How to Nurture Children’s Language Development (including reading with older children)

How to Nurture Children’s Language Development (including reading with older children)

By Paula-Elizabeth Jordan

 

During the “baby phase of development” you are the key to language development and it is vitally important to talk to your child as much as possible and actively make gestures to what you’re talking about. The important thing to note here is what you say is as important as how frequently you talk to your baby. They are basically learning a language from scratch the best things to talk to them about are things that can immediately make sense to them. Language without meaning is useless to a child learning things for the first time. To give language meaning you have to talk to them about what will immediately make sense to them. For example; what are they wearing? What colour is what they’re wearing? What are they looking at? – Describe it is as much clear detail as possible. How do they appear to be feeling? – Are they smiling, or crying and if so, what does it appear to be in response to? – Talk to them about it and tell them. Also, if you want your child to speak well, you have to model it yourself. 🙂

 

Always remember that when it comes to interpreting the meaning of what you are saying a child will put the meaning of what they perceive your body language and voice-tone to be saying above what your spoken words are saying. I touch on this in my previous article on why not to use dummies, (pacifiers, soothers). This also demonstrates how important body language and voice tone are to your child when they’re actively deciphering the meaning of what you’re saying. So please make sure that your body language and voice-tone are always congruent with your spoken words. Otherwise you are teaching them that your words are empty (i.e. best ignored) and they will not feel they can’t learn from you and you will struggle to gain their respect. 🙂

 

I would like to include a bit about baby-signing classes here. I have actually taken a child to Makaton baby signing classes and I am a rather proficient Makaton Signer!! I do recommend Makaton classes because the signs in Makaton are universal, hence the same in every language. Makaton is especially great for multi-lingual children and children with learning disabilities. Please don’t be discouraged if your child isn’t in either of these categories; the ability to express themselves and communicate before speaking that Makaton signing provides enables your baby to feel understood and more calm and happier as a result. I have even heard of it minimising the “terrible two’s” phase because the child is able to express their feelings and be understood. One important tip here is to always say the word simultaneously to using the sign because ultimately you want your child to learn to speak – not just sign!! 🙂

 

I would also recommend having the same/ similar “conversationsregularly so your baby is given regular opportunities to process the same information in order for them to be able to absorb the meaning of what you’re saying more easily. Reading books promotes the idea that reading is interesting and fun, plus introduces the child to language they wouldn’t necessarily come across in ordinary spoken language. Plus it introduces a poetic beauty of expression. 🙂

 

One very interesting thing I would like to add here is that I have read alphabet books with babies – the DK and Ladybird ones are the best, they are clear with realistic pictures – and they have listen throughout the whole alphabet of me saying the sound (NB Not the name of the letter) and then whatever the picture/ pictures are that begin with that sound. I am most often handed the book back after “z” to re-read it to them!! – So contrary to what most adults may think, babies are perfectly capable of extended bouts of concentration if they are engaged in what you’re are doing with them. A tip here is to miss outq”. Let me tell you why: You only tell them why when they’re ready; you’ll know because they’ll suddenly notice and ask. The reason being is because “q” is only pronounced “Qw” when it is followed by an “u” to make the phonogram, “qu”. Otherwiseqon its own is anotherc” sound that with two already (“c” and “k”) could be confusing. Plus most examples for “q” are actuallyqu” so it’s confusing. For an example of “q”, think of the “q” at the end of “Iraq” – you can clearly hear a “c” sound hear. 🙂

 

As your child becomes a toddler, the more different experiences you can give them, the more language they are exposed too. Plus, it is important to provide children with real experiences that language is based on, as they need to be able to make a concrete connection to what you’re talking about. Please, can I ask you to always use the correct language to your children. For instance, if you’re out a park feeding the ducks, they are “ducks”, not “quack quacks”! If you’re child points and says; “quack quacks”, say; Yes, that’s the sound that they make and they’re called ducks”. This way you remain positive whilst still providing the correct information. Also, if your child gets a word wrong, I know it’s cute, please still role-model the correct language back. Your child is most likely to remain using their “cute mistake” for a while, so please don’t deny them the correct language. Look at it this way; denying them the opportunity to learn the correct language and grow as an individual is essentially holding them back for your own pleasure. Plus it is also rather condescending; you wouldn’t want someone to make fun of you in the same way if you’re learning a foreign language? So please allow them to grow. 🙂

 

It’s not always necessary to give them the language straight away when introducing them to new activities. Montessori presentations with very young children are mainly silent so children don’t have to process both what s/he is seeing and hearing; their minds are so absorbent that seeing the process is generally enough. Again, the more regularly they are exposed to a wide variety of activities the more likely they are to pick up the language related to that activity more quickly. By activities I mean things like pouring, spooning and threading in addition to trips out to various different places. 🙂

 

Most people think that when introducing a child to reading that you have to start with reading before writing. When you consider for a moment the way a child learns it’s actually the other way round and Maria Montessori noticed this during her observations of children learning:

 

Writing… is very easy in childhood. It is not so with reading, which demands an extensive period of instruction and requires a higher intellectual development, since it involves interpreting the signs and modulating the voice in order to understand the meaning of a word; and all this requires purely mental work.” (The Discovery of the Child, p199).

 

Before learning to write children need to develop the muscular mechanisms in the hand that are necessary for writing. In a Montessori environment they do this through doing many activities that indirectly assist their gross/ fine motor development. For example pegging, painting and drawing. Children also need extensive practice in tracing letters with their fingers (e.g. Sand Paper Letters, or tracing letters in sand trays) before actually writing them. This enables the action of writing each individual letter to become firmly engrained in their muscular memory. Also Maria Montessori discovered; if children are given the opportunity to construct words with letters (e.g. The Large Movable Alphabet) they will almost spontaneously and effortlessly develop the ability to write (The Secret of Childhood chpt 19). 🙂

 

Think about it; with reading not only do they have to learn the sound and name of 26 symbols we call letters. They then have to start figuring out how these sound when put together. However, starting by tracing each letter (the precursor to writing) as they learn it means that you increase the number of channels the child is processing the information. Ask them to say the sound, (hearing and visual) and they’re also tracing it (muscular memory). 🙂

 

After your child has learnt enough letters, you can begin putting them together to make 2-3 letter words. Use letters to do this initially. The Large Moveable Alphabet is the equipment used in a Montessori classroom. There are plenty of alternative letters you can buy such as magnetic letters etc. Also note that it’s always a good idea to start with familiar letters such as some of the letters in their name, plus “m” for mummy and “d” for daddy that can be heard clearly in these words that the child hears every day. The most important thing to note here is that you must only introduce them to fully phonetic words such as “at”, “cat”, dog, “fun”, “yes” etc. As you may have noted these words all have one vowel in the middle and a consonant either side and they are fully phonetic. NB It’s always a good idea to do the rhyming ones together to help your child process things more easily and quickly. For example, introduce, “at”, “cat”, “bat”, “hat”, “mat” etc. together. 🙂

 

Once your child has become fairly proficient with theses you can start introducing blends such as “dr” in “drum” and “st” in “list”. Introduce blends at the beginning of words before you introduce blends at the end. Plus, introduce words with the same blend together; this is particularly interesting for the child with “end blends” because they rhyme. Once the child has learnt simple blends, they can go on to learn more complex blends such as “spr” in the word “spring” (NB notice this also has the “ng” blend at the end). Also words like “flip flop” and “dragon” would be included in this level of reading. Say them to yourself – they are (still) phonetic. 🙂

 

Finally once the child has learnt all levels of phonetic language, you can begin to introduce them to phonograms that are in part, non-phonetic. These include sound like “ar”, “au”, “ee”, “ow” i_e (pronounced like “I” in words such as bike), etc. The key here is to introduce one phonogram at a time and introduce the child to as many different words as you can think of with the sound. NB It is helpful, at least initially, if the rest of the word is phonetic, for examplestart” is all phonetic apart from the “ar” in the middle. Another tip is to introduce phonograms in groups (one at a time) where the child learns that different combinations can make the same sound. For example, “ai”, a_e “eigh” (in eight) etc. all make the sound “a” as heard in the beginning of the word, “able”. 🙂

 

By the time your child has reached the stage of learning phonograms they will naturally start picking them up fairly straightforwardly provided they have been properly and thoroughly taken through the other stages of language development. Remember, it is much better to really take time to go through each stage steadily and make it fun, as opposed to going too quickly and making your child feel unnecessarily pressured; remember, slower is quicker. Human-beings learn better when in a relaxed playful state. It’s a concept that both my Montessori Training and Photo-Reading Course taught me.

 

For further support and advice please e-mail me at; paula@paulaelizabeth.com, or find me on Twitter/ Instagram @FamilyTeamCoach and on Facebook/ LinkedIn, Paula-Elizabeth Jordan. 🙂

 

expert biography

Paula-Elizabeth Jordan is a Montessori trained Child-Development Expert who’s passionate about helping “Family Teams” work together for the benefit of each other, as this is how successful, well-balanced, happy children are raised. She has been Montessori trained for over ten years now and also has a degree in Theology with an Art minor. She is presently writing her own book entitled; “How to Bring up A Successful Human-Being”. www.paulaelizabeth.com

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