Supporting Early Learning

How important is language in concept formation? Critically evaluate the role of language in relation to learning. This essay shall explore the importance of language spoken in relation to forming concepts. The role of significance of language through social interactions in different environments will be looked upon. Plus how children attain language and how this supports them to learn and develop. Various key theorists like Vygotsky, Piaget and many more will be explored to see how they discuss the importance of language in forming concepts.

Language is very important in children’s development and essential for social interactions to take place. Mercer (2000) says it is difficult to imagine how the social life of humans could exist without some kind of language. As from birth adults are scaffolding children’s learning through using words and language. Goswami (2008, p. 399) says “Language, by its very nature, provides an amodal symbolic system for cognitive development, a means for organising the child’s inner and mental life, and (as Vygotsky put it) a “time field for action” extending both backwards and forwards”.

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The main function of language is to allow us to communicate and interact and share thoughts about new experiences. Also language is very important as it supports the development of knowledge and concept formation, which can be attained through several forms of language. All children begin to speak from different ages depending on a number of different factors like the environment, the social interactions with others, and the involvement from the care giver. Also several interaction factors can contribute to gaining language can change with development, Hoff and Shatz (2007).

Children learn to respond to adults and communicate their individual needs, this allows adults to understand them. Kozulin (1986) Chomsky suggested that children develop language quickly and it is essential in their development. Plenty of social interactions and encouragement from carers can develop children’s communication skills and increase their vocabulary very quickly, (DCSF, 2008). Children attain their language through living and growing up in their community through their interactions; this enables them obtaining the language of the community. Children’s development is determined by iological and socio cultural experiences and early interactions helps children with the ability to form relationships in their development. In the early months of children’s lives children form their own identity and form a sense of themselves. Hoff and Shatz (2007, p. 3) say “Any relatively normal child born into a relatively normal language-using community will, even without formal education, develop the ability to use that community’s language”. Plus the language used is continuously used to imitate and reflect about the world socially and physically.

Therefore children that have none or limited social interactions, can a have set backs when attaining language which then affects children’s learning. Adults and practitioners have a very important role in supporting children’s language through communication. Both parents and practitioners from birth need to communicate, using language with babies and young children. Hoff and Shatz (2007, p. 259) “A popular belief is that word learning is one of the easiest aspects of language acquisition. Because, presumably, all that children have to do is imitate adults. As children are already communicating through physical interactions for example listening and touching parents and practitioners until they verbally gain the means to do so. Through significant and continuous interactions, this helps children to build their capability of interacting. Children need to be constantly supported through their play by naming objects and items; this then helps them to build up their vocabulary and memory of names to different objects and concepts. Children that grow up in social deprivation may suffer and lack confidence by not being able to learn language in concepts.

This will then have a huge impact on their confidence and self-esteem, but also their ability to communicate in different situations and with other people. A stimulating and inspiring environment can encourage and increase the use of language through naming objects and placing them into categories. The DCSF (2008) makes clear that when providing an enabling environment for children practitioners need to reflect on the age, stage and ability as all children are unique and individual. DCSF (2008, card, 3. ) states “young children are individuals first, each with a unique profile of abilities” through a range of activities which will stimulate children to use language will then help them to form concepts and make sense of their learning as children are competent learners. Wyse (2004) Chomsky researched on language and proposed a solution that children were born with a Language Acquisition Device (LAD). This enables children to communicate easily; children were born with a natural capability for language development, which means humans inclination to communicate.

What is concept formation? Kozulin (1986) says the process of concept formation starts in early childhood. A concept is an abstract representation of an event or objects and is part of a mental structure that goes beyond perceptual representations. Concept formation is a skill where a person learns to categorise objects, ideas and information, thoughts into categories. Kozulin (1986, p. 106) States “Concept formation is the result of such a complex activity, in which all basic intellectual functions take part”.

Therefore the attainment of concepts and knowledge is where children then form ideas through using words and language and enables them to increase their experiences, this enables children to have strong schemas. Therefore children use words and language for symbolic representations for meanings to concepts. However if a child cannot process the information properly or not understand, this can then affect the child as the information is not placed well into the child’s thinking.

For children to be able to form concepts the need of language is essential, however children are learning language as they are hearing it from birth constantly. Vygotsky a social constructivist theorist says, even though children learn words they do not understand the concept of the word until they use it in their speech. This allows the word to change to the child’s thinking itself. Vygotsky, 1986) Children form better understandings of the words potential meaning, when the using of words in different concepts in their language through communication with others.

Vygotsky argues that children develop concepts through social interactions and the environment, he emphasised on the importance of social relationships and interaction, Bartlett and Burton (2007) Vygotsky’s work highlights the significance of talk as a learning tool, as well as suggesting like Piaget that children were active learners, he also went onto say that children learnt best through the guidance of adults and other children. Vygotsky saw that adults need to be involved with children strongly. Lindon (1998, p. 66) clearly states “He saw early language as an important social tool for children which brought them deliberately into ontact with others”. Kozulin (1986) says that real concepts are not impossible without the using of words and the central moment in concept formation is the precise use of words as “tools”. Piaget a constructivist theorist believed that children go through many stages in life. His stages of development state the concept that at the sensory motor stage children start representing behaviours through language development. He believes that the stages of development are pre-determined and introduce schematic development. Through this action children develop levels of concept, when repeating it.

Children are unique individuals so their schemas will be built on their experiences, however language is very important to allow perceptions and conceptual development in children’s thinking. Chris Athey believed a schema is repeatable behaviour of a pattern where experiences are adapted and gradually coordinated (Athey, 1990). However Cathy Nutbrown (1994) constructed on Athey’s work and argued the importance of the adults descriptive language supporting children’s schemas although building observations, presenting that children are active learners.

Bruner was a philosophical psychologist and he reflected on the process of language acquisition and claimed that virtually all of their earliest language of young children’s is in the contexts of formats. And he believed that young children learn their language when engaging through interactions with adults and their individual development is formed by their conversations with the people around them, Kozulin (1986). Bruner’s work on scaffolding theory, Bakhurst and Shanker (2001, p. ) state “The idea that effective caregivers carefully monitor and adjust the amount of support they provide as a child begins to master language (and other) practices”. In psychological writings it is frequently claimed that the human infant is born social, and the infant depends on the caregiver to survive and develop as the new-borns are familiar to the human face, voice, touch and their movement. He also goes on to say that language is a complex and specialised skill which develops in the child without conscious effort, Bakhurst and Shanker (2001).

The brain develops by creating numerous connections between the brain cells in neural networks, and this supports human learning (Whitebread, 1996). Hoff and Shatz (2007, p. 23) state “The basis for storing and communicating information in the brain is via electro-chemical signals passed between neurons (cell bodies) via a long process called an axon”. These connections are formed in the first few years of life, producing the brain to develop between birth to 3 years. Hoff and Shatz (2007, p. 3) say “Primary regions complete myelination quite early, beginning before birth, followed by secondary auditory cortex, and lastly by association cortex”. Children shall attempt to incorporate the new information with existing logic to understand its meaning through social interactions with adults and other peers, this is very important for children to reach their zone of proximal development. From early on the spoken language forms and builds connections in the brain (Alexander, 2004) Babies and young children perceive sounds, which builds up connections, however this is like a building block for language development.

The motivation of the auditory cortex takes place when babies recognise and differentiate the differences in the words and sounds. Dialogic teaching the most effective way for carrying out teaching and learning for children, which involves constant talks between teachers and students. Adults can support children through scaffolding children’s learning, as dialogic teaching allows the using of language to expand children’s understanding and knowledge through assessing and monitoring their individual needs and progress.

Positive interaction between student and adult is essential so the teacher’s role when using Vygotskys theory the zone of proximal development. The zone of proximal development is the gap between the child’s existing knowledge and their potential. By using dialogic teaching teachers can meet children’s needs by facilitating their learning. Settings must have knowledge and understanding of providing enough space and activities that stimulate children’s language development.

Through social and positive interactions in their play using language and communicating throughout with children and adults. Planning room layouts appropriately with other staff members can ensure there is plenty of space and useful resources. (Miller et al, 2005) Teachers can encourage continuous shared thinking, which then supports conversations and dialogues so children develop a deeper understanding. Teachers need to ensure to extend children’s thought, by applying it to possible contexts, through helping them asking open and closed questions.

Complex thinking is vital to the formation of concepts, it allows learners to think in rational terms and to adverse through symbols and words about a mental structure. The aims of dialogic teaching are to harness the power of talk to engage, stimulate and increase understanding and to extend children’s thinking and learning. In conclusion language is a very important tool used in children’s learning and forming concepts to develop further through communication which is vital in supporting children’s emotional, social and cognitive development.

Many socio constructivist theorists such as Vygotsky, Piaget and Bruner have believed that social interactions and the environment both play an important role to maintain children’s language and helping them to form concepts. Stimulating environments encourage children to interact effectively with the people in their surroundings which enable children to build on their experiences. With the help of parents, children are able to take interaction from home to the next step into their setting where practitioners have the resources to help them develop further into their learning.

Through using words and language this increases their experiences of forming concepts and gaining more knowledge. Reference List Bartlett, S and Burton, D. (2007) Introduction to Education Studies. London: Sage Bruner, J edited by Bakhurst, D and Shanker, S G (2001) Jerome Bruner Language, Culture, Self. London: SAGE Publications Early Years Foundation Stage (2008) Hoff, E and Shatz, M (2007) Blackwell Handbook of Language Development. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd Goswami, U (2008) Cognitive Development: The learning Brain. Hove: Psychology Press Lindon, J. 2003) Child Care and Early Education. London: Thomson Learning Mercer, N (2000) Words and Minds: How we use language together. London and New York: Routledge Miller, L, Cable, C and Devereux (2005) Developing Early Years Practice. London: David Fulton Publishers Vygotsky, L edited by Kozulin, A (1986) Thought and Language. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Whitebread, D and Coltman, P (2008) Teaching and Learning in the Early Years. London and New York: Routledge Falmer Wyse, D (2004) Childhood Studies: An Introduction. Malden: Blackwell Publishing Ltd