St. Michael’s Primary School, Tallangatta

Courage, Compassion, Community

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We are fortunate enough to have Mary Alfred, our speech pathologist, work with us each week. Mary uses her time each week to work in classrooms, upskilling teachers on the best way to support students in our school. All teachers use Colourful Semantics, a visual program that supports students with reading and writing, including the various features of our language. 

To access the Speech Pathology service Parents need to complete a referral form. Please contact the Principal for further information.

This year our school's Educational Speech Pathologist will be placing a 'family friendly' activity in the weekly newsletter targeting oral language skills. Practising the suggested skills has been shown to improve students' learning outcomes.

"Language for learning" games

Please try some of these quick and cost-free activities each week with your children at home. It might be whilst travelling in the car, watching TV together or waiting in the doctor/dentist's surgery. The language games will offer challenges and fun for parents and children alike.

The activities will enhance children's interest in sounds and letters, build their knowledge of words and give them opportunities to develop and practise key learning skills. Each term will focus on a specific area of knowledge. Term one will target children's understanding and use of longer more complex sentences.

You might like to adapt these activities for older or younger students. If you have any questions you can contact Simone Maffescioni through the school's special education co-ordinator, Ashley Marsh.

Ten hints will be provided over term one to help your child think a little bit deeper about the world around them and to use longer and more complex sentences. You may need to adjust the activity to suit your child's level:

1. Play a game that your child is very familiar with and ask them to give you step by step instructions on how to play the game. (Pretend you've never played the game before and follow their instructions literally!). The same activity can be done with assembling a jigsaw puzzle together – take turns to tell each other where to place the pieces.

2. For every simple question you ask your child ask 2 complex ones. For example; 1. What's that a picture of? 2. Tell me how you made/drew that. 3. What do you think that character might be saying in this picture?

3. Before reading a story with your child ask them to look at the front cover and a) predict what might happen in the story and b) discuss how it's like any story they've read before.

4. Ask your child to recount an episode of one of their favourite TV shows that they've just watched. See if they can join their ideas together using a variety words such as "and, but, when, then".

5. While watching TV with your child ask them some "why" , "how" and "if' questions. Eg; Why did that guy do that? How is he going to get out of this situation? If you were superman what would you do?

6. Encourage your child to answer in complete sentences with more than 5 words. E.g. Why did he do that? Rather than "cos' encourage "He dropped that bowl because his hands were all slippery from the soap."

7. While playing the "I went shopping" game encourage your child to use a range of joining words such as; "when, if, so, but". Examples of these sentences might be; "When I went shopping I bought...."; "If I go shopping I will buy...."; "I will buy some lettuce but not some cabbage....."

8. To extend your child's use of adjectives (describing words) encourage them to think of as many different words as possible to describe a common object. You could play a game (similar to "I went shopping") whereby each child adds a new describing word while remembering the previous adjectives used by participants. For example; I went to the zoo and saw a cheeky, hairy, smelly, playful ...... monkey.

9. Encourage your child to use more interesting sentences by using a variety of adverbs (words that describe verbs). How many adverbs can they add to these sentence stems:

  • The old man walked .... (slowly, quietly, timidly, with an odd gait)
  • The children played......
  • We were all speaking......

10. Start a sentence and get your child to finish it using some harder joining words such as; if, when, but, so, however, until, or, unless, then, consequently, before, after as, instead of. For example; We can't go to the movies unless...............

Ten hints will be provided over term two to help develop your child's vocabulary at home (you may need to adjust the activity to suit your child's level). See if you can think of more activities!

1. See how long you and your child can go without saying the words 'stuff' or 'thing'. These words are unhelpful as they are unspecific and do not provide any information.

2. Brainstorm - nearby towns e.g. Bendigo, Dingee, Castlemaine, Axedale
- transport
- junk food
- types of footwear e.g. thongs
- furniture e.g. chair
- jewellery
- something you would find at the beach

3. What category do these words belong to:
e.g. spanner, hammer, saw, screwdriver = tools
chair, table, desk, bed, cupboard =
bus, tram, car, truck, plane, train, scooter =
earrings, necklace, ring =
McDonald's, KFC, Hungry Jacks, Red Rooster =

4. Get your child to describe an object for you to guess. For example- toaster: What is something that is usually white or silver, belongs in the kitchen, is used at breakfast time and will cook toast? Then swap so that you have to describe an object for your child to guess.

5. Describe how the following objects and places are the same and different:

  • zoo/ jail e.g. A zoo and jail both have bars, but a zoo is for animals and a jail is for people.
  • newspaper/ book
  • soap/ toothpaste
  • bed/ couch
  • cup/ glass
  • hand/ foot

6. Think of words that have the same meaning as:
big e.g. massive, huge

7. Think of words that have the opposite meaning to:
hot e.g. cold, frosty

8. Match up the following prefixes to the words on the right to make real words:
de historic
pre happy
re fend
un behave
mis turn
How many other words can you think of that start with 'un'. I can think of 36!

9. Match up the following suffixes to make real words (remember that spelling may need to be changed):
faith less
change tion
cheese ing
penny y
construct ive
expense ful

10. Have a look at the following website on the internet: Go to 'Create your own'. Then type a piece of your child's writing into the box and click on 'Go'. A cloud of words will be created. The bigger the word, the more your child used that word. Discuss other words that they could use to make their writing more interesting.

Ten hints will be provided over term three targeting your child's knowledge of story grammar. It is important for children to learn that stories generally have parts or a sequence to follow. A story needs to have:

  • A setting: 'who' the story is about, 'where' the story is taking place and 'when' the story is taking place
  • A problem which arises in the story
  • Feelings: how the character feels about the problem
  • A solution to the problem

1. Aim to read one book a day with your child. Take turns to talk about what is happening in the pictures.

The following books are very rich in language content and are excellent in building children's knowledge of stories. (P-3) Clancy the Courageous cow, Can we lick the spoon yet?, The terrible plop, Who sank the boat?, Possum magic. (4-6) Hairy Nose Itchy butt, The gobbling tree, Running with horses, Window, Alvie only eats soup, Toppling, holes, The Tale of desperaux. The miniscule series on the ABC or on Youtube are excellent story building videos to chat about with your child.

2. After reading a story with your child, ask:
Who was your child's favourite character? Why? Ask your child to describe the character to you. Your child can draw their favourite character.

3. Ask your child to describe their favourite place and draw it. What kinds of things do you find there? Suggest different items that may be found at this place. For example, at the beach – would you find sand, a towel, a cow, sunscreen?

4. After reading a story with your child, ask:
When did the story take place? Then talk about your child's favourite time of the day and why?

5. After reading a story with your child, ask:
What happened in the story or what was the problem? Make up some alternate scenarios. For example, in Goldilocks and the three bears, what would happen if the three bears didn't come back?

6. Discuss facial expressions using a mirror. For example, what does a frightened face look like? - eyes wide open, clenched teeth, eyebrows raised. Discuss different experiences and how your child felt, eg "I felt relieved when...." For something a bit harder, discuss other words that could mean the same thing, eg. Scared- terrified, frightened; Happy- joyful, glad.

7. After reading a story with your child, ask:
What did the character do in the story? What else could the character have done? What would your child have done?

8. After reading a story with your child, ask:
How did the story end? Did your child like the ending? Were there any surprises in the story?
How did the character feel at the end of the story? Have the feelings changed? Why?
Discuss alternative endings and which one you and your child like best.

9. After reading a story with your child, ask: How did the character feel at the end of the story? Have the feelings changed? Why?
Discuss alternative endings and which one you and your child like best.

10. Try the following story building apps on your mobile and/or ipad devices: Puppet Pals (free), Toontastic (free), clickysticky ($1.99), story wheel (free), shake a phrase ($1.99), dragon's jumble - dream (free)

Ten hints will be provided over term four targeting phonological awareness. Phonological awareness is the building blocks for reading and writing. It is listening and thinking about the sounds in words.

1. As you read a story, ask your child to count the number of words in a sentence. Use your fingers to help. For example, 'How many words can you hear in this sentence?' I went to the park (has 5 words).

2. Have your child count the number of 'claps' in a word. For example, 'hel- i- cop- ter' (helicopter) has 4 claps, 'pel- i- can' (pelican) has 3 claps. Think of short words (e.g. 'up, spoon, tent, duck' all have 1 clap), and long words (e.g. calculator, alligator etc).

3. Have your child find objects around the room with a certain number of claps (for example- words that have two claps: window, pencil and table).

4. One of these words does not rhyme. Which one?
mat cat but
rough cough stuff
Think of more examples for your child.

5. Tell me a word that rhymes with.. pin (sin, tin, fin etc). A non-word is acceptable as long as it rhymes e.g. plin. Read a rhyming book such as; Dr Suess, Hairy Maclary or Wonky Donkey and ask your child to suggest other words that rhyme

6. Tell me what sound (NOT letter) this word starts with... ? e.g. 'pot' starts with a /p/ sound. Can you think of more words that start with this sound? E.g. pin, pot, pig, play etc. What sound is at the end of.... ? e.g. 'pot' ends with a /t/ sound.

7. Play a game where your child makes different words starting with the same sound e.g. if you are changing all words to begin with /k/ sound then 'chair' would become 'care' and 'table' would become 'cable.' For something a bit harder: Try changing the final sound e.g. 'pot' would become 'pok' and 'flag' would become 'flak'.

8. Say the sounds of different words in slow motion like this /m/-/a/-/n/ or /f/-/l/-/a/-/g/. Get your child to guess the words.

9. Get your child to split words into separate sounds e.g. the word 'spoon' can be split into /s/-/p/-/oo/-/n/. It has 4 sounds. 'Phone' can be split into 3 sounds (the letters 'ph' make one sound /f/).

10. This is a good activity for car trips! The first person says a word. Then the next person must say another word starting with the last sound in the previous word. See how many times you can go around the car. e.g. fish-- ship-- pizza-- above-- victory-- electric-- cat.