Category Archives: communication

Questions to Encourage Sustained Shared Thinking

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To be perfectly honest I hate that in my profession they keep inventing new buzz words for age old ways of working and interacting with young children.  It feels to me that it is a way to make some feel superior in their understanding to others.  If you don’t quite get what it means it is quite likely something you are already  naturally doing, but without giving it a name.

‘Sustained shared thinking’ occurs when two or more individuals ‘work together’ in an intellectual way to solve a problem, clarify a concept, evaluate an activity, extend a narrative etc.

Both parties must contribute to the thinking and it must develop and extend the understanding. It was more likely to occur when children were interacting 1:1 with an adult or with a single peer partner and during focussed group work.  The Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project (2004)

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If you are engaged with a child’s play, if you are working together, listening and sharing ideas, if you are helping a child to understand something, you are likely engaged in sustained shared thinking.  Imagine blowing bubbles for a toddler, they watch the bubbles and watch you blow them.  As the bubbles blow away, the bubbles pop and the child continues to look for them.  You might blow a bubble onto their hand so the child can feel it pop or show them how to pop it with their finger.  The child engages in a new game, popping the bubbles for fun. This is sustained shared thinking.

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I often see questions asked about suitable activities to promote sustained- shared thinking.  Any open-ended, creative activity will lend it self to sustained shared thinking – the key is the level of engagement and nature of interaction between teacher and child. Also any genuine discussions you have with the children when you are learning from one another and discussing in depth opinions, thoughts and ideas are examples of sustained shared thinking.  Take time to listen and understand what the children are thinking, before jumping in with our own ideas.

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It might be helpful to think of these questions.  If you can use these questions in your interactions with the children then you will be engaging in sustained shared thinking.

 

Elaborating

That’s really interesting, can you tell me more?

Re-capping

So you think that…..

You started with…..

Offering own experiences

When I was little I thought that….

I like to listen to music when I am busy.

Clarifying ideas

So we think that the sugar will dissolve in hot water?

I think I understand let me just check what you said.

Suggesting

Can I show you another way?

How about if we try this?

Perhaps we need to think about it?

Reminding

Don’t forget that you said the sugar would dissolve in warm water

Let’s just go back to what you did/said/thought.

Encouraging

You thought really hard about where to put the door, now where could you put the windows?

Speculating

If we try this what might happen?

What other ideas might work?

Are there any other possibilities?

Do you think the 3 bears would like Goldilocks to be their friend?

Asking Open Questions

How did you…?     Why does this…..?   What happens next?

What do you think?  Where would you?

Offering Alternative Viewpoint

Let’s pretend we are…… What might we do?

Perhaps Goldilocks didn’t think she was being mean when she ate the porridge?

Disclaimer: these questions came from training delivered by North Somerset early years team but may originate from another source.

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Steady Beat Action Rhymes

My Children are big fans of Beat Baby and love to play rhyming games. Some of these activities and the way they help with early literacy development are documented in a previous post about Musical Games . Recently we were reading Ros Bayley’s Action Raps and then continued to make up some of our own.

After a few rhymes with me leading the way, my 4-year-old decided to have a try.

Traditional Childrens’ Parties Promote Communication Skills.

Many of us provide elaborate parties for children under the age of 5 and then find that they are happy just ‘playing’.  I’ve adapted my parties over the years. I found that before the age of 3 my children were happy to have one or 2 friends visit to play games and eat cake. Even when they were a little older they mostly enjoyed a few crafts, games and dancing.

According to a recent study by I CAN the communication charity, my children are not unusual. In a survey of 1500 parents they found that the top 5 party pursuits for under-5’s were:-

  1. Dancing games like Musical Chairs, Musical Statues and Musical Bumps
  2. Party games like Pass the Parcel and Pin the Tail on the Donkey
  3. Playing outdoors with other children
  4. Eating party food
  5. Singing and rhyming  games like the Hokey Cokey and Row, Row, Row Your Boat

I CAN Communication Advisor, Kate Freeman said “The top five activities all involve communicating and socialising with their friends – from pass the parcel, which boosts turn-taking and listening skills to singing and rhyming games like the Hokey Cokey. This type of activity enhances children’s understanding of the structure and meaning of language – and there is no better environment for a child to develop their confidence than with a group of friends and adults in a relaxed and fun setting like a party”. Furthermore, mealtimes and snack times are a fantastic opportunity for young children to continue to develop communication skills.

Fun games to play at parties to develop children’s communication skills include:

  • Singing and rhyming songs – a great way to help children learn vocabulary and have fun making music together
  • Playing clapping games (Pat-a-Cake) –  to help children to develop their coordination, control and movement as well as learning vocabulary and social skills
  • Word Games (Simon Says and I Spy)  – to help to develop children’s vocabulary about the world around them and to listen to instructions  (These games can be adapted to easier versions for younger children)
  • Turn taking games (Pass the Parcel) – to help children to learn when to talk and when to listen
  • Games like musical statues to encourage children to listen carefully.   Listening skills can be developed further by saying ‘Stop’ in a quiet voice instead of pausing the music.
  • Imaginative play like toys’ tea parties  help children to expand their language.

When I was teaching in nurseries we often used to play ‘ring games’ like ‘Farmers in the Den’ and ‘Hokey Cokey’ if we had bad weather and it was difficult for the children to play outside. They were always a firm favourite.  The children also loved playing picnics or tea parties.

I CAN is inviting nurseries, pre-schools, childminders or community groups to take part in their annual fun and educational event . This year I CAN is partnering with Entertainment One to make its pre-school character Humf the brand ambassador. The 2013 Chatterbox Challenge: Mad Chatter’s Tea Party with Humf  asks groups to organise sponsored tea parties where children can join in with popular songs and rhymes to develop their communication skills in an enjoyable way. I organised an event years ago with my pre-school music group. We learned  new songs and the children were awarded stickers and certificates for their achievements.

The singing and rhyming activities for the 2013 Chatterbox Challenge: Mad Chatter’s Tea Party with Humf have been developed by I CAN speech and language therapists and teachers. Lesson plans, which include Humf and his friends in the activities and illustrations, link to key aspects of the new Early Years Foundation Stage including Communication and Language, Physical Development, and Personal, Social and Emotional Development. All the activities are aimed at supporting and developing children’s speech and language skills.

Being involved with the Chatterbox Challenge: Mad Chatter’s Tea Party with Humf encourages children to think about communication, whilst helping support those who find talking and understanding difficult.

Chatterbox Challenge week is 1st – 8th March 2013 and most groups will be holding their Tea Party with Humf during this week, though groups can actually take part at any time during 2013.

To register and get involved in this year’s Chatterbox Challenge: Mad Chatter’s Tea Party with Humf, go to www.chatterboxchallenge.org.uk

Activities to Build Children’s Language Development from Ages 3-5.

A few years ago I ran training sessions for early educators and parents on communication, language and literacy. Many of the resources we recommended, including the excellent dvd Chatter Matters, came from the Communication charity I CAN. One of the key messages of this training was that ‘reading and writing float on a sea of talk.’

Kate Freeman, I CAN Communication Advisor and experienced paediatric speech and language therapist says:

Given the right support, many children learn to talk without too much effort. There’s a golden age for learning to talk – this is before 5½ and so skills learnt at this age bring great benefits later on. Evidence has shown the early years to be a vital time for supporting all children’s communication, as well as a time to identify any difficulties and put support in place to improve a child’s overall life chances.

I was very excited to review I CAN’s latest resource Chatting with Children.  This is a really nicely presented set of 30 cards with activities for promoting speaking and understanding for children aged 3-5. The activities are simple and require no specialist resources. Some are copying or guessing games of the kind we often play in the car, some require household objects and a couple that I played with my 4-year -old and 2-year-old  used our musical instruments box . These games would be great for including in my music groups.

Each card has ideas for making the activity easier if your child is struggling or more challenging if it is too simple. The activities are equally suitable for large groups or one child. They are a great resource for families and could provide a wealth of ideas for small group times at pre-school. Many of the cards remind me of games I played with the autistic children I worked with, helping them extend their vocabulary and comprehension and categorise language. These cards would have been an invaluable resource for these families.

The cards focus on a number of skills, listening, developing vocabulary, social skills and understanding what is said. The games are varied  and can be played for a few minutes or half an hour or more.listening games My 4-year-old loved the listening games, playing hide and seek with our timer and listening carefully for the soft tick to help us find it and making sounds with household objects and guessing what they might be.

Chatting with Children is also available as part of a brand new boxset being launched this month by I CAN – the Early Talkers Boxset (£19.99). The boxset contains the original Babbling Babies and Toddler Talk as well as the new Chatting with Children, and has been created especially for parents and Early Years practitioners supporting babies, toddlers and young children in learning to talk.

The three packs between them, contain activities for children from birth to school age. I  was so impressed that I am going to order the box set for my brother to play with his one year old twins.

Chatting with Children is available in paperback for £7.99 paperback and hardback for £12.99 .

All proceeds go towards I CAN’s work with the 1.2 million children in the UK who have long-term speech, language and communication difficulties. To purchase Chatting with Children or the Early Talkers Boxset comprising all three activity card sets visit www.ican.org.uk/bookshop .

“Any parent with a question or concern about their child’s communication can contact the I CAN Help Enquiry Service for a call or email from a speech and language therapist – visit www.ican.org.uk/help

This is not a sponsored post, a copy of chatting with children was received for review purposes

Kate’s Top Tips for Chatting with Children aged 3-5 years old

Be quiet Take time to talk to each other in a quiet room. Turn off the TV and radio, and shut the door to block out any other background noises. Children have to learn to block out background noises, so they need a quiet environment to focus on the sounds they hear.

Be face-to-face Help young children to see your face – make sure you’re at the same level as them. Sit or crouch opposite them as they play, or sit them on your lap. Sit opposite the child so you’re face-to-face with them. Being face-to-face means that the child can see you and your facial expressions. Also, you can see them and their responses and reactions to the games you play together or the conversations you are having.

Don’t rush – take plenty of time Young children take longer than adults to process what they hear – sometimes up to 12 seconds. They need plenty of time to respond to you.

Be patient Young children can easily lose interest in what you’re doing – this is perfectly normal, especially for 3-year-olds. Don’t worry – just stop the game that you’re playing together and try again another time.

Be prepared for anything Follow the child’s lead and adapt the game or conversation to fit in with what they’re doing. This can help maintain attention on particular games.

Ditch the dummy A dummy gets in the way of attempts to talk during conversations and games. Children of 3 and over don’t need to use a dummy.

Use the language you naturally use at home It’s important that you speak naturally to young children; this helps develop their language skills.

Enjoy it This is a special time together, so have fun playing, chatting and learning about each other.

Chatting with Children, a new activity pack for adults to help develop communication skills in children aged 3-5 is available from I CAN www.ican.org.uk/bookshop

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