Parents and teachers are responsible for nurturing language skills in children. Language is best taught through imitation and by doing the following with children…
Provide a language-rich environment –
- Talk to the child
- Expose the child to songs and stories
- Label everything in the environment
- Choose age-appropriate books- first picture books, then books with one word, then books with short sentences and then short stories.
- Use picture talk often in daily activities
- Let the child name objects
- Do not make the child repeat after you
- Use songs that have chorus lines that children can participate in
- Avoid using audio songs in which singers have a very heavy accent.
- Talk, talk, talk and talk to children
- Listen, listen, listen and listen when they talk- do not prompt, interrupt or correct them when they are trying to talk.
- You want to correct them then after they complete their sentence, you can repeat the sentence in the correct way. They will learn by imitation.
- ‘I will want to talk only if I have something to talk about’ – So give rich experiences and activities to the child every day, something novel, done in a unique and creative manner, this will get them excited and want to talk about their activity or experience.
- ‘If you correct me while I am talking, I will forget what I was going to say.’ – Please understand what the children are going through, when they are learning English, the second language (their first language is the mother tongue and hence English is the second language) which in most of our schools is the ‘first language’! Children think in their mother tongue. When they experience something that they want to talk about, they are trying to translate their thoughts in English, and that takes time, so they pause, after a word or repeat some words again and again (I………………..I………………….I…………………..went ……………….went…………..water) now if you interrupt them by saying, (o.k you went where? To the supermarket?) You have completely misunderstood and now the child is on another track, that of answering your question. So they lose their train of thought and suddenly communication in English becomes a very difficult task for them. Instead, you could have waited patiently for the child to finish speaking and they could have said – “o.k. , so you want to drink water.”
- “The more I listen, the better I will talk.” – Listening is a very important skill in language development. Some do’s and dont’s for early caregivers –
- Do not keep repeating instructions
- First, get the child’s attention and then give the instruction
- Talk in a soft, clear voice
- Don’t nag, yell or be shrill
- Be clear about your pronunciations
- Never make children repeat the sentence after you. For ex., if the child said- ‘I went water’, Do not say, ‘no dear, it is I want water’, now say it. Instead just say, ‘oh, you want water’. Listening to you will automatically teach him the right words and pronunciation?
Teach children instructions.
For this I have successfully used the step method, many teachers and parents that I have taught it too, find it extremely successful –
- At age one your child should be able to follow one step directions- like ‘come here’, ‘sit here’ etc
- At age two, your child should be able to follow two-step directions, like- ‘bring the ball and come here’ etc
- At age three it’s time for three-step directions, ‘go to the table, pick up the spoon and bring it here’.
- At age four, your child should be able to follow 4-step directions and by age 5 and forever at least 5 step directions. Because when your child joins primary school / high school, the teacher uses a lot of directions in her conversation, children who are unable to listen tend to ask their neighbor and get labeled as talkative and the child who tends to ask the teacher what to do gets labeled as a baby, always requiring help! So to make their life easier, start playing direction games at home. (Also important, how many step directions are you able to follow?)
Singing songs, reading stories to children all help in developing listening skills. Also, important is to let children listen with their ‘ears’ and not their ‘eyes’! Do not translate all your instructions into actions, then they will look at your actions and understand what you are saying, then they will not listen. Always wait for the children to stop talking before you give instructions, do not shout instructions, using the instructions if you have to –
Twinkle twinkle little star
Time to wind up, where you are.
Time to put your toys away
Time to tidy up the class
Twinkle twinkle little star.
Here is an excellent game to improve attention span, listening skills, and the ability to follow instructions:
Begin this activity by placing large squares with animal patterns (stripes of a zebra and tiger, spots of a leopard and deer etc.) on the floor, in a circle.
There can be a name card on/next to the pattern so that the children can identify the pattern card.
The teacher/parent will then explain, “Children today we are going to play a game of skip, hop, and stop!” Before we start, I want everyone to practice skipping, hopping, and stopping. Let’s get into a big circle. When I say, skip, we will all skip on both feet around the circle. When I say hop, we will hop on one foot like this and when I say stop! We will stay absolutely still like a statue. Ready to try it?”
Next, choose a leader to stand in the middle of the circle, while the children stand in a group, waiting for directions. The leader then chooses a movement word, for e.g., “hop”, and the children hop from picture to picture around the circumference of the circle. When the leader says, “stop!”, the children stand very still on the place they are.
The leader will then pick the name of an animal from a box next to him (the pictures of the animals can be put in the box before the game begins) and says it aloud.
The child or children who are on that animal pattern will then have to describe that animal (what sound it makes, how it eats, how it moves etc. can also be part of the description) without talking.
The leader can be changed with every round or up to the teacher‘s / parent’s discretion.
The game can continue for as long as the children‘s interest lasts.
Children will learn language easily when you make it fun and interesting.