OLLi inspires ECE literacy confidence

Issue: Volume 98, Number 10

Posted: 17 June 2019
Reference #: 1H9v8R

The children and teachers at Peterhead Kindergarten in Flaxmere, Hastings, have renewed their love of books and storytelling by using the Ministry of Education’s Oral Language and Literacy Initiative (OLLi).

Peterhead Kindergarten was one of the first kindergartens in the Heretaunga Kindergarten Association to take part in the Ministry of Education’s Oral Language and Literacy Initiative (OLLi) in the Hawke's Bay/Tairāwhiti region.

Speech language therapist Louise Holdcroft is the OLLi facilitator in the region and, to date, has worked with 36 ECEs.

“Two teachers/kaiako from each centre undergo training and attend the ABC and Beyond programme to build their own skills and practice in supporting the language and literacy of young children. OLLi also encourages teachers to begin an internal evaluation, with a focus on improving their practices around oral language and literacy,” she says.

Louise says the teachers at Peterhead Kindergarten were very motivated to participate in OLLi. Some of the children had delayed language development, and the teachers wanted to build their own skills to be able to identify and support these children and those who will attend their kindergarten in the future.

They decided they wanted to make some changes because of the feedback from their ERO report and their own observations.

“While there is still a need for Ministry learning support specialists to be involved for some children, the work through OLLi enabled the teachers to devise a robust process that works specifically for their tamariki,” says Louise.

“The teachers are now able to recognise how a child’s communication is progressing and they can make plans to support and monitor their progress over time. The programme has given them more tools to talk to whānau and the schools the children will attend.”

Renewed excitement for books and stories

Peterhead Kindergarten teacher Sarah Hopkins says the kindergarten had become aware it needed to work more on communication skills.

“Lots of our children were using non-verbal communication and we were wanting to increase their communication and literacy, so the programme was perfect timing for us.

“[OLLi] refreshed many of the basic principles and importance of book reading, while providing meaningful techniques to optimise learning outcomes through reading with children,” says Sarah. “It also created an excitement and energy within the team towards storytelling.

“It was great because it inspired us to put literacy at the forefront again. It gave us some new techniques and refreshed old ones.”

Sarah adds that OLLi has been going for three terms at the kindergarten and has revived the passion for books and storytelling.

“We started a whole new reading initiative after OLLi and it’s really taken off. We have identified children who we spend regular one-on-one time with, just sitting down and reading together. The Kindergarten Association sourced and supported funding, which meant we could have additional time to read and talk with these children each day, using the strategies from ABC and Beyond to develop their language and literacy.

“All the children get so excited about the one-on-one time. They say: ’Can I have a turn? Can I have a turn?”

The passion for stories was extended further with resources suggested by Louise, such as puppets, props and storytelling kits, which the children use frequently when acting out and telling stories.

“At mat time the children are quite confident at acting out the stories. They did it before but not to the extent they are now.

“It is now a common theme each day to see children in small groups retelling and acting out stories because they find the joy in it,” says Sarah.

Involving whānau

Peterhead Kindergarten involves whānau by videoing their children and sharing the videos with families. They have also developed literacy packs that the children take home and share with other family members.

“Whānau really enjoy it. They tell us ‘I didn’t have to read her a story – she read it to me!’” says Sarah.

The kindergarten has collected data that has shown improvement.

“A lot of our learning came back to encouraging children to communicate verbally, engage in sustained conversations and to increase their word knowledge in fun and meaningful ways. Throughout the whole kindergarten, we have noticed children are using longer sentences, have increased word knowledge and more sound clarity in their speech,” says Sarah.

Louise says that the programme encourages teachers to reflect on their practice and make changes at a level and pace they can handle. “It allows them to be more purposeful and gives them a chance to do things differently,” she says.

“In this role I now spend time directly with teachers. It’s a different way of working from what I was used to [as a speech language therapist] and focuses on the link between language and literacy, which has always been my passion.”

Empowering teachers

Teachers are also empowered when they find that having more sustained conversations can strengthen their relationships with children and whānau.

“I love the moments when teachers discover that the changes they make in their practice have a huge impact on children’s language; when they realise they are the key to supporting children and when they become excited about having conversations and reading books with children,” says Louise.

Although the results of the formal evaluation of OLLi are not yet available, the teachers at Peterhead Kindergarten have observed improvements in children’s vocabulary, rhyme and knowledge of print, she says.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 8:52 am, 17 June 2019

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