Saturday, February 6, 2010

22 Things to Consider when Communicating with Young Children

To ensure they get a flying start on the road to education, parents, teachers and students should all be encouraged to communicate with each other from day one.

Here are some suggestions to aid that communication:

1. Remember to use all your senses - Use drawings, dramatic gestures, actions, emotions, voice, mime, chalkboard sketches, photographs and visual materials to provide clues to meaning.

2. Repetition builds familiarity - Repeat your actions using the same simple structures and actions.

3. Avoid complexity - Simplify your message as much as possible breaking them into smaller, manageable parts to give newcomers a chance at comprehending.

4. Start with a bang - Make sure the children's attention is focused.

5. Pay attention to each child in turn - Don't insist, however, that they make eye contact with you when you are speaking to them. This is sometimes difficult for them and can be considered rude in many cultures.

6. Be aware of your delivery and speech - Modify it if necessary. Talk at a slow-to-normal pace, in short sentences. Use a pleasant tone of voice at all times.

7. Use simple sentence structures - Use subject-verb-object and high-frequency words

8. Use names of people rather than pronouns - they may not understand who 'he, she or it' refers to.

9. Pause after longer phrases or short sentences, not after each word. You do not want to distort the rhythm of the language.

10. Avoid using the passive voice and complex sentences.

11. If you have something important to convey, speak one-on-one to the student rather than in front of the class. The anxiety of being in the spotlight interferes with comprehension.

12. Ask simple yes/no questions. Accept one-word answers or gestures.

13. Be an active listener. Give full attention to your newcomer and make every effort to understand his / her attempts to communicate. Smile.

14. Talk in a calm, quiet manner. Raising your voice does not help comprehension

15. Demonstrate your patience through your facial expressions and body language.

16. Give your quieter children extra time to respond.

17. Encourage new children to act out or to draw pictures to get their meaning across. Don't jump in immediately to supply words.

18. Correct pronunciation and grammar by repeating the response accurately. Do not ask the student to repeat the correction. This can be very embarrassing.

19. Resist the urge to over critisize and correct. This will inhibit new children and they will be less willing to speak.

20. Allow children to use a dictionary to find words that they cannot acted out.

21. Check comprehension frequently. Don't ask "Do you understand?" This is not a reliable check since many students will nod "yes" when they don't really understand.

22. Never use irony or sarcasm - That would not be well understood and is an abuse of status.

Be patient: you are taking the children on a long journey and they need to find their pace and enjoy the benefits along the way. Stop occasionally and let them smell the flowers.

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