Language Development Framework icon

Language Development refers to emerging abilities in receptive and expressive language. This domain includes understanding and using one or more languages. Language development is among the most important tasks of the first five years of a child's life. Language is the key to learning across all domains (Benzies, 2011.) Specific language skills in early childhood are predictive of later success in learning to read and write (Deckner, 2006; Rowland, 2011). Also, children who are skilled communicators are more likely to demonstrate social competence. In the domain of Language Development, programs need to ensure that children who are dual language learners can demonstrate their abilities, skills, and knowledge in any language, including their home language (Chen & Shire, 2011; Genesee, 2008).

Strategies to Promote Receptive Language

  • Build children's auditory discrimination skills by playing games where the same/different sounds of words are highlighted.
  • Model good listening such as maintaining eye contact and expressing interest in the speaker.
  • Provide new and different experiences that expand receptive vocabulary like field trips, visitors, and objects to explore. Afterward, have children describe their experiences in their own words to see what they understand and what new words they've learned.
  • Provide a rich and varied curriculum incorporating science, mathematics, social studies and other areas of study that expand children's conceptual understanding and listening vocabulary.
  • Read to children every day with the express purpose of enhancing their vocabulary and listening skills.
  • Choose stories or books with rich vocabulary and uncommon words, such as those that preschool children may not hear or use regularly. Take a minute before reading to explain a few of the words that will be new for most children. Point out the new words as they appear in the text.
  • Regularly read in small groups of three to six to ensure children's active participation. During small group reading, children tend to learn more vocabulary and comprehend the story better.
  • Use children's interests, such as trains or trucks, to identify new words—locomotives, caboose, and dining car, or 18 wheeler, tanker, and pick-up.
  • Play listening games with children. For example, place items in a mystery box for children to identify from clues, and play matching sounds, lotto, and treasure hunt games where children must listen to and follow a series of directions. Games such as "Simon Says" offer opportunities for children to learn specific concepts.

Domain Element: Receptive Language

Title of Resource Type of Resource Notes
Script for Language and Literacy through Science Webcast #3 [PDF, 1.64MB] Script Teachers review the importance of conversations between adults and young children to the development of receptive and expressive language. See Pages 15—21.
Science Webcast #3: Science through Language and Literacy Webcast Teaching teams explore ways to support children's progress in receptive and expressive language using science process skills as a framework for planning curriculum experiences.
*Watching Dual Language Learners Grow [PDF, 54.64KB] Guided Practice *Through observation, teachers can gain an understanding of ways to support children's development of receptive language skills.
*Answering Questions [PDF, 50.70KB] Guided Practice *Teaching teams review the use of a simple checklist to assist in ongoing assessment of children's receptive and expressive language progress; they explore the interpretation of children's responses and suggestions for follow-up experiences.
*Dual Language Learning:  What Does It Take? Report *Program staff can find this information from the results of a national needs assessment particularly valuable as it offers an in depth look into the unique needs, challenges, and opportunities related to supporting bilingual and multilingual children. Its recommendations include both local and national best practices and approaches.
Science at the Center of the Integrated Curriculum: Ten benefits noted by Head Start Teachers [PDF, 31.98KB] Article Teachers find out that open-ended science experiences support receptive and expressive language development, including more complex vocabulary.
§1308.9 Eligibility criteria: Speech or language impairments Government Legislation and Regulations Program staff can become familiar with criteria for determining whether the receptive or expressive language level of a child requires specific interventions.
Strategies to Support Positive Outcomes for English Language Learners

En espaňol
Article *Teaching teams can explore useful strategies across all domains to support language development of children learning their home language and English.
Diamond's Diner [PDF, 130.99KB] Guided Practice Teaching teams can find examples of children's progress in the development of receptive and expressive language.
At the Post Office [PDF, 59.61KB] Guided Practice Teaching teams can find examples of children's progress in the development of receptive and expressive language.
Circles, Circles, Circles [PDF, 45.34KB] Guided Practice Teaching teams can find examples of children's progress in the development of receptive and expressive language.

* Identifies content and references that include children who are dual language learners.

Strategies to Promote Expressive Language and Increasingly Complex Vocabulary

  • Engage in one-to-one, extended conversations with individual children about their personal experiences or events in the program.
  • Talk about a book you are going to read to children before reading it, asking them to predict from the title or cover what the story will be about or what might happen next.
  • Talk with children after reading a story; ask them to retell the story or act it out. Encourage them to talk about the characters and events, answering their questions and responding to their comments.
  • Write down children's messages to parents or others, dictations for language experience charts, or stories, and read them back.
  • Respond to children's speech with expansions and questions that point out causes and consequences. Introduce new words, including the kinds of multi-syllable words that are not typically part of a preschooler's vocabulary. Use new words numerous times and observe to see if children begin to use them appropriately.
  • Participate in play to get it going if children have difficulty or to extend it to include more language interaction. For instance, the teacher may enter the restaurant and pretend to be a customer: "Could I see a menu please. I'd like to order dinner." In play, children naturally try to imitate adults and their language becomes more complex and sophisticated. They need many opportunities to practice such verbal interaction with other children and occasionally with adults.
  • Plan in-depth projects with children to investigate questions or topics of interest that expand vocabulary and provide opportunities for extended discussion and different points of view.
  • Engage children in conversations about events, experiences, or people that are beyond the here and now — events from the past, the future, or children's imaginations (in other words, decontextualized speech). Such interaction requires children and adults to use more complex and varied vocabulary in explanations, descriptions, narratives, dialogue, and pretend talk.
  • Provide dramatic play areas, props, materials, and themes that encourage talking and listening such as office, post office, bookstore, restaurant, library, supermarket, medical clinic, and construction site.
  • Get in the habit of giving children plenty of time — five seconds or so — to respond to a question or conversational comment. Adults rarely allow sufficient time for children to respond, rushing ahead to answer for them or going on to a different question. The simple act of providing wait time increases children's verbal responses, especially for children who tend to speak less often.
  • Encourage parents to talk with and read, or tell stories to their children at home.
  • Invite parents, older siblings, and other family members to talk with the group about special events or home experiences of all kinds.
  • Provide good language models for children. If possible, model standard grammatical speech in the child's home language. Recognize that many of children's errors in English ("I wented there", or "I saw three sheeps") show their efforts to learn a rule, like the ed of the past tense, which they overgeneralize. Instead of correcting the child, pick up on what he says but say it correctly. For example, a child may say, "I gots two foots" and the teacher replies, "Yes, you have two feet so you need two socks."

Domain Element: Expressive Language

Title of Resource Type of Resource Notes
Part 5: Language and Literacy Development Webcast Webcast *Teaching teams can use strategies offered in this webcast to enhance receptive and expressive vocabulary.
Assessing the Progress of English Language Development of Children Who Are Dual Language Learners in Head Start and Early Head Start Webinar Webinar *Program staff can listen to panelists explore strategies to assess the receptive and expressive language progress of children who are dual language learners.
Science in the Preschool Classroom: Capitalizing on Children's Fascination with the Everyday World to Foster Language and Literacy Development [PDF, 419.33KB] Article Developing expressive and receptive language skills are characteristic of preschool children's cognitive progress in the early years. Teaching teams find out about approaches to foster this growth.
Science at the Center of the Integrated Curriculum: Ten benefits noted by Head Start Teachers [PDF, 31.98KB] Article Teaching teams can use these tips to emphasize the content and context of science experiences as a way to incorporate meaningful language and literacy skills.
Strategies to Promote Language and Social Development Article Teachers can explore research-based strategies associated with the language development outcomes for children learning English and their home language.
Science Webcast #3: Language and Literacy through Science Webcast Teaching teams can experience how to support children's expressive and receptive language development through science process skills and open-ended questioning.
Maya's Speech [PDF, 50.69KB] Guided Practice Teaching teams can use careful observation and review of documentation to identify a delay in a child's expressive language development.
Steps to Success Module 2: Using Reflection [PDF, 627.54KB] Guide Through reflective practice, education managers and mentor coaches can help protégés deepen awareness of children's stages of language development.
Meeting the Home Language Mandate:  Practical Strategies for All Classrooms [PDF, 521.76KB] Article Management staff and teaching teams can use the steps outlined in this article to meet the home language mandate in the classroom.
*Name that Tune [PDF, 46.20KB] Guided Practice *Teaching teams can review this example of how one teacher assessed the progress of children's expressive language.
At the Post Office [PDF, 59.61KB] Guided Practice Teaching teams can find examples of children's progress in the development of receptive and expressive language.
Circles, Circles, Circles [PDF, 45.34KB] Guided Practice Teaching teams can find examples of children's progress in the development of receptive and expressive language.
*Answering Questions [PDF, 50.70KB] Guided Practice *Teaching teams review the use of a simple checklist to assist in ongoing assessment of children's receptive and expressive language progress; they explore the interpretation of children's responses and suggestions for follow-up experiences.

* Identifies content and references that include children who are dual language learners.

 

References for Evidence-Based Practice for the Language Development
Domain of the 2010 Early Learning Framework

The body of research that focuses on early education intervention as a key contributor to children's school readiness and successful achievement has grown significantly since the creation of Head Start in 1965. In order to highlight the significance of this research across the outcome domains of the Early Learning Framework, we include a variety of references that describe various levels of evidence in the research base. Specifically we include levels of evidence that support the scientific believability of approaches, strategies, instructional practices, and outcomes. These levels of evidence include results of large scale research studies, documentation of evidence-informed practices, and/or replicable practices that effect children's progress toward outcomes, or may hold merit for future research.

Receptive Language

Benzies, K. (2011). Effects of a two-generation preschool program on receptive language skill in low-income Canadian children. Early Child Development and Care, 181(3), 397-412.

Brown, D.D., Lile, J. & Burns, B.M. (2011). Basic language skills and young children's understanding of causal connections during storytelling. Reading Psychology, 32 (4), 372-394.

Deckner, D.F. (2006). Child and maternal contributions to shared reading: Effects on language and literacy development. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 27 (1), 31-41.

Geoffroy, M.C. (2007). Association between non-maternal care in the first year of life and children's receptive language skills prior to school entry: The moderating role of socioeconomic status. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48 (5), 490-497.

Chen, J. J. & Shire, S.H. (2011). Strategic teaching: Fostering communication skills in diverse learners. Young Children, 66 (2), 20-27.

Genesee, F. (2008). Early dual language learning. Zero to Three, 29(1), 17-23.

Expressive Language

Rowland, C. (2011). Using the communication matrix to assess expressive skills in early communicators. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 32 (3), 190-201.

Tager-Flusberg, H., Rogers, S., Cooper, J., Landa, R., Lord, C., Paul, R., Rice, M., Stoel-Gammon, Wetherby, A., & Yoder, P. (2009). Defining spoken language benchmarks and selecting measures of expressive language development for young children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 52 (3), 643-652.

Zevenbergen, A.A. (2010). Gender differences in the relationship between attention problems and expressive language and emerging academic skills in preschool-aged children. Early Child Development and Care, 180(10), 1337-1348.

Last Updated: May 28, 2014