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Oral language in early childhood education

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Started by Tara Fagan 07 Sep 2014 10:49am () Replies (5)

I read with interest this article in the New Zealand Herald.  Primary schools are finding children are starting school with low language skills, in some cases, children having the spoken-language ability of 2-3 year olds.   A group of school leaders and a linguistic specialist believe it is the overuse of gadgets such as tablets and television as well as parents not engaging their children in conversation regularly.  

What do you, as early childhood teachers, think about this?  What trends are you seeing?  More importantly, it would be great to share how you support and strengthen oral language in your centre?


  • Kate McKenzie (View all users posts) 08 Sep 2014 4:44am ()

    Kia ora Tara

    I haven't noticed this trend with the children we have at our centre here in Christchurch. There are a few children with language difficulties but these have already been identified and we are working with SES to provide support for the families.

    I find it slightly ironic that the schools are blaming the overuse of gadgets in the home when my children spend more time on such gadgets at school than they ever had access to in their home and early childhood education settings! It just seems too easy to blame this trend on gadgets.

    We support oral language with everything we do at the centre. Talking, singing, questioning, observing... it all just happens naturally. I do believe that we just need to keep it simple and do the basics well to provide optimal learning environments for our tamariki.

    It may also help that we are a mixed age centre from birth to 5 years, so our younger children are constanty surrounded by language from both adults and older children. 

  • Sandy Cassells (View all users posts) 09 Sep 2014 8:05am ()

    It seems this article is about adults having conversations with children and being aware of what is what is getting in the way, be it television, gadgets, adult busy-ness, adult:child ratios in early childhood settings, or adult language and literacy abilities. The UK is having the same discussion around children's ability to read.

    While it is always a good idea to raise awareness and to find ways to support parents and whānau to read and talk with their children every day, as teachers we must be wary of expecting this of parents whose children spend most their waking hours in our care. It's our responsibility. You're on to it Kate, keep it simple, provide lots and lots of opportunities for conversations and oral language every day.

    Take the time to have real conversations that go beyond one or two turns, keep an eye and ear out for children who might need extra conversation time with a teacher, and remember that children learn new vocabulary from those they engage with but babies won't learn new words from babies, two year olds won't learn new words from two year olds!

    Quite simply, language is supported best by talking with chldren - in the sandpit, reading a book, exploring an interactive book on an app, doing a painting, squishing playdough, block play, taking a walk in the great outdoors, taking a photograph, singing and dancing.

  • Donna Rowland (View all users posts) 09 Sep 2014 4:20pm ()

    When I read this article my first thought was how our busy, and often noisy, Early Childhood Centres impact on children's language development. I really appreciate what you had to say Sandy, pretty much sums up my own thoughts.

    I think about some of the children I have had in my infants and toddlers room who have had really great verbal language, then they transition to the over two's and I often hear comments like "They don't talk much." "They don't have a very wide vocabulary." and similar comments.

    We are also a mixed age centre Kate 0-5 years, but I cant help feeling that change of environment, from quiet and calm, where adults have time to converse, to the busy 02's certainly has an impact on how children learn. 

  • Kate McKenzie (View all users posts) 10 Sep 2014 4:55am ()

    Hi Donna. What I meant by mixed age group is that we don't have an infants and toddlers room. All our children, regardless of age, occupy the same spaces both inside and out. We don't have any transition to the 02s and so rarely hear the type of comments you describe. 

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