Vocabulary and Grammatical Development are Reciprocal Processes
The March Edition of the Buzz is our last in the series that has explored the six Language Learning Principles of Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek. The final principle is:
Vocabulary and Grammatical Development are Reciprocal Processes. Those are BIG words, and ones we hope you will start using at home, but they just mean that vocabulary and grammar go together!
Studies show that words and grammar develop at the same time during the first few years of life, and the amount of words that children know predict the level of grammar they understand. It also works both ways; sometimes it's grammar that allows children to learn new words. This proves that giving children a list of vocabulary words is not as effective as including those words in meaningful, everyday conversations, including your conversations during playtime. If children are exposed early in life, learning more vocabulary and the formal rules of grammar in the later grades will be so much easier! Remember, it’s all about play. Albert Einstein said,
“Play is the highest form of research.”
Consider this example: You notice that your four-year-old seems to be finished with his snack of fish crackers and water and has started putting the crackers into the cup of water. Many parents and teachers might react by discouraging this unsightly and perhaps “rude” behavior. However, try to view it from the child’s perspective. Young children are natural experimenters, so you may want to start the conversation like this: “It looks like you're doing an
Experimenting with food you're supposed to be eating may make other people feel sad or angry because they might think you don’t like what they served. Always make sure to tell me or another adult that you are finished eating and ask if it is okay to try your
experiment.” During this teachable moment, you have already used the word “experiment” three times in two different forms. Continue the conversation with, “Maybe you are trying to discover how much water the crackers will absorb. How many crackers do you think it will take to absorb all of the water?” You have now included even more new vocabulary in a grammar-filled conversation that is very meaningful for your child.
This concludes our series on the Six Language Learning Principles. You can access all six previous editions here:
For our final video, enjoy this interview featuring our expert, Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek.