Monday, May 28, 2012

Stop and Talk About It

We have been listening to a great CD filled with dinosaur songs called Most Amazing Dinosaur Songs by Music for Little People. The songs are fun and engaging, set to the tunes of familiar songs like Old McDonald Had a Farm and My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean. However, there are so many words that are beyond the vocabulary level of my 2 1/2 year old. But I am not going to let that stop us from enjoying it together! This reminded me of how important it is to pause the music and talk about what you are hearing. As adults we tend to just sing along or transfer the music to the back speakers so that we don't have to listen to the songs again! But our little ones are hearing some of these words for the first time.

Songs usually provide good context to figure out what the meaning of the word is and this is a good skill for down the road (context clues are something most kids learn to understand and use in school) but what about our little ones, our preschoolers? They don't have the refined skill of using the content in the song to figure out what unfamiliar words mean. That is where we come in! When we hear a word that we think, "hmm, I don't know if she knows that word" PAUSE the CD! Ask what the word means. If they tell you, un-pause the song and keep enjoying it. If they tell you the wrong answer or say (the famous) "I don't know" you can use the opportunity to talk about the word, bring up other places where they may have heard the word and use the word in a new sentence.

On the Most Amazing Dinosaur Songs CD, one of the first songs uses the word "eon." It's sad to say, but I looked it up to make sure that I was using the right definition. Eon, according to my app, (we were at a red light in the car) means "an indefinitely long period of time." During one of the speaking passages one character asks "Do you know what a paleontologist is?" What a perfect invitation to stop and talk! After we pause the CD and talk about a paleontologist, we start the CD again and she immediately tells the answer, so not only is my daughter hearing it from me, it is reinforced on the CD. We do this almost every time we hear the song. Currently, I have to give her part of the answer. If you were sitting in my car today, it would sound something like this:

"Do you know what a paleontologist is?"
      "I don't know."
"A paleontologist is someone who loves...."
"Yes! A paleontologist loves to study dinosaurs! Good job"

As she gets a better understanding of the word, I will reduce how much information I give her. I'll say "A paleontologist is..." but we'll get there! Sometimes reducing the language demand (the length of the sentence and actually saying "paleontologist") helps them say what they really do know.

Further in the CD is a song that says "paleontology ball." So, I thought, does she know what a ball is? Her answer was about a toy ball. So we talked about Cinderella and how there was the big dance where she met the prince and how that big dance was called a Ball. We said a ball can be a toy or it can mean a big dance. We actually signed the different meaning so that she could conceptualize the words. We signed "ball" when we said "ball" for the toy and signed "dance" when we said "ball" for the dance.
"Ball" (the toy)


I could go on and on about CD's where I pause the song and talk about a vocabulary word, but I think you get my point. Let me bring up one more idea. Pause the song when you want to talk about a concept, too. I know that my daughter is young but we talk about drugs, alcohol, driving skills and relationships. There is a song on one of her silly songs CD that talks about a boy and a girl in a little canoe. When they get into the middle of the lake, the boy says "you better kiss me or get out and swim." How disturbing! We paused the CD and talked (well, she listened) about what to do when you get into uncomfortable situations where you are asked to do something you don't want or shouldn't do. CDs and music provide so many topics of conversation!

Engage your child in conversations about the songs that they are listening to and you will build stronger vocabulary, better language skills and a closer relationship with you! Happy listening and talking!

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