For schools to measure the progress of pupils, they need to use certain success indicators. Literacy is a great indicator of educational progress because it is relatively easy to assign children to teaching groups based on how well they can read.
However, whilst reading and writing proficiency is often the focus of these measurements, oral language is a huge contributory factor. Children with delayed spoken language skills will inevitably struggle with written language, meaning that they may be assessed as underachieving because their oral language skills are weak.
Schools who want to ensure high achievement in literacy in later years would do well to focus on developing oral language skills in their Early Years classes. Elklan training has proven to be one of the best ways to develop these skills.
Speech and language development for younger children
It is a recognised fact that the first three years of life are the most critical period for children in developing speech and language skills. For good developmental progress, children up to the age of three need to be surrounded with a language-rich environment and adults who interact and talk with them appropriately in order to acquire these skills.
Language and speech development are different
Language refers to the words we use and how we put them together so that others can understand what we are trying to convey.
- Receptive Language:
- Understanding the meaning of words and sentences, including the implied meaning such as what ‘pull your socks up’ actually means!
- Remembering what we have heard
- Expressive Language
- Choosing the right words
- Being able to put those words into a grammatically correct sentence (‘I am putting on my shoe’, rather than ‘shoe am putting I on’)
- Social use of language
- Communicating what we wish to say in the right tone of voice, in an appropriate manner and using suitable non-verbal communication.
Speech refers to the production of the sounds. This includes:
- Articulation, or how to make the sounds in words using clear diction so that for example, a ‘k’ doesn’t come out as a ‘t’.
- Fluency, or talking without stammering.
- Voice, or controlling the vocal cords so that you speak at an appropriate pitch and volume and so not cause damage to your voice.
There are therefore four aspects of oral and written language to consider
- Receptive Language, which includes listening, hearing and understanding what is being said.
- Expressive Language, which includes forming grammatically correct sentences, speaking clearly and being socially appropriate.
- Reading. Being able to make sense of the written symbols (letters) which make up words.
- Writing. Reproducing these symbols (letters) to create words and phrases in print.
Most children will develop receptive language skills before they speak. In typical development, by 18 months a toddler may say 30-50 single words but will understand many more, including phrases and simple instructions. Therefore, it is so vital to surround them with appropriate language from birth, and to keep interacting with them and chatting, even though they may not be saying much back.
Language development and literacy
As mentioned, speech, language and literacy are closely linked, meaning that children are likely to have trouble with the latter if they have difficulty with the former. In order to read, they first need to be able to understand and use oral language, because many of the key skills we use for reading and writing are also speech and language skills.
To read and write well you need:
- A strong vocabulary. You need to be able to understand a vast range of words to understand what you are reading or writing. Vocabulary often starts with hearing a word used in context, giving you some idea as to what it means.
- To be able to pay attention. Listening skills are more than just being able to hear and understand words. You also need to be able to pay attention and concentrate enough to understand what is being said. Being able to pay attention and listen to a story develops the skills which are required for reading too
- To be able to understand sentences. As well as paying attention, you also need to be able to process longer strings of words, as well as more complex
elements such as tenses and plurals.
What is Elklan training?
Elklan was developed in 1999 by two experienced speech and language therapists, Liz Elks and Henrietta McLachlan, to provide accredited CPD to enable teaching assistants and teachers to better support children with language, speech and communication needs in the classroom all day as they modify the way they teach.
Elklan works with speech and language therapists, training them to become tutors who then cascade accredited courses to education staff, early years practitioners and parents/carers within their locality. This ‘Train the Trainer’ model ensures national reach so that all children with SLCN can be appropriately supported within their preschool and school environments. Not only does Elklan work well with those children with communication needs, but it has also been found to benefit all children in their early years.
Benefits of Elklan
When a member of staff has been trained to use Elklan, whether they are in a mainstream school, special needs class or Early Years environment, they offer a range of benefits to the team. These include:
- Sharing a common language with speech and language therapists and other Elklan-trained staff, allowing information to be explained quickly and efficiently when discussing children’s communication needs
- Understanding the development of speech and language, perfectly placing them to identify children who might have SLCN and being able to refer them for further support.
- Knowing how to interact with and support children in a variety of different situations.
- Knowing how to support children immediately in a classroom context, so that it is less likely that the child will be left behind.
- Being able to help parents to understand where their child is, developmentally, and what can be done at home to support their communication development at home.
- Supporting children with interaction difficulties effectively and managing them appropriately in the education environment.
- Knowing what can be done in the preschool/school context and when to refer on for more specialist assessment and support.
Supporting children with speech, language and communication needs
There are many ways that an Elklan-trained member of staff can modify the way they teach and interact with children, which will have an impact on their oral language and literacy. Elklan trained teachers and teaching assistants know how to change the way they speak to the children and their classroom environment in order to facilitate the learning of all children but especially those with SLCN.
Elklan trains teachers to:
Provide children with processing time by allowing between 3-10 seconds after an instruction has been given to allow for improved answers. Slowing down the speed of conversation, and avoiding sarcasm, jokes and idioms ensure maximum inclusion.
- Comment and model appropriate language rather than asking frequent questions.
- Understand the question levels a child can understand and therefore ask questions at the appropriate level to maximise learning.
- Understand the power of non-verbal communication and how to use it intentionally to facilitate all children’s learning.
- Make the classroom a safe space where appropriate questions are encouraged, and nobody is infallible. Providing the children with visuals to indicate when they need help and practising ‘active listening’ means that everyone feels able to request the assistance they need.
Finally, all these strategies work for children with additional language needs too! So no extra training is required, just applying the principles works!
We hope you have enjoyed this article and if you wish to learn more about Elklan, its philosophies, and its courses, then we would love to hear from you.
Why not give us a call on 01208 841450 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can help.