Developing Listening and Speaking Skills

by Janice Barnett, Infant/Toddler Specialist

Research confirms that children need many opportunities to both talk and listen with caregivers, teachers, parents, and peers in order to gain the language skills valuable for their success in reading and writing. All adults involved in the education of young children benefit from understanding the importance of open-ended questions, vocabulary exploration, and engaging conversations with young children.

The following is an excerpt from Teaching Our Youngest.
It is important for young children to be able to:
• Listen carefully for different purposes, such as to get information or for enjoyment.
• Use spoken language for a variety of purposes.
• Follow and give simple directions and instructions.
• Ask and answer questions.
• Use appropriate volume and speed when they speak.
• Participate in discussions and follow the rules of polite conversation, such as staying on a topic and taking turns.
• Use language to express and describe their feelings and ideas.
It is important for teachers to:
• Ask open-ended questions that invite children to expand upon their answers.
• Present new words to children to expand their vocabularies.
• Respond to questions and let children take the conversational lead.
• Respond to children’s questions and let them build their language skills.

We need to put to rest the old saying, “Children should be seen and not heard.” Research shows beyond question that it is through having many opportunities to talk as well as to listen to teachers, parents, and peers that children gain language skills so valuable for their success in reading and writing.