At The Children’s School, we believe the time when children are young is deeply important; indeed, we have focused on educating this age group for almost 60 years because we take children (and joyful learning!) seriously. For young children to reach their potential, they need ample opportunities to talk and to listen, to feel understood, and to hear and use complex language and sophisticated vocabulary. In essence, they bloom in a language-rich environment, and that begins with the spoken word.
We are deliberate in the way our classroom is prepared, the day is scheduled, and our teachers are trained to cultivate the art of conversation and give students meaningful things to talk about. These conversations provide the opportunity to build warm relationships—the catalyst for learning—and the School capitalizes on that opportunity by putting an emphasis on thoughtful, respectful interactions, modeled and guided by teachers. As teachers guide learning, they are also skilled observers, listening not only to words but also to nonverbal communication. As students engage with their lessons, they may express what is on their minds only partially in oral language, using the materials to communicate and express their inner thoughts. With the right cues, though, they will eagerly verbalize what the materials mean, and our teachers are there to help expand learning through spoken language.
As Maureen Murphy, Head of the School, explains: “Research shows that when children spontaneously share their experiences and think out loud, whether stacking blocks or painting a picture, they use higher-level language. When a caring teacher is present—observing, listening attentively and giving open-ended prompts—children gain the confidence to ‘talk problems through,’ which builds higher-level problem solving and a growth mindset, and to share their accomplishments, which builds confidence.”
Of course, children also need social interactions with their peers. Murphy notes, “Imaginative play is language-rich, but so is a cooperative endeavor like building tunnels in the sandpit, which calls for lots of give-and-take.” Children particularly love to collaborate to create private worlds that feel out of the reach of adults. Constructing secret hideouts and keeping them mysterious, only to be discussed in vivid language among peers, is one of the joys of being little. As Murphy observes, “The thrill of being in a hidden realm, of finding Narnia inside a closet, is the same feeling that draws children to books, and later to a love of literature and reading.”
Of course, reading aloud together is a hallmark of our program, whether it be in daily forum, in small group lessons, or between two friends in the library or the aforementioned fort. Reading aloud not only builds relationships through shared adventures and expands vocabulary, but also builds the critical thinking skills of prediction and reflection.
The School’s learning environment is steeped in rich spoken language, whether it is between teacher and child, children at play, or in developing a love of literature together. Each day, we engage with children deeply, on their own terms, with loving, respectful conversation about things that genuinely interest them. And we provide children with thoughtful role models and guidance in word and deed, and the materials, books and venues for play so they may discover on their own (and discuss) the enchantments that fuel a love of learning.
The Children’s School serves children ages 3 to 8. It is located at 118 Scofieldtown Road, Stamford, CT. For more information, please call (203) 329-8815 or see www.childrensschool.org.
This post was written by and is sponsored by The Children’s School