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Communication, Language and Literacy

Communication, Language and Literacy - Young Toddler (8 to 21 Months)

Start stocking up on books, songs, rhymes and stories! Even before they can talk, children start building the foundation for reading and writing - and they learn by listening to and watching others. The more experiences you give them at this stage (singing, dancing, talking, playing, reading), the stronger their foundation will be. Remember communication includes watching and responding, too. Pay close attention to their gestures, facial expressions and other visual cues.

About This Domain

From birth, children are learning language and developing the ability to communicate. The Communication, Language and Literacy domain describes many important aspects of children’s language and early literacy development.


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Communicating and Oral Language Development


CLL Goal-1: Through their explorations, play, and social interactions, children successfully communicate for multiple purposes.

Respond to gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice, with words or simple sign language.

Establish joint attention by repeated cycles of looking at an object, at their caregiver, then back at the object.

Use sounds, actions, or simple words to initiate interaction and simple conversation with another person and make their needs known.

Follow simple directions and visual cues. (“Pick out your favorite book and I’ll read it to you.”)

Respond to simple statements and questions about pictures, play, people, and things that are happening.

CLL Goal-2: Through their explorations, play, and social interactions, children speak clearly and use the grammar of their home language.

Communicate through facial expressions, sounds, and body movements, such as waving and nodding.

Expect others to understand them and show frustration if not understood.

“Jabber” and put together vocalizations mimicking the rhythm and flow of their home language.

CLL Goal-3: Through their explorations, play, and social interactions, children understand and use an everexpanding vocabulary.

Show steady increase in words they use (name family members and familiar objects).

Use simple words to label people and objects and make requests (“doggy,” “more,” “all done”).

Imitate familiar people, as well as repeating parts of songs and rhymes.

Respond to simple spoken or signed words and phrases that they hear often.


Suggestions for Enriching the Environment
  • Design your environment to reflect the diversity of families represented in your program, including their cultures, languages, and family make-up. This can include fabrics, signs, books, photos and posters that portray people involved in real life experiences, and other materials that you can talk with the children about.
  • Play CDs of children’s songs from various cultures, while children are playing in centers or interest areas; occasionally sing along and encourage children to join you.
  • Provide a dramatic play area where children can pretend to role-play. Use a variety of props to expand children’s use of oral and written language such as phones, microphones and recording devices, paper and writing instruments, computers, etc.
  • Set up interest areas with objects and experiences that will stimulate children to use descriptive language, such as putting different kinds of rocks in the science/discovery area.
  • Provide basic toy phones (which can be purchased or made from plastic PVC pipes and corner joints) that allow children to hear themselves speak, providing immediate feedback.
  • Include wordless books to build listening, vocabulary, comprehension, and literacy skills. Can be used in ELL and with struggling readers.
Effective Strategies to Support Children’s Development and Learning
  • Make sure babies can see or feel your mouth when you hold them. This is particularly important when talking with children with hearing loss. Make sounds or repeat the sounds babies make to encourage back and forth communication.
  • Respond to young children when they look at you, cry, smile, coo, say words, and reach or move toward you. Talk to them, pick them up, and imitate their sounds back to them. Show them you enjoy these conversations
  • Practice conversational turn-taking with young children through talking, actions, and playing games like “peek-aboo” or other communication games from their culture. Ask family members to teach you some of these games.
  • Realize that behaviors such as biting or tantrums may happen because children do not have the words to communicate. Help children relax and give them words and or simple sign language that can help them name and describe their feelings and communicate their needs.
  • Provide frequent opportunities for children to engage in social conversations such as during meal or circle times.
  • Take children outdoors to listen to sounds. Encourage children to listen intently and to describe sounds they hear in their environment.
  • Play audio recordings of family members’ voices in their own language to help children to feel more connected to their families.
  • Use a variety of words when you talk, including labels for things, action words, and many descriptive words. (“Look at the squirrel with the long, fluffy tail! It is running and jumping all over the yard.”)
  • When speaking insure tone and facial expression match what is being said. For example, use a serious tone when saying “Hitting hurts. Be kind to friends. Let’s find a way to use words to tell your friend you want to play with the ball.” This will help all children and especially children with limited vocabulary, dual language learners, and children with hearing loss.
  • Encourage children to try out new sounds and words, including words in different languages (family language, school language, and/or other languages). Give children opportunities to play with sounds. Provide experiences with “stretching out” words by saying them slowly sound-bysound.
  • Talk with children in a positive tone and speak in an encouraging way about what they are hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling, and tasting. Talk about printed words they see related to those experiences.
  • Teach children simple words and phrases in sign language and use with familiar songs and phrases.
  • Model appropriate language by using correct grammar and a variety of different words. Show children how to participate in conversations by having many conversations with them and with other children and adults (encourage children not to interrupt, help children to clarify what they are saying when they feel misunderstood).
  • Sings songs, say rhymes, and do finger plays in English and other languages.
  • Use transitions between activities such as songs, sign language, and finger plays incorporating actions during transitions are especially helpful for children with limited communication skills.
  • Engage children in conversation while at play, snack time, lunch, and during other routines.
  • Listen attentively; don’t rush children’s speech. Follow children’s lead in the conversation and show interest by being at the child’s level.
  • Explain the meaning of words during conversations and story time. Use the new words in a variety of contexts throughout the day.
  • Use visual cues such as props, demonstrations, and gestures to help children understand instructions, especially children who are just beginning to learn English and children with disabilities who have limited language skills.
  • Use photos of the child doing the routine activities of the day to help those who have difficulty with understanding directions.
  • Help children discriminate sounds in spoken language through rhymes, songs, and word games, using various media (e.g., CDs, tablets, computers, smart boards).
  • Encourage children to retell and act out stories you have read together. Ask questions about books and stories.
  • Provide communication devices, such as picture schedules and communication boards that have pictures the child can press or point at to communicate wants and needs.
  • Talk about things you are doing and the child is doing (“referred to as mapping your actions.”) Think of interesting words to describe details and actions. For example, if you are pretending to wash dishes, you might talk about scrubbing and scouring. When outside describe what the sounds are as you hear them.
  • Provide frequent opportunities for children to talk and listen to each other such as a sharing time, lunch, and snack times using smaller groups to encourage more meaningful conversation.
  • Provide opportunities for children to talk in front of a mirror so they can see the movement of their mouth and the sound they are making at the same time.
  • Use enjoyable books, poems, rhymes, finger plays, and songs that children can repeat frequently.
  • Read opposite books and have fun coming up with opposites for words, as well as multiple words that have similar meanings (synonyms) for words children are using and experiencing in their environment (pet, pat, stroke, nuzzle).
  • Use facial expressions, gestures, sign language, and a rich and varied vocabulary when speaking and reading with children.
  • Use new words introduced in a variety of contexts during the day. Be intentional in use of new words and phrases.
  • Teach and reinforce subject-specific words as you use them in context (discuss caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly, metamorphosis, measure, etc. as you hatch butterflies) and then continue to use these words throughout the year.
  • Give children clear instructions that help them move from simple directions to a more complex sequence. State directions positively, respectfully, carefully, and only as needed.
  • Provide interpreters for children who have hearing impairments or English Language Learners.
  • Engage children in one on one, peer to peer, and small group conversations to have more opportunities to express themselves than they would in the large group. This approach provides opportunities to monitor children’s communication skills and comprehension.
  • Pass around a “Talking Stick” or other interesting item that can be used as an indicator of whose turn it is to talk or contribute to a group conversation.
  • Ask open-ended questions to encourage conversation and stimulate children’s thinking, communication skills, and creativity.
  • Invite support personnel, such as Speech and Language Pathologists, to model and provide suggestions for meeting individual children’s communication needs.
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Foundations for Reading


CLL Goal-4: Through their explorations, play and social interactions, children develop interest, motivation, and appreciation for literacy-based materials and activities.

Explore reading behaviors (choose books, open and close, turn pages or groups of pages).

Show interest in picture books (point to pictures), especially tactile books.

Listen to simple and repetitive books, stories, and songs for brief periods of time. (Join as caregiver finishes a short book with another child.)

Carry books around, “name” them, and select books for adults to read out loud and ask caregiver to read favorite books aloud.

CLL Goal-5: Through their explorations, play, and social interactions, children comprehend, use, and begin to reflect on and analyze information in books and other media.

Listen to and repeat parts of simple and repetitive books, stories, songs, and finger plays.

Make appropriate sounds when looking at pictures. (When looking at a duck says, “Quack, quack.” When looking at a car says, “Vrrrrooom.”)

Looks at most pages as caregiver reads short book.

CLL Goal-6: Through their explorations, play and social interactions, children begin to recognize basic concepts of print and discover that they can get meaning from print.

Sometimes treat pictures as real (licking a picture of ice cream, rubbing “fur” of a cat in a book.)

Turn pages (but not always in the right order); point to and label pictures in books.

Show awareness of and identify some environmental print and logos (favorite cereal box, a sign for a familiar store).

CLL Goal-7: Through their explorations, play, and social interactions, children listen, identify, and respond to sounds, and develop phonological awareness.

Focus on and enjoy playing with repetitive sounds, words, rhymes, and gestures.

Express interest and sing along, clap, or move with rhyming and rhythmic songs.

CLL Goal-8: Through their explorations, play, and social interactions, children develop knowledge of letters and the alphabetic principle.

May point to print (such as their name) in everyday interactions.


Suggestions for Enriching the Environment
  • Ensure all children accessibility to books and a variety of print materials in the environment (magazines, cereal boxes, posters).
  • Keep hard cover board books (which have sturdy cardboard pages) on shelves where children can have easy access.
  • Create comfortable, engaging areas outside where children can read, look at books and listen to stories.
  • Play a variety of music, including multicultural and children’s songs and taped environmental sounds.
  • To develop the skills and strategies of successful readers and stimulate curiosity, provide an environment filled with age appropriate reading materials, including both fiction and nonfiction books, as well as magazines, charts, poems, and other engaging print that reflect the cultures of the children.
  • Set up comfortable and inviting spaces in different parts of the classroom for children to be engaged in literacy. For example, a cozy library/book area where reading is enjoyable; a writing area with a variety of paper, pencils, crayons, and markers; a listening area with audio books or stories; a housekeeping area with notepads, pencils and books; and a technology (computer, iPad, iPod), area if available.
  • Post songs, poems, a schedule with the daily routine, etc., on charts or large paper using words and symbols and point to the words while singing and reading.
  • Provide meaningful print in the environment. Allow children the opportunities to help label meaningful items, storage areas/containers, or designated spaces using pictures, symbols or print. Pictures and names of toys can be kept on shelves to show where they belong. Use children’s names and photos to label their cubbies/personal spaces/pictures, etc
  • Add many hands-on materials to various centers throughout the environment; including magnetic letters, alphabet blocks, and materials children can use to form letters such as play dough and pipe cleaners.
  • Have sandpaper letters available for children.
  • Establish daily routines in which you give simple directions for children to follow. (“First, let’s pick up all the blocks, and then come sit on the rug.”)
Effective Strategies to Support Children’s Development and Learning
  • Provide interactive books that allow children to push buttons to hear sounds in the story, and books with textures to feel. Consider adding textures to books such as fuzzy fabric scraps to books about animals
  • Give children access to books throughout the day. Provide books that young children can put in their mouths and books with pages that turn easily, such as cloth and board books.
  • Include books that show children with disabilities in a natural way as part of the stories and pictures.
  • Make available books that reflect sociocultural experiences at home and in communities.
  • Provide page-turning devices and book stands to hold books in place for children who need them. These can be purchased or made from household materials.
  • Use computers with touch screens and interactive programs and apps, such as “Living Books.”
  • Make books using pictures of family members and other familiar objects found in magazines, catalogs, and environmental print (such as pictures from catalog cut-outs and labels from favorite foods). Make books of trips, events you have shared, and children’s art.
  • Make stories come alive by using different voices and body movements.
  • Ask simple questions and make comments about books to start conversations with children. Talk about similar things that young children may have experienced. (“Do you have a pet?” “What did you see at the zoo?”) Welcome and encourage children’s questions, too!
  • Help children tell stories and act out parts of stories they have heard using words, pictures, movement, puppets, and toys.
  • Point out words in books and in the environment (street signs, toy boxes, words on pictures in the room).
  • Use large print books and big books.
  • Provide time in the daily schedule for large and small group activities, and large amounts of time for children to select from a variety of activities at centers or interest areas.
  • Involve children in regular story time experiences which include exposure to books, finger plays, poems, songs, rhymes, puppets, dramatic play, repeated readings of familiar text, and acting out familiar stories. Provide children with materials they can use to act out and retell stories (flannel board cutouts, puppets, dolls, props, pictures, etc.).
  • Encourage children to read repetitive, familiar parts of stories in simple, predictable books, which have only a few words on each page, like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
  • Ask children to predict what a story might be about after showing them the cover of the book. During the story, occasionally ask them to predict what might come next in the story. Respond to children’s observations about books and answer their questions.
  • Talk about the “beginning” and “end” of books, and point out authors and illustrators as children get older. Run your fingers under words as you read them so children can see that reading proceeds from left to right.
  • Demonstrate your own enjoyment, interest, and motivation to read in a variety of ways, showing children that reading is fun and useful. Model caring for books and treating them with respect.
  • Read high-quality books to individuals and small groups, making sure the books avoid stereotypes and reflect children’s interests, culture and home language.
  • Frequently read and sing with books like Mary Had a Little Lamb and The Wheels on the Bus that contain words to songs. Sing the alphabet song while pointing to the letters.
  • Engage children in making books that they can read independently. Children can collect pictures of familiar brand names (such as the front of cereal boxes), photos of children in the group with their names, photos of familiar signs, cultural events, etc. These books can be made from photo albums or stiff paper stapled together.
  • Talk about some of the interesting words found in books as your read to children to help build their vocabulary. Re-read books multiple times, changing the approach as children become familiar with the book. On occasion, ask question that tap their understanding of why characters are doing things and talk about the meaning of unfamiliar words.
  • Read a variety of culturally diverse books, poems, and nursery rhymes with children.
  • Provide experiences that help children learn new words such as taking field trips and sharing interesting objects.
  • Play games that focus on the beginning sounds of words, words that start with the same sounds, as well as words that rhyme.
  • Model and promote positive feelings about reading. Allow children to choose books they want to read. After reading, ask them to talk about why they liked the book.
  • Encourage volunteers from the community to assist in reading stories to individuals and small groups.
  • Create a connection between home and school through such means as developing a takehome book program, sharing books from home, engaging parents in literacy experiences, holding workshops, or creating a newsletter for parents. Make sure you send books home in the family language.
  • Include strategies for promoting phonological awareness, print and alphabet knowledge within daily conversation, activities and routines.
  • Discuss letter names in the context of daily activities (as opposed to teaching one letter per week) and provide opportunities for children to hear specific letter sounds, particularly beginning sounds.
  • Make Venn Diagrams with older preschoolers showing comparisons between 2 characters in a book or between characters or settings in two different books.
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Foundations for Writing


CLL Goal-9: Through their explorations, play, and social interactions, children use writing and drawing as means of communication.

Make marks, scribble, and paint (cover easel paper with big crayon or paint marks, make marks with marker or crayon).

CLL Goal-10: Through their explorations, play, and social interactions, children grow in their understanding of letters and writing skills.

Hold marker or crayon with the fist.

Dot or scribble with crayons, and other materials; may progress to vertical lines, marks, or other forms of expression.


Suggestions for Enriching the Environment
  • Provide many, varied opportunities for very young children to use small motor movements, rotating their wrists, and pincer grasp (with finger and thumb) through exploring and playing with a variety of materials and experiences, including water play, dumping and filling containers, stacking, eating, and grasping.
  • Create a writing center/writing area with writing tools such as stamps, paper, envelopes, writing tablets, alphabets, over-sized paper, crayons of various sizes and shapes, and other writing materials. Include note cards with a few common words and pictures to support children’s writing.
  • Provide pencils, markers, crayons, paper, chalk, chalkboards, computer keyboards, stencils, and rubber stamps with washable ink in centers/interest areas throughout the room, including the block area, dramatic play area, art area and others.
  • Provide centers where children can experiment with writing letters and words in shaving cream, salt, play-dough, etc.
  • Occasionally change the dramatic play area into a post office to encourage children to write to parents and other children.
  • Provide opportunities for children to explore writing in a variety of materials, such as sand, shaving cream, and paint.
  • Label common objects in the room and items children bring from home to share. Make sure that children often see their name in writing, such as on their cubby/personal space and personal belongings.
  • Provide adaptive writing tools when needed, such as: • Oversized pencils/crayons/markers or sizes that meet the child’s needs; • Rubber pencil grips that fit over pencils or other adaptations to the writing utensil; • Adapted keyboards, such as IntelliKeys, or voice recognition software.
Effective Strategies to Support Children’s Development and Learning
  • Bring books, paper, and writing/drawing tools outside for children to use and enjoy.
  • For older toddlers, point out a few familiar letters such as the first letter in a child’s name and call attention to them occasionally. If a child asks for a letter name, provide it. Do not drill children on reciting the alphabet or naming letters.
  • Promote literacy-related play activities that reflect children’s interests and sociocultural experiences by supplying materials such as telephone books, recipe cards, shopping lists, greeting cards, and storybooks for use in daily activities.
  • Encourage children to re-tell experiences and events that are important to them through pictures and dictation.
  • Assist children in making their own books and class books.
  • Use different textures of paper to write on, including sand paper and very heavy paper.
  • Writing on a slanted surface helps many children; a large binder on a table can create a slanted surface. Easels and writing on paper taped to the wall (vertical surface) are good tools.
  • Model writing whenever possible for children, such as during attendance, lunch count, making lists, writing reminders, noting changes on a message Talking board or writing other messages.
  • Talk out loud while writing with the children so they can understand the process of writing. Say letters out loud while writing, describe step-by-step while writing for a variety of purposes in classroom routines (name on paper, description of art work, thank-you notes, menus).
  • Demonstrate enjoyment, interest, and motivation to write for a variety of reasons, such as making lists or writing a note, showing children that writing is fun and useful.
  • Provide dictation opportunities such as “What would you like to say in your card to your mom?” or “Tell me what you like to do outside and I’ll write it down.” Read the writing back to the child to strengthen the connection between the printed and spoken word.
  • Offer shared writing experiences to small groups of children, writing down their ideas on a large piece of paper for all to see, with ideas such as, “Let’s make a list of things we saw on our field trip.” Take pictures of the experiences and write captions to go with the pictures or compile pictures to create a book.
  • Write songs and poems on charts with the children to share while singing and reading.
  • Encourage children to re-tell experiences and events that are important to them through pictures and dictation. Encourage children to share titles, words, sentences, or short stories written to accompany their artwork.
  • Give children frequent opportunities to draw, scribble, and print for a variety of purposes.
  • Show step-by-step how to form a letter on unlined paper when a child asks.
  • Display children’s writing and comment on their successes.
  • Discuss letter names in the context of daily activities (as opposed to teaching one letter per week) and provide opportunities for children to hear specific letter sounds, particularly beginning sounds.
  • Provide individual dry erase boards and unlined paper for children to write on.
  • Provide multiple opportunities for children to experiment writing their name (sign-in list, waiting list, labeling pictures, graphs, etc.).
  • Use many concrete, hands-on visual materials when helping children learn new words.
  • Encourage children to write without an adult model for a variety of purposes (label their drawings, leave a note to a friend, shopping list, etc.).
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Learning New Languages


CLL Goal-11: Through their explorations, play, and social interactions, children demonstrate an understanding that there are multiple languages and begin to communicate in another language other than their home language.

Emerging as young toddlers listen to and repeat the sounds of their home language and other languages they hear.


Suggestions for Enriching the Environment
  • Set up the environment to help children learn a new language. In the listening center provide books in other languages on CD and computer apps. You can also provide CDs and other media that have simple songs and phrases in multiple languages. These are available online or in teacher supply stores. Ask volunteers, parents, or older children to record stories for the children to listen to, including the home languages of the children.
  • Label objects around the room in both English and another language, such as Spanish or Lakota. Make labels with the children large enough to be easily read, adding one word a week.
  • Add books to the library area that are written in two languages. Read books like Goodnight Moon, which is available in English and Spanish; this can help children to see the connection between the two languages. Provide books that reflect the languages and cultures of the children in the group.
Effective Strategies to Support Children's Development and Learning
  • Invite parents and members of the community who speak other languages to come in and teach children a simple song and a few greetings or special words. Invite families to cook traditional dishes with the children and teach them the names of the foods they are preparing. Be culturally sensitive to parents; invite, but do not push them to come until they feel comfortable. Instead work on building a relationship over time.
  • Teach children a simple greeting, such as “hola” (hello in Spanish) or “hua” (hello in Lakota). Then use this greeting with the children in the morning. Encourage them to greet you and the other children in the same way. • Expand on this greeting to include “How are you?” ¿Cómo estás? (in Spanish) • And responses that could include: excelente excellent muy bien very good bien good mal not good ¿y tú? and you? • How are you? Tokeske yuan he? (in Lakota) • I am fine. And you? Lila Tanyan waun. Nis tok? (in Lakota)
  • Teach color words and numbers in other languages, such as Lakota number words: one - wanci two - nunpa three - yamni four - topa five - zaptan six – sakpe seven - sakowin eight - saglogan nine - napciyunke ten - wikcemna
  • Sing simple songs in other languages to help children hear the sounds of the language, such as Frere Jacques in French.
  • Use motions to go along with songs to help children learn words.
  • Another song to sing throughout the year with the children is: It’s a Small World Es (Its) un mundo (a world) muy pequeño (very small). Es un mundo muy pequeño. Es un mundo muy pequeño. Es un pequeño, pequeño mundo.