The Importance Of Language In The Classroom

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The term “classroom discourse,” refers to all forms of discourse that take place in the classroom and encompasses the linguistic as well as the nonlinguistic elements of discourse. The former includes the language used by the teacher and the learners, as well as teacher–learner and learner–learner interactions. The latter includes paralinguistic gestures, prosody, and silence—all of which are integral parts of the discourse. The linguistic and nonlinguistic elements constitute the observable dimension of classroom discourse. Studies have explored factors that play a critical role in shaping classroom discourse. These factors pertain to the socio-cultural contexts in which the discourse is generated, including the physical environment, the…show more content…
Learning is very much a social interaction, thus language plays a very important role in the classroom. As Johnston (2004) stated in his book Choice Words: How Language Affects Children’s Learning, through the use of language, teachers can “build emotionally and relationally healthy learning communities—intellectual environments that produce not mere technical competence, but caring, secure, actively literate human beings” (p. 2). Many people argue that learning is a social activity. Halliday (1993) states that “the distinctive characteristic of human learning is that it is a process of making meaning—a semiotic process; and the prototypical form of human semiotic is language. Hence the ontogenesis of language is at the same time the ontogenesis of learning” (Halliday, 1993, p. 93). He also goes on to say that “language is the essential condition of knowing, the process by which experience becomes knowledge” (Halliday, 1993, p. 94). Language, in other words, is how we think. It 's how we process information and remember. It 's our operating system. Vygotsky (1962) suggested that thinking develops into words in a number of phases, moving from imaging to inner speech to inner speaking to speech. Tracing this idea backward, speech—talk—is the representation of thinking. As such, it seems reasonable to suggest that classrooms should be filled with talk, given that we want them filled…show more content…
For example, the teacher is the initiator of language exchanges; the students’ job is to respond to the teacher’s initiation; and the teacher is the arbiter of acceptable student performance (Long, 1975). This three-part structure – teacher initiation/student reply/teacher feedback (IRF) – has been identified by Mehan (1979) and Sinclair and Coulthard (1975) as the dominant pattern in most classroom interactions. Behind this institutional discourse sequence, there are always “restrictions on who may speak, when they may speak, and sometimes in what order they may speak” (Psathas, 1995, p. 36). The need for teachers to generate different interaction patterns in the classroom to better equip students to meet the varied demands of the less predictable, more variegated, and context-sensitive nature of everyday social discourse, as well as to enable students to experience language use with different roles and identities so that “student’s initiative, independent thinking, clarity of expression, the development of conversational skills (including turn taking, planning ahead, negotiating, and arguing), and self-determination” will not be reduced (van Lier, 1996, p. 156). In an institutional setting, the classroom small talk is non-institutional in nature. By non-institutional, I mean that it involves informal interactions between teachers and students

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