Knowing how to blend words is an essential reading skill. But if you thought blending words means seeing the letters c-a-t and sounding them out until you said the word "cat," then you'd be only half right.
Children who are able to blend words successfully also have another critical skill: they are able to recognize what a word is after seeing just a few letters. In the word "cat," for example, a good reader will know what the word is after the she sees the letter "a." While technically the word could have been can, car, or cap, a good reader will use context (and pictures, at this age) to tell her what the meaning is.
Good readers do more than just blend letterstogether.
In fact, most good readers never read an entire word, letter by letter: they recognize the word in its entirety after a few letters, and them on to the next word.
As studies that tracked readers' eye movements show, this allows them to read quickly, and fairly accurately, since they constantly check the meaning of the word from the context of the sentence as they go along.
Being able to determine what a word is when seeing a part of it is due to having good visual closure skills. You can help strengthen your child's visual closure skills by having them build puzzles, solve I Spy's or other hidden pictures, and by playing Spot the Difference games. A great site for hidden pictures is http://www.highlightskids.com/hidden-pictures, especially since you can adjust the level of difficulty.
Want 3 extra hands on learning games based on the same book?
By the way, if you're a subscriber, check you e-mail. I just sent you a bonus game based on the book, PLUS a few new ways to play the game included in this post. If you're haven't subscribed, subscribe by Monday Feb. 16 and I'll make sure you get your hands on one too...
Instructions on how to play are in the PDF of the game.
Use this great online book to improve your child's memory and sequencing skills.
(Update: This book is no longer available on wegivebooks.org. However, you can still borrow it from your library or buy a copy on Amazon).
As I was browsing the web a few weeks ago I stumbled across a great site for online children's books: wegivebooks.org. There are over 160 online books to choose from, and unlike other sites I've found, many of the books are classic or popular children's books.
Books, for example, like "Llama llama in Pajamas" or "The Snowy Day" sit happily alongside my favorite version of "The Little Engine that Could."
Perhaps the nicest thing about this site - other than the fact that it's free - is that you can choose to donate a book to one of their literary partners, which is a nice way of sharing the fun of reading with those who really need it.
One of my favorite books on the site is called "Goodnight iPad." A spoof on "Goodnight Moon," it's a poke at our 24/7 connectivity to technology. In it, a grandmother sits in a rocking chair trying to find a little bit of peace and quiet, which of course is impossible due to the various beeps, clicks, and dings from iPads, gameboys, and other household electronic necessities.
Grandma decides to take things in her own hands, and starts dumping everything out of the window, to the great distress of every one in the family except the baby, who was until then wandering around the house like a lost puppy.
The illustrations are great; close enough to the original but with a humor of their own. Both you and your kids will love it, and maybe it will inspire you to unplug the family for an hour or so, and get some much needed downtime.
I had such fun reading this book that I decided to use it as the basis of a hands on sequencing game for the modern child:
Goal of the game:
The point of this game is to help your child strengthen her memory and her sequencing skills by reading the story and sequencing the pictures provided below.
1. Read "Goodnight iPad" to your child. As you read each electronic item, have your child find the picture of it and place it in order on the table.
2. After you've read 3 items, mix up the items, and have your child put them back in order. Make sure she names each one aloud as she places it in it's place.
3. Continue doing this until you finish reading all the items in the book. You will add 3 new items to the old ones at a time. Each time you finish adding new items, your child will sequence both the new and the old ones.
4. When you finish, mix up all of the pictures, and see if your child can put them back in order again.
5. Now turn the pictures over so they are not visible. See if your child can name the items, in order. If they have trouble doing this, then let them peek at the picture for a second or two, and then name it.
TIP: Children who are more advanced can skip the pictures, and just write the first few lettters of each item down as a hint.
You can also make this game harder by having your child sequence all of the items both forwards and backwards.
Winter break is coming up, and I’m betting a lot of parents out there are plan on working on reading comprehension activities with your child.
Improving your child’s reading comprehension doesn’t have to be a month long odyssey in Worksheet Hell.
Let me guess: you’ve got your fancy-shmancy workbook, assorted writing supplies (and you know there’s going to be a lot of writing; you may have lied to your kid but WE know better than that, don’t we?), and you’re raring to go.
Well, not exactly. Because when you put away the new workbook, you kind of happened upon the old ones that you really meant to finish someday. But this one will be different, right?
Improve your child’s reading comprehension in 5 minutes – or less
There are other ways of improving your child’s reading comprehension, with nary a workbook in site. Ways that your child will find fun, stress-free, and that don’t sacrifice one little rain forest tree.
And best of all, you can play this reading comprehension game in 5 minutes or less.
The goal: Help your child remember more details while they read
Many children with reading comprehension difficulties have trouble sorting out the chaff from the wheat. They don’t know what things they need to remember, and what things are relatively unimportant. So they end up trying to remember everything, which of course doesn’t work.
In this game, you’ll use a fun song to help your child focus on the part they need to remember.
How to play:
Choose a song. If you don’t know the words, you can find them by doing a search for “lyrics for…” online. Choose a song both you and your child enjoy- no point in torturing either of you.
It should also be a song with a refrain, but with more than two or three lines. Some examples: Yellow Submarine, and Don’t Worry Be Happy, are some examples of simpler ones that are fun and easy to use.
Listen to the song a few times with your child. You don’t have to sit and concentrate on it, think-tank style. Just have it playing in the background while you go about your day.
Once your child has heard the song about 2-3 times, you’re ready for the next step: the Challenge. In it, you or your child sing one line of the song, but leave out the last word. For example, in the Don’t Worry Be Happy song, you sing “Here is a little song I - ,” your child needs to fill in, “wrote.”
Continue your way working through the song until you finish it.
You can play this like a game show and give bonus points for top performance. For example, challenge your child to remember the key words at the end, without singing each line. So she would say “wrote-note” for the first couplet of the song. The more she knows, the more points she gets.
You can have them trade in points for a special night out with mom and dad, a toy they’ve been wanting to get (and you planned on getting them anyway – why not let them work for it?), or whatever else you want.
And that’s it. Play this game daily and in just a few days you’ll see a marked improvement in your child’s ability to remember details. And remember, the more your child plays reading comprehension games, the better they’ll get when they hit the books.
One of the hardest things about helping your child improve their expressive language skills is getting all the materials you need to work with your child ready to go.
You can teach your child through everyday activities around the house
As a mom of 7, I know that sometimes by the time you find the game, set it up, and get ready to play, it might already time for dinner and baths! That's why I'm always looking for opportunities to build in learning that don't require any extra work- just a little bit of mental planning.
I use these games with my own kids, and teach them to parents just like you. So dig in, and leave a comment below!
1. Help your child learn to state categories of common objects
There are plenty of sorting and categorization games out there. Most of them require that your child sort actual objects, or pictures of objects, according to the correct category.
That's a great activity, but it's really just the beginning. Your child also needs to be able to name the category as well. A lot of children, however, find it difficult to do this with pictures; it's too abstract.
A better bet: you can teach your child the same thing as you and he clean up his room together. First sweep everything on the floor into a big pile. Then have your child separate everything out into several smaller piles: one for clothing, one for toys, one for books, and one for garbage if need be.
Once your child is about halfway through sorting, you'll be able to cue him to focus on categories as he puts his things away. For example, when he picks up a sock, say, "Oh, that's a sock. That's clothing. Put it with the rest of the clothing." Gradually as your child picks up other items, you can ask them to tell you what it is - clothing, toys, books, or garbage.
You can do the same thing when you bring home groceries from the store. Letting your child help you put everything away will also help her improve her visual memory, as well, since she has to remember where everything goes.
The trick to making this work is to have your child put away most of the items in a category before he starts on another category. That way, when he puts things away, you can remind him "Oh, that's a vegetable too. Put it with the rest of the vegetables."
Later when everything's put away you can point to the vegetable bin and say, "Here's where we put all the __" letting your child fill in the blank. Do the thing with the other food items: dairy, frozen foods, and so on.
2. Encourage your child to use her descriptive skills by describing lost objects.
How many times has your child lost something, and needed your help to find it? Our usual response is to just go and help our kids find it, or to have them check the last place they had it.
Instead, try asking your child to describe what the object looks like, where it was last, or what they were doing, using more details. So for example, if your child says "I can't find my flashlight!" Ask your child to tell you more: "What color was it? Can you tell me what it looked like so I can help you find it? Was it small or big?"
Even if you already know what it looks like, you can often feign ignorance with younger children, and get them to explain themselves.
For older children, you can encourage them to talk about what they were doing when they had the missing item, by rephrasing what they've said, and saying, "and then what did you do?"
3. Encourage your child to explain why they want something.
It happens probably a dozen times a day or more: your child wants something from you. But whether you plan to give your child the item or not, it's a good idea to ask your child why. That forces them to use words to express themselves, and helps them attach their feelings to their needs. This is a form of sequencing that's critical for kids with weak language development.
And by the way, did you notice these are all great activities for improving your child's sequencing skills?
Would you like to see more activities like this? Let me know in the comments below.
My youngest started learning the alphabet a few weeks ago, and within the first week I realized how difficult it is for him.
I've been on the lookout since he was a baby for language issues, ever since I noticed he had great difficulty making eye contact with others. Although I initially put it down to age and perhaps developmental immaturity, as he got older it was hard to ignore the fact that he would spend some of his time staring into space, looking completely out of touch with the world around him.
That behavior, combined with non-stop crying in his early months, did worry me. He already has two siblings with language issues - one mild, that eventually resolved itself after a bit of intensive work in the early years, and one severe.
Since he related well to others (he's a very loving boy) I knew it couldn't be PDD, but was most likely a language processing disorder. I figured out that the extreme crying was due to allergies - not too difficult when your nursing infant breaks out immediately after you eat a forbidden food. I also delayed some of his shots, however controversial it may be.
(My 8 year old had a moderate reaction after the MMR, and afterwards it was obvious that he'd forgotten a ton of stuff. Before the shot, at 14 months old, he could count up to 10, knew all the names of every external body part, knew all of his colors, both primary and secondary- you get the idea. Afterwards, he couldn't remember anything. I had to teach him everything again, and though he's very bright, he's never regained that level of brilliance).
As time passed I also realized he had some sensory issues, which in addition to the language issues probably caused him to blank out. I created a sensory program for him, which took care of that.
But I was still worried about the future. Fortunately, I had great success with a special program I created to improve language skills. You can find examples of these games here and here - though not the full program- on this site. I started wondering if I could create a baby version of the program for him. He'd already spent a lot of time sitting on my lap while I worked with clients, and so he was already familiar with what to do. I played around with the program, and voila! I saw an dramatic change in his behavior within a few weeks.
We completed everything up until the last level, and boy am I thankful I did! I can just imagine where he would be if I hadn't...
But of course he's still having trouble with learning his ABC's, so I invested some thinking cap time while doing dishes, and this is what I mulled over:
Generally when kids have trouble learning their alphabet, there are a couple reasons why:
1) Poor auditory memory- they can't remember what they hear. So even though you may have learned the letter b five times in a row, the info doesn't make it into your child's long-term memory. I knew this couldn't be the problem, because we'd already completed the level of the program that works on this.
2) Poor visual memory - a lot less common that the first. Basically it means your child doesn't remember what he sees. Also not possible, since the level he completed covers this as well.
3) Failure to converge the eyes, or other visual processing issues. I have seen this in a significant number of children, and I suspect it's something we'll have to get checked out at some point. Unfortunately, you can't start working with children with these issues until they are about 6 or 7. So while we're checking out glasses, and intensive intervention on this will probably have to wait.
4) Inability to connect the sound if the letter with the visual symbol. This is different than number 1. It's actually a sequencing issue. Bingo - I knew then this was his problem. This was of course the last level that I hadn't yet done with him :(.
So I guess it's back to the drawing board. I'll be spending the next few weeks rewriting this level of the program (originally designed for 6 years and up) for tiny tots.
But for those of you who'd like to get a peek at what we'll be doing, here's one of the first activities we've done:
The book "Who are you?" by Stella Blackstone
Black and white copies (or color if you want to splurge) of each of the animals listed in the book, plus one of the little boy at the end.
About this game:
In this game, you'll ask your child to repeat back to you the names of the animals in the book, in order. You also want your preschooler to be able to pair the rhyming animals together: for example, cat and bat, and whale and snail.
This book is a favorite in our house; we've had it for about 7 years and every child that's come through has enjoyed it.
It's also perfect for practicing sequencing skills:
First of all, the pictures are simple, clear, and boldly done.
Second, the repetitive nature of it makes it easy for young children , even those with special needs, to remember.
Third, there's a picture hint on each page, such as the tail of the cat or the head of the bat, that serve as visual clues that help your child remember each animal. And lastly, the rhyming words help your child remember pairs of animals.
How to play:
1. Read the book to your child, pointing out the pictures of each animal as you go along. Make sure your child becomes familiar with the names of the animals. It's okay if he doesn't know the names of all of them (they are all fairly common, except for bat) - he'll learn.
2. Be sure to point out the picture hint on each page. It's located on the page that says,"Who are you?" and gives your child a clue of what animal is on the next page.
3. Now take out the cut-outs of the animals. Read the book again with your child, at an easygoing pace. As you name an animal, place it's cut-out in front your child. Be sure to put pairs of animals together.
4. When you've completed 2 pairs (4 animals), put the book aside. Name the animals in the cut-out pictures, and then mix them up.
5. Say to your child, "Uh-oh! I mixed it up. Can you fix it?" If your child has trouble, give them a hint by making the sound of the animal, or saying part of the word.
6. Continue reading the book, stopping after every pair to rearrange the pictures, and asking your child to fix them.
TIPS: You should play this game at least twice, preferably three times, with the third session taking place a few days after the second.
If this was too easy for your child, increase the number of pictures he has to reorganize at one time. You could try having him do 4 at a time, for example. Or, you could get rid of the cut-out pictures altogether, and let your child name the animals for you after you close the book.
Again, you could have them name either 2 pairs, or 3, depending on how they do. You could name one animal, and have them name the one that rhymes with it.
If this is too hard for your child: Make two copies of the cut-out pictures, and have your child match one set to the second set. Or, they can match the cut-out pictures to the ones in the book.
If you’ve ever done traditional speech therapy exercises with your child, you know how boring they can get sometimes.
Okay, maybe I shouldn’t say that, but…it’s true more times than not. The bigger problem with standard speech therapy exercises, however, is they just don’t seem to connect with your child’s life: they feel like school homework.
This hands on learning game is a speech therapy exercise in disguise: it’s great for improving your child’s expressive language, and your child will have fun too – guaranteed!
This is how the game works: you’ll bake a fun recipe with your child, taking pictures of the steps along the way. While your child is busy eating the products of her creation, she will sequence the pictures in the order they happened, telling you briefly about each picture.
My three little ones (ages 6, 4 ½, and 3 ½) did this hands on learning activity in less than hour. Because it was a relevant, recent experience full of a lot of meaning, even the child with the most serious language issues was able to briefly explain each picture.
-your favorite child friendly recipe
How to Play
1) Lay out the ingredients you will use for your recipe in one spot. Take a picture.
2) Start making the recipe, taking pictures at key points. For example, we made chocolate cookies. So I took pictures when we mixed in an ingredient, when we stirred, when we actually shaped the cookies, when the unbaked cookies were waiting to be put in the oven, on a plate after being baked, and – while the kids ate and enjoyed them!
That’s a lot of steps, which would normally be too hard for your child to sequence. But with a little help from siblings or myself, every child was able to say what each picture represented and sequence the pictures in the order that they took place.
TIP: If you have a child that can read already, you can write down what the child says on a sentence strip, one strip for each picture. Your child can then read the strip, and then find the picture that matches it.
If your child has trouble sequencing or is very young, print out two copies of each picture. Then tape all of them together sequentially in one long strip. Now your child can simply match his individual pictures to the ones on the strip.
One of my favorite ways of improving my children’s learning skills is through books. Books are great for exposing your child to topics they wouldn’t have otherwise thought about, which is especially important for kids with language delays, who tend to be very weak in the kind of knowledge that other kids pick up just from their environment.
Still, I’m always cooking up new ways to use books, and today I have a new hands on learning activity that’s a good sequencing activity, and that helps improve your preschooler’s listening skills.
For this game, you’ll need a copy of Antoinette Portis’ book Not in a Box. I enjoyed the simplicity of this book, which makes the pictures clear and easy to understand for younger bunch, since some of them do have language delays. In the book, a rabbit finds a box, and manages to turn the box into a race car, a mountain, a burning building, and a robot before the story ends.
Every time he makes something creative from his box, he is asked “Why are you sitting in/standing on that box?” Your child will work on her listening skills by following along and sequencing the various items that the rabbit created.
How to play the game:
1. Read the story once through to your children, pointing to the pictures and naming the various objects that the rabbit created. Make sure your child repeats after you the names of each object, and points to the picture. Doing this encourages your child to use her visual system to support her weak auditory skills.
2. Go back to the beginning of the story, and name the first 2 objects that the rabbit created. Have your child repeat the names after you.
3. Then close the book, and ask your child to see if he can remember the names of those 2 items. If your child has trouble, you can give him a hint by saying part of the word out loud, letting your child fill in the blanks.
4. Continue going through the book this way, asking your child to remember one new item at a time, until she memorizes all of the items.
TIP: You can make this game easier by xeroxing the pictures, cutting them out, and letting your child sequence the pictures instead of having to verbally tell you what the items were.
You can make this game harder by having your child name the items forwards and backwards.
More fun stuff: You can extend this activity by helping your child create their own “Not a Box” story. Simply find a decent-sized box, take pictures of your child “creating,” and print them out on regular printer paper. You can ask your child to tell you the text as you write it down.
Transitioning from a carefree summer to the more scheduled school day can be difficult for many children with special needs.
Usually when we need to face a potentially upsetting experience, we picture in our minds exactly what might happen. We imagine the various possibilities, rejecting some, and changing others.
Many children with special needs have trouble with the ability to picture things in their minds. They can't imagine what could go wrong, and therefore are unable to make plans to prevent disaster from occurring.
The other problem children with special needs often have is an unawareness of time, which is a sequencing issue. Their internal clock is often running faster or slower than the rest of the world. Hence you have the child who is always late, or the preschooler who constantly asks when the next activity will be. The former's internal body clock is slower than everyone else, while the latter's is too fast.
You probably know already that using a daily schedule can help your child adjust and anticipate to new situations. Since I know it can sometimes be a pain in the neck to organize one, I've downloaded one from Boardmaker® for you to use - for free.
TIP: You can enlarge the squares if you want, laminate, and put Velcro on the back of each card. Hang up a square of carpet (you can often get a sample free from a carpet store), and put the cards on the carpet.
If you get a light colored piece of carpet with no nap, you can draw boxes with permanent marker so your child will know where to place each square.
Before school starts, let your child practice sequencing the cards in their proper order. Start with 3 cards at a time, adding one additional card each time.
This way by the time school starts, your child will have a clear picture of what will happen during the day.
Are you bored with the same old therapy exercises? Whether your child needs to improve her language skills or gross motor skills, most therapy exercises leave you stuck inside with a fidgety, uninterested child. You know your child needs to practice daily in order to make progress, but sitting at the table with a list of written exercises is no fun for either of you.
Let your child have fun at the park and learn too.
Going to the park is an activity nearly all children enjoy. Since your child loves going there, why not take advantage? Your child can run around to her heart's content, all the while improving her gross motor skills, auditory attention, and increasing her overall body strength. Below are several hands on learning games you can play with your child using standard playground equipment.
1) Improve your child's overall body strength on the slide.
Instead of going down the slide the old-fashioned way, challenge your child to squirm up the slide like a snake, pull herself up using only her hands, or let themselves go down the slide head first – slowly (which forces your child to use his muscles to control his descent), and with your supervision, of course.
These exercises help build your child’s arm and leg muscles, and help improve your child’s overall body strength.
2) Strengthen gross motor skills using a low wall.
Low walls are great practice for working on your child’s balancing skills. Have your child practice walking on the wall, first slowly, and then as fast as he can go without falling. You can time how long it takes for him to get from one point to another, celebrating his best time.
Once this is easy for your child, extend the game by challenging him to carry something while walking. You can use a simple bag, or you can get really fancy and put two small bags at the end of a long stick or pole, tightrope style. Or, you can bring a tray, and have him practice carrying a cup of water. Expert walkers can practice walking with a book on their head.
TIP: Younger or less experienced children can start off with the same activities, but on a painted line. They can graduate to the low wall when they are ready.
3) Sharpen listening skills on the monkey bars.
Monkey bars are a great choice for building upper body strength, but some children find they require too much effort. You can help your child master the monkey bars by holding them around the knees.
Wrapping your arms around the knees,( or simply holding their legs with both hands at knee level if you’re strong enough!) instead of the waist or under the arms places most of the burden on your child. That way they can gradually build up their upper body muscles, and get the hang of swinging their body back and forth, without the fear of falling.
Once your child gets the hang of things, have your little monkey practice her listening skills: sing a song with a frequent refrain, and have your child jump down on the word you choose. For example, you could sing “Pop Goes the Weasel” and have your child jump down on “pop.” If she doesn’t jump down, pretend the weasel will eat her up.
4) Boost vocabulary on the swings.
There’s something about swinging that attracts even grown-ups: whether it’s the feel of the wind on your face, being able to see vistas far and wide, or simply enjoying the soothing back and forth movement.
While swinging is great for contemplative moments, you can encourage a little more active cognition by challenging your child to an opposites game. Simply tell your child one word as she swings forward (and is at the height of her swing); she has to answer you by the time she swings backward (and hits her highest point).
And don’t just stick to the usual categories: why not try words like bitter, deep, tasty, or boring?
So next time you go to the park, let playtime double as learning time!
Good listening skills are critical in childhood. They form the basis for your child’s ability to learn and communicate with others. But did you know that good listening starts with the ability to distinguish between different sounds?
While most of us take for granted the ability to understand what we hear easily and quickly, for children with weak language development it can be quite difficult. Younger children might mix up words that sound alike, while older children might have trouble pairing words with the same beginning or ending sounds. In the long term, this difficulty also makes it harder for your child to learn how to read and write effectively.
You can help your toddler or preschooler improve their listening skills with this easy to make hands on learning game. It helps build your child’s listening skills at one of the most basic levels – discriminating between different sounds- in an engaging manner.
- 8 small containers (film containers are best, but in this day of digital cameras, they might be hard to find. You could ask a film developing shop for some, or you can substitute plastic salt shakers)
- 2 sheets of construction paper, one red and one blue (if the canisters are not opaque)
- 4 different types of materials to put inside (possibilities: salt, sugar, sand, pea gravel, dried beans, rice-anything that makes a sound is fair game!)
- Glue gun
- A shoe box or other container to store it in.
- 8 picture stickers, 2 of each kind
1. If your canisters are not opaque, you’ll need to cover the container so that the contents aren’t visible. You could spray paint the outside (quickest, but a little messy), or you can cut a piece of construction paper so that it fits inside or outside the container. Hot glue it on so that it stays put, and so that little hands aren’t tempted to peel it off.
You should have 4 red containers and 4 blue containers (or whatever 2 high contrast colors you choose).
2. Add the material. Each material should be placed in two containers, one red and one blue.
3. Hot glue each container closed. If you’re using a salt shaker, seal the holes of the shaker as well.
4. On the BOTTOM of each matching container, place a matching sticker. So on the containers that contain sand, you’ll put matching stickers of turtles, for example. This is called control of error, because it lets your child know if the two are match, without her having to ask you. More fun for them, less bother for you J.
1. Place the red containers on the right side of your child, and the blue ones on the left.
2. Let your child take one container from the right side. Have him shake it, encouraging him to listen to the sound carefully.
3. Next, have him choose a container from the blue containers. Encourage him to shake it, and compare the sound to the other container.
4. Ask him, “Are they the same?”
5. Have him check the bottoms of the containers to see if the stickers are the same. If they are, praise him verbally. If not, have him try again.
TIP: You can make this game easier or harder, by varying the types of materials you put in the containers.
So for example, you can put in 4 very different types of materials (easier) or 4 similar types of materials (harder).
Hi! I’m a parent of 8 children, 3 of whom have learning disabilities. I have over 20 years experience working with kids and adults of all ages. My specialty is disabilities on the autistic spectrum, and language delays.