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Mayra Mascareño Lara: why do conversations with children matter for their learning?

Why do conversations with children matter for their learning?

Consider this real-life dialogue between a 3-year-old and his mother:
Child: “Mum, you cannot see farts…”
Mother: “No, sweetie, because they are gas. You can smell them, though.”
Child: “You cannot see them, just like a glass.”
Mother: “Right, glass is translucent, you can see through it; but a glass you can touch.”
Child: “Farts are like the sky, then.”
Mother: “Yes, that’s a good comparison, you cannot touch the sky either.”
Child: “Except for when you fly.”

Mayra Mascareño Lara

Interactions are not trivial. You might not notice, but especially when interacting with young children, conversations – at home, for example, or in the classroom – are the spaces in which most of the learning happens. Verbal interactions can challenge our thinking, enrich our awareness about others and ourselves and help to close the gaps in our learning. Talking about a book or about last summer’s holiday triggers children’s mental representations of the world beyond their immediate surroundings, and can expand their vocabulary and understanding. But how we talk to children matters. Through verbal interactions, we can also discourage children’s initiatives, reinforce insecurities and reproduce prejudices.

So no, children are not too young to talk during dinner. Young children enjoy talking, learning and exploring. They are genuinely interested in the world around them, they have opinions, they love being challenged in a safe environment and they see beyond adults’ prejudices. From a young age, children are able to participate in complex conversations. And they are great conversation partners – they just need to be welcomed.

M.N. (Mayra) Mascareño Lara, Dr
First name
Assistant Professor
classroom interactions, learning and instruction, learning opportunities in the classroom, diversity and inclusion, microanalytic research, process research, educational equity
Last modified:03 September 2019 12.53 p.m.
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