Never underestimate the opportunities for incidental language which occur in school; no matter how busy the class or exhausting the schedule. The unplanned exchange between an educator and a child can be one of the most powerful learning experiences of the day.
This is a re-blog post originally posted by Charlie Archbold and published with kind permission.
The original post can be found here.
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So where do we find these opportunities and how do we maximise them?
- Times of transition provide times for talk. The walks to and from places, class tidying time, on the way to the library are a great start. If you often find yourself talking to the same children stop and look along the line. Chances are the student who is shy or anxious, or who has a language or learning difficulty may not be the one approaching you. So make a conscious effort to go and chat to them. It not only enhances relationships but provides a great opportunity to hear how they’re constructing language in less formal/conversational settings.
- Playful Learning time is one of the best opportunities to develop oral language. Move around the play space and listen carefully to the chatter. What they say and how they say it let’s you know how they’re communicating with their peers. Oral, reading and writing exchanges require an innate knowledge of grammar structure, how is our language constructed. If you hear children consistently using poor or insecure grammar, take the opportunity to model the correct grammar in an authentic setting. Child. “I gode shop with Mum.” Teacher. “Oh, you went to the shop with Mum? Was it fun?” etc.
- Investigative activities are researched to develop vocabulary. Science, maths andoutdoor play provide excellent opportunities to develop vocabulary. There is an increasing amount of academic research into the importance of developing vocabulary. We need to give children the chance to practice new language orally. Without talk time it is almost impossible to consolidate new vocabulary. They need to play with language so actively encourage them to expand word choice when sharing ideas.
- Expose children to synonyms, alternate words or phrases, technical vocabulary. It is okay to talk about the use of language for a purpose. For example the way we describe an elephant in a factual report is different to how we’d describe an elephant in a story. When introducing any new learning always expose them to the specific language associated with it.
American sociologist Deborah Tannen said, “We tend to look through language and not realise how much power language has.” We want our children to have power in a complex world. If we can improve their oral language skills we are empowering them to communicate in a range of contexts for a range of purposes.
Image credit: CK, Carl, Carlo, Carlito on Flickr under (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)