The use of appropriate language skills begins at about the age of three. When children are challenged with appropriate speech in social situations, pragmatics comes into play. Pragmatic language skills develop alongside language abilities and aid children in fostering social language interactions. Activities can include role-playing, corrective language use by repeating back information and regular conversational practice.
Teaching preschoolers about vocabulary involves semantics and how words operate in full conversational phrases. Preschoolers can identify what they need in a number of ways: pointing, taking, crying or simply asking. Giving them what they want conditioned upon their asking for it appropriately will teach them quickly. For example, rather than have art materials or snacks ready for them, teach them to ask for them in full sentences. Similarly, teach preschoolers to ask for their own assistance before they become frustrated with an activity with phrases that yield positive results: "May I have the scissors, please," or "Please pass me the tape." They will learn new vocabulary in the context of full, appropriate statements and requests.
Responding to inappropriate or incomplete responses can be turned around quickly while teaching preschoolers powerful lessons of effective communication that gets them what they want. Asking clarifying questions versus criticizing what they say can go a long way in teaching new language versus scolding wrong behavior. For example, comment with, "What about that?" or, "Can you rephrase that?" when responses are lacking appropriateness or clarity about what they really want.
Acknowledging and Affirming
Rather than correcting pronunciation or syntax, respond with affirming phrases that reframe the statement appropriately. For example, if a child says, "I wanted not to go" respond with, "I see, so you did not want to go." Use everyday situations to converse and practice with full statements, such as asking for a morning snack or watching television on weekends. If the child says, "I want my snack," respond with, "Ask me for your snack and tell me which one please." Encourage them to ask one another for what snacks they want, questioning peers about snacks while affirming their own. This is the practice that will transcend negative outcomes while fostering effective communication skills.
Role play can imitate many situations, either naturally occurring or contrived for purposes of practice. Demonstrate how to explain the same thing to different people in specific instances, such as rules of a game or explanations on how to do something. Allow them to practice asking for what they want while exploring various ways to phrase the statements. This will help them practice for persuasion as well as appropriate language framing. Teach them about polite versus not-so-polite phrases, and practice asking to go somewhere or asking for something versus telling others what they want and demanding it.
Aiding a child's conversational topic will teach her how to say it appropriately, while articulating clearly. Adding information, for example where information might be unclear or need clarification, will aid her ability to add to the conversation with more information. Providing picture prompts will also aid his use of more words to provide information and clarity. Encourage rephrasing where and when necessary with prompts such as, "Did you mean...," and offer a couple of choices, or "I think you meant..."
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