Saturday, June 07, 2008

How Our Walks Are Working Out

You may be wondering how our walks that address declarative gestures are working out. Then again, you may have better things to do with your time on a Saturday night . . . Obviously, I don't! *Ahem*

Our objective was to expand the function of three gestures that Pamela already uses from only imperative communication (telling me what she wants) to declarative communication (showing me something she observes). We hope she will discover that she can share what she notices and that I am interested in finding out what she observes. Because Pamela is more relaxed with nonverbal communication, we thought she would make this discovery more easily with gestures. In time, we hope she will start doing this verbally, too. We focused on three common gestures:

Pointing - Draws my attention to whatever she is sharing with me.

Nodding - Tells me I verbally identified what she is seeing.

Shaking her head - Tells me I am on the wrong track in what she is seeing.

The other evening, we counted the varieties of trees in our yard! Steve filmed the walk and provided some uncertainty. The walk lasted about 15 minutes. Pamela seems to enjoy our walks, except on very hot days. I noticed near the end Pamela was tiring because our little early bird tuckers out sooner than the rest of us. You can get an idea of how this works in the following clip.

I try to make sure Pamela has many responsibilities that she can handle. She picks the subject and, if necessary, I help her narrow it down. She gives me a list of attributes (in this case, the names of the trees she thinks will be in the yard) and I make a list before we leave. When we walk, she points things out to me. If she forgets, I vary my indirect cue. Sometimes I will say to her, "You're in charge," or I will slow my pace or come to a halt.

To liven things up, we add productive uncertainty. Sometimes, I say something very silly like, "A bicycle tree?" Steve pointed out the watermelons, which were definitely not trees. I walked to the telephone pole and asked about a telephone tree. That was near the end of our walk, and she was too tired to laugh uproariously.

The walks also offer opportunities to solve problems. For example, she pointed to the thicket in our neighbor's yard. I did not want to count all that mess and, after all, they were not even in our yard. I also wanted her to process and think about what we should do, so I told her, "The thicket is in Cathy's yard. Should we count Cathy's yard?" She did not want to count them either. WHEW!

I still have to work very hard at encouraging declarative pointing when we are not walking with a purpose. She is getting a tad better with this. Yesterday, Pamela volunteered that magnolia leaves are crunchy (stepped on one and said, "Crunch"). I responded to her by talking about how magnolias are different because they drop leaves in the spring. Then, we took turns searching for a fallen leaf to step on and crunch. By responding so warmly and excitedly to Pamela's observation, I spotlighted my interest in what she showed me.

Most of the time I'm having to slow my pace which she knows means I'm waiting for her to point out something--anything. The more tired she is, the more slowly she reacts. During the day, I try to spend time in the same room (or porch) as her to give her more opportunities to share something she notices.

As I have said before, the beauty of homeschooling is how we can work our walks into her math lesson the next day!


momof3feistykids said...

This is terrific. I especially love the moment with the magnolia leaves.

walking said...

I am looking forward to more moments like that. Maybe I should call them magnolia moments. . .