Hi All

I am sorry I am posting a little late this week but a combination of things left me feeling exhausted and not able to give it my full focus until now. 

Exciting News
I have now had over 800 views and am collecting readers from all over the world, which I am finding very exciting. I am also loving the opportunity to keep teaching even if it is now from my sofa or even propped up in bed 😁 So I hope you all enjoy this week's blog!

Talking to learn or learning to talk?
The question of whether we talk to learn or learn to talk has been hotly debated by educationalists.  However I have found the reality is that both are true and it is vitally important to be able to express our feelings, thoughts and needs through talk if we want to be happy and successful.

Preparing for School and Life
Ideally by the time your child starts in a Reception Class they would be able to use talk to initiate and develop play, to express their needs and desires and to share their ideas and what is important to them. A child with well-developed Oracy skills will often develop into a more confident individual. As teachers we notice these children will be able to utilise story language in their role-play and to use talk to negotiate with both their peers and adults. However nowadays, many children arrive in Nursery and Reception settings unable to do this and some are even unable to express their basic needs through talk; which makes settling into a new environment much more difficult for them

Why are many children less able to express themselves?
As educationalists we recognise the many demands on parents’ time in today’s challenging society is a major contributory factor to the underdevelopment of good oracy skills. Whether it be the difficulties of juggling everything single handed, faced by many single parent families or the need for both parents to work in the majority of modern 2-parent families, the reality is that spending quality time talking with our children can now feel like a luxury.

Therefore lots of very young children spend many hours of their day, in day-care settings or being cared for by grandparents who may find their constant demands quite tiring. These carers are often faced by multiple demands and may have little time for 1:1 conversations. This combined with the modern day temptations of various types of ‘screen time’, result in today’s children experiencing much less personal conversation with the adults around them.  It is these 1:1 conversations that are vital in developing all areas of emotional intelligence.

How can parents help develop Oracy skills?
These obstacles are not insurmountable but do require some creative planning. When parents or carers are able to spend time with their child they need to build these opportunities into their everyday busy schedules. It is never too early to start to develop these speaking and listening skills. Obviously a baby cannot talk back at first, but like everything else they learn, they learn it through you modelling it. It is sometimes easier to imagine you are the narrator of your own life story and when you are with your child simply tell them what you are doing, seeing and feeling.

“Hi darling, let’s get you up and washed and then we can have breakfast together. I fancy egg on toast and I have some lovely mashed banana for you, and then maybe we can go for a walk to the shops.”

At some stage your child will start to babble back, if they do, pause the narrative to enable them to contribute. This is to help your child understand that we take turns in talking. At first you do not have to do anything different; just keep narrating as you go. If your child’s speech is unclear or mixed up, do not worry or tell them they are saying it wrong. This may affect their self-esteem and they may then become quiet and withdrawn. Instead, just repeat it back to them correctly and in time they will naturally get it right.

Child says, “Look a red car big”
Adult replies, “yes that is a big red car”

As your child’s Oracy skills develop, encourage them to ask and answer questions and later on to explain their thoughts more fully e.g. Teddy is my favourite toy, because he is soft and warm. The most successful way to encourage your children to ask and answer questions is through being a good role model. By asking your child questions about themselves and what they are doing, and answering their questions of you, you will help both develop their oracy and self-esteem. Many opportunities for this can be found during every day activities. When out walking or driving ask your child to describe what they see or hear in the world around them or to tell you what they find exciting or interesting on their journey or maybe just start each evening meal time by asking them - what was fun today? Just keep talking to and with your child and their confidence and speech will develop rapidly.

The key point is to create a happy, language rich environment/relationship with your child. If you help them develop these vital early skills, they will continually benefit from being able to express their needs and desires and to share their thoughts and feelings with others. In turn they will become more confident and capable individuals.

In a later blog on Literacy Skills I will describe in more detail how to continue to develop your child’s speaking and listening skills.

Take Care, Rebecca

Next week - Developing Social Skills

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