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August Blog 2022: WellComm in the Early Years.

August 8, 2022

August Blog 2022

Reading books - Illustrations by Joanna Howell

WellComm in the Early Years

I have been delivering the WellComm language programme for three years, in a primary school. I write this from the perspective of a teacher and not a Speech and Language therapist.

When I started this programme, I was a little sceptical whether it was the right tool to be using. However, I have found it offers enormous benefits for any primary school. Delayed language skills lead to under-performance later in life, yet many primary school children have unidentified speech and language difficulties.

We have implemented the WellComm programme throughout the school and not just in the Early Years.

Early identification of speech and language difficulty or delay is key to the progressive development of a young child’s overall development.

It makes referrals to Speech and Language specialists much easier.

What is the WellComm programme?

WellComm is a complete speech and language toolkit, it was produced by Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust.

Any early years professional can use WellComm including child minders, nursery workers, health visitors and teachers. The toolkit can be used in any early years and/ or primary setting. This includes pre-school playgroups, day nurseries, private nurseries, children’s centres, special schools, and schools. It can also be used with individuals in their own homes.

What does the WellComm toolkit offer?

  • It tracks all children.
  • Identifies areas of concern in language, communication, and interaction development, to ensure targeted early intervention.
  • Resources enable delivery of focused tasks.
  • An assessment that can be used at different stages of development and as a tracking tool. This enables focused target setting.
  • There is a helpful Big Book of Ideas.
  • The overview of children helps staff plan.

Both the Early Years and the Primary toolkits enable you to identify children needing support quickly and easily. They are simple to use (requiring no speech and language expertise), and the traffic light scoring format of the instant reports makes them easy to interpret.

Organization of WellComm

Working with WellComm over the last three years has meant I have been able to build up and organize my resources. The best idea was to sort out books and stories that hit each different target. Each session would include a book that reinforced my teaching aim.

I have been lucky enough to be able to work with the children on an individual basis, rather than in groups. Initially, I had groups, but found attention was more focused, and I could pinpoint individual targets when working on a one to one.

Group work was good in the classroom setting, while delivering weaving.

Teachers were responsible for delivering weaving, although I planned for this.

Having a small space, with a table and storage for resources is helpful. It makes life so much easier. You can deliver WellComm and have resources at your fingertips, rather than carting equipment around the school.

Initially children were screened each September, then at the end of the Autumn term, at the end of the Spring term and again at the end of the Summer term. Obviously, some children will need more screening as they achieve their targets set. We were fortunate to be able to screen Portuguese children in their home language, we were not so lucky with other languages.

Always leave plenty of time to screen children. As in all schools, many obstacles will be in your way to stop completion!

 

 

Word Aware works well alongside WellComm as it will ensure vocabulary is taught.

In many schools a good EAL provision is essential.

Word Aware

It is essential to teach vocabulary in the early years. Running this alongside WellComm gives the children an advantage.

Hjetland et al (2017), in their systematic review found that spoken vocabulary predicted children’s latter reading development. Vocabulary relates to reading comprehension but impacts equally on curriculum areas that require specific word knowledge such as mathematics and science.

Word Aware is a structured whole school approach to promote the vocabulary development of all children.

This approach is full of practical and inspiring ideas that can be easily applied by classroom practitioners to develop both spoken and written vocabulary.

There are now three books in the Word Aware series

Word Aware 1 is for whole school vocabulary development for ages 5 to 11.

Word Aware 2 is for teaching Early Years children aged 3 to 5.

Word Aware 3 is for teaching vocabulary in small groups for children aged 6 to 11.

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