Early years oral language


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In 2018 low oral language levels in pre-school and foundation students were identified by principals as a barrier to developing literacy skills. From 2018 to 2022 MPF supported No Limits, a program that saw speech pathologists working with children to address this issue.

A finding from this work was that a more sustainable approach was needed. So in 2023 Nat Brass and Sarah Hughes, passionate literacy specialists and co- founders of SailAway Readers, were engaged to work with the Community Kinders Plus (CKP) preschools in the Western Port region to develop skills of pre-school teachers.

Nat and Sarah developed and delivered a play based phonological awareness program for pre- schoolers to build strong oral language.

Phonological awareness is an important set of skills to develop throughout the early childhood and primary years. It is the awareness of and ability to work with sounds in spoken language. This sets the stage for decoding, blending, and, ultimately, word reading. It is strongly linked to later reading and spelling success.

Phonological awareness includes a reader’s ability to recognise: syllables rhymes sounds at the start/end of words sounds within words The SailAway Readers program includes:

  • Supporting staff to understand and embed phonological awareness practices in the daily rhythms within their preschool service.
  • Ongoing professional development for teachers and educators.
  • Supporting teachers and educators to use data to inform planning.

Progress of the work has been monitored and measured through the CKP Skills Audit, which tracks oral language development in children. Surveys and observations have been used to assess teacher skills in understanding and teaching phonological awareness, along with learning to collect and use data effectively.

The program’s reach


Western Port Regions Early Years Preschools