We all understand that reading and writing play an essential part in learning – in fact, literacy is a fundamental foundation and framework for all aspects of education. Literacy development is the key to your child’s ability to engage, not only in education, but in society in general. Literacy skills give children the confidence to communicate with others, to think analytically, engage in critical thinking, and grasp new concepts with cognitively flexibility. Without these basic skills, children are unlikely to excel in school and in later studies.
With a very long holiday looming, you have the perfect opportunity to really explore literacy with your child in a way that will create a passion for books and reading and instil a love of literacy that really will last a lifetime.
Accomplish this and see how their general education begins to take flight when they return to school.
It’s a well-known fact that children have a much larger capacity for learning than adults, which is why it is so important to create the desire in your child to seek out books early on and engage them in a continual process of wanting to learn new words and literacy skills.
If you needed a further incentive, according to a study by the UK Literacy Trust, children who are the most engaged with literacy are three times more likely to have robust mental well-being.
So, here are a few ideas to keep you busy this holiday…
Explore the art of storytelling
We all know how children love to play and use their imagination to tell stories, create elaborate ‘play’ scenarios, and express themselves generally. Notice how they love to tell you all about new words they have learned, and how excited they are to put these new words into practice.
Leverage this natural ability by encouraging storytelling. This is a powerful strategy for improving children’s writing and creative thinking abilities as it does not offer any restraints. For younger children who have not yet learned to write, just have fun making up stories together and exploring the sounds of the words they are using. You can also use this method to build vocabulary, by discussing the meaning of a word and looking at different ways of saying the same thing.
To help you keep the ideas flowing, try offering your child a few random objects (or pictures of objects) and ask them to create a story around them. You can make it more fun by making a bag of different items and asking them to select one ‘blindly’ from the bag. You can even create separate bags of ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘where’ contents and have them pick an object from each bag. For example, this could form the basis of a story about a space man, who has a purple monkey and lives in caravan. The stranger the objects, the more creative their stories will be!
Put on a show
Many children love to perform for you, so another fantastic way to engage your child or children in talking and storytelling is to have them put on a show! Give them a framework to work to, which encourages them to write or plan a story first, then act it out using props, or maybe even puppets. As well as fostering creativity, this will help boost their language skills and build their vocabulary in a way that simply feels like play. This also has a very positive impact on their general self-confidence.
Simply does it
Now, we know you won’t be in the mood for story games and pantomime every day of the week, so mix it up with some very simple activities that are also extremely effective.
Activities such as singing nursery rhymes, playing a game of “I spy”, rhyming word games, treasure hunts with written clues etc.
Make writing fun
Finding ways to make writing exciting for children is often a tricky task. Try making up some prompt cards they can use to get started and write sentences or short stories, depending on their ability.
These might include openings such as:
I went to the beach, and I played…
When I was at the zoo, I saw…
If I could fly I would…
If I was invisible, I would…
One day I want to visit…
You can encourage your child to talk about their ideas first, then write them down and draw pictures to make it more fun.
If you have more than one child, or your child has friends over, try having them write a story together by each writing the first sentence, then swapping or rotating and have the children take turns, swapping after each sentence to create the story. This is a great way to get them thinking about what has already been written and make decisions on how to continue the story. The stories will naturally be weird and wonderful, which will provide much amusement and engagement. We bet they will continue doing this of their own volition once they get the hang of it.
One inventive mum we know of used to write her daughter a note at the end of each day, to tell her what she had enjoyed that they had done that day, something that made her laugh, or how proud she was of something her child had achieved. She would leave this by her daughter’s bed every night so she could read it in the morning. It wasn’t long before her daughter started to reciprocate and leave a note for her mum before she went to bed. This is a lovely way to encourage writing and exploring new words to properly describe what your child wants to say, as well as creating a very strong bond between parent and child.
If you do try this though, please don’t ask your child to reciprocate, they will do so in their own time, and you may jeopardise the initiative if you push it too soon.
Draw me a picture
If your child prefers drawing to writing, you will have more success engaging their creativity with drawing games, rather than trying to force the issue with writing. If they feel comfortable, their skills will develop, and they will get to writing as they progress.
Ask your child to draw a picture of some favourite stories and ask them to just write names or some words that help to bring the story to life with their picture. Again, you can use the pictures to have your child re-create the story with a new twist and add more pictures and new characters, which they will need to name. How about having your child draw each of the characters in the story individually, then creating new scenes and mixing up the characters to create a new story?
If your child is very young, you can even download printables from the internet and ask them to colour in the pictures if they don’t feel so confident in drawing pictures of their own.
Revitalise reading time
One of the best ways to improve literacy skills is by encouraging a love of books and maintaining that love. Interaction when reading is important, even for babies and toddlers, so start off with board books, lift the flap books etc., that have tactile elements and sounds.
Using finger puppets or characters can also help to bring the story to life and make the experience more enjoyable. As your child gets older it’s fun to encourage them to try different voices for different characters. You can also weave discussions into your reading sessions and ask them questions about each character, what they think about the places they live or visit, what the weather is doing, etc. This helps them engage much more in the story.
If your child is tired, or is not keen on reading generally, don’t underestimate the value of reading to them. Listening to a story will help your child develop their vocabulary, as well as their ability to listen and concentrate and connect sounds and words. You can stop and discuss the story at intervals to check their understanding, and discuss words and their meanings, as well as sounds and similar sounding words. If you read a favourite book regularly, discuss how they might make the story more interesting by adding a new character, or making a different ending to expand their imagination.
By introducing children to a diverse range of books, including fairy tales, funny stories, adventures, factual books, poems, and historical tales, you will improve their ability to understand a wide variety of concepts and the world around them.
Team up with technology
With devices such as iPads, smartphones and e-readers present in everyday life, we certainly cannot ignore technology. There are some good literacy apps and websites out there but beware of any that rely on memory-based learning and word acquisition and seek out those that focus on letter and word sounds.
Here are a few we would recommend: Word Mania and Hopster are fun and educational apps that will engage your young child.
For older children, word search games and crossword puzzles are beneficial too.
Our final thoughts
As a parent, your role in establishing fertile ground for the growth of your child’s literacy learning is a vital one and will help them to thrive at school. Your main goal should be to develop an enthusiasm for literacy, creating a rich and inviting environment that fully immerses your child in the learning experience with joy. Achieve this and you will be well on the way to helping them acquire the all-important skills and knowledge that will have them set for life.
At I Can Read, our approach to learning is fun and experiential, in very small groups, which will give your child the essential skills required for literacy success. We love working in partnership with parents to establish total literacy learning. You can find more information on our programmes here.
And if you are looking for holiday activities for your children that are both educational and great fun, check out our holiday programmes here.
You can also request our series of Literacy Guides that will help to keep your child engaged and entertained during the break.
Wishing you all a magical Christmas and New Year break.
As the lockdown continues, we’re sure you must be running out of ways to entertain your child, never mind keep them engaged in learning. In previous blogs, we’ve offered suggestions of how to make the most of home learning, so now – especially as we enter the holiday period – we thought you might appreciate some ideas for fun games you can play with your child that are also educational, so they will be improving their literacy skills without even realising.
Even once Term 4 resumes, you might find these games make a welcome break from your child’s daily learning, so keeping one or more as part of your daily routine will be a great way of building their vocabulary and phonemic development.
Play word games while walking with the family – I Spy, finding something beginning with a certain sound. This is an easy one that you don’t need any materials for and takes very little effort. Be sure to use sounds rather than the letter names, which will better assist their reading acquisition.
Make a treasure hunt in the garden or house with clues they have to read. This game requires a little more time investment and creativity, but is great fun and the reward mechanism involved is something children love. It might be somewhat onerous to make this a daily, or even weekly activity, but every couple of weeks or once a month is a good idea, as it gives your child something to look forward to – and gives you the time to think up more creative clues and hiding places.
Invest in some crossword puzzle books, or download some printable crosswords and do them together. Easy crosswords are fun and educational, such as these: https://www.puzzles-to-print.com/crossword-puzzles-for-kids/ We also love this website, which has crosswords based on the books of Roald Dhal. This is a great way to combine reading and games. You can spend time reading the books first, then work on the puzzles, which is a clever and fun way to nurture comprehension.
Word searches are fun too, but it’s important for younger children to source puzzles that use lowercase fonts. You can find some lower case printable wordsearch puzzles here https://30seconds.com/mom/tip/15256/Printable-Word-Search-Puzzles-for-Kids-10-Activities-That-Help-With-Spelling-Vocabulary-Memory-Much-More
Download and work through the ICR Literacy Guides. Head to the RESOURCES page of our website, where you can request our Literacy Guides, which break down reading development into easy bite-sized chunks, with guidance on each topic. We post a new guide every month, so you can request all of the guides currently available, then check in each month to get the next issue.
Set aside time for reading together each day – making it fun. Not all children have a natural love of reading, so if reading time feels stressful for your child, or they find it difficult, they are going to resist. Think of ways to make this a special time of the day for them. For many children, simply having some quiet, uninterrupted time with you and reading together and maybe enjoy their favourite drink or snack as a treat is enough. But you can also get creative with this, and have your child create a tent where you can snuggle up together and read, or if the sun is shining, make a little picnic in the garden to accompany your reading time. Take the time to invest in making this essential learning time special and in no time you won’t have to persuade your child to read – they will be the one reminding you.
Make a list of words and play a “yes” or “no” game to work out each word, with questions such as:
· Does the word begin with the sound /cuh/?
· Does the word end in a vowel?
· Does the word have two syllables?
Make up silly rhymes, even inventing nonsense words. This can be so much fun and as the rhyming is the important part of this exercise the words don’t even have to mean anything.
Take turns in coming up with words that begin or end with a certain sound. You can also turn this into a more physical game, for example, by combining it with a game of ‘catch’. Think of a sound, then each person has to think of a word beginning with that sound as they catch the ball. Keep going until you run out of words, then start again with a new sound.
During these difficult covid times, education remains of paramount importance and includes the vital component of homework. We know this can be a challenge – especially if students are already completing their daily schoolwork at home, as well as their I Can Read lessons. It’s tempting to overlook homework, but homework involves essential activities which support and reinforce your child’s classroom and online learning. It is important that students know how to tackle homework, in order to reinforce what they learn from their lessons.
We’ve pulled together some useful tips on how you can best support your child to complete their homework during lockdown.
First, your child needs to know and understand the task required. Take a few minutes to sit with them to make sure that he or she fully appreciates exactly what is required to complete the set homework.
First, make sure your child has everything they need to complete the task without having to break their concentration to look for whatever item is missing.
If the task requires handwriting, does your child have clean paper and a good pen or pencil before they start?
If they can complete the homework on a computer, does he or she have access to the device for the duration of the task in order to complete their homework uninterrupted?
It’s a good idea to break the task up into a few sections defined by time. For example, divide the homework into a beginning section, a middle section and a final section. By allocating a set time for each section – say 30 minutes, your child won’t find the task overwhelming and feel discouraged by an hour and a half of continuous homework.
This technique gives them a sense of progress and achievement as they go and makes the work feel much more manageable.
Sections of writing tasks
- Most writing tasks involve an introduction, a middle section (body), and a conclusion. An easy way to organise the task is to commence with a plan.
Ask your child to plan his or her work by making brief notes outlining the introduction, then jotting down points to expand on in the body of the piece, then finally, a couple of points for the conclusion to summarise what has been said.
- Have your child take a break after the plan is completed. Then use another session to write the introduction, using the notes from the plan. The introduction may be only a paragraph if necessary, but should set the scene for the text.
- Give them another a break (unless they are keen to carry on) before commencing the main body of the writing. This is the longest part and several paragraphs may be needed to develop the story, or to list details of a report to support the introduction. The middle section may be done over two sessions if necessary.
- Finally, they can write the conclusion by summarising the points made and the premise of the writing.
The length of the piece of writing will determine how many breaks you would like to use to make the task accessible for your child.
READING AND SPELLING HOMEWORK
If the homework consists of reading a story and learning some spelling words from the story, divide the homework into sections. For example, if your child has a week to complete the homework before their next lesson, read the story over two or three sessions, ask the comprehension questions and learn the spelling. Separate these tasks so that the homework is completed over several days, rather than all at once.
Ten minutes reading every day (if your child is learning to read) is preferable to one long session of reading in which the child may be decoding new and unfamiliar words.
Children can tire easily with long tasks, which may affect their enjoyment of reading in the long term. Keeping sessions short makes tasks less arduous, and provides something to look forward to during the break.
Tackling homework demands comes down to using time well. Only work as long as your child is able to before taking a break. If your child works on a task for 30 minutes, perhaps a ten minute break will be in order. Reward positive and cooperative behaviour with small rewards that you know will be effective with your child (though be sure to avoid sugary treats that will affect their ability to concentrate). Allow your child to take breaks but always set a restart time. Say, “We’ll have a short break but you will resume the task in 10 minutes, okay?”
Perhaps agree on an activity they look forward to once they finish their homework, such as playing a favourite game, going for a walk, watching a favourite TV show.
Breaking up tasks into smaller manageable units makes the job seem less onerous and this principle can be applied to most homework challenges.
For younger children, please also remember to check out our series of fun and educational Literacy Guides, which will help you to keep the literacy momentum going between pre-reading and reading lessons. https://icanreadsystem.com/resources/
If you’ve found this article helpful, please let us know and we will write some more along these lines. If there are any particular topics you would like us to address, again, please share your ideas with us and we’ll be happy to include our advice in future articles.
Contact us via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 02 9972 1419.
Well, here we are again, back to home learning.
We know that online lessons can be a challenge and it can sometimes be difficult for parents to assist their child to participate. For younger children, the degree of parent interaction will be greater, and this is hard when you may be working yourself at home, and/or have myriad chores to keep on top of.
The psychologists at I Can Read have some suggestions to try to help you make your child’s online learning experience a little easier and less stressful.
Here are our top tips for successful home learning.
- Create a quiet space for your child.
We know this is difficult during lockdown when all the family is at home, but it is one of the most important issues your child faces. Distractions of family members, pets, noise in the background, all contribute to reduce the effectiveness of their online lessons. If the lesson is presented by a teacher, these distractions at the student’s home will make the teacher’s job much harder too, especially if there are several students participating in the same lesson. It’s also a good idea to clear a desk or table of anything that could serve as a distraction, so the only thing your child has to focus on is the screen, the lesson, and their notes.
2. Give them privacy.
If your child is fortunate enough to have a one-to-one lesson with their teacher, please get out of the way and give them some privacy! Just as your child would not want you to witness them making a mistake in the classroom, nor would they want you to hear them make a mistake a mistake at home. Just as parents are not present in the classroom at school, we need to respect that dynamic and allow children the freedom to express themselves without feeling conscious of the family listening in.
3. Be mindful of the camera and microphone.
If there are other students participating in the lesson, do remember that they will be able to see you and you will see them. This has implications for the privacy of online lessons, and should be avoided, so it is important to remember not to enter the room, or study area while lessons are in progress. It is also extremely distracting for other students to see you or other members of your family during a lesson or at the beginning of a lesson. Also be aware of noise levels in the home, as your child may be required to unmute their microphone from time to time in order to participate effectively.
4. Get lesson-ready.
Get into the routine of setting up the computer and logging into the lesson well before it starts, to avoid any log in or connection hiccups. If the teacher has to wait while you get everything working, this takes up valuable lesson time. Much better that your child is online and waiting for the teacher, than the other way around, which also gives them a little quiet time to get into learning mode before the lesson starts. The best idea is to show your child how to log in to the lesson so that your assistance is not required, in which case you can be in another room for the duration of the lesson and leave student and teacher to it! Remember, the teacher wants your child’s full attention, and your child will benefit far more from the lesson if he or she is able to give his or her full attention to the teacher.
5. Start an end-of-the-day habit.
Home learning can be tiring and requires more focus than you might think, so at the end of their school day, it is tempting to let your child leave their desk straight away and relax, but just a few minutes preparing for the next day will prove invaluable.
Ask him or her to check what lesson they have first thing the following morning and to make sure they have all the materials they need set up and ready for the next day. Then throughout the day, at the end of each session, to repeat the process and assemble all required items for the next lesson.
It is not advisable to have students leave the lesson to look for a pencil or a book, for example, while the teacher looks at an empty chair and is obliged to wait! If there are other students in the same lesson, they will be obliged to wait also, unless the teacher continues the lesson in your child’s absence, which means he or she will miss part of the lesson.
The result is that everyone concerned will feel frustrated and this will affect the whole lesson.
6. Always be positive and encouraging about online lessons.
Remote teachers are doing their best, and they want their students to try their best also. We can all appreciate that online lessons are not ideal, but they are better than no lessons at all. When your child has finished the lesson and has logged off, then praise him or her, ask if there is any homework, and show how glad you are that he or she is taking their lessons seriously and wants to learn. Ask them to talk about their day and be sure to tell them how their positive attitude makes you proud!
7. Monitor your child’s wellbeing.
First of all, make sure your child is getting enough sleep. It’s tempting to let them stay up a little longer because they don’t have to get to school, but being tired will have a significant impact on their learning ability. Make sure they are awake well in advance of their daily lessons, have had time to eat and digest breakfast and keep well hydrated during the day.
Between lessons, encourage them to go outside and get some exercise and fresh air.
It is also a good idea to check on the temperature and aeriation of the room. Too cold and they won’t be able to concentrate, too warm and they will become lethargic. An open window and a little sunlight can do wonders for their concentration.
Should your child find the challenges of on-line learning unpleasant or emotionally difficult and you are unable to persuade him or her to take part, please don’t be impatient – just allow your child to take a break and then suggest attending for shorter periods until he or she gets used to it. Discuss strategies with your teacher so everyone is on board with a plan to engage your child effectively.
Keeping in touch with their friends is also very important, so coordinate with other parents and try to arrange a time every couple of days for your child to catch up with friends online.
8. Have some fun!
Being at home all day is tiring for the whole family, so give your child something to look forward to in the evening. Whether it’s going for a family walk, playing a game, watching a family movie, or reading a book together, this family time is very important and rejuvenating.
We hope this helps you to get the most out of this difficult time, and if you have any other ideas you would like to share from your own experience, please feel free to post them on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you.