Friday, January 4, 2008
Your Rose and Your Thorn Journal
We sometimes play a conversation game at our house called What was your rose and what was your thorn? where each family member will say what they enjoyed most about the day and what they enjoyed least. This format is based upon an understanding that conversation is usually about events that evoke strong feelings.
My last post was about creating a daily Calendar Time to help your child learn how to think and talk about things that happened in the past and plan things that may happen in the future. The Rose/Thorn activity is an extension on the skills that will be learned doing a Calendar together and it is meant for children who can tell you a sentence or two about what happened in the past but who lack the narrative skills to say more than a sentence or two. You need not call this the Rose/Thorn activity, but remember that you want to capture something about the emotions and not just the events of the day. The idea is that you will write or your child will dictate, with your help, a paragraph about what happened today. Let me give you an example:
Here is what Andy said when asked by his father about what he did today:
Shadow was gone. (Who is Shadow? Andy's dad asks) Tahirih's cat. (Did you go see Tahirih today? Andy's dad asks.) Yes. Shadow was hiding.
Andy's mom turned the events of the day into this written story. She has created a private blog for him (meaning that only those invited to do so can get on his blog).
Andy visited Tahirih's house today. She was so surprised to see him! Andy likes Shadow, the cat that lives at Tahirih's house. Tahirih looked and looked for that darn cat! Shadow disappeared. Andy was sooo disappointed. Tahirih tried to make Andy feel better with cookies but Andy was still sad not to see Shadow. Maybe next time Andy will see Shadow. We hope so! The end.
Andy is a verbal seven year old who can hold a conversation on a few topics but freezes up when asked to tell about something that happened to him recently and even if he does tell a bit about what happened, he does not include much information and rarely uses feeling words such as those in red above. He is at risk for being the kind of conversationalist who lists facts but does not translate the events of his life into a story. The strategy of a private blog will model for Andy how to turn the events of his life into a story. When I read the blog (I subscribe so I know when he posts a new one), I sent him back a picture of Shadow by email.
The advent of private blogs is a good one for the purpose of teaching children how to tell a story. I had already been using this strategy for years, with families using a notebook, a blank book, a diary with a key. In the past few years, I have also used the wonderful word processing program called Writing With Symbols. All of these writing mediums work well and for various reasons, I may choose any of them for a particular family. The blog is particularly good if your child has family or friends (or a Speech Therapist) who will respond. It is fun to get a comment when you write a blog. Writing with Symbols is motivating because this program says out loud whatever is typed and will read the whole story out loud. In addition, for children who are just learning to read, the word processors adds an icon (little picture) on top of every word that is typed so the child can more easily "read" the story him or herself. I love technology and so do most my young friends, so I use it and encourage families to use it if this fits their lifestyle. But I really do see just about the same success when I just hand parents a cute blank book and ask them to help their child keep a journal. This strategy is most successful when parents are involved. Parents know the meaningful stories in a child's life. No one but a parent pays such close attention to the details of a child's daily rose and thorn.