Tag Archives: training

Video as a tool for teaching adult-child interaction strategies

I visit nurseries to train staff as part of my job; we aim to support the language development of all the children by improving the communication environment. I observe the staff and complete a check-list about the communication environment; it covers areas like adult-child interaction, the listening environment, snack time, and story time. I discuss my observations with the nursery manager and we decide what to focus on.

I’ve recently trained several practitioners in adult-child interaction, with varying degrees of success!

Training package

The training package I offer is still evolving. I usually:

  • give the practitioners some written information about adult-child interaction from Elkan Early Language Builders;
  • discuss the dual strategies of following a child’s lead and commenting rather than questioning;
  • model these strategies; and
  • make a brief video of the practitioner interacting with a child, and give feedback.


I have used this package with five practitioners over the last month. Three of them responded really well: they asked thoughtful questions, reflected on their skills as they watched the video, and were able to adapt their interaction styles to become better communication partners. Result!

What about the other two? Well, one was able to identify that she asked a lot of questions; with support she began to think about how she could use comments instead. However, at the end of the session she still seemed unaware that she was being directive. The other practitioner felt she was already using both strategies, but didn’t notice herself asking questions when we watched the video. Hmm.

Reflecting on the sessions that didn’t go so well, could I achieve more by fine-tuning how I use the video? There’s lots of useful information on this topic in the Hanen “It Takes Two To Talk” programme. After reviewing it, I’ve found three ideas to try:

  • considering the adult’s stage of learning,
  • using coaching methods, and
  • asking rather than telling.

Stages of learning

The Hanen programme describes three stages of learning: pre-aware, aware, and active. A pre-aware learner might be able to explain the strategies, but doesn’t realise that she’s not applying them. An aware learner knows the strategies and knows that she’s not yet applying them. An active learner has applied her knowledge and changed her behaviour.

So the practitioner who thought she was using the strategies but didn’t notice that she asked questions was at the pre-aware stage of learning. I should try to move her on to the next stage: to increase her awareness of her own behaviour. The Hanen information suggests making tentative statements about what you see and then “letting the tape do the talking.” I’ll try it.


Hanen suggests coaching as another way to support an adult’s learning process, by improving the specific interaction. You can do this while the camera is running, during a brief break in filming, or by demonstrating the strategy.

So for the practitioner who was unaware of how directive she was, I could try some coaching: while the camera is running I could say something like, “don’t suggest what to play with: wait for him to show you what he wants to do.” Something else for me to try out.

Feedback: ask, don’t tell

Reflecting on the feedback I gave, I think it started well, but could be improved. I asked what the practitioner thought about the interaction, and then offered a specific focus; for example, “let’s look at when you made comments.” So far so good. But then I told them my own observations, rather than asking for theirs! By asking rather than telling, I could provide a more active learning experience, to increase the chances of learning new skills. Looks like I’ve got lots to practise!

Any ideas?

Do you use video as a teaching tool? What techniques have you found work well with pre-aware learners?

Bercow Review: children’s centres, training and money

I have a great way of keeping up to date with SLT issues in the media: my Grandma calls me whenever she spots relevant stories in the newspaper! She pointed out the article in the Independent which features an interview with John Bercow (an MP), and quotes Beth Junor and Stephen Parsons — both friends from Hackney.

The article prompted me to read the executive summary of The Bercow Report: Services for Children and Young People with Speech, Language and Communication Needs, and the government’s response. Lots of the recommendations in the report seem sensible; a few particularly jumped out at me.

I’m encouraged that some of the recommendations are already common practice; in some areas where Children’s Centres have successfully been implemented, I’ve observed that speech, language and communication is being made a priority (recommendation 11).

Having come across teachers who anxiously refer children with lisps to me, but seem unaware of the those with severe language delay, I think developing teachers’ understanding of speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) is vital (recommendations 21 and 22). Training teachers will aid early identification and allow SLTs to use their time more effectively.

Recommendation 14 talks about issuing guidance to schools on the use of funding, in order to meet the needs of all children with SLCN. I’ve often suggested to schools that pupils would benefit from various inexpensive resources, only to be told, “there is no budget left this year, talk to me again next year!” So a reminder of the requirement to meet all children’s needs may mean that staff on the ground, working with the children on the SLT caseload, have adequate resources.

In their response to the report, the government announced a £40 million programme called “Every Child A Talker.” The programme is supposed to ensure that early years staff can support children’s speaking and listening. It sounds great; I’ve seen how effective joint working with early years staff can be. Bring on the £40 million!

The Bercow Review has got speech and language into the news this week: for example, this article from the BBC. Just raising awareness is helpful. I’ve only read the summary, but how exciting that the Government might have too! Anyone delved into the actual report? Which recommendations do you think the Government will actually implement? It would be interesting to hear what other people make of it.