Application: Language Development Face-to-Face
Part 1: Observing an Infant or Toddler Interacting with an Important Adult
The goal of this assignment is to apply what you have learned about one stage of language development (prelinguistic, phonological, or semantic) and how important adults can foster language development during that stage. You will observe an infant or toddler and his or her interaction with the adult. After the observation, you will interview the adult about the child’s language in this stage of development.
To complete the assignment:
Plan: Choose an infant or toddler and an important adult (parent or other caregiver) to observe in a comfortable setting, preferably the child’s home. Here are tips for planning the observation:
- As outlined in Week 1, explain to the adult the purpose of the observation and how the information you gather will be used. Obtain permission to tape-record interactions between the child and adult and the post-observation interview with the adult. Set a time and date for the observation.
- Review information from this week’s readings, including the charts and other specific checkpoints on the different stages of development provided in the Week 2 Online Reading about the stage of development of the child you plan to observe (prelinguistic, phonological, or semantic), and specific ways that parents or other important adults foster language development at this stage.
- Click on the link below to download, print out, and review the document you will use to guide and record your observations:
- Arrive on time and take time to greet the child and the adult. Ask the adult about how the child’s day is going before you begin. (Factors such as a child feeling tired, hungry, or upset can influence the child’s mood and behavior.)
- Test your recorder to be sure it is working, then place it in an optimal spot for recording.
Observe: Sit in an unobtrusive place where you can watch and listen for about 20 minutes. You may need to move out of the infant’s or toddler’s vision range to avoid distracting the child and influencing his or her interaction with the adult. As you observe, take notes on what you see and hear using the Observation Guide. Use the information in your course text and other readings to recognize sounds or language that are evidence of the child’s stage of language development. Note ways that you observe the adult fostering language development and note any questions you have for the adult. Some guidelines:
- Keep your attention focused on the child and adult.
- Remember to stay as objective as possible. Use only what you see and hear as evidence of the child’s use of language and the adult interaction with the child. Be mindful to not make assumptions about a child based on your observations. Be aware that you are observing in real time. You may observe a lot of activity from the child or very little. The interview with the adult will also give you information to reflect on for your written assignment.
- Remember that despite similarities shared by children of various ages, each child is different and goes through the stages of language development in his or her own way. Keep that uniqueness in mind as you observe the child.
- Enjoy the experience. Use what you’ve learned this week to try to imagine the world through the eyes of an infant or toddler and his or her experience of learning and using language.
- Be respectful of the child’s and adult’s time. Stick to the time span you agreed to for the observation. Be sure to thank the adult and child for their cooperation.
- Remember that this observation experience is intended as a chance for you to learn. Do not criticize or attempt to instruct the adult on ways to foster language development.
Reflect on your observation and interview. Review your notes and listen to the recording of the child’s use of language, child-adult interactions, and your interview with the adult as many times as necessary to complete the following:
- What did you learn from your observation and interview about the child’s typical language activity? Give examples of the child’s use of “language” that provide evidence of the child’s stage of language development. Describe the type of interactions between the child and adult, including specific examples from your notes or recording of the observation. Based on what you have learned, describe the significance of these interactions in fostering the child’s language development.
- How did the type and degree of interaction between the child and adult compare with what you have learned about this specific stage of language development and types of interactions that best foster language development?
- Imagine yourself in this adult’s place. What kinds of suggestions would you find valuable for fostering this child’s language development? Provide some specific ideas.
Note: Do not use the real names of the adult and child. Use only first names, initials, or fictitious names for the child and the adult to protect their privacy.
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