Our school received 'Communication friendly status' within the last year. Its an accolade well earned as all of the staff have worked tremendously hard at introducing strategies which have made impact on all of the children.
However with anything it requires constant work in order for it to remain successful. Over the last few years with such influx of children with different and difficult needs we have let slip a lot of the things which made us so great. So we're working on developing these again and have already seen some wonderful results.
Having done a lot of work around makaton in the past few years we're working on refreshing this for the swathes of new staff we now have working in the setting.
We decided to begin with 5 new signs and to start this in the snack area. The snack area seemed the easiest because thats one where we already use quite a lot of makaton already.
Our signs were:
In the 2 year old nursery: More, milk, finished, snack, water
In the 3/4 nursery: Milk, water, please, thank you, more.
Ideally we should be thinking about more of that higher level language which our children should be learning compared to the 2's but as we're introducing makaton to these children it isn't possible to do that just yet. In the future we can focus on new language.
Next we designed a display which had makaton posters (signs) on them as the children would sign them. We also included some symbols (see below).
On this board there are also some objects of reference. Objects of reference are for children who are pre-symbols and sign but whose communication skills are very low. They see the cups and know that that means snack time and they follow you to the snack table. (top right hand corner).
In our setting we are just rolling out symbols to use with the whole cohort. Until now we have focussed on using them on lanyards for our SEN children. They are good but I've always been a bit reluctant to use them because I feel that the signs come first. I have introduced these in a couple of areas alongside the makaton sign and the picture.
The beauty of the symbols is that a symbol of a cup in the roleplay area would be the same as the one in the snack. The children learn the purpose of an object despite it (the cup) looking slightly different. Its use remains constant.
We can also use the symbols to request that a child does something such as a symbol for toilet. We often use these with the SEN children but children with EAL would also benefits from such a strategy.
Colour coded question words:
Colour coded questions and words are a strategy our Designated special provision has introduced to the school. The question work is coloured and each corresponding answer or phrase is coloured to match this.
In nursery we have started on a very basic level with 'what' and 'what doing'. I did sneak a 'how' into the display below because I felt that it was relevant with colour mixing.
Each key word (we usually display 5-6 in each area) is coloured to match the corresponding question. For example a noun would be blue because it is a 'what' word. A verb would be yellow because it is a 'what doing' word. I do appreciate that the children cannot read these but the purpose is to get staff and parents thinking about the complex language we want our children to learn about and to get the children used to seeing this being used further up school.
We subscribe to the BLANK level question hierarchy and what and what doing are level 1 questions. How is a level 4 but we need to find ways of filling in the gaps and building up provision from level 1 onwards seems like a good way to start!