Oral language initiative gives confidence to teachers and children

Issue: Volume 98, Number 6

Posted: 8 April 2019
Reference #: 1H9swQ

A professional development opportunity for early learning centres has shown amazing results for those who have taken part.

The outdoor environment provides a peaceful setting for Brookie (left) and Atama to share books for leisure at their own pace.

Beginning last year, the Oral Language and Literacy initiative (OLLi) is one of three Ministry of Education initiatives that aim to invest for social wellbeing.

The initiative enhances teacher knowledge, practices and confidence to successfully support children’s oral language and early literacy development. This learning is underpinned by each early learning service’s curriculum.

Educare Kensington Manager Bridget Chapman says her centre had a high proportion of tamariki with speech language delay.

“A quarter of our children had significant language delay, and of course there came all the social and behavioural problems that come with that.”

Creating a new culture

To provide extra support, Bridget sent two teachers to take part in the seven-session programme from March to June last year.

“If I went myself and returned to lead it, I knew that it wouldn’t have the same impact. There would not be the ownership that there needed to be,” she says.

“Basically what we needed to do was to create a new culture, but we weren’t at that stage yet.”

Although the teachers were nervous about being videoed in their work and unpacking their practices, the results made the learning journey worth it.

“There was a lot of knowledge, it was practical, it was helpful. You can go to professional development and have things reinforced around strategies and cultures within the centre, but with this one there was new information to learn, so that was motivating.”

Oriana views herself as a reader, writer, storyteller and book creator, as she and her kaiako undertake research of the word 'useful'.

Slowing down the pace

Although the centre has always had a strong literacy programme, the professional development opportunity helped the programme “really take off”, Bridget says.

“I’m passionate about literacy, but it became a lot more than that. Our focus was that books are for sharing; our biggest focus is that tamariki access books for pleasure and see a book as a beautiful thing that’s going to entertain them or help them find out information or help them learn,” she says.

“Early learning centres are busy places and we were beginning to feel guilty about taking too long in the book corner reading to a child, that there were things to be done, other teaching to be done. We slowed it right down and sharing a book became a conversation again.”

The result is children and teachers now turn reading into a conversation and focus on sharing what is in the book, having conversations and promoting new language.

“It’s ongoing. I listen to teachers in the book corner now and the book area is a place where teachers sit and learn about children and have beautiful conversations. The children take the lead now and if we don’t finish the book that doesn’t matter because it’s not about that.”

Finding the ‘juiciness’

Willie Paul takes the time to settle his daughter Alyssa by sharing a book as part of their morning routine.

Children are more confident to make up new words, both with teachers and amongst themselves.

“We find the ‘juiciness’ in words and literacy. They know how to make jokes and play around with words for fun. This was all child-led, with us taking it back to the basics, slowing things down and really having the strategies to extend the conversations that we’re having with tamariki.”

More children are staying on at the centre when they reach five as parents can see their children are developing at a very natural but rich pace, Bridget says.

“There was one example of a teacher reading Room on the Broom and the dragon was far away in the picture and looked small. The child asked: ‘Why does the dragon look so small in this picture when we know that dragons aren’t small?’ We all went out on the field and she stood at one end with the teacher and videoed us running from the other end of the field, 100 metres away, and made her own working theories around it.”

Teachers are now more confident to let children lead learning and trust that children have the questions to guide the programme.

The written word is regularly incorporated into daily conversations with tamariki at the centre.

“We don’t have a planning wall anymore because we trust that our children feel confident to guide their own learning, as long as we are proactive and ready to respond accordingly to what emerges during the day and during these shared moments.”

The centre worked with whānau to undertake a self-review and three parents have now attended an oral language course.

What teachers are saying...

“One of the strategies that was introduced to us through the OLLi PD was ‘Strive for five’. This strategy is where the teacher/adult aims to have conversations with the tamariki that go back and forth at least five times.

“Studies show that children who participate frequently in extended conversations with adults have better language and literacy outcomes. This strategy allows the child to gain both valuable language input and increase conversational practice. It can be used by reading a story to a child but there are many opportunities throughout the day where this may be used.” – Heidi Hammann.

“I really enjoyed using the technique of POP (point out print). We introduced our tamariki to following print in books or their stories by following/tracing with their finger. We noticed our tamariki initiated this while they were reading independently or with friends.

“POP helps our tamariki to recognise not only print in books, but all around them. They became very active in writing down their ideas to share with others.” – Kylie Newson.

What is the Oral Language and Literacy initiative?

The Oral Language and Literacy initiative (OLLi) has a particular focus on three- and four-year-old children and provides three levels of support to specific early learning services in eight regions across New Zealand.

Universal (tier 1): working with the early learning service to support all teachers to design, implement and evaluate a curriculum that promotes oral language as an integral part of literacy learning and development. This includes making teaching and learning of oral language visible and deliberate with all children within the service.

Targeted (tier 2): delivering the Hanen ABC and Beyond programme to two teachers from each participating early learning service to help them explicitly develop language and literacy skills in young children who may need more support with their language. Participating early learning services will select the two teachers to attend this free professional learning and development programme in consultation with the speech-language therapist (SLT).

Specialist (tier 3): while the above two tiers form a strong base for oral language and early literacy development for all children, SLTs will work with the teachers to provide additional, tailored support for the few children who may need more specific help with language.

This support is being provided by 11 specially trained Ministry of Education SLTs.

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

Posted: 11:43 am, 8 April 2019

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