Page 12 - Independent Schools Magazine
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‘There are at least three ways in which book reading influences language learning’.
Innovation involves parents in helping pupils communicate
 It is essential that the development and use of speech, language and communication is at the heart of the pre-prep environment. Not only to guarantee their success academically or in their future careers, but also in relation
to general well-being, poor communication skills are now a risk factor in mental health.
Children acquire communication and language skills at different
speeds. Their progress can fluctuate as they encounter obstacles and it is certainly not straightforward.
However, despite differences between children, we expect most to develop certain skills within
a certain time frame. The EYFS Statutory Framework states that at the end of Reception year, all children should be able to listen attentively, follow instructions and express themselves effectively. To
enable our children to achieve this, in our pre-prep environment, we place significant emphasis on books and quality child-led interactions.
There are at least three ways in which book reading influences language learning. First, it offers children the opportunity to hear new vocabulary embedded in varied grammatical sentences. Books written for children use well- formed, relatively short sentences that are rich in varied vocabulary. Second, book reading enriches children’s lives and language in
that it promotes joint attention and interest. They use bold colours and strong contrasts and typically depict objects and animals that appeal to young children. An attentive adult can easily notice what a child is attending to and build on it with commentary. Finally, book reading requires the participants to be active and engaged in responsive interactions about word meanings. It is an opportunity for an adult
to focus on the child and make efforts to be responsive to his or her interests. With this in mind, reading storybooks to children may even exceed the power of oral conversations at times.
Research has shown that children learn language best when they are
allowed to lead a conversation and communicate about what interests them. In our Nursery, much of the day is free flow as the children independently choose to move between different environments. Here we use a strategy called OWLing, developed by the Hanen Centre in Canada as part of their
It Takes Two to Talk program. O.W.L is an acronym to remind
you to OBSERVE. WAIT. LISTEN. The strategy reminds teachers to follow a child’s lead so that he or she will be more likely to stay in the interaction and get the practice and feedback they need to build their communication skills.
As teachers, we take advantage of naturally occurring opportunities to promote and model language. Wherever and whenever we can,
we try to join children in their learning to extend their talk and enrich their vocabulary. We are now focussing on empowering our parents to do the same; this year we held our first communication and language workshop, which was an oversubscribed event. Providing parents with practical advice, including easy-to-implement strategies we hope will highlight how fundamental these skills are
as a pre requisite to success in all other areas of school life.
Next-generation digital media library for schools
“Almost everything we do involves language and communication. Everyday tasks, socialising, building relationships, learning, sorting out problems and having fun all rely on our ability to communicate. Understandably then, the acquisition of communication and language skills is the most significant act of learning in our early lives, perhaps even our whole life”, writes Ellen O’Malley, Head of SEN at Devonshire House Preparatory School, London
 Vocabulary at age five is a very strong predictor of the qualifications achieved at school leaving age and beyond. Employers now rate communication skills as their highest priority, above qualifications, with 47% of employers in England reporting difficulty in finding employees with an appropriate level of oral communication skills’.
Communication Trust 2011
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Sarah Gowans, Marketing Manager, Bishop’s Stortford College
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