Spoken language is a critically important area of development for early childhood; sobering research on childcare quality has demonstrated that mediocre programs actually have a negative impact on children’s language development. Mostly, what’s missing in your average program is meaningful conversation between people who care about and know each other; instead of conversation, you hear directives and praise. We need teachers who are talking with children, not at them, and who are encouraging children to talk with each other, with their families and with other adults in their lives. Conversation flows constantly at Children First, as we move through our days interacting with each other one-on- one or in small groups, talking about the work we’re doing, sharing opinions and feelings, negotiating conflict, and planning together.
Older children practice conversation in a more structured way during what we call “Window Room Lunch” – talk time focused on reflecting on the morning, and on sharing ideas and theories about topics important to the group. Lunch conversation gives us opportunities to work through social issues in the classroom, and to deconstruct stories we’ve been reading together. Other perennial favorites among conversation club topics — good guys and bad guys; how to make friends; birth and death; Martin Luther King; the differences between girls and boys; being brave and being scared; being small and growing up.
The alphabet matters… but what really matters is if we use the alphabet for a declaration of war or a description of a sunset.