Building communication and language with EAL children

Building communication and language with EAL children

Thank you to Shabnum Bi at Anglesey Playgroup for the writing to us about her setting’s practice in communication and language. 


Shabnum says:

Anglesey Playgroup in the West Midlands is based in the voluntary sector and mainly caters for vulnerable families within the local area. The children are aged 2-5 years and mainly have English as an Additional Language (EAL).   Our main emphasis is placed on building children's communication and language from an early age of development. We achieved Ofsted Grade 1 Outstanding in October 2018.


We would like to share some of our approaches that we are particularly proud of in communication and language that are now embedded within our setting.


We assess children's levels of communication and language on entry by carrying out the 2-year-old development checks, which are used as best fit criteria as a starting point. The tool highlights if children are or are not yet at the expected level of communication and the results are analysed to see if children need intensive support with language development. We have discussions with parents and referrals are made to relevant agencies for those that require extra support such as speech and language therapists. In addition, SEN support plans are devised to support communication and language by incorporating targets which are specific to each child's language and development needs.


We help to develop pre-communication skills of joint attention by offering objects as reference which are used to represent a child. Over time the child learns that objects are used to help understand what's happening in their environment to help make choices. It’s a good idea to keep all the objects in a bag in the same place and be consistent. Each child starts off by pointing to the object and then later names the single choice of object. This builds up communication and language gradually and effectively.


We also focus on building children's attention by using a wide range of resources that motivate each child. These activities are highly focused on building children's communication and language by using activities that are based on listening and attention and shared adult focus. To implement these further we also introduce using pictures of favourite T.V characters that are also useful to gain children's attention. 


We also gain children's attention even for brief moments using an intensive interaction type approach e.g. initially the adult will copy, mirror and gently interact with each child through shared focus activities such as splashing water, playing a drum, collaborative play, turn taking and language games, which all focus on building communication and language.


We also use different types of schemas to develop and support children's communication and language.  For example, when focusing on the schema ‘connecting’ a child will be interested in joining things together so staff offer children truck cars, train sets, masking tapes, boxes and blocks, so children can enjoy the schema, joining and taking apart again and encouraging children to connect with adults and share their construction models. We also love the rotation schema and enable the child to enjoy attention on things that spin and things that have wheels.  This provides endless opportunities for using all the setting’s outdoor equipment as well as mixing and stirring activities and chalks and crayons for drawing circles. 


We also incorporate activities around making sounds and encourage children to express their favourite games by using gestures, sounds, or pointing using their finger to the object. These focused activities are adult-led, specifically focusing on the Early Years Summary Profile assessments which are used to assess children's communication and language taken from the early years development bands. This is a key tool to use for those children who have specific delay in communication and language development. 



We are proud that Anglesey Playgroup has developed such a strong ethos of developing children's communication and language.   Here are a few quotes from our Ofsted report of which we are proud:

"Children gain wonderful first-hand opportunities to expand their understanding of people, families and communities through creativity, imagination and innovative teaching.”"
"Staff go the extra mile to ensure children get the support they need and to help them make substantial progress."
“Staff expertly adapt their teaching to cater for all children, including those who have a delay in their development. For example, they skilfully and consistently use hand gestures and visual symbols for signing words. These combined methods contribute remarkably to children's understanding, communication and language development.”

Shabnum Bi is the Playgroup Manager at Anglesey Playgroup. 

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