I admit that when I first heard about the communication strategy known as "Pillow Talk" early last summer, my initial thought was the Doris Day/Rock Hudson movie. (My mom is a big Doris Day fan and we saw all of her movies growing up.)
“Pillow Talk” is an interaction in which the teacher spends a few quality minutes one on one with each child as they begin to lay down for nap. This is time for unscripted talk, a time children can choose to share whatever is on their minds.
NAEYC's Young Children published "Fostering The Emotional and Language Needs of Young Learners" in March 2002 promoting the use of this technique in early childhood classrooms. In the article, authors Soundy and Stout proffer that “[t]alk is a major instrument of learning, a natural activity that underlies and supports literacy development”. They go on to state that “the early preschool years must be devoted to affectionate literacy interactions which children are engaged in, animated by, and cognitively challenged with language”.
I am a firm believer in fostering language development in my pre-k students. I know that one of my weaknesses is that I tend to let Circle Time go on too long, and that is largely in part to my allowing each student to have his/her say. I feel bad if I have to tell a student we'll come back to them later. When I first heard about “Pillow Talk” this summer, I decided I would try it in my classroom this year. It has gone very well. I visit each child's mat for just a few minutes, but those minutes are so precious. At the beginning of the year, I had a few new students who were very shy. The few minutes we spent together each day during “Pillow Talk” really helped us form a bond. The time quickly became as important for me as it was for the students. Now, the kids all really look forward to it and will often ask throughout the morning if we are going to have that time together.
Occasionally, the talk is superficial or just little updates about what is going on in their lives. Sometimes, I am able to get a better picture of the students’ home life. I may not always have the time during arrival or circle time to hear every students’ story, but they KNOW I will have the time to listen, one-on-one, during “Pillow Talk” time. I am sure that I have connected with a couple of students through “Pillow Talk” that may have taken most of the year to make that special connection without it. I do not use our special time together to talk about any difficult moments through the day, unless the student initiates that portion of the conversation. I feel strongly that this is a special and safe time, not a time for admonitions or rehashing earlier discourtesies.
Soundy and Stout talk in the article about how this practice promotes communication and language building experiences, but I feel it also it gives the children a sense of value and importance. My students know that I value them and really want to hear what it is that they have to say, even when we are in our busiest moments. I think I will continue to see the benefits of this type of discourse in my classroom and will certainly continue this interaction in my classroom.