Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Learning about Concepts through Everyday Language Interactions in Preschools

Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Learning about Concepts through Everyday Language Interactions in Preschools

Article excerpt

Pages: 33-44

DOI: 10.11621/pir.2017.0404

Keywords: everyday language interactions, learning words and concepts, cognition, preschool

Downloads: 36

Introduction

The aim of this study is to investigate talk in everyday language interactions and examine what they can represent as arenas for concept formation. Vygotsky (1987) used the term scientific concepts to refer to academic concepts as opposed to intuitive tacit concepts and the names of concrete objects embedded in everyday contexts. He argued that there is a complex relationship between everyday concepts that children hear in everyday language interactions with parents, teachers and peers, and scientific and more abstract concepts.

The Nordic early childhood education is described by Bennett (2010) as a social pedagogical approach in opposition to a pre-primary approach. Such a social pedagogical approach focuses on the development of social competence, aiming to empower children as active participants who can influence their own lives by strengthening their identity and self-esteem. Language interactions occur mainly spontaneously in daily activities, initiated by the children or the teachers, without any planned intentions or aims. Usually, approximately 20-30 minutes a day can be used for teacher-led planned activities. Accordingly, the most frequent situations for language interactions occur in everyday activities, and everyday activities represent important language learning situations in preschools in Norway as well as in the other Nordic countries.

Learning everyday concepts and scientific concepts in daily activities

From a socio-cultural perspective, learning is regarded as situated, and experiences such as joint activities that promote talk are seen as important means for both conveying meaning and generating new meaning (Nelson, 1995; Rogoff, 1998). Sociocultural theories claim that language represents our most important mental function (Fleer, 2009), and Vygotsky (1981) described human thinking as linguistic thinking, and concepts as the meaning of words. He stressed especially the meaning of words, because in thinking, we use the meaning of words. Vygotsky (1981) suggested that higher mental functioning has its origins in social processes mediated by tools and signs, and particularly by language. Vygotsky had a different perspective on conceptual learning than Piaget who believed that children’s learning about concepts and their surroundings were results of inner thought processes through assimilation and accommodation (Rogoff, 1998).

In the early years, language interactions between preschool teachers and children in different everyday activities represent the most meaningful places for hearing and using words and concepts (Rogoff, Paradise, Arauz, Correa-Chávez, & Angelillo, 2012). Everyday language interactions are frequently occurring situations and can be used as a primary tool for language development and concept formation in Norwegian preschools. According to August, Carlo, Dressler and Snow (2005) and Dickinson, McCabe, Anastasopolulos, Peisner-Feinberg and Poe (2003), opportunities for children to talk with teachers and receive feedback is of great importance for their language learning and concept formation. Siraj-Blatchford (2007) found that qualified staff that did take an active role as language participants supported children’s search for understanding coherence and continuity between experiences and language.

This study is built on theories developed from Vygotsky’s perspectives (1987) on language as a mediating tool. He asserted that scientific concepts or theoretical concepts are primarily learned through language, while spontaneous concepts are acquired in everyday contexts and systematically built up only to a small degree. His theory suggests that preschool teachers should use language to support the creation and extension of children’s word knowledge and that teachers’ talk should be geared to the needs of the child (Hasan, 2005). …

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