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 from 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.

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.

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?”

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?

Want more tools to help children's language development? Explore Teachstone's Literacy Support Kits available for pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms. The kit includes classroom materials, books, and guidance that support early reading skills. We also offer a Literacy-at-Home Kit to bring the power of intentional interactions to your program's family engagement efforts.