AS TEACHERS, WE ARE TRAINED to understand how children learn and the ways we can best support them to learn and develop. We thought it might be helpful to share two valuable tools that you can use that will support your child to be a confident and life-long learner.
Curiosity and open-ended questions
Asking questions that require a longer reply than ‘yes’ or ‘no’ can reap incredible results. These are often referred to as open-ended questions. Open-ended questions stimulate your child’s thinking by requiring them to engage with the world, rather than simply observing; they challenge your child to think deeply about the subject and explore their own thoughts and feelings about it. Your child’s language and communication will be enhanced as they describe and share their thinking with you.
An open-ended question such as “What happened to the rain?” can so easily prompt your child’s imagination and curiosity. Other questions of a practical kind, such as “What do you think we need to do with the dirty washing on the floor?”, can engage your child in problem-solving and decision-making experiences that are empowering, and which encourage their independence and contribution to the wider family.
Your child’s replies can lead to further discussion – often in directions you might never have predicted – creating more moments to laugh, explore, create and engage together.
Here are some simple examples of the foundations of open-ended questions:
- I wonder what will happen if … ?
- What do you think you will choose next … why?
- What does that cloud remind you of?
- What happened after I left today?
- Can you tell me about your day?
- Can you tell me about how you’re feeling?
Descriptive feedback is another brilliant learning tool. Descriptive feedback is much more than ‘good girl’ or ‘great stuff’. Descriptive feedback tells a child you noticed exactly what they did. Taking the time to closely observe your child’s behaviour tells them they are important. It also gives you an opportunity to reflect back to your child the process that has just occurred. This supports your child to understand situations and identify their own feelings. Describing situations back to your child can help them understand how their behaviour may affect others. For example: “I saw you notice that Coco hadn’t had a turn yet, so you took the bucket and offered it to her. Coco’s eyes lit up and she looked really happy! She gave you such a lovely smile and you smiled back! It looked like she was really pleased that you shared with her.”
This is a great example of how to build your child’s knowledge and understanding of their feelings and behaviour, and their effect on others. By identifying and reflecting behaviour and feelings, we are helping to build emotional intelligence and effective communication skills in our children that will last a lifetime.
Here’s another example of descriptive feedback that stimulates understanding and the powerful connection between language and action: “I noticed you carefully dipped your brush into the yellow paint and put it on the paper to make that gorgeous big, bright circle.” This simple observation gives your child clear, positive feedback about the exploration of their ideas and actions and introduces many concepts (dipped, carefully, big, bright, etc.). It also exposes them to more wonderful, useful words that will build their vocabularies and confidence to understand the world around them. And, finally, it provides them with an opportunity to add more information to what you have just said, e.g. “Yes, Mummy, I drew the sun.”
Giant ice balls
Your child will love creating giant globes of ice and the reaction that occurs when salt and colour is added.
Things you will need:
- Dye or food colouring – yellow, red, blue or green (optional)
- Jug/bowl of water or kitchen tap
- Funnel (optional)
How to do it:
Help your child to fill a balloon with water by stretching the opening of the balloon onto the spout of the tap. Turn the tap on just a little and fill until the balloon is the size of a large grapefruit. If your child would like a coloured ball, mix two or three drops of dye or food colouring into the balloon using a funnel. Tie a knot in the balloon to seal it. Repeat (with different colours if desired) until you have a few. Freeze balloons.
The next day, help your child peel the balloon covering off the frozen ice balls to reveal orbs of ice. Your child will love to feel their weight and freezing temperature. Place the ice balls on a flat surface (outside on the grass may be best, or inside on an old towel in a tray) and carefully sprinkle a teaspoon of salt on each ice ball. Watch and listen as the ice balls make small splitting sounds, crack and begin to melt in front of your eyes. As cracks appear in the ice balls, carefully drip dye into these cracks, allowing the dye to travel into different areas of the ice balls, creating new patterns in the ice.
This is a great opportunity to ask your child open-ended questions: What are you seeing? What do you think is happening to the ice? Why is it melting? What is happening to the food colouring when it is added to the ice?
What learning is occurring?
- Basic scientific concepts – freezing and melting
- Basic science skills – conducting an experiment, giving feedback
- Language and communication
- Sensory – sight, sound and touch
- Try adding ice balls to a container of water to see what they do. Do they float? Do they sink? Does the colour begin to run?
- Find out with your child why salt melts and cracks the ice
- Keep salt away from your child’s mouth and eyes
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