Teaching Language to Your Children - Describing
Fun Teaching Methods
Why is 'describing' fun and so important to your child's language development? The answer is simple: the effectiveness of narration and description depends very largely on a child's previous knowledge and on the way in which the new knowledge is connected with it, and if you put a little effort into how you engage with your child, you will find your child will learn and have fun while doing it.
What exactly are we doing when we are describing something?
When we describe something to someone we try to paint a word-picture of how something or someone feels, looks, sounds, tastes or moves. We do this by recalling the key features or characteristics of the event, object or feeling. So the process of describing uses language to convey an idea or image of an object, event, or the properties of objects or events being described, from one person to a second person, in such a way that the second person can recognise what is being described. When you're describing something to a child, you are effectively communicating and teaching how to communicate at the same time.
What is the purpose of using this teaching method?
The purpose of using description as a teaching technique is to help children to see increasingly finer and more complex distinctions between events, people and things in their daily world. Good descriptions help children to expand their understandings of the world. Good descriptions draw children's attention to the features, properties or characteristics of events, people and things that they may not have noticed or that they themselves may lack the language to describe.
How to make describing effective
You can increase the effectiveness of your descriptive powers with young children by:
- ensuring that they are familiar with what is to be described.
- thinking about the key features to be described.
- trying not to describe every single feature or property of something. You need to focus on the main characteristics of what you are describing and not overwhelm children with extra detail as they can get confused.
- thinking about what is unique or specific to what you are describing to help children recognise what is being described.
- using language as clearly and precisely as possible and using terms that your audience understands.
- being prepared to rephrase if children don't understand. Children will lose focus if the meaning of the description is lost.
- checking with children that they have understood the description by asking them questions.
- remembering that children will see things differently, depending on their personal experiences
- ensuring that description is used as part of conversations in which children have a chance to interact with and respond to adults.
How is children's language development helped by using this teaching method?
Describing something to children only begins their process of understanding it. Description on its own will hardly be sufficient to create total understanding of an event or person so this teaching technique works best if supplemented by opportunities for children to explore in a practical and concrete way the things being described.
As a teaching technique, description can be used to:
- heighten children's awareness of the characteristics of particular things and help them develop competence in using descriptive language.
- help children become more specific and precise in using descriptive language.
- extend children's vocabulary.
- enable children to share their knowledge and understandings with others.
- build children's listening skills.
Tips for teaching children language
Use descriptive words and phrases in language games, sentence building games, during creativemovement sessions, guessing games and ball games. Children will gain vocabulary as well as practical knowledge how to apply new words and how to describe them.
Remember, repetition and engagement are key in teaching children language.
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