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Embedding appropriate and effective strategies to support children’s oral language, literacy and numeracy learning 

An insight into language development

Communication is one the five Learning and Development Outcomes of the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF).  It highlights that children are effective communicators and the development of children's communication skills is central to their wellbeing, identity, sense of agency, and their capacity to develop friendships (p.22).  

Children communicate their curiosity, interests, needs and emotions to those around them from birth. For typically developing three-year-old children, this means an ability to start using more words and complex sentences when communicating with those around them, including other children. The increase in vocabulary in three-year-old children also means a greater ability for them to express their feelings and emotions, presenting many opportunities for early childhood professionals to consider how they plan to support children's communication skills.

Core elements of communication for three-year-old children include:

  • the importance of a safe, welcoming, healthy and engaging environment for security and exploration
  • opportunities to practise and maintain their first language 
  • adults who value meaning-making and work to understand a range of communication strategies from young children 
  • the role of modelling in assisting the development of increasingly complex vocabulary and language structures, including labelling, statements and extended questions.

Both receptive language skills (seeing/hearing) and expressive language skills (using communication strategies) develop through interacting with people and physical environments (including natural and constructed materials). This will progress in different ways for each child. As such, kindergarten programs should offer many opportunities for children to engage in experiences focused on both receptive and expressive language.  

Early childhood professionals working in a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program should actively work towards supporting multiple forms of language development, including the artistic languages of movement, dance and the visual arts, as well as verbal and non-verbal language use. 

Valuing a child's home language is also critical to a quality Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program. Early childhood professionals work in collaboration with families and other professionals in order to ensure that the child's home language is supported and integrated into the kindergarten program. This may require seeking support from other professionals. 

What do we mean by literacy learning?

Literacy includes 'a range of modes of communication, including music, movement, dance, storytelling, visual arts, media and drama, as well as talking, viewing, reading and writing' (VEYLDF, p. 52). Development in all these areas has the goal of increasing skills in meaning-making appropriate to diverse situations. 

Children attending a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program learn to:

  • see themselves as capable literacy learners and creative communicators 
  • recognise purposeful literacy in the environment (signs, books, charts, recipes)
  • welcome opportunities to share literacy events including story circles, song writing, decoding signs, book corners and words on computer screens.

Early childhood educators and teachers working with children attending Three-Year-Old Kindergarten programs place value on how they communicate with children to support children's language development including by:

  • using open ended questions
  • engaging in back-and-forth interactions 
  • responding to children's communication attempts
  • providing children with new words and phrases to use.

The Literacy Teaching Toolkit for early childhood provides early childhood professionals with high-quality integrated teaching and learning approaches focussed on language and literacy, which can be used in Three-Year-Old Kindergarten programs.

What do we mean by numeracy learning?

Numeracy includes 'understandings about numbers, structure and pattern, measurement, spatial awareness and data, as well as mathematical thinking, reasoning and counting' (VEYLDF, p. 52).

These mathematical concepts develop through everyday communication experiences when scaffolded by knowledgeable, supportive educators.

Children attending a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program learn to:

  • see themselves as capable numeracy learners (including creating patterns for and with others)
  • recognise purposeful numeracy in the environment (labels, street signs, calendars, recipes)
  • welcome opportunities to share numeracy experiences (weighing and measuring, acting out number songs, counting, decoding signs, using computers) 
  • apply mathematical concepts in everyday situations (building towers, allocating spaces, solving problems).

It is important that early childhood professionals working with three-year-old children place value on numeracy development and support this by: 

  • integrating numeracy learning into everyday experiences such as cooking and constructions 
  • exploring how numeracy development can be implemented into play-based approaches to learning
  • intentionally using numeracy language in their day-to-day interactions with children.

The Early childhood numeracy and mathematics resource provides early childhood professionals with suggestions and resources for building numeracy in early childhood, applicable for Three-Year-Old Kindergarten programs. This includes advice on engaging children in:

  • numbers and algebra – by investigating patterns, symbols, and relationships
  • measurement and geometry – by exploring mathematical concepts such as the size, shape, position and dimensions of objects
  • statistics and probability – by sorting, understanding and presenting information from groups of objects in order to understand what is happening.   

Connections to the VEYLDF

The VEYLDF reminds us that 'Children's rich spoken language, as well as their gestures and actions, underpin the development of basic literacy and numeracy concepts' (p. 28). 

Outcome 5: Children are effective communicators, notes that interacting in order to make meaning is at the heart of literacy and numeracy learning. This is evident when children:

  • respond verbally and non-verbally to what they see, hear, touch, feel and taste
  • demonstrate an increasing understanding of measurement of number using vocabulary to describe size, length, volume, capacity and names of numbers.

Related to Outcome 5, Outcome 4: Children as confident and engaged learners, reinforces that children can demonstrate their engagement in playing with literacy and numeracy knowledge and processes. This is evident when children: 

  • use play to investigate, imagine and explore ideas 
  • create and use representation to organise, record and communicate mathematical ideas and concepts.

Questions for reflective discussion

To support children as effective communicators, take time to reflect on the following questions:

  • Are there times in the day where early childhood professionals will most likely see children's interest in literacy and numeracy?
  • Are there spaces in both inside and outside learning environments where early childhood professionals will be most likely to see children's interest in literacy and numeracy? 
  • Which educator practices are most likely to support the communication skills of three-year-old children? 
  • How will educators build their understanding and plan for the diverse contexts of children in their literacy and numeracy learning, including recognising multilingualism and children who interact non-verbally and verbally? 
  • Where is support available for early childhood professionals to gain greater knowledge about developing literacy and numeracy skills and understandings in a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program?

Connections to the box of Educational Resources

A Box of Educational Resources has been provided to services funded to deliver Three-Year-Old Kindergarten in 2020 and 2021. It includes resources that specifically focus on supporting children's communication.  Several relevant resources included in the box are also freely available online and these links are listed below, while some others are only available in hard copy.

Resources available online

VCAA Communication Literature Review: This review outlines children's trajectory of communication development and the different modes and components of language. 

VCAA Communication Practice Guide: This guide provides information to deepen understanding about the importance of communication development and strategies for supporting positive communication for children from birth to eight years. 

Early Childhood Literacy Toolkit Poster: (pdf - 259.76kb) This poster provides an illustrative map of the online Literacy Teaching Toolkit which has practical advice about the learning and teaching of language and literacy skills. 

Early Childhood STEM Habits of Mind Guide and Poster: This resource provides an overview of the Early Childhood STEM Habits of Mind and how they might be used. Each habit is unpacked with examples of what it might look like in early childhood settings.  

Resources available in the box

From Lullabies to Literature: Stories in the Lives of Infants and Toddlers: This resource provides practical strategies for promoting language and literacy, linking these to developmental milestones.

See Page 39 titled 'The Special Role of Books', which highlights the important role books play in children's literacy and communication development. It explores the role of books in strengthening relationships as well as exposing children to diversity and difference. 

Indigenous First Discovery Pack: This resource includes three board books – Animals, People and Places, At the Billabong and an Indigenous First Discovery Teachers Guide. The board books can be used to introduce symbols from Aboriginal culture to three-year-old children. 

Other Resources

DET, Literacy Teaching Toolkit for early childhood: The early childhood literacy teaching toolkit provides practical advice about the learning and teaching of language and literacy skills from birth to five years. The toolkit is organised into two development domains within language and literacy: interacting with others and emergent literacy (including reading and writing). 

DET, VEYLDF Practice Principle Guide Equity and Diversity: (docx - 560.23kb) This practice guide supports early childhood professionals to understand the terms of equity and diversity, to critically reflect on their practice and actively address issues of inequality and promote the value of diversity and difference. The guide draws on the VEYLDF Evidence Paper Practice Principle 4: Equity and Diversity and should be used in conjunction with the VEYLDF Practice Principle Equity and Diversity video

VCAA, Supporting bilingualism, multilingualism and language learning: This practice guide facilitates reflection around linguistic diversity, multiculturalism, children's multicultural development and language learning. Early childhood professionals can use the guide to support critical reflection on practice, for discussion with a mentor or critical friend, and as a guide for discussion with colleagues. Its scenarios and learning experiences will support engagement with key concepts of the VEYLDF as they relate to bilingual children, families and professionals. 

DET, Early Childhood numeracy and mathematics resource: This resource provides evidence-based approaches for effective numeracy and mathematics from birth, including learning plans and videos of teaching and learning practice.