Language Modeling: Self-Talk

Most of the children in my preschool are dual-language or English language learners.  Over seven different languages are spoken among children, staff, and families.  On any given morning, walking down the school hallway sounds like you’ve walked into a Rosetta Stone tutorial.

For the teachers, they face the challenge of not only teaching preschool children basic curriculum, but also addressing their language needs.  One of the goals of our preschool – and the families – is to improve children’s English language proficiency.  This is where language modeling techniques come in.

One of the first language modeling techniques teachers use is one called Self-Talk.

Self-talk is where a teacher will describe what he or she is doing using language.  The teacher is providing the words to describe their actions.

For example:

If a teacher is writing the letter V, they can self-talk and say “I’m going to write the letter V.  I hold my pencil, then go down, then up.  There — the letter V.”

Later in the day, if the teacher is playing with a train set, they can self-talk “I’m going to play with my train.  I’m moving my train down the track.  Now my train is turning. Choo-choo!”

The main point of this technique is for children to hear – and see – the language in action.  What’s most important about this techniques is that the child is not forced to speak.  Self-talk does not involve any child questions; it’s all about the teacher using language to describe his or her actions.

It’s a little weird at first; talking out loud about what you’re doing… like your a little crazy.  But, what’s crazy is that children will really enjoy it.  Dual language, English language learning, and even shy children will observe and hear your language, storing your words in their head.  Give it some time and the kids will start using your words.  Major return on investment.


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