A language-rich environment is vital to children’s early learning and social-emotional development. A language-rich environment isn’t just a room with books and a variety of print; it’s a room where children hear and participate in talking, singing, and reading.
Recent research out of MIT has shown that not just language but an intentional conversation between an adult and a child is what can actually develop the child’s brain. Many children hear mostly directions—like “sit down” and “line up”—which don’t provide the opportunity to engage in a conversation. Try these strategies to improve Language Modeling and engage all children in rich conversations that will prepare them to be readers, writers, and thinkers.
Get down on the child’s physical level (by kneeling, for example).
Listen to what the child says or pay attention to what they are doing or pointing at.
Observe the child’s facial or body expressions.
Comment on what the child is doing and wait for a response.
“You like the trains. You’re working hard to build a large train track.”
Ask questions about what the child is doing or plans to do.
“What are your plans for those blocks?”
Repeat what the child says then add a little bit more or a new vocabulary word.
Label or describe:
Child: I like it.
Teacher: You like juicy peaches.
Provide more information:
Child: [Pointing outside] Dark!
Teacher: The sky is dark. It looks like it may rain soon.
Help make connections between what is happening in the classroom and what is happening in homes or communities.
“What does this remind you of?”
“You like playing with the stuffed animals. Do you have any animals at home?”
Instead of this …
Adult: Eat your lunch.
Adult: What are you having for lunch?
Adult: Are you playing in the kitchen?
Adult: What are you cooking?
Adult: What will you do in the kitchen today?
It’s Dual Language Learner Celebration Week! Every year in the U.S., the amount of young children who live in a household where a language other than English is spoken has been steadily increasing. As of 2016, about one-third of children under age 8 – over 11 million children – are dual language learners (DLLs).
As an infant classroom teacher, you know that talking to babies is important. For instance, you tell the infants in your care what they are looking at (“You see the new block basket on the shelf!”). You label objects (“You have the red ball!”). And you describe events that take place in the classroom (“The tray just fell off the table! That scared you.”). These are all examples of talking with babies. Why, then, can it be so challenging to do this consistently in the classroom?
A few years into teaching early childhood, I applied to work at a school that does incredible work in the local community. I was thrilled to get an interview but realized very quickly that, even though the environment was supportive and the students were wonderful young people, I was much too intimidated to work there.