Patterns of teacher talk and children's responses: the influence on young children's oral language

Louise Paatsch, Janet Scull, Andrea Nolan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


    The importance of teacher-child dialogue in facilitating young children's language learning is well established in the research literature, with significant outcomes accrued from rich language use in the classroom (Shiel, Cregan, McGough and Archer, 2012). This study focuses on the opportunities teachers provide to engage children in talk during small group teaching sessions and considers teacher-child talk patterns, within and across preschool and school settings. The intention was to examine teacher talk behaviours that facilitate children's language use and explore how teachers support children's oral language development as they move from preschool to school. Teachers from a preschool and school setting serving children from a low socioeconomic region of outer western Melbourne in Victoria, Australia were invited to plan, implement, and record teaching interactions with small groups of children that specifically built on their oral language skills. This paper reports on the fine-grained analysis of the teacher-child talk patterns in two specific ways: (1) teachers' talk behaviours, to review the discourse patterns used to foster young children's language learning; and (2) the children's responses, to ascertain the dialogic interplay that created opportunities for children's talk and learning. The findings indicate that during talk where teachers were supporting children's oral language, the teachers' preference for closed questions that were directed toward the immediate stimuli resulted in limited responses from the children. This particular teacher-child talk pattern was dominant in both preschool and school settings. While the common teacher talk behaviours across both settings support the continuity of children's learning, as they transition from preschool to school, there was little evidence of interactions that engaged children in rich dialogue to extend their oral language competencies.

    These results suggest that expanding teachers' repertoire of talk practices to involve children in a wide range of oral language experiences that draw on children's understandings and are associated with building knowledge, provides a foundation for engagement in children's language use and learning.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)73-86
    Number of pages14
    JournalAustralian Journal of Language and Literacy
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

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