Basic Concepts and Language



When young children are learning adults often focus solely on teaching numbers, the alphabet, shapes, and colors. There are a number of other basic concepts that are integral for early learning. These basic concepts include spatial directions, quantities, sequential order, size, adjective forms, and time concepts.

Basic concepts are said to be the foundation for education. They impact the level to which children can successfully complete tasks, follow instructions, and engage in conversation. Academic achievement is based upon mastery of several prerequisite skills many of which are rooted in basic concept knowledge. Basic concepts are said to occur in groups or pairs. A survey from preschool and kindergarten teachers reveals there to be a number of early-learned basic concept pairs that are most recognized for achievement in early grades. These pairs include: hot/cold, fast/slow, before/after, hard/soft, new/old, empty/full, behind/in front, outside/inside, asleep/awake, in/out, big/little, up/down, happy/sad, on/off, top/bottom, first/last, open/closed, loud/quiet.

Adult language is said to naturally combine a number of basic concepts as sentences become longer and more complex. (e.g. ‘First, put your lunch money in the red bowl on the small table next to my desk.’) As children are learning these basic concepts, it is important for adults to both simplify the language they are using to ensure the content is presented in manageable units while also exposing children to a number of basic concepts as strong language is modeled and scaffolded. As adults, using language rich description is said to be effective for helping children to build a strong basic concept knowledge.