A sense of belonging
Q: What’s important at the start of a new term? Answer: Helping a child to feel at home, make friends, become part of a group and have their needs met.
- The way we do this is to find out as much as we can before the child starts so that we can prepare for them starting at our school or setting.
- Finding out beforehand that they live with nana or that they have moved home or that they have a cat can help us prepare ourselves and resources that will help them make connections with their life experiences.
- Introducing a soft toy as a ‘pet cat’ for the home corner or displaying pictures of different homes – including flats and different types of houses can help a young child to see things they are familiar with and make them feel they belong and sense that they are not in a completely alien environment.
Listening and Understanding
- Tuning in to children’s spoken language requires adults to really listen to children by taking the time to attend to what they are saying or trying to convey.
- As well as listening and watching the child’s communication signals adults often have to interpret what is being communicated by the child because the child may not speak the more formal ‘language’ of the setting.
- The more listening and watching we can do the more we will get to know how the child communicates.
And remember, when it comes to understanding, children don’t arrive in school or a setting with a book of handy phrases – they need to learn what we mean by ‘let’s tidy up’ or what is meant when we say: ‘the red group come to me’.
- Speech is just one aspect of the communication and language ‘bundle’.
- For a child to speak confidently, which is our aim, they need to have all the necessary physical and sensory structures as well as the desire to communicate with others.
- So whilst communication seems as natural as walking the ability and desire to speak can be influenced by many factors such as feeling shy or unsure about what to say, or how to say it and whether their efforts will be well received.
Strategies to support communication and language
There are many simple strategies to support communication and language for children at the start of their language and communication journey. Try the following:
- Labelling objects whilst pointing to them: dog, cat, tree, book, cup, flower.
- Clear, simple explanations to answer why questions: Because ……… it’s broken; it lives there; we must be gentle; we can’t see it yet.
- Simple commands to keep children safe: We need to ……….. walk; stop; take it back; put it down.
- Looking at and sharing books and pictures: I can see a big bear; there’s no room in the car; that owl looks worried.
- Providing new words to extend vocabulary: It is a big one – it’s huge; it is a little fairy it’s tiny; it is wet it’s saturated; I love that story it’s really scary.
Assessing Children’s Communication and Language Skills
- Begin by finding out as much as you can about each child.
- Use what you know to encourage children to communicate using language, non-verbal communication or signs or picture cues.
- Introduce familiar topics or experiences to enable children to demonstrate what they know and can do.
- Praise and encourage children’s efforts to communicate by showing your interest, responding to the child warmly and repeating and re-casting where necessary.
- Record in writing the words and gestures children used and build this knowledge into future interactions with the child.
- For children learning English, in addition to one or more languages of the home, the principles remain the same – develop understanding of the child’s home language, ensure the child is enabled to understand by extending words through offering pictures and, if possible, giving responses in their home language.
- Development in a child’s first language will enhance learning of English.
- Try as well to learn words and phrases in the child’s home language as a way of helping the child feel comfortable.
- Don’t underestimate children who are silent – they are absorbing new sounds, new grammar and new ways of communicating.
- Many children quickly become great language users and learn to communicate easily.
- A noisy environment can hamper children who can manage in a quiet place – for example children with transient conditions such as glue ear.
- A number of children may have specific issues that require different levels of support to help them become confident and competent communicators.
- If you have any concerns about a child’s communication and language don’t wait – begin to offer extra support in the way of time, discussions with parents, a review of the environment and, if required, by seeking specialist help.
When adults get together it seems as though they’ve all got something to say. For young children it’s about building their confidence and skills through lots of experiences, rhymes, stories and conversations with adults. With the right help young children will soon learn to find their ‘own voices’!
For further information:
1. Langston, A. (2014) Facilitating Children’s Learning in the EYFS Open University Press
2. Universally Speaking – ages and stages of children’s communication development for children aged birth to 5 Communication Trust accessed 14th September 2015 http://www.thecommunicationtrust.org.uk/media/363847/tct_univspeak_0-5.pdf
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