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3 Tips for Understanding Language at Blank Level 1

When children start out on their communication journeys, they don’t always find it easy to listen. This means that learning language can fall down their list of priorities.

Isabel was one of those children when we met her with her Mum, Hayley. She was an explorer, looking for ways to develop her independence and discover the world around her. Hayley and I looked at ways to introduce language at a level Isabel could access, and we identified 3 key strategies.

Tip 1 – Start with Personal Experience

When we introduce new language to children – to anyone really – the best way to do this is through personal experience. Allow them to really experience a word, in order for all of the contextual information to be absorbed. When Isabel ran outside to pick flowers, Hayley used the words ‘running’ ‘flowers’ and ‘pick’ at exactly the times Isobel was experiencing these things. In doing so, Isabel had clear memories to hook the words onto, not just isolated words. The same for words relating to people she knew, foods she ate, places she visited; the language was introduced within the real-life experience first.

Tip 2 –  Use all the senses

By introducing and teaching language in personal experiences, Hayley could see that Isabel was picking up information from all of her senses too. When she heard the word ‘flower’ she could not only see a flower, but she could smell it, she could hear the wind in the leaves of the tree nearby, and feel the petals in her fingers. These sensations all act as ways to support storage of words in our brains, as well as cues for recalling the words when we want to use them at a later date.

Tip 3 – Repeat, repeat, repeat

Another thing Hayley discovered is that Isabel was a creature of habit. Like most young children she thrived on familiar routines. This meant that as she repeated the same activities day after day, Hayley could teach the same language over and over. This repetition would play an important part in how quickly Isabel began to listen and respond to the new words.

These are just some of the ways we can start to learn language, which begins with single words that relate to our own experiences. Don’t forget to use a range of word types, from nouns to verbs to social words. You can back up the meaning with objects and pictures, but you can’t beat personal experience.

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