5 Top-Tips to help your child before they go back to school
Updated: Jul 6
Did you sign up to various learning websites and print loads of work-sheets and resources when lock-down was announced?
And are they now gathering dust in your 'to do’ tray?
If you're anything like me, you made a wise decision a few weeks into lock-down, that your sanity was your priority, and now..... you're panicking just how far behind your child will be when they go back to school!
But don't worry, help is at hand!
Nursery, reception and year 1 classes are speech and language enriched environments where children improve their sound awareness and learn topic-based vocabulary to support their reading and writing activities. So it makes sense to help your child with their speech and language development, to ensure they have a strong foundation in the skills required for literacy tasks, before going back to school.
Here are my 5 top tips to prepare your child for going back to school .......without needing to download or buy any resources!
Model the sounds your child struggles to say
The focus in key-stage 1 is on reading and writing, but lots of children start school not being able to say all the sounds of the alphabet- this is normal. The problem happens when children are learning to read and write and their speech is delayed. Just think- if your child can't say it, then they can't read it or write it either!
If your child is in year 1, or due to start in September, and can’t say ‘k’ and ‘g’ sounds then it’s likely they’ll need speech therapy. However, parents can support children by using the sound the child can’t say in an exaggerated way, and often. This is known as 'modelling' and gives the child a clear heard model of what the sound SHOULD sound like in words.
I’m working with a child who can’t say 'f' - so says ‘beet’ for feet and 'night' for knife. I've advised his mum to use sentences like this:
“Would you like fish fingers for your food?” “Do you want four or five?”
So emphasise the sound you want to target!
When praising your child, be specific!
It may sound obvious, but children respond extremely well to praise. With speech and language, it works best when the praise is specific. For example, if your child has difficulty saying ‘k’ and ‘g’ and then suddenly says a word using one of these sounds correctly, highlight to your child they've got it right!
E.g. “Great speaking! You said ‘k’ at the end of your word - duck!”
Even if your child does n’t always get it right, praise them for “Great trying!” Avoid telling your child they are wrong, instead - use modelling and praise them for trying!
E.g. If your child says she can see a “dat” You say, “That’s right! It’s a cat – CAT –cat!”
Expand on what your child has told you
This is a form of modelling - as the adult repeats what the child has said but adds new words into the sentence. It helps children who speak in brief phrases and words to use fuller, more detailed, sentences when talking.
E.g. If your child points and says “dog” use praise and expand on this by saying, “That’s right, it’s a big black dog!”
Make word-learning learning fun!
This is a great activity for younger children, especially when they’ve missed early years sessions - which are rich in early vocab learning. All you need to do is find a cloth bag or box and some household items (make sure they are not sharp or dangerous!). Put 6 of the items from around the house in front of your child and, as you name them, ask your child to point to each one. Once they have demonstrated their understanding of these words, you can then hide the items in the cloth bag or box. See if your child can remember the name of each item you take out. You can develop this further by talking about the item throughout the day
E.g. Brush – “I’m going to brush my hair!” “Brush your hair!” “Where’s my brush?”
When your child is engrossed in play, sit beside them and talk about what they are doing
Talking about what your child is doing while they play is a great way for them to learn the right words that go with their thinking. Here they can map new words onto objects and learn action words as you describe what they are doing.
E.g “Jamie is taking the red car” “The car is at the top of the slide” “The car slides down and crashes into the truck”
This may seem odd at first, but with repeated practice your child will then develop their vocabulary and speak in sentences. Also, avoid asking too many questions or talking about things they are not looking at when they play.
E.g. “You have a cow, what noise does a cow make? What drink do we get from a cow?” Eek -No!!
Just let your child lead and describe what they are doing!
So to summarise:
1. Model good speech to target the right sounds
2. Praise your child often
3. Expand on what your child has said
4. Make word-learning fun
5. Talk about what your child is doing
.............And remember to have fun!
Lisa Taylor-Jones is a Speech and Language Therapist and the founder of Step Up Speech and Language. She provides a speech and language therapy service to Plymouth primary schools to close the gap for their most vulnerable children. She also runs early years programmes to ensure children have 'school ready' skills by the time they start school. She takes on private cases and delivers therapy to children in Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall.