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The second stage is called the Holophrastic stage occurring around 12-18 months. A child utters single words that replace whole sentences such as ‘ball’ or ‘dog’. They learn words that are familiar to them and avoid words that are difficult to pronounce. Stage three is called the Two Word Stage. The child uses two words to construct primitive sentences which relate to what the child means to say e.g. ‘baby play’ or ‘shoe red’. Even at this age children are able to share simple ideas and build valuable experiences observed from home and their environment. At this stage there are no inflections for number, person or tense.

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At the age of three the Telegraphic stage occurs. Children at this stage use grammar; for example, putting words in sentences in the correct order so they mean what the child is trying to say. Strangers are able to understand what they are trying to say even if grammatical words are missing, e.g. the cat is standing up on the table. There is the addition of past tense and a child begins to join clauses to express their thoughts and tell short, simple stories.

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By 4-6 years of age a child has mastered most of the rules of language. They are fluent in their native language. They have also learned how to use forms of grammar such as irregular nouns, verbs and pronouns. The process of learning language continues as a child grows and becomes more confident in speech. Chomsky, an American nativist theorist, states that children are born with the innate ability to understand the grammar and vocabulary of any language, especially their native language. He believed that children are born with in-built mental structure to learn language. He called this the Language Acquisition Device (LAD). This theory may explain why a child may say ‘drinked’, ‘goed’, ‘runned’ or ‘eated’.

B F Skinner, an influential behavioural psychologists, had views contrary to Chomsky. He believed that language is learned and developed through environmental and parental influence. However, he can be criticised as he fails to explain how children are able to piece together words they have learned in a sentence and does not account for children using incorrect words. (ibid) Although language acquisition is a complex process, it is continually developing through childhood therefore, opportunity to talk and discuss with the teacher and peers is vital to aid this development successfully. Especially as children spend a lot of time at school and home life is often centred around the television restricting talk tremendously.

In literacy, oral skills are being developed through “storytelling, turn-taking, discussing, explaining and persuading, as well as listening skills such as concentrating, responding and recalling.” (Medwell, et al, 2004, pg 113). I observed a wonderful teacher controlled group discussion taking place in literacy, year two. The teacher sectioned the children into groups of 6. Within the groups, each child was given a role, a leader, a secretary, and group representatives who shared ideas amongst each other. The topic was ‘race to space’ and children were discussing what they knew already with information and facts they learned in literacy and history lessons. The leader ensured turn taking and respect for each others views were taking place within the group discussion. Giving children a specific role and function allowed for effective talk to take place. They are useful preparatory exercises to more complex drama activities or group discussions.

During this year block placement, I taught literacy for most of the six week period. My week on poetry was based on performing poetry. I began the activity by demonstrating how the use of tone, volume and expression can make a poem sound more interesting and enjoyable. I discussed with the children ways they could think of making a poem sound more interesting. I allowed them to talk in pairs before bringing the whole class together to share their ideas. My instructions were clear as well as my expectations of them. After gathering all their ideas, I handed out a poem that the children had to perform to the rest of the class.

I gave them enough time to practise in pair and talk about ways they could improve the dramatisation of the poem. I feel that allowing them to first work in pairs gave them more confidence when performing to the rest of the class. I was extremely pleased with this lesson as all the children enjoyed the activity and shared their poems with each other. During the plenary, I asked the children to explain why they chose to speak in a certain way and they offered suitable reasoning for their decisions. My role in this activity was to be encouraging to all the pupils especially those who were beginning to have the confidence to talk to the class, even though it was pre-rehearsed. I believe a teacher is always modelling appropriate language and behaviour within a class so they must be positive and caring in any situation. “There is nothing worse than saying that a child’s tentatively spoken words are wrong, but they may need help to improve the way they express themselves.” (ibid, pg 125)

During this year block placement I did not observe any shared or guided reading sessions, although the teacher did have the text to cater for it in the classroom. However, I did observe many shared and guided sessions last year in KS1. Children were grouped by ability and text were appropriate. The children took turns to read aloud a small section of the text. We first discussed the title of the book and shared our ideas of what we thought the book was about and by looking at the illustrations we also talked about who the book was targeted towards e.g. boys, infants etc. The blurb also offered just enough information to gain an understanding of the text and I asked the children if they think they would enjoy the book and offer an explanation why.

This interaction and discussion between the group and teacher is more effective than independent reading in my opinion. It allows the children to communicate their ideas and understandings. It is also important to give the children a wide range of reading material to generate good story telling. Also giving them the opportunity to retell the story will ensure that the children understand what they are reading. It will help also offer a structure to their own writing.

During my two week placement in the foundation I was amazed and pleased to observe the opportunities for talk. I feel it is vital for very young children to have this opportunity. I observed the teacher using small, animal puppets during direct teaching and the children would immediately relax and become more confident to speak. “Often children who have been reluctant to speak will talk through their puppets: it is a less immediate, and therefore less threatening, means of encouraging talk…” (ibid, pg117).

Assessing children during speaking activities is just as valuable as written work. Some children have difficulties writing their ideas yet that does not mean that child is incapable of the doing work. It can help set targets and inform the teachers planning for differentiation if necessary.

In mathematics, talk can be used just as effectively as in literacy. I have been extremely fortunate to see interactive and practical numeracy lessons taking place during my placements. “…the value of pupil talk is recognized as essential for developing understanding and making connections between mathematical ideas and mathematical skills and procedures.” (Thompson,2003, pg 57). Firstly and most importantly, it is crucial for the teacher to model correct mathematical terms and vocabulary.

According to Wood and Wood’s (1988) research direct questions can be counter-productive. When a numeracy objective is to develop their mathematical thinking and reasoning it is much more effective to allow the children to discuss and share ideas with each other. A method of calculating which seems easier to a teacher may not be a suitable method for all children. Hence allowing the children to swap strategies allows them to find several ways to answering mathematical problems.

When discussing mental calculation strategies, the teacher can allow an extra few minutes for pupils to articulate and discuss different strategies that they could use. This gives the teacher the opportunity to extend the use of different strategies in following lessons. I saw examples of this during the mental and oral starter. The teacher allowed the children to work in small groups to find different techniques to answer calculations that suited them.

There was a variety of different strategies being used within the classroom which were all effective e.g. in subtraction some pupils were using the kangaroo jump method while some used the decomposition method. Collaborative discussions by pupils in small groups can be useful in understanding mathematical ideas. Allowing whole class games to increase the range of mathematical language and putting that language into context which makes sense to the children.

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Kylie Garcia

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