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Speech and Language in the Classroom

The Blog

Friday, 16 September 2016

How Communication Friendly Is Your Classroom? By Heather Stevens, SaLT

Approximate reading time: 2 mins, 30 secs.
How Communication Friendly is your classroom? Heather Stevens explores ways to maximise the classroom space to support language development.
If a stranger walked into your school what would be their first impression? How does your school welcome them?

Perhaps their eye would be drawn to your displays? Where would they see children working together? How easy would it be for them to identify the places that encourage children to talk?

The new National Curriculum recognises the need to improve oracy for all pupils. OFSTED’s survey, Removing Barriers to Literacy, reported that a common feature of the most successful schools was the attention they gave to developing speaking and listening. This also led to improved standards in writing.

Creating Communication Friendly Spaces

Effective communication friendly spaces give children a reason to talk as well as offering a place in which to do it.
The best spaces will have:
- A level of intimacy – e.g. a den, tent, large cardboard box
- Lower levels of background noise
- Role play opportunities that encourage dialogue through sharing or co-operation, e.g. shops or work places, telephone conversations, gardening, etc.
Former Communication Champion, Jean Gross, highlights the importance of identifying places to talk throughout the school. She suggests carrying out an audit of your environment to identify areas that are hotspots for encouraging talking and those which need to be developed to make them more communication friendly.
Some things to try: Communication Friendly Classroom
The Elizabeth Jarman Trust has developed a tool-kit called “Communication Friendly Spaces” which focuses on ‘de-cluttering’ the learning environment to support children’s listening and speaking skills.

Visit for more information on the Communication Friendly Spaces approach and to view the wide range of books and resources available.

Using The Existing Space To Encourage Communication
Sometimes it’s not about creating new spaces for talking but rather adapting existing spaces to give children a reason to talk and question. Wall displays around the school provide an excellent conversation starter for all pupils.

Communication Friendly Displays Should:
- Pose questions for pupils, e.g. what’s missing, why is this picture on the wall?
- Link to targets in pupils’ work.
- Use topic vocabulary.
- Provide a consistent approach to colour coding or question formats, e.g. colour coded questions, use of symbols.
- Encourage pupils to look beneath the surface, e.g. lift the flap.
- Be placed at the right level for children to access them easily

For some examples of communication friendly display boards visit Linda Hartley’s blog at  

Visit our website to download your copy of The Link’s talk friendly environment audit to see where the best talking spaces are in your school.

References: Removing Barriers to Literacy available from Gross, J. (2013) A Time to Talk: Implementing outstanding practice in speech, language and communication. Routledge: Oxon

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Friday, 9 September 2016

SLCN Glossary 2, by Heather Stevens, SaLT

Approximate reading time: 2 mins, 30 secs.
SLCN Glossary: Speech Delay versus Speech Disorder

Speech Delay versus Speech Disorder
It’s not difficult to appreciate that a child’s speech skills take a while to develop and that it can be difficult to understand the speech of little ones when they first start to talk. What is more difficult to get to grips with is the fact that speech sounds develop in a particular order and that certain substitutions are “normal”. Some two year olds may be very talkative but there will be sounds that they are not yet able to use and that we would not expect them to use. If they make the “normal” substitutions we, as listeners, know what they are trying to say.

There are a number of normal developmental processes that affect the speech sounds of young children. The most common are:

Where a sound made at the back of the mouth is replaced by a sound made at the front. For example: instead of “cup” you might hear a child say “tup” and instead of “book” you might hear “boot”.

Final consonant deletion: 
Where the last sound in a word is left off. For example, for “bus” you might hear “bu_”.

Where a child uses a short sound (also known as a plosive or a stop) instead of a long sound (also known as a fricative). For example, using /t/ instead of the long sound /s/. So you might hear “tock” instead of “sock”.

If these normal processes persist for longer than expected a child can be described as having delayed speech. In other words, they are following the normal developmental pattern but at a slightly slower rate.

A child who is making errors that do not fit into this normal developmental pattern or is substituting sounds that we would not expect to hear is described as having disordered speech. This may be the result of a physical or mechanical problem such as a hearing loss or cleft palate. It may be the result of a difficulty with motor coordination. Some children have specific difficulty processing and discriminating between speech sounds. Vowel sound difficulties are not part of the normal developmental pattern of speech and are usually associated with a speech disorder.

Children who have disordered speech should always be discussed with a speech and language therapist (SaLT).

Speech Link is an assessment and intervention package that helps schools decide if a pupil has a
speech delay or a speech disorder. The Speech Link evaluation takes into account the age of a child and uses developmental norms to establish whether or not a child is making the appropriate sounds for their age. When a delay is identified by the Speech Link screen, the package will provide speech sound programmes and resources for the school to use to develop the pupil’s speech.

The Speech Link evaluation will also identify when a child is using unusual or unexpected substitutions and recommend discussion with SaLT. 

Order of Development of Speech Sounds Age Established sounds Emerging sounds 2 – 2 ½ years p, b, t, d, m, n k, g, y, ng, w, h 2 ½ - 3 years k, g, y, ng, w, h f, s, l 3 - 3½ years f, s, l z, v 3½ - 4 years z, v, ch Some blends, j/dge, 4 – 5 years j/dge, blends r, th, sh 5 – 7 years Complex blends Sh, r, th

To find out more about how Speech Link can help your school visit

Read more from our SLCN Glossary.

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Friday, 2 September 2016

SLCN Glossary 1, by Heather Stevens, SaLT

Approximate reading time: 3 mins.
SLCN Glossary, by Heather Stevens, SaLT
Here at Speech Link Multimedia Ltd. our focus is on communication and so it’s especially important that we communicate effectively with our users. We are mindful that sometimes speech and language therapists can be guilty of using technical terms or terms that may not hold the same meaning for our colleagues in education.

Over time it is our intention to put together a glossary, which will also appear in our Link Magazine, to define a few terms in detail. Let’s start with some of the broad terms that are used regularly in relation to children with SLCN.

Receptive Language:
This is the term speech and language therapists use to describe the language that someone understands. It is the skill that Language Link focuses on and refers not only to the understanding of vocabulary but also the understanding of grammar and the way that language works in different contexts. In the process of language development understanding proceeds spoken language, in other words a child is able to understand more language than they are able to use. The terms receptive language, comprehension or understanding may be used interchangeably. Throughout the Language Link packages we use the term understanding.

It is very hard to identify that a child is having difficulty understanding language as it is not an observable skill. Language Link is designed to identify children with difficulty understanding language and will highlight the areas of language where a child needs support.

Spoken Language:
This describes the language that someone is able to use. It is important to distinguish between spoken language and speech. The term spoken language encompasses a variety of skills only one of which is speech.

It describes vocabulary and the grammar used to combine and structure the words into meaningful communication. The term expressive language is often used by speech therapists to describe language output. A difficulty with spoken language may manifest itself as difficulty learning or remembering vocabulary or difficulty using grammar to sequence thoughts and ideas coherently.

The terms expressive language and spoken language can be used interchangeably.

Throughout the Speech Link Multimedia Ltd. packages we use the term spoken language.

It is usually easier to identify that a child has a spoken language difficulty because what the child says may be difficult for the listener to follow or understand.

Speech is the physical process of forming and combining speech sounds into recognisable strings of language. It is one medium that we can use to embody the language that we want to communicate. We can also use the written medium or the medium of non-verbal gestures or signs.

If a child has a speech problem it will be obvious to the listener. It is easy to identify that there is a problem but it can be more tricky to work out exactly where the problem lies. Speech Link is designed to identify the sounds that a child is having problems with.

Find out more:

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