Speech and language development is one of the most important foundational teachings for young children. Language sets the foundation for any and all other learning modalities in a child’s life. Children learn language in many ways, from listening to the adults, to babbling on their own. They copy, mimic, explore, respond and react to others and language that is displayed towards them. Each child will reach language milestones at their own rate and in their own way.
Here are some great tips to keep in mind when promoting a language rich environment:
As You Talk, the Child Learns
Keep in mind that children listen to everything you do and do not say while they are around you. Be vocal about anything you are doing in the classroom. Get used to talking out loud for the majority of your actions. If you are playing, talk about the activity and what they can learn from the activity. Talk as you conduct classroom daily activities. Listen to the children and engage in what they want to talk about as well. How are they feeling? What are they learning? What questions do they have?
Language is More than Words
The age-old adage here is true. It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. Remember to make your interactions positive. Use a positive and calm tone with your children, showing patience and compassion. Also, remember to use positive and accepting body language and smiling to go along with your speech.
Use Your Big Person Words
Children tend to mimic and mirror a lot of the interactions they see and hear. It is very important to make sure that we are using adult language with them, even when they are a young age. Using baby talk or slang language can deter or hinder the child’s language skills and development in this area. Intonation and appropriate expression can help a lot as well.
Let Them Talk
Learning language and figuring out when to speak takes time. Some children will process slower than others. Give your children the time and space to speak. Slow down, show patience, and wait for their responses. If you constantly cut them off, they can develop a stutter or shut down with communication completely.
Add Language to Items
Children need to see language tied to every day items just as much as they need to hear or mimic language. Try adding word or sentence labels to items that they see and use every day in the classroom.
Read Aloud Every Day
Reading can be a great way to expose children to a larger vocabulary without having to recite new words or use them in a boring manner. Read complex stories as well as easy stories with great images, so you can connect the item or thing to the word or phrase that describes it.
Play with Words
Play with words and language lessons by using alphabet beads or other fun activities to make it more fun for children. Students will be sure to pay better attention if you can attach a game to the word lesson for the day.
Say It in More than One Way
There are many different ways to get a statement, idea or feeling across. Sometimes we fall back on expressing our directions or thoughts in the same way each time. Try using different synonyms and sentence structures to get the same direction or idea across. This will help the child learn to free form a thought and relay it, rather than just mimic the same old sentences that we tend to repeat.
ReadOn Arizona has Smart Talk information online to give you more ideas to help children develop their language skills. Click here to read more.