I have recently written a blogspot positing that watching TV does very little for developing children’s language and vocabulary. Subconsciously, most of the parents know it. It is not really a rocket science.
All the same, children tend to watch more and more TV.
Although TV should never be at the heart of children’s language experiences, some parents might be relieved to hear that TV might also have some positive effect on children.
For instance, educational programs might expose children to new topics, concepts, thus developing background knowledge needed for reading comprehension.
Sadly, for some children TV might be the only source of knowledge and language.
Now, I need to admit that my own child watches YouTube much too often.
Of course, I could easily ban YouTube at home.
Yet, I am not entirely sure it would be a good decision.
As much as I care about my son academic development, I also care about his social skills.
If I didn’t let Oskar watch e.g. ‘Dante DM’ videos, I would probably alienate him and limited his contributions to discussions he has with his best friends, who incidentally love Danty too.
Despite all the negative things I said about TV in the context of language and particularly vocabulary developments,
I believe, there are numerous possibilities to transform watching TV into a truly educational activity.
Here is an example:
Probably two years ago, I read aloud to Oskar ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’.
Oskar loved the book. I didn’t. I mean, I loved the book but not reading it aloud.
The book was too challenging for Oskar’s language skills and it was hard work for me to adapt and simplify text to Oskar’s level. Unfortunately, once I started to read the book, he did not let me stop :).
More recently, I asked Oskar if he wanted to watch Harry Potter the movie.
He said yes. Oskar still remembered basic facts but most of the details from the book were forgotten.
Since I did not have time to watch the movie with him, I decided to organise for Oskar a short pre-teaching session.
I wanted to provide Oskar with some background information and key vocabulary he would encounter in the movie.
Pre-teaching provides a child with background information he/she needs to comprehend dialogues or texts better, also helps the child focus on individual words and meanings.
The problem was I had not seen the movie.
So what did I do?
1. Firstly, I downloaded subtitles for the movie.
2. Secondly, I copied the text and uploaded to www.tagcrowd.com
TagCrowd is a web application for visualizing word frequencies in the text by creating a word cloud.
You can increase or decrease word frequency to your child’s language level. As you could see below, I could see in the cloud emerging topics for pre-teaching.
3. On the basis of the word cloud, I talked with Oskar about Wizards, Muggles, Hogwarts school, Voldemort, Slytherin, and Quidditch.
4, I also uploaded text to https://www.online-utility.org/text/analyzer.jsp
This free online software tool created filtered word frequencies for the subtitles.
(basic text statistics were also displayed, including a number of occurrences in the text).
5. I wanted to teach Oskar rarer words which I deemed important for comprehending the movie.
I selected words with three occurrences in the texts e.g. award, wizardry, countercurse, dormitory etc.
I explained the meanings, provided examples and related the novel words to Oskar’s experiences.
6. I let Oskar watch the movie.
7. I discussed the movie focusing on the major themes: ‘friendship is important’,
‘uniqueness’, ‘never judge a book by its cover’, ‘money is not everything’, ‘power of love’,
‘we all fear different things’, ‘it is not all about grades’, ‘bullying’.
8. At the same time, I revised the vocabulary Oskar was pre-taught
Frankly, I don’t do it every single time Oskar watches the movie.
However, I feel that I should do it more often.