Teaching Vocabulary in the Early Years: Word Aware 2 – Book Review

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Speechmark asked me if I’d like to have a look at the new Word Aware vocabulary resource, by Stephen Parsons and Anna Branagan. I was keen to check it out and said I’d write about it here, on the blog, if it was something I thought I’d use, and it is. So thanks Speechmark, for the complimentary copy.

The blurb on the back of the book says it’s: “a practical comprehensive resource designed to support…effective vocabulary development in pre-school children of all abilities.” The core audience is Early Years practioners, but it would also be useful for SLTs and parents. The approach is described clearly, with multiple examples and suggestions for how to implement it in the classroom. If a practioner was able to set aside the time needed to read the book, I think they’d be able to get started. However, if you wanted more support and ideas, Stephen and Anna regularly run workshops on how to set up and run the program.

This resource comes with access to a website, where you can print out supporting materials, which I much prefer to CD-ROMs.

An inclusive, whole class approach

The book starts with a detailed, interesting and clearly referenced introduction, which would be very useful for teaching staff and is a great refresher for SLTs. I like the fact that the approach is designed for the whole class, so it’s inclusive and that there is a strong emphasis on the importance of Adult Child Interaction. The reader is directed to Keena Cummins’ work for more information about this.  While reading the intro, I noted down the phrase: “enthralled rather than overwhelmed” (by new words) what a lovely reminder.

The book describes four strands to the teaching approach:

  • Make words count
  • Teach vocabulary
  • Fun with words
  • Word detective

Practioners are encouraged to provide an enriched word learning environment, teach vocabulary using the STAR method (see below), enjoy, celebrate and reinforce vocabulary, and finally teach children how to learn new words.

The STAR process teaches words in a structured and specific way, it is adapted from Blachowicz and Fisher, 2010. STAR stands for:

  • Select – the most useful vocabulary
  • Teach – the selected vocabulary in a meaningful way
  • Activate – the meaning by using the words in context
  • Review – the taught words to ensure they are retained.

The resource contains detailed directions with comprehensive examples for how to select vocabulary. In terms of how many words to teach, the authors suggest one topic word, one text based word (from a book), and one concept, per week. And just one word, per teaching session.

How do I teach a new word?

The book describes a teaching sequence, so adults can teach new words in the same (effective) way each time. The 6 step sequence includes selecting a picture or symbol to represent the word, and singing the Word Aware song!

To activate the word the child needs to hear it used in different ways, by different people, over a period of time. The book provides lots of suggestions for this stage, for example, treasure hunts are a great way to “activate” adjectives. Finally, we need to review words. This can be done with word bags, and there are several word bag activities described in the book.

Extra resources included in the book

The teaching concepts chapter includes plans for introducing and teaching over 80 concepts. These describe specific activities for each concept, and are a great time saver when planning.

The book also includes chapters about supporting children with higher needs, developing word learning strategies and involving families.

Ways of using the book

I plan to use the STAR process in my individual therapy sessions with children who are working on their vocabulary. I found the guidance about how to select target words, and the ideas for activating and reviewing them useful. I will share the practical activities with parents and teaching staff. I’ll definitely use the concept plans, I don’t think they’d need much adapting to use in a one to one session with a child. And I’ll also recommend this resource, and way of working, to Nursery and Reception class teachers.

This is quite a hefty book, there are 250 pages, and I think to get the most out of it, and the approach, people would need to set aside the time to read it through. Although you could skip over some of the concept plans, you’d still need 2 or 3 hours, if you’re new to the approach, as I was.

I’m excited to try these concrete ideas for teaching vocabulary, in my therapy sessions. Perhaps I can write a follow up blog post when I’ve had a go!

Hanen eSeminars: Choosing initial vocabulary targets and a competition for Autism Awareness month

"Cake"

I took my first Hanen eSeminar a couple of months ago, and I’ve been able to apply what I learnt, straight away. I think this is the first eSeminar or online training, that I’ve paid for. It was easy to log in and I could watch the 2 hour video whenever I wanted with 30 days of unlimited access. There was also a handout to download. Continue reading

Summary of Research Paper: Using Full Language with a Child with Autism, Emerson and Dearden

A plate of red jelly

I was delighted to hear how well a little client of mine had done with a new activity (a large container of jelly!) at nursery this week, although I was disappointed that his teacher had predicted he wouldn’t be able to access it.

I then read this journal article: The effect of using ‘full’ language when working with a child with autism: Adopting the ‘least dangerous assumption’ by Anne Emerson and Jackie Dearden, Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 29 (2), 2013. This research paper resonated with me because it discussed the implications of underestimating a child’s ability. Continue reading

How do you measure the success of your therapy business?

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A discussion with a therapist friend prompted me to think about how we measure the success of our independent therapy practices. There seems to be a tacit assumption, here in the UK, that as independent therapists we’re aiming to grow our practices, hire a team of therapists, and that more (employees and clients) is best. Continue reading

Book Review: Play Games with S

imageLucy Sanctuary kindly sent me a copy of her book: Play Games With S, to review here. It’s a resource that contains 15 games to help children generalise the ’s’ sound from single words in therapy sessions, to their everyday conversations.

Lucy states in the introduction that “the resource is for children who have had speech therapy to say the speech sound ’s’ but are not yet using it in their everyday talking.” It was designed for children aged five to ten years old. It’s helpful that she is so clear about the intended audience. Continue reading

Staying Motivated: progress, online CPD and books

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I’ve found it challenging to get back into work mode after the winter break. It’s dark when I leave the house and dark when I get home.

Here are three things that have inspired me:

  • Observing the progress my clients are making. I’ve reminded myself to slow down and notice the changes in each client. One is now able to produce s clusters, another can make a choice between two options, and a third has started asking questions. Their exciting progress keeps me motivated.
  • Doing a little CPD at a time that suits me, sitting at my own desk. I watched this Hanen eSeminar: Choosing Initial Vocabulary Targets for Children Who Are Late Talkers, which deserves a blog post of it’s own. It made me think about which of my children Hanen would classify as Late Talkers and gave practical ideas about the types of words to choose for targets.
  • Reading beautiful books which aren’t about speech therapy. I received Erin Boyle’s book Simple Matters in the post this week. The gorgeous photography and inspiring ideas were just what I needed to get out of my winter funk. And I’m sure there are principles I can apply to therapy, for example I’ll definitely think twice about buying more plastic toys, or resources. I also had another look through Joel Henriques’ book Made to Play. Another book with gorgeous photographs and the craft projects range for simple to pretty complicated. I’m going to pick a couple and have a go.

What do you do to stay motivated through winter?

Homemade therapy resources: Toilet roll Octopuses

Painted toilet rolls

One of my goals for 2016 is to make as many therapy resources as possible. I’m trying to spend more time rummaging through the recycling box and less time browsing on Amazon. I want to keep my clients interested, so I need a variety of materials. Continue reading

The Hanen Preschool Language and Literacy Calendar

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I’ve been meaning to write about the 2016 Hanen Preschool Language and Literacy Calendar for several months, but the days and weeks fly by in a blur and it’s almost the end of the year. If you want to help your child (clients or pupils) to develop creative solutions to problems but your days are already full, and it’s hard to find the time, this resource might help. Continue reading

Reflecting on past CPD to design a new conference

 

Therapy Ideas Live

I was selected for the HCPC Continuing Professional Development audit, so I’ve been reflecting on how we apply what we learn to our therapy. As I put together my CPD “portfolio” I noticed some common features of the CPD that I’d found most useful. I’ve used these common features to make my new conference an effective learning experience.  Continue reading

Speech and Language Therapy and Professional Identity

Cover of J Stokes book

In the conclusion to their book, Jane Stokes and Marian McCormick wrote that they hope it makes you think “Hmmm…” – it certainly does.

As Jane and Marion designed the curriculum for a new postgraduate course in speech and language therapy they collected stories, and then wrote this book to add to the conversation about issues that underlie the SLT profession. The book has 10 chapters, 5 written by Jane and Marian, and 5 contributed by other people. It raises challenging questions and explicitly invites the reader to examine their professional beliefs. Continue reading