Children and Conversation
There is tremendous value in talking with your children regularly and often! What is it that makes conversation with kids so vital?
1. “Ain’t Isn’t a Word” (Language development): When you talk with your child, you are modeling correct language. You say words in a certain order, and you make sentences longer by putting “and, or, but” in the sentence. Questions are phrased differently than statements. When you use past tense, present tense, and future tense, children pick that up. When children aren’t hearing this kind of conversation, they make errors like “I eat pizza yesterday” or “We runned in the race.” They need your modeling to develop their language.
2. “What’s a Pelican?” (Growth in vocabulary): There are so many words in our language, and the way children learn them is by hearing them in conversation, in books, through experiences, and through the media (like TV). When they aren’t exposed to words like “perfume,” “thrifty,” and “caverns,” for example, they have more problems understanding future sentences containing these words. By talking with your kids, you expose them to more and more words, and their comprehension grows. Their own speaking language grows, too, since they can now add describing words and details. Instead of saying, “We saw a cow,” they are more apt to add in details: “We went to a farm and saw a white and black Holstein cow. She was eating green grass out in the pasture, and her newborn calf was tagging along behind her.” Research shows that students with larger oral vocabularies read more easily and are more successful in school.
3. “Oops! Sorry, I Interrupted!” (Social lessons in conversation): As adults, we know that conversations go more smoothly when people understand that they need to take turns, listen, not interrupt the speaker, keep the volume and personal space appropriate, etc. Children aren’t born knowing these rules, so they gain practice when adults talk with them. Students who have participated in conversations at home are more apt to wait patiently for their turn in class, to listen more carefully, and to respect others’ personal space needs.
4. “That Made Me Feel Left Out, So I Cried.” (Talking through emotions): It’s so helpful for children to have the language needed to be able to talk through the upsetting times, the scary times, the lonely times, and even the happy times. As we say in school, “Use your words.” (as opposed to your fists, kids!) Learning to apologize is also a huge lesson that helps them socially. The more they have practice talking through their emotions at home, the better equipped they are to do the same through life.
5. “If I Could Have Any Super Power….”(Opportunities to be creative): The sky’s the limit when it comes to conversations with a child! There’s no need to stop at the possible: “If these shoes could talk, what might they say?” “If you could combine any two animals, what would they be, and why?” “What things would fit on a spoon?” By having this kind of verbal fun, children grow creatively and gain new vocabulary and thinking skills. They might even develop a great sense of humor! Keep talking, everyone!
Belinda Pinkerton, The Talkative Reading Teacher, McGraw Elementary School