Developing Early Language and Communication at St Mary’s Catholic Academy
Early language is the single most important factor in influencing literacy levels at age 11. More important than behaviour, peer relationships, emotional wellbeing, positive interaction and attention. Vocabulary at age 5 is also linked with wider outcomes in mental health and employment in adulthood
St Mary’s and Our Lady of Grace Early Years Policy places a strong emphasis on children developing competence in speaking and listening and acknowledges that all other areas of learning make a vital contribution to the successful development of communication.
Language and communication is nurtured and developed through
• children being exposed to daily high quality texts, rhymes and poems
• key vocabulary being planned for
• high quality interactions between both staff and children and children and children is scaffolded
• high quality role play within the indoor and outdoor ensures that children can use and develop language effectively
• Partnership working with parents and carers
• Partnership working with external agencies such as Stoke Speaks Out and Speech and Language Therapists
• Identified target support for children such as ‘Time to Talk’ and ‘Talk Boost’
All Foundational Stage staff are at least Stoke Speaks Out Level One trained and have received Launchpad for Literacy training. This has enabled staff to identify and close skill gaps and to ensure progression for all through quality first teaching. Language development and enrichment is an ongoing priority for CPD.
Planning and Practise
Medium and short term plans include focused vocabulary based on tier 1, 2 and 3 words. The planned vocabulary is based on the topic and/or book of the week and the daily focus. The ‘Word of the Day’ is explicitly taught, the children will hear and see the word and discuss its meaning. Throughout the day the children will have opportunities through play and continuous provision to hear and use the word in different contexts.
Staff will always be a good role model for spoken language. Daily routines model vocabulary and allow the chance for children to begin to join in as they develop and extend expressive language. Language enrichment is differentiated, inclusive & progressive. Through interactions and observations staff will know how to interact and model vocabulary so that it is matched to children’s individual next steps. For example, those children who are working at 1 word level to those children who are working at more complex language. Every opportunity such as meal times, story times, putting on coats, etc is used to enhance language development.
A focussed story will be planned for each ½ term. The children will become very familiar with the text developed through activities such as talk for writing, role play and continuous provision activities. This will be shared with parents at home. Other texts, both fiction and non-fiction, are read alongside the text. A rhyme or poem of the week supplement the text or topic. Again, this is shared with parents.
High quality role play significantly impacts and develops language and communication. When children are interacting together they learn new words and expressions from those around them. Child begin to discover the most effective words to get their point across to their friends. As they use new words they become confident communicators and subsequently learn to listen to others. Staff model the use of language and provide further opportunities to extend children’s language skills through quality interactions.
Reading opportunities are given on a daily basis. The children will be read to, children will be heard reading, and staff will share books with children within continuous provision / reading area. Children will take home a reading book which is matched to their phonic phase and a library book to share with parents / carers. In accordance with the school’s home / school agreement, the children are expected to read at home at least 3 times a week. Parents are also encouraged to come into school to read to the children.
We recognise that some children have specific language needs and in order to make progress require additional support alongside quality first teaching. On entry to both nursery and reception all children are screened using the ‘Stoke Speaks Out Communication Screen’. Children who score significantly low (red band) are assessed using the BPVS to obtain a standardised score. Identified children will then either be referred to Speech and Language Therapy Services or take part in interventions programmes such as
• Time to listen (nursery)
• Time to talk (nursery)
• Early Talk Boost (nursery / reception)
• Talk boost KS1 (reception)
• NELI (reception)
Working with Parents
A weekly focus is shared with parents which informs them of the focus book, focus rhyme / poem and focus vocabulary. Parents are encouraged to come into school on a weekly basis to read aloud to children and are invited into school for ‘book start’ sessions. Parents are offered SSO workshops such as ‘Sow the Seed to Read’ and ‘Rhyme Time’ to deliver the key messages of reading and language and communication development.
Weekly play and stay sessions support and develop children’s vocabulary through interactions, stories and rhymes. Staff scaffold language to parents and carers and offer support and guidance on language development, reading and singing to young children and the use of dummies. Play and stay sessions also ensures that we can identify early intervention and signpost parents for support.
Working with External Agencies
We value research based approaches and acknowledge that a multiagency approach to the development of language and communication significantly impact upon the development of early communication and language. We work with
• Stoke Speaks Out (SSO) to provide training for staff, advise about specific speech and language difficulties, provide support and advice to parents during stay and play sessions, use the SSO communication tool box for assessment and intervention and use the SSO assessment to assess children for referral for speech and language therapy
• The local authority to implement the Launchpad for literacy project and to work with preschool settings to support language and communication development
• Speech and language therapy services for targeted support
• Local libraries provide reading sessions, including parents, in school and visits to the library are encouraged.