Importance of Parallel Talk

Parallel Talk is a technique in which the adult describes what the child is doing or seeing. When an adult uses Parallel Talk, she is acting like a broadcaster. She watches the action and describes it to the child, without expecting a response. The teacher does not ask the child questions during parallel talk.

Examples of Parallel Talk: If a child is playing with coloured blocks, a teacher using Parallel Talk might say: “Oh, you put the yellow block on top. Now you’re sliding the green one next to the long red block. The tower is getting taller.”

Parallel Talk help adults and children develop a relationship. The strategies of Parallel Talk give the adult a starting place, something to talk about. The adult makes comments on the child’s actions and follows the child’s lead. If the child is upset, Parallel Talk helps him to feel respected and validated. If the child is engaged in play, she enjoys the time and attention. Parallel Talk helps children who are shy or have limited language and also a good way to begin talking with any young child, at any time. The child has the opportunity to develop receptive language, but there is no expectation that the child will respond. This technique can be especially effective with non-verbal children, with children who are shy, and with English language learners. It builds language for all children. To use Parallel Talk the adult learns to talk in a new way—describing, not questioning. But speaking is only part of it. Observing the child’s action carefully is the key. Beginners using Parallel Talk often overwhelm children with too much description. In the beginning, it’s easy to concentrate so hard on becoming a good describer that the natural pace and flow of conversation is overlooked. The adult doesn’t need to comment on every single action. Commenting on every second or third action creates a more natural conversational pace and gives the child a chance to respond, if he chooses.

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