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Children's Conversations - Why are they Important?

by Dennie Palmer Wolf
July/August 1996
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Article Link: https://www.childcareexchange.com/article/childrens-conversations-why-are-they-important/5011040/

Because adults have more facts, words, and grammatical rules, we often assume that it is teachers and parents who teach children how to talk.

But stand in the doorway of any room in any child care center and you instantly notice how much of the talking, whispering, chanting, yelling, and teasing flows back and forth between children.

Child-to-child talk may not be as elegant or as smooth running as adult-child conversations. But because it takes place between (more or less) equal partners who have a stake in the ongoing activity, peer conversations may teach children some very special language lessons. In the last months, we have been listening in on children's conversations in order to collect some illustrations.

The Basics

Part of being a good conversationalist is knowing about turns. As they talk to one another, children are learning the fundamental rules of conversation: listening, turn taking, keeping to the same topic. Here Lyle tries to teach his friend Larry a basic rule about listening.

Lyle and Larry are near the cubbies, struggling with their coats before going outside.

Lyle: You got my mittens?

Larry goes on fumbling in his cubby.

Lyle: (Speaking more loudly.) Do you got my ...

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