There are 5 keys areas to consider when working on language targets with a child:
IDEAL SETTING: Try to find a quiet area with no distractions.
Make sure that you are using equipment that is right for the child, eg. the table is a comfortable height and their feet can reach the floor.
LENGTH OF SESSION: You will need time at the beginning to settle the child so that they are ready to focus and to help them unwind at the end. Try to aim for 15 minutes of concentrated work time.
VARIETY OF ACTIVITIES: Plan ahead and try to cover three different activities in your sessions. Look at the child’s programme/IEP and make sure that you cover a range of targets across the week, eg. choose from:
SKILL TEACHING: There is a natural progression to learning. Children often need to try something a few times before they succeed.
Introduce and teach a new skill in a 1:1 setting.
Allow the child to practise the skills in a small group (with no more than 4 children).
Give the group of children a chance to practise their new skill in a class based activity (you may need to set something up specially).
Give the child opportunities to generalise their new skill, eg. taking a message to someone if they are learning to remember items in a list.
MAINTAINING A CHILD’S CONFIDENCE: To encourage the child to be actively engaged and co-operate, try to ensure that your sessions are fun and seen as a treat.
Ideally young children should not know that they are “doing language work”. Language development should just be an integral part of the activities.
Make sure that what you are working on is within the child’s abilities and that any new skills will only stretch them a little bit.
When introducing something new and difficult do not let the child struggle for too long. Spend a short time working together on the task and then return to an easier task so that the child can finish on a positive note. You might need to think carefully about the order in which you do activities and see if you can use strategies such as backward chaining (reducing the demands to the child finishing the task) so that the demands on the child are reduced.
Positive reinforcement and encouragement are very important. Let the child know that they have done well by telling them what they have done right or why you are pleased, eg. “you gave me a really good description, well done.” This will help them to extend their skills and use them again with something harder.