Building Critical Thinking Skills for Literacy Success
When sharing books with your child it’s important to help them understand the story. If young children understand the stories they hear, it’ll be easier for them to read and write their own stories later on. Your child needs to use critical thinking skills to understand stories. These skills include;
Explaining why – encourage your child to come up with explanations (e.g. ask questions that could have different explanations, such as “why does the bear have fur?” or “why did Susie go to the shops?”)
Having opinions – encourage your child to offer opinions about what they like about different objects, events and experiences (e.g. “I like going to the park because I get to play on the playground”)
Understanding other people’s perspectives – encourage your child to consider situations from different points of view (e.g. ask; “how do you think he feels?”, “what do you think she’s thinking right now?” or “why do you think he wants to do that?”)
Predicting – encourage your child to think about what might happen next (e.g. ask “what do you think will happen next?” ask your child to explain why they think that.)
Thinkingabout solutions – encourage your child to solve problems. Help to describe the problem and think of different solutions and decide on the best option. (E.g. “Uh-oh, your lunch bag is missing. What else can we use to carry your lunch?”)
(Adapted from: More than ABCs: Building the critical thinking skills your child needs for literacy success. Hanen.org 2016)
Children have the same emotions and feelings that we do, such as happiness, anger, frustration, embarrassment and sadness. However, they often don’t have the language to be able to talk about these feelings and understand them. This can sometimes result in children acting out as a response to these feelings, or a way to express them. By talking to your child about what they are feeling, linking the feeling to the cause, and practicing appropriate responses, children can begin to understand emotions.
Name the emotion for the child (E.g. “Daddy has gone away on a trip. You are sad because you can’t see him now”)
Help the child to identify feelings in other people, including yourself (E.g. “I am happy that you cleaned up all your toys! I have a big smile on my face!”)
Teach and model for your child theappropriate ways to respond to feelings (i.e. encourage them to talk about why they are upset, instead of throwing a temper tantrum).
Read books and pay attention to the feelings that the characters’ experience (E.g. “Look at Goldilocks’s face- she feels scared because she saw the three bears!”)
Give your childpositive praise when they react appropriately to their emotions, and when they try to talk to you about it. (E.g. “Well done for not shouting when you were excited! I liked the way you used a calm voice!)”
Theory of mind involves understanding that people have thoughts and beliefs, that may differ from our own. Understanding other people’s perspectives is essential for communication. When children have difficulty developing their theory of mind, it makes it difficult to understand why people say and do things, tell stories, make friends, and engage in pretend play.
Here are some simple things you can do at home with your child to promote his or her theory of mind.
Role play – when children pretend to be someone else it helps them think about other people’s points of view (e.g. if your child is pretending to be a doctor, you could be the patient. Talk to your child as if he is a doctor, “Doctor, my leg really hurts. Can you help me?”).
Sharing storybooks – discuss what characters might be thinking or feeling, their ideas and reactions (e.g. I think Monkey feels worried because he’s lost his mum).
By helping your child tune in to others, you will build their ability to think about others’ perspectives, and ultimately, this will help them to be a better storyteller, playmate and conversation partner.
When you ask your child about their day at school, they may simply say “good”. When children give brief responses it can be difficult to keep the conversation going. The following strategies can help to extend conversation.
Talk about a topic that is of interest to your child.
Use objects (e.g. a toy, or pictures and photographs) to encourage discussion.
Ask open-ended questions to encourage longer responses, rather than answering “yes/no” (e.g. “what did you like about school today?” or “what was your favourite part of the movies?”).
Encourage your child to retell stories, talk about their favourite TV show, or explain the rules of a game to generate extended conversation.
Give your child thinking time. Wait a little longer to allow them to express ideas and gather their thoughts.