The Four Components of the Language Arts Curriculum
Broad goals for the language arts curriculum focus on increasing children’s skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. It is neither possible nor advisable to totally separate the learning of one skill from the learning of another; however, at times you will focus more on one area of language arts than another. These four broad goals are outlined in the following sections.
Goal 1: Listening
Children will develop the ability to listen in order to make sense of their environment. In order for children to learn, they need to take information in and process it. Listening to and comprehending information is an essential step in acquiring knowledge (Cassell, 2004; Jalongo, 1996). Listening is not a natural, innate ability. Instead, it is learned through the guidance and teaching of parents, teachers, and other people in young children’s environment (Kupetz & Twiest, 2000). Strategies such as a hand signal or environmental cues such as turning the lights off to signal total quiet are helpful in alerting the children that it is time to stop what they are doing and listen.
Teaching children to listen to other children and to adults will increase the opportunities to learn language as well as new ideas. It is also one of the hardest skills to teach young children, who are often very busy initiating activities and expressing themselves and who are not as interested in listening to those around them.
Goal 2: Speaking
In order to learn language, children need opportunities to talk and be heard (Dickinson & Snow, 1987). Effective adult-child dialogue includes an adult who listens as the child speaks, asks questions that encourage the child to say more, and expands and elaborates on what the child has said. Samantha shows her teacher a picture that she drew. Instead of responding with a typical praise of “That’s nice” or “What a good job you did,” Mrs. Bands stops what she is doing, kneels down at eye level with Samantha, and says, “Tell me about this picture that you drew.” Samantha has the opportunity to describe and explain her drawing.
Children need to learn that the manner in which they speak depends on the situation. Informal speech is appropriate with friends and family, but more precise speech is appropriate for school and other places outside the home. When children want to communicate their ideas, they need to speak in ways that others can understand and hear.
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