Back to School Language Skills

By: Jaime Hill, MA, CCC-SLP

 

It’s time for Back-to-School!

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Supply lists are out and stores are stocked with paper, markers, pencils, scissors, and glue. Here’s a list of ideas to help children be “language ready” for the school year:

Prepare children to understand and use “school talk.”

Unlike casual talk, which generally uses simple words and shorter sentences, the language teachers use frequently involves many new vocabulary words and longer sentences. When teachers ask questions, it is often to check for understanding, not because he/she doesn’t know the answer.

At home, continue to use casual talk, but also try to use new words in conversation with your child. Explain new vocabulary and describe how things work. Say your thoughts out loud, such as “I wonder if . . .” and “I think . . .” and ask questions that encourage your child to infer and predict, such as “What do you think would happen if . . .?”

Help children develop critical thinking skills

In critical thinking, children use what they have already experienced and their problem solving skills to explain causes, predict, and think of possible solutions. Critical thinking helps to develop literacy skills and is strengthened through conversation about stories.

At home, connect events to something your child already knows. Talk about why things happen. Acting out stories can help your child understand what characters are feeling and why they act a certain way. Ask your child to predict what will happen next or how a problem will be resolved.

Help children build early literacy skills

Early literacy skills include: vocabulary and conversation skills, story comprehension, print knowledge and sound awareness. Children’s ability to understand what they read is greatly influenced by their ability to speak and understand language. The more words they understand, the easier it is to learn new words and understand more complex sentences and stories. Listening to stories exposes children to story elements, such as characters, setting, problem and solution and helps them learn to read and write stories of their own.

At home, share books with your child. Follow your child’s lead in allowing him/her to pick the story and observe what interests your child as you read. Make comments about your child’s favorite pictures, characters and events. Ask open-ended questions, such as “What would you do if . . .?” and “Why do you think . . .?” Pause frequently, at the ends of sentences, at the end of a page, before you turn the page, etc. to look at your child and wait for him/her to participate. Avoid “testing” your child or bombarding him/her with questions.

Children also need to understand that print is made up of letters and each letter has a name and represents a sound. They also need to have sound awareness and understand that speech can be broken down into single words and then into syllables and further into individual sounds. To help develop print knowledge and sound awareness at home, point out words and letters in many different types of print, such as cereal boxes, signs, magazines, computer/iPad screens, etc. As you point out words in print, talk about what the words mean. Have children help you make shopping lists or point out words in store flyers and sale ads. While walking through stores, point out print on price tags, signs and labels. In any environment, play guessing games with sounds. Take turns thinking of words that rhyme or start with the same sound. Play “I spy” with initial sounds or rhymes. Add clues as needed to help your child answer.

Helping your child get “language ready” for school will supply them with one more tool in their school box and make sure they have a fun and successful school year!

 

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