Holidays are a great time for doing fun activities with kids. Why not use these activities to develop language and literacy skills. Younger children almost seem to “forget” their literacy skills over the holiday break. Older kids can benefit from practicing their literacy skills in fun, hands on, real life ways with the support of one on one time with an adult.
Real life activities such as outings, cooking, gardening, craft and even household activities can form the basis of different oral and written “texts” such as:
- recounts (telling something that happened),
- procedures (describing how to do something)
- narratives (stories).
Recounts are a retelling of an event. At school children practice oral and written recounts. Written recounts are often a child’s first experience at writing down their own ideas. Helping children to produce well structured recounts can help their oral language and literacy development.
Why are recounts important?
Sharing information about a past event develops “decontextualised language”. This is the ability to talk about something that happened in another time and place and is important for higher level language and literacy development.
Recounts develop the ability to structure language. Talking about the past helps develop language skills such as using verb tenses as we recount our experiences using past tense. Telling about an event is complex and requires linking sentences together by using joining words known as “conjunctions”. Recounts also develop sequencing skills, the ability to put information in order; and time concepts such as first, next, last. This ability to link sentences is important for later skills such as story writing and writing essays.
Recounts can be about:
- Outings such as a trip to the beach, the park or the zoo
- Activities such as craft, cooking or gardening
- A special event such as Christmas or a birthday
- A period of time such as what happened over the weekend or holidays
To help your child with oral recounts develop a habit of talking about your experiences and encouraging your child to do the same. “Tell grandma all about what we did at the beach”. “Tell Dad all about the movie that we saw.”
Having some visuals or props can help. Visuals can include:
- items that you collect during your activity such as shells from the beach, leaves from the park
- photos or video that you take during your event
- pictures your child has drawn of what happened
You can use a planner to help your child plan what to say or write. You can download a planner for a simple recount from the Talking Matters website.
When planning a recount try to follow a structure of when + who + where + what. Such as “on the weekend” (when) Mum, Dad and I (who) went to the beach (where) for a swim (what). This structure prepares children for the structure used in story writing later on.
Once you have planned your recount, tell or write it. Try including the following:
- action words in past tense “went, swam, walked, ate”
- describing words “hot, smooth, noisy, funny”
- joining words “and, then, because”
- time concepts “first, later, in the afternoon, last of all”
Next edit and expand on your recount. Add some extra words or ideas. Fix up any mistakes with grammar or spelling.
Present your recount so you can share it with others.
- video your child talking about the event
- make a slide show of pictures and record your child’s voice over them
- write your child’s recount down for them and ask them to draw a picture to go with it
- share it with a family member or friend on by phone or on skype
To share a written recount you could:
- write or type out the recount and illustrate it with drawings, photos or clip art
- do a slideshow or power point presentation
- share it as an email to a family member or friend
A collection of recounts can hold some great memories for your child as they get older. Children can make a diary or journal to collect their recounts. There are also journal apps for children on iPads where they can record their experiences and add photos or drawings. This website provides reviews for some different journal apps for kids of different ages.
Procedures are the step by step descriptions of how to do something. They are one of the language tasks children learn as they move from using single sentences to joining sentences together to form larger blocks of language called “texts”. Being able to retell procedures is important in developing the skills needed later in science type subjects and in understanding and writing non fiction.
Procedures help kids learn:
- sequencing skills
- how to link sentences together
- time concepts such as first, next, last
Procedures can be fun for kids to learn because they can be based around real life, hands on activities. Technology such as digital cameras and printers means it is now quicker, easier and cheaper for parents to make their own personalised resources to help their child learn these skills.
When working on procedures together:
- Start with a simple activity with three steps and make the activities longer and more complex as your child develops.
- Talk about what you are going to do and what the steps are.
- Do the activity together, talking about each step as you do it and what will come next.
- Use time concept words such as first, next, last and joining words “and then..”. “first we put butter and jam on, then next we cut the sandwich and then we eat it last”
- At the end of the activity, list each step then ask your child to tell you the steps
- If you have made some visuals (see below), help your child to use these to sequence and describe what you have done
- Talk about what you have done with someone else for extra practice “Tell Dad how you helped me make the sandwiches.”
- For school aged children record your procedure with movies, photos, a power point display or writing.
Use visuals to help your child learn to sequence the steps and describe them.
- Take some photos of your child as they do an activity, print and cut out the photos and use these for your child to put in order and retell what they have done.
- Try making short movie clips on your phone or ipad, playing them back, stopping at each step and talking about what is happening.
- Make your photos into books and write the words for each step to go with each picture
- Make your photos into a power point or slide show to look at on your computer or ipad and perhaps record a voice over with your child describing what is happening
- Use a planner to plan out the steps in your procedure before you do your activity or write your procedure.
- Write out each step onto a separate strip of paper as they think of it then put the strips in order and fill in any gaps before writing.
- Type a procedure onto the computer then use cut and paste to get the steps in order, edit and fill in any missing parts.
Incorporate these things into your daily activities to help your child develop procedural language:
- Make a habit of telling your child what you are going to do and what the steps are before you do it “I am going to make breakfast, first I will cook the toast, then put butter and jam, and then we can eat it”
- Ask your child to tell you how they did things, such as if they have made something at preschool. “You made a bus out of a box, tell me all the things you did to make it”
- Encourage your child to describe to others the things that they have done. “Tell Grandma how we made the birthday cake. Tell Dad all the things you did at school today”.
- At the end of the day talk though the things you did and how you did them
- Encourage your child to tell others how to do things that they know how to do. “Tell your brother what he has to do to make a Lego house like the one you made. Tell your sister what she needs to do to brush her teeth all by herself”.
Once kids have mastered recounts and procedures, developing storytelling is the next step.
So why are stories so important? The ability to retell stories ties in closely with the ability to write well later on. It also relates to a child’s reading and comprehension skills. Fluent reading relies on predicting skills so the more familiar a child is with the language and structure of stories the quicker and easier a child will be able to read and understand written stories.
Listening to stories links together spoken and written language. Speech and writing have different structures and rules. Hearing stories read helps children learn these differences. Retelling stories allows children to practice forming written language structures even before they can write.
The structure of stories includes:
- A beginning with when, who and where information e.g. One day (when) a boy (who) went to the beach (where)
- A middle section which contains one or more problems which the characters try to solve. The story is about the actions of the characters trying to solve the problem and usually includes the feelings of the characters too.
- An ending which solves the problem and often includes how the characters are feeling when it is solved.
- Stories are usually told in past tense. Conjunctions (joining words) provide important information about how the different parts of the story tie together in time (next, suddenly, later, before that) and cause effect (because, even though, however).
To develop your child’s ability to tell stories:
Firstly choose a picture book with clear pictures that represent the story. Next take time to talk to your child about what the story involves:
- Who are the characters?
- What is happening?
- Why is it happening?
- How are the characters feeling?
- Encourage them to begin with a beginning structure.
- If they use present tense repeat this back as past tense e.g. “the boy is eating the apple” becomes “the boy ate the apple”.
- Fill in parts of the story using joining words to link actions if your child does not. Use “and then” to begin and use more complex joining words (so, but because, later, suddenly) as your child progresses.
- Help them to reference direct speech if they forget. e.g.: “said the boy”
- Encourage your child to use a beginning and ending structure.
Ideas for practising storytelling:
- Make it a part of your routine to read to your child each night and get them to tell one story to you from the pictures of a favourite book.
- Tell someone else. Read the story to your child then ask them to tell it to someone else, a family member, younger sibling or even a teddy
- Play schools. Children love to line up dolls and teddies, sit on a chair, hold a book and be the teacher, telling the story.
- Sequence stories. Scan and print some pictures from familiar stories, or buy some cheap or second fairytale books and cut up the pictures. Help your child to put the pictures in order and tell the story.
- Make your own stories. Take some photos on a family outing, print and slip them into a mini photo album and help your child make up a story to go with the pictures. Share your stories with family and friends.
- Be the narrator. Try making a slide show on the computer or ipad using your own photos and recording your child’s voice telling the story.
- Act it out. Use dolls, toy figurines, or plastic animals to act out a familiar story. Tell the story as your child acts it out, remembering to use the story structures discussed, then your child can tell as you act it out. Try using dress ups and letting your child be the character.
To help parents and teachers support children to develop literacy skills Talking Matters has developed a starting school pack which can be downloaded for free from the front page of our website.
We hope you enjoy sharing recounts, procedures and stories with your children these holidays!
Children with speech and language delays have extra challenges learning to read and write. Getting support for this as early as possible can reduce the impact of these difficulties on the development of literacy. To find out more about how Talking Matters can help with your child’s speech, language and literacy visit our website or call us on 82557137. We have lots of free activities to help kids develop skills too. Check our downloads to find out more.
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