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News from Head of Early Years Centre, Michelle Stevens

07 November 2014

Dear All,

Parents are always asking about how they can support their child’s learning at home and are then surprised by the simple answer I most often give. I am a great advocate of the power of speaking and believe that if parents talk with their children, then they are giving them a great gift for life and success in the world.

When parents take the time and effort to create opportunities for real and meaningful talk, children are exposed to a rich oral language culture and this has a positive and significant impact on all aspects of their learning development. The way you talk to your child teaches them how to talk to others. In order to achieve well in an academic setting, children need to be able to effectively use higher order language and if children “cannot talk it, then they cannot write it”. This is why so much time is spent within our classrooms engaging children in talking; in pairs, small groups, or in full class discussions or debates.

When children are involved in ‘talking’, they are articulating their understanding, expressing and defending their thoughts and opinions, acting as peer teachers or givers of feedback and expanding and refining their language and literacy skills. Therefore,  if the purpose of homework is to consolidate and extend children’s learning, then some of the most powerful and impactful  homework is when parents actively engage in discussions and make a conscious effort to talk with their child; talk about what is going on in your child’s life and the lives of parents and other family members; talk about the news and what is happening in the world: allow your child to be enthused about their hobbies or latest interest (even if you are not really interested); ask questions and find out more.

If you also talk about books and reading, this will engage and stimulate children as readers too. At Dąbrowskiego the language at school is English so of course we want children’s English language skills to develop. We do want to expose and engage children in as much English as possible, but it is just as important to develop these oral literacy skills in a child’s first language.

Then children will naturally use and transfer them into their English. It is important that on their journey to developing their language skills in English, we do not devalue and diminish their first language. The main focus is on speaking and listening; whether it is in your mother tongue or another language, get talking!

Michelle Stevens

Head of Early Years Centre