August 8, 2016 6 min to read

Building Language – Role of Parents and Teachers

Category : Pedagogy

Author: Ms Sowmya Menon

Ms Sowmya Menon is the Co-founder and Director at FiVE, Bengaluru, which offers solutions in therapy for children with special needs with a holistic approach involving family in the therapeutic process. She holds a specialization degree in speech, hearing and language from SRMC,(full form ??) Chennai and has worked as a consultant, therapist and trainer for parents and professionals in the past. With an experience of over fifteen years, especially with children, she shares her thoughts on language development in children with MENTOR. Ms Menon specifically sheds light on the involvement of teachers and parents in the language and speech development process and guides the readers to the correct approach for sound and language development.


When in the Cocoon
Infants and toddlers start communicating right from birth. They use cries, sounds, actions, eye gaze and facial expressions. However, they only realize the meaningfulness of this communication when the parent responds to it. Gradually, they learn how to use these forms of communication to gather attention and have an effect on people and then begin to send messages intentionally. Each time, parents respond to these messages, they are initiating interaction which is the first step towards language development. Parental influence is constant for the child and hence the most influential too. Since they are closest to the child, parents s of opportunities to create an environment where children can learn while they grow up. They are the primary rolehave a serie models for the child before he steps into the outside world.

While the initial years involve playing with children, parents must understand and value this playtime as well. Keep these interactions fun, as you want your child to look forward to it and not move away because it may be too challenging for them. Parents should regularly engage in verbal interaction during every day routines. It is important to follow your child’s lead. If you talk about what interests your child, he is more likely to pay attention and learn a new word.

It is not just how much you talk to your child but how you do so and the quality of the words you use and the experiences the child has with those words to help him/her relate to them and make connections likewise. This helps strengthen the neural impressions in his brain so that he can pull out (remember) and use that information at a later time. Below are a few ways which can aid language development:
Slowly introduce new and exciting words that fit into his current interests. The child’s brain needs time to process information and by bombarding them with too much, the brain is unable to make focused connections to help the child understand what he just saw (truck, red, sand, big, fast, question).

Be clear in your speech and use the right intonations so that your toddler begins to pay attention to how speech can be altered to switch between a statement and a question.
Avoid using baby talk with your toddler. Also avoid asking too many questions.
Provide your feedback and interpret what they are seeing and doing instead.
Be sensitive to your child’s learning needs and do not constantly test your child.

Books and stories play a very crucial role in language development. However, it is not enough to buy lots of books for your child to browse through. Parents must be active partners and make reading and storytelling interactive and fun (use props, voice modulation, masks etc.). Positive feedback goes a long way in encouraging your child, but not bribe!

One common misconception is that if parents use non-verbal communication only, the child will not pick up speech at all. Using actions, gestures, facial expressions along with speech helps your child connect words with what it means and the social usage of the same. Pointing is a great tool too. It helps your child focus on what you want to highlight and also for the child to use in later years.

The Growing Years
Teachers are the next most significant people in the toddler’s life. Schools and teachers are the next world that the child enters. Hereon, what he learns is largely determined by his environment and more importantly by the people who prepare and influence this environment, his teachers. However, often the focus is on “what” they are taught and the content of the lessons rather than the child and his/her learning “process”.

Early language development has a direct influence on the child’s early literacy development. Also, research strongly states that the quality (not just the number of words in his vocabulary) determines his reading and writing proficiency in the later years. Some children may need more time to acquire the knowledge and skills expected of them since not all children learn in the same way, at the same time or at the same rate. Learning is an individual process. Toddlers must be encouraged to observe, interpret, think, analyze and use information to make logical decisions to solve problems.

Teachers must engage in direct conversations with children and make classroom activities meaningful by syncing the children’s daily experiences with the curriculum. This can be done during the course of the day and not necessarily at a specific time. They must provide as many opportunities as possible for children to showcase their areas of strength in an individual capacity.

Narration and storytelling are critical foundation skills that must be developed before reading. Early use of books must focus more on the pictures and the emotions attached to the words rather than just reading the story verbatim. Teachers should introduce new and unfamiliar words and repeat the same words in a variety of sentences throughout the book. This helps children make connections between the words and the context. Encourage them to think (predict what will happen next, why someone is sad, what alternate end is possible). Use props and voice modulation to keep it fun. Encourage children to participate by pausing and waiting. Allow time for questions and to make comments. Make the session interactive and include every child in some small way or the other.

The strength of students within a classroom often makes it challenging for the teachers to focus on adequate language learning opportunities. Setting up small groups within the classroom and using peer groups to encourage and learn from one another has proven significantly effective. Teachers must encourage children to explore new and learnt words on a daily basis.

During these early years, it is important to focus on a child’s diverse learning needs. Set the learning environment (classroom) with learning material that is enriching with learning opportunities that will trigger curiosity and the inner drive to absorb new information. Using lots of visual aids without cluttering the space helps reinforce what is being taught and gives the child time to go back, relook and revise in a space that he is comfortable with.

The Correct Approach
Language development is a very complex process. The ‘nativist theory’ states that infants have an inborn natural drive and desire to make sense of the world and use language as a tool for the same. The ‘social learning theory’ states that children imitate language patterns they hear by watching and listening to the models (people around them) and they repeat those that are positively reinforced (smile and cheers). The ‘interactionist theory’ states that children develop language owing to their strong desire to communicate with others. All of these explanations are important and we need to use a combination of all approaches for better understanding and to provide toddlers with a positive learning environment so that they grow into independent thinkers and learners.


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