Language Experiences by Group
Let’s jump in and look at some information on different groups of students. The first group I want to talk about, are students coming from a background of poverty or who are currently living in poverty. Because they often struggle with their language and we know why, from Hart & Risley study, this study was done back in the 90s and Hart & Risley were professors at the University of Kansas and they looked at the relationship between early language experiences at home and then overall language development. And what they found was there was a strong relationship between the language experience vocabulary development and the student socioeconomic status. So, what they did was to begin by looking at exactly what kind of language and how much language young children were exposed to early in life. So, they started about seven to nine months of age went into the homes of families and different socioeconomic groups and the people doing the research recorded, transcribed, and analyzed, about once a month for an hour at a time in these homes what the parents were saying to the children.
They did this over about two and a half years and then they extrapolated that data out to about forty-eight months which in most countries is probably the started preschool. Then they organized that data by socioeconomic status. And so, you can see on this graph that the studies showed that the children in professional families had been exposed to about thirty-two million more words than the children whose families were on public assistance or living in poverty. Now, of course, that’s not thirty-two million different words, it’s that overall watching of language that builds the language experience, build the knowledge base builds vocabulary, and get students ready for school, gets them ready to be successful. Not only was there a huge difference in the number of words, but look at the slope of those three lines. So, not only do these children differ in prior language experiences before going to school, those differences continue over time because of those slopes of their lives, as one of our researchers said, those children in the professional families are learning faster they have an advantage when they start and they continue to be advantaged as they go along, because they’re continually making more progress than most of the other students.
Now Hart and Risley went back and looked at kindergartens the kindergarten student’s vocabulary in 2003. You can see we get a very similar picture that we did in the previous chart and that’s that the children from high-income families have almost twice vocabulary entering kindergarten as those children coming from low-income families. So, when you consider that, language experience and vocabulary development are a major part of the brains toolkit for representing manipulating and retaining information and in learning to read.
These are significant differences that are going to be a big challenge for educators as well as the children in these classrooms.
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