Why are good speech and language skills important for children at school?

What does “language” even mean? What is it? Well, it can be tricky to define because language is actually a lot of things! But, for the purpose of this post let’s say that language is a form of effective social communication. According to the Raising Children’s Network, language skills support your child’s ability to communicate, and express and understand feelings. It also supports thinking and problem-solving, and developing and maintaining relationships. Learning to understand, use and enjoy language is the critical first step in literacy, and the basis for learning to read and write.

As a teacher, I have seen so many children start school, and transition through the years. It is an absolute pleasure watching children learn and grow. But it is with no doubt in my mind that I can say, children with effective language skills typically have an easier time learning and connecting with their peers than those with poorer language skills.

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Language for Learning

Effective language skills are central to learning. It makes it significantly easier to make sense of the concepts being taught, and to communicate a student’s understanding. In this case, boosting a child’s vocabulary is a critical component in language development and literacy. Young children increase their receptive (listening) and expressive (speaking) language primarily through social interactions. In my experience, a larger vocabulary makes it easier for a child to read and even more importantly, understand what he or she has just read.

Effective language isn’t just important for literacy learning, but it increases Maths understanding too. Many problems in Maths are multifaceted. Encouraging students to think about the various steps and operations required to solve problems. Some problems ask our children to think critically and creatively, and to decipher written and orally delivered problems. With limited language skills, these steps in Maths are significantly harder to fulfil.

Language for Communication and Connection

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Taking the time to develop your child’s language skills prior to school is also vital for their ability to connect and build relationships with their peers. In my opinion, students who can communicate their thoughts and feelings, with increased vocabulary and social awareness, are typically happier at school and thrive in the relationships they form.

School is full of change, problems, collaborative learning and challenges. There will be many times where your child will have to rely on their language skills to navigate their way through a situation in class or out in the school yard.

Consider these scenarios (these are true scenarios that I see every single day at school):

  • There’s a problem amongst friends and your child doesn’t have the language skills to communicate how he or she is feeling and in turn cannot resolve the problem.
  • There is a problem in the yard and your child cannot explain to the teacher what has happened and who is involved.
  • The class program requires your child to work in groups. Sharing tools, communicating ideas and navigating through group work is tough when you can’t express yourself efficiently and clearly.
  • Making friends. Your child sees a child/group of children that he/she wants to play with but doesn’t have the language skills to ask to join in.
  • Your child cannot ask for help when he/she doesn’t understand the task. They sit and wait, waste time, because they are shy, or can’t articulate what they don’t understand or how the learning makes them feel.

What can you do?

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As a teacher, I have seen how quality language skills can make a difference in a child’s experience at school.

Here are some simple ways you can assist your child to build their language skills at home:

Imaginative play. While children are engaged in imaginative play, they are using language skills and new words to enrich their experience.

Talk to your Child. Simple as that! Just talk to your child. Ask your child open-ended questions and encourage them to chat away. Talk about what you’re doing and what you see and feel. It will entice your little ones to speak with you.

Categories. Pick a topic, such as winter, colors or zoo animals, and then have your child talk about things in that category.

Play Dates. Give your children as many opportunities to play with other kids as possible. Let the practice their communication skills with kids of all ages.

Sensory Play. Set up sensory play or craft activities for your child and talk richly about the things your child is experiencing.

Read books. Lastly, and most importantly, READ, READ, READ! It’s so important for children to experience books. There is a plethora of wonderful language in books! Expose your children to all those great words!

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Angelique Loverso

Teacher and blogger

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