My favorite quote:
"Before they begin school, children have had conversations with others in their homes and communities, but the words used in these contexts are less varied than the vocabulary they will encounter in school. Prekindergarten opens up the world of language for young children."
The authors describe 4 kinds of talk-
- Narrative: This is "storytelling talk". It's important to praise all attempts at storytelling as successes because, " Children come to prekindergarten with their own familial and cultural backgrounds, and they may understand stories and story sturcture in different ways." When I taught in Japan, I had the cutest little girl in my class who did not speak a lick of English! She was silent for MONTHS! I just kept modeling and allowing her the opportunity to interact with other students (she was very shy- as is often the case with ESL students). The following year, her first grade teacher stopped me in the hall one day and laughingly complained about this little chatterbox! A few ways to expand on youngster's Narrative talk is by using wordless picture books and encouraging the kiddos to "tell me more about that". Also, after reading a familiar story several times, be sure to make it available during Choice Time so that shy ones can practice without a huge, scary audience!
- Explaining and Seeking Information: Prekindergartners love to report what they have learned, but often lack the syntax and grammar skills that make listening to a story easy. That's why it's important to have them practice! Activities like Show and Tell,
sharing a Class Mascot journal entry after they take the mascot home, hosting a Scientist of the Week program (find more about this here), and sharing or talking about inquiry project observations can encourage skill development in this type of talk. These activities are easy to tie into predictable charts and making class books as discussed in the last chapter.
You can also use these projects to tie into an Oral Language Interview in the Round activity by passing the microphone around the circle and having students ask, "What is your favorite (plant, rock, pond animal)?" and having the next student answer in a full sentence, "My favorite (plant, rock, pond animal) is...". Continue around the circle allowing each student the opportunity to ask and answer. For Thanksgiving, have kids ask each other what they would like on their plate or practice manners by having them say, "Please Pass the___" and "Thank you" as well as "You're welcome". Teach kids to say these words in different languages
- my kids LOVE this! Also, when kids remember to say these words, I always get a giggle and a whole bunch of politeness when I make a big deal over one student by replying, "You're welcome, kind Sir/Lady!".
- Oral Performances and Responding to Performances: This goes great with Share Time activities. Start out small by modeling and then having students state their favorite part of the sharing Author's work, then two things, then two things they like and one thing they would like to see (Two Stars and a Wish). You can also use this practice as a quick assessment by having students show off a new skill they have learned such as reciting a Nursery Rhyme from memory, counting, singing a song, participating in Who Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Jar? chant, etc. Hosting an Author's Tea at the end of the year can connect this practice between home and school. Shared Reading activities are a form of responding to performances as are Listening Center reflection journals like these for free! I also like to have students recommend books to their friends and share in front of the class why they think this f
riend will like the book. There's a form for that included in the reflection journals download above. Be sure to read your focus texts over and over to give kids the chance to internalize story language and you will soon hear it in their everyday talk and see it in their own writing.
- Giving and Understanding Directions: This is something we model and practice quite a lot, especially in the beginning of the year! Kids often need you to provide the words to express what they cannot. "Stop! I don't like when you___. Please ____ instead." Encourage answering in complete sentences, but be sure to model what that sentence is! :) One activity to help develop this skill is "How To" writing. Remember the oldies, but goodies like Red Light, Green Light, Mother May I, and (Simon) Says!
Hand over the power!
After modeling what Calendar Time looks like, have the Leader of the Day help you. By the end of the year, students will be able to conduct Calendar Time almost completely by themselves!
It's also important to model and practice the Rules of Conversation:
- Take turns (use something tangible like a stuffed animal for the speaker to hold)
- Look at the speaker (remind children to turn and look at ___ when a raised hand is called upon)
- Respond to the topic or signal a change of topic: "We are writing/drawing/talking about (bears). Should I see/hear about a (giraffe)?" The kids always giggle and say, NOOOOO! :)
- Use polite language and encourage students to do the same.
- Address people by name: those name games in the beginning of the year can be used throughout the year as well.
- Adjust the tone of your voice to fit the setting: Noise level posters, Leader of the Day can monitor the line for talking.
- Build on other's comments: add to the story activities.
- Ask questions to support dialogue: ask open- ended questions rather than questions that can be responded to with a simple yes/no/one word reply.
- Choose topics that expand vocabulary and show new learning: Have a Directions Director for students to go to if they forget or don't understand, encourage new vocabulary with themed word walls, use proper terminology in the classroom (stem, root, duckling, calf, etc.) Click here for lots of vocabulary words to focus on from Carl's Corner and here for themed word walls from Vanessa Levin.
- Clarify meaning: "Tell me more about that.", ask questions before, during, and after reading, model thinking aloud. Encourage students to make Text to Self, World, Book connections when reading.
- Have a point when speaking: tell 'em what you're going to teach 'em, teach 'em, tell 'em what you taught 'em, ask THEM to tell YOU what you taught 'em.
- Inform others and be informed: (discussed above)
- Negotiate responsibilites: Role play ways to take turns. Provide visuals as reminders like here.
- Express opinions and feelings: Model and practice problem solving. Here is an excerpt from the Conscious Discipline website modeling how to teach conflict resolution and providing children with the words they are so often lacking at this age:
Your preschooler runs over to you at the playground, whining, "He pushed me.” Your child is focused on being hurt. You can focus on an assertive solution. Ask him "Did you like it?" Then instruct him to tell his playmate, "I don't like it when you push me." Encourage him to practice saying it. Teach him to use an assertive voice because either an aggressive voice or a passive (whiny) voice will invite further aggression. (An assertive voice sounds like “just do it.”) Practice with your child. Tell him to make his voice match yours. When his voice sounds assertive, support his success with, “There you go. You did it!”
(5 year old) Bullied in Kindergarten:
Your child wanted her friend's blue marker, so she smacked her friend and took it. Rather than highlighting poor behavior by admonishing your child as a first response, focus on a solution by teaching new skills. Go to the victim. Console him and ask, "Did you like being hit?" Then turn to your child and say, "You wanted a blue marker so you hit your friend." Resist the urge to judge the action as mean. Instead, see it as an opportunity to teach communication skills. Say, "You didn't know the words to say to get the marker, did you?" Tell her directly, "You may not hit. Hitting hurts. When you want a marker, say 'May I have a turn, please?' Say it now, for practice." When you handle the situation this way, your child is seen as someone who didn't know better. If she seems remorseful, she may apologize. Whether she apologizes or not, your goal is to focus on teaching her the skills needed to behave acceptably the next time.
The Early Childhood classroom should be humming with conversation!
However, it IS important to teach volume levels. Dr. Jean's Rules Rap and singing familiar songs in different voices can help build volume awareness. Although, don't expect every child to internalize this- some kids only have one volume- LOUD! :D Noise level posters click here, here, and here can help illustrate volume levels for visual and ESL learners.
The bottom line: if you want kids to write, let them write.
If you want kids to read, let them read.
If you want kids to improve literacy overall, let them talk!