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Language: Listening and reading, speaking and writing

To help young children build strong skills in language, you need to engage all of the different ways that they use language. It is vitally important that children have the opportunity to use language to communicate ideas.

You can take many steps, including:

Make opportunities for listening and for reading, because learners comprehend information and build understanding through both pathways.

You can make opportunities to listen by reading stories out loud to the class, or by inviting people from your community to visit the class and tell about their jobs, their lives, or the history of your area. Be sure to invite older people; they often have more stories to tell and more time to tell them.

Children can also have appropriate books and articles to read, available in a special "reader's and writer's area." If books are not available, you may be able to create your own books, presenting local stories, animal tales, and folk tales.

(You can also create "big books," for reading to groups of students.)

Read daily to small children, to introduce them to reading for information and entertainment, and to "model" for them the enjoyment of literature.

Invite small children to tell stories about their observations of the world around them, about events in their lives, such as holidays, and about their families. (It's not sufficient to ask children only to repeat a response aloud, or to answer a yes-or-no question.)

Create a "reading-and-writing" environment in the classroom, by posting: charts of alphabets, pictures, word lists, and other information from stories and lessons, and the children's own work. You can also label different objects around the room.

Weave language practice into other subjects. When children have developed skill in writing, they can write to describe insects or plants, or about sources of clean water, for science class. Invite them to write story problems for each other in mathematics (which you can review), or to write explanations of their thinking and their solutions.

Guide older learners in small-group discussions, and dramatisations of stories from class, to give them an opportunity to frame ideas in their own language. You can also ask older learners to interview community members and expert resource persons as part of research efforts.

Give all learners the opportunity to write, to share their writing aloud, and to talk about their writing. All writers benefit from reading their work, to themselves while they are working on it, and to others. All except the earliest writers can benefit from peer editing groups, in which they read their work, share constructive criticism, and plan revisions.

For more information, go to Tips for teaching writing.

Journal activity: Four language skills

Use your journal to reflect on your current teaching practices and on the children in your classes.

Analyse your own practices, to determine which of the four ways of using language you enjoy most, and which ones you enjoy teaching.

Which ways of using language receive minimal attention in your classes? How can you improve this situation? Can you enhance the learning in your classroom in other ways at the same time?

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Last revised April, 1999
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