Communicating in Early Childhood Education

By: Valerie Pokladowski
2’s Lead Teacher: LPP-Germania
June 2017

Communication is key. We hear this phrase often enough, but in a preschool setting it can be quite difficult to bring that phrase to fruition. For a preschooler, communication manifests in many different ways and can be fostered with a few simple tactics. In this article, we will discuss what communication is, why communication is so important in the development of young children, and how we integrate it into a home or classroom environment. By the end of this article, you will have tangible strategies to use with your child to build communication.
Communication is the ability to send and receive information. It can be verbal, nonverbal, artistic, and technological, among others. In order to help a child build essential academic skills and feel confident in her learning, she must first be able to communicate and feel positive in that interaction. This success is linked to stronger math and science skills, as well as higher attainment on standardized tests. When children have receptive and expressive language to use in communicating, they are more likely to practice these skills to advocate for their own learning and they develop and maintain strong self-regulation skills. Students at Lincoln Park Preschool and Kindergarten are constantly integrating these skills to calm themselves or convey a feeling or need. By doing so, students resort less to physical forms of communication, which results in a more positive learning environment. Regardless of a child’s age or skill level, communication allows for all children to feel safe, acknowledged, and be successful in life.
Now we know what communication is and why it is important, but how do we use this information to build these skills both in school and at home? We will dive into two methods for increasing communication in preschool age children: Conversation and Writing. When starting a conversation with a young child it is important to be patient and set feasible expectations for his response. Give the child time to engage in conversation at their own pace so as to not create anxiety in the exchange. Start by simply asking him open-ended questions, instead of simple yes or no inquiries. By asking Why or How questions, you challenge a child’s cognitive thinking as well as increase his vocabulary. Extend your child’s play by questioning his choices, imagining with them, and introducing new objects, ideas, and vocabulary through play. For example, your child crawls under the table and you ask, “What are you doing under there?” He says, “I’m fixing the car!” You respond, “What kind of tools do you need?” or “Oh, here’s the wrench.” If a child is working with a one or two word sentence structure, model language for him and give him choices. For example, if a child is playing with cars, instead of asking him if he likes playing with cars, ask, “Do you prefer the red car or the blue car?” while holding up each car. You can continue to extend the language by adding other descriptors and encouraging your child to repeat after you if they are struggling to link the words together. Try to avoid drilling your child or expecting a certain response, but allow him to respond in whatever way feels natural. If you are surprised by the way your child responds to something you have said simply ask them why and continue the conversation to create an open dialogue where the child is truly allowed to speak his mind as long as he is being kind and respectful. Overall the conversations with your child should be fun and natural.
In addition to conversation, writing is a fantastic way for your child to build her communication skills. Just as we see with language skills, writing skills vary from child to child, but as long as a child can hold a writing utensil and make a mark on a page, that child can write. Encourage your child to write and show appreciation for whatever level of writing she produces. Children begin expressing themselves through writing by drawing pictures, then moving on to letter-like marks (dashes, circles, etc.), and finally on to recognizable letters. At the beginning of your child’s work with writing let your child free write while asking questions like, “What can you tell me about that?” or “I see you have used a lot of blue, why is that?” Asking questions like these that are open-ended will encourage your child to create her own story and foster her imagination. Questions like, “What is that?” force children to decide what they are writing, which they may not even have the answer to yet. Once your child starts verbalizing her writing, you can start to introduce inventive spelling. Start by asking her to describe her writing, and then begin to help her stretch out the sounds in the words of the objects she has just listed. Once she has tackled this you can extend it by asking her to write the letters that she hears. Even if the letters may not line up with the actual sound or even if the letters are unrecognizable marks on the page, the connection is being made, which is a fantastic start!
Words are the most powerful tools we can give children. With words children can express themselves, create lasting friendships, and promote their own education. Through purposeful and engaging conversation, as well as the artistic outlet of writing, children can increase their communication skills, which will lead to not only successful educational careers, but successful lives!

Successful Classroom Management Strategies to Try at Home

By Lindsay Campbell, Pre-K Teacher-LPP Germania

Classroom management is one of the most important aspects of teaching. Setting expectations, allowing for children to make their own appropriate choices, understanding the limits of being part of the group and coping when the answer is ‘no’ are boundaries that let children feel safe and confident. Incorporating the following strategies at home can make transitions and negotiations more fluid and stress-free.

Set Limits and Expectations – Setting limits and expectations are important for children to feel confident and secure. Providing reasons for your expectations can also help your child accept your limits without becoming defensive. For instance, before going to the playground you could explain to your child that it might be busy and that they will have to be patient waiting for a turn on the swing. You could mention that they need to slide down the slide on their bottom as opposed to climbing up it. When children know what is expected of them, they develop the ability to become self-aware and to self-discipline. When you see your child follow through with your expectations, be sure to notice and praise them!

Related Consequences – When a child makes an undesirable choice, it is important to make sure their consequence is related to the choice they made. For example, if a child chooses to knock over their sibling’s block tower, a related consequence might be to help rebuild the block tower. If they continue to knock it down, a further related consequence might be to have the child find a new area to play. An unrelated consequence, such as cancelling a plan to watch a movie before bedtime, can be confusing to the child, as it does not relate to the reason there is a consequence in the first place.

Statements vs. Questions – Do not ask your child for permission if you don’t really need it. If you are ready to take your child home at the end of the day, tell them so. Give your child reasonable and clear directions, such as, “It’s time to go. Please put your toys away.” Children are more likely to respond to statements such as this as opposed to, “Are you ready to go now?” Take “OK?” out of your vocabulary. Ending your request with “OK?” unknowingly turns it into a question that requires permission. When you ask for permission, you open yourself up to your child’s ability to tell you, “no,” which can in turn lead to an unnecessary power struggle.

Offer Appropriate Choices – Choices are important for children to have a feeling of control and to help build their self-esteem. In some cases, offering your child appropriate choices that are acceptable to you helps to sidestep the power struggle of many challenging situations. For instance, “You need to take a bath. Do you want to take it now or in five minutes?” creates a win-win situation where your child is in charge, within your parameters. You are happy because your child cooperates and your child is happy because they made their own choice.

It’s Okay to Say “No” – Telling a child “no” can often be more difficult on an adult than it is on the child. While we might feel bad that we made them feel sad or disappointed, saying “no” is actually important for children to hear. When children are inexperienced with being told “no,” they can lose their ability to delay gratification, learn patience, and cope with disappointment. We know that life is challenging and that none of us get what we want all the time, so its best we give children the skills necessary to become strong, adaptable, well-adjusted individuals.

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