31 SES 03 B, Aspects of Learning and Measuring Language Skills
In preschools and schools, children should be given opportunities for linguistic and communicative exercises and incentives giving them a good foundation for lifelong learning. This is also emphasized in Swedish pre-school and school curricula, indicating that teachers should work in a language-generating manner in all subjects in school. According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, (The UN Convention, 1989) it is also a child’s right to be able to communicate.
As children can develop in the field of language and communication, schools should be able to offer children the opportunity to practice their linguistic skills with both children and adults. Adults around the children need to support children's language and communication in order to stimulate them (Dockrell et al., 2015). Adults' early linguistic and communicative stimulus of children, underpin a positive language, read and writing development later in their lives (Justice et al., 2004; Dockrell et al., 2010; Snowling & Hulme, 2011, Fricke et al., 2013; Dickinson et al., 2014). The experiences and interaction that children have with adults in the classrooms have been described by Bronfenbrenner and Morris (2006) as the "engine for the children's continued development". Children who have language difficulties throughout their schooling period also have an increased risk of problems with attention and social interaction (Snowling et al., 2006).
In sociocultural theory it is believed that through languages people can communicate about the world and thus gain a common understanding of the various artifacts and phenomena they encounter in the world (Vygotsky, 1986). Communication forms our thinking and language is an important media tool (Säljö, 2014). As children learn something new, according to sociocultural theory, communication is needed, also called "scaffolding". It may be that an educator shows the way by "interacting" and "associating" with a student to learn something. It can furthermore be an educator in a classroom that helps students by linguistic structuring how to acquire a new knowledge area. Students do it in collaboration with a person, a teacher, who has more skills in the field than they, themselves (Vygotsky, 1986; Justice & Ezell, 1999; Säljö, 2014).
Children's oral language and communication skills need to be supported in pre-school and classroom classes (Snowling & Hulme, 2011). Specific linguistic parts that have been shown to be improved in such support have been that children received an extended vocabulary, awareness of language sounds (phonological awareness), speech flow, language comprehension, ability to crack the code by spelling, understanding of text and ability to express themselves in text (Fricke et al., 2013).
Adults working in school need to develop strategies so that a supportive climate is created with structured activities where children have the opportunity to communicate verbally in different contexts (Dockrell et al., 2015). Strategies in a classroom can be using the children's name, support signs and gestures, name new phenomena or actions, ask questions and encourage communication.
The communicative dimensions important to observe in the classroom:
a) The physical communicative and linguistic learning environment, thus the way the room is adapted to stimulate language development
b) What language learning opportunities are offered to children in a classroom?
c) What language interactions exist between student-grown and between student-student.
1. What does the physical communication and linguistic learning environment look like and how is the room adapted to stimulate language development?
2. What kind of language learning opportunities are offered to children in the classrooms?
3. What kind of language interactions are there and between children-adults and children-children.4. In what ways can communication and linguistic development be promoted for children in preschool and schools?
The observation tool, "CsC Observation Tool" (Dockrell et al., 2015) is developed for children to map communication in a classroom. The "CsC Observation Tool" has been tested in 39 different British schools in 101 classrooms. It turned out that the physical language learning environment, that is, how the physical space is adapted to stimulate language development, was quite good. On the other hand, there were a lot of communicative strategies to develop for the adults in the classroom. They did not offer the children so many communicative and linguistic strategies, which would have been desirable for optimizing children's language development (Dockrell et al., 2015). In this Swedish pilot study the "CsC Observation Tool" was used.
Preliminary Results Data collection using the observation tool, "The Communication Supporting Classroom Observation Tool" was made by students at the Education of pre-school teachers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. The students observed children at 11 preschools in the city of Gothenburg, Sweden. Preliminary outcomes of this study were the differences found across the three dimensions of the CsC Observation Tool. A majority of the classrooms observed scored high on the Language Learning Environment dimension but scores for the Language Learning Opportunities and Language Learning Interactions were lower. A conclusion derived from these preliminary results of the present pilot study was that physical communicative and linguistic learning environment scored higher than the Language Learning Opportunities and Language Learning Interactions. Results found in this Swedish pilot study were similar and in line with the results found in the studies from the U.K. (Dockrell et al., 2015) with the same observation tool used. Language Learning Environment seem to be quite strong and well modified to the children’s needs. This finding highlights the need for considering not only how to organise the physical classroom space to maximise language enhancement but also the importance of adults’ role in adapting their oral language and considering the communicative activities they use with children to scaffold their development in a regular and deliberate manner.
Bronfenbrenner, U. & Morris P. (2006). The bioeclogical model of human development. I: Lerner, R.M. (red.). Handbook of child development: Volume 1: Theoretical models of human development. 6th edition. New York: John Wiley: 793-828. Dockrell, E. J., Bakopoulou, I., Law, J., Spencer, S., & Lindsay, G. (2015). Capturing communication supporting classrooms: The development of a toll and feasibility study. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 31, 271-286. doi: 10.1177/0265659015572165 Fricke, S., Bowyer-Crane, C., Haley, J.A., Hulme. C., & Snowling, J., M. (2013). Efficacy of language intervention in the early years. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54 (3), 280-290. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12010 Justice, L. (2004). Creating language-rich preschool classroom environmemts. Teaching exceptional children, 37: 36-44. Justice, L.M. & Ezell H.K. (1999). Vygotskian theory and its application to language assessment: An overview. Contemporary Issues in Communication Science and Disorders, 26: 111-118. Snowling, M.J., Bishop, D.V., Stothard, S.E., Chipchase, B, & Kaplan, C. (2006). Psychosocial outcomes at 15 years of children with a preschool history of speech-language impairment. Journal of Child Psychology Psychiatry. 47: 759–765. Snowling, M.J. & Hulme, C. (2011). Evidenced based interventions for reading and language difficulties. Creating a virtuous circle. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 81: 1-23. Säljö, R. (2014). Lärande i praktiken. Ett sociokulturellt perspektiv. Lund: Studentlitteratur. UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY (UN), 1989, Convention on the Rights of the Child (20 November 1989, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1577, p. 3). Available online at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b38f0.html, accessed 7 January 2018. Vygotskij, L.S. (1986). Thought and Language. Cambridge, MA: the M.I.T. Press.
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