Promoting verbal language skills

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  Published on Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Promoting verbal language skills

Library Home  >  Health, Wellbeing & Nutrition
  Published on Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Children are born with an instinct to engage and interact with their carers and the development of verbal communication is an exciting stage.

There are plenty of ways educators can work to nurture the development of verbal communication skills in young children in early childhood education and care settings. Encouraging and recognising communication efforts are effective for promoting further interactions and there are lots of simple strategies you can employ.

What you can do:

1. Use instructional practices that support children's language learning:

Create a language-rich classroom

Make an effort to ensure that children are engaged in meaningful conversations and language use throughout the day. To create and sustain an environment like this early childhood education and care professionals can:

  • engage children in extended conversations
  • encourage children to tell and retell stories and to describe events
  • discuss a wide range of topics
  • model the use of new and unusual words
  • discuss word meanings
  • ask open-ended questions
  • give explicit guidance on vocabulary, syntax and pronunciation
  • challenge children to justify their thinking
  • focus on the expression of ideas.

Engage children in shared reading of challenging books

Reading out loud to children is one of the best ways to facilitate verbal language and vocabulary development. Books expose children to several types of language that are foundational for academic success. These types include decontextualized language, sophisticated vocabulary and new concepts, and book language.

Promote conversation about shared books

To encourage children to engage in conversations about books, use the acronym C.R.O.W.D:

C=Completion questions to focus children on the structure of language used in the book for example: "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? I see a red bird staring at ____."

R=Recall questions to check children's understanding of the content of the story.

O=Open-ended questions to engage children in extended talk about the book.

W=W questions such as who, what, when, where and why to teach vocabulary.

D= Distancing or bridging prompts to help children relate ideas in the book to life experiences beyond the story

Provide intentional instruction in phonological awareness activities

Children develop phonological awareness as they learn new vocabulary and differentiate between words that sound similar.

Types of phonological awareness for young children include:

  • Rhyming—the ability to notice that two or more words have endings that sound the same
  • Alliteration—the ability to notice that two or more words begin with the same sound
  • Sentence segmenting—the ability to sense individual words in the stream of spoken language
  • Syllable blending and segmenting—the ability to hear the separate syllables in a word and to put syllables together orally to make a word or break a word into separate syllables.

2. Use high quality verbal language curricula:

Integrate language learning

A strong curriculum teaches vocabulary while studying interesting content. By providing repeated exposure to new words, children learn the words they need to represent the new ideas and concepts they are learning.

Include explicit instruction

To encourage this, use challenging read-alouds as well as daily discussions of books, new concepts and new vocabulary. Make it enjoyable for the kids by incorporating games and songs into their learning.

Allow them to play!

Early childhood educators know better than anyone how important play is to a child's development. A strong curriculum provides time and opportunities for both free and structured play, giving children the time to experiment with new concepts and vocabulary.


Oral Language: Supporting Language Learning in the Classroom by the Centre for the Child Care Workforce and the Albert Shanker Institute.

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Wednesday, 14 October 2020


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