Responsive Language

By Amy Kuessel, TLC Teaching Assistant

Responsive language is a way of speaking with children that uses reason and logic, encourages independence, uses nurturing control, and encourages elaboration. Responsive language helps children develop oral language skills, self-expression, and social-emotional skills related to peer and adult interactions. The opposite of responsive language is restrictive language. Restrictive language asserts power, discourages independence, is controlling, and has a lecturing tone. 

It seems natural to ask children questions to elicit responses, but research shows that asking pointed questions can raise the anxiety of a child and thus limit the complexity of a child's language and response. Questions can be restrictive when a child worries about giving an adult the "right" answer, or about selecting his or her words to stay in the parameters of the question. Responsive language creates opportunities for children to speak freely, using an expanded vocabulary and independent thought. Some suggestions for using responsive language when conversing with a child include:

1) Repeat: Repeating what the child said opens up the conversation and lets them know they are heard, and that the adult is receptive to the child elaborating on his or her statement.

2) Expand: Repeat what the child said and expand on it in your response. This helps guide the child's thoughts down new paths, keeping the conversation open and moving.

3) Self-talk: Use self-talk to teach children how to connect actions with language. In self-talk, a parent or guardian narrates what they are thinking and feeling. For example, "I like strawberries on my cereal," "I am slicing carrots for your lunch."

4) Parallel talk: In parallel talk, the parent or caregiver repeats what the child may be doing, feeling, and thinking to help the child connect language with their actions and feelings. Parallel talk almost always starts with "you," for example, "You are playing with your blocks," or "You are chewing your spaghetti."

5) Modeling: Modeling is another way to maintain a conversation with a child, but this time without using the child's words. This type of responsive language helps a child learn new ways to say things, while guiding them to elaborate on a topic or thought.

Strategies that support children's learning and give and take in conversation help children develop language skills, independent thought, and social-emotional skills. Responsive language is a great and easy strategy to give kids a head start in the development of these positive skills!

Tournament of Children's Books, Round 2

Round 1 of TLC's Tournament of Children's Books has been tallied, and the winners are in! Books moving forward include:

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom vs. Goodnight Moon

Judge's commentary: Well Dan, it was a tough battle between Goodnight Moon and The Kissing Hand, with Goodnight Moon just inching into the next round. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, though, swept Cookie's Week under the rug! As one of our teachers said, it's hard to compete with a title as fun to say as "chicka chicka BOOM BOOM!" The kids love it!

"I read The Kissing Hand to my kids before their first day of school every year" - TLC Speech Therapist Trish Iannacito

The Cat in the Hat vs. Where the Wild Things Are

Judge's Commentary: My goodness! Two classics go head-to-head in this bout. Things are going to get "wild" between a wily cat and a wild rumpus. I can't wait to see what happens.

"My mommy read me that story" - Alex, TLC preschooler

Knuffle Bunny vs. If You Give a Pig a Pancake

Judge's Commentary: If I had to pick a clear lead in this competition, Knuffle Bunny is where I'd put my money. The little-stuffed-rabbit-that-could was a consistent kid and staff favorite on almost every bracket; the poor Panda didn't stand a chance in this playoff. Maybe next year he'll focus on his offensive game.

The Rainbow Fish vs. Jamberry

Judge's Commentary: Who would have thought a tiny fish could take down three bears? Even small ones? Too bad for Tacky, being bipedal was't enough to help him take down the jam-loving bear in Jamberry. I heard they settled the winner through a dance-off, and nobody beats the jam party bear in a dance-off. Maybe next year, Tacky!

"Tacky was such a silly penguin!" - Shea, TLC preschooler

We'll see you next week for Round 3! Did your favorite make it through this time? 

"Tiki Tiki Tembo is our true class favorite book!" - Ms. Ashlee's preschool class

Some of the class projects and story quilt squares displayed on the walls at TLC. This week in the Tournament we say farewell to Tacky, the pig, Cookie, and the Hungry Bear.

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Tournament of Children's Books

March Madness is upon us, and TLC is celebrating by bracketing our favorite reads of 2015 to determine which book will win it all. Our teachers, therapists, preschoolers, toddlers, and pediatric therapy kiddos will help determine which book wins each bracket. Check back next week to find out who moves on to Round 2! Comment below to tell us your favorite. If you'd like to purchase a book through Amazon, please use Amazon Smile to help support TLC! Find us on Amazon Smile under our full name, The Tiny Tim Center.

Our starting line-up of excellent books:

Cookie's Week by Cindy Ward: This sweet and simple tale of a mischievous kitten's antics through each day of the week will appeal to children and feline fanatics of all ages.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. (Author), John Archambault (Author), Lois Ehlert (Illustrator): In this lively alphabet rhyme, the letters of the alphabet race up the cocunut tree. Will there be enough room? Oh, no - Chicka Chicka Boom! Boom!

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown  (Author), Clement Hurd (Author): In a great green room, tucked away in bed, is a little bunny. "Goodnight room, goodnight moon." And to all the familiar things in the softly lit room -- to the picture of the three little bears sitting on chairs, to the clocks and his socks, to themittens and the kittens, toeverything one by one -- the little bunny says goodnight.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn  (Author), Ruth E. Harper (Illustrator), Nancy M. Leak (Illustrator): School is starting in the forest, but Chester Raccoon does not want to go. To help ease Chester's fears, Mrs. Raccoon shares a family secret called the Kissing Hand to give him the reassurance of her love any time his world feels a little scary.

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss: Poor Dick and Sally. It's cold and wet and they're stuck in the house with nothing to do . . . until a giant cat in a hat shows up, transforming the dull day into a madcap adventure and almost wrecking the place in the process!

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear by  Don Wood  (Author, Illustrator), Audrey Wood  (Author): First published in 1984, a picture book in which the Little Mouse will do all he can to save his strawberry from the Big, Hungry Bear, even if it means sharing it with the reader.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak: Max dons his wolf suit in pursuit of some mischief and gets sent to bed without supper. Fortuitously, a forest grows in his room, allowing his wild rumpus to continue unimpaired. 

Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann: It's bedtime at the zoo, and all the animals are going to sleep. Or are they? Who's that short, furry guy with the key in his hand and the mischievous grin?

Zen Shorts by Jon J Muth  (Author), Jon J. Muth  (Illustrator): "Michael," said Karl. "There's a really big bear in the backyard." This is how three children meet Stillwater, a giant panda who moves into the neighborhood and tells amazing tales. 

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems: Trixie, Daddy, and Knuffle Bunny take a trip to the neighborhood Laundromat. But the exciting adventure takes a dramatic turn when Trixie realizes somebunny was left behind!

Curious George by H. A. Rey  (Author), Margret Rey (Author): In this, the original book about the curious monkey, George is taken from the jungle by the man in the yellow hat to live in a new home, but--oh, what happened! Though trying to be good, George is still very curious and takes a swim in the ocean, escapes from jail, and goes for a flying ride on a bunch of balloons.

If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff (Author), Felicia Bond (Illustrator): If you give a pig a pancake, she'll want some syrup to go with it. You'll give her some of your favourite maple syrup, and she'll probably get all sticky, so she'll want to take a bath. She'll ask you for some bubbles. When you give her the bubbles...

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister  (Author), J Alison James  (Translator): A beautiful fish learns to make friends by sharing his most prized possessions.

The Three Bears by Paul Galdone: This familiar nursery tale features a warmly appealing bear family and a naughty, gap-toothed Goldilocks.

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester  (Author), Lynn Munsinger (Illustrator): Tacky's perfect friends find him annoying until his odd behavior saves the day.

Jamberry by Bruce Degen: A boy is squired through a fantastic world of berries by an endearing, rhyme-spouting bear. Their adventure comes to a razzamatazz finale under a starberry sky.


The winners of Round 1 will be posted next week, so check back! Until then, let us know YOUR favorite book, and why you love it.

View Round 2

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Learning Letters with Zoo-phonics


By Amanda Brunning, TLC Preschool Teacher

TLC uses research-based curriculum to teach early literacy skills to all of our students.  Zoo-phonics is one program we use, in conjunction with the Creative Curriculum, the Storybook Journey, and Handwriting Without Tears. Zoo-phonics teaches children language arts with a multi-sensory (sight, sound, movement) integration to engage young learners of all learning styles. 

Zoo-phonics body signals chart

Zoo-phonics body signals chart

To teach letters, Zoo-phonics first has children look at the shape of a letter, then listen to the sound of the letter paired with an animal, a hand movement (called a "body signal"), and the name of the letter.  For example, children learn all about Allie the alligator to learn the letter "A." As a teacher tells students an animal's name, they always include a sound and a movement for the animal.  For example: "Ally the Alligator says /a/,  /a/,  /a/." While saying this, the teacher opens and closes their hand like the mouth of an alligator. 

Allie the alligator puppet and umber the Umbrella Bird from Amanda's TLC preschool classroom

Allie the alligator puppet and umber the Umbrella Bird from Amanda's TLC preschool classroom

Once all the letters are shown, teachers use the animal characters and body signals to help children with beginning spelling and sounding out words.  For example, "cat" can be broken up by sound:  "/c/ Catina cat cleans her face, /a/ Ally alligator open and closes her mouth, /t/ Timmy tiger like to show his strong arms."  The teacher makes each letter sound with the hand movement, then places the sounds together.  To help the children remember the sounds, we use them in different parts of the day.  We make the sounds and do the hand movements as we walk down the hall way. I use it at table work activities and with some of the puppets in my room.  Teachers and parents can create games with the animal characters and their sounds. 

One game that I love to play with the children is similar to Memory, but is a game that gets the kids up and moving around. I place pictures of the animals around the room (normally more than one of the same animal).  Then I make the sound and hand movement and have then find that animal. This is a fun way to engage the children in learning the animals, the letters, and what sounds each letter makes. These lessons help set kids up for success in reading and writing once they enter kindergarten, and are easy to reinforce at home through fun stories and play with the Zoo-phonics characters.