Checklist for evaluating your own talk

In order to help you become aware of what you do and say in conversations with children (one child or a small group), you can use this checklist as an evaluation tool.

This checklist "I encourage language development in conversations" (Damhuis, De Blauw & Brandenberg, 2016) can help you reflect on how you act and why, and what you could do to improve or enrich your conversations. You could also use it as an observation tool, just replace ‘I’ by ‘the teacher’ and you can learn from observing a teacher or fellow student.

In everyday conversations you are not alert all the time about what you are doing or saying to keep the conversation going. You are just communicating with the others for multiple reasons. But when you are focused on language development and wondering together about natural science topics in conversation with young children, you need to be way more aware of how you are communicating. 

There is also the child’s perspective in conversations. As soon as you have discovered that you are, for example, posing questions all the time, not leaving any space for a child’s contribution in the conversation, you can start reflecting on the ‘why’ and what you could do as a teacher or teacher in training to improve your skills. At the same time, it is important to take the child’s language development into account: what does the child need to be able to contribute to the conversation and what does that ask from you as a teacher in training? In short: the checklist focusses on your actions and responses, but those are obviously intertwined with the children’s (re-)actions and responses. 

The checklist consists of five categories:

1. Conditions

When children feel at ease, they will most likely join conversations. Especially when they feel that you are showing genuine interest and really want to hear what they tell you, they will be more motivated to talk. 

2. Communication and language offer

Children need a sufficient and qualitatively good language offer in order to benefit from it. You as a teacher in training are a model in pronunciation, use of words, constructing sentences and texts and how to communicate. 

3. Participation in the conversation

Children learn language by talking. They need the opportunity to speak, exercise their language knowledge and skills and improve themselves by talking about more and more complex issues. By doing so, children will broaden their vocabulary, construct longer and more complete sentences and increase the pace at which they speak. 

4. Substantive contribution in the conversation

This category is also about the child’s language production, but more focused on the content, where in no. 3 the focus was on the scope of the child’s contribution. Children will benefit most from conversations on their own ideas, experiences, wishes and intentions. Having the opportunity to talk from their point of view and being supported in expanding their knowledge will help them in both language learning and understanding content. 

5. Feedback

Talking is important for children to learn, and making mistakes even more so! The mistakes children make in their language are a normal step in their development. They should therefore not be corrected but should be given the correct model so they can adjust their language over time. They also need stimulating responses in order to stay motivated to talk and join conversations. 

Checklist

 

yes

some-times

no

1.   Conditions

a.   I create a safe climate

b.  I really want to communicate

2.   Language offer

a.   I speak comprehensible and correct Dutch/Norwegian/German/…

b.   I help the child to express intentions if necessary

 

3.   Create space for active participation in the conversation

a.   I leave silences

b.   I give verbal and non-verbal listening responses

c.   I don't ask questions in succession

d.   I ask open and inviting questions if necessary

e.   I occasionally make a provocative statement

 

4.   Boost content quality

a.   I continue with the content of what the child says

b.   I try to find out together with the child what he/she means (meaning negotiation)

c.   I encourage the child to reflect and to use a higher level of language (complex cognitive language functions such as comparing, reasoning, concluding)

d.   I expand the content of the child's input (expansion)

 

5.   Feedback

a.   I implicitly correct the child's language (modeling)

b.   I organize the child's input and occasionally summarize

c.  I repeat what the child says and pass it on to the other children

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now you’re good to go! Take a situation where you are in conversation with a child or group of children. Fill out the checklist and reflect on your answers. Which categories or elements are you good at and why is that? Where would you like to improve yourself and what do you need to do that? The website offers you a variety of tools and theory. 

Perhaps you would like to read more about types of talk, conversation and dialogue

Or do you want to do some exercises