LENA Grow: Helping Teachers Increase Conversations in the Classroom

Porter-Leath is committed to ensuring that our teachers and childcare provider partners are best-equipped to educate our children and prepare them for kindergarten. In early March, Porter-Leath launched LENA Grow, a 10-week professional development program that aims to maximize conversational turns between teacher and child.

Like LENA Start, children who have received parental consent in LENA Grow wear a vest with a recording device. Instead of tracking conversational turns at home, LENA Grow tracks conversational turns in the classroom. Each week, reports on each child are generated and evaluated for frequency of conversation, peak conversation times, and word quality.

Six classrooms were selected to participate in the first cohort—Frayser Head Start, American Way Head Start, the Early Childhood Academy, Hooks Dimmick, and Southwest Tennessee Community College Childcare Center. Centers were chosen based on locations that were already offering practice-based coaching for their teachers. Each week, teachers meet with an education specialist for a coaching session based on the previous week’s performance.

“Ideally, children should experience at least 25 conversational turns an hour and hear at least 3,000 words a day while they are at school,” explains Early Childhood Education Specialist TaWanda Randolph. “If the children aren’t sleeping, [the teachers] should be talking, reading or singing.”

“Eighty percent of a child’s brain is developed by age 3, so everything that goes in from birth to 3 is critical. They learn so much when we’re talking to them—how to regulate their feelings, self-control, how to express themselves, how to respect one’s space and privacy. Everything is geared towards school readiness.”

The second cohort includes 9 classrooms and will start in August or September 2019. To learn more about LENA Grow, contact TaWanda Randolph.

Early Head Start teacher Kimberly Gulledge asks open ended questions to engage her students and grow their language skills. Students wear LENA Grow vests like the ones in the photo above to measure conversational turns.