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?
Do you have fond childhood memories of sitting with a special adult and listening to them read one of your favorite stories? I vividly remember my dad reading The Elephant’s Child by Rudyard Kipling to me and how we laughed together at the funny voices he used. As an educator, you know how important those moments are for building warm connections, enjoying time together, and learning about many things. So, even if you missed out on those moments as a child, you want to create those moments for the children in your classroom. With careful planning, you can be confident that your read-alouds will be exciting, effective learning opportunities.
The majority of early childhood classrooms have at least one child who is a dual language learner (DLL) and this population is growing. One in three children from birth to age six speak a language besides English at home. Consequently, the majority of teachers need strategies on how to best support this group of students. We reached out to Veronica Fernandez, Developmental Psychologist and Research Scientist at the University of Miami for strategies she’s found most successful.
As part of our Teacher Spotlight series, we recently asked the CLASS Community to nominate a teacher whose high-quality classroom interactions are making a difference for their dual language learners. Our winner, Kim Schoell, has been teaching for 20 years and is currently a Pre-K teacher in Frederick County, VA. 67% of her students are Hispanic and many of the children are dual language learners.
When COVID-19 hit and schools shut down, many of us were certain that it would not impact the 2020-21 school year. But with the pandemic surging and some schools opening up - only to shut down again, it’s clear that COVID is still with us. The length of the pandemic has only heightened concern about COVID related learning loss - especially among underserved populations.