• academic language: the language of instruction—specific words children learn related to subjects such as math, science, art, and so on.
  • language/linguistic development: the process of developing language skills to understand when others speak (or use sign language) and to speak (or sign) and engage in conversation
  • open-ended questions: questions that require critical thinking, invite opinion or explanation, and have the potential to result in a multipl-word answers


Before watching this video, read the text below. When instructed, watch the video from the beginning to end.

The early learning years are a time of rapid language growth. Children engage adults and each other in conversation that helps them explain and describe their world. They learn to express their thoughts, feelings, wants, and needs; to problem-solve; and to interact positively with peers. Children need models to help them develop these conversation skills. They also need an environment that supports language development. You can engage children in meaningful conversation by building in opportunities to talk, modeling conversation, and using complex language and vocabulary in “child-friendly” ways.

In this 45-minute, self-paced tutorial, you will explore best practices in engaging children in meaningful conversation. Three short videos will show seasoned educators using best practices in action. After watching each video, you’ll review and reflect on what you’ve seen and heard.

During this tutorial, you will:

  • Explore the best practices for how to engage young children in meaningful conversation.
  • Identify opportunities to engage children in conversation throughout the day.
  • Examine ways to model language to help children communicate ideas, express feelings, and solve conflicts.
  • Discover how to create opportunities for children to listen to and use complex language and vocabulary.
  • Plan how to apply what you’ve learned to your current practices.

First, do a self-assessment to discover what your strengths are and to identify specific skills you'd like to work on.

  1. Download and print the Self-Assessment (PDF).
  2. Complete the first half now, before you begin the training.
  3. Save the sheet with your answers. At the end of the training, you'll complete the second half, compare your "before" and "after" responses, and find out how far you've progressed.

Watch an overview of Engaging Children in Meaningful Conversation featuring Eleonora Villegas-Reimers, Associate Professor of Education at Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts.

Download and print the Learning Log (PDF). Use it during the tutorial to answer questions, reflect upon the materials presented, and jot down ideas and insights about how to apply what you have learned to your own learning environment.

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