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Communication and language

It is important to us that every child at North Islington is able to communicate effectively with the staff and their friends. We hope that all children are able to do this independently by the time that they leave us to go to reception class. There are lots of ways in which staff across the school support children to become effective communicators. We encourage the very youngest children to use gestures, and Makaton is our ‘universal language across the school’. Staff model signs and say the corresponding word so that children become familiar with signs and words. In the baby room, signing and gestures enable children to express themselves and make simple requests, long before the use of single words.

Visual aids are used for some children so that words used are matched with a photograph. This allows children to communicate by pointing to a photograph when something is desired or chosen. This type of communication is also two way, and staff use photos to express a task/instruction such as to indicate that it is “Story Time” to support this transition. Visual aids also help children to feel more in control of communicating their learning/intentions by being able to express wishes or choices without frustration.

Some children will be provided with specific support around the development of their communication skills such as one to one time, language intervention groups or targeted support from our link Speech and Language Therapist. All of this work is always done in partnership with parents and provides extra opportunities for children to be effective communicators.

Staff play alongside children and offer language during play. Although our intention is not to question children, we offer language that will widen vocabularies and encourage children to be inquisitive. Staff differentiate language used with children to ensure that it is age/stage appropriate and relevant. Knowing what to say and when can be tricky and can put children off or make them feel put on the spot. This is why we subtly talk alongside children rather than directing too many questions at them. Pondering and wondering are far better ways of encouraging thinking and conversation than asking questions that require a ‘yes’, ‘no’ or a correct answer.

Staff at North Islington Nursery School will consistently model and facilitate, opportunities for developing attention and listening skills. Staff have high expectations of children’s ability to take notice of what others say and to also show that this is reciprocated. Staff model how to hold conversations and encourage children to wait their turn. Group times, even for the very young children, are used to develop children’s listening and attention skills. We play games to support children being able to tune into different environmental sounds and to model conversation and discussions.

We are very fortunate to have a wonderful selection of children’s fiction and non fiction books.

Stories are read frequently with children and they offer valuable points for developing vocabularies and conversations. Staff will provide books that match children’s interests and books are seen in all areas of the classroom. Songs and rhymes also offer the same rich opportunities for learning words and the meaning of words.

Helicopter Stories

In the nursery class the staff have had bespoke training to be able to deliver Helicopter Stories. Simply, Helicopter Stories, allow children to dictate their own stories which adults write down, exactly as told and then later, groups of children gather and the stories are acted out. The ethos of this activity is that the child is at the centre of it. Children are encouraged to describe their own thoughts into stories that are then shared in a group.

The benefits of this approach:

• An inclusive, whole-class approach which values every child’s contribution;

• Facilitates high levels of engagement;

• Creates confidence and self-assurance;

• Supports the development of speaking skills as children express and share their ideas;

• Helps to develop accurate, active listening skills and understanding;

• Supports co-operative and collaborative and creative learning;

• Develops positive relationships within a shared storytelling experience;

• Allows children to explore early literacy and the power of words as they see their stories come to life, and develop their ability to use and adapt language to communicate;

• Offers children a bridge into the world of creative writing as they begin to see the links between the oral stories they compose and the words on a page.