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.
Step 1: Engage
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.
Step 2: Encourage Conversations
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?”
Step 3: Extend Language and Learning
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?
We’ve all had kids in the classroom who push limits, can’t manage their feelings, constantly demand attention. Believe it or not, they are sending you a message. When kids misbehave, they are operating based on mistaken learning. With time, patience, and planning you can help them relearn! If you reframe your thinking about children’s behavior and recognize that misbehavior is usually based on mistaken learning, you are well on your way to helping your kids.
When I first heard that I was going to have to be observed and coached for my job, I was not thrilled by any means. I immediately thought, Great, someone is going to watch me and tell me how terrible I am. I sincerely thought it was going to be nothing but a negative experience.
Back in July, Mary-Margaret Gardiner and Sarah Hadden presented a webinar with Kaplan about how teachers can use classroom setups to create teachable moments. If you missed it the first time around, I'd recommend giving the webinar a watch. It provides classroom organization tips that are helpful all year round.