Language Building Strategies That Work!

*Recent article posted on Texas School Ready Connect

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The focus for this month’s newsletter is scaffolding and narrative talk, two language building strategies that teachers can use to help build young children’s vocabulary and oral language skills. There are several intentional opportunities to provide language support within classroom routines and instructional time. The National Early Literacy Panel (NELP) reported oral language instruction is best delivered in small group or on-on-one with children (National Center for Family Literacy).

Scaffolding refers to a variety of instructional techniques used to move children progressively toward stronger understanding and, ultimately, greater independence in the learning process. This temporary framework is used as a support until the child demonstrates success of the task.

Narrative talk simply means adults and children are having conversations. Adults respond to a child’s question by asking for more information, as well as giving the child new information. Teachers should plan conversations that introduce new vocabulary words that relate to the topic of learning and enrich children’s language throughout the day. Narrative talk allows adults to provide examples of words and their meaning within a context in which the words have an understandable real-life application.

Even before a child begins to talk, there are ways to use narrative talk. Some examples include modeling early words, parallel talk, labeling items, and self-talk. Modeling early words refers to when a child babbles early sounds (such as saying (“ah”), and the caregiver makes eye contact with the child and responds by repeating the sound and introducing a second sound (/m/), then combining the two sounds to say a simple two-syllable word, ma-ma (Hamilton, 1977). In parallel talk, the adult describes what the child is doing or seeing. The adult can be thought of as a broadcaster, watching the action and describing it to the child, without expecting a response. Labeling involves naming concepts, objects, and actions for the child. Finally, practicing self-talk involves the adult thinking out loud and describing what he or she is doing for the child.

As children begin to talk, more scaffolding activities can be added to build their language. Adults can expand on a child’s simple word utterances. For example, when a child says “gog” (referring to a dog), an adult would respond by saying “the dog barks” or “furry dog.” (Robertson & Weismer, 1999). Another activity is recasting. In this strategy, the adult will add more information, for example when a child says, “I want eat,” and the adult responds, “What do you want to eat?”

It is also beneficial to continue to scaffold and use narrative talk by restating sentences, repeating important words, using gestures, and responding to children’s comments. Asking open-ended questions that build higher-level thinking skills, and having reciprocal conversations throughout the day, will help develop new vocabulary and enrich a child’s language.

It is also important to add complex sentences when communicating and to provide increased opportunities for conversations with adult scaffolds to continue to build oral language learning. Providing these opportunities for children to practice oral language, speaking, and listening is crucial in the early years of language development.

teaching tips

Language building strategies are ways to expand and extend language heard and used by children.

Strategies include:

Label: name objects, concepts and actions.

Describe: tell how something looks, sounds, tastes, feels and smells.

Explain: tell how something works or why we do things.

Compare: tell how items are the same or not the same.

Link: make the connection between new objects, ideas, or concepts children already know or have experienced.

Find specific strategies to support language building in the CIRCLE Activity Collections for Pre-K/K. Here you’ll find numerous activities under the domain Language and Communication that support Listening and Comprehension, Social Communication Skills, Speaking and Expression and Vocabulary.

Learn more about increasing children’s oral language skills in the eCIRCLE online courses: Setting the Stage for Children’s Talk and Building Vocabulary.

notable news

  • Register now for FREE webinars in December and January. Check out the webinar calendar here.
  • TX-KEA will offer middle-of-year (MOY) literacy and math items in January.
  • New FREE online courses covering the Infant, Toddler, & Three-Year-Old Early Learning Guidelines are now available! After logging into your CLI Engage dashboard, find the courses under Full Course Catalog.
  • Interested in using the Classroom Observation Tool to set teaching goals and track improvement? We’ve posted an introductory course to using the tool and sample COT video resources here.
  • Part 2 of the Read with Me: Promoting Early Literacy Skills course series will be available in January! This course is the latest in a free series designed to support infant and toddler teachers. Read more about the series here.

recommended resources

What Works: An Introductory Teacher Guide for Early Language and Emergent Literacy Instruction. National Center for Family Literacy.

Robertson, S. B., & Weisner, S.E. (1999). Effects of treatment on linguistic and social skills in toddlers with delayed language development. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 42(5), 1234-1248.

Hamilton, M.L. (1977). Social learning and the transition from babbling to initial words. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 130(2), 211-220.

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)

Building Emergent Literacy Skills with Dr. Laura Justice

Check out our newly released Laura Justice Videos in the PPCD Gallery:

Dr. Laura Justice was in the studio this summer sharing her expertise around building emergent literacy skills with our young children.

Topics discussed include:

– Preschool “Readers”

– Precursors to Skilled Reading

–  Effective Interventions for Quality Read Alouds and more!

You can also check out our free expert interviews on our Region 13 You Tube Channel.

Teaching young children how to add or subtract should be fun and hands on!

For many of us, our first memories of computing addition and subtraction problems come in the form of isolated numbers without any meaning attached to it. We would simply receive a “naked number sentence” (3+3=__) where no context or scenario was presented and we were asked to find the answer using a pencil, paper or our fingers.

When we think of our students now, we can certainly teach them other techniques so they can visualize the act of joining and separating quantities and we can integrate these learning opportunities throughout the day.

Want to know how to create meaningful opportunities to teach your students how to add and subtract? Come join us for a MAKE AND TAKE…

2+2=4? What does addition and subtraction look like in Pre-K?

Dec 6th, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Workshop ID FA1737691


Register here –

To see all of our offerings, download our Fall & Spring Flyer



FREE – Edcamp R13 is coming up on December 2

Energy, enthusiasm, and collaboration! Everyone at Edcamp is there to ask questions, share passions, and learn from each other. Sessions are participant-driven, encouraging sharing and collaboration among everyone who comes to the session, whether it is a few people or a large group. Teachers share their best practices, their challenges and their passions, each listening for key information to enhance their personalized professional development. There is no single expert in the room! Participants are empowered to have voice and choice at Edcamp and encouraged to subscribe to the “Rule of Two Feet,” staying for sessions that meet their needs and politely leaving ones that do not.

Don’t know much about EdCamp – Check out 

Register Here –


Coaching is the Universal Language Between Change and Learning

Rider 78 aims to increase quality in all Pre-K programs across the state. One of ways to ensure that we provide a high quality Pre-k program is looking at the Teacher Qualifications and the preparation that they have received in addition to their teaching certificate. Rider 78 includes 7 options by which a teacher can be consider highly qualified. Option 6 and 7 include the important role that coaching and mentoring can play when supporting teachers in their classroom.

TEA will be hosting a webinar on Mentoring and Coaching on Tuesday, November 28th, 2017 at 10:00 am CST.  Click here to register.

Please note that LEAs will be required to submit how each teacher is consider highly qualified, along with all other Rider 78 components, during their Summer PEIMS submission.

If you are not able to watch the session live, a recording will be available at a later date on the Educator Resources page of the TEA website along with previous webinars.

TEA will continue to host webinars to support teachers and administrators in understanding all the Rider 78 components. To receive their latest updates sign up HERE.

To learn more about Teacher Qualifications in Rider 78 please visit the TEA website. Also, be sure to visit their FAQ website for the most up-to-date information.

COMING SOON! Four Free Conscious Discipline Webinars

Starting November 13, Conscious Discipline will release one FREE webinar week for four weeks. Join some of their most requested Master Instructors for helpful topics available on-demand – anytime on any device.

Nov 13 – Guiding the Most Challenging Children With Master Instructor Jill Molli

Nov. 20 – Parent Cliffnotes for Conscious Discipline With Master Instructor Amy Speidel

Nov. 27 – Pt 1: Using Healthy Conflict to Teach With Master Instructor Jill Molli

Dec. 4 – Pt 2: Using Healthy Conflict to Teach With Master Instructor Jill Molli

More info? Click here

Want more Webinars?

Watch now – Creating Emotionally Intelligent Schools with Master Instructor Jill Molli

Join Jill Molli for a high-level overview of the core tenants of Conscious Discipline that addresses the seven powers and skills, three core program components and success stories.


The Art as Therapy

Poverty, violence, and instability have been associated with chronically high levels of stress in kids. Now, a newly published study suggests that involving preschoolers from disadvantaged neighborhoods in music, dance, and visual arts programs may reduce their stress levels.

Six-year-old Max Brown has been playing violin for half of his young life.

“It makes me feel awesome,” detailed Max.

Max does this because it’s fun. His mom knows there could be more at stake. Eleanor Brown, PhD, is a child psychologist and heads the Early Childhood Cognition and Emotions Lab at West Chester University. Professor Brown studied 310 kids enrolled in the Kaleidoscope Preschool Arts Enrichment Program at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia. Most of the students came from disadvantaged neighborhoods.

“They might be more likely to experience stressful family interactions that result from parents’ anxiety about trying to make ends meet,” explained Brown.

Social scientists measured the kids’ stress levels in a procedure that involved using a Q-tip-like swab under a child’s tongue to collect saliva, which researchers analyzed for the stress hormone cortisol.

“So children who might experience repeated or chronic exposure to stress might end up with chronic elevations in cortisol levels,” Brown told Ivanhoe.

Researchers collected samples at homeroom to establish a baseline; then, after music, dance, and visual arts classes on two different days. All together, they analyzed more than 7,000 samples.

Brown said, “Children showed lower cortisol levels after music, dance, and visual arts classes compared with homeroom.”

Professor Brown said the findings suggest that arts classes lower stress levels. For child educators, it may help validate what they have long suspected.

Tarrell Davis, director of early childhood education at the Settlement Music School, detailed, “The arts are giving so much more for our children. It’s helping level the playing field for our children coming in with a disadvantage.”

Professor Brown said parents tend to focus on learning letters and numbers when selecting a preschool. She recommended finding programs that also emphasize play and creative activities, like art, music, and dance.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Kirk Manson, Videographer.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. 

FREE Webinar – Developing culturally responsive approaches to serving diverse populations

On Thursday, October 12, 2017, from 1:00 – 2:00 pm CT, join a webinar hosted by the National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families to learn how programs can conceptualize and achieve cultural responsiveness. As the United States becomes increasingly diverse, it’s important for community-based organizations to deliver culturally responsive services that match the multicultural, multilingual communities they serve.

This webinar panel will feature policy, training and technical assistance, and programmatic organizations, and builds on the Center’s resource guide on this topic.

Check out the upcoming events…

Join us for a make and take series focused on the Math & Science Guidelines! Each training will be three hours in the morning or afternoon with an opportunity for you to make it a full day PD or just take a half day off. Check out the first one of the series:

Counting Skills in Pre-K, Much More than 1, 2, 3

October 24th,     9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Workshop # FA1737687      $50

Discovering Physical Sciences Through a Child’s Eye

October 24th,         1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Workshop # FA1736938       $50

Register here –

To see all of our offerings, download our Fall & Spring Flyer

FREE Webinar – Creating Emotionally Intelligent Schools with Conscious Discipline

Dr. Becky Bailey, creator of Conscious Discipline, often says, “Discipline is not something we do to children, it is something we develop within them.”

With that in mind, Conscious Discipline most often focuses on a set of social and emotional skills and tools. In a classroom or school setting, what is most proximate (and painful) is kids that are missing critical skills. It’s these missing skills that drive kids to act out on their community – the behavior that drives up discipline referrals, bullying and disruptive behavior.

So what does it take for social and academic skills to soar?

The Conscious Discipline Brain State Model is at the core of the approach. By learning how to recognize a child’s brain state, adults can access an entirely new toolset that helps children shift their internal state and reach optimal learning and creative problem-solving. This is essential, because until the underlying needs and missing skills are met – the top tier of setting goals will continue to be really difficult for kids.

As adults learn how to create safe, connected environments for themselves and the children in their care, they meet the most basic needs of each brain state – and affect radical transformation in children (and themselves!).

In this FREE WEBINAR Jill Molli offers an overview of foundational concepts and shares remarkable stories of transformation.

  • From Conscious Discipline website. Please visit for additional FREE webinars!