Being a communicator

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A child explores and expands ways to use language.


  • interact verbally and nonverbally with others for a range of purposes.

Educators focus on the following aspects of children’s learning:

  • enjoyment and engagement in communicating and interacting with peers and adults
  • ability to construct and clearly convey messages that exchange ideas, thoughts, questions and feelings
  • vocabulary for describing experiences, sharing interests and communicating knowledge and understanding
  • confidence to contribute ideas and experiences, share information or retell happenings
  • use of different sentence structures to comment, ask a question, give direction or explain a relationship
  • awareness that there are different ways to interact and communicate in particular social and cultural situations
  • skills for listening and taking turns in conversations
  • ability to attend to, interpret and follow directions.

Educators intentionally promote this learning, for example, when they:

  • know about, recognise and support the development of children’s first language as well as Standard Australian English (SAE)
  • work in partnership with first language-speaking colleagues, families, Elders and community members to support children’s language learning and traditional language heritage model language and encourage children to express themselves in their first languages and SAE
  • respond sensitively to children’s efforts to communicate
  • engage in conversations and interactions with children, that intentionally include open-ended questions, extension of ideas and labelling of unfamiliar concepts
  • incorporate songs, jingles and rhymes that immerse children in the sounds, structures, patterns and intonation at every opportunity
  • provide ample opportunity for children to speak and listen to first languages and SAE, for example, during group sharing times, routines and rituals, and throughout play
  • respond to children’s attempts and approximations by repeating, modelling and expanding words
  • contextualise shared texts, songs and rhymes to reflect children’s experiences in family and community
  • use puppets, familiar artefacts, photographs, pictures and visual supplements to extend vocabulary and promote understanding
  • use visual cues to support children’s understanding of verbal information, for example, stop, look, listen chart, pair of eyes or an ear, introduce new words during conversations, familiar routines and shared rituals
  • provide games, dance and movement experiences that involve simple directions and instructions
  • make explicit the speaking and listening practices used in group and social situations, for example ‘May I have a turn please?’.

Educators look for evidence of children’s learning, for example:

In the familiar contexts of family and community when children:

  • notice the existence of languages in the community and the wider world
  • use or respond to several languages and varieties, for example, traditional languages, creoles, varieties of English (Aboriginal English, Standard Australian English, American English)
  • confidently interact and convey meaning with peers and familiar adults in their first languages
  • confidently use nonverbal interactional skills and a variety of signs and gestures
  • show understanding of the conventions of social interaction appropriate to their community and home culture.

In new and unfamiliar contexts of an early learning program when children:

  • attend and give cues that they are listening to and understanding what is said to them
  • use body language, point, look and gesture to express feelings and communicate understanding
  • if they are first language speakers, respond in ways that may seem inappropriate when not able to be understood by others or in comprehending interactions
  • use one-word utterances or a short series of single words to convey feelings, needs, ideas and experiences
  • answer questions by pointing or using nonverbal gestures
  • join in or mimic others in finger plays, songs and rhymes using some word approximations, gestures and related body movements
  • take some initiative in communicating independently in conversations.

In the familiar contexts of a culturally secure early learning program when children:

  • convey and construct messages with purpose and confidence in at least one language
  • verbally share ideas, engage in conversations and listen to the ideas of others during play and small and large group experiences
  • listen without prompts to stories, music, discussions
  • seek assistance to learn new words, describe experiences and interests or articulate thoughts
  • use an increasing vocabulary to describe what they know, think, hear, feel, see, taste and touch
  • retell happenings, ask questions and follow simple instructions
  • show sustained interest in conversations with others by contributing ideas or sharing information
  • listen to the conversation of others and wait for a turn to speak.

As you reflect on practices, ask yourself

What languages do the children in the early learning program speak? Where do I go for support to find out about the children’s first languages?

Do I work with adults who speak the same languages as the children in the program?

What strategies and resources can I use to support children’s first language/s development?

What strategies and resources can I use to help children who speak a language other than Standard Australian English develop their awareness about and use of Standard Australian English?

What are the traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language/s associated with the area where the centre is located?

Where can I go for help with developing a program that supports children’s language learning?

Please note, children may experience delays in first language and auditory skills due to the effects of conductive hearing loss. If children appear to have delays in first language compared to their first language-speaking peers, this should be investigated.