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Communicating and Speaking: Improve

Infants and Toddlers

Reflecting on and improving your skills and knowledge to support children’s emerging abilities to communicate and speak is important work. Here are some ideas you can try with your coach or supervisor to build your teaching practices in this area:

Planning Goals and Action Steps

  • Work with your coach or supervisor to identify the teaching practices you want to build and strengthen. Here are some practices that support infants’ and toddlers’ emerging abilities to communicate and speak.1
    • Ask a variety of questions to initiate or extend conversations with children and provide answers for the infant or pre-verbal toddler.
    • Model responses to more complex types of questions for verbal toddlers.
    • Balance questions with other forms of communication and build on children’s interests or activities, as well as introduce new ways of thinking.
    • Facilitate conversational turn-taking by commenting and waiting or listening for a response. The child may respond with a sound, movement, sign, or word.
    • Reinforce children’s talk by responding to their communication, whether verbal or non-verbal.
    • Repeat and extend what the child communicates, adding words or modeling complete sentences in context, and elaborate on the child’s utterances.
  • These practices may also be used to support dual language learners (DLLs) in developing their home language and to expose them to English. For more information, see:
  • These practices may also be used to support...
  • In home-based programs, consider identifying and including broader relationship-building practices such as those described in Building Partnerships: Guide to Developing Relationships with Families.
  • Create an action plan with timelines to help you use the practices consistently and effectively.

Focused Observation

  • Revisit the teaching practice that you outlined in your planning goals and action steps with your coach/supervisor. Together, plan for and schedule an observation where they can focus on how you implement the practices you’ve identified.
    • For example, if you chose to focus on the practice, Repeat and extend what the child communicates, adding words or modeling complete sentences in context, and elaborate on the child’s utterances, you can ask your coach/supervisor to observe during a relaxed play period to watch for the ways you repeat and extend children’s expressive language attempts and the extent to which your extensions result in further communication from the child. Your coach/supervisor might also look for missed opportunities to support children’s language (e.g., missed cues or bids for social connection from children which could be used to extend children’s expressive language).
  • In home-based programs, observations may focus on how the home visitor engages with parents to identify, adapt, and use the identified teaching and relationship-building practices. They may also focus on how you model the practices.

Reflection and Feedback

  • What went well? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? How did their reaction support the relationship with their child? Their child’s emerging ability to communicate and speak?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • What seemed challenging? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? Their child?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • Did your coach/supervisor offer feedback from the observation that was surprising? What supports do you need from her to refine and strengthen the practice? What else would help you strengthen the practice?
  • What would you do differently if you were to use this practice again?
  • What do you hope the child/children/parents will gain by using this practice? How will you know?

Preschoolers

Reflecting on and improving your skills and knowledge to support children’s ability to communicate and speak is sensitive work. Here are some ideas you can try with your coach or supervisor to build your teaching practices in this area:

Planning Goals and Action Steps

  • Work with your coach or supervisor to identify the teaching practices you want to build and strengthen. Here are some practices that support preschoolers’ ability to communicate and speak.2
    • Ask many open-ended questions that invite children to put together language to communicate more complex ideas.
    • Repeat or extend the children’s responses often.
    • Initiate conversations with children during the day. Actively listen, offer relevant responses, and ask related questions to keep the conversation going.
    • Help children have conversations with each other (e.g., through scaffolding and modeling).
    • Allow children to initiate questions and commentaries. Use extended sentences when responding.
    • Use self-talk and parallel talk as ways to expand children’s language.
  • These practices may also be used to support DLLs in continuing to develop their home language and to acquire English. For more information, see:
  • In home-based programs, consider identifying and including broader relationship-building practices such as those described in Building Partnerships: Guide to Developing Relationships with Families.
  • Create an action plan with timelines to help you use the practices consistently and effectively.

Focused Observation

  • Revisit the teaching practice that you outlined in your planning goals and action steps with your coach/supervisor. Together, plan for and schedule an observation where they can focus on how you implement the practices you’ve identified.
    • For example, if you chose to focus on the practice, Ask many open-ended questions that invite children to put together language to communicate more complex ideas, ask your coach/supervisor to observe during a planned learning experience to capture the number of times you use open-ended questions versus those that elicit a one- or two-word response from children. Your coach/supervisor can also note children’s responses to open-ended questions and how your use of questions extends the conversation and deepens children’s understanding of concepts and ideas being presented in the learning experience.
  • In home-based programs, observations may focus on how the home visitor engages with parents to identify, adapt, and use the identified teaching and relationship-building practices. They may also focus on how you model the practices.

Reflection and Feedback

  • What went well? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? How did their reaction support the relationship with their child? Their child’s ability to communicate and speak?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • What seemed challenging? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? Their child?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • Did your coach/supervisor offer feedback from the observation that was surprising? What supports do you need from her to refine and strengthen the practice? What else would help you strengthen the practice?
  • What would you do differently if you were to use this practice again?
  • What do you hope the child/children/parents will gain by using this practice? How will you know?

1Sally Atkins-Burnett, et.al., Measuring the Quality of Caregiver-Child Interactions with Infants and Toddlers: The Q-CCIIT Observer Certification Training User’s Guide (Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research, 2016), 36, C.2, 37, C.3, 40, C.4.

2Robert C. Pianta, Karen M. La Paro, and Bridget K. Hamre, Classroom Assessment Scoring System Manual, Pre-K (Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes, 2008), 79–80, High Language Modeling.

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 3, 2018