How can I support my child’s early language and phonic skills?
Hi, I'm Penny and I am a mum to two boys, aged 4 and 2. I'm also an experienced practitioner in Early Years, with experience of managing a pre school and nursery. I want to share with you how you can support your child's early language and phonic skills at home.
Modelling Language is used and developed naturally through each interaction. Children learn language skills through watching and listening to those around them. From the moment they are born children are learning all about the overt and the subtle uses of communication and language including facial expressions, gestures, words and intonation.
The primary way to support language and communication development in a child is to model good communication skills in your own interactions. Your own use of a wide range of language will influence their vocabulary. Modelling habits of reading and engaging in discussion encourages a child to develop those same habits.
With a younger child, repeating their words back to them shows them that they are being listened to and understood which increases their confidence in using verbal language. Now this doesn’t mean repeat every sentence but to repeat their main points or observations, the ‘highlights’ so to speak.
Pointing out the flaws in a child’s language can often have a detrimental effect whereby they can become worried about getting it wrong and therefore speak less for fear of failure. Instead, if a child has trouble with a particular word or language element, as is common in young children, just repeat the sentence or word back to them correctly. This is a gentle form of correction that builds confidence.
Setting the Atmosphere This influence extends to the things that are watched, read and listened to around the child. To use a cooking analogy, a chicken absorbs the flavour of the sauce that it marinades in, and as parents we can choose the environment that our children are ‘marinading’ in. The environment will demonstrate to your child the things that are most important to your family. As humans it is natural to feel most comfortable with the familiar. Assuming the home is a place of comfort and peace for the child, their familiar surroundings will become a source of comfort and peace. For example, a home full of nature related elements will help brew a feeling of comfort in nature. A home full of technology will create a sense of comfort and peace with technology. So the tone of your education will be set in the atmosphere of your home. A text rich environment will increase their understanding of the use of written language and they will become more familiar with letters and words. Narration Narration is when a child repeats back to you what they have just learned or heard in their own words. It shows the adult how much of the information was heard and understood whilst also confirming the information in the child’s mind. Charlotte Mason values narration greatly in education and recommends it for children from the age of 6. Start with reading a short paragraph or story then as the child gets into the routine of using narration you can build up to longer chapters and stories. Narration can be started earlier in a less formal way through discussions, perhaps at a mealtime or as part of a bedtime routine. Narration can come in many forms such as verbally talking about the information, acting it out or using toys to act it out or by writing down a summary. Phonics and Reading For an older child the key element is to have access to as many books as possible, preferably to include what Charlotte Mason would call ‘living books’. These are books that contain a story or narrative rather than just facts which can be more difficult to read and remember. Encourage a wide range of books to include stories, poetry, non-fiction, picture books, book about art, music, nature and history. Make a note of your child’s particular interests and gather books on those subjects whilst they develop a greater hunger for knowledge on a range of subjects.
For younger children, Charlotte Mason believed that formal teaching of reading and language should not start until the age of six unless the child showed readiness and interest earlier. Their learning should be child led and not forced. Simply provide an invitation to play with letters and sounds and children will be naturally drawn to understand them. This could include putting magnetic letters on the fridge, having letters and words in the environment, labelling the toy boxes or putting letters in a sand tray or the bath. The role of the parent in these early stages is to simply respond and elaborate on a child’s natural inquisitiveness without pushing the agenda or having them ‘perform’. This information has been given as ideas for those looking to implement Charlotte Mason ideas into their educational approach. Those who attend a mainstream or other style of school may find these approaches clash with their school’s approach. If you have concerns about your child’s communication and language please seek professional advice. This information is not written to replace any advice given by professionals.