We have started a series of posts looking at high level language skills. As children get older, language and its demands become more sophisticated. It is often around Junior school age that these more subtle language difficulties can become apparent. You can read Helen’s post about understanding and supporting words with multiple meanings here.
Today, I am going to talk about opinions. Some children are very opinionated and know exactly what they do and don’t like and how they want people to behave! They can also be very vocal about this. For these children, we need to show them that there are different opinions and people are allowed to have different opinions from them. But what do you do when they child is very unsure; they cant choose between games or they can’t talk about what they like or don’t like?
I often start with food. If a child is going to have a opinion about something it will be food! You can introduce the idea of Yes, I like it vs No, I don’t like it. This can be supported with visuals such as a smiley face or tick for yes and a sad face or cross for no. Talk about different types of food; maybe try them if you have time. Sort them into foods the child likes and food they don’t like. You can then extend this and introduce a not sure category – maybe for food they haven’t tried yet or can’t remember if they liked it or not. Now even at this stage I talk about everybody liking different things and that’s OK! You can also support and model the language of I like….. or I don’t like…..
If you have a group of children, or some siblings/ family members, you can play a game to support this. Put your Yes, I like it sign on one side of the room and the No, I don’t like it sign on the other side. Then call out a type of food. All the people playing have to move to one of the signs. This is a great visual way to show that people like different things. You could keep a tally of likes/ dislikes for each item.
For older children, the next step on from this is the idea of an opinion vs a fact. Now this can be quite tricky! Many children will presume that if they agree with it, it must be a fact as it is true for them. So, for example, if we think about the statement “Chocolate ice-cream is yummy”, if the child likes chocolate ice cream they would conclude that the statement must be a fact as they agree with it.
We need to reinforce the different between an fact and opinion. You could talk about how a fact HAS to be true for everybody and that you can check or prove it. You could discuss how you are going to check it; could you look in a book, ask someone else or google it! Yes I have spent sessions googling random facts. In contrast, an opinion is somebodies point of view and won’t be the same for everyone. You could encourage the child to think of a different opinion. I find it useful to encourage the child to think “would this be true for everybody” as this is often the part that can help identify the statement as either a fact or an opinion.
To make this more fun, you could generate some statements and then group them into fact or opinions. If you don’t want to think of the statements yourself there is a great freebie on Teachers pay Teachers from Speechy Musings you can download here. You could extend this and get the child to generate the statements to use. You could use a topic that really motivates the child, so frozen, dinosaurs or minecraft!!
Just remember to keep it fun and keep practising.