In this essay the aim is to explain how language and literacy develop from the ages and stages of development, because while oral language provides the foundation for written language, they are both very different. While explaining features that are key to language acquisition and the development of language and literacy, we will also compare two theories from two different theorists; Lev Vygotsky is a social interaction theorist; and Burrhus F Skinner is a behavior theorist.
These theories combined with the implications of the process of development for teacher’s engagement with children in early childhood settings, will together help show how language and literacy develop. Firstly, how does language develop? Oral language is a system of symbols. It all begins with first order symbolism, where the words spoken represent meaning. Language develops at birth. Language is part of the development process, along with gaining word knowledge and writing skills, (Hill, 2012, p. 5).
Language sits right at the top when it comes to early childhood education, as children recognise that verbal signs have meaning. (Hill, 2012, p. 20). This then proves that language is an important key to communicating, learning and thinking. “Oral language provides the base and foundation for writing language as a symbol of meaning” (Hill, 2012, p. 21) Children’s language goes hand in hand with their development in identifying themselves, along with their physical growth, social skills and emotional expression. This takes us to literacy.
Literacy also starts at birth and gradually and steadily continues with the child throughout their development. Literacy is made up of many different levels including: beginning, which is from birth to three years; then on to early-emergent at three to five years of age; then determined on individual development they will graduate into emergent, early, transitional and then onto extending levels. The older an individual gets, the more this allows the teachers to observe the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) between children (Hill, 2012).
Within the Educators guide to Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (Australian Government Department of Education, 2010), there are a variety of communication styles and ways to express literacy discussed. These include storytelling, visual arts, music, movement, media and drama along with the more basic forms of talking, writing and reading. (Australian Government Department of Education, 2010) When it comes to language acquisition, there are a number of key features, as cited in Development for Early Literacy, that all connect in the development of children’s language.
Babbling done by infants, is an experiment of sounds, where the infants tend to use recognisable words. Then there are inflections, these are modifications of words to and from grammatical tenses. A singular word is used at first, then an inflection is added, which then makes a word plural. For example: a child or new language learner might say ‘horse’ (singular) then they may add an inflection like the letter s, so the word then becomes horses (plural). If this occurs, it shows that the individual has an understanding of how to make words plural.
Following this we then move onto intonation. This refers to both the level and tone of voice used when speaking between each phase. Meaning the rise and fall of voice between questions and exclamations using different intonation patterns. Then finally we come to phonemes, which are small segments of sound added onto the end of words that change the meaning or context of the original word. In order to speak language as an adult, children firstly need to have competency in five linguistic areas. These are phonology, lexis, semantics, grammar and pragmatics.
Having competency in the above areas allows the individual who is expressing what they are saying or conveying, to have their thoughts understood by others in their current context, even if the information being conveyed is not known by the receiver, the point would still be understood. Theoretical perspectives, is research which has been completed by theorists who while may have studied the same concepts, may have varying opinions according to their own findings, determined by their different educational and personal beliefs.
These theories are studies completed by individuals about language and development and are used as the presumed stages of progress. Theories then create ideas and notions that evolve from the research undertaken by these individuals. Each theorist may have different perspectives on each theory they’ve studied and while they come from the same starting point, each theorist can have a different point of view on it by the end of their research. This why we have so many differences between what each theorist believes is the right statement when it comes to how language and literacy develop.
Vygotsky, a social interactionist theorist, has five main points that he believes are vital to educators of young children, which are cited in Develop Early Literacy Assessment and Teaching (Hill, 2012, p. 4). These include: •Children construct knowledge •Learning leads development •Peers assist and support the learning process •Language plays a central roles in intellectual development •Zone proximal development Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory is related to two stages of development – social and cognitive – and he believes that the children are active partners within their own learning.
In saying this, he points out the importance that language development, learning and teaching play in children’s cognitive development. Along with all this Vygotsky also identifies four different stages of speech development with children and he breaks them down into blocks for each stage. These stages being: primitive speech which is from birth to two years of age; naive physiological stage from two to four years of age; egocentric or private speech stage which is between the ages of four to seven years; and finally inner and ingrowth stage which takes place from eight years of age.
He also has a Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), which is his way of describing the differences in what children learn or achieve as an individual, as well as what they can learn with guidance or assistance from adults. Learning with in the (ZPD) depends on the relationships children have. The second theorist we’ll look at is Burrhus F Skinner, a behaviorist theorist whose theories fall under the behaviorist or learning theories. The behaviorist or learning theory category plays an important role in understanding language development.
One behaviorism premise is that behaviors should be rewarded, as this reinforces them, encouraging them to be repeated. This way the child is more inclined to repeat the rewarded sounds. Further to this behaviors that are not rewarded would then be less likely to occur again. With this theory a couple of key features include the response process, which is what individuals hear and interpret, and also association between things like objects, pictures and other items that can be matched or linked to what is happening at the time. This theory also ndicates that through imitation and practice children should be more likely to pick up language.
The table below shows language acquisition explained as a stimulus response process. It also shows that repetition and positive stimuluses can help with the development of language. Below is a table found at Learning Theory Fundamentals, a website I viewed, which explains Skinners Theory about Behaviors. ConsequenceDefinitionExample Receive reinforcer (positive reinforcement)A behavior is followed by the presentation of a positive stimulus, thus the behavior increases.
Giving students a gold star for completing work on time Remove unpleasant stimulus (negative reinforcement)A behavior is followed by the removal of an unpleasant stimulus, thus the behavior increases. Putting on sunglasses to remove the glare of the sun; allowing students to quit working problems that don’t interest them if they follow classroom rules about arriving on time Receive unpleasant stimulus (punishment)A behavior is followed by the presentation of an unpleasant stimulus, thus the behavior decreases at least temporarily.
Spanking a child who misbehaves; assigning additional homework problems to a student who is disruptive Withhold pleasant stimulus (extinction)A behavior is followed by the withholding or removal of a positive stimulus, thus the behavior decreases. Not allowing a student to go out on the playground when he has not completed his work as scheduled http://www. theoryfundamentals. com/skinner. htm 2005-2015, W. H. (n. d. ). Learning Theory Fundamentals. Retrieved December 3rd, 2015, from http://www. theoryfundamentals. com/index. html
Another focus of behaviorists is focusing on the process of how this language is acquired. “The emphasis is on environmental factors of imitation learning and conditioning. ” (A basic introduction to child development theories) So in comparing the two theories they both deliver some good points about the development of children’s language and literacy, but they are both seeing it from different theoretical perspectives. The implications of the theoretical perspectives for literacy engagement are that it removes certain parts of development from the learning experiences.
It’s possible to see this in the dramatic play in development, where the children get to be someone or something they want to be – like pretending to be a cook, a superhero and so forth. But with literacy engagement they don’t have the opportunity to act out what they want to be and this why dramatic play is important. By only focusing on literacy engagement the children are becoming less creative and unable to connect with activities and the excessive use of media in a learning setting is beginning to take over children’s play, yet play is where children learn best.
Further implications include change. Understandings of literacy are changing from that of the traditional way of learning literacy, which was focused on the ability to be able to read and write text. This is now being challenged by information communication technology (ITC) (Laurie Makin, 2007). Formerly the main focus has been on the children’s chronological developmental needs and lifelong learning, but with the current ICT, children are not made to extend their skills or thinking anymore. (Laurie Makin, 2007)
In conclusion it’s possible to derive that although oral language provides foundation for written language they both vary. When it comes to explaining features that are key to language acquisition and the development of children we’ve compared two theories from two different theorists, in this case Vygotsky and Skinner. Vygotsky is the social interactionist theorist and believes he has the key features of language acquisition and what roles they play in language and literacy development, while Skinner, the behaviorist theorist, believes that language acquisition is a stimulus response.
This shows that while both theorists are focusing on the same development subject of language and literacy, that both have different views and opinions shown in their research and documentation. The implications of theoretical perspectives for literacy engagement, showcases that in this day and age some of the important aspects of development like dramatic play and social interaction are being taken away due to the increase of media usage. Which is not beneficial to the children’s learning.