How to Support Language Development in the Classroom

The child who struggles with language can struggle with every other aspect of learning. Without adequate language skills, the child can never become an independent learner, according to the California Department of Education. A study by David Dickinson and Patton Tabors in 2001 entitled "Fostering Language and Literacy in Classrooms and Homes" found that the behavior of parents made a huge difference in the student’s ability to read, speak and understand in the classroom. This makes it vital that parents work with teachers to help children become good readers, listeners and speakers.

Carry on long conversations with your child. Face to face communication is vital for good language skills. Dickinson and Tabor found that children who regularly spoke to adults were exposed to a more varied vocabulary than children who spoke to other children. In addition, talking about things that are outside of the current moment helps children take thoughts and put them into words. Try talking to children about past experiences and asking the child to elaborate. Say: “Do you remember going to the water park last summer? What was your favorite part? Why?”

Listen to your child. Actively listening to your child means staying engaged in the conversation. This encourages the child to elaborate. In addition, it is important to listen to how your child speaks. Listen for fluency issues such as a stutter. Listen for a lisp or other articulation issues. Listen for the tone and volume of the conversation. A child who consistently speaks loudly or atonally may have a hearing disorder. The earlier any of these issues is addressed, the better the child’s chances are for a full recovery.

Read to your child every day. Books introduce new ideas, new vocabulary and new situations that encourage the child to think more deeply. In addition, children learn to associate the comfort and closeness of a parent with the comfort of getting lost in a good book. Even older children benefit from listening to longer works of fiction. It extends their attention span and encourages good listening skills and reflection. To encourage the older child, take turns reading pages. Praise the child after she has read her page.

Work with young children on language homework. Practice spelling and vocabulary words together. Look for the words in magazines, newspapers and other types of writing. Practice writing. Give the child a journal or diary to write in daily.

Communicate with the child’s teacher. Seek the teacher’s help if you feel that your child is falling behind. Ask the teacher for any reading materials for long school breaks. Ask if the school has any type of summer or break program the child may use over the summer such as Accelerated Reader or the local library summer reading program.


If your child struggles with reading, discuss testing with the child's teacher or pediatrician.