Teachers Partner with Parent Literacy Leaders
If children must hear and use a word 24 times before 80% of them can remember it, teachers will need help making sure special words get repeated. Invite parents to become Literacy Leaders who learn to say what they see their children doing for 10 minutes three times a day. By choosing one conversation starter from The Gift of Words, such as #8 Cook it, Eat it, Clean it up, which is based on one topic, the kitchen, Literacy Leaders will repeat the same or similar words. Each week the conversation will change to a different conversation starter from the book so the network of words the Literacy Leaders agree to say many times will change each week. If both the teacher and all of her Literacy Leaders agree to stay on the same conversation starter each week, the children will hear words repeated at home and at school. See links to lesson possibilities for classrooms for children ages 0-1 ½ and 1 ½ - 3.
Survival Stories: Words for a Pandemic
If you are a parent of young children, your parents might not have prepared you to grow up with a toolkit for surviving a pandemic. For many families with children, the last two months have been chock full of crazed adjustments lurching from solving one work, child, health, housing and financial problem after the next. Just as the fix is in on one problem, up pops another.
In other cultures and generations, parents prepared children for adversity with words and stories of hard-won survival and honorable loss. The purpose of these words and stories was to pass on values and expectations in the face of catastrophe.
Books and movies offer stories of integrity and resourcefulness in the face of trauma. How did Harriet Tubman find her way in the dark with no map? What caused Schindler to be so concerned for the safety of his workers? Why did Nelson Mandela reach out to his enemies? What impact did Cassius Clay/Muhammed Ali make when he refused to be drafted and changed his name? How do Hansel and Gretel escape?
Watching a survival movie or telling a story of others’ adversity is a great conversation starter for families who are numb with pandemic problems. Children need adults to give them the words to make sense of chaos and the stories to learn what survivors do.
How to Chat with a Toddler Who Doesn’t Talk
How do I Know He Understands Me?
It is possible to have a conversation with a toddler who doesn’t talk, if a mama does just a little more than her share of the talking. Start with say-what-you-see. Babies and toddlers love having a mama who tries to guess what they are thinking even when she is wrong. Not surprisingly, many mamas are very good at guessing when it comes to food, sleep, and a clean diaper. Mamas say what their child is doing and babies understand more than we give them credit for.
One of the first three words (after dada and mama) many children learn to say is “more.” When a mama holds a spoonful of berries in front of her baby’s lips and asks, “more berries?” she is teaching her child the words “more and berries.” When a baby smiles and opens her mouth or frowns and swats away the spoon, she is answering her mother’s question.
If a mama is quarantined with a toddler, how can she know if he understands what she is saying? If she says, “Go get the truck” and he goes into another room and comes back with a truck, voila! He understood! That is the test. But teaching and testing are two different things, and it is only fair to teach before the test.
How did he learn the word truck? His mama told him in conversations where she applied the mantra say-what-you-see. The way it works is that when his mama saw him pushing the truck, she said, “You really have fun pushing that truck.” Over the past few weeks she probably had said truck 24 times before he understood, because that’s what it takes for most of us to remember a new word. Children’s brains are prepared to learn new words, but they need a grown up to say the words first. It doesn’t take more time to give a child a big vocabulary. It takes more words. So, chat with toddlers, they will try to understand you.
Let’s talk about the men in a baby’s life. Clearly all three babies in this photo are totally interested in the two men. They want to touch them, engage eye to eye and crawl all over them. Too many of our children are not lucky enough to capture a man’s attention. Some of us well-meaning moms prevent our children from being with the men who belong to them. Others of us treat our sons very differently than our daughters. Out of fear that our sons will grow up badly some of us tell our sons, “Don’t say anything. Stand right here next to me and do exactly what I say.” Out of love and fear we prevent our sons from developing a large vocabulary by telling them to be quiet; and prevent our sons from becoming good decision makers by not allowing them to make decisions.
So that our sons will grow up to become responsible and loving fathers, we need to teach them with kind words how to make decisions. Help our boys make choices, ask, “Do you want to play with the blocks or a ball?” “Do you want strawberry or chocolate ice cream?” ”Do you want to stay inside and play with a toy truck or go outside and swing?” Little words become big words, small decisions lead to better choices later on.
It Doesn’t Take More Time, It Takes More Words
Question 1: Who is your child’s first teacher?
Question 2: What is a teachable moment?
For answer # 1 Look in a mirror
For answer #2 Any moment will do if your child’s first teacher makes the moment teachable.
A baby eating his own toes or a banana can learn about toes and bananas and eating from his mom if she’ll put on her teaching hat.
See how many words you can say to a child eating the banana. This picture gives a lot of teachable word moments: Look at that yellow banana. It looks delicious. You are slobbering all over it. The banana peel is sliding under the table. Are you still hungry? Do you want more? Are you finished? …. Can you say 50 words to a child about this photo? Next time your child eats something how many can you say? It doesn’t take more time, just more words.
When a baby eats his own toes, a mom can count the number of toes in his mouth, “You are so hungry, you can eat 2 toes.”
Or mom can count all of his toes: “One toe, two toes, three toes, four, five toes, six toes, seven toes more, eight toes, nine toes, TEN TOES in your mouth or on the floor.”
Mom can tell the poem:
“This little piggy goes to market,
This little piggy stays home,
This little Piggy has roast beef,
This little Piggy has none.
This little piggy goes waaaaaahhhhhh waaaaaahhh waaaaaahhhhhh all the way home.
When a child is interested mom/teachers can grab the teachable moment and give that baby the gift of words. It doesn’t take more time to make a moment teachable, it takes more words.
What other parents know and do:
Brainbuilding: a parent empowering website. This website has videos of parents finding ways to develop their children’s language and interest in the world. It also has daily brain-stimulating activities for parents to try. It explains brainbuilding research for children ages 0-5 years old. Your eyes will light up when you see their children’s eyes light up. (Click on the link below to view this resource)