Tuesday 27 June 2017

Storytelling As A Form Of Expression For Children With Special Needs

Storytelling As A Form Of Expression For Children With Special Needs

By Monisha Iswaran

Putting the effort into teaching your child with special needs how to engage with activities such as storytelling will benefit them considerably in the long run. It is one medium through which they can find an outlet for some much needed self expression. Understanding stories and learning how to retell them to an audience (even if that audience is only mum and dad sometimes), can help with reading, writing, self-confidence and numerous other skills that are essential as your little ones grow up.

The great thing about storytelling is that you are able to match the level of difficulty to your child’s ability. There are a wide number of children’s books available, which suit kids of different reading capabilities. You want to make sure you increase the difficulty of the books your little one reads by small increments - enough so that they are continually challenged and learning, but not so much that they feel discouraged and begin to resent reading as an activity. Once they have become familiar with the simple storyline, get them to retell the gist of it back to you. Similarly, you’ll want to increase the level of detail you expect from them bit by bit. When they first begin this activity, is likely they will only recap the story in a basic one line summary, or perhaps tell you a little about the main characters. That is totally fine! Although you may have to start out by asking them lots of prompting questions, the need to do so will slowly dissipate as they gain confidence, and hopefully begin to recall more from what they have read.

Another wonderful aspect of storytelling is that it is an activity you can engage in literally anytime, and anywhere. You don’t even really need a book present - you could have your little one practice by telling you a story about something that happened in school that day. If they are confident with the activity, they can even make something up and develop their imagination at the same time.

If it’s hard to convince your little ones to get excited about storytelling, combine it with an activity they already find fun! Swings are a great investment, as your kids will no doubt enjoy playing on them, but they are able to multitask while swinging back and forth. You could even make a game out of it, by saying “for each line of the story you tell me, I’ll give you one big push”, as they rock back and forth! Cots are extremely useful, as once you put your little one down for a nap or at their bedtime each night, you can recap the day’s happenings in storytelling form. If they are about to drift off to sleep, you can take a turn at reading to them or telling a story. That way they hear your version as an example, and we all know that’s how kids learn best.

The best thing about storytelling is that you can truly use it as a confidence-booster for kids. Particularly in the case of children with special needs or those with learning disabilities, issues such as self esteem and believing in their own capabilities are extremely important for their development. Activities that involve public speaking, language and can be adjusted to their current level of learning are perfect for doing so. Not to mention, getting lost in a love of reading and storytelling can be a fantastic form of self-expression and the perfect escape from the struggles of everyday life.

As a parent, encouraging your child to participate in such activities, especially in your household, outside of just school is particularly important such that your little ones start to identify storytelling as more than just something they have to do, but rather a hobby they can turn to when they feel down, or just need an emotional release. The benefits are numerous, it’s easy to implement and there aren’t any downsides - so what are you waiting for? 


Wednesday 21 June 2017

Engaging Children Through Reading to be Critical Thinkers

Engagement through reading occurs when caregivers can help children by using interpretive tools to select, connect and organise information int he text to construct real meaningful interpretations of their own lives. The context of reading and the culture of literacy on a family and social level can also influence engagement. Reading with your child, not to your child, is important on a cognitive, metacognitive and motivational level. Children who have been engaged in reading from a young age do better academically and are more attentive students. During organic engagement, attention and mental processes are focused on the book and the learner is completely absorbed in the task of reading and in a state of flow. Although a child may be looking directly at the pages in a book and may appear to be engaged, they may only be going through the motions. Engaging your child during reading means sustained and personal commitment to create understanding.
Children are more likely to be engaged in reading when they believe they are capable of understanding, when it is interesting and when they feel it is important to them. This is why, as I have mentioned before in my previous blogs, that engaging children with reading books must come after they have a firm grasp of the relevance of words and communication in their day to day lives. This will help them to self regulate their attention and effort, relate new information to existing knowledge and monitor their own comprehension, making them more likely to have the physical and mental ability to hold their attention long enough to be successful readers.  It also makes it easier for them to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information, link familiar knowledge to incoming information and organise sequences from the story, making them critical and creative thinkers.

In order for engagement in reading to occur, caregivers must provide instructional conditions that support it. A family culture that provides for child interaction and caregiver modelling of cognitive processes promotes the notion of reading as a transactional process where meaning occurs as the child’s expectations and experiences are in transaction and content of the text. Reading should be viewed as an interpretive process rather than as an exercise in listening and sitting still. Children should be encouraged to use strategic comprehension processes such as predicting, relating to prior knowledge and asking questions about the text in a reader-response collaborative discussion.

Too often, children’s experience of human interaction emerges as an unpredictable negotiation between being an individual and being asked to fit in with the expectations of others. They are asked to be passive participants in their learning. To engage children in reading, a more active stance is required. Children should be encouraged to use their own individual interactions with the text as they attempt to make sense of it so they can craft their own interpretations. As caregivers model interpretive tools, children become accustomed to seeing them used to derive a meaning from the text and develops an inherent reflexivity in its use as a tool to nurture engagement.

If you have any other ideas on why you agree that reading is an integral part of developing critical and creative thinkers, I would love you to contact me or comment below.

Wednesday 14 June 2017

Top 5 Tips for Building your Child's Vocabulary

Vocabulary is extremely important to a child's literacy development. especially if they struggle to communicate. Having a broader range and understanding of what words mean and do can help even the most reluctant reader and speaker into exploring the benefits of a wide knowledge of language. Most people make the mistake of thinking that reading to them and getting them to read aloud is the first place to start, but this is in fact the end goal. When children see the purpose and priority behind where words fit in their day to day lives, they are more responsive to engaging with literacy activities that foster a love of reading.

1. Use Rich Oral Language

Children learn to speak through listening to and engaging in talk. Young children whose parents use high level, rich, meaningful conversations when not only speaking to their children, but also speaking to each other, will give the best chance of absorbing a higher vocabulary and reading achievement.

2. Use Broader Concept Words

When talking about a particular subject, instead of trying to teach words individually, use groups of words in sets that are conceptually related. For example, when speaking about a farm, use words related to life on farm, different families of animals and how those concepts relate to their day to day life.

3. Introduce New Words

By relating new words to words that children already know helps to not only expand the word in context, but helps them find congruent ways to figure out the meaning of words. Use the word they already know, like 'funny' and then add a different word in the same sentence like 'hilarious' to introduce a new word. When this is encountered repeatedly and diversely through meaningful activities, conversations and texts, the new words become part of the child's world.

4. Make It Relatable

There are so many fun and engaging ways to draw attention to the words all around us. Playing with words through songs, humour and raising consciousness can be empowering for children. They can feel like they are developing a sense of understanding and power over the part of themselves that communicates with others which can be incredibly powerful.

5. Have Fun With Words

Words should be cherished, nurtured, celebrated and loved. If children can see how much fun you have playing around with words, they will be more motivated to take the initiative and seek out opportunities to engage with them throughout the day. When children are self motivated, they learn faster and foster a life long love of reading. Reading to them and having them reading aloud is most beneficial when they have achieved this level of understanding. Then the real fun begins...forming a lasting bond with your child through sensory storytelling and amazing, empowering, encouraging picture books.

If you have any other tips you would like to share, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Wednesday 7 June 2017

Top 10 tips for Connecting with Toddlers through Reading Time

Here are my top ten tips for Connecting with Your Little Ones.

• Build a foundation of communication and word structure for your child by helping them to become familiar with common sounds, words and language that you use throughout the day.

• Introduce them to the value of books by incorporating them into playtime as well as a bedtime routine.

• Talk about what you have read. Help your children understand that ideas need to be discussed and thought about critically and creatively. This will help show them that words can be communicated to other people in different ways to pass on the message. If you have read something you don’t agree with, discuss that as well. Children need to learn that everything this is written is not necessarily the truth.

• Find ways in everyday activities to spark your child’s imagination. Stimulate curiosity and help his brain development by using words creatively. Don’t be scared about using ‘big words’. Vocabulary is key to improving communication in young children.

• Use sounds in fun ways. Make silly made up sounds and vary your pitch and tone when talking, reading and singing songs together.

• Help your child learn the difference between ‘real’ and ‘make-believe’. Imaginative play with toys and books is a great way to switch from real life scenarios to make believe world building. Encourage made up stories but be clear about when the time is needed for truth.

• Picture books can be great tools for you to use to help your child understand change and new or frightening events, and also the strong emotions that can go along with them. The library is an amazing resource for finding diverse books.

• Stop and listen when your child is trying to tell you something. Maintain eye contact. Try to stay as still as you can. Your child will develop early literacy skills like the ability to listen to and understand words faster if they feel they themselves are being listened to and understood.

• Teach your child the importance of following simple instructions by writing shopping lists together and getting them involved with easy cooking recipes or reading aloud to them as you are cooking so they can see the importance of written words.

• Foster a sense of humour by sharing laughter every day. Laugh out loud at silly jokes, something accidental or unusual that happened or silly sounds. Learning to laugh is important for a child’s communication, literacy and emotional development. Best of all, the sound of your laughter will make them the happiest of all.

If you have some great top tips, I would love you to contact me.

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