Monday, 8 June 2015

Renovating the Language House

This is just a very brief blogpost to say that I have again updated my schematic "Language House" that I use when talking to primary school teachers about the role of early oral language competence in both the transtion to literacy and the development of prosocial interpersonal skills.

I've blogged previously about how this schematic representation came about, and have it updated here in response to my reflections on discussions with colleagues at the recent Speech Pathology Australia Conference in Canberra.

Most importantly, I thought it was important to show that language, literacy and social skills development is dynamic and ongoing throughout childhood and adolescence (and of course across the whole life-span, but this diagram focuses on the developmental period). Hence the brick pattern on the pillars in this version, as a nod to the vertical progress that needs to occur in both the literacy and interpersonal skill domains, as manifestations of continued language development. Note too, that the walls in this model are more visibly sunken into their granite-like foundations - not just sitting on top of them.

I'm particularly indebted to Dr Ros Neilson for inspiring me to come back and do some renovations.

Please feel free to use this for professional development and related discussions, but I would appreciate being acknowledged as its source. I'd be very happy to hear your thoughts and to take further suggestions/comments.

(c) Pamela Snow 2015 


  1. A helpful schematic that houses a lot of conceptual complexity very simply. I'd label the left (Western) wall "Schooling for Literacy" rather than "Transition to" to convey the importance of instruction from birth on in the schema. And the word "social" in the roof could be boosted to capital letter status. But these are picky points. It's a good house.

  2. Thanks Dick! I chose "transition to literacy" to reflect the fact that (ideally) this begins before formal instruction, in the form of text exposure via adults reading books and incidentally commenting on written text etc. However "instructional environment" is at the top of the western wall, given its fundamental importance.

    Glad you like my house :-)

  3. A schematic such as your Language House opens the door to addressi the complexity involved --which is inherently more complicated.

    The thing is, all of the matters outside both western and eastern walls are "nice but not essential" to instruct "Literacy" because they "come with the kid." That is, irrespective of how positive or negative the considerations outside the west wall, if a child can speak in full sentences and participate in everyday conversation, the child is "good to go" insofar as schooling in reading is concerned. That schooling can be conducted anywhere. It's the detailed characteristics of the instruction that are important.

    As much damage as good can come from well-intentioned attempts to boost the "outside the western wall" considerations independently or collectively. That's a whole nother story.

  4. I am wondering if there's scope to link more broadly to the role of nurturing environments beyond say, instructional environment or role models or social capital? Anthony Biglan is really instructive in this regard I feel: The more I learn about affective neuroscience the more critical I feel this broader context is for oral and literacy development and instruction.

  5. Thanks for your comment Fiona. I couldn't agree more with you about the importance of nurturing environments, which is something I talk about in some detail when I present this model to workshop audiences. Perhaps the solid ground should refer to "social and emotional" contexts for language use - I will update the diagram when I get a moment!

    Thanks again for the comment

    warm wishes