When I was working in my center, by the time I got home I was absolutely done talking—at least for a little while. My husband never understood why until one day I explained to him I have conversations all day long. Engaging in conversations with the children was my favorite thing about teaching. It was tiring some days, but I loved it. To listen to their stories, hopes, concerns, and jokes filled my bucket each day. Conversation is not just talking, but also it is about listening. Extending learning happens by having intentional conversation as well as daily verb exchanges. Children may have limited access with adults engaging in intentional conversations. As early childhood educators, we have the perfect opportunity to engage.
Intentional conversation is key. Positive relationships are created through intentional conversations. These relationships stimulate the building of vocabulary, help with interpersonal skills, help with social-emotional skills because their feelings are validated by your listening and responses, and build the foundation of their perception towards learning (check out my previous blog, Cling to the Positive).
I found a great resource with tips to help create a language-rich environment from UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute’s Blog, More than Baby Talk.
Below is their list of 10 ways to help create the environment to spark those crucial conversations that develop into lifetime learning for the children in your program.
- Get Chatty: Engage in meaningful conversations with children. “Hello, Charlie! How was your ride to school today?”
- Be a Commentator: Give descriptions of objects, activities or events. “I see that you are using the orange marker to color your picture today.”
- Mix It Up: Use different types of words and grammar. “Alice was aggravated that she couldn’t find the white rabbit”
- Label It: Provide children with the names of objects or actions. You can label shelves, coat hooks, cubbies, etc.
- Tune In: Engage in activities or objects that interest children.
- Read Interactively: Use books to engage children’s participation.
- Read It Again: Read books multiple times. This creates opportunities for sequencing/ problem-solving.
- Props: Introduce objects that spark conversations.
- Make Music: Engage in musical activities. Make your own instruments!
- Sign It: Use gestures or simple signs with words.
Bringing more of these new (or not so new) crucial conversation activities into the classroom and making it fun can give you more insight about what the children in your program need! Let the conversations start and have your listening ears (and listening heart) on!