Access keys | Skip to primary navigation | Skip to secondary navigation | Skip to content | Skip to footer |
Problems viewing this site

Features of early years pedagogies: High quality verbal interactions

A diverse range of speech and language competencies are apparent in the early years of schooling (Johns, 2011).

It is critical that teachers support their development by explicitly modelling and engaging children in high quality verbal interactions. In these interactions, ‘the teacher facilitates children’s language learning by stimulating and sustaining conversations, supporting productive and receptive language as well as using advanced language as appropriate’ (Pianta, La Paro & Hamre in Cohrssen, Church & Tayler, 2014, p. 176). A typical conversation might contain language elements of vocabulary, active listening and wait time — giving children time to think (Cohrssen, Church & Tayler, 2014).

The following table identifies teacher and student actions for high quality verbal interactions.


The teacher:

  • creates rich learning environments that encourage children to use language play to adopt powerful language patterns and interactions (Split, Koomen & Harrison, 2015)
  • gives students wait time to allow for thinking and reflection
  • uses ‘open-ended questions, repetition and extension, self- and parallel talk’ (Cohrssen, Church & Tayler, 2014, p. 176)
  • encourages children to take turns in conversations, maintaining substantive topics of interest
  • creates warm and nurturing environments where teacher-child relationships are built through mutual respect and trust (Split, Koomen & Harrison, 2015).

The student:

  • engages in reciprocal conversations with adults or other experts about learning
  • develops language skills, which are an important factor within children’s socio-behavioural and school development (Split, Koomen & Harrison, 2015)
  • reflects on experiences, organises thoughts, expresses feelings and imaginations, resolves differences, considers alternatives, problem-solves, understands and uses new vocabulary, expands sentence structures, generates narratives and uses decontextualized language (Makin, 2009)
  • develops advanced language techniques¬ — narration, explanation, analysis, speculation, imagination, exploration, evaluation, discussion, argument and justification (Alexander, 2010).

Classroom example

This professional learning example shows how one Prep teacher uses high-quality verbal interactions to support learning in her Prep classroom.

Annette Woods
Associate Professor Queensland University of Technology

Classrooms where high-quality verbal interactions are a key feature are classrooms where there’s deep and substantial interaction with learning and with the world, providing children with opportunities to see an expert language user, using both the vocabulary of different disciplines to actually be using language to unpack and to build up notions and concepts, but also for children to be able to see teachers providing them with ways into the language of learning.

Rae Welch
Prep Teacher Jamboree Heights State School

The high-quality verbal interaction is really important in the early years because it helps to develop the children’s oral language skills

Rae Welch

I would like us to have another look at a story we looked at the other day. Do you remember it? What was it called?


Russell the Sheep.

Rae Welch

He tried the hollow of a tree. Help me?

Rae Welch and most students

That was too creeeepy

Some students (together):

Ssscary …

Rae Welch

Have a look at that word. It starts with a cuh-rrr-ee-p-y [word sounded out]. It means the same as scary, doesn’t it? Have you ever had a time that you couldn’t go to sleep?

Student 1

I had a problem and I just lay down with my eyes shut, still. And I was tired and I was yawning and then suddenly I went to sleep.

Rae Welch

I gave the children the opportunity to practise their story with a partner first of all, because a lot of children are very hesitant to answer their … answer in front of the whole class to start with, so it’s less threatening for them to share with a partner. And they also then gather more ideas from each other and can build on that. So then when they go to answer the question in front of the whole class, they’re doing so with a lot more confidence.

What do you think it was that was stopping you from going to sleep that night?

Student 2

Because my brother woke me up in the midnight

Rae Welch

In the middle of the night. Do you think you were a little bit worried about him?

Student 2


Student 3

Yesterday I couldn’t go to sleep because I was … when my Mum told me when I was hot I said yes, so she nearly put the blanket on me. So she didn’t. But when I was cold I pushed the blankets.

Rae Welch

You were cold and you pushed the blankets off? Or you pulled them up over you when you were cold?

Student 3


Rae Welch

I help children pinpoint their thinking and organise their thoughts by reiterating what they’ve said, and just clarifying with them, ‘Is this what you mean? You’ve told me X, Y and Z,’ and putting it back into a higher-quality flow of words, so that it makes more sense, and model that back to them, so that they’re able to understand that and build on it next time.

Annette Woods

We also need spaces for children to talk, for them to use the language to practise, to play out and try and see what works and what isn’t working within how we might engage.

Back to top