books but not in conversation, such as "once upon a time," "even though," "all along," and the passive tense.
5.  Rhyming skills. As a component of phonological awareness, good teachers work in rhyming practice during book reading.
6.  The ability to make connections between text and real life.   

What can you do to promote development of these skills?  Here are 6 tips.

1. Reading, of course.  My favorite resource for book lists for young children is from the Nashville Public Library.
2.  When you read, run your finger under the words to teach tracking skills.
3.  Work on the alphabet--there are many "alphabet books" with all kinds of themes and great illustrations.  Set a goal of identification of all uppercase letters before the first day of school.  If you are feeling ambitious, work on the lowercase letters as well.
4.  In addition to reading stories, make up stories using literate language.  This will reinforce comprehension of these less familiar phrases and sentence structures.  This was a favorite bedtime activity for my daughter, who used it as a charming way to stall when it was time for lights out.  It always started with "Once upon time there was a little girl named Natalie Grace, and she lived in a big house with three dogs..." and went from there.
5.  Play rhyming games.  One old favorite is the Name Game song.
6.  Practice making connections between things you read with your child and your child's life.  As you are reading, point out people, places, things, and situations that parallel your child's environment and experiences.  It's also fun to read a nonfiction book alongside a fiction book, such as a book about caterpillars paired with The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. 

We've covered quite a bit of ground in the academic language of the kindergarten classroom. Next week we'll shift to social language and classroom routines.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Talking in Circles

Heather Gillum, PhD, CCC-SLP
"It's time to come to the circle."

Such begins the kindergarten day for many, many children.  Sometimes it goes by names like Morning Meeting, Gathering, or Sharing Time, but in any case it involves everyone coming together into a circle for a shared time of interaction.  In the grand scheme of kindergarten readiness, this is where a multitude of skills are on display. Allow me to describe the scene.

Teacher sits in rocking chair, children are asked to sit in a circle, either on a rug or on their own personal carpet square.  Some children come promptly, sit down criss-cross applesauce (what was formerly and less respectfully called "Indian style" for all you children of the 70's and 80's), and put their eyes on the teacher and the accompanying materials.  Others continue to wander aimlessly and must be called by name, prompted again, and sometimes physically assisted to their place.  For these children, circle time is off to a bad start.

Sharing in the circle takes many forms.  Teacher may begin with a litany of direct questions that are the same each day.  "What day of the week is it? What month?  What date?" may be asked of the group, with children raising hands and answering, or blurting out, depending on teacher's tolerance.  Children may be assigned jobs, such as weather reporter, and asked individually to answer questions about sunshine, precipitation, and appropriate clothing for the day.  Then talk may shift to opportunities for students to share what they did over the weekend, with short yet descriptive answers more highly prized than rambling recitations. The rhythm of circle time eventually becomes a regular part of each school day, and students begin planning what they will share ahead of time.  It serves to teach vocabulary, numeracy, and respect for others.  It is also a time in which appropriateness is observable and students are on stage.  It is a time of day when I learn much about the students in a class and their communication skills, and is often a precursor to a one-on-one screening.

As you can see, circle time is a language-heavy social activity.  Here are eight important skills for circle time success: 
1. Sitting in a space and respecting the personal space of others, keeping hands and feet to oneself
2. Making eye contact with the teacher, and with other students when they are talking
3. Maintaining focused attention and following topic shifts and transitions
4. Respecting the turns of others and refraining from speaking out of turn
5. Listening and paying close attention in order to answer questions, and formulating responses to questions before volunteering to answer
6. Providing adequate background information when speaking on a personal topic, such as an out of school activity
7. Speaking with appropriate volume and clarity to be understood
8. Using age-appropriate vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structures when talking.

Is your kindergarten-bound child struggling in some of these areas?  Here are eight tips for building circle time skills:
1. Seek out community-based circle time-type activities, such as the storytimes hosted by local libraries, as an opportunity for practice.
2. Expect (and prompt when lacking) respectful turn taking and eye contact during family dinners.
3. When you are talking with your child, prompt for more information when you need more background on their topic of conversation, such as what they did at a friend's house.  It's great to offer a reminder, such as "Now remember, I wasn't there, what exactly were you doing?".
4. Play games at home that reinforce the rhythm of turn taking and respects for others' turns.
5. Prompt for volume and clarity when your child mumbles (even when you know what they were saying).
6. Assist when there are grammar breakdowns.  For example, when your child makes an error, such as "That's hims ball" instead of "That's his ball,"simply repeat the sentence with the correction without asking the child to repeat it.  This is called a conversational recast, and is a powerful intervention technique.
7. When reading with your children, stop occasionally and ask questions to see if they are paying attention and able to answer correctly. If not, suggest that they look at the pictures to help jog their memory.
8. Make regular phone calls with your child to friends and relatives to give practice in describing special events and activities to people who weren't there.  This is an easy way to build descriptive skills.

Still concerned?  Discuss your concerns with a your child's preschool teacher, and consider contacting a speech-language pathologist if you have worries about any aspect of communication development.

When circle time includes reading a book, it becomes "Shared Book Reading"--which will be the topic of our Friday post.

Monday, April 9, 2012