Teaching Assistant ‘noun’ = highly skilled practitioner who supports, engages and champions their pupils throughout their primary school career.

At Speech Link Multimedia Ltd, we recognise that it is you, the TA, who mostly administers the Speech Link, Infant and Junior Language Link assessments and it is you who is largely responsible for carrying out the interventions. It is you who knows your school’s SEND children the best!

Having a regular feature in The Link in which we can share what we have been doing in school to support our Speech and Language children will help many of us to benefit from the good practice that is taking place up and down the country. This month’s ‘Tip’ for the classroom is pre-teaching subject specific vocabulary (Kent SaLTs).

Please imagine a new topic – let’s say ‘The Rainforest’. Your classroom is virtually a jungle; bursting with fabulous, colourful displays and key words featuring on every possible board. Perfect for most of the children, and, although visually stimulating, is not a guarantee that your children with Speech and Language difficulties understand the meaning of the unfamiliar vocabulary.

Several years ago our school’s SaLT showed me this method to pre-teach subject specific words and I have continued to use it since.

Firstly choose your words – not too many, perhaps the five most important for your new topic and list them on a sheet like this.

Your pupil will colour in the traffic light colours when they first hear the words using the key at the top of the sheet. You then need to check their understanding of any words that are coloured green before working on amber and then the red words. The further columns are used to track progress and identify when the child can use the word confidently and the word becomes ‘Green’ (add as many columns as necessary).

To help teach your child a new word:

  • Get them to say the target word – canopy
  • Identify how many syllables are in the word (clap them) – can-o-py =3 syllables
  • Show them images of different sorts of canopies – over a baby’s pram, a butchers shop and in the rain forest
  • Give them the definition of canopy in the context you are using it – the uppermost spreading branchy layer of a forest
  • Talk about what a canopy might smell like, look like and feel like. What will you be able to hear?
  • Discuss synonyms – cover, shelter
  • Discuss antonyms – floor, ground
  • Put the word canopy in a sentence – Woolly monkeys spend hours every day sitting high in the canopy.

I hope that this feature will become a valuable platform to share successes and ideas and perhaps some frustrations too.

Next month: How to ask for help in the classroom.

Our DESCRIBE Pocket Packs have questions for the children to answer to improve their knowledge of target words, which you can use to help define any word.

We would love to hear from you. If you would like to contribute your tips for future articles or if you have a topic you would like to discuss, then please contact Claire at office2@speechlink.co.uk

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