As much as we try to limit screen time, sometimes it isn’t always possible! I should know! Somehow my toddler has weaseled his way into watching an episode of “Curious George” a day. I blame his adorable smile :)
So instead of always fighting it, I decided to come up with some speech language learning activities for our older children that will make both of us happy!
TV actually has a lot of language learning opportunities; however, parents must be involved to make it work.
If you have a DVR, TiVo, Roku, Apple TV or any other TV recording/internet streaming device hooked up to your TV, these activities are for you! If you don't, you can always perform the activities below during commercials.
Below I will outline different ways to work on answering questions and narrative structure skills which are both essential for oral language and reading comprehension development. TV shows are like books. They tell a story and we are going to utilize that!
For all the goals listed below you will sit down with your child to watch their favorite show. Explain to him/her that you are going to watch an episode together and talk about all the exciting things that are happening. You are going to periodically pause the show and ask some questions and make some guesses. You are going to see who gets it right! (or put whatever spin you want to on it to make it fun!)
Below, I outline different goals based on age and/or language skills. I suggest starting from the beginning and moving through each one.
Who, Where, and What...Doing
Age: 3 Years and Older
Directions: Being able to answer WH questions such as “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” “how,” and “what doing" is a very important language skill. By 3 years of age, a child should be able to answer "when," "where," and "what..doing" questions.
To play this game, pause the TV at different times and ask your child "who," "where," and "what...doing" questions such as:
If your child is having difficulty answering these questions, give a choice of 2 or 3 options to model what type of response your question requires. Also, you can expliciting explain….”who” means a person, “where” means a place, etc…
When, Why, How
Age: 4 Years and Older
Directions: Once your child can answer "who," "what doing" and "where" questions, start pausing the TV and asking "when," "why," and "how" questions. The directions to play this game are the same as above. Intermittently, pause the show and ask your questions such as:
These questions require a bit more reasoning skills instead of just recalling facts. Therefore, to help your child learn, you may want to use the "think out loud" technique. To do this, answer your own question and explain what clues in the show helped you come up with your answer. Basically, just think out loud :) For example:
Being able to sequence events in a story is important for oral story telling, writing stories, and reading comprehension.
Age: 5 Years and Older
Directions: Again, pause the show somewhere in the middle and review what has happened to far. Focus on sequence words such as “first,”second,” “next,” and “last.” At first, you may need to model how to do this task. Once your child has had a few exposures, encourage him or her to retell the events in order.
Repeat this again at the end of the show. To make it more fun, you can always challenge each other to see how much each can remember.
Tip: If your child is having trouble remembering details and putting them in order, pause the show earlier. Your child will have less to recall but still practice the important skill of sequencing!
Prediction is an important reading comprehension skill. Being able to predict helps to improve overall comprehension and recall of material as well as work on reasoning skills.
Ages: 6 Years and Older
Directions: Working on prediction can fun but challenging for some! To do this activity, you will again pause the TV show and ask your child a prediction question. For example, once an event happens in the show, pause it and ask “what do you think will happen next?” That's it!
If your child is having difficulty with this task, talk them through it ("think out loud" technique). Don’t just simply give the answers. Talk about your reasoning and what clues in the show make you think what you think.
Fun tip: Once your child gets good at this, make it a challenge. Both of you guess and see who is right.
Age: 4 Years and Older
Directions: At the end of the episode, work on retelling the story. This can be complicated for some children. What to expect from a child will depend on the age.
By 4 years old, your child should include the characters, setting, problem, and what happened at the end.
By 5 years old, your child should include the characters, time, setting, problem, and what happened at the end.
By 6 years old, your child should include the characters, time, setting, problem, feelings, plan, attempts to solve the problem, and what happened at the end.
Who know TV could be so useful?~
A Trick: The earlier you start these "games" with your child, the better. They will get used to you stopping the show and asking questions. If your child is older and has been watching TV solo for awhile, he or she may find this annoying at first. Get creative and find ways to motivate your child!
Thanks for reading!