What to Say When They Play
Differing perspectives on the role of the teacher during play have resulted in a source of concern known as the “early childhood error” (Bredekamp & Rosegrant, 1992). The early childhood error is committed when educators prepare an appropriate, stimulating environment for young children but then stand back and fail to follow up with guidance, “scaffolding,” or supportive, responsive interactions with children as they play (Kontos, 1999). Responsive feedback is referred to as teacher talk, a key form of adult support that educators can use to enhance children’s play (Stanton- Chapman & Hadden, 2011). Kontos (1999) found, while teachers spent a large amount of time involved with children during free play, a majority of the time was spent managing the play rather than enhancing it. The amount and type of teacher talk are indicators of a stimulating environment and allows children to develop and learn from these play situations.
Enhance the quality of play in your classroom by incorporating a variety of teacher talk formats (Sharpe, 2008).
Recasting: The teacher adds to the child’s statement or changes a word to be more appropriate.
- Child: “I can use the cutter for that.” Teacher: “Yes, you can use the scissors.”
Information Talk/Broadcasting: The teacher restates what the child said or did.
- Child: “My doggie is sick.” Teacher: “Your doggie is sick.”
Or, the teacher observes play and offers observations.
- Teacher: “I see you’re filling the truck with blocks.” “You’re putting the baby to bed.”
Expanding: The teacher adds a detail to the child’s statement.
- Child: “I’m driving the truck.” Teacher: “You’re driving the red truck!”
Open-ended Questioning: The teacher asks questions that require a descriptive answer in a back-and-forth exchange with the child.
- Teacher: “What did you build?” Child: “A house.” Teacher: “Who lives in the house?”
Prompting: The teacher provides a specific cue to the child in order to engage them in play.
- Teacher: “I think your friend is trying to show you something.”
- Teacher: “Maybe we should invite Sarah to our tea party.”
Bredekamp, S., & Rosegrant, T. (1992). Reaching potentials: Appropriate curriculum and assessment for young children. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Kontos, S. (1999). Preschool teachers’ talk, roles, and activity settings during free play. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 14(3), 362-382.
Sharpe, T. (2008). How can teacher talk support learning? Linguistics and Education, 19(2) ̧132-148.
Stanton-Chapman, T., & Hadden, D. (2011). Encouraging peer interactions in preschool classrooms: The role of the teacher. Young Exceptional Children, 14(1), 17-28.
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