Episode 29 - The Power of Language and Learning with Lydia Soifer, PhD

Episode Summary

What is the role of language in our schools and curriculum? Simply put, language is everything. In the words of this episode’s guest, Lydia Soifer, PhD, “Language is the vehicle that drives the curriculum.” Dr. Soifer is a renowned language pathologist and literacy specialist with over forty-five years of experience in clinical settings as well as in professional and parent education. She explains a multidisciplinary approach to child development, offering immediate, actionable strategies for teachers and families.

Top READ Bookmarks
Each episode, host Danielle Scorrano identifies key takeaways or “READ bookmarks.” 

1. Who is this child?

It takes a multidisciplinary approach to understand the development of a child, especially when assessing challenges and deficits in academic and personal life. Dr. Soifer identifies three components of a child’s learning as

1. Neurology
2. Temperament
3. Personality

"Speech and language services are not related. They are essential in the classroom."

2. Components of Language

Language by nature is complex, whether it is being spoken or written. Understanding the patterns, rules, and nuances of language holds crucial implications for classroom instruction. At the foundation, language consists of three main components: form, content, and use.

Bloom and Lahey (1978) identify these components:

  • Form: the structure of language, including parts of words, sound-symbol correspondence, sentences, and compositions
  • Content: the meaning of the language being communicated
  • Use: the social aspects of language (i.e. how it is being communicated and received)

"Language is the vehicle that drives the curriculum."

3. Implications for Teachers

Language mediates every social and academic interaction of the classroom environment and drives student learning. Teachers should acknowledge the power and responsibility they have to leverage the use of language to meet the students where they are and drive their potential.

Learn: There are many facets of language, cognition, and social development that extend beyond any curriculum or content area. Teachers can harness language use in their instruction by learning about effective, research-based strategies including planning questions to monitor comprehension, think alouds, scaffolding, and feedback.

Teachers can also learn more about characteristics of learners with language-based difficulties and disabilities such as students with dyslexia and developmental language disorders who may have difficulty with executive functioning, language processing, or working memory.

Plan: Lesson planning should include the language components such as pre-planned questions and comments as well as strategies that support language and facilitate steps of the lesson and assessment activities.

"I want teachers to understand the power and the flexibility of the language that they use and how to raise a child to their highest level of ability by teaching them what they need to know, teaching it how they can learn it, and understanding why the child has to learn that way. That's part of the effective teaching model."

4. Implications for Parents, Guardians and Families

Understand that language development begins before the child has entered formal classroom instruction.

While oral and written language are not the same, certain challenges in oral language can contribute to later difficulties in learning to read.

Learn more from Dr. Lydia Soifer at upcoming courses & workshops with The Windward Institute

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READ Podcast is produced by The Windward School and The Windward Institute. READ is hosted by Danielle Scorrano.

About READ: READ, the Research Education ADvocacy Podcast connects you with prominent researchers, thought leaders, and educators who share their work, insights, and expertise about current research and best practices in fields of education and child development.
Note: All information and insights shared demonstrate the expertise and views of our guests.