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Posts Tagged ‘Vocabulary’

Easy Ways to Expand Your Toddler’s Vocabulary

From baby talk to reading aloud during infancy to walking around the house pointing at and describing inanimate objects (“Look! Mommy’s coffeeeeee”), there is almost nothing you can do that won’t help a baby develop speech. Still, for proactive parents looking to expedite the process—or anyone worried about a speech delay—we asked speech pathologist and pediatric social communication expert Kelly Lelonek for tips on how to recognize a need for early intervention or simply enhance childrens’ language skills. A precocious chatterbox on the first day of nursery school? Now you’re talking.

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Q) What’s the age that kids should typically be moving from one-word utterances to two?

 A) Most children start to combine words between 18 and 24 months. They start to use two- and three-word combinations (“Pet the bunny” or “Wow, big dog!”) around this age. By 24 months, most children use between 50 and 200 words.

Q) Does birth order impact on how fast or slow a child may be to speak? 

The effect of a child’s birth order on emerging language is still under debate. There is no evidence of language delays being seen more often in later-born children. Birth order likely creates different language learning environments for each child, none of which are detrimental.

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Q) Without being alarmist, what could be some of the reasons a child’s speech isn’t “exploding” between 18 months and two years? 

Developmental speech and language disorder is a common reason for speech and language delays in children. A child’s hearing should always be tested. Intellectual disability could also cause speech and language delays. [Ask your pediatrician for a referral to an early interventionist if you suspect any of this is at play.]

Q) What are some of the easiest ways parents can improve their kids’ vocabularies and help them express longer, more complex thoughts?

First, a parent should determine what is missing in the child’s vocabulary. A child must have 50-plus words before they will start to combine them. Check to see if your child has nouns, verbs, adjectives, possessives, negatives and question words. Then, use the strategy of “expansion.” This is when you take the words your child says, repeat them, then add a missing word. For example, the child says “Dog” and you repeat back, “Big dog.” You can do this multiple times and add different words each time. A parent’s goal should be to help the child reach just the next level of complexity.

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Q) When is the ideal time to “work” on this?

During bath time, feeding time, while reading books or playing. Really, anytime throughout the day!

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Language and Literacy Series: Talking with our Hands – A Hidden Key to Learning!

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for the Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.  This piece was originally published on HMH’s blog.

It just amazes me the way newborn babies come into the world as natural communicators. After their first wail, they exhibit an increasing variety of gestures and sounds; quickly becoming full-bodied, kinesthetic communicators, successfully letting us know their needs and desires through a barrage of gestures and gesticulations.

Throughout his/her early growth spurts, a young child’s gesture vocabulary expands in complex and Handsfascinating ways.  Children begin with what is called deictic gestures (pointing at actual objects), and metaphoric gestures (movements in space to represent an abstract idea, such as gesturing upward to indicate “high”).  Then, as their use of language and vocabulary become more fluid, they begin to slowly connect words to objects and abstract thoughts.  Little ones form a fully integrated relationship between gestures and words as they grow from toddlers to preschoolers. This relationship with language will continue to be refined throughout life.

Recent research in language acquisition has revealed just how important gestures are in supporting word acquisition, as well as in other learning areas, including math.  The Goldin-Meadow Laboratory at the University of Chicago, headed by Susan Goldin-Meadow, is an important research hub for the exploration of the role and value of gestures. The lab focuses on topics related to cognition, development, education and linguistics, including the study of non-verbal communication, like gestures.

In a 2011 TexXUChicago TED Talk, Goldin-Meadow makes the case that gestures not only reveal what is on a child’s mind, but can also help change a child’s mind in order to support instruction and learning. This exciting discovery reinforces and supports our innate impulse to use gesture as a way to convey meaning.

Families can play an active role in word recognition and vocabulary skills simply by incorporating gestures, creative movement and meaningful play experiences into a child’s world, whether at home or on the go! Here are five easy activities that use gesture to generate vocabulary practice and boost literacy skills over time.

  1. Trust your instincts: Use your own hands to gesture with your children.  It’s not clowning around, it’s communicating! And nothing works better than modeling.
  2. Words and actions go together: When reading, encourage your child to point to images and identify them not only with words and sounds, but also by making shapes with their hands/bodies.
  3. Sing along: When in the car, play simple songs that encourage children to use gesture and movement. There are a ton of great silly songs – remember “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”?
  4. Play: Encourage make-believe play where kids are given the opportunity to pretend and act out ideas.
  5. Practice: Try ‘Simon Says’ using gestures.  Practice is fun and it reinforces word and object recognition.

Whether you start with simple hand gestures or animated body language, by incorporating these elements into play and daily routine, you’ll be supporting your child’s literacy growth right in your own home!

Language and Literacy Series: Context, Conversation and Non-Verbal Clues

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for the Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.  This piece was originally published on HMH’s blog.

Young children are natural experts when it comes to learning critical skills. Unlike ot072O4649her mammals, babies need adult help for nearly everything. In their first year, while kittens are already batting at mice and colts are walking on their own, young humans are studying and mimicking their parents. Children come to understand that their survival depends on learning from their families and environments. As they acquire language skills, little ones become attuned to using words and gestures to help express what they feel and to get what they need.

In 1995, University of Kansas researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley published a seminal study on vocabulary acquisition in preschool aged children, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children. Hart and Risley spent over two years studying the lives of 42 families of varied socioeconomic backgrounds, discovering substantial differences in how families spoke with children and how many words children were exposed to regularly. This research underscored the core principle that exposure to language early and often is crucial in preparing young children for success and closing achievement gaps at the elementary school level.

But language is not only about verbal skills and words. Context, gesture and environmental awareness are key factors in the way humans communicate, and young learners pay close attention here as well.

Erica Cartmill, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UCLA, has produced fascinating research on the dynamic relationship between early social interactions and infant communicative development. Her research reinforces the theory that preschool vocabulary is a major predictor of school success, with particular focus on the role that both verbal and nonverbal forms of communication play in language acquisition. She notes that gesture in particular is an essential tool for children before they are fluid with verbal language.

As we can easily imagine, most of the words very young children acquire are derived from their parents’ vocabulary. But more than hearing words, the non-verbal clues that parents give toddlers about words are part of the context of learning, and influence the depth of children’s vocabularies upon entering school.

As parents and caregivers, we can take advantage of the experiences we share with our children to support language acquisition, especially if we keep in mind their perspective.

Here are our top six practical, everyday suggestions to help boost vocabulary in early learners:

  • See Something, Say Something: Describe things that are happening as they are happening, e.g. “Here comes a dog,” as opposed to “We’re going to see a dog.” Children have been shown to learn words more quickly when they can see and feel the object, as opposed to an abstract word with no apparent context.
  • Be Descriptive: Encourage children to describe what they see. Typically when we point out objects to young children, for example a cow, car, boat, etc., we get stuck on nouns. Invite descriptions including shape and color (adjectives) and movement (verbs).
  • Practice Anytime, Anywhere: Take advantage of time in the car or at the supermarket to practice word play, pointing out objects of interest as you talk about them to help provide immediate context and explanation.
  • Provide Feedback: Reflect back what children say to you. This confirms their experience and affirms their ability to have a successful conversation.
  • Use Non-Verbal Clues: Remember; children are sensitive to gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice and other non-verbal actions, both in conversation and in educational situations.
  • Offer Positive Reinforcement: When children are pointing at people or objects, validate and name them.