4 Strategies for Engaging Preschoolers in Rich Conversation
As an early childhood educator, you want to provide daily opportunities for your students to participate in activities that help them learn new skills or practice existing ones in a fun, stimulating and supporting environment. One of those skills would be communication. Effective communication skills are integral to children’s self-expression, their development of social relationships and their learning. Today’s blog from Kindermark Kids offers some strategies for engaging your students in rich conversation.
It’s important for students to have the opportunity to engage in conversation in a variety of different ways, for example in a group of peers, with adults, and one-on-one. Using everyday opportunities, you can engage children in meaningful conversation as they listen carefully, build on what others say, model responses and observe. Not only is it your job to create and encourage these opportunities, but remember to lead by example. Children are always watching your interactions with other children, as well as with adults.
1. Use Everyday Activities as Opportunities.
To engage students in rich conversations, you don’t necessarily need to create entirely new lesson plans and activities. You just need to be aware of what’s going on in your classroom and encourage communication throughout everything you do. Rather than just telling children what is going to happen next, get them involved. Use circle time, snack time, story time, nap time, etc. to engage meaningful conversation that sparks learning. For example, instead of just saying it is nap time, ask the children what do we do during nap time? There are so many opportunities for engaging children in rich conversation during the activities you already partake in each day. The challenge is recognizing those opportunities.
2. Design Spaces that Encourage Children to Talk Together.
Be sure to arrange your classroom in a way that supports each type of instructional activity and promotes effective communication. Include an area for circle time, setup different learning centers where children can work together on activities and be sure to engage children outdoors as well. Keep changes to this environment to a minimum. This will provide structure and routine for the children so that they can learn which activities take place in various parts of the classroom. The physical environment will then cue them as to what they are to do and how they are to behave in that area, including what type of communication to use. Predictable classroom routines allow children to anticipate what will happen each day and the type of language they will use for each activity.
3. Regularly Introduce New Words and Phrases.
One of the most effective strategies for exposing children to rich language input is for the teacher to provide an ongoing commentary on activities that are taking place in the classroom. This exposes children to language associated with the immediate context. Give detailed descriptions, using different words and grammar. In addition, teachers can use props, introducing objects that spark conversation. You can also use books to introduce new language and engage children’s participation. Then read those books over and over so that they learn the words and their meanings. Songs and videos can also be used to effectively introduce new language and ideas.
4. Ask Open-Ended Questions to Challenge Children.
When engaging in conversation with children, make sure to ask open-ended questions rather than yes or no questions. This will challenge the children to think deeper as they express their ideas. For example, instead of asking “Did you think that would happen?” ask “Why do you think that happened?” You want to prompt the children to use as many words as possible when they express themselves. By doing so, you are helping them not only express their thoughts effectively, but conversation also helps them get what they need, resolve conflict, ask for help and learn from others.
Kindermark Kids is here to help support you in engaging your students in rich conversation by providing quality learning products. From educational toys to children’s furniture and organizational storage for organizing your centers, we’ve got your classroom needs covered!
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- Erin Burdette