By Liz Silverman, Director of Kindergarten - 2nd Grade
Do you remember listening to your parents talking on the phone as you were waiting to ask a question? Or taking the long cord from the phone on the wall into a closet, or around the corner, so that you could speak in private? What about "I Spy" in the car on long road trips? These activities allowed us to develop strong expressive language: the ability to use words, sentences, gestures, and writing to convey meaning and messages to others.
With the increase of screen time and communication through text messages and email, research is showing a decrease in expressive language in children due to the decline in spoken language being heard in their formative years. ("The more handheld screen time a child's parent reported, the more likely the child was to have expressive speech delays." The ASHA Leader, Jan, 2017). When children do not experience spoken language and the social cues involved, they often have a difficult time communicating with others in an age appropriate manner. Often, we hear short, choppy sentences, a limited vocabulary, and see children who struggle in social situations with reciprocal interactions. If left alone, this lack of language can begin to impact a students ability to reach their potential in academic areas.
As parents and educators, there are several ways to ensure that our children have the skills necessary to be well rounded communicators as they grow up, with the most critical being hearing and participating, in spoken language. Whether these are discussions around the dinner table, chats while driving in the car, or role playing various social situations, students learn from participating. Through the summer, as you spend time as a family, consider engaging in a few of the activities below to continue to strengthen your child's communication skills:
- Reading and writing helps students continue to develop their vocabulary and sentence structure. Select a book as a family and either read or listen to it together. Throughout the book, discuss various aspects through open ended questions such as:
- What do you think will happen next? Why?
- What would you have done if you were that character?
- Tell me what you are imagining in your mind as you read (or listen) this chapter.
- Is there anything you are wondering?
- Remind me, what has happened to the character so far?
- What was the main message of the book? What does the author want you to know?
- Spend time together, face to face, talking about shared experiences. Cook together and discuss the ingredients, take a walk around the neighborhood and discuss what you see. Listen to each other and respond at the appropriate time. Using, "yes, and" is a wonderful way for students to add on to something that another person has said.
- Family game nights allow not only time together, but also an opportunity to develop conversation skills by taking turns, asking questions, and answering questions from other family members. Rotate who selects the game and ask them to share why they have chosen it. Answers should be more detailed than, "because it is my favorite."
Ultimately, as adults, we are role models to our children, and our day to day interactions become expectations. The way we interact with our children sets the tone for how they communicate with others. Speak often, ask questions regularly, and spend time sharing with family and friends both orally and in writing. The more language they hear, the stronger communicators our students will become. Modeling proper expressive language is the most important step that parents can take.