Not enough talk in early years?(13 Posts)
I've been reading some stuff all about the fact disadvantaged children are significantly held back in education because their language skills are limited. Even when they learn to read thier comprehension is very poor. They can't effectively use language as a tool for learning or thinking. There is also that famous study comparing the number of words heard by children from different home backgrounds which highlighted the need for children be spoken to lots.
I then went to visit a prospective reception class for my ds (who's own speech is a little slow in coming.) The reception classroom was very noisy as the children beavered away 'learning through play'. It struck me that in this child led environment, enphasising doing, there was far too little time in which a child could hear good language modelled by the teacher, despite this being so crucial for the developement of the most vulnerable, as they won't get it at home. Surely these children need LOTS and LOTS of chances to hear language to make up for the shortfall elsewhere but to achieve this would require much more teacher talk than child centered environments allow. Of course I'm not against play for 4 yr olds - I just wonder if the balance is wrong.
Well the foundation phase is supposed to have a higher ratio of teachers/teaching assistants to children. And although they are 'playing', in our school that means groups of children playing with the teacher so they get to hear lots of 'good language modelling'. Put it this way, my kids go to a Welsh language school and we speak very little Welsh at home. By the end of reception my DD was almost fluent in Welsh. My DS is 3 weeks into reception and is coming out with lots of Welsh already. They MUST be having plenty of exposure to language and hearing the teachers talk a lot as their peers are also mostly english speaking so they won't be picking it up from them.
Sometimes other "disadvantaged" children can teach our "Einstein" who can add/subtract/read etc. words that he didn't know before. Even children from the most humble backgrounds can help and teach us a couple of things
Children don't just need to listen - they need to practise. Also other children can be modelling language. Plus it is not like early years teachers set up activities and then it back the rest of the time with their feet up... They work with small groups plus whole class teaching plus 1:1
In reception there is carpet time several times a day, stories, instructions and in our school there were always 2-3 adults in the room to work with children (26) and talk about what they are doing. That's all right I think.
When reading you post though I must say I have had similar worries about my DD (almost 3). So far, her first language is German (my native language) and I am with her most of the time. She understands and can speak English OK but vocab and sentence structure is way behind her German.
Now she has started pre-school to improve her English and make friends. We stayed with her so far and the whole set up is so child-centred that I can't see her learning much language. There are different activities and toys out, the children just play and the adults watch unless they are approached by a child then they join in or read a story etc. I would have expected a bit more initiative, e.g. lets sing a song, play a game ... read a story whoever wants to ...??? - This should go in the pre-school section.
My DD went through three years of maternelle in France where there is one teacher for 30 children and a huge emphasis on the acquisition of oral language skills. I think it is quite successful.
Good practice is for an adult to talk to the child and model language during play and to plan focused activities to develop language /extend vocabulary
Thats interesting about Wales - there is a very high adult child ratio there I think, which must help. And also about France.
I suppose I was wondering whether the heavy emphasis on independent tasks in some schools leads to those students missing out. It was so noisy in the classroom I visited recently that it would be hard to hear good language modelled. Also, ad hoc interventions by assistants that don't necessarily know what is important to stress, isn't the same as structured activities led by the teacher, specifically planned to move the child on from where they are e.g in use of prepositions. Of course MRZ is right - just not convinced practice is always like that from my own experience.
I don't mean 4 year olds sitting down listening all the time - games , puppets - I'm sure there are all sorts of fun games that can be repeated daily to ensure kids get more language input each day.
I work in early years (younger children than Reception) and we put a lot of emphasis on speaking and listening. Even during child-initiated play (which of course is in an environment planned and set up by adults) there are adults involved in talking to children and extending their speech and learning.
We plan for all the children individually, and all workers understand what "is important to stress". It might all look ad hoc but actually there is a lot of training, planning, observing and assessing going on in an early years classroom.
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