Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Talking to One's Self and Others

Talk Blog on Speaking and Listening for March 21

I began this series of posts reviewing Speaking and Listening for Preschool Through Third Grade by Resnick and Snow by outlining  the 3 types of Skills that children need to develop: Habits, Kinds of Talk and Resulting Genres and Language Use and Conventions.  Then, with an introduction to Habits, I focused on the first of 4 kinds of Habits: Lots of Talk.  In this post I’ll address the next two:  Talking to Oneself and Conversing on a Topic.

Talking to Oneself

I’m sure that “talking to oneself” is not limited to children.  We all “talk to ourselves.”  Sometimes we call that thinking, or remembering, and sometimes “thinking out loud.”

For children “talking to oneself” is an early and essential language skill.  The authors maintain that “Talking to One’s Self" about words and meanings as they read, rehearsing steps to solve a problem, and reciting information they have learned or memorized.  They point out that “During free play at preschool, about 40% of children’s talk is directed at themselves…”  (More later when I take up this topic again as it applies specifically to preschool).

Conversing at Length on a Topic

The authors note that between the ages of 3 and 8 children become increasingly skillful at staying on and extending a topic, a critical skill for becoming successful learners as they engage in “curriculum-based” topics beginning in kindergarten.  “Children talk about what they are learning.  It is critical, then, for the curriculum to include good topics that foster engaging talk with new words and ideas…..” (p. 7) 

“Focusing on children’s interests to promote learning is particularly important in the preschool years.  A curriculum that capitalizes on children’s curiosity and helps them expand what they know about the world gives them new ideas and the words to go with them…..  Children need time to linger on topics and explore them deeply at their own pace…. For example, preschoolers are not likely to hear words such as hose, pump, ladder, engine, and oxygen unless they are learning—and talking—about firefighters (in the context, say of a field trip to the neighborhood fire station). (p. 7) And, they are not likely to actually learn and use those words unless they have multiple opportunities to do so.

The authors offer a set of ways to help children become “word collectors”: for example,

*Giving students new words to describe what they are doing or learning

*Rephrasing students’ remarks with more sophisticated vocabulary

*Playing word games

*Encouraging children to keep personal dictionaries of new words

*Creating a word wall with action or description words pictured

The next post will focus on “Discussing Books Leads to Meaningful Topics”, the 4th skill in the Habits category.

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