Communication and Language EYFS – Make a difference

Communication and Language EYFS

The Early Learning Goal for Communication and Language is divided into two parts, one focuses on Listening, Attention and Understanding and the other Speaking. Clearly these two areas go hand in hand when children begin to communicate although receptive language (understanding) develops more quickly than expressive language (speech).

Communication and Language
ELG: Listening, Attention and Understanding
Children at the expected level of development will:

  • Listen attentively and respond to what they hear with relevant questions,
    comments and actions when being read to and during whole class discussions
    and small group interactions.
  • Make comments about what they have heard and ask questions to clarify their
    understanding.
  • Hold conversation when engaged in back-and-forth exchanges with their
    teacher and peers.
    ELG: Speaking
    Children at the expected level of development will:
  • Participate in small group, class and one-to-one discussions, offering their
    own ideas, using recently introduced vocabulary.
  • Offer explanations for why things might happen, making use of recently
    introduced vocabulary from stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems when
    appropriate.
  • Express their ideas and feelings about their experiences using full sentences,
    including use of past, present and future tenses and making use of
    conjunctions, with modelling and support from their teacher.

Children need to achieve this by the end of the reception year once they turn 5. Let’s see how we can get there!

Language Development

Children will pass through a series of stages to acquire language and understanding.

Communication and Language eyfs

The developmental stages of language development are universal but the rate at which children pass through them are not. Some children will pass through them more quickly than others.

Language development milestones allow us to monitor the progress of children as they pass through different stages. Missing out or having difficulty with a particular milestone may indicate that there is a problem which needs to be worked on. There are a number of milestones identified in the communication and language section of Development Matters or you can visit the speech and language website for more information. You may also want to use this handy speech and language chart.

Assessing children’s communication and language development

It is important to assess your children’s communication and language development to find out if they are on track or whether there are specific activities that need to be delivered to support their communication and language development further. There are lots of different tools out there to do this but the one that I use and am most familiar with is The Communication Screen produced by Stoke Speaks Out.

You ask each child a series of 10 questions based on their age in months using objects and a picture book to support. The number they get correct will determine whether there is a concern or not. If the child scores between 8 and 10 correct, there is no concern. If a child scores between 4 and 7 there is some need for intervention and if a child scores between 1 and 3 this indicates that there are some significant delays.

If a child scores between 1 and 3 I then like to go back and do some of the earlier communication screens until the child starts to get a higher score to find out the level that they are working at. Once I know this, I can figure out the steps that I need to take to help the child progress. If a child is age 4 but working at the level of a 2 year old there would be no point me delivering activities which would support a 4 year old’s language development. I need to provide activities that will support the speech development of a 2 year old.

The communication screen allows you to identify areas where the child is having difficulty. You can then put activities in place to support them with this specific area. Some common difficulties are:

  • Understanding concepts e.g. big/little, many/few, long/short
  • Answering who questions
  • Using words ending in ‘ing’
  • Adding ‘s’ to the end of words when there are plural
  • Following instructions with 2, 3 and 4 key words
  • Understanding and using positional language e.g. in, on, under, in front and behind
  • Using words ending in ‘er’ e.g. small/smaller

I carry out practical activities to support children with the above, depending on their needs. I use the booklets below to offer additional support by sending them home after discussion with the parents on how to use them. The first one encourages children to use words ending in ‘ing’ with lots of practical activities and action pictures to discuss.

The second one supports with understanding positional language in, on and under with lots of practical activities and advice on how to complete them.

Children follow the instructions, remove the correct picture and put it in the correct place. There are several different pictures with lots of different possibilities for instructions giving children lots of opportunities to consolidate their understanding of positional language. It is a little difficult to demonstrate ‘in’ using these pictures alone so it is important that activities include putting items inside boxes, bags etc. to reinforce what it means to be inside. This can be done by following some of the other activities suggested in the book.

The third one gets the children to follow 3 word level instructions. These are instructions in which children have to understand 3 key words in order to be able to do them. The words are in bold, just to highlight them. At the front of the booklet there are lots of useful tips for carrying out 3 word level instructions in order to get the best from your children. At the back of the booklet, there are more 3 word level activities which can be done in a practical way.

The pictures are again kept in place with velcro and then moved to their correct position once the instruction has been asked.

I regularly revisit the communication screen to ensure that the child is making progress and that my activities are still appropriate.

Progression in Language Framework

Alex Bedford in his book EYFS – Language of Learning has used Joan Tough’s research to reimagine her systematic language development framework outlined below.

In order to ensure that we are providing the right opportunities for children to develop appropriate language we need to know exactly where children sit in relation to the diagram above. Our children with poor communication skills are likely to fall into the areas where they are using language for directive function i.e. getting their needs met. We need to provide them with opportunities that will move their communication skills into the area of interpretive function. This will be done by a combination of questioning and modeling.

Use the record sheet below to record your children’s names in the relevant sections to give you an accurate picture of your children to allow you to better plan for their communication needs. On the back of the sheet there are question starters or examples for each of the aspects of language to assist with your assessment.

Complete a new assessment each term to check that your children are making progress.

For a free assessment pack for communication visit my writing blog.

Communication and Language EYFS and Dummies

speech development

While speech development and dummies don’t complement each other dummies definitely have a place for young babies, and parents give them to their children for a wide range of reasons. Some parents use them to prevent their child from thumb sucking which can be much harder to give up as the child gets older. Dummies can act as a source of comfort and help a baby to settle, while premature babies are given them to encourage their sucking skills which can be under developed initially.

Dummies and Speech Development

The NHS recommend that babies give up their dummies between the age of 6 and 12 months as prolonged use can lead to some negative effects on later speech development. Children will begin to make sounds around this time and use of the dummy may discourage this from happening. Children will be less likely to copy words and sounds when they have a dummy in their mouth and this will impact on their speech development at a later date.

Children need to learn how to move their tongue in a variety of ways in order to make the full range of speech sounds in the English language. If a dummy is over used, it can prevent this development resulting in sounds and speech that are unclear. Using a dummy for a prolonged period of time can also impact upon the way in which a child’s teeth grow which will further affect a child’s ability to communicate.

teeth, child smile, child

Suppporting children in giving up their dummy

Unfortunately, the longer a child has a dummy the harder it is to give up and for this reason you will have a number of children in your nursery and Reception classes who still have a dummy. As communication and language is key to a child’s development in all areas it is important that children are encouraged to give up their dummies as soon as possible if they are to make progress and fulfil their potential. Sometimes parents just need a bit of encouragement and support in order to take this next, important step. It can be a little bit daunting taking something from a child that they clearly love and rely on.

Running a workshop and inviting parents of children with dummies to attend would be a good way to start. Visit my blog on parent workshops which explains how you can do this and offer support to parents in this sometimes difficult process. My book ‘Give Up Your Dummy Matilda‘ features in the workshop and will support children in the process.

Communication and Language EYFS Activities in a Language Rich Environment

Free Recipe for your Role Play Area

Communication and language development and literacy are inextricably linked. Children need to understand language in order to be able to read and if children can’t say it, they can’t write it. For this reason it is important that we create a language rich environment.

One of the best ways to improve communication and language skills in the Early Years classroom is through story. Immerse children in books at every opportunity. Theme the activities in your classroom around stories pre-teaching the vocabulary in the book beforehand explaining any tier 2 words that the children haven’t met before.

Tier 2 words are words are ambitious words which usually have more than one meaning and can be used across a range of subjects and themes. For example, we may say that ‘the classroom is quiet’, or we could introduce children to a new tier 2 word and say ‘the classroom is peaceful’. Revisit the vocabulary as often as possible to reinforce as it is only through repetition that they will remember and use it.

Read your children at least one good quality story a day in an animated way with lots of props and puppets where possible. Careful questioning about the story can encourage more language and communication from your children and these should be specifically targeted according to their language development needs. Your progression in language assessment will help with this, identifying which type of questions need to be asked and to which children.

Role play areas are a great way to develop your children’s communication and language skills in a language rich environment. Always make sure that the children can relate to your choices. There is no point having a role play area that the children are not able to interact with due to a lack of experience. Linking them to your stories will really help to bring them to life.

Take every opportunity to talk to your children in their play, working hard to repeat new vocabulary, sharing information, questioning and having fun. You will have a lot of chatterboxes before you know it!