I'm so glad you finally asked!
Children benefit from “thick” conversations. Thick conversations are characterised by giving children many chances to speak and communicate, asking open-ended questions, encouraging them to think and imagine, and having many back-and-forth exchanges.
Here are four key strategies to engage children in thick conversations in English or in their home language:
1. Encourage back-and-forth exchanges.
- Tune into children’s interests and experiences and talk about them.
- Take turns communicating and provide time for children to respond.
- Show that you are interested in what they are doing and listening to what they say.
2. Extend children’s language.
- Expand on children’s words or their attempts at words by adding a little more. For example, if the child says “ball”, you can say “the blue ball is bouncing!”
- Add new vocabulary words to the ones children are already using when talking to them. For example, if a child says "that cloud is big", you might be able to introduce the word "enormous" such as "and this cloud is enormous".
- When appropriate, it might be helpful to repeat a child's language using correct grammar to model how to arrange their words.
3. Invite children to talk about what they are doing.
- Comment on what children are doing.
- Ask children questions about what they are doing, what they did before, and what they plan to do next.
- Encourage children to make comparisons and consider other possibilities. For example, "I can see you are using the small yellow shovel, what would happen if you used the big blue spade to shovel that sand?"
4. Encourage higher-level thinking.
- Help children make connections between what is happening in the classroom and what is happening in their home or community.
- Explain your thinking process.
- Introduce new concepts or ideas. Make suggestions during play such as "what do you think would happen if we..."
I encourage you to start off this year introducing the term "thick conversation" into your everyday language. Aiming to help extend on each child's vocabulary throughout your conversations during their play.