Let Your Child Have the Last Word
By Shara Lawrence-Weiss
I’m having so much fun thinking back over my earlier parenting (and nanny/preschool) years and dipping into some of the strategies that worked well. Here’s an idea I continue to love and use:
I sing often with my kids. While training them to memorize the songs I start to sing and I stop short at the last word. As they begin to memorize the song over time, I stop short by several words so they have to fill in more of the blanks.
Mom: Twinkle, twinkle little star. How I wonder what you _______.
Mom: Up above the world so _______
Mom: Like a diamond in the _______
Mom: Twinkle, twinkle little _______
Mom: How I wonder what you _______
Child: Y and Z
Mom: Now I know my _______
Mom: Next time won’t you _______
Child: sing with me!
This has also worked really well (for my kids) when it comes to reading. Below is a video of my daughter reading a book that I wrote for her. She was 2.5 years old and was simply finishing the words in the story, after I got her going. She’s now six and is actively reading books and learning about phonics at school.
Here’s another video showing my daughter reading a Dr. Seuss story by finishing the last word. She quickly memorized that book and was able to read it, on her own, by the age of 3.5.
This is such a simple strategy yet it’s rendered hours of fun and learning for my kids. My three eldest children have memorized oodles of songs this way, enhancing their vocabulary and language development. Here are some of the songs we most enjoy singing in this format (where I begin the sentences and they finish). Once they have memorized a song, we move on to more difficult ones.
– Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (We do hand motions to this song.)
– ABC’s (Sometimes we sign the letters with this one – ASL.)
– You Are My Sunshine, My Only Sunshine (With this song, my daughter loved it when I would mix up the endings. For instance, we’d sing, “Please don’t take my KIPPER away!” Rather than saying her name at the end, we’d substitute the name of a TV character or farm animal and she thought that was hilarious. In fact, just the other night she reminded me that we used to do this when she was younger. It’s been two years since we sang the song that way but she still remembers it).
– Jesus Loves Me (With this song, I decided to mix up the lines a bit. We sing, “Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves you. Yes, Jesus loves us, the Bible tells me so.” Rather than saying me three times which I, personally, found a little narcissistic.)
– My God is So Big (We do the hand motions to go along.)
– This Is The Day (Great song to sing in order to encourage gratitude.)
– This Little Light of Mine (We use hand motions with this one.)
– I Love You, You Love Me (Barney song: we hug and kiss on the forehead to go along with the verses.)
– The Frog Song (We always do the funny hand motions and we sing the song more quickly than this preschool class did.)
– Wishy Washy Washer Woman (so far I’ve only taught my kids the first verse – we need to learn the others!)
I modified this song for my children to say, “Deep in the woods where nobody goes…” We used to live in the woods.
You can carry this on in multiple ways, even with storytelling. I recently wrote a post for Games for Educators offering a few storytelling games to use in the car. You can read the tips here: Games for Educators: Emergent Literacy Games