Let me lead off with a funny thing about the Monster’s use of language this morning, before I dig into what I really wanted to write about.
On Saturday evening, I went to a party celebrating the end of National Novel Writing Month (which I do almost every year), and because the wife had something going on at our house, I took the kids with me. Monster was, as almost always, exceptionally well behaved in public once I made sure he was well fed. At the end of the party, though, we got slices of cake, and I gave him a portion because he’d been good. “Now Monster,” I cautioned him. “You can’t eat it with your bare hands. You have to use your fork.” He nodded and took his fork and I turned to talk to someone for a moment…
And in the interim, he’d speared the entire piece with his fork – I’d forgotten to cut it into smaller pieces – and was trying to figure out how to maneuver it into his mouth.
After laughing, I did stop him, take it away, cut it into pieces, and let him have-at it.
But this highlights part of the problem we’re dealing with in how he uses language. It’s both very literal and very in-the-moment.
I still haven’t really figured out how to teach the tenses to him – almost all of how he uses language is present-tense descriptive. He’s very good at narrating about his immediate environment, but he doesn’t express anything regarding upcoming events or the past.
Now, we know he obviously has a good memory – he clearly recalls things from the past, experiences, how to get around things, et cetera. The issue is having to come up with constructs for how to express himself, at least from where I’m standing, and not having the verbiage to explain it. (We’re still, for instance, trying to teach him the finer points of subject-verb-object, where the verb does not have to be ‘have’.) It’s even harder when you’re considering the fact that we speak a language that has so many tenses.
This weekend’s trip to Sesame Place became an attempt to give him constructions. Every half an hour on Saturday, it felt, I was prompting him for what we were going to be doing on Sunday. (“Where are we going tomorrow, Monster?” “We’re going to Sesame!”) I tried to expand it a bit further to make the simple-future tense more explicit (“We’re going to go to Sesame.”), but that wasn’t sticking very well. However, by the time Sunday morning rolled around and we were preparing to go to the car, it seemed like it was sticking at least a little. (“Monster, where are we going?” “Going to the car!” “And where are we going in the car?” “We’re going to Sesame!”)
We also tried to turn this around for a simple-past tense after we were done (“We went to Sesame!”), and I don’t know how well that’s sticking, if at all, so he can tell his teacher today what he did yesterday… but I can hope, and keep trying to reinforce…
Any suggestions from out there?