Without his device, Joey has been choosing to read books that give him more opportunities to interact during the read aloud. He wants to hold an animal, wave a magic wand, or move a velcroed piece around on his work tray. Last week I wondered just what was so appealing about Room on the Broom that we couldn’t break away from reading it. Through looking at what the Room on the Broom read aloud structure looks like for Joey, and considering that without his device read alouds can be more of a listening experience than an interactive one, I realized I needed to increase the opportunities for Joey to engage during a book. [Read more…]
What Makes a Good Book for Joey?
I’m not sure what I’ll do if I have to read Room on the Broom one more time with Joey (OK, truthfully we all know that I’ll read it and be as excited about reading it as I was the first time…) but I honestly am not sure I can. I’ve stretched the book as far as I can. We’ve counted characters forwards and backwards, identified rhyming words, acted it out, spent time on the prepositions of the book, talked about weather, emotions, and even friendship. Yet still, Joey latches onto it.
Joey critically eyes the box each time I see him, and waits for the right moment to request it in whatever manner is available to him. Without his device he is quick to point, make eye contact, give some verbal utterances, and point again, silently willing me to open up the box and pull out his favorite characters.
As I try to find another book he’ll love just as much I find myself wondering what exactly is so appealing about this book. He seems to want it even more now that he does not have his device. What makes Room on the Broom just so engaging and enjoyable for Joey that he requests to read it so often, even when we have so many other books around (so. many. others)?
There is comfort in the predictability of the book, which is especially comforting when Joey cannot share his thoughts and ideas. When we first started reading it he was excited to label the pictures and share what he observed in the pages. Now that he does not have his device, he is quick to request the toy that corresponds with each character, in the order the characters appear. He knows the comfortable routine of the story, and loves waving a magic wand during the repeated phrases. Without his device, this book gives him opportunities to interact.
The book seems to have the right mix of repetition and novel storyline to give Joey the opportunities to engage while also being entertaining. While Joey’s old favorite series, Pete the Cat, has a great repeated storyline, I’ve noticed he’s not as excited by these books lately. Although he can participate in the repeated phrases, these books don’t offer the same exciting story engagement that Room on the Broom does.
Today we are going to attempt to read The Gruffalo’s Child in hopes of matching Room on the Broom’s repetition and enjoyability. Fingers crossed that it is a fit.
“What comes next?” I asked Joey, holding up the 5 and a 14 number cards. We’d just put down four and were building a long number line. Joey looked me in the eyes, then promptly looked at the number 14. And then burst into a fit of giggles.
Right. The kid knew exactly what he was doing.
“14? 3, 4, 14? Is that how we count?” I acted huffy. “NO… it’s five!”
Joey looked solum as he I handed him the five and together we added it to the number line we were building. He remained calm as we counted the numbers we already had, touching each one to make sure we had one to one correspondence.
“Now, what comes next? 6 or 11?” I asked. Once again Joey burst into laughter. A body-shaking fit of giggles. Apparently 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 11 was too silly a concept for him. Math jokes.
“I work so hard and drive all the way here and you tell me that we say 4, 5, 11?”
Joey laughed harder.
Joey clearly didn’t understand or care that I was seeing if he could identify the correct numeral in a sequence from a field of two choices. He thought it was hysterical to count incorrectly, or to just give me the wrong answer. Whatever was happening in his mind was funny, and his giggles were contagious.
I tried to keep myself together but it was hard. Every time we got serious he’d look at the incorrect answer and giggle again. Head back, whole body shaking giggles. As though our math work was a comedy routine.
By the time we got to the higher numbers 11 through 15 – Joey was a bit more unsure, and wouldn’t laugh until I’d told him the right answer. Then he’d look at the wrong one. So even though he completely refused to complete my work correctly, I came away with knowing that he can order his numbers 1-10, so now I can target my instruction on the teen numbers (between giggles of course).
Joey can be serious and has been known to say “work” on his device when I arrive because he’s ready to get to it. Sometimes when I try to get us into silly back and forth pretend play experiences he drops the toy, not interested in my games. “Read,” he’ll say in response to my silliness. But math jokes? Yeah – he’s got ‘em.
I love his uncontrollable laughter and his sense of humor, and that once again he found a way of taking my plans and turning them into his own, while still showing me he could complete the task.
Thinking Vocabulary and Theory of Mind
Every time I see Joey these days he seems to have more words on his device. His vocabulary is exploding, and he spends most of his time exploring these new words. During these times it is always hard for me to track his meaning and determine if he is exploring where his words are, trying to communicate a message, or if he is unintentionally hitting the new words while seeking out the old ones. I’ve learned to sit back and listen to him and give meaning to his words when I can.
In the most recent set of words, Joey gained the ability to communicate the idea of thought with the words think, thinks, thinking, and idea. It surprised me how much deeper he was able to communicate once he could add these words to his thoughts.
Before any child can truly use these words they need to develop a theory of mind – or the ability to assign ideas, thoughts, and emotions to oneself and others. In typical development, a child’s theory of mind is developing between the ages of zero and five years old. This is often behind much of the terrible twos and three-nager behaviors. Our kids may be developing their own theory of mind, but they haven’t begun to understand that others have thoughts, feelings, and ideas different than their own.
To be honest, I had never thought much about Joey’s theory of mind, but I realize now that is because he did not have any way to tell me “I have an idea,” “I think”, or to say “I think the cat is thinking…” These words simply were not on his device yet.
I didn’t know they had been added until Joey grinned at me and said “Have idea funny”, and “wow a lot idea funny”. Suddenly Joey can tell us that he has an idea. Instead of just asking for something (His idea was to read a funny book), he can tell us what he is thinking. To do this he has to understand that he has thoughts and ideas. The concept of idea is intangible, and yet Joey was using it correctly.
Later, when I labeled a character in a book as a monster Joey gave me a look and said “think lobster”. Joey and I have a long running debate over whether the proper word for monster is monster or lobster. Now that he has the word think he can actually debate me more efficiently. Instead of “No lobster” he clearly let me know that he thinks it is lobster.
Communicating with these new words seems small, and yet, it gives Joey the chance to let us know what he is thinking. It also lets us know that Joey is thinking. He knows he is thinking and that he has ideas, and he understands that he can communicate those thoughts and ideas with us without just stating them or demanding them.
It is exciting to learn more about Joey each time he gains access to new words. I love watching this boy emerge from behind his physical limitations and show us all he is capable of.
Turning the Tables
In my ongoing work with Joey I’ve learned that he doesn’t like to be prompted to use particular words. If I prompt him to use want, he’ll use every word BUT want, or will refuse to talk to me. It’s taken me awhile, but I’ve eventually learned to use more naturalistic methods and to accept Joey’s total communication, instead of demanding him to use the words I choose.
So I was amused the other day when I asked Joey to give me a picture card he was holding. “Can I have it?” I asked. He pulled it away. I assumed it was unintentional, because he often has difficulty with his motor planning. Yet then he turned to his screen and highlighted the word give.
“Can you give me the card?” I asked.
He smiled and immediately gave me the card.
My friend was prompting me to use a particular word. He didn’t give me what I wanted until said give, which he first had to model for me to use.
Touche, my friend.
Let me tell you, it didn’t feel so great to be forced to use a certain word when what I’d said meant the same thing.
Joey may have just been connecting the core word give with my demand, but it sure felt like I was being prompted to change my language.
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