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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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