sure to spend enough time listening to what he or she has to say. Give the child the chance to take the conversational lead. Add your own brief responses and comments to draw him or her out. Although they may not always be factually accurate in their responses, it is important for children to learn how to use language to express and describe their impressions and ideas.

Encourage conversation when children are in a comfortable setting. They’re more likely to open up and talk when they are in a nonthreatening situation, such as a one-to-one reading session, a walk outside, and during snack time. Perhaps the most effective way to converse with children is to take time to join in their play.

Make a Personal Experiences Center in the classroom, where young children can talk with teachers about events in their lives while the teachers listen, prompt discussion, and record the experiences. Tell children personal stories. Talk about things that interest you. Acknowledge uncertainty about some things, and show children how you find answers to your questions.

Use readings of high-quality storybooks to lead children to reenactments and discussions during class. Have a child dictate his or her own story—”You tell me the story and I’ll write the words”—and then act out the story, including other children in the performance.

In story dictation, the teacher should move from taking verbatim dictation to asking the child questions about sequences that are unclear—like “Where did the ogre come from?”—and edit accordingly. Many teachers dramatize children’s stories and edit when the children recognize that something is missing.

Encourage children to write their own story. Tell them, “It doesn’t have to be like grown-up writing, use your own kid writing.” Encourage them to “read” it when they are done. Videotape them “reading” their stories from this emergent writing.

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