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Providing Learning Experiences that Value Talk

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As early childhood educators, we strive to create learning environments that are engaging, design activities that are stimulate thinking, and provide opportunities for growth of cognitive, social and emotional domains.  In the previous two modules have discussed ways that you can increase the frequency and quality of teacher-initiated talk.  You have used an observation tool to record different interactions between teachers and students.   Furthermore, we have considered how teacher initiations might promote different levels of student thinking by evaluating these interactions on a scale of Bloom’s taxonomy.

However, we would like to challenge your thinking further.  Often much of the learning in classrooms routinely depends on teacher direction, or teacher-initiated activities.  Read about an inquiry-based approach to teaching that generates from student interests and depends on student talk. 

Read: professional text Investigating Rocks and Sand or Building Language and Literacy Through Play.  These articles discuss how playtime and learning centers, and the conversations that occur during these opportunities, can be part of rigorous learning in the early childhood setting.

Reflect: Consider the learning environment you have set up in your classroom.  How does the organization of space foster talk in the room?  What could you add to your centers to promote meaningful talk between students? Spend time planning centers using this guide- and identifying ways that they fit into explicit opportunities for language development and literacy learning.  

Create and Share:  Use the investigation of rocks and sand as a model of learning.  Have a discussion with students about starting a new project this spring.  Ask them to generate topics to investigate as a class (based on current interests, events in the community, situations in the classroom, etc.). Make a list and together pick one topic. Plan together what you need to do this investigation.  Document planning process by taking images of artifacts to share in the practice exchange. 

Think about how each of your centers could be transformed to become areas where children can make discoveries and build connections with each other during this investigation.  Remember, discovery learning is different than a pre-planned unit with identified activities.  To document transformation of your learning centers, you might take before and after pictures. 

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These tools were created as part of the Literacy Improvement in Rural Education through Collaboration (LIREC) project funded by the U.S. Department of Education