I know you all are very interested in prepositions, like in, out, around, and under, and I don’t want to do a bait and switch, but in explaining how to teach those tricky prepositions, it’s best to start with basics of good teaching. There are really only four steps to teach your young child any language concept, and many other concepts and skills for that matter. So let’s begin with the good teaching basics…
When you want to teach your child something new, it’s best to consider if it’s something he’s ready to learn and then keep down the chatter, focusing primarily on what you really want him to learn. You do all this by staying in your child’s Zone of Proximal Development and then talking less, and saying more.
Most of us are visual learners or benefit from the addition of visual information to support learning a new concept. That’s why adults use handouts or Powerpoint for presentations. Children require different levels of visual supports depending on their level of abstract representation. If you were trying to represent the idea of being in bed, the continuum works kind of like this – a real bed, a blanket on the floor, a dollhouse sized bed, a color photograph, a color drawing, a black and white drawing, and finally, a symbol or the written word.
To keep it fun and interesting, I like to mix these different types of visual supports. For example, I may use a book that includes the written word and drawing of a bed, a miniature bed with blankets, and a separate, more symbolic image of a bed. When you offer up all of these different types of visual supports, you are putting all different types of marks on the same page, and filling that page more quickly.
So, this is the really fun part. This is the play, the movement, the do. This is where you set up the environment full of all of those awesome visual supports (the book, the bed, the blankets, the picture of a bed, and toss in some teddy bears to represent the bears in the book). You add in a child already primed for learning because he’s experienced the steps of Show and Tell. Then, you turn him loose!
But, hold up. WAIT. There are a few quick things related to involving your child in learning that I’d like to point out…
- This smartly set up environment and free play time is integral to children really learning new concepts. If you skip this step and only do the Show and Tell, they don’t have a chance to generalize what they’ve learned to real play. Generalization of skills is king, because it’s how children are able to really use knowledge functionally each day. Giving time immediately, when the concepts are fresh in their mind, allows children to practice and kinesthetically act out what they’ve learned, and encourages them to internalize the concepts and integrate them into their knowledge base.
- This Involve step, including movement and real play, is even MORE important for teaching prepositions. Prepositions can be abstract and confusing, and your child is going to learn much more at first from physically being in a bed or under a “bridge”, than from just looking at a picture of those ideas.
- I know what you’re thinking. Well then, can’t I just skip the first two steps and get to the involve part? Some kids don’t need all of the prep work of telling and showing for them to be ready to explore and learn in a well set-up free play environment, BUT… some do. If you give some kids a teddy bear, a blanket, and a bed, they will engage in endless sequences of fun pretend play. Other children aren’t sure where to begin, and instead they may just ignore the materials all together because they don’t have a context that makes those things meaningful. The fact is, ALL children make more connections and benefit from integrated activities and repetition of concepts. So, it’s never a bad idea to tell and show first, maybe by reading a book or presenting exciting materials about a concept, before moving to the step of involving a child in the play. Children that already know and understand a lot about those concepts will have an even deeper experience and will easily take those ideas and expand on them during their free play.
One note about Tell, Show, and Involve is that they are not necessarily done exclusively in that order. For example, I tend to do all of my showing and telling together, mixed in with a little involving. Then, do a lot of involving at the end, mixed in with a little showing and telling. Make sense?
This is where a lot people drop the ball. Don’t just read that book today or set up the play scene once. Do it several times. Read two books on the same topic. Read both books for the entire week. Repetition is what fills pages, so keep the fun going to see how you can deepen or expand your child’s experience.
And now that I’ve told you the steps of good teaching, I’d like to show you. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, Prepositions: Two Ways, where you can see that bed and those bears in action.Email this article »