With the beginning of a new school year in September, lots of schools will have new members of staff. Some will have lots of experience and feel confident with working with children who need a little extra help. Some new colleagues may need a little extra help to build their confidence and feel reassured that they are doing the right thing.
Here are my top 5 ways you can be more Speech and Language friendly in a school environment.
1. Use Visuals
Use visual timetables to show the children what activity they are doing and what will be next. Encourage them to refer to the timetable when they ask about lunch or home time.
Don’t forget to take down the picture of the activities that have been completed, this will help the children keep track of where they are in the day.
Do you have display boards that the children can refer to? Are you pointing to them regularly to help your class get into the habit of checking the boards before they check with you?
Is there a clock and can your pupils see when it will be time for the next activity? Do you need to use timers for children who need a nudge to finish their work on time?
Are there identifiable areas such as a book corner or the ‘confiscation station’ where items are removed to and returned at the end of the day? Are there labels on containers for children to know where to tidy things to?
2. Focus their Attention
Make sure the children are looking at you when you are talking them. Get their attention by calling their name or using a musical instrument.
Be mindful of when you have been talking for too long and lost the attention of some of your pupils.
Consider a reward system for when children have paid good attention. This could just be a ‘thumbs up’ or you could use a resource such as a stamper or sticker chart.
Make sure you use eye contact to get the children’s attention. They will focus much more on what you are saying if they are actually looking at you.
3. Support Comprehension
Talk in short sentences and ask the children to repeat back instructions to you.
Use pictures, gestures and signing where possible. This visual information will help their comprehension and memory.
Try to talk in a slow pace to allow the children time to process your words, especially if you are introducing a new topic with new vocabulary.
Give instructions as steps, counting off the command on your fingers i.e. “get your red books, open to a new page and write the date”.
Help the student to understand the topic by relating it to their own life e.g. “can you imagine how you would feel if…” “think of a time when you did…”
Don’t forget to praise good efforts made, even if their answer was wrong.
4. Offer Choices
Some children find it hard to answer open-ended questions like “what did you do today?”. Instead, try to offer a forced choice e.g. “did you read a story or sing a song?” You may need to offer a silly forced choice for some more tricky questions e.g. “5 add 3, is the answer fish fingers or 8?”
Offer children a choice of activity to do after their work is finished. Not only will this motivate them to get their work done but by giving them a choice of activity they will have a sense of ownership over their working and enjoy the reward.
5. Be Patient
Some children will need a few extra moments to process your words before they respond. Try counting to 3 before you give your instructions again.
Allow for pauses in your talking so that children can have the opportunity to clarify or ask for repetitions.
Some children make small steps towards progress which will only show over longer periods of time. They may not make notable progress over a month but may do over a whole term.
Be patient with yourself. This is a long list of things to remember, on top of all of the other things you have to do. It will take time for you to grow in confidence and experience.
I’ve included a handy checklist on my freebies page for you to print out and stick on the wall. It’s a helpful visual resource with short, listed sentences to help you remember the top 5 ways to be more speech and language friendly.