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Archive for the ‘language development’ Category

Silent Period: Suggestions for the classroom teacher

Last week, we learned a little more about what is the the silent period and why is this a natural process in second language learning. Today, I’ll give some suggestions for classroom teachers who have second language learners in their classrooms and what to do to help them, if they suspect they are going through the silent period.

As we know children in the silent period should not be forced to speak before they are ready. They need time to listen to others talk, understand what they hear, and observe their peers’ interactions with each other. Even when they are silent, they are learning the language!

Here are some suggestions for the classroom  teacher:

  • Ask YES/NO questions: Allow the child to respond with nods of “yes” or “no”, this gives them the opportunity to participate in a non-threatening situation.
  • Accept as response facial expressions and body language. Nonverbal cues such as eye contact, flipping through pages, writing, pointing, or grabbing our should be accepted as responses. Again, this allows them to feel welcomed without the pressure of saying it right.
  • Share a word or two in the child’s language: This is also an opportunity to make the child feel welcome and gain trust.
  • Pair them with a buddy who speak their language: Other children can help them understand the rules/routine of the classroom.
  • Focus attention on listening comprehension activities/building a receptive vocabulary: Remember this is the natural process of language acquisition, so you are helping that process.

These are a few suggestions, to make the child feel welcomed, comfortable, without pressures, that will allow learning in a loving, caring environment.

Can you think of some other ideas?


Understanding the Silent Period

Although much research has been done about second language acquisition, it is still a mysterious topic for some people. Which is very strange since 17.9% of the population in the USA (2000 Census) said they spoke a language other than English.

But acquiring a second (or third, etc) language is a complicated process that varies greatly depending on the experience and exposure with the new language, the learner’s  personality, and their emotions around learning a new language. The silent period is an initial phase of the language acquisition process, during which children acquiring a new language in natural settings are silent and concentrate on comprehension. So, literally they don’t speak much during this period but they may respond when necessary in a non-verbal way or by using a set of memorized phrases.

However, this silent period phenomenon is also observed when we see how children acquire their native language. We know that during typical language acquisition, a baby spends many months listening to the people around it long before they start using words. Comprehension always comes before production in a natural process of language acquisition, therefore, when acquiring a second language, it is natural that they also follow this process. But, because usually children who come from bilingual homes start learning or are more consistently exposed to their second language when they come to school, it is expected that they speak their second language quickly, without having them the opportunity to follow the normal acquisition process. This can be frustrating to teachers since the length of the silent period can vary greatly for students in classrooms from a few days to a year, and because the child is silent in the dominant classroom language, it can be hard to know where they are in acquiring English.

Next week, I’ll give some suggestion to the classroom teacher who has a student going through the silent period!

Do you have any experiences with silent period you want to share?

Typical Language Development: 4-5 years

Today is our final part of the Typical Language Development series, and we’ll explore the language milestones for a preschooler. During these years children are excited and challenged by the world that surround them. This is the time when friendships can become long-lasting relationships, their language is very concrete, and physical movements are more coordinated. Lots of changes and lots of learning happening during this time. Here’s what to expect:

Expressive Language

  • They use sentences that give lots of details (“The biggest peach is mine”).
  • They tell stories that stick to topic.
  • They communicate easily with other children and adults.
  • They say most sounds correctly except a few like l, s, r, v, z, ch, sh, th.
  • They say rhyming words.
  • They name some letters and numbers.
  • They use the same grammar as the rest of the family.
  • 90% of their speech is intelligible

Receptive Language

  • They pay attention to a short story and answers simple questions about them. 
  • They hear and understand most of what is said at home and in school.

What you can do to help encourage language

During this time, continue expanding on social communication and narration skills (telling a story) by role-playing. Play house, doctor, and store using dialogue, props, and dress-up clothes. Do the same with a dollhouse and its props, acting out scenarios and making the dolls talk.

What do you think about the Language Development series? What did you learn?

Typical Language Development: 3-4 years

ahhh 3 year olds, the babies are growing. At this age they are more active, talk more and they want more independence. They are exploring the new world and trying to make sense of it. Now, they understand and can express themselves better, so here’s what to expect:

Expressive Language

  • They talk about activities at school or at friends’ homes.
  • People outside of the family usually understand child’s speech.
  • They use a lot of sentences that have 4 or more words.
  • They usually talk easily without repeating syllables or words.

Receptive Language

  • They hear you when you call from another room.
  • They hear the television or radio at the same loudness level as other family members.
  • They answer simple “who?”, “what?”, “where?”, and “why?” questions.

What can you do to help encourage language 

You should continue doing the things you were encouraged to do between 2-3 years old. But now expand on social communication and storytelling skills by “acting out” scenarios of daily routine such as cooking, taking naps, or going to the doctor with a dollhouse or other toys. Do the same type of role-playing activity when playing dress-up. As always, ask your child to repeat what he or she has said if you do not understand it completely. This shows that what he or she says is important to you.

Have they shared any interesting news from school or daycare?

Typical language development: 2-3 years

This week we’ll continue with typical language development milestones ages 2-3 years.

For the first 2 years, parents and caregivers focus on taking care of the child. Feeding and making sure they are safe is a priority. Lots of physical changes happen during the first 2 years (they go from newborn to lap babies to crawlers and walkers) and it seems as if language develops slowly (although it really doesn’t!). But now language skills are more obvious and you really have to be careful what you say! Kids will imitate everything! This age is so much fun!

Here’s what is expected.

Expressive Language

  • They have a word for almost everything.
  • They use 2-3 words to talk about and ask for things.
  • They use k, g, f, t, d, and n sounds.
  • Speech is understood by familiar listeners most of the time.
  • They often ask for or direct attention to objects by naming them.

Receptive Language

  • They understand differences in meaning (“go-stop,” “in-on,” “big-little,” “up-down”).
  • They follow two requests (“Get the book and put it on the table”).
  • They listen to and enjoy hearing stories for longer periods of time.

What you can do to encourage language

* Show your child that you are interested in what he/she says (look at them and repeat what they said to you)

* Use clear, simple speech that is easy to imitate (because they’ll imitate EVERYTHING!)

* Cut out pictures from old magazines and make a scrapbook of familiar things.

* Ask your child questions that require a choice, rather than simply a “yes” or “no” answer.

* Look at family photos and name the people. Use simple phrases/sentences to describe what is happening in the pictures (e.g., “Grandpa makes pancakes”).

* Continue to sing songs, play finger games and tell nursery rhymes (“Hickory Dickory Dock“). These songs and games introduce your child to the rhythm and sounds of language.

* Strengthen your child’s language comprehension skills by playing the yes-no game: “Are you a girl?”, “Is that a lion?”, “Is your name Danny?”

* Read books. While reading books you can…

*Expand on your child’s vocabulary. Introduce new vocabulary through reading books that have a simple sentence on each page

* Name objects and describe the picture on each page of the book.

Is your child between the ages of 2-3? What is he or she doing?


Typical language development: 1-2 years

Ok, so we continue with typical language development milestones. Today we’ll talk about what happens between 1-2 years old. During this time children are increasing their vocabulary.  They learn many words each month (if they are exposed to new vocabulary and experiences of course!).

Expressive Language

  • They learn more words every month.
  • They use some one to two word questions (“Where daddy?”, “Go bye-bye?”, “What’s that?”).
  • They use 2 word sentences (“more milk,” “no juice,” “mama book”).
  • They use many different consonant sounds at the beginning of words (i.e. p, b, w, h, n, k, g, t, d)

Receptive Language

  • They point to a few body parts when asked.
  • They follow simple directions and understand simple questions (“Give me the car,” “Kiss mommy,” “Where’s the ball?”).
  • They are able to listen to simple stories, songs, and rhymes.
  • They point to pictures in a book when named.

This is a great time to exposed them to many different activities and a variety of objects/toys. Talk to them about what you are doing, what is happening as you play with them and all of this will help increase their vocabulary and help them use appropriate sentences. Remember to use words and sentences correctly because they learn to talk the way you do! So, although it might be cute to talk about the ‘wabbit” they will learn to say “wabbit” and not “rabbit” because that’s what they heared from you. Needless to say, be careful using “adult” words in front of them! 😉

What is the cutest thing your baby, well, toddler, is saying now?

Typical language development: 6-12 months

Today we’ll continue talking about typical language development for children 6-12 months old.

During this period your baby is more active and more alert. This 6 month period is all about changes! They learn to roll, sit, crawl and walk! Goodness that’s a lot! Now here are the milestones for speech and language development.

Expressive Language

  • Babbling has both long and short groups of sounds such as “tata upup bibibibi” (they sound so cute!)
  • Uses speech or noncrying sounds to get and keep attention
  • Uses gestures to communication (waving, holding arms to be picked up)
  • Imitates different speech sounds
  • Has one or two words (hi, dog,dada, mama) around first birthday

Receptive Language

  • Enjoys games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake
  • Turns and looks in direction of sounds
  • Listens when spoken to
  • Recognizes words for common items like “cup”, “shoe”, “book”, or “juice”
  • Begins to respond to requests (e.g. “Come here” or “Want more?”)
  • pay attention to music – time to go to Kindermusik ;}

uff I am tired just reading all the things these little babies have to accomplish! And we complain about all the things we have to do!

What is your baby doing?