You need certain accessories for this activity. A box of Marvel Lego, a local multiplex showing a thrilling Lego Batman movie and a helpful big brother with encyclopaedic knowledge of the characters. Squid’s target is to learn to use pronouns reliably; we set out together to restore justice to Gotham.
1) We ferreted through the Lego to pick out character minifigures. I also wrote key words on paper. This is not essential – but she reads quite well – so having the words to look at is a useful additional reinforcement.
2) I reminded her that we say ‘he’ for a boy and ‘she’ for a girl. We put all the minifigures into a tin bucket shouting ‘he’/ ‘she’ (depending on the gender obviously. And obviously I was doing the shouting and she was joining in. Since the point is that she mixes them up all the time!)
3) She shut her eyes and picked a figure at random. The figure ‘walked’ to three paper squares and ‘chose’ the correct one (he/she/it). I then supplied ‘is’ (squeezing in an excuse to encourage use of ‘little words’ that she often misses). Then she had to choose to complete the sentence with ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
4) Her brother kindly provided a jail and a party room. So we continued with “She is bad. She goes to jail.”
5) #get_real Of course – after six/seven rounds she started sagging – and we limped to a round dozen of doing this in a structured way before I let her just play with the toys. However, she used more pronouns in her play afterwards than before, so I think it sunk in a bit. Also, her brother picked up on her learning target, and helpfully seemed to make a point out of using lots of pronouns in their game (“He is going to kill Batman! Oh no, she is coming to stop him! She is too slow! He is dead! “ . Gruesome but helpful. )
Squid’s Dad found this excellent little activity book – which had a helpful page with each pony’s special friendship skills. She doesn’t know any of those words – but she knows all those ponies – so it was a nice hook to chat about what makes a good friend.
The great thing about doing ‘social skills’ through the ponies is that it is one step removed. There is no personal judgement of her or her behaviour – she can be the external observer with a birds-eye unemotive view of the ponies. And I’m hoping the theoretical lessons will translate into practical friendship skills. And the darn blighters are so cute it was a nice rainy-day activity in any case.
Let me take you back a few hours. It all started quite sensibly. Family learning homework being to do something (anything) on the topic of ‘flowers’. Flowers: we know. Roses, daffodils, bluebells, daisies: we love but we don’t know. Petal, stem, leaf: blank.
Like many other school interactions – I take it as a tip-off for what classroom discussion will be about – and disappear down a rabbit hole of trying to prepare Squidling to be able to participate properly. Without making Squidling’s life feel like one long remedial class.
Here is what we made. We have flower names, we have parts of the flower, we have cued hours of discussion using this new vocabulary. We have second degree glue gun burn on the index finger of my non-dominant hand and we are probably in line for side-comments about unnecessary performance parenting.
Tomorrow I think we’ll make cake pops with green stems, wide leaves (and maybe a few narrow leaves) and of course lots of pink petals. Because I want her world to be beautiful and vibrant and not defined by the words she doesn’t know. A box of rose petals is the best way I know how.
Ponies work hard here. Their big eyes bring charm to the toy box. They’re a peer acceptable interest for a school aged girl. And every week they give a tutorial on an aspect of female friendships.
Although the cartoons are at the top end of her comprehension – this hasn’t been a problem. One of her current speech targets are to improve her narrative speech (tenses, sentence length, connectives etc). We have a special box of mini ponies that we bring out after every episode, and replay the story together after we’ve watched the cartoon.
It has taken us a few attempts to get it working. First few times she loved the cartoons, but couldn’t tell me anything about it afterwards. I’d not stayed in the room, but I found this amazing fan site with full transcripts for the episodes, so I could prompt her with the actual lines from the show. Now I’ve got hooked on the little blighters myself started staying in the room and keeping half an eye on the TV while I’m tidying, so that we can roll straight into the game and I know the story. My little girl is now coming out with much more detailed information about what she’s seen. I’m presuming that she’s watching with more attention – or maybe it’s her overall narrative speech improving. One helpful thing is that since we both watched the same show, I can often guess what she’s trying to say even if her speech is unclear. I think that this is giving my daughter positive reinforcement to try more complicated narrative sentence forms. If she can even get a third of the words plausibly correct, I can figure out what she means and echo back with the correct grammar without breaking the flow of the play.
Thank you to the Bronies for putting me onto this!