Lynsey Weston and Sian Ansell, both Communication & Language Specialist Early Years Teachers for A Better Start Southend (ABSS), discuss the summer Chatter Challenge that is part of ABSS’s Talking Transitions programme.
Talking Transitions aims to ensure that the transition process experienced by children and their families is as smooth as possible. Early Years (EY) Providers and Schools are brought together to strengthen their understanding of the shared role they play in supporting young children’s transition experiences through focusing on the communication and language needs of children and sharing best practice and effective strategies to better support them through all transitions.
As the project focuses on the transition journey children and their families experience from pre-school/childminder/Day Nursery to starting school, practitioners who are part of the project, jointly consider resources that will enhance and support this experience.
To ensure that families and children are supported throughout the summer holiday, a range of practitioners, Headteachers, nursery staff, childminders and parents created the ‘Chatter Challenge’. The Challenge offers playful communication and language ideas for families to do, each day, throughout the month of August.
Accompanying the Chatter Challenge is a Chatter Bag. As can be seen from the Chatter Challenge, sometimes, the challenge for the day may be to ‘find something that is furry, something that is scratchy and something that is smooth and pop it in your Chatter Bag’ or, to ‘draw one thing that you might see on your way to school on your chatter bag’. Children are then encouraged, once the challenge has been finished, to take their Chatter Bags into school on their first day, to chat about with their new teachers and friends.
The Chatter Challenge and Bag has been very well received with parents and children saying:
"We completed most of the Chatter Challenge. Arco loved finding little bits to put in his bag and we particularly enjoyed looking for 3s when we were out and about. I think it was just the right balance of activities and it did help a little [with transition to school] without putting too much pressure on….”
Amy and Arco
"Me and Isabella did most of it. A really lovely moment was when the challenges inspired conversations. Isabella said she would be super Isabella and heal people when they were poorly… The challenges helped as it reminded Isabella she was going to big school eventually and would show her teachers the challenge."
Amanda and Isabella
"We're big fans of the Chatter Challenge! My daughter was brave enough to get up in front of her class, a new group of people, to show them her Chatter Bag!"
Anonymous with her daughter
Some feedback from a teacher:
"The new Reception children were really excited to complete their Chatter Challenges and Chatter bags. Over the summer holidays, parents enjoyed posting pictures and comments on our school Facebook group. When the children started school in September, they were able to bring their teddy and Chatter bags into the classroom and loved talking to the other children and their new teachers about all their adventures."
About A Better Start
A Better Start is a ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.
Five A Better Start partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life. Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language and communication.
The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. It is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier
The National Children’s Bureau is coordinating an ambitious programme of shared learning for A Better Start, disseminating the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.
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Visit the A Better Start website to find out more.