Just before I start, there are a couple of points I want to run through. Firstly, there is the choice of words. Speech Therapists all tend to use big and little. However, parents and nursery staff often use big and small. It really doesn’t matter which words you use, as long as you stick to the same ones once you have started! Little or small is fine. However I wouldn’t start with miniscule or huge!
The second point is about how we teach the concepts. It is seen as best practise to teach one concept at a time. So you would just teach big and if you need to talk about little, you would call the item not big. Then you would move onto little. I personally find that at the point when you are teaching big and little the child often isn’t secure with negatives. So if you say not big, they won’t understand the not and will find the big item. You then have no differentiation between big and not big. As such I teach big and little together. You can concentrate on one more than the other first, but I would use the words big and little. You need to make sure that the child understands the concepts first before they will start using them.
- Real objects: I start with some real objects – anything you can find with a big and little version. Lets say you have a big and little teddy. Put both teddies in front of the child. Introduce them and say something like – This teddy is big (emphasise the word big and hold your arms out as you say it to give visual support) and this one is little (again emphasise little and hold your fingers up with a small gap between them). Then ask for one of the teddies – “Can I have big teddy”.
- 2 step instructions. You can make the above task harder by either adding another set of items or by asking the child to put the teddy on something. Then the child has to understand the 2 words to correctly follow the instruction. Be careful not to add too many new elements as you may be making the instruction too hard. For more information about key words read this post.
- Use pictures. Once the child understands the concept with real objects, you can move onto pictures. Make sure that there is a good differences between your big and little pictures. We want it to be obvious to the child which is which.
- Use books. Children’s books have lots of great examples of big and little characters. When both are shown on a page ask the child to find either the big or little character.
- Real life. Remember to use the words in everyday situations. If you are out walking, you can talk about the big trees or the little birds. Using the words in context will help secure the child’s understanding of the concepts.
- Wrong toy. When you ask for the big teddy, if the child gives you the other teddy you will need to correct them. Remember to keep it positive. Maybe say “Thank you, but this is the little teddy, I want the BIG teddy”. Remember to praise them when they get it correct. If they continue to select the wrong teddy, pick up the correct one and name it again.
- Not listening. Sometimes children will make errors because they aren’t listening or just want to play with the teddies. In this scenario I would ask the child to listen before giving the instructions and also I would hold the teddies up in front of the child. This gives you more control over the toys.
- Make it easier. If the child is making errors, check how many steps you have put in the instruction. If they are finding 2 step instructions tricky, take it back to just asking for the big or little teddy. When they are really secure at this level, you can move on.
What other ways do you teach big and little?