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  • 20 Jan, 2023
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  • 4 Mins Read

Why are you here?

Because we can’t read tone in print (texting is the worst) we put the emphasis on the word that we choose to create the tone we think we are hearing and then make a judgement about what we have read.

For example, if you read that WHY are you here? It could have a judgemental tone to it, as in, why are you here, there’s no need for you to be. If you placed the emphasis on the YOU, then you would be reading the question the way I intended you to read it. Why are you visiting the website, reading the newsletter, what information are you hoping to gain?

My aim is to be informative, give a tip or two to help your speech or communication. Provide insights and be interesting. Plus, tell you what offers or new resources I may have going.

This year the team is expanding with specialised trainers focussing on one aspect of Say It Clearly. There will be one person dedicated to helping those with English as a Second Language, two working with people in corporate positions wanting to upskill in presenting or leading in their roles.

Which leaves me, I’m going back to where I started 30 years ago; working with children and their parents to develop their oral literacy to the best of their ability. I strongly believe if a child can articulate their thoughts and feeling they are way ahead in their emotional maturity already. Plus, the ability to articulate sounds correctly, well, that means they have an advantage when reading and writing.

On that note, this week’s blog is about children’s oral literacy. It seems to be a favourtie topic of mine at the start of every year. If you don’t have children you still may find it interesting.

“Oral language underpins all learning and all social interaction.” 

This quote is from Page 7, ‘Learning Through Talk’ Ministry of Education, Learning Media, Wellington, New Zealand, 2009. Among other things, communication with their peers is difficult if a child starts school with a level of oral language that is below their current age. This can result in them struggling to form friendships, which is possibly the most worrying aspect of poor oral literacy. If they don’t have the vocab to understand what the teacher is talking about, they can’t follow instructions. For the child, there is a level of frustration that can result in disruptive behaviour that affects the whole class and the teacher’s ability to, well, teach.

The delay in oral literacy means teachers have to spend more time bringing the children’s oral language up to the correct level before starting to teach them to read and spell, so they are on the back foot from the start.

In the early ’90s schools used to test children as part of their 6-week check to create a baseline as to where the child is at. Then we would fax (yes, fax) this information to the Ministry of Education. From this data, the Ministry could ascertain where issues were most concerning and put extra funds towards this, with speech-language therapy for example, or other extra resources to assist.

This passing on of information stopped in the early 2000s and now when teachers ask for extra help because generally children’s oral literacy is so poor, the response is, we don’t have the data to support that poor oral literacy is a concern. Frustrating much.

But. The first learning happens at home and it is essential for those adults at home to TALK to their children. Not issue instructions or throw a device under their noses and let YouTube do the talking but actually look their children in the eye and talk. Chat. Yak. 5 turns of conversation is a good starter.

I know how busy life is and how tiring everything is. But if we want our children to grow into emotionally mature and intelligent adults, it all starts at home with talking to them. If you would like more resources around this go to the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Family Dinner Project 

Or, start here. In terms of correct articulation (how we say sounds and words), sometimes it’s just a matter of where to place our tongue. Correct tongue placement is actually crucial to clear speech. Unless there’s a physiological reason for incorrect tongue placement, exercises for the tongue and teaching the children the correct techniques to enunciate sounds, then words, then sentences, can improve a child’s speech rapidly.

The best time (in my opinion) to help children with speech difficulties is 3 1/2 – 6 years of age. This is when you can stop any bad habits forming and get the tongue working in the correct way. But, it is never too late, even for the bothersome TH sound (adults who were never corrected as children, now’s your chance to get it sorted).

So, how do you teach a child how to use their tongue correctly? Watch this free preview from our online course Clear Speech for Children.

Tongue Placement

Have a good week, Miriam.