How we as teachers communicate and interact with children has a substantial impact on oral language development in the classroom. The article ‘Teacher-Child Conversation in the Preschool Classroom’ by Susan L. Massey highlights the importance of cognitively challenging conversations in oral development. The challenge to initiate stimulating conversations in a large-group classroom setting is addressed. It expresses that in large-group classroom activities and teacher-student discussions, children lack opportunities to share their ideas or elaborate on teachers’ statements/questions. The article suggests that reading, play, and mealtimes are opportune moments to extend the amount of time, as well as quality, of conversations between teachers and children.
A strategy I found most useful for engaging children in oral development using storybooks is dialogic reading. The goal of dialogic reading is to involve children as active participants in book reading interactions by prompting children to talk about the stories, evaluate the child’s response, expand the response by rephrasing and adding information, and then repeat the sequence to check for understanding (Massey, 2004). This strategy enables children to become the storytellers, and guides children to combine language use and comprehension skills (Massey, 2004).
While teachers model language use and initiate conversations throughout the school day, children cannot efficiently be offered one-on-one attention in large-groups or with teachers rotating around a classroom during free-choice play activities. To overcome this issue, the article states that teachers are more likely to engage in cognitively challenging conversations with children when they are stationed in one location rather than circulating around the classroom during playtime (Massey, 2004). This approach supports teachers to focus on conversing with children individually and facilitate peer discussions as well as pretend play.
Additionally, the article recommends for preschool centers to practice family-style mealtime to increase thought-provoking conversations. While often overlooked, I strongly agree that family style meals are a great strategy to increase quality teacher-student interactions. This dining method involves supervising adults seated at meal tables with the children, encourages children to serve food to themselves, pass serving trays to their peers, and is welcoming to conversations. According to the article, children spend more time talking during mealtimes when an adult is seated at their table rather than children to be seated without an adult (Massey, 2004). This supports the idea that teachers are capable of not only introducing conversation topics but can contribute to student-peer conversations as well.
Massey, S. (2004). Teacher-Child Conversations in the Preschool Classroom. Early Childhood Education Journal, Vol. 31, 227-231.