In this article, we describe tasks and an assessment framework, collaboratively designed with kindergarten teachers in a northern rural Canadian school district, to assess young children’s language and nonverbal communication. Our analysis of 44 five-year old children’s language samples showed that children usually provided information about the name or role of at least one character in their narrative, although a few children referred to characters only using pronouns and a few provided information about multiple features of characters. The events and ideas in most children’s narratives were loosely connected, although some children used conjunctions to connect them and even explained causal relationships between them. To enhance meaning, many children communicated multimodally, most frequently by using gestures or a combination of gesture, intonation, and sound effect. They also used a question or invitation to hook their audience. The use of open-ended tasks allows children to draw on their funds of knowledge resulting in greater relevance and potential value across classroom contexts.

Author Bio

Shelley Stagg Peterson is a professor in the Department of Curriculum, Learning and Teaching at the University of Toronto, Canada. A former rural elementary teacher, Shelley now teaches and conducts research on young children’s writing and language learning, as well as play-based learning and rural education.

Nazila Eisazadehis a registered early childhood educator and academic tutor. She graduated with her PhD in Language and Literacies Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. She is a former instructor at the University of Western Ontario, and her research interests are narrative inquiry, early childhood education, multiliteracies, culturally responsive pedagogy, as well as discourse and identity.

Andrea Liendo is a retired teacher who spent 31 years teaching young children. Having taught in North America and South America, she has a broad variety of experiences. Currently she is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada.

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