Helping Children Communicate - MCE Handbook

  • Helping Children Communicate
    Increasingly, students’ success at school is dependent on them developing effective reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. Learning to communicate effectively, to master the skills one needs not only to learn but also to know how to learn has replaced outdated goals associated with rote learning.  This trend is reflected in the focus of such state standardized tools as the English/Language Arts test for fourth graders. Parents can play an invaluable role in helping their children achieve success in school and in the world by modeling and requiring effective communication skills at home.

    It is no secret that students benefit greatly by incorporating daily reading into their routines. Reading aloud to your children, or having them read to themselves or aloud to you, contributes greatly to their academic development.  In addition, you can help your children by talking about what’s been read; moving the discussions from Literal Comprehension (e.g. “Johnny went to the store.”—Where did he go?) to Inferential Comprehension (“Johnny went to the store.” –Why did he go there?). Such discussions help your children achieve a higher level of understanding, moving from the “what” to the “why” and “how.”

    Daily reading helps children achieve better writing, but there are also many other opportunities for you to help your children improve their writing. Some ways include leaving notes or “mail” for them and encouraging them to respond to you; requiring that they go ahead and write those thank-you notes instead of buying pre-printed ones or printing them out on the computer; and keeping a family journal in which family members take turns writing entries. Activities that fit best with your own family’s lifestyle and routines are the ones most likely to be carried out.

    Promoting listening skills is a prime focus of teachers and staff in MCE. Parents can help by encouraging active listening skills at home—i.e., remind your children to make eye contact when they are speaking or being spoken to; teach them to respond when someone talks to them; and--hard as it is to enforce—give directions only once so they learn that they have to listen (it helps if you ask them to repeat back to you what you said). Modeling good listening skills at home is, of course, an important part of instruction.

    There are numerous opportunities to help your children improve their speaking skills. Telling riddles and jokes; making up stories on car rides (one person says a sentence and then the next person has to continue the story, etc.); and asking them to tell you one good and one bad thing about their day can help. Having your children practice phone skills and introductions are also helpful exercises.