cstravato's Pre-k World

The life of a Teacher / Student / Mother

The Importance of listening to and Speaking with Children

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It is valuable practice for teachers to take a step back from their everyday role and observe there class and other classrooms. I chose to observe teachers and teacher assistant’s interactions with children during Discovery time in a preschool setting. During this time of the day student verbally plan what center they would like to choose and what they would like to do while in that center. Children are able to change their plan and independently choose when to change their roles and when to move to a new center. Teachers move around the room joining student’s play throughout the 40 minute Discovery time. My goal was to observe effective “teacher talk, encouraging and letting children know that we value their efforts and accomplishment.” (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010) I also wanted to observe effective “Challenging talk, building on what children say and moving beyond the immediate conversational context.” (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010)

In my observation, I saw many examples of staff getting down to the child’s level to join their play and to talk to them about their play in a calm respectful tone (Kovach &Da Ros-Voseles, 2011). Staff showed genuine interest and joy in children’s play. Children were very receptive of staff joining their play; they smiled, welcomed, and quickly incorporated the staff into a role. The staff was able to allow the children to take the lead and direct the play. Staff fluctuated between questions that encouraged a one-word answer specific to the context of the play to more open-ended questions connecting to real-life experiences (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010). It was clear the staff understood the value of “Challenging talk” but they were still working on making it a consistent form of communication. Overall, it was clear staff viewed this time of day as child or peer centered and not teacher centered (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010).

I observed many examples of staff encouraging children and trying to convey the message, that they value children’s efforts and accomplishments. However, many of the interactions were through phrases such as; good job, I like the way you did…, and that is beautiful. Although it was clear the staff’s intention was to use the message of “teacher talk”, they may need some training or support on how to tweak their communications to be more effective. Focusing more on how the child accomplished the task rather than their opinion of how the task turned out puts the value on the child’s efforts not the teacher’s opinions. I would recommend new phrases as described by Rainer Dangei & Durden such as; “Wow you have spent a longtime working on you project (2011)”, and “That is so colorful it stands out on the purple paper (2011).”  Changing our communication puts the value on the time, effort, and creativity children are putting into a project or task not on the quality of the finished product or the teacher’s feelings about the final product.

This weeks readings centered on mindful listening to and speaking with children.   The reading that stood out to me the most was, The Nature of Teacher Talk during Small Group Activities. (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010) As I read this article, I began questioning my own communication and the communication I have modeled in my classroom between children and between children and adults. Throughout my observation, I reflected on my own communications with students.   “It is important to consider the actual words we say to children.” (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010) Through the readings and the observation, I have learned the importance of communication and the incredible impact it has on children. I believe my staff and I use some aspects of both types of talk, however we often fall back into old habits of less valuable communication. I will be taking a closer look at my communications and the communications of other staff in my classroom and supporting our ability to consistently use affective “Teacher talk” and affective “Challenging talk” (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010) with students throughout the day. “To help children communicate with each other they have to feel listened to and seen.” (Kovach &Da Ros-Voseles, 2011)


Kovach, B., & Da Ros-Voseles, D. (2011). Communicating with babies. YC: Young Children, 66(2), 48-50. Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database. http://ezp.waldenulibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=60001533&site=ehost-live&scope=site


Rainer Dangei, J., & Durden, T. R. (2010). The nature of teacher talk during small group activities. YC: Young Children, 65(1), 74-81. Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database. http://ezp.waldenulibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=47964033&site=ehost-live&scope=site




Author: cstravato

I am a wife of 14 years and have two boys, one is 10 and an the other is 8. They are busy and keep us hopping. I have been a pre-school teacher for 9 years with a break in the middle to teach kindergarten in FL for three years, and I had the luxury of staying home with my two boys for a few years. I enjoy teaching pre-school age children it gives me great pride to help set a generation up to succeed in their school careers and life. I am currently going back to school to complete my masters degree in early childhood education at Walden University.

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