Making Language Learning Visible In Early Years
What makes an environment conducive to learning a language? How is language learning made visible?
The Ekya Early Years classroom supports language development. All classrooms have an in-class library with various reading resources and displays encouraging communication, expression, creative imagination, and collaboration. It is through interaction with teachers and peers that language develops. Besides the physical space, the curriculum allows students to interact and collaborate with peers. Teachers document all student work to tell us what and how they learn. Collecting student work also helps us see how skills and language development occur over time.
Reading is encouraged in the Early Years classroom. Let’s take a peek into the Ekya Early Years classroom, and see how language learning is made visible. The Early Years environment engages students meaningfully. The classroom spaces have multiple learning corners- The Reading Nook and The Writer’s Right, which support language learning.
In addition to these spaces, large bulletin boards display all students’ work related to language.
Students read storybooks, look closely at the cover pictures and the pictures inside the book, and connect with the text they read. When students read and re-read stories, they are repeatedly exposed to words in context, strengthening their vocabulary.
Storybooks and Storytelling provide an engaging and authentic way of embedding language besides being fun! Listening to stories and telling stories are opportunities for practicing the language. It is an effective way through which students develop grammar and narration skills. Students listen closely to their teachers reading aloud and learn to use gestures and facial expressions with proper intonation and voice modulation. An essential aspect of these sessions is promoting deep conversations around the story. Students share their thoughts, feelings, opinions, and perspectives with their peers and teachers. Students practice language concepts while reading a storybook. Most children use words from the story in daily situations and conversations with their teachers and peers. Teachers are mindful when introducing new vocabulary and use those words to strengthen students’ growing vocabulary.
The puppets in the Reading Nook provide students opportunities to practice language skills. See how students use puppets as tools to retell stories to their peers. They retell a story in their own words, using words from the storybook and adding familiar words.
Here are some images from the activity where students retell the story- Where is my bat?
The Storybook- ‘Where is my bat?’ introduces students to positional words. In the pictures above, the child is sharing puppets of the boy and the door. The child explains, “The boy is behind the door” and “the bat is behind the door”. The teachers continued to use these words through daily conversations with students to strengthen their vocabulary!
The language wall is used extensively and captures the essence of the language program. The words you see in the bulletin board image are from the story, ‘Where is my bat?’ and are gradually woven into the lesson so that students in class develop association skills while reading the book. Students’ work is displayed in the form of worksheets on these boards as well.
Instead of introducing these words randomly, the teachers work with students to identify and extract the familiar words from the story. This enables students to see terms used in context, and in turn, they tend to remember and use them more often.
They are encouraged to look at the words and images frequently and construct words and new sentences using their knowledge. Finally, students illustrate the entire story by defining the setting, characters, events, and the different print concepts they learned in the story.
Here is an example of a student inspired by a story- ‘Where is my bat?’. Reading this gave the student context to explore his writing ideas. The student illustrates and adds his title, ‘Where is my flying car?’
At Ekya Schools, we provide students with a language-rich and print-rich environment. To summarise, the program has an excellent focus on reading, print awareness, building vocabulary, and using language meaningfully in everyday situations. The curriculum ensures that students are given repeated exposure to language concepts in different contexts, with careful progression.
Students get multiple opportunities to communicate and express themselves, which is instrumental in building essential language skills and social skills for life through peer play and interactions.
Here are simple ways to encourage your children to appreciate language outside the school environment:
- Read to your child daily: Give children exposure to as many books as possible. For example, have a reading nook at home. Read books. Let your children see you reading books and newspapers. Seeing you read books will encourage them to read on their own. When you are shopping for books, allow them to choose books independently.
Encourage sharing of books with friends in the neighborhood. Create a small reading community. You could also create a list of books you read with your child and share them with others.
Appreciate language in the environment: Encourage children to look at billboards and signages. If you go to a department or grocery store, encourage children to read the signs and symbols they see around them. Make a list of ingredients with them in advance if you know what you will see and get them to locate things in the store. Let children know there is language everywhere and engage with words around.
Dr. Pooja Maggu
Instructional Designer, Early Years
Ekya Learning Centre.