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Teacher Tips: Supporting Language Development

03 Feb 2015 by Kathryn Surchek

For teachers

My daughters were both early talkers (taking after their chatty mother, I’m sure). My oldest’s first word was, adorably, “Mama.” My second child’s was “no,” followed by “too” as in “me too, I want that!” At her first Christmas, her big sister unwrapped a doll and Dava immediately burst into tears, yelling, “Too, too!” At nine months, her communication system was working great! (And yes, she got a doll, “too, too.”)

Babies are language sponges. Even in utero they’re absorbing the rhythms of speech, and they begin communicating with their cries at birth. But just because language is natural to humans doesn’t mean it happens without support. Infants who aren’t exposed to much language lag behind their peers and may never catch up.

You are a wonderful resource to the children in your care, supplementing the language they hear at home and supporting language development. Here are some ways you help children learn language:

  • You talk. Sounds obvious, right? You talk with children and not at them. You talk about what’s going on in the classroom, what a child is doing, what they see their peers doing, what you’re doing. Your talk is fundamental to language development for children at all ages.
  • You have conversations. Even the weeist infant learns the back-and-forth flow of genuine conversations when you pause and make eye contact after questions. “What’s that you’ve got?” Pause and make eye contact. “My finger?” Pause. “Did you grab my finger?”
  • You repeat their sounds and provide words for them. If an infant coos, “ooh,” you say it back to them so that they understand that their communication attempts are received. You add words, “Ooh, ooh. Are you looking at your mobile?” Pause. “Do you see it spinning?” Pause. “And all the bright colors?” You build vocabulary and show children how words describe their world.

So keep it up, you champion of children’s language development! Babies need you!

And if you need inspiration, enjoy this beautiful video of a teacher talking with a young infant.

For coaches

As coaches, we talk with teachers all the time, engaging in genuine conversations that help teachers develop their ideas. We also encourage use of CLASS language so that teacher’s become more comfortable, informed, and fluent with the tool. But sometimes we rush or don’t know how to support teacher growth. Our Feedback Strategies and Instructional Support Strategies online programs can help. Join us in exploring more about how to talk with teachers in ways that support their growth.

And if you want to see it in action, watch this video of a coach talking with a teacher to build her vocabulary around the CLASS tool.

 


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