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Simple Ways to Promote Speech and Language Development

07 Feb 2019 by Liz Savage

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 …

Try this!

Adult: Eat your lunch.

Adult: What are you having for lunch?
Child: Sandwich and apple.
Adult: Oh yum! What kind of sandwich?
Child: Peanut butter and jelly.
Adult: You’re having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That’s my favorite!
Child: Mine too.
Adult: I love raspberry jelly and crunchy peanut butter.

Adult: Are you playing in the kitchen?

Child: Yes.

Adult: What are you cooking?

Child: Noodles.

Adult: Yum.

Adult: What will you do in the kitchen today?
Child: Make noodles.
Adult: Oh, the noodles are your favorite. What will you do with the noodles?
Child: Add cheese and sauce.
Adult: You’re making pasta with sauce and cheese. Yum!
Child: I’m going to make a restaurant.
Adult: Your restaurant has an excellent chef! Have you ever had pasta at a restaurant with your family?