Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Do they understand?

Language is one of those tricky things - especially when a child talks a lot, it can be hard to see if a child has a language problem (not talking about speech - pronunciation etc).

At the moment we are going back to basics - learning our prepositions - on, under, in etc - as we have noticed during excursions that its been hard for some children to follow instructions (basic safety instructions) - as the children are new, it has taken a few weeks to work out that they are not being defiant but they are simply not comprehending what we are saying.

Sometimes I wonder if teachers/adults misread children - think they are being naughty when really they have not understood the instructions?

I remember a development talk with Michael's teacher who complained that Michael never helped to tidy up (he was 6 then). I asked what was said/done to initiate tidy up time - "Everybody tidy up" was the phrase used. A smile spread across my face - I bet Michael felt sorry for the child called Everybody who had to tidy up all the time. I suggested to the teacher that she should approach Michael and let him know it was tidy up time, since his name was not Everybody, he probably would not have even heard the instruction that followed "everybody". A week later I was told that Michael was good at tidying up. At his preschool a chime bar had been used to signal tidy-up time - so there had never been name confusion there.

Many more children than you think have problems with more than one instruction at one time - so if a child goes to the cloakroom but does not get dressed - it could be due to the fact that all the child had registered was "Go to the cloakroom". For Michael it was impossible at bed time - "put on your pyjamas and then brush your teeth" his arms would flail and he would scream "I can't do everything at once". He simply could not comprehend that we were asking him to start with pyjamas and THEN brush his teeth. We ended up doing a chart where he got to draw four pictures - toothbrush, story-time, pyjamas and toilet - and he could glue the small pictures in any order he wanted on some card. This helped SO much to structure his evenings - he could look at his chart and know what was next to do - he also felt in control of his bedtime ritual too, which helped the process as well.

When he gets really angry or sad he can not remember what happened - this means it can be tricky to talk through what has happened. So when a child says "I don't know, or I can't rem
ember" it could genuinely be for that reason and pushing a child to talk more about the situation will not help.

Social play relies on language - yes, children manage quite well using body language - but when they do have a spoken language but are not using it effectively it can cause problems through misunderstanding and misreading the situation.

At Täppan Preschool in Stockholm each department has a language house/tent where the children can sit inside and talk about all sort of things, whatever they want, or within the project. The teachers write down their words, and are better able to see how the children's language develops and how best they can support the continued development.
Hmm, I think I need to return to language again - learn some more and share my findings...

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