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. The development of children's communication skills is central to their wellbeing and identity. It also helps children to build a sense of agency and develop friendships (p.22).

Children communicate their curiosity, interests, needs and emotions to those around them from birth. Three-year-old children start using more words and longer sentences when communicating with others. As children’s vocabulary grows, children can better express their feelings and emotions to adults and to other children.

Teachers and educators need to plan how they support children's developing communication skills.

Jump to questions to support reflective practice

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

  • a safe, welcoming, healthy and engaging environment for security and exploration
  • opportunities to practise and maintain their first language
  • teachers and educators who support young children by using a range of communication strategies
  • teacher demonstrations of how to use more words and longer sentences, and using examples like labelling, statements and extended questions.

Receptive language skills are seeing and hearing. Expressive language skills develop through interacting with people, and interacting with natural and constructed environments.

Progress in developing receptive and expressive language skill happens in different ways and at a different pace for each child. Kindergarten programs should offer children experiences to develop their receptive and expressive language skills.

Teachers and educators in Three-Year-Old Kindergarten programs should support children's development of multiple types of language development. These include non-verbal language development such as the artistic languages of movement, dance and the visual arts.

In a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program, teachers, educators and families can work together, helping children to speak in their home language. They may also seek support from other professionals to help a child continue to develop their home language.

What we mean by literacy learning

According to the VEYLDF, 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). Children need to develop literacy in all areas. These skills help them to make sense of different 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. These include, story circles, song writing, decoding signs, book corners and words on computer screens.

Teachers and educators working with children at kindergarten should place great value in how they communicate with children. Teachers and educators can support children's language development 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 has high-quality integrated teaching and learning approaches for language and literacy development. These are appropriate for use in Three-Year-Old Kindergarten programs.

What we mean by numeracy learning

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

Mathematical concepts develop through everyday communication experiences. Teachers and educators guide children's development of numeracy skills.

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).

Teachers and educators guide young children's numeracy development by:

  • using numeracy learning in everyday experiences such as cooking and construction
  • exploring numeracy development in play-based approaches to learning
  • using numeracy language when communicating with children.

The early childhood numeracy and mathematics resource(opens in a new window) has advice for teachers and educators to engage children to understand:

  • numbers and algebra – investigating patterns, symbols, and relationships
  • measurement and geometry – exploring mathematical concepts. Including the size, shape, position and dimensions of objects
  • statistics and probability – sorting, understanding and presenting information from groups of objects.

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

Outcome 5 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.

Outcome 4: Children as confident and engaged learners

Outcome 4 reinforces that children, through play, can demonstrate their 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 to be effective communicators, think about the following questions:

  • Are there times in the day when you are most likely to notice children's interest in literacy and numeracy?
  • Are there indoor and outdoor spaces where you are most likely to notice children's interest in literacy and numeracy?
  • Which educator practices best support the communication skills of young children?
  • How will teachers and educators build their understanding of the diverse contexts of children?
  • How will you plan for children's literacy and numeracy learning?
  • How will you plan for multilingualism? For non-verbal and verbal children's interactions?
  • What supports you to develop your knowledge of developing children's literacy and numeracy skills?

Having watched the video above, consider the following questions:

  • What does a language-rich environment for children look like in your setting?
  • How are you scaffolding children’s literacy and numeracy learning?
  • How does play support this?

Connections to the box of educational resources

A box of educational resources has been provided to all services funded to deliver Three-Year-Old Kindergarten in 2022. 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 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. They link to developmental milestones. See page 39 titled 'The Special Role of Books'. This explains the importance of books in children's literacy and communication development. It explores the role of books in strengthening relationships. Books teach children about diversity and difference.

Indigenous first discovery pack

This resource includes three board books:

  • Animals, People and Places
  • At the Billabong
  • Indigenous First Discovery Teachers Guide.

The board books are used to introduce symbols from Aboriginal culture to young children.

Resources available online

Other resources