Improving children’s language skills through classroom conversations

The classroom language-learning environment and children’s language skills can be improved by training teachers to be conversationally responsive partners with children. Sonia Cabell and Laura Justice describe how

AN ALARMING PERCENTAGE OF SCHOOL-AGE children have difficulties with reading. Although it is possible to remediate these difficulties, improving precursors to reading skills during the preschool years may help to prevent these problems before they develop. Oral language skills are an important foundation for reading skills, and include children’s vocabulary knowledge (essentially the volume of words known) and syntactic knowledge (rules governing how words are organized into sentences). Children use this knowledge early in the process of reading acquisition, when they are learning to decode words, as well as later when reading comprehension becomes the primary focus of reading development. Preschool is a critical time when these important language skills can be improved.

What we know
● Preschool language skills are important to later reading success.
● Children living in poverty need high-quality classroom language-learning environments.
● With limited training and coaching, teachers can learn how to provide children with more opportunities to participate in multi-turn conversations.
● Training teachers to be conversationally responsive partners can improve children’s language skills.

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May 2013