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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 57 Summer 2014
REFLECTIONS • GOWRIE AUSTRALIA • SUMMER 2014 - ISSUE 57 19 In practice, this requires educators to engage in a range of intentional teaching strategies as part of everyday classroom practice. By intentional teaching I mean being 'an opportunist' and a planner. In other words, someone who is able to seize the moment as it arises in children's play to introduce new and descriptive words. Building children's vocabulary also involves planning so that new vocabulary is introduced through play, through real-life situations, investigations, routines and transitions - basically any context at kindergarten. Wasik (2010: 623) explains that it is important to plan for vocabulary building as part of oral language development and to be spontaneous and flexible: How teachers initially present and explain words, purposively use the words throughout the day...and intentionally weave these words into multiple different events and activities for children have determining influences on how children hear, understand, and use these words, all of which ultimately shape how well they internalize and recall this content. Building Vocabulary as Everyday Practice This next section provides some examples of how to build children's vocabularies as part of daily interactions in kindergarten. The example in the following vignette is based on an experience that developed from a child's interests in birds. It demonstrates the capacity to seize an opportunity that presented itself and the planning designed to support a child's interest and to build on existing vocabulary. A soaring vocabulary One of the children was fascinated with the local birds that often entered our centre, so we borrowed a few Australian birds exhibits from the local museum. One of the bird specimens happened to have its wings set out to full span so we talked about the ways those wings would move. Before I knew it we were chatting about birds flying, and sharing what we knew about birds. When I asked the children for some ways to describe birds' wing movements they suggested flapping, fluttering, floating and soaring! The richness of children's suggestions was a delight and a great stimulus to the group as a whole and led to some spontaneous animal movement experiences throughout the week. Later in the day I also wrote the words children had suggested and put them with the display. That's when one of the children noticed that several of the words started with the letters "fl" adding another dimension to our language experiences. Children's connections to letter awareness through the writing examples also gave me useful insights into their developing literacy skills. Building children's vocabulary, to coin a familiar expression, "is not rocket science" . But to envision the possibility of becoming a rocket scientist, will surely take an expansive vocabulary - one built with supportive adults who make time to listen carefully to children's conversations, provide rich experiences as part of everyday life, and share the joys of playing with language. While a four year old may not remember the time a teacher invests in this work, their parents most definitely will. I remember with great affection my eldest child's kindergarten teacher, someone who loved to play with language and introduced the children to the pleasures of nonsense rhymes, ballads and poetry as a gift we value enormously. The examples in the Table below also show how vocabulary can be built into daily routines in kindergarten. Building Vocabulary in Kindergarten through Everyday Practice Context Learning Experience Language introduced Outdoor sand play Oh no look, your tunnel has collapsed! Descriptive language Small group investigation That caterpillar has been crawling up the leaf. It must be hungry because now it's chewing the leaf really quickly. Verbs to describe actions Taking shoes off for dance My sandals are bigger than yours. Comparison Routines After you've washed your hands then you can help us cook. Ordinal language Carpentry Referring to an object: Pass me the hammer please. Nouns Story Providing an explanation: When I press the pause button the e-story will stop. Nouns Group discussion Talking about people: What do you call the clothes worn by children at school? Who else wears a uniform? Nouns References: Carroll, J., Bowyer-Crane, C., Duff, F., Hulme, C & Snowling, M. (2011). Developing language and literacy: Effective intervention in the early years, Wiley & Sons: UK. Konza, D, (2011). Supporting Oral Language and Reading development in the Early Years #05 Part 1. Spotlight: Research into Practice. Victorian Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, February, 2. Luongo-Orlando, K. (2010). The Cornerstones to Early Literacy: Childhood experiences that promote learning in reading, writing, and oral language. Markham, ON, CAN: Pembroke Publishers. McCandlish, S. (2012). Taking a "Slice" of the Oral Language Pie: An Approach for Developing Oral Language in Schools. Retrieved September 23 2014 from: http://www.decd.sa.gov.au/northernadelaide/files/links/Taking_a_slice_of_Oral_Lan.pdf Queensland kindergarten learning guideline, Professional development resources (2011). Supporting language and early literacy practices in kindergarten. Retrieved from: http://www.qsa.qld.edu.au/downloads/p_10/qklg_pd_resource_supporting_literacy.pdf Scarborough (2001). "Connecting early language and literacy to later reading (dis)abilities. Evidence, theory and practice". In S. Neuman & D. Dickison (Eds.), Handbook of early literacy research. Guilford Press: New York, 97-110. Wasik, B. (2006). "What Teachers Can Do to Promote Preschoolers' Vocabulary Development: Strategies From an Effective Language and Literacy Professional Development Coaching Model". The Reading Teacher 63 (8). Adapted from QSA article, Supporting language and early literacy practices in kindergarten, (2011).
Issue 56 Spring 2014
Reflections Issue 58 Autumn 2015