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Friday, April 18, 2014

Everyday Activities for Language and Literacy Skills

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If you've been with me since the beginning of this series, we have covered Fine Motor, Gross Motor, and Cognitive Skills. This post will be about my favourite: Language and Literacy Skills! A few years ago I had the opportunity to enroll in a program by Hanen called "Learning Language and Loving It".   If you ever have the opportunity to participate in their training, I would encourage you to do so. 

There are many ways to encourage Language and Literacy through every day activities.  Simply talking with children is probably the best way I know.  The way you speak to each child will differ according to their ability to understand and communicate.  The idea is to encourage them to keep expanding on their abilities.  I try to listen carefully when my buddies speak to me and respond to their questions and comments.  I will use simple words for my younger and less experienced buddies, and gradually increase the complexity and number of words I use with them.  Often I will repeat the same words and phrases over and over again, just to help buddies who are beginning to learn to speak, or to understand the English language.  I am careful to use the same phrases exactly, rather than changing them around.  "Wash your hands" will be used many times, and not altered or rephrased, and I will usually add a gesture to make the meaning clear.  Eventually, the meaning is understood and I won't need to use the gesture, and I can even make slight changes. 

I try to ask many questions and encourage my buddies comments.  As I talk about what we are doing, I will often ask my buddies what they think will happen, or what we should do.  Again, I listen carefully, and will add to their comments when appropriate, to provide more information and expand on their vocabulary.  So, a toddler saying "Truck" as they hand me a toy truck might get the response "Yes, you have a blue truck".  I also try to create a need to communicate.  I may even play at not understanding when they point or gesture, just to encourage their speech.  For example, I might have two kinds of snack foods on a plate and ask my buddy what he would like to eat.  If he gestures to one, I might move the plate slightly, put on a confused face, and say, "Oh, I'm not sure what you would like.  Did you want the apple or the cheese?  Apple (pointing to apple) or cheese (pointing to cheese).  I may repeat this two or three times.  If my buddy still isn't using the word, I will accept the gesture, and just try to get him to repeat the word after me as I provide his choice.  At the very least, the child is hearing the word and seeing the way my lips move as I say it. 

Language and literacy go hand in hand and each improves with the other.  Reading stories and singing songs, reciting poems and rhymes are done often throughout the day.  I would encourage you to find children's books and songs that you, yourself love, because these will be the ones that you will be enthusiastic to read and sing.  Children's enthusiasm for certain songs and books can be contagious, too, so let their enthusiasm pull you in and have fun with it.  Be silly and dramatic and let yourself be a child again as you channel the entertainer within! Suddenly, you're a star with adoring fans. 

Want more?  Here's some links I think you'll like:

Scholastic: Language and Literacy Activities for Toddlers

Zero to Three: Early Language & Literacy

Room to Grow: 50 Literacy Activities for Babies

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