The kindergarten standard spotlighted today is: Listens and speaks for specific purposes. This standard is taken from Fairfax County Public Schools, located just outside Washington, DC in northern Virginia. Up to this point, I have spotlighted 5 of the 24 very important language arts benchmarks that align with this standard. Today’s benchmark is: Listen to texts read aloud and ask and answer questions.
Where to begin on this one? To be able to listen to a story, poem, informational/non-fiction text read aloud and to be able to ask and answer questions about the text is paramount for success in school. It’s one of the most important ways a child learns during the early years of being educated. It allows him to learn new vocabulary, how to structure sentences, to understand worlds outside of his direct experience, to make predictions, and to think critically, amongst many other skills.
Sitting quietly while listening to a text allows a child to build on the skills he has already gained before he arrives at his first circle time. Although a child has already learned to attend to a grown-up’s voice, process what he hears and sees (and combine the two seamlessly), ask appropriate questions, and answer questions about facts, characters, settings, problems, emotional reactions, and solutions, of course there is still much for him to absorb. He now must use the skills he has already developed for orienting his body in space, focusing on faces, understanding others’ emotions and expressing wants and needs to remain oriented to a group, behave appropriately, and self-regulate by keeping his body to himself and on a carpet square or certain place in space while learning. Expectations are high.
Below are some ideas for building an infant or toddler’s foundational skills from birth to 3 that will get him ready to meet the above-mentioned standard and benchmark:
1) Encourage child to look at the face of someone in a magazine or book about 12-18 inches from his face. After the child has studied it for 10 seconds, begin pointing to parts of the person’s face. Try several pictures and see how long the child will pay attention to the faces you show him. Include a wide variety of faces in the activity (e.g., old, young, dark skin, light skin, different colored eyes, etc.).
2) When child is doing something that is not desired, use the language cue “It’s not time for _______” (filling in the blank with a “verb + ing” word). For example, if the child is playing when it’s time to leave the house, tell him “It’s not time for playing, it’s time to get your shoes on.”
3) When child is not listening because he is intently looking at something or moving his body, use the language cue “It’s not time for looking/doing. it’s time for listening.”
4) Encourage child to answer “who,” “what” and “where” questions when reading a story.
5) When child asks you a question during story time, always answer him, versus telling him “We’re reading right now” or “We’re not talking now.” Praise him by saying “What a great question!”
6) When a child asks a question during story time, reflect the question back to him to see if he can answer his own question. For example, if he asks “Where is the lion going?,” ask him “Where do you think the lion is going?.”
7) Use new vocabulary with child daily. If you usually call a spoon a “spoon,” use the word “utensil” the next time. If you usually call his grandma “Nana,” name her as “your grandmother” occasionally. Use more “advanced” words (e.g., humongous, enormous, gigantic, huge, elephant-like, etc. for the word “big”) whenever you can.
8) Ask as many questions daily as humanly possible!
9) Place an “X” on the floor with tape. Tell him you’re going to play the “Freeze Game.” Encourage child to see if he can sit on the “X” for an age-appropriate amount of time (i.e., typically one minute per year old the child is). Encourage him to do other actions, besides sitting, on the “X,” such as standing, jumping, or rolling.
10) Put on some music. Tell child that when he should wiggle, jump, jog, etc. as long as he hears the music, but that when the music stops he must “freeze.” Even very young children will get the idea once you show them a couple times about moving to the music and stopping when it is off.