Welcome to TSR Connect, a monthly newsletter designed to benefit all three of our implementation models: TSR Comprehensive, TSR Online+, and TSR Online! From relevant research to teaching tips, the newsletter will provide practical information to help better serve the children of Texas.
Relevant Research

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Tips for Increasing Children’s Talk

Use the links below to access the CIRCLE Activity Collection and read more about Increasing Children’s Talk. Please note you must be logged into Engage for these links to work.


Open–Ended Questions

Supporting children’s talk can be done through questioning that builds higher-level thinking skills. 

Open-ended questions encourage children to use more language that allow more than one or two word responses. Open-ended questions require children to think critically and express their ideas and feelings.

Examples of Open-Ended Questions

What might happen if….?
How does that make you feel?
Why do you think that?
What else can you tell me?
How could we do that differently?

Scaffolding Language

Scaffolding language helps a child to successfully complete a task. When adults provide the model for mature speech which includes restating sentences, repeating important words, and responding to the child’s comments, they are supporting and increasing their language skills.

Ways of Scaffolding Language

Talk about what you are doing as you are doing it.
Think out loud.
Extend the child’s language by adding more information.
Link new words and information to something already known.
Use gestures.
Say important words several times.

Examples and types of downward extension scaffolding

Minimal ScaffoldEither/or Question reduces choices (Did they need to build new houses because the shark ate their houses or because they wanted to move to a new neighborhood?)

Moderate Scaffold - Close prompt for final word (The fish had to build new houses because their houses got eaten by the sh…(shark).

Intense Scaffold - Say to elicit answer (The fish had to build new houses because their houses got eaten by the shark. Why did they need new homes? Teacher response “Their houses got eaten by the shark.)

CLI Engage Website

Texas School Ready Website

Children's Learning Institute Website

Infant, Toddler, and Three-Year-Old Early Learning Guidelines

Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines

Texas Early Childhood Professional Development System (TECPDS)

Increasing Children’s Talk

At the beginning of the year, pre-Kindergarten children enter our classrooms with varying oral language abilities. According to the National Early Literacy Panel, these oral language skills have been shown to be an important predictor of children’s later decoding, reading comprehension, and spelling skills. Teachers must determine specific, targeted strategies to intentionally increase each child’s exposure to new vocabulary and provide meaningful opportunities to talk with their peers and teachers. These interactions must be planned and include instruction that concentrates both on receptive and expressive language use. These experiences with language form the basis for later school success.

There are several way that teachers can help build these crucial oral language skills. Teachers can explain new words with child-friendly definitions, label new objects, and engage in meaningful conversations with children. Language building strategies are ways to expand and extend the language heard and used by children. As new objects/concepts are introduced, teachers can use several  strategies to provide children with deeper and broader meanings. The below five strategies can be explored in the TSR online CIRCLE Activity Collection on the CLI Engage platform.

  • Labels are names for objects, concepts, and actions. It is best to provide labels for objects when children are actively engaged with that object or participating in the specific action. Since the children are already paying attention, they easily connect what you are saying to the appropriate object or action. This can occur during book reading (“See the apron the cook is putting on”) and during play (Child says, “Put this on me.” Teacher responds, “You want to wear the apron?”). 
  • Describing is telling how something looks, tastes, sounds, feels, and smells. By adding a description, the children have an additional way to think about the object or concept. For example, “An apron is something you wear over your clothes when you are cooking.”
  • Explaining tells how things work or why we do things. For example, “We wear an apron to keep our clothes clean.”
  • Comparing is telling how items are the same (or not the same). Comparing helps children determine the category of an item and clarifies its purpose. For example, “An apron is like a baby’s bib. They both cover your clothes and keep food from getting on them.” 
  • Linking is making the connection between new objects, ideas, or concepts and something the child already knows or has experienced. When we make the connections between objects, ideas, and concepts, children build understandings and are able to access the knowledge they are gaining. For example, “An apron is like the smock you wear when you paint in the art center.”

Teachers should model these different language building strategies with children throughout the day. Then, you can use these strategies to question children about objects/concepts they are talking about. As children’s language skills increase, their conversations will reflect these strategies.

It is important to remember that the best approach to encourage children’s talk is not to push but rather promote opportunity. A responsive teacher who looks for cues and signals to engage children in conversation makes the opportunity meaningful and not forced.

In the TSR Online course “Setting the Stage for Children’s Talk” (found on CLI Engage), three components are discussed that can help teachers support and scaffold children’s talk. 

  • Attention and Responsiveness: Good teachers pay close attention to children's verbal signals and nonverbal gestures. By observing children and listening carefully to what they say, we become aware of where they are developmentally, what interests them, and their level of engagement in activities. Teachers can respond to this information by drawing an excited child into deeper conversation, by giving a child extra time to respond to a question, or by asking children about the things that interest them.
  • Content and Stimulation: Rich language, rare words, and open-ended questions that make young children think and exercise their speaking skills are all examples of content and stimulation. When children are presented with meaningful conversations and language forms, they are quick to put them to use and build on them.
  • Emotional Support: Oral language lessons are most effective when teachers demonstrate enthusiasm and respect for both what children say and how they say it. A warm and accepting attitude toward children's talk can be conveyed verbally with praise or through body language: gazes, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Remember to praise and acknowledge children for good speaking and listening behaviors.

By using a supportive teaching style, creating meaningful opportunities for talk, and encouraging new vocabulary through both exposure and use with responsive scaffolding, teachers can increase children’s language acquisition during this critical time of their development.

Notable News

Did you miss our Fall Lunch and Learn on "Fostering Infant and Toddler Development?" No problem! You can view the presentation with the audio from the event on CLI's website!

CLI was in the news this week! Reuters Health published our own Dr. Beth Van Horne's previous research about how certain birth defects are linked to infant and toddler abuse! You can read the article here

TSR Comprehensive coaches, don't forget to be reviewing progress monitoring data with your teachers!

CIRCLE Progress Monitoring Parent Reports are available on the Engage dashboard in English and Spanish in both color and black and white. 

The eCIRCLE Course Facilitator Approval Application is available. You can download it here

Join us for a webinar about working with children who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This webinar will offer participants strategies they can use to engage and facilitate learning for children with ASD through the lens of CLI expert, Dr. Michael Assel, and the lens of an experienced practitioner Libby Hall. The webinar will be happening on December 9, from 2-3:30 p.m. Register for the webinar here.

Stay tuned for our next issue on using data!

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