Monday, March 14, 2016

Language Development and Talking Habits

In this and the next post I will summarize Resnick and Snow’s introduction to the “Habits” of talking.

“Habits” includes 4 goals:

Talking a lot

Talking to one’s self

Conversing at length on a topic

Discussing books

The authors begin with a general discussion addressing all of the 3 age groups (Preschool, K-1, 2-3).  As parents, grandparents, and teachers, some of us might think that our young children already talk a lot, by themselves, to themselves and to others. And that is certainly true for some children.  Other children need the context and opportunity to grow in their language/conversation skills. The Introduction to this topic offers too many ideas to cover adequately (thus the need to buy the book), but here are several ideas that might be offered a starting point in paying increasingly more attention to the amount and kind of talking young children do.

*Children learn most of what they know by hearing other people talk…and expanding their own language skills—“learning words (semantics), putting sentences together(syntax), and practicing the “rules of talk” (pragmatics) such as taking turns in a conversation.” (p. 3)

*Children “learn from the back and forth of conversation—even when they are on the receiving or listening end.  They learn by observing how other people react to what they say…. The best talk comes when children listen attentively to what other people say and then connect their responses to what they have heard.” (p. 4)

*Children learn by listening to other people’s knowledge, insights and different points of view.  Purposeful talk about a topic can occur only if children listen to one another.  Listening during a book talk, for example teaches children the important lesson that readers react to books in different ways….(and)  Suppose a child hears a new word—insect, for example—when the teacher reads aloud a book in class….if the word insect pops up over and over in carefully planned classroom talks, the word becomes familiar….  When children hear insect again and again and have a chance to use the word themselves, they are more likely to remember it.  The word becomes part of their working vocabulary….” (pp. 4-5)

Before addressing the 4 topics of this section specifically, Resnick and Snow offer several considerations:

Meaningful Differences and Implications for Schools and Teachers addresses the 30 million word gap between advantaged and “disadvantaged” children.

Different Culture, Different Rules addresses the idea that “different social groups share different rules for talk….”

Settings That Get Children Talking. “Talk happens in many places and social situations, and each setting changes the possibilities for the conversation. Every setting is different, depending on the following:

*Who gets to talk?

*What are the rules?

*What is going on, and where?

Talking a Lot—An Introduction

“Research shows that certain kinds of talk—discussing, collaborating, and problem solving with peers—help children learn academic subjects.  These kinds of talk put children in situations where they can

*Observe how other people react to what they say

*Hear and respond to other people who ask them to clarify what they say

*Hear their own ideas reflected in other people’s comments

*Hear children and adults repeat, revised, or improve on what they say

*Learn the rules of speaking and listening, such as taking turns.

“Children need both “air time”—opportunities to talk—and “ear time”—the attention to fluent, response adults—to develop language skills.  Even the best schools do not give students enough opportunities and attention to engage in interactive conversation…” (p. 5)

One way teachers can take note of children’s “talks a lot” skills is by noting when, about what and to whom children talk.  The authors suggest that preschoolers “need to feel comfortable talking in small group…to expand their conversations from one-on-one exchanges to small groups.”

By kindergarten and first grade, the expectation is that “children also should be able to talk about their own writings and drawings, present an event or object to the class, play and learn with others, each and learn new techniques from others, read aloud, and listen and respond to questions and comments about books they have read or books that have been read aloud to them.  Second and third grade children should be able to speak in front of larger groups, such as the whole class or a parent audience.   They can recite poems, perform in plays, give a book talk, and present a science project.” (pp. 5-6)

Specifying the growth of a variety of language skills at different ages highlights the importance of keeping pace with language skill development.

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