Free speech

18th April 1997 at 01:00
COMMUNICATION IN THE CLASSROOM: A HANDBOOK FOR PARENTS, TEACHERS AND THERAPISTS By Lara Schaerf South Kent Community Healthcare NHS Trust Pounds 9.95 + Pounds 2 postage from Joy Butcher 25 Mountbatten Way TN25 6PU

Communication, even communication between adults who want to understand each other, is often tricky. But when children have speech or language impairments there are real impediments to understanding. This booklet provides a simple but practical outline of how to foster good communication, especially with children who are experiencing difficulties.

It begins with a sensible discussion of the way in which children learn to communicate by interacting with competent others and it proceeds to draw on this analysis for some simple, down-to-earth advice on the ways in which language can be nurtured by help from adults.

Many researchers have studied language acquisition in children and much of their advice has been skilfully and unobtrusively incorporated into the suggestions made for parents and teachers in this book. Adults are encouraged to explore, expand on, and scaffold children's language in what the author calls a "less directive approach".

Advice is given on analysing one's own verbal interaction with a child into four levels of complexity - from simple requests at level 1 to a call upon explaining, reasoning, predicting and problem-solving on the part of the child at level 4. Guidance is also given on evaluating the kinds of response which children make. Case studies and sample evaluation sheets are given.

This is a useful booklet which will help teachers, therapists and parents to work together in cultivating good communication.

Gary Thomas Gary Thomas is professor and reader in education at the University of the West of England

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