One or both parents usually accompany children/young people to the appointment. We spend the first 15 minutes chatting and getting to know each other. Sometimes I have follow up questions from the written questionnaires which we can cover at this time. Parents then leave and I will work 1-1 with your child.
Usually we start with a cognitive assessment which will provide information about how your child thinks compared to other children of the same age. If you are booked for a formal assessment you might tell them that once they are comfortable with me, you will leave us alone and that we will be working through a range of different activities together. I often use the word activity rather than test as it can have quite negative overtones. The activities are often very short lasting only a few minutes and are different from the kinds of assessments or activities undertaken in school.
Once we complete the cognitive assessment, we take a short break for a snack and a walk around to get some fresh air. My office is based on a school campus which means there is equipment to play on and plenty of space to move around during our break. After this break we usually complete the achievement assessment which will provide information about how your child is learning at school when compared to other children of the same age. These are a series of short activities which while more like school activities or assessments are different than what your child usually encounters.
At some point during the appointment I usually try to encourage the child/young person to share with me their thoughts on the situation. I usually bring some simple games with me like tic tac toe which allow us to chat whilst doing an activity. I also have some strengths-based cards which are helpful to encourage discussion. At the end of the assessment session you will pick your child up. They may be tired as the sessions are intense but usually, they can return to school with no difficulty in the afternoon.
When will we find out the results of the assessment?
I don’t usually provide any feedback about the assessment on the same day as the assessment. This is because I like to take my time and consider what I saw and what the results are telling me. The assessments themselves are quite complex and require more than a superficial calculating of numbers in order to interpret the results. I also like to take my time to write a report that is clear, easy to read and contains useful suggestions for support. This can take me a week to 10 days to complete. As soon as I’ve finished writing the report, I send it out and make the offer to schedule a feedback meeting face to face.
What should I bring with us to an assessment?
Thinking uses up energy so ensure your child has something to snack on when we take a break. A water bottle is also a good idea. Bring any further information that you think may help me to understand the situation, this could be school reports or reports from other professionals.
Over the past year since I began seeing clients privately, I have been asked a range of questions by parents about what to expect on the day that they bring their child to see me. Today I thought I’d start a series of posts covering some of these questions. For the next few weeks I’ll post answers to a range of questions that parents have asked me. As I tailor the experience of each child/young person to their specific needs these are general ideas.
What should I tell my child about seeing a psychologist?
My advice is always to be honest but gentle with your child. It is likely they are very aware of any difficulties with learning or behaviour they may have. Make sure to use language that your child understands and is appropriate to their age and developmental stage. Tell them that you are coming to see me so that I can help to find a way to make the situation work for them and for your family.
Your child may feel more comfortable if they have a chance before the appointment to know a little about me. You could show them my pictures on my website and checkout the page with information about me on my website, https://www.edpsych.co.nz/about-the-psychologist.html
Welcome back to the 2019 school year. Hopefully everyone has had a chance to have a break and some down time from the busy school schedule during term time. Many schools will be starting back in the next week or so. Getting back to the school routine can be a challenge. As I’ve mentioned before change is tricky for everyone, but there are lots of things you as parents can do to help your child. Here are my top tips for making the transition back to school an easy one.
A few days before school starts:
Start getting everyone back into their usual sleep routines. This one can be tricky with the long days we are experiencing but try shifting in small increments of 15 minutes each day so that at least once school starts your child will be able to have a reasonable amount of sleep.
Discuss what the getting ready for school routines in the morning and at night will look like. Ask your children to share their ideas. It may be helpful to start with to write the steps down and have them somewhere central for children and adults to refer to. An evening and a morning routine will ensure that there is time get everything done.
Check in with school websites and or re read email or paper communications from school on first day and week routines.
Talk positively about the upcoming school year and the fun and interesting learning that will occur.
To support children with specific concerns:
If your child has very specific learning or behaviour needs or has experienced some big life changes during the break, I recommend you contact your child’s school and let them know what the situation is. If you don’t know who the teacher is for 2019 you can always contact someone on the leadership team who can pass the information on to the correct person.
If your child is attending a new school or is anxious about starting back it may be helpful to go for a visit to the school and walk around checking out the playing fields and equipment as well as the layout of the buildings before school starts.
Throughout the school year but especially in January and early February:
Once school has started make sure you look for any opportunity to attend parent evenings, school picnics and so on. Many schools provide a range of options and while it’s not necessary to attend all your child’s education will be all the richer for your participation and interest in what they are doing at school.
The things I’ve listed seem simple but as is often the case if you get the basics right it’s possible to avoid needing to manage more difficult situations.
It’s that time of year when we wind down from the busy activities of the year and take time out to enjoy the freedom holidays provide us to spend time with friends and family to enjoy peace and quiet and a break from the usual weekly routines.
School has wrapped up for the year (or will be wrapping up shortly) and students will be taking a well-earned break from the hard work of learning at school. Even though formal learning is over for the year it is key that children continue to consolidate their learning. Reading, writing and basic facts will benefit from continued practice over the holiday break. Some children, especially those who are struggling will sometimes lose some of what they have learned during the longer Christmas holidays. To prevent this loss of learning encourage your child to keep reading. Public libraries often have reading programs on offer during the summer break. Look for opportunities to write. Children can write emails to relatives or friends. Using a phone or digital camera they can take photos of family trips, pets or projects or games and then caption them or write a story about them.
I would like to take a moment to say thank you to those of you who have read my blog during the year. I’m going to take a short break from regular blog posts and will start posting again in the new year. If you have any areas that you would like me to write about, please get in touch and let me know.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday.
Online gaming and the challenges this can bring is something that seems to be hitting the headlines a lot recently. In my own work I’ve had parents contacting me with concerns about their child’s online gaming behaviour. I thought I’d do a little bit of research about online gaming to find out a little bit more to share with you.
I had a look at the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5), which is a handbook used by mental health professionals. It helps with the diagnostic process and has descriptions, symptoms and criteria professionals can use to help with diagnosing mental conditions. When a mental health professional is considering diagnosis of a condition, they would generally look at the DSM-5 for guidance around decision making. At this point or in this version of the DSM, Internet Gaming Disorder has made it to the Conditions for Further Study section of the handbook. The conditions for further study section are where the authors put areas which require further research and study. The information about each disorder is the best evidence from the field so far but did not meet the high standard for inclusion within the section for official mental disorder diagnosis. When the DSM-5 is revised the evidence will be reviewed and a decision made to exclude or include this new diagnosis in the main body of the book. At this stage it could be said that the jury is out.
I thought you might be interested in what the researchers and experts in this area did think might be criteria for an internet gaming disorder. This is my paraphrasing from the DSM-5 and not a direct quotation. The proposed criteria provide up to 9 areas of which at least 5 must be implicated over a year and must be causing clinically significant distress. Someone would be preoccupied with gaming to the exclusion of other daily activities, they would demonstrate symptoms of withdrawal when they are unable to access the game, they would require increasing amounts of time on the game, they would have experienced failure in attempts to control the time spent gaming, they would demonstrate a lack of interest in any other previously enjoyed leisure time activities, despite awareness of the negative effects of the gaming they would continue, deceptive about their gaming activities, gaming is being used to escape negative moods, has sacrificed relationships, education or work because of internet gaming. Rightly so there is a high barrier to get over for someone to be considered to have a real difficulty with gaming. Most people would not fit these preliminary criteria. In fact, the prevalence cited in DSM-5 based on studies conducted in some Asian countries on adolescents appears to be 8.4% for males and 4.5% for females. Please keep in mind that these figures are not necessarily generalisable as the data comes from a limited part of the world and has not been able to be contextualised with other research studies conducted in other parts of the world. The DSM criteria does give us some idea of what the experts in the field consider to be problematic behaviour. But in common with other diagnostic criteria the problem of what to do about challenging behaviours isn’t covered.
I had a bit of a fossick about in some of the recent research studies to see if there were any pointers there. From a 2017 article titled, A cross-sectional study of heavy gaming, problematic gaming symptoms, and online socializing in adolescents (fully referenced at the end of this blog post) I found the following. When young people are socially active online, they seem to demonstrate fewer symptoms of or met fewer criteria of internet gaming disorder as defined by the DSM-5. Female heavy gamers experienced lower self-esteem but made fewer reports of loneliness and social anxiety than average adolescents. The authors concluded that for some adolescents who combine what might be considered heavy gaming with active social media it appeared that the social media may be moderating the negative impacts of the gaming.
Another article had some interesting information for parents. Parental Influences on Pathological Symptoms of Video-Gaming Among Children and Adolescents: A Prospective Study published in 2015(fully referenced at the end of this blog post). This study identified that restrictive parental rules and regulations may not be effective at reducing the negative symptoms of intensive internet gaming. They studied parents setting restrictions on time, place and content of gaming and found no empirical evidence that this was helpful. They found that the quality of parent child relationships was key. A two-way process of parental mediation allowed moderation of gaming while one-way parental imposition of restrictions did not help.
John Parsons’ book Keeping Your Children Safe Online: A guide for New Zealand parents, published by Potton and Burton, has a chapter dedicated to online addictions. John provides advice which aligns with the 2015 study in that managing your child’s interactions online requires a two-way relationship.
Online gaming is often a social activity, children and young people play with peers they have met at school, sporting or other social occasions, at times they may be gaming with people from other places in the world. There are even some studies indicating that the visual spatial skills of children who game online are superior to those who do not. There is no doubt that there are very real benefits to our children and young people engaging with online gaming.
What is important is that we as parents actively involve ourselves with this by finding out who our children are gaming with, ensuring that they are prepared to deal with any difficulties encountered within the game, discussing good limits to gaming such as only gaming when homework is completed and taking breaks for other social interactions like meals or visiting friends. We as parents also need to be ready to deal calmly with situations when things do go wrong so that our child feels able to tell us they are having a problem.
Carras, M.C., Rooij, A.J., Mheen, D.V., Musci, R., Xue, Q., & Mendelson, T. (2017). Video gaming in a hyperconnected world: A cross-sectional study of heavy gaming, problematic gaming symptoms, and online socializing in adolescents. Computers in human behavior, 68, 472-479.
Choo, Hyekyung & Sim, Timothy & K. F. Liau, Albert & Gentile, Douglas & Khoo, Angeline. (2015). Parental Influences on Pathological Symptoms of Video-Gaming Among Children and Adolescents: A Prospective Study. Journal of Child and Family Studies. 24. 10.1007/s10826-014-9949-9.
This is something that keeps parents awake at nights and often comes up in conversation when parents get together. There is not an option to avoid technology and the connectedness that the internet provides. Instead we must find ways to teach our children to enjoy all the advantages that technology can bring us in a safe way. The big but is of course, but how do we let our children/young people access all this whilst keeping themselves safe.
In last week’s blog I discussed some of my thinking around how education is being impacted by technology. This week I’d like to focus much more on the question of safety. I recently read a fantastic book written by John Parsons, Keeping Your Children Safe Online: A guide for New Zealand parents, published by Potton and Burton. I would recommend this as a great read to anyone parenting children and young people of any age. John has a very sensible and practical approach.
One of the key themes that runs through the book is that parents treat the online world as an actual physical space just the same as they treat any other space their child might find themselves in and then think about applying some of the same guidelines. When our children are little, we would not dream of allowing them to walk to the park alone. When we take them to the park, we take time to demonstrate and guide them in the safe use of playground equipment and show them the areas that are safe to run or kick a ball. As they get older and we as parents feel that they are ready to walk to school or the park on their own we would ensure they knew a safe route and what to do if something went wrong. When our child arrived home after an independent outing, we would most likely check in to see how things had gone and offer some support and advice if something didn’t go as planned. John urges parents to think about the online world in the same way.
He cautions parents not to allow their children to set up Facebook or other social media accounts when they are too young to do so. In the same way that we wouldn’t send our 2-year-old to play at the park on their own the online location of social media sites isn’t set up to provide a safe place for children younger than the stated age. He also offers the chilling idea that if your child has signed up when they are younger by lying about their age everyone will see their age as several years older than it is. This can too easily lead to inappropriate relationships based on a misunderstanding about the age of the person who opened the social media account. A further point he makes is that if your child asks to set up the account when they are too young this is a great moment to discuss being respectful of the companies who have set the social media up and how you expect your child to behave as they interact with the world.
John covers a wide range of concerns common to parents in terms of keeping children safe online including those that we may find difficult to discuss such as sexting or sharing inappropriate images and avoiding sexual predators online. His advice is sensible and down to earth. He has several principles which parents can apply to many of the situations encountered online. He provides reassuring advice about what to do when things have already gone wrong. There is a comprehensive list at the back of the book with contact information about the various services that can help. I have often heard adults saying that once an inappropriate image or piece of information is online it’s there forever. John corrected this by clarifying that as further information is put online about an individual the older information slips away. Perhaps an expert could find the old information, but general searches won’t turn up the unfortunate photo or post. This must be very comforting to anyone who has made a mistake online.
Of relevance to parents is that John cautions us to keep what he terms the ‘Cyber Tooth Tiger’ under control. This is part of our evolutionary history and stems from the way that people have evolved from the times when the proper reaction to a sabre-toothed tiger was a strong one in order to survive. When we or our children is under threat we can react very strongly and at times becoming angry with the child for putting him or herself or our family in harms way. The problem with this reaction is that it tends to put children off telling us what is going on. If we don’t know what’s happening, we can’t help.
Overall John is letting us know that what we do effectively to keep our children not just safe but thriving in the physical world are the same things we should do to keep our children safe in the online world. There is no need for us to be technological wizards in order to help our children. We just need to be engaged and interested parents.
As a further note, John lists Netsafe at the back of his book among many other agencies. I thought it was worthwhile to repeat the address here, https://www.netsafe.org.nz/. Netsafe should be a go to place for anyone using the internet. There are sections of relevance for education and parents.
Parenting in the digital world, part 1, What is this digital world and how does it fit with education?
Most of the people actively parenting now have had a very different experience of computer technology in education and in the rest of our lives than our children are having. For many parents computer technology was introduced into their school and work lives at some point. We can remember the days before smart phones and constant internet access. Our children have none of these memories. For them technology simply exists and has always been part of their lives. For this reason, parents can sometimes feel that they lack the skills or knowledge to support their children to make good decisions about using technology.
It has been my experience as an educator that technology is a key part of student’s lives not only while they are in our classrooms but when they venture out into the world beyond school. Parents who are keen for their children to excel at school and in the world beyond school will naturally be looking for ways to support their children as they learn in this new and different world.
For an excellent example of the way that technology can be used to support education check out the Manaiakalani project website http://www.manaiakalani.org/. The project began in decile 1a schools in East Tamaki and has been intensively researched by the university of Auckland. They have been able to demonstrate some great outcomes with increases in learning but also in school engagement. This is particularly heartening as the children and families in the project come from a socio economically deprived area of Auckland. For a short and heart-warming video check out this clip of Will. i. am of the Black Eyed Peas fame when he comes to visit Point England School, https://vimeo.com/65790714. This is a true example of the power of being interconnected through technology. Technology can cut through socio economic, cultural, geographic and age barriers in a way that many other methods of communication are unable to.
Sometimes we as educators and parents can take the view that what children are doing on the internet is simply passive entertainment or information gathering. Much of what occurs on the internet is much more than that and requires us to actively participate in social relationships and in making meaning of information and even contributing information to the world in a way that was much more difficult before the invention of computers and the internet.
Our current world is saturated in information. In the 19th and for most of the 20th century teachers and educational institutions such as schools and university were holders and creators of information. The key job of primary and secondary schools was to impart as much of this information as possible while children attended school. In the 21st century the internet is the way that we access much of this information. All the information we could ever need is available on the internet. Arguably, one of the key roles of schools in the 21st century is to teach children how to make meaning of this information, how to access and judge the usefulness of the information and how to contribute to the available information in a useful way.
Transition is something that is on the minds of many parents and children currently. The end of the school year is racing towards us at a great rate. At times children and parents may both be feeling somewhat unsettled by the changes that the end of year signals. Strategies that will help at this time of the year are:
Validate the feelings your child may be having about the end of their time in their current educational setting. They should be able to celebrate what they have achieved and acknowledge that they may feel a little sad about leaving the familiar.
Give them as much knowledge and experience of their new setting as possible. Visits to their new educational setting, looking at websites and online images as well as talking about what might happen during their first days is helpful. If possible, during the school holidays taking a trip to the new school to allow your child to walk the grounds and play on the equipment in the playground will start to develop some familiarity for them.
Share your own experiences of managing changes in workplace or living places can be helpful. Make sure you emphasise the strategies you used to make things work well.
Both the Education Review Office and the Ministry of Education Research Division have some great research with a New Zealand schools focus to guide thinking about transition. Their findings suggest that rather than an event, transition is a process requiring students to make ongoing changes over an extended time as new challenges appear. Reassuringly for parents, by the end of their first year at secondary school most students in the studies reported many positive experiences at secondary school. They were making good academic gains and few when asked said they would rather return to primary or intermediate. Of interest is that it appears that for some students the second half of the year is a time that negative thoughts about High School appear rather than within the first few weeks.
Protective factors include ensuring that friendships are continued or established at the new school. Students who had friends transitioning to the same school benefited from this, but the new school environment also provided opportunities to make new friendships with a wider range of students. A sense of belonging through engaging in cultural and sporting activities was also a feature of successful transition along with the sense that teachers and school staff provided interesting and engaging lessons and demonstrated that they knew about and cared about their students.
How can parents help to ensure year 9, is a positive year that sets the scene for a successful secondary school career? Developmentally one of the key jobs of an adolescent is to begin to separate from their parents as they move towards adulthood. Parenting an adolescent is tricky as many of you will be aware already. It takes strategy. Keep in mind that at times your offers of help will be declined (possibly not very politely) just because your teen wants to be independent. Overall the best approach is to stay connected to the new school by attending any events that are open to parents such as meet and greets for new parents, parent teacher conferences, sporting events or other. Stay informed of what is happening at school by reading newsletters and school websites. Keep talking to your child about school when you can. Good times for talking are, in the car while you are driving them somewhere or while you are both engaged in a task together such as cooking or washing the car. If your child expresses any concerns, try a problem-solving approach. Generate a range of possible choices allowing your child to make the final choice for themselves. If you are concerned that things aren’t going well get in touch with school. Year level deans are usually responsible for the pastoral care of the children in their year level and will be interested in hearing from you.
Making the move to high school signals a time of change for both parents and children. Recognising this and adapting to the changes by using new strategies will help to make high school a time of positive learning and growth for parents and their children.
Working memory is a term I have heard teachers and parents mention recently. The first question really is what is working memory? Of note is that working memory is not a physical part of the brain. It is a model that provides a way for scientists to discuss and understand human function. The brain is very complex and multiple parts of the brain are implicated in the function we are calling working memory. The model is pictured with the Central Executive taking the role of the manager of lots of aspects of thinking including working memory, attention, reasoning, task flexibility, task solving, planning, and execution. The visuospatial sketch pad helps us to understand the world through visual perception and making meaning through vision. The Episodic Buffer is a combination of verbal and visual and tends to operate around highly memorable events. Phonological Loop provides understanding through language, hearing instructions, listening to music and talking to other people. As information is filtered through these processes and managed by the Central Executive it will eventually be stored in long term memory. This is when we can start to develop automaticity and fluency as we learn.
Attention has a big part to play in Working Memory. Interestingly there are two aspects to this. It is important that we can be inattentive to information that is not relevant to what we want to learn or in other words ignore distractions. The other aspect is of course being able to pay attention to something that is relevant to what we want to learn. Children who struggle with attention find that they struggle to filter out what is not important. For Working Memory to work well we need to be able to decide what to pay attention to and then actually pay attention to it. For parents and teachers figuring out who is paying attention can be difficult. It is hard to tell from the outside who is and isn’t paying attention. Attention requires considerable energy and paying close attention to a task can be extremely tiring.
So, what is happening when Working Memory fails? A great analogy is of post it notes. Everyone’s working memory is a different sized post it note but once you have filled the post it note with information the rest of the information just doesn’t fit. You or your child might have very large A3 sized post it notes while someone else may have a tiny post it note. Another analogy is of a coffee cup. Again, everyone has a different sized coffee cup but once the cup is full all the rest of the coffee will flow out of the top of the cup and be lost.
How can we help to support our Working Memory? The essentials are chunking information together, pacing information and rehearsal. Chunking means that instead of presenting information in single pieces we put them together. An example of this is the way we generally group numbers in a phone number together. A phone number might be presented as 021 515 2890 or in three chunks rather than 10 individual pieces of information. Ensuring that the pace of information is snappy, short and uses simple language. Rehearse information at least 4 times but some children with difficulty in this area may need between 10 -100 rehearsals. Have you ever gone out and then can’t remember if you locked the door? This is an example of working memory failing. In order to get around this you can say as you lock the door, I’ve looked the door up to 4 times so that you will be sure to remember.
Once you have the essentials in place there are some other additional things that help working memory. Ensure that the physical environment is well organised, and clutter is removed. A child with some difficulty with working memory may be able to recall your instructions to find their uniform shirt until they arrive at their room and then must search under the bed and in several different drawers. By the time they’ve done this they may well have forgotten what they were looking for. Look for eye contact or a physical signal that your child is listening (paying attention to what you are saying) when you ask them to do something. Make sure that your child has started on a task, once they get going, they are more likely to keep going but if you tell them to do something and their working memory has failed, they are unlikely to be able to start. Check that your child has the language to explain to you what they are experiencing. Sometimes children can become very frustrated because they don't’ know how to tell us that they don’t know how to do something, and they are experiencing an emotional reaction to it. Encouraging physical intense physical activity appears to provide stimulus to working memory. Provide opportunities for children to run around prior to them starting homework and they may well be able to produce better results.
As parents we can help our children to make the most of their working memories, some of the tips might help our working memories also.
Last week I talked about taking the pressure off your child if they are taking a little longer to acquire automaticity with reading, writing and arithmetic. This week I’d like to share some strategies that I’ve used when teaching children who are struggling to get to automaticity in some aspects of their learning. Many of the ideas are very simple and you may have tried them previously. The key is to select an approach, give it a go, if your child enjoys it and you find it doable then keep going with it for a while. Once you and your child have had enough of it, select another approach.
One of the most debunked but continually perpetuated myths about learning is that people have a learning style. I continue to run into people who talk about a child’s learning style. The research in this area is very consistent in its findings that people do not have a learning style which dominates compared to any other learning style. For more information and links to research check out this link from Yale University Centre for Teaching and Learning, https://ctl.yale.edu/LearningStylesMyth
What is true is that when we learn we need to be presented materials in a range of different ways so that it makes sense to us. We can’t predict accurately which way is going to work for everyone at a specific time, given their developmental and ability levels. Therefore, it is ideal to present information in a variety of ways. Anyone trying to learn something new should be given the opportunity to engage with this learning in different ways. So, pick something that appeals to you and your child and give it a go.
The kinds of things that are often best learned using the following strategies tend to be things like sound to letter correlation, or the understanding that a symbol such as A can sound like a as in apple or a as in paste, simple recognition of the name of a symbol such as the alphabet or numbers or symbols for mathematical operations such as + and - or basic maths facts.
Tips to ensure success and a fun (pain free) session:
Tip 1 limit the number of items to be learned. For example, if you are learning spelling words just start with 3 words. Once your child is confident with these then add in one or two new words, keeping the known words. This approach means that your child gets to quickly experience success and a sense of mastery from which they can build new learning.
Tip 2 choose a ‘good’ time. I know it’s hard to think about what a good time might be. My first option would be to ask your child when they would like to do this work. Driving in the car or walking somewhere together or while you are waiting for another activity to begin are all options.
Tip 3 be regular about sessions. Every day is ideal.
Tip 4 keep the sessions short and upbeat. A couple of minutes up to about 5 minutes is probably enough if the sessions happen daily.
Resources that might be helpful:
Flash cards, cards with individual pieces of information on them. This could be an alphabet letter or a number or a word. Flash cards can easily be created at home using sturdy card and a marker pen or you can purchase them.
Magnets on the fridge (or another magnet suitable surface). These can be purchased from two-dollar shops or the Warehouse and are usually in individual letter or number form.
Word or number rings, small numbers of words, letters or numbers threaded onto a small metal ring.
This kind of learning can also be done without any resources at all, through using body movements, to help with learning.
Smart chutes, https://www.smartkids.co.nz/collections/smart-chute. These are somewhat pricey so may not be ideal for everyone. A range of cards can be purchased ready made with high frequency words, basic facts, colours etc. I have also made my own cards which work just fine.
Play dough or other modelling clay
Crayons, paints, pens of various colours and thicknesses, paper
Let’s start with the no resource ideas. To keep things simple, I’ll just refer to one kind of learning, but most strategies could be used for either numeracy or literacy activities.
No resources required:
Ask your child to write out their spelling words, on the carpet or the wall, back of the car seat in front of them (any textured surface) using their finger. Sounding the words out at the same time.
Ask your child to spell out their words in the air using their finger. This can be done in the car while you are travelling to and from school or activities. If this approach seems to be working you could add in a tray of sand, salt, flour or any other textured material you can think of and ask your child to spell out their words in this material while saying the words aloud.
Once it turns dark you can use a flashlight to spell the words out on a wall or in the air.
When the weather is nice, and you can go outside, use a paint brush and a bowl of water to paint the words on concrete.
Minimal resources required:
Competition can sometimes keep children engaged in this kind of learning. If your child is learning to recognise high frequency words (check with your child’s school for a list of high frequency words) or basic maths facts, you can set up a table and time your child to see how quickly they can read their words or complete their basic maths facts. Children can compete against their own times or against a parent. This should be done with care to ensure that the child is experiencing success. I’d only try this once the child knows the information but perhaps needs to keep revisiting it so that they maintain their fluency. For example, if a child is learning basic facts and they know their doubles up to 10 (two times table) I’d perhaps start using the competition to maintain knowledge of doubles and increase fluency. I’d then begin teaching the three times table by having a ring of three problems that we went through daily adding one more problem once the child is competent with the first three.
Put the cards into a bag, take a word/problem/letter out and say it as quickly as possible.
Hide the cards around the house to create a treasure hunt. As each card is found read it out/solve the problem.
Hide the cards outside (on a fine day) to create a treasure hunt. As each card is found read it out/solve the problem.
Lay the cards out on the floor and encourage your child to jump from card to card reading it out/solving the problem.
Use the cards to create words. Often this will involve cards with alphabet letters on them create a selection of vowel letters (aeiou) and consonants so that children can create consonant vowel consonant pattern words. These are typically, cat, sat, mat and so on.
Lay the cards out on the floor and throw a bean bag or other on top of a card. Read the card aloud/solve the problem.
As your child reads the word on the card a loud ask them to trace their finger over the letters.
Lay the flash cards out on a flat surface with the words facing down. Ask your child to turn them over one at a time reading the words as they turn them over.
Magnetic letters or numbers:
Point to letters and ask your child to name them or produce their sound - recognising that some have more than one sound.
Ask your child to group them into words
Ask your child to create words and then exchange letters to create a new word. For example, ask your child to create sat then take the s away and ask them to make a new word such as cat.
Playdough or other modelling clay:
Ask your child to make letters using the dough or clay.
Join the letters together to make words.
Ask your child to create shapes to illustrate what they are learning
Flatten the dough and use a satay stick or toothpick to inscribe the dough with letters or words.
Select a few items to be learned, write them on sturdy card and attach to a split ring.
Use in a similar way to flash cards adding items to the ring as your child reaches competency with the first ones.
Word rings can be very useful when teaching basic facts, add enough cards to create one basic fact then add more so that the child can create more. For example, if you create a ring with a 1 card a 2 card and a 3 card you can ask your child what is 1+2 or what is 2+1 or what is 1+3 or 3+2.
Smart chutes are tubes with a lot at the top and bottom the child posts a card into the top slot and inside the chute the card is flipped and comes out the bottom slot upside down. The cards are marked on both sides. For example, a child posts a card showing 3+2 in the top and then it comes out the bottom showing 5. There is enough of a delay for the child to say the correct answer.
Crayons, paints, pens with a variety of colours and widths:
These provide the opportunity for children to be creative and choose different types of medium to write their words.
I hope you can find one or two ideas from this list to help you to support your child to become fluent in their knowledge of spelling words, letter knowledge, high frequency words, maths problems or symbols. If you have some ideas, I haven’t mentioned please share them in the comments section.
Robyn Stead, Child Psychologist and Educator, lives and works in central Auckland.