Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Patterns of Teacher Talk and Children's Responses: The Influence on Young Children's Oral Language

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Patterns of Teacher Talk and Children's Responses: The Influence on Young Children's Oral Language

Article excerpt

Introduction

Over many years, early years educators have reported the significance of quality classroom talk interactions, particularly given the established relationship between early language development and literacy within the research literature. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) national early childhood reform agenda (Council of Australian Governments, 2009) recognises the importance of the early years to human capital development, with strong language skills in these early years linked to educational success throughout life (Hirsh-Pasek et al., 2015; Hoff, 2013; Pordes-Bowers, Strelitz, Allen, & Donkin, 2012). In addition, research also acknowledges the cultural influences on language use and learning (Gee, 2002; Hoff, 2006) and the rich variation in children's language, that reflects cultural and linguistic diversity, and the multiplicity of languages and literacies available as resources for meaning making (New London Group, 2000). However, the language repertoire of many young children from vulnerable communities ill-prepares them for the complexity of the language discourse patterns of schooling (Heath, 1982; Rivalland, 2004) or is limited in terms of laying the foundation for later literacy learning (Burns, Griffin, & Snow 1999; Christie, 2005;). Among the many implications this raises for practice, this paper considers the critical role of the early years teachers in developing young children's oral language, as it is through the teachers' own talk and dialogic interactions with young children that oral language is fostered (Henry & Pianta, 2011; Huttenlocher, Vasilyeva, Cymerman, & Levine, 2002; Raban, 2014). This study responds to the ongoing challenge of improving classroom talk interactions with the intention to identify the aspects of teachers' talk that are most conducive to developing young children's oral language.

Literature review

Research clearly positions language as the foundation for building literacy (Clarke, Mitchell, & Bowman, 2009; Daly, 2015; Dickinson, Griffith, Golinkoff, & Hirsh-Pasek, 2012), with strong connections between a young child's early language experience and later literacy development (Dickinson, McCabe, Anastasopoulos, Peisner-Feinberg, & Poe, 2003; Dickinson & Porche, 2011; Hoff, 2013; Snow, Tabors, & Dickinson, 2001). Clay (2001) identified oral language as facilitative of children's literacy learning, yet the aspects of oral language that are more clearly related to later literacy outcomes is often contested (Dickinson & Porsche, 2011; Snow, 1991; Storch & Whitehurst, 2002).

Children's early reading development is dependent on them being very familiar with the sounds of the language (Konza, 2016) alongside their ability to associate the visual symbols of writing to spoken language as they master the alphabetic code (Castles, Rastle & Nation, 2018). The importance of phonological awareness and phonics to beginning reading has been acknowledged consistently in large scale reviews of teaching reading (Adams 1990; DEST, 2005; NICHD, 2000; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). However, as Paris (2005) states, the learning of letter sounds relationships comprises a finite skill set 'that are learned quickly so the trajectory of mastery is steep and the duration of acquisition is brief' (p. 188). Conceptualising oral language more broadly, the National Early Literacy Panel Report Developing Early Literacy (2009) found that some aspects of oral language were clearly more related to later literacy outcomes than others. Specifically, this report notes 'complex aspects of oral language, such as grammar, definitional vocabulary, and listening comprehension, as having more substantial predictive relations with later conventional literacy skills' (p 78). For many children, expressive and receptive vocabulary, the ability to recall and comprehend sentences and stories, and the ability to engage in extended verbal discourse are also predictive of early literacy (Daly, 2015; Jones & Chen, 2012; Snow et al. …

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