Communication in Early Childhood Education
Communication is a way of understanding each others’ needs and sending or giving messages to each other. Good communication skills are essential for early childhood educators and using these skills will enable students to have better understanding to improve their learning process, and to develop the relationship between teachers and student. Apart from reading, writing, speaking and listening, teachers’ facial expressions and body language also contributes to communicating with students. A child enters a different world in classroom situation.
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The child is part of a new family made up of the teacher and fellow classmates from different cultural backgrounds. It is therefore important that the teacher pay attention to their own non-verbal language. Non verbal language includes posture, gestures, eye contact and facial expressions (Grellier & Goerke, 2010, p. 186). In the early childhood education, teachers also need to be able to interpret information and understand not only from listening to the child but by observing the students through their drawings and behaviour (Wright-Jackson, 2012).
Drawings are a way of communicating information to young children. Wright (2005) discusses the importance of teachers using drawings to further develop students’ verbal communication, thinking and knowledge. Reggio Emilio is an early learning centre in NSW and they believe in the theory that children are born with an amazing potential and wide range of abilities, for a child, language is never limited to speech (from website www. reggioemilio. com. au). Through good communication skills teachers will be able evaluate the child’s knowledge and understanding before, during and after the lesson.
Good note-taking and observation skills will assist teachers to nurture and support students’ learning (McMillan, 2011). Communications skills are constantly in use during the day in the classroom however teachers are also required to communicate this information or progress of the student to parents and other teachers or support teachers. By observing students’ involvement in the classroom teachers can assess what areas the students requires further assistance (McMillan, 2011).
Non verbal language is another way of sending and receiving messages, it is another form of communication and very important for teachers in the classroom (Miller, P. W. , 2005). Miller (2005) addresses non verbal communication as “communication without words” and that facial expressions, eye contact, touching and tone of voice are all part of this communication. Awareness of non verbal communication can enable teachers to receive more information from the students and also have the ability to send positive signals that improve the students’ learning, whilst avoiding negative signals that would stifle their learning (Miller, P.
W. , 2005). In western cultures all listeners – whatever their age or gender and educational level are expected to maintain eye contact with people they are listening to (Grellier & Goerke, 2010, p. 186). Making eye contact would interpret openness and honesty, while avoiding eye contact may indicate that something is wrong (Miller, P. W. , 2005). The teacher will need to understand that students from different cultural backgrounds and upbringing will not always share the same behaviour ideals. In some cultures it is accepted to avoid eye contact with their elders as it is a sign of respect ( Grellier & Goerke, 2010).
Overcoming this hurdle by carefully explaining to students and parents would assist in a better relationship between the student and teacher. Using direct eye contact and observing facial expressions, the teacher will be able to connect with the student and establish the child’s interest in the discussion (McMillan, 2011, p. 104). Experienced teachers will be able to judge a student’s level of interest and understanding through the student’s eyes. Eye contact is a powerful communication tool that allows teachers to connect with students (Miller, P.
W. , 2005). Miller (2005) explains that teachers can tell when students understand the lesson or if they are struggling through the student’s body postures and gestures. A student that is interested in the lesson or discussion will generally “sit up straight” and focus on the teacher, whilst a student that is “bored or discouraged” will slump into the chair (Miller, P. W. , 2005). Facial expression can determine both the teachers and students feelings, a smile will present a “warm and open invitation for communication” (Miller, P. W. 2005) which is essential in the classroom environment. As students in early childhood education will still be developing verbal communication skills, teachers are able to communicate ideas through drawings (Wright-Jackson, 2012). Drawings are easier for younger children to read, as they recognise drawings or pictures better compared to written words. Miller (2005) states that teachers can use drawing as a communication and learning tool when working with young children, in a way the drawings will act as a second voice for children.
As a child’s reading and writing skills are developing drawing is an alternative for the child to express their ideas and can assist students with literacy as children read through their drawings. In the early stages of mathematics teachers use drawings to assist students with recognising quantity, addition, subtraction and length. The sample works provided in the Australian Curriculum for mathematics in Foundation Year show students are taught Foundation Year maths through drawings. For a child in Foundation Year pictures would be easier to understand compared to numbers when adding.
A teacher in early childhood education needs to able to communicate information to parents and other support teachers. Through observations in the classroom, a teacher will able evaluate students progress before, during and after the lesson. Where additional special education teacher is required the classroom teacher will seek assistance and discuss the required support with the appropriate staff member. This is evident in the video Language support (Falck,2011),two teachers discuss lesson planning and explain to each other what they would like to focus on and how.
Communication between the two teachers establishes the most beneficial ways to implement lessons. Listening skills are essential part of communicating in early childhood education, the video Listening skills for staff (Aron, 2011), raises the importance of listening to children and allowing them to discuss topics of their choice With the assistance of parents the children are encouraged to fill in their profile books with photos or pictures of their discussion topics. The teacher listens to child’s explanation of events by responding to their comments and gestures, keeping eye contact at all times with the chid.
Another point made in the video show children selecting books of their choice, teachers prefer children to pick books that want read to them. The child chooses the book that would like to listen to. By following this example teachers are able to have the child interested in the activity because it is through choice of the child. Teachers’ observations in the classroom of students’ progress is documented on a daily basis to assist teachers with assessment and evaluation of understanding.
This information is then provided as feedback to students and parents, when communicating this information it should be expressed in way to encourage students’ motivation for learning. Communicating information to parents is another task for teachers which can be done verbally or written in the form of letters or school reports (McMillan, 2011). Early childhood educators have an important task to prepare young students for the years ahead. Good communication skills are essential for early childhood educators as many young students are only at the beginning to learn and develop these skills.
An early childhood teacher uses communication skills throughout the day to prepare and instruct lessons, observe students progress, consult other staff members or support teachers and parents. A teacher delivers messages through many ways and such communication skills as reading, talking, listening and body language is used to convey these messages. Understanding students through listening to their narration of events and requests can assist teachers to improve communication between the teacher and student.
Students’ non verbal language will also assist teachers when observing them during class, teachers will be able to acknowledge interest and understanding during instruction. Teachers should pay attention to developing these skills as they are vital as teaching skills to deliver and receive the right messages to students. A child is learning everyday and through good communication skills from both teachers and parents they can be prepared for increased communication in the future.