Monday, June 23, 2014

Practicing conversation with preschool children, ages 3-6

·        Make time for informal conversations. They can begin spontaneously based on something that happened to one of them, or to you as the adult. To prepare the environment to support the skill of conversation, make time for informal conversations. Be ready to expand upon the interest that the child wants to share. If it comes up at a bad time, tell the child that you heard what they said, repeat it back, and remind them that there are others waiting right now, and promise them a time when you will talk about it more.
·         Slow down and enunciate clearly. Slow down enough for the child to process what you have said, process their own thinking, and respond.
·         Use this opportunity to introduce new vocabulary. Discuss new colors you saw around the room.
·         Plant objects and pictures in the room for conversation, for the children to discover and wonder about.
·         Create a job that requires collaboration, like preparing the room for visitors or having a meal together with a different furniture arrangement. They will all be talking to each other. Plant or harvest new things. This is the larger picture.
·         Planned conversations to expound on specific techniques of conversation. It could be based on an individual experience or a shared experience, news or an event coming up, an object or a picture, a painting, a new activity, a book. Exaggerate the elements of the conversation so that they can identify pieces of it.
o   Asking to start a new conversation and move it in a new direction.
o   Give one or two interesting facts for the children to connect to their experiences.
o   Practicing inclusiveness in small groups or large groups. If you have a small group, every child needs to speak. We need to help our friends remember to include everyone and not let one person do all of the talking.
o   Follow up by reiterating and asking, “Did you really… ?“ so that they can hear it again.
o   Model the listening position and body language. Show them nodding, smiling, eye contact, little questions, reflecting their body language.
o   Build on what the last person said. *This is the hardest part!* Show them how not to go off on tangents or continue your own story.
o   Summarize the whole story of the conversation, briefly.
·         Discuss who would be a good person to share a conversation. Invite the children to gather around to have a small group conversation.  Show them not to invite someone who looks so busy.
·         Have planned small group conversations about the materials. It will renew interest in the study. You can connect objects in the room to the materials of study. These conversation can add cultural significance to the objects, such as an artifact from Peru for a child working on the South America puzzle maps. It will give it life and relevance. The objective here is connection and renewed interest, not instruction. They will remember this association the next time they do the work, and they will share the conversations with others. This information will not be given to each child in small group, to give children an opportunity to share with each other.

Jeannot Jonte Boucher is a Montessori educator and parent in Dallas, Texas. 

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