How to keep key language skills moving forward while having a fun and relaxing Christmas break.
Now, let's make this super clear from the start, children do not need to be bombarded with learning tasks over the Christmas period to keep their skills ticking over. They need a break from their usual routine even if it's not overly formal. The amount of skills developed purely from spending time with family are huge. Simple things like sharing ( social skills), taking turns in a conversation ( speaking and listening skills), managing tiredness ( personal awareness), winter walks ( learning about nature) ...we could go on, all culminate in development.
The point is, learning will not grind to a halt if you do absolutely nothing. However, post pandemic analysis shows us that children are generally on the back foot with their language skills so a little bit of fun, 'relaxed learning' that doesn't feel like an onerous task for anyone won't hurt and could make the transition back to school in January that little bit easier.
Why Keep Learning Ticking Over?
As mentioned, children need to have a rest from formal learning practice during the holidays and it's important to let them relax and enjoy all the festivities. This being said, it doesn't mean they can't keep key skills that they've worked hard to develop, 'ticking over'.
Post covid, educators are realising though formal assessment and observation that key language skills (oracy) are under developed for many children across all age ranges which has a direct impact on reading and writing progress. Learn more about the Oracy Skills Framework here.
Here at The Phive, we combined phonics with storytelling when we designed Enchanting Learning Cards. Placing talk at the heart of literacy skills gives children a chance to develop a good language base that underpins the reading and writing process. Speaking and listening skills are completely vital to successful reading and writing progress right from first words through to adulthood.
Having a light, fun and creative approach to keeping these skills moving forward will benefit your child when they arrive back to learning in a more formal way in January.
Here are 3 ways to integrate a little 'tick over' learning in the right way. We use Enchanting Learning Cards to illustrate each idea, you can of course implement these ideas in other ways, the cards make it a little easier to make things quick, easy and engaging without too much time and effort during an already busy time.
3 Ways to keep learning ticking over at Christmas!
1.Switching Out the Bedtime Story Book. A great way to give language skills a boost alongside problem solving, decision making, creative thinking and more, is to build a story without a book. Use Enchanting Learning Cards' red section for a great story opening to get the ideas flowing and then pull in some of the other cards looking at their illustrations for character and setting inspiration.
We think it's a great plan to tell a story over the course of a few sittings. The recap is a brilliant way to hone memory skills and then you build on it each time building up a brilliant collaboration between you and your child. Once you've completed the story and depending on the age of your child, they could then illustrate it, re-tell it to grandparents or even write it if they wanted to and are able.
We're not saying to abandon books, PLEASE don't do that! Just popping in a regular slot where stories are told without a book will give your child countless learning opportunities to boost language and associated skills. Have a read here for some tips on getting started with a story.
2.Storytelling Games with the Whole Family. If the telly gets a bit much and everyone's a bit turkey'd out, then grab your cards ( you do need some Enchanting Learning Cards for this one really) and play a round of Storytelling Mayhem. Each person selects a card from the pack, reads the story starter and then has to continue to for as long or short as they wish! You can also play where you read the story starter and the person to your left has to carry it on and then again the person to their left has to carry on until the story runs out of steam or becomes way too ridiculous!
Playing with storytelling in this way, across the generations is a brilliant way to see language modelled in different ways. No one needs to be an expert and it generally results in hilarity. Building memories while boosting language skills - WIN WIN!!
3.Weird Week Activities. When the hoopla of Christmas day is done we enter the weird week zone. No one knows what day it is, what they're supposed to eat or when they are supposed to sleep...it all goes odd. This is the time to do some fun activites centred around phonics ( if your child is learning to read) or writing ( picking up a pencil after 2 weeks of not doing so can be a shocker in January!). Now, this is the time where you could be tempted to get a little too structured. DON'T DO IT! Keep anything you do in this realm really lightheaded and fun. Visit our Creative Learning page for some ideas. Keep it short, interactive, fun, relaxed and useful. Don't ask your child to complete a worksheet, take the opportunity to set something up that you can both/all get involved in even if it's just a game of eye spy ( great for early phonics when played with sounds rather than letters!).
So to summarise, a little bit of 'tick over' learning, presented in a fun and engaging way is a good plan. Sitting your child down to complete a worksheet over Christmas would not be our advice nor would getting stressed about your child slipping backwards after the break. The most valuable thing you can give your child is your time and attention so if you don't get to do anything that looks like learning then don't worry. Sharing happy times is what it's all about!
Have a Happy Christmas!
The Phive Team xx
Photo Credits to: Rhiannon Abberley, Iris De Kan & Alexis Knight Photography with Terra Libra Talent Agency.