Providers in our Providence Talks course make strong gains; R2LP develops a second series

Providence Talks saw such remarkable outcomes from the first series we developed for child-care providers that last spring the program asked Ready to Learn Providence to create a second series.

Some 18 months ago we began offering our first professional development model of Providence Talks – a program initially designed for parents of young children — to center- and home-based providers who care for infants and toddlers in Providence. To date, nearly 175 providers have completed this program, which includes an orientation, five 2-hour sessions offered weekly for five consecutive weeks, and two additional sessions held one month after the final class. Participants also speak with facilitators between sessions for support and guidance on implementation.

Like the Providence Talks model for parents, the PD model uses a device that works much like a pedometer to measure word count. In the PD model, however, it is the providers, not the children, who wear this device.  Although the 152 providers in the most recent evaluation started at a remarkably high baseline, they still showed strong gains in the number of words they were using in the course of a day. And when evaluators looked only at the providers with a baseline below the 50th percentile, they saw an increase of an extraordinary 61 percent.

The gains in conversational turn-taking were also significant. Conversational turn-taking is important because it shows that the child and adult are using words to exchange thoughts and elaborate on them.

Given the remarkable growth providers made in our first series, Caitlin Molina, the executive director of Providence Talks, asked if we could develop a second series that builds on what is covered in the first one but that focuses more on the quality of words rather than quantity. After designing this curriculum over the summer, we began offering this new four-session course, titled “More Than Talking,” in September.

“It’s a deeper dive into the importance of meaningful exchanges between adults and young children,” explains Leslie Gell, director of Ready to Learn Providence. “It’s about listening as much as talking.”

The first three sessions provide strategies for improving the quality of conversation through reading books, oral storytelling and music. The final session gives participants and facilitators a chance to bring everything together and to discuss triumphs and challenges in implementation. If participating providers want additional support, facilitators of the class will visit and observe them at their settings.

“The mixed group of center-based providers and family child-care providers, all of whom have completed the first Providence Talks class, creates a terrific dynamic,” says Christine Chiacu-Forsythe, one of the facilitators — and a co-developer — of “More than Talking.” “For providers of infants and toddlers, there are very few professional development offerings in language development. There’s a tremendous amount of engagement and enthusiasm in this class.”

Providence Talks was launched in 2013 to address the word gap between young children growing up in low-income households and their more affluent peers. By the time they reach their fourth birthday, low-income children have heard 30 million fewer words. Providence Talks seeks to close that gap so that every child in Providence enters kindergarten ready to achieve. Providence Talks was developed during Bloomberg Philanthropies’ 2013 Mayors Challenge. The City of Providence was the grand prize winner of the challenge and received $5 million to implement the initiative.

All of the photos in this post were taken in the “More Than Talking” class this fall. The facilitator shown is Christine Chiacu-Forsythe, a co-developer of this new course.

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