Earlier this week we gave the language, fine motor, and gross motor skills sections of the Denver developmental screening to approximately 50 two-year-olds using stations. Jodi, Dr. Ivey, and I administered the language section many times, so that we could begin to gather more information about the suitability of the items for this population.
As expected I encountered some children who teachers indicated were shy. Differences in pronunciation of course arose. However, the performance of several of the children blew me away. Many children only speak English at school and often had begun attending school this year. Yet a 17-month old said, “bird that fly” when I asked him to identify the bird pictured. He was also able to tell me “write” when I asked him, “What is a pencil used for?”
Often children identified the picture of the man as “daddy,” but one or two children said “man.” Although the cat did not resemble Ghanian cats, as it is fluffy, children had little difficulty identifying it, saying “cat,” “bush cat,” or “pussycat.” The dog picture could also be adapted to more closely resemble the short haired brown dogs that appear to be most common in Ghana.
One of the two-year-old teachers indicated that the children had not been taught horse, which explains why most children were unable to identify it. Caitlyn had a wonderful suggestion for a replacement animal– a hen. Its action could be “lays eggs.” Children are familiar with this animal and may be taught the English name earlier in the curriculum.
The counting items were difficult to assess with this population. As I mentioned in an earlier post, children often learn through songs. Young children begin to practice route counting and sing multiplication tables. It seemed that children who passed the ‘count one block’ item did so without a solid understanding of the concept. It will be interesting to learn more about performance on this item overall.
While working as a toddler teacher, I noticed that many children learn parts of the face before those of the body, perhaps because young children are often very fascinated with eyes, ears, noses, and mouths. It seemed that the Ghanian children I assessed tended to learn the parts of the face first. Eyes seemed to be the most often identified body part. However, this is based solely upon my observations.
The items that seemed to be the most difficult for many of the children I screened were ‘use of 2 objects’ and ‘know 2 adjectives.’ Children typically begin mastering these items around 3 years of age (more specific norms are provided by the assessment). While some of the children were within these ranges in age, we only assessed students in the two-year-old class. It will be interesting to learn more about language development as it relates to curriculum through statistical analysis and continued research. I am excited about the prospect of a research group next year that focuses the use and/ adaptation of the Denver II screening for Ghanian children.
The blocks in the kit often proved invaluable for building rapport with children when administering the language section. Often after building towers together children would begin to speak. As I often used play with blocks to build rapport as a toddler teacher in the U.S., this became one of many reminders how our differences are accompanied by similarities. I am happy to have been a part of this wonderful project thus far!