It’s Good to Talk; Language Promotion in the Early Years
A crucial role of an early years practitioner is to boost communication skills. Phoebe Doyle speaks to a communication expert to get her take on how we should utilise our sessions.
Children enter early years settings with a diverse range of language skills; as practitioners we need to inspire all children to reach their potential in this most vital of skills; “In early years setting, there are many ways in which practitioners can support a child's speech, language and communication development”, says Kate Freeman from the children’s communication charity I CAN (http://www.ican.org.uk/).
Kate believes it’s not a case of necessarily devising specific activities for language promotion, more that good early years practitioners should use everyday routines to support development; “mealtimes or snack times, tidying up, putting coats on for outside play all lend themselves as communication development opportunities” she urges.
Kate says that the key is remembering some basics about how to communicate best, these include:
- Responding to what children say; this shows you’re listening
- Giving clear information in short chunks
- Getting down to a child’s level and saying their name before speaking
- Using simple repetitive language
- Building on what the child says
- Being expressive when you talk
- Demonstrating, through modelling, rather than criticising what they’ve said
- Giving children time to respond, allow them some ‘pause for thought’
- Avoiding too many questions, this may lead to them feeling over-whelmed
Kate wants practitioners to make parents aware that promoting better communication need not be tricky; “Practitioners can help parents by explaining that developing their child’s communication isn’t at all difficult. There are many simple activities that parents can do throughout the day with their child, such as reading, playing games and singing songs and always talking about what they see when they are out and about.”
Suggestions for practitioners include:
· Sending home a book of songs and rhymes they enjoy at the setting – many parents lack confidence, or simply don’t know many, so may find this a real help.
· Clearly modelling how you and other staff speak to the children and how you encourage them to speak to others.
· Encouraging them to access speech therapy if they have concerns.
Making the most of story time
Communication experts agree that reading has huge potential for aiding the development of language in young children; Kate is doubtless of the power of story, “books increase their knowledge of different words and puts their use into context. Not only this, but if you use your sessions to talk in-depth about the book you can practise the key communication skills – both speaking and listening”.
Kate also advises that neither practitioners nor parents should be afraid of indulging in a child’s wish for the same story again and again, saying; “frequent repetition is vital in developing communication.”
“Circle times are really useful for learning the art of turn-taking and for each individual child to get a turn to speak uninterrupted”, says Kate who acknowledges that some children might find this challenging. She suggests passing around an object like ‘talking teddy’ or the ‘circle time star’ helps young children to recognise whose turn it is to speak and understand that you can only speak if you are holding the object.
Kate explains how circle times should be made easy, and never be about pressure to talk; “Young children will probably need a concrete item to talk about, so in the middle of your circle, you could have an interesting object or a favourite book or a photo of the seaside. It is important that you accept whatever a child has to offer in circle time, whether that is one word, a gesture or a short conversation.”
Read on the wonderful Child Ed website here