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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in language development
Posted by on in What If?

teacher and children

Those of us with children have all been there: standing in a queue as long as the river Nile at the supermarket with a slowly unraveling toddler in the cart. You could hand her your iPhone with a colorful app that bings and boings to forestall that tantrum. Or, you could talk to her – where are those apples in the cart? Can she find the picture of the little girl on the cereal box, or find the letter “G” that her name starts with on the big sign over head?

In fact, researcher Julia Ma and her colleagues suggest that you just might want to have that conversation. At a recent Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting, they reported their findings from a study of over 1000 children under the age of 2. They had asked parents to report how often their children used handheld digital devices in an average day. These same parents then responded to a questionnaire about their children’s language abilities. What did they find? Children with more screen time were more likely to be delayed in their language expression! Moreover, these researchers were careful and took many other factors into account when they did their analyses: maternal education, family income, infant temperament, and parent - child overall screen time on other than handheld devices. These precautions suggest that their finding was really about children’s handheld screen time.

Handheld devices are pervasive – found in every crevice of our lives. We check them before we go to bed and they are the first point of contact with the world when we awaken in the morning. Recent data shows high uptake by even the youngest children. Reports suggest that the 2-4 crowd goes digital for almost 2 hours a day. But the widespread use of these devices is a relatively new phenomenon. We just sang "Happy Birthday" to the 10-year-old iPhone and the tablet is just 7 years of age. Not surprisingly, research has lagged behind the rapidly changing technology. But that means that we are putting devices into the hands of our toddlers when we know very little about their possible effects.

But we do know what helps our children learn language. Decades of research tell us that language learning depends on human interaction and on what researchers call ‘contingency’ – responding to our children soon after they speak and building on what they say. Digital devices can interrupt the conversation that is so vital to language success. Research from our labs shows that children will not learn new words when their conversation with a parent is interrupted by a cell phone call.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

storytelling

My husband is a master teacher and people often ask him what it is that he does that gets such great results. I think it is his storytelling ability that garners him such success, both with student achievement and also found within the relationships he builds with his middle school students.

Parents often remark to him that their children come home and the nightly dinner table conversation is in regards to what stories were told that day in math class. They go on to say that their children can recall every minute detail and that they, the entire family, feel as if they have known us their entire lives.

When you have taught as long as he has there is a story to tell for virtually any topic that would ever come up in class. And really, if he does not have one, then he just makes one up. The students are served a daily regimen of storytelling in his class and they love it!

Storytelling is an excellent way to build language. New words and colloquialisms can be heard by the students. When you tell stories in your classes you are modeling how to recall sensory details. Another reason to use storytelling in your classroom is that it models presentation skills for students to use in the future. Eye contact, movement, dramatic pauses, voice intonation and gesturing are some of the tactics that can be seen when a teacher tells stories.  Finally, students who listen to storytelling get oral models for writing.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

CanWE Talk

When I was teaching preschool, I was often asked by parents how to get some information out of their children about their day. Most of the time, when asked, “What did you do today?” parents would get one of two answers: “I played” or “Nothing.”

And, no matter how much they pumped for more information, the well was dry. My response would be, then, “You need to change the way you ask them.”

Getting a preschooler to recall his day requires knowing a little bit about where he is cognitively. There are several areas of his thinking that are developing at this time. His recognition memory is really quite good, meaning if he has some visual cues, he can remember and talk about something that has happened recently. I say recently, because his working or short-term memory is a bit limited at this point and usually only events that are striking or personally meaningful will be kept for a longer term. This extended, “autobiographical memory” is why he can remember every detail and tell everyone he meets about what happened the day Mommy backed into the garage door… but remembers very little about what happened in school today.

talking boy

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