Learning and Development

Children’s communication – Why we must focus on it in early years to nurture successful writers

  • Children’s communication – Why we must focus on it in early years to nurture successful writers

Language provides the foundation of thinking, talking and learning.

Children who have to navigate the world without a wealth of words are less successful, so it is our duty to teach communication and language precisely and expertly, and equip them with a rich vocabulary on which they can draw.

So how should we put this into practice?

Prioritise language

The overwhelming body of research finds that good teaching is the most important factor to improve outcomes.

As time is so limited, we need to invest in high-impact strategies and CPD that ensure the very young children in our care are exposed to high-quality interaction, effective modelling and a wide range of writing opportunities that go far beyond creating lists, labels and captions.

Nurture deep talk

It’s vital that we don’t sink into sloppy practices in the early years with talk. Sometimes our interactions with children have the quality of ‘talking to’ or ‘talking at’ when what is required is a calm space that focuses on ‘talking with’.

This means we need to consider how we move in the classroom, how we turn to face children, how we establish eye contact on their level and how we foster warm, connected listening.

It’s more beneficial to engage with a child in a deep and meaningful way, at their level, for a short space of time compared to a full day of being in the room and holding surface-level conversations.

This type of engaged conversation needs to be modelled from adult to child so children understand how to continue ‘serve and return’ conversations with their friends.

Make writing happen

All writing should happen on paper of all shapes, sizes and colours as whiteboards are too slippery for young children who are learning the craft of writing.

It’s a big, wide world out there and children need a big, wide range of opportunities to communicate. They need to be able to write advice blogs, letters to characters and adverts to sell their favourite toys.

To be a good teacher of writing, teachers need to intervene in a timely way and furnish children with the right language at the right time.

Getting it right relies on bringing learning to life through ‘meaningful moment’ bags. These are not ‘story sacks’, which are more of a global resource capturing whole stories.

I’m proposing a more-focused approach prior to talking and writing in sentences.

The ‘meaningful moment’ bags are physical bags that include practical artefacts, sound clips, photographs and introductions to experts.

This resource requires a teacher to think hard about how to bring the real world to life. They anchor thinking for children just when they need it.

Practical strategies

These three suggestions are all taken from the ‘EYFS Rainbow’, available at thetrainingspace.co.uk.

  • Together talk
    Create a ‘Web of Attachment’ – a piece of string held between two people that are having a deep conversation. Physically hang phrases/sentences on the string so that promotion of good conversation happens continually, eg “That’s so interesting”, “I’m listening”. You can place a ‘Talking Teepee’ in your setting to provide an encouraging space for conversation.
  • Collector of language
    Actively encourage children to play hide and seek with words in the role play area; the words they find on flash cards will help them talk about what is happening. If you create a café, the words can be themed to be the sounds that would be heard, eg gurgle, sizzle, glug, clank, clink, chop. This leads into more powerful sociodramatic play and helps their language in context to flow freely.
  • Advise
    Kindness should be actively promoted – lots of advice in our setting needs to be around how to self-regulate emotions. Introduce characters in books who are having a hard time, eg Ruby in Ruby’s Worry by Tom Percival; give Ruby advice that shows we have empathetically connected with her situation.

Jane Considine is an English consultant and the author of bestselling books The Write Stuff and Hooked on Books. Find out more about her online CPD at janeconsidine.com.