Talking and Learning with Young Children

Books

Michael Jones

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    Acknowledgements

    For Andreas, Eva, Dani, Brendan, Savash, Ayaan, Jasmine,

    Jayden, Ibrahim and Layla. And for Rachel.

    About the Author

    Michael Jones has worked as a speech and language therapist, as a teacher in primary and special schools and as an advisory teacher for children with speech and language difficulties. He led the Every Child a Talker (ECaT) project in three areas of the UK. Michael currently provides training internationally and publishes widely on the subject of early language development.

    Acknowledgements

    Many thanks to Mary Field, Kelly Yuen, Katja O’Neill, Judith Twani, Lisa Pepper, Sam Randall, Steve Grocott, Debbie Brace, Bhavna Acharya, Dee Gent, Sally Roberts, Lucy Jenkins, Trevor Stevens, Edmund Gentle, Maggie Harris, Catherine Croft, Kathy Brodie, Emma Huxter, Jay Begum and Mine Conkbayir.

    Thanks to Chapel Street Nursery School, Luton and The Rainbow Centre, RAF Marham for the cover photographs.

    Special thanks must go to Sue Thomas, Sadie Thornton and Tina Cook, who co-led the Every Child a Talker (ECaT) projects with me in Luton, Bedford Borough and Thurrock. Along with the many practitioners in the settings who were involved in these projects, they provided me with so many ideas, insights and inspiration. Jeni Riley gave me hours of her time, in person and via the phone and email, with inspirational discussion and support with this book. And to Amy Jarrold and George Knowles at Sage for expertly steering me through the whole process.

    And to Professor Hazel Dewart, sadly no longer with us, who showed me that the study of child development can be an intellectual activity, a deeply emotional experience and sometimes highly entertaining!

  • Glossary

    Accent

    A typical way of pronouncing speech sounds in connected speech that is associated with a particular region or country or social class.

    Articulation

    The physical production of a speech sound.

    Attachment

    The relationship that the child has with her main caregivers. Attachments can be ‘secure’, where the child feels confident that an adult will care for her, or ‘insecure’, where the child has not been able to make a strong attachment.

    Attachment Theory

    The concept that infants need to develop a positive, loving relationship with their primary caregivers. This influences their future social and emotional development, including how to regulate their feelings.

    Auditory feedback

    The ability to hear oneself speaking. This can be restricted if a child has a hearing impairment, influencing the development of their speech.

    Behaviourist

    A perspective that is primarily concerned with behaviour that can be observed, rather than focusing on what might be occurring within the child, e.g. their thinking or what motivates them. Psychologists and other professionals who are influenced by behaviourism work with children with behaviour difficulties by promoting positive behaviour through reward and reducing negative behaviour by ignoring it.

    Bilingual

    Being able to understand and use two languages. Children who are bilingual may be able to use one language more confidently than another, but this can change through life, depending on experience.

    Bonding

    The positive feelings that a primary caregiver has for a child. Bonding is closely linked to the infant’s ability to form an attachment with that caregiver.

    Child Directed Speech (CDS)

    A variation or register of talking that adults use with infants who have begun talking and older children with developing language.

    Cochlear implant

    An electronic advice that is surgically inserted into the inner ear of a person with profound hearing impairment. They provide hearing to people whose deafness is caused by damage to sensory hair cells in the cochleas. The cochlea is part of the inner ear, where sound vibrations are converted into electrical impulses that are then transmitted to the brain to be interpreted. More information about cochlear implants and hearing impairment can be found at: www.ndcs.org.uk/family_support/useful_links_and_organisations/glossary/cochlear_implant.html (accessed 7 September 2015)

    Cognitive development

    The development of thinking. Cognitive development is influenced by children’s innate abilities, experience and how adults and other children guide the child through play and talk.

    Communication

    How we share meanings. Communication can be verbal, written or non-verbal, e.g. using signs or gestures.

    Conversation

    A way of sharing meanings, including thoughts and ideas, with other people. Conversation is a two-way process, with those involved listening and responding to each other and taking turns. Conversations can be verbal, or involving signs, e.g. among people with hearing impairment.

    Conversational flow

    How well participants in a conversation are able to understand each other and express ideas, e.g. through taking turns and encouraging each other to continue by saying: ‘I see/really? that’s interesting,’ etc.

    Conversational style

    A description of the way that adults involve children in conversation. Some styles can be more effective than others. For example, an adult who listens and allows the child time to express herself and then responds is described as having a ‘responsive conversational style’. An adult who dominates the conversation, e.g. by asking lots of ‘closed’ questions (for instance, ‘What’s that?’ ‘What shape is that?’ etc.) is using a ‘controlling conversational style’.

    Developmental delay

    Occurs when a child does not reach specific developmental milestones, such as walking or talking, within what is regarded as the normal age range. Delays can be caused by the environment, e.g. lack of experience or illness, or by factors within the child, such as Down syndrome.

    Dialect

    The distinct form of a language spoken in a certain geographical area. The dialect of a certain area may contain words and phrases that are only used in that region or city. Speakers of a local dialect often use a particular accent associated with the area. Examples are ‘Scouse’ from Liverpool and ‘Geordie’ from Newcastle.

    Genetically determined

    A skill that is decided from the moment of conception. The development of that skill will also be influenced by the environment.

    Grammar

    A system of rules that describes how words are combined in a language.

    Imperative pointing

    The type of pointing that young children use to show that they want something. This may be with an outstretched hand or finger (or by using eye pointing or body movements if the child has a physical or sensory disability).

    Infant Directed Speech (IDS)

    A register that adults use when talking and playing with babies, including highly exaggerated tones of voice; and a type of made-up vocabulary, including words like ‘diddums’, ‘boo’, ‘wasamatta?’ and ‘there, there’. IDS was originally known as ‘Motherese’.

    Innate

    A behaviour or skill that exists and develops naturally, rather than something that is learned from experience.

    Interaction

    How we respond to each other while communicating. For example, an adult playing and talking with a baby might use turn taking, eye contact and smiling as part of the interaction.

    Language

    The method we use for communicating. Language can be spoken (verbal), written or using signs, e.g. British Sign Language. Any given language is made up of agreed rules that help the speakers understand each other.

    Language acquisition

    The idea that children create their own rules of grammar, using a vocabulary that they have learned. These skills are acquired naturally and the process is innate. These concepts are associated with linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky.

    Language Acquisition Device (LAD)

    A theoretical concept created by Noam Chomsky to explain how a child acquires the rules of grammar.

    Maturation

    The process of growth that is determined by innate and genetically determined forces within the child. Maturation can be neurological, where the child’s nervous system automatically develops. Physical maturation takes place at the same time, which can include the growth of organs such as the larynx (voice box). The combination of these two types of maturation is crucial for the development of skills such as walking and the child’s control of speech sounds.

    Neuron

    Nerve cells that transmit information in chemical and electrical form around the body.

    Non-verbal communication

    Includes facial expression, tone of voice and gestures that help the listener understand the messages conveyed by a speaker.

    Overgeneralisation

    When a child tries to apply a regular rule of grammar to one that is irregular, e.g. by saying: ‘I goed to nursery’ for ‘I went.’

    Pedagogy

    The educational understanding and beliefs that a practitioner or group of practitioners have. Pedagogy influences how we teach children and how we communicate with them.

    Phonology

    How speech sounds are linked together to make words in a language. Children’s phonology develops in a systematic way as they mature.

    Pragmatics

    How we use language to convey meanings and to understand what other people mean. This can include an understanding of non-verbal communication such as facial expression.

    Primary intersubjectivity

    When infant and adult (often primary carer) focus on each other as part of early communication.

    Pronunciation

    The way that speech sounds are formed, or articulated, in an acceptable way, so that someone can be understood. Pronunciation of speech sounds varies depending on where people live, creating their accent.

    Proto-conversation

    The type of playful verbal interaction that baby and adult have together that includes listening, turn-taking and responding. Proto-conversations are regarded as providing ‘practice’ for later conversations when children are able to use words.

    Register

    A variety or style of language used in a particular situation or with a particular person. Registers can be ‘informal’, e.g. when talking with children or friends, or ‘formal’, e.g. at a job interview or when talking with parents.

    Scaffolding

    The support that adults provide young children to progress in their learning. Scaffolding includes using language to help children develop skills and to help them express their thoughts and explore ideas.

    Schema

    Patterns of repeated behaviour which can often be noticed in young children’s play, including throwing, spinning and wrapping up objects.

    Secondary intersubjectivity

    When a baby and adult focus on an object together and share an interest in this object.

    Semantics

    The meaning of the words that we use, including single words and phrases, sentences and stories. Semantics includes what we understand of what is being said to us, and how we are able to say what we mean.

    Slang

    Words and phrases that are used very informally, and may have been invented to show that the speaker comes from, or wants to be part of, a particular group. For example, someone who wants to be a surfer might use ‘Surfer Slang’, saying ‘That’s totally awesome, dude!’ to mean, ‘That was rather good, my friend.’

    Speech

    Individual sounds that are used to make up words in a language. This is also referred to as ‘pronunciation’ or ‘articulation’.

    Speech and language delay

    Where children’s understanding, speech sounds, phonological development and expressive language are developing in a similar way to children of a younger chronological age.

    Theory of Mind

    The realisation that someone else can have thoughts and ideas. Some children with autism are thought not to have this understanding.

    Verbal communication

    Using talk to communicate with other people.

    Verbal comprehension

    Our understanding of what is said to us. In normally developing language, children’s verbal comprehension will be greater than their ability to express themselves.

    Verbal expression (expressive language)

    How we express ourselves through talk, using speech, vocabulary and phrases that create sentences that we use to convey meaning.

    Vocabulary

    Individual words, including nouns, adjectives and verbs, which we use to label objects and ideas and their properties.

    Vocal cords

    Two mucous membranes stretched horizontally across the larynx (voice box). When they are fully open and at rest, air passes over them without creating sound. When they are almost closed, air passing through them from the lungs causes them to vibrate, creating sound.

    Voice

    Sounds made from the vibration of the vocal cords: e.g. [g] and [d] are created by air passing over the vocal cords, making them vibrate; while [k] and [t] are made without the vocal cords vibrating.

    Zone of Proximal Development

    A concept introduced by Lev Vygotsky that describes the difference between what a child can learn on their own, and how they might get to the next step in their learning with help from a supportive adult or older child.

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