Crimes that can enrich infants' conversation

14th March 1997 at 00:00
NURSERY. Adults who ask children unimaginative questions to encourage their language development may be hindering, not helping.

June McManus of Westwood primary in Leeds has reached this conclusion after finding that setting up a role-play area did not automatically stimulate language development in the nursery.

"Children's talk was usually best when they were speaking about something the listeners did not know about, talking about something that had excited them or which challenged them to provide descriptions and explanations and to initiate contributions," she says.

A mock burglary prompted an animated conversation but when a teacher tried to talk to the children about the play shop's signs and merchandise she received only one or two-word replies. "Teachers' planning should build in stimulating events and opportunities for pupils to make extended contributions, follow lines of thought and initiate discussion," she says.

* Nursery staff who feel parents do not want them to act as substitutes, may be worrying unnecessarily. Margy Whalley and Cath Arnold of the Pen Green Centre in Corby, Northamptonshire, reported: "Staff who successfully relate to parents and children are often unconsciously mimicking positive parenting behaviour by meeting children's affective needs, through rocking, holding or cuddling them."

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