This month’s featured writer is Steph from Twodaloo. Steph is a former speech language pathologist who writes about her days with toddler twins. Be sure to pop over and say hi.
Thank you so much, Kate, for having me over today! Your blog has been an inspiration to so many and I am overjoyed to be sharing my enthusiasm for language and literacy with your readers.
As a former speech-language pathologist, creating a communication-rich environment for my twins (age 2.75) is very important to me. I try to find meaningful ways to weave language and literacy into our everyday lives that we can do as a family – I find that the less elaborate and more organic the activity, the more likely we are to make it a regular part of our routine. Today I’d love to share one of our favourite rituals – using our family chalkboard to talk about our day.
In our daily rhythm, most of our adventures happen in the morning hours between breakfast, lunch and nap time. We might go for an outing to a park or playdate with friends, or do a fun art activity.
Once we sit down for lunch together, we recall the events of our morning. I love listening to their sweet voices as they tell me what they remember. The details that they recall and the way that they describe them are a valuable window into their little minds and an important reminder of what they found meaningful about the experience.
Something I started doing when the twins had just turned two and still speaking very telegraphically is documenting the morning’s events using a combination of words and drawn pictures on a simple magnetic chalkboard that I created and hung on the wall above the dining room table.
I do this during our lunchtime chat and then we practice retelling the story a few times before nap. We keep it to a few short phrases/sentences and use lots of scaffolding (pointing to pictures, fill-in-the-blank prompts, etc.) when we are talking. The pictures help the twins retell the story by serving as visual cues and reducing the amount of verbal prompting needed from me.
The drawings also serve as literacy boosters by helping the twins associate words with the picture symbols. The twins LOVE this activity- they get so excited when I bring their words to life with my silly little chalk drawings!
Some days we might bring back mementos from our outings, like a pretty leaf from the park or a napkin from the ice cream shop. I took some clothespins and glued magnets to the back so that I can clip these mementos to the chalkboard to provide a concrete representation or link to a past event, which is often very helpful to children who are trying to describe something abstract like a memory.
If someone special came to visit that day, I might add a photo of that person to the board if I have one handy. Sometimes I use the chalkboard to write funny or interesting things the twins have said that day so I can remember to tell my husband about those details, too.
Once Daddy is home from work and we are sitting around the dinner table, the chalkboard comes in handy when we are talking about the events of the day.
Having our scribbles and mementos on the chalkboard:
- helps Daddy understand the twins’ conversation attempts by providing some background information
- helps the twins recall and retell the day’s events without as much verbal prompting from me
- helps me remember fun details from the day to tell my husband
- serves as a pre-reading skill builder
- helps the twins develop early story-telling skills such as picking out the most important details to share and putting them in order
- serves as a vocabulary building aid
The most important part of this ritual, however, is that it’s something we look forward to every night as part of our family time. We’ve used this simple tool to establish a routine that helps us connect with each other in a meaningful way, which is at the heart of a literacy-rich environment.
As the twins’ storytelling skills continue to grow, how we use the chalkboard will evolve to fit our needs – we are already much less dependent on it than we were when we began using it. But it’s a powerful reminder that creating a literacy-rich environment isn’t dependent on fancy materials, but meaningful experiences.