Thus, it is important that experiences provided in the earliest years are appropriate for the young child’s stage of development. Reading a picture book with a toddler who is learning to speak, for example, provides an important opportunity to point to and talk about the pictures, not to focus on the written words. The ability to decode written language comes later, when the appropriate, higher level brain circuitry will be built.
Sensitive periods occur at different ages for different parts of the brain. Different neural circuits pass through sensitive periods at different ages. The sensitive periods for neural circuits that perform low-level analyses of sensory stimuli tend to end before or soon after birth.38,39 In contrast, the sensitive periods for high-level circuits that process sophisticated aspects of the world, such as communication signals (including language) Source: Charles A. Nelson, From Neurons to Neighborhoods, 2000. Because low-level circuits mature early and high-level circuits mature later, different kinds of experiences are critical at different ages for optimal brain development,41 a concept called age-appropriate experience. When adults or communities expect young children to master skills for which the necessary brain circuits have not yet been formed, they waste time and resources, and may even impair healthy brain develop
From birth until three young children unconsciously take in their environment and shape themselves from any information and stimulation they can come into contact with. Basic sensory, social, and emotional experiences are essential for optimizing the architecture of low-level brain circuits. At later ages, more sophisticated kinds of experiences are critical for shaping higher-level circuits. The child from three to six years of age is consciously using specific things in his environment to build up his mental and physical faculties. Hence, as linguists today found, language seems to be learned almost intuitively and the child is born with the instinct to decipher and acquire the language of their culture (Chomsky, 2000).
Children are able to absorb language from their environment and easily learn how to speak, read and write if language in its various forms is present in their environment during the period of the Absorbent Mind (Montessori, 1949). This window of opportunity for learning Maria Montessori called a Sensitive Period. “So language like vision and most other brain functions, is bounded by a critical period, an early phase in which a child must experience language, or else its hardware won’t wire up right” (Eliot, 1999, p. 354). The quality and quantity of language a child is exposed to during the sensitive period directly affects his language skills and brain organization (Eliot, 1999). Therefore, it is critical that parents of young children talk to them often and give them a multitude of vocabulary. The television is also an unacceptable substitute for giving language because it has been found that language should be connected to emotion and for a child to acquire the language they must be spoken to directly (Eliot, 1999, pp. 385-386). Children’s early experiences with language in their environment greatly affect their social, emotional, and intellectual development; “Language should begin very early: by just three years of age, children are already headed down vastly different paths of verbal achievement as a result of their cumulative experience with language” (Eliot, 1999, p. 386).
Language in the ClassroomMuch evidence has been provided for Maria Montessori’s theory on the Absorbent Mind since it has been observed that children, without ever being taught, seemingly explode into language, reading and writing. Within the Montessori primary environment, language is given in all the areas and throughout the day at Language, Reading and Writing in the Montessori Classroom 2 any opportunity. Enriching the child’s vocabulary expands his capacity to clearly communicate to others and express himself. Once the child is able to better express himself, his personality begins to truly surface and shine.
All over the country, there are words disappearing from children’s lives – words from the natural world, from the countryside and the landscape. The Lost Words is a unique collaborative project between writer Robert Macfarlane and artist Jackie Morris – taking the form of an exhibition and a book. It celebrates the relationship between language and the living world, and natures power to spark the imagination. Were thrilled to be joined by Jackie Morris, for a discussion about the lost words of our childhood and the intoxicating magic of language.Unless we have a word for something, we are unable to conceive of it, and there is a direct relationship between our imagination, our ability to have ideas about things, and our vocabulary.