more about Hart & Risley

NPR did a report on the Meaningful Differences work that Hart and Risley did.  It’s fascinating, and well worth reading.  The article talks about their experiences as educators, trying to teach four year olds vocabulary to put them on par with rich kids — and here’s the depressing part — no matter what they tried, they couldn’t succeed.

(Pause for a minute as Kiri goes off into the other room to do a primal scream.)

I’m back.  Oh, that’s frustrating.  But that was what led them to research the first three years of a child’s life, and the verbal interactions they have with their parents.  The results of that study I have already shared with you.

The good news is that people are using this information to make a difference in the lives of poor children, from birth to three, by helping teach their parents how to have richer — and more — interactions with them.

Now my question is, what can those of us who work with kids who are four do to help?!


6 thoughts on “more about Hart & Risley

  1. I read this book over the weekend (thanks for the suggestion!). I shared it with my principal yesterday as well- I teach 5 and 6 year olds… I am asking myself the same question. Where do I go from here!? I already am fighting for developmentaly appropriate activities, curriculum, and expectations. I have to hid my dramatic play and blocks away… I just wanted to let you know I am here with you…

  2. That is bullsh*t! In my preschool (inner city) classroom, we talk ALL the time and I frequently use words that they may never have heard. If you do it often enough, their vocabularies expand! It may not get to the”rich kid” level, but it grows by leaps and bounds. It is so satisfying to hear them use words like “inappropriate” and “dromedary” and such!

  3. My comment is going to sound like a “look at me” comment which really isn’t the intent. But my blog does have examples of the power of talk and shared language experiences.
    After reading your entry a few days ago on this research, I wrote an entry titled “talk, talk, talk.” I’ve witnessed an expansion in my student’s vocabulary through the work we are doing together. I find I am most successful when I start with what is most essential to them – their families, their play, that is why I spend so much time at the heart of the work that is theirs, not mine, and why the story telling we are doing together is so powerful. I also work extremely hard to lay foundations for building capacity – examples are my recent Mitten Chapter series.

  4. Luanne, that’s very cool you shared the book with your principal. What did she think of it? Let me know how your journey goes. Lisa, I love love love it that your class uses words like “inappropriate” and “dromedary!” My class is learning words like “rectangular prism” and “carnivore.” I also kind of love the fact that your reply was so passionate and emphatic. I think you are on the right track. I do think, however, that while it will make a difference, it won’t be the same as what “rich kids” get. Amelia, I am going to go read your post as soon as I’m done with this reply. I appreciate your reminder to listen to the children talk about their lives, not to mention the importance of story.

  5. Have you read any of Vivian Paley on play? I have adopted her story telling- basically, during centers you have kids dictate a story to you. Later that child picks fellow classmates to act out their story while you read it.

    • I knew it! When you were talking about storytelling it totally reminded me of Vivian Gussin Paley! Now I have to do a post on her; she rocks. And that reminds me to go back to storytelling; I haven’t done it with this class yet. Thanks!

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