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Tuesday, 3 March 2015


I thought I'd put a few exercises that you can do as games down in this post today and hope I'm not repeating too many of them!

I've recently been concerned about my daughter's expressive language. Though she has progressed amazingly well, and I mean she surprises me daily with what she's learning, we go through phases where I feel like it's two steps forward, one step back.

That led me to get feedback on how she is developing well and to listen more carefully to her development. Yes, she is making more mistakes but that is because she is widening her vocabulary and communication, so it is that she is moving forward (and that I am a massive worrier!)

So I thought about it - what exercises/games can I use to help her to be listening more carefully and using her words in a more understandable way. I am a drama practitioner and an English as a second language teacher, I must have some ideas in my back catalogue on how to improve communication! I'm sharing them here - these have worked for us and I hope if you want to use them you will be able to adapt to your child's level.

Early preposition work for little ones -  Where's the toy?  On the table, under the table, behind the radiator. Turn it into a game where you chant 'Where's the toy?' 'ON the table, ON the table, ON the table', add clapping for fun and rhythm.  I try to get F to repeat a word at least 3 times to give her a chance for it to go in the memory box in her brain.

Nonsense repeats - a lot of SLI kids find it really difficult to repeat back nonsense words, I found out recently, which is really logical given the difficulty in repeating back sentences without nonsense words in (sequencing, auditory processing). So I reckoned by working on this area I could be really helping my child with auditory processing. I tried it this morning, it was a good one to do.  Supercalifragilisticexpelalidocious was the one we did today and it worked! By breaking it down and the fact it's a fun song, we got all the bits, counted out the syllables and there we were.

Use a nonsense word that your child will have a go at repeating (don't use the ones I did just because she's nearly 10 and is pretty much there with a lot of her words!) I did things like:



Funny words that sound funny when you do them, with your child really close when they are enjoying staring at you and mimicking, try the game where you say a word and they repeat, then slow it down so each syllable is really stretched out and make your mouth really wide and silly. This will encourage them to have a go too.

Tongue Twisters - Red Lorry Yellow Lorry is hard enough! And it's easy to describe so you can have a visual clue or use an actual red lorry and yellow lorry to model it, then speed it up as a game. This was very helpful for us as F still says Lellow on occasion.

Info gap. F was behind a door, I was on the other side. I described a picture and she had to draw it, then vice versa. Even if it's just a simple picture of a person next to a house, this is very challenging especially for prepositions.  This can be done with a book in between you and is also very good for lots of grammar work, such as counting (draw 3 eyes) or vocab in an area. It's very concentrated so keep it simple to avoid frustration, but it is a lot of fun. There are some good EFL books that do this kind of exercise, as well as listening games that we were given by our original SENCO. Elementary Communication Games  has a few info gaps in there.

If I had./If I was...
For more complex conditional structures the simple imagination game, If I had a million pounds I would..... is a nice drill to remember the structure. You imagine what you would do with all that money,
also If I was a superhero I would..... or anything else that is their interest (If I lived in Minecraft I would...., If I was a Creeper I would....) Usually this will spark interest and a lot of description that has less grammar structure in so is a good one for modelling back the structure (Really? Would you really buy a big house and fill it with beans? Instead of 'house, beans')

Counting/Memory with emotion....
This really is one that I stumbled across by accident. There are plenty of memory and key word memory games you can play but depending on your child, what triggers their memory? When you study memory tricks and remember stories you have to visual pictures and the most emotional content possible works best. If you've ever done a Paul McKenna CD you'll know he talks about making the colours brighter, the sounds, tastes etc. And that is because it stimulates the brain to remember things more clearly.
So I used this for counting. Instead of by rote, because my daughter at age 6 couldn't count to 10, me and my eldest daughter used ONE big purple elephant, TWO stinky penguins etc. and by the end of ten minutes she remembered up to ten but hadn't been able to do so by rote.
It depends on your child, if your child will repeat/remember by rote then please do drilling, but if it isn't going in  you could try a more lateral approach. I know F is a lateral thinker so she will remember Wednesday because I explained it was the day of Odin, or Woden and did a gesture and told a story about Odin. This won't work for everyone but it might be worth considering what kind of learner your child is.

I was told F couldn't remember more than two items in a list, so I constantly played My Cat went shopping and she bought... to improve her memory. (You go round and add a list, remembering what the last person said) This didn't help until the day I added the word 'Silly'. My cat went shopping and bought silly sausages, funny beans, silly television....etc. She remembered over 10 and I got stuck!

This may not work for your child at all, all children are different and I realised with my uniquely made daughter that she had lateral thinking that helped her learn. If you can find something that works for your child, use it. What do they like? How do they learn?

I hope this has been useful, it can be a lot of fun and lovely to see your child communicating and having fun at the same time. I've been using some apps as well that I hope to review soon and also follow up with some storytelling exercises. Please comment if you have other games that you use with your child and I will be posting more communication tasks soon.

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