Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: your children come home after school, throw down their school bags, and announce they are STARVING. As you hand out snacks and pour drinks, you ask how each of their days were. And then comes the question that inevitably results in a blank stare:
Mom/Dad: ”What did you do in school today?”
Mom/Dad: ”You did nothing all day??”
Child: ”Nope can I go play?”
If your hand is raised, you are not alone. Every year this is a common concern amongst my students’ parents. For most children, telling what they did at school is a very difficult task.
Children have not yet mastered how to organize an eight hour day in their head. Put yourself in their shoes; imagine someone asked you to write down all you did this weekend. Without even realizing it, you would organize the weekend in your head.
You might organize the information chronologically (first Friday, then Saturday, then Sunday), or by location (first we went here, then we went there). You organize the information in some way so that you don’t leave out details.
Most children don’t have this mental graphic organizer. Your kids probably want to tell you all about what they did at school, but the idea of remembering seven or eight hours worth of fun activities, specials, games, not to mention lunch, recess, and their friends, is daunting. And so, when you ask about what they did all day, the answer tends to be "not much!"
In order to get a little insight into what your child’s day at school is like, start by asking more specific questions instead of ”what did you do today?” Some examples are:
- Did you do any writing today? Who/what/where did you write about?
- Did you read a book? Was it during free time or reading time? Did you read out loud or inside your head?
- Did you play with anyone at recess or sit next to anyone at lunch? Who?
- Did you have a special today? Computer? P.E.? Art? Which teachers did you see today?
All of these are great guiding questions that most likely will get some more information out of your little ones. Try to ask questions without interrogating, and make your daily chat a regular thing either after school or before bedtime. Hopefully, the easier it is for your children to share information, the more excited they will be to tell you all about their life away from home.
This tactic can also be used with reading. In my classroom, I use something called a Retelling Bookmark that I designed last year. It has changed the way my students retell a story and I find they are able to remember so many more details about the book this way.
I have certain times allotted each week for students to have a ”book talk” with me. During this book talk, the child uses his retelling bookmark to describe the characters, setting(s), problem, solution, etc. I included a visual below to give you an idea of what I mean. Try using something similar after your child has finished a book at home to see how much he/she has comprehended.