Language and communication skills are considered to be the fundamental building blocks for how we, as social beings, convey our thoughts, feelings and ideas. For children, the very first exposure to language development starts at home by imitating the language used by parents and utilising this development to further attain additional language skills in primary and secondary schooling and onwards.
According to an Employer Skills Survey conducted by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, 91 000 employers identified skills most lacking among employment applicants are either directly or indirectly related to oral communication. We can, therefore, state that language development is of crucial importance to a child’s later success in life. There are various methods that parents, teachers and tutors can implement that can potentially improve young people’s language skills and their overall confidence.
Trying to motivate young people to write can sometimes be a challenging task. Providing young people with frequent opportunities to write has proven to be an effective way to improve written language skills. Encouraging young people to write in a journal or diary is a great idea. Younger children still developing basic writing skills can have writing incorporated into everyday tasks. This can include writing birthday cards, postcards during holidays or grocery lists, they are all great introductions to writing. Another fun way to encourage young people to write is to let them participate in local poetry or writing contests or volunteer their writing skills at local publications or non-profit organisations.
Variety is key
With the information age in full swing, it goes without saying that there is a great demand for our attention. Twenty four hour news cycles, social media platforms, electronic devices and all the click-bait entertainment value that comes along with it are all demanding of our attention. It is consequently paramount to incorporate variety into the methods we use to teach our children pivotal language skills to ensure optimal stimulation and entertainment while they are learning. Don’t be afraid to try something different. Instead of selecting their reading material, take children to the school or community library and encourage them to choose their own materials to take home. Families can start their own ‘book club’ by setting aside one evening per week to discuss various books or publications together as a family. Young people can also practice reading out loud as it can boost confidence in their language and oracy skills. Try to make learning fun by hosting ‘game nights’ playing games such as Scrabble or Upwords.
Debate and engage
When defining good language skills, one would assume that this encompasses the entire spectrum of these skills in generic form from listening, speaking, reading to writing. Over the years, however, there has been the sense that speaking and listening skills have taken the backseat in comparison to reading and writing skills in the standard educational systems. The very same survey conducted by UK Commission for Employment and Skills detailing the lack of applicants with good oral communication skills identified that these applicants did not have the ability to manage one’s own feelings and the feelings of others, persuade and influence others and to make speeches or presentations. We must then, certainly, invest dearly into the development of young people’s spoken communication skills. Don’t underestimate the power of the debate. When speaking to young people, avoid the yes-no questions and leave them open-ended to encourage fluency and grammar skills. Question their answers and debate the topic! Remember to take on the role of the talker as this is a crucial part of improving children’s speaking skills. Make sure you always provide good speech for children to listen to as they will use this as the basis for their development.
Books, books, books
When acquiring any new skill, practice does make perfect. Books and related reading materials are the backbone of teaching and improving young people’s literacy and overall vocabulary. Providing constant access to books and reading material will ultimately help them spend their time on something constructive, better their language skills and ipso facto provide them with the necessary skills to succeed in a professional world as adults. Parents and tutors with a love for reading can set an excellent example and can encourage young people to do the same. Do a little bit of research to find out what most young people enjoy reading. It can make it easier to connect and engage with your child. Set aside some time at home or in class to discuss what kind of books young people read for pleasure, don’t limit the discussions to school textbooks or course texts solely. Don’t underestimate the paperback – it is not set in stone that electronic reading devices are the preferred reading method in today’s society. Always provide children access to paper books.
Be the role model
Parents, teachers and tutors serve as the first subjects of imitation for children. We provide them with their first exposure to language usage, social skills, ethics and cultural norms. We cannot expect our youth to automatically attain the required language and communication skills if we do not set the example for them to follow and learn from. Let your child see that you love reading and when they see you reading frequently they will follow your example. Share what it means to be a passionate reader by discussing your all-time favourite books and characters with them. Discuss books and topics and when young people see their peers being open-minded towards other opinions and new point of views they will feel more encouraged to behave in the same manner.
It is always important to reward young people for their efforts. Even as adults we feel more valued in a professional environment when we know that our work is appreciated. Rewarding and encouraging your child’s development will instil motivation for them to continue learning. They can be rewarded for writing well. Something as simple as encouragement stickers or certificates can go a long way. Another way to reward them is to type out their written work, they will truly enjoy seeing their writing in a professional document format. You can also reward reading by taking them to do special activities related to the book they’ve finished reading. This will make their efforts feel valued and encourage them to read more.
Invest in tuition programmes
Sometimes we do need a little extra help, don’t stray from asking for it! There are many ways to ensure young people receive effective language schooling. There are many possibilities out there to consider like tutoring, short courses and mentoring programmes. Investing in one of these platforms gives our young people the optimal teachings they need for overall literacy and oracy and ultimately put them on the right path to personal growth and success.
The GT Scholars Programme is a not-for-profit social enterprise that offers various programmes and workshops to provide young people between the ages of 11 to 16 with the necessary skills to set them on a successful career path, improve grades and enrich their mentoring experiences. Sign up here and look out for our enrichment days and skill-building workshops.