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News in Youth Services

Monday, May 23, 2016

Ready for Kindergarten: Language

Welcome back! I hope that you're ready to dive into this week's Ready for Kindergarten skill: Language.

The language skills needed for kindergarten go one step beyond being able to verbally communicate. Humans are narrative creatures--we love stories. We love to tell stories, we love hear stories, and kids are amazing storytellers. Give them the opportunity to flex their storytelling muscles--it's all part of getting ready for kindergarten!

Teachers want to make sure your little one knows how to
  • Follow simple directions (one and two step directions)
  • Ask and answer simple questions
  •  Retell information from a story 
  • Sequence three pictures to tell a story
It's a short list this time around, and one that's fairly easy to accomplish with everyday interactions.

Follow Simple Directions is one that, developmentally, an average 5 year old has the capacity to do. Following directions has three components. First, If you ask your child to pass you a book, they should be able to identify what you are asking. Second, they should be able to locate the book. Third, they should be able to retrieve the book and hand it to you.
If you are struggling with your child following directions try simplifying your language. Instead of  "I need you to get up and get me a purple book with a green elephant on the cover," try "Please pass me the purple book." Using basic language allows your child to process your request faster; parse the language to determine what you want, and comply with the task. Little brains work slower than ours, so give them more time to process.
The more steps you add to the directions you give, the more difficult it is for the child to comply.
After success with one-step directions, try moving up to two-step directions. Hold off on any more steps until your kid is closer to six and a half.

Is your child able to ask and answer simple questions? If you have been engaging them in conversation, this should already be a well-established part of their day. Kids are inherently curious and want to know as much about the world around them as they can. If they still struggle, make it into a game. Ask them questions they know the answer to, like: what color pants are you wearing today? Or what did we have for lunch? Or what is the weather doing right now? And then allow them to ask you questions. When playing this game, encourage them to ask all kinds of questions.

Can your child retell information from a story? If you read a book and ask them, "What happened in this book?" are they able to give you a beginning, middle, end type of narrative? If they have a favorite movie, they can practice retelling that story. If you have a routine for getting ready for bed, they can tell that story. Any activity with a beginning, middle, and end can be made into a story.
From the book Show Me a Story by Emily K. Neuberger. Storey Publishing, 2012.

Using pictures to tell a story can often help. Your child should be able to sequence three pictures to tell a logical story. This skill is called sequencing and you can make your own sequencing cards using clip art, by painting on rocks, or by using photographs. Additionally, there are a ton of resources available online (just search "story sequence cards").

The way to make the biggest impact is to allow your child multiple opportunities to engage in conversation throughout the day. Giving them room in their day for imaginative play is also a great way to strengthen those storytelling muscles.

Next time we will take a look at the math skills that kids need to be ready for kindergarten!

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