School Age

Below you can find useful resources for children aged over 5.

Attention and listening in the classroom

What is it?

A child/young person who finds it hard to concentrate and listen may find it hard to:

  • Follow instructions

  • Listen to others and wait for a turn in a conversation.

  • Focus when there is lots of background noise

  • Understand and remember new learning and what you have said.


How do I work on it?

Explain clearly what the expected attention and listening skills are by using visual support (pictures/gestures) for:

  • Sitting

  • Looking

  • Listening

  • Thinking

  • Asking for help

  • Taking turns 


 And to show what is going to happen:

  • Visual timetable

  • Now and next board

  • Timers

  • Reward system


Other classroom strategies:

  • Think about seating position, eg is the child/young person sitting at the front, facing the front, able to see the visual supports. 

  • Try to reduce background noise as much as possible. Gain attention before giving an instruction: use the child/young person’s name to get their attention ‘Marlon listen…’·Simplify your language, e.g. break instructions down.Include active ‘doing’ tasks. 

  • Ask the child/young person or the whole class to listen for specific information: “I want you to listen for ‘ when ’ the children went to the lake.” 

  • Teach active listening: Show out loud what monitoring your understanding means e.g. “He said ‘magnets attract metal’, hmm I wonder what attract means?”Give opportunities to practice asking for help: e.g. provide a visual support with phrases for asking for help; practice the phrases; then give an instruction with a very difficult word included.Role play good listening skills – get the whole class involved. Play attention and listening games regularly.  

  • Label good listening skills when you see the children doing them, e.g. “I can see Maliha is really thinking about the story”.Catch the child using attention and listening skills and give clear praise, eg highlighting to the class that ‘Leon is doing “good sitting” and link back to the visual symbol.


Attention and listening activities

Telephone messages

In a small group one person phones their neighbour and whispers a short sentence who passes the sentence on to the next person round the group. Compare how the starting sentence and ending sentence match.

Simon says

Take turns to give the group an instruction. If the sentence does not start with ‘Simon says’ then the person should not carry out the instruction.

Silly stories

Read a short story to the class then read it again with deliberate errors. As the children to clap their hands or put their hands up when they hear an error. See if the child is able to correct the error.

Barrier games

Ask the child to follow your directions in a drawing activity eg drawing a face: ‘draw blue eyes and pink eyelashes’, ‘draw brown hair and a yellow clip’.  See if their picture matches your drawing.

Fruit salad

Assign each person a fruit. Explain they need to listen for their fruit to be called out. The person in the middle calls out two fruits that have to change places. If the person in the middle calls out fruit salad everybody has to change.

I went shopping and I bought

The first person in the group starts the shopping list ‘I went shopping and I bought an apple’. Each person has to say what is already on the list and add their item until the list is too long to remember.



Communication-friendly classrooms

There is now lots of evidence identifying the key features that make a school or a classroom ‘communication friendly’.

Communication-friendly classrooms are great for supporting everyone’s communication, but their features are particularly beneficial to children and young people with speech, language and communication needs.

They support children and young people to listen, talk, understand, join in and take turns. They also support their independent learning and their social and emotional development.

What are the three main areas to consider in communication-friendly classrooms? 

  • Language learning environment: This is about the physical environment and includes things such as space, light, resources, displays, room organisation and noise level

  • Language learning interactions: This is about the ways in which the adults in the settings talk to the children and young people. It includes things such as reinforcing and praising skills, modelling new language, using visuals to support spoken language, allowing thinking time and asking questions.

  • Language learning opportunities: This is about the planned communication opportunities such as structured conversations with adults, partner talk with peers and small group work, supported by an adult.

If you want to find out more about communication friendly classrooms, go to the The Communication Trust website. You can find an observation tool, which was developed by The Better Communication Research programme, for use in your own classrooms. 

The tool was primarily designed for use in early years foundation stage (EYFS)/Reception/Year 1 and Year 2 classrooms, although many of the principles apply to classrooms for older children too.



Learning more than one language

A lot of children and young people grow up learning more than one language. There is no evidence to suggest that this causes speech and language difficulties. In fact, learning more than one language is an advantage for children and young people.  

Here are some things to think about:

  • Speak to your child or young person in the language you feel most comfortable in. It is the quality of your language that is important!

  • Don’t worry about mixing languages – this is normal!

  • Don’t worry if you ask your child a question and they reply in a different language.

  • Talk to your child about things you have done together or things that are happening.

  • Encourage and praise attempts from your child/young person to communicate in any language they choose.  Show them you are interested!

  • Share a simple list of 10–20 commonly used words in your home language with nursery/school 

  • Use nursery rhymes, songs, stories and films from any culture and language – some of these can be shared with your nursery/school too.

  • If a child or young person has a speech, language or communication difficulty, this will be apparent in all the languages they use.

  • If you are concerned, come to a Speech and Language Therapy drop-in or speak to the SENCO at your school.

  • Speech and Language Therapists can work with interpreters to assess children and young people’s communication skills in different languages.

Understanding language

A child or young person who has difficulty with understanding/comprehension may find it hard to:

  • Understand the words and sentences people use

  • Follow instructions

  • Understand questions

  • Follow conversations and stories

How do I work on comprehension?

Depending on the age of the child or young person, some of the following may be useful:

  • Keep it simple – break down instructions into key parts. Give instructions in the order that you want them to be carried out

  • Check – ensure they have understood your instructions by asking them to repeat what they think they have to do

  • Demonstrate and make it visual – use gestures, pictures or other visuals to reinforce what you are saying, especially when introducing new words or concepts

  • Give time – reduce the speed at which you talk and add pauses to support your child’s processing of information

  • Repeat information if necessary

  • Talk to the child or young person about books, the TV you watch together and the experiences you share. Ask questions such as ‘what? where? when? who? why? and how?’

Have a look at the leaflets for more advice and help.

Vocabulary and spoken language

A child or young person who has difficulty with talking and vocabulary may find it hard to:

  • Use words, sentences, gestures and writing to convey meaning and messages to others.

  • Express their thoughts and feelings

  • Organise their thoughts in a logical order

  • Learn new words

  • Remember words or ‘find’ the right words


How do I work on talking and vocabulary?

Depending on the age of the child or young person, some of the following may be useful:

  • Allow lots of time for the child or young person to plan their sentences and think of the words they want to use

  • Provide a good model by repeating back what they have said in the correct form

  • If the child or young person has difficulty organising what s/he wants to say, provide a structure, eg ‘First tell me where you went at the weekend’, ‘Now tell me who you went with’

  • Provide the first sound of a word if you know what your child wants to say. For example, if you know your child wants to say ‘pencil’ say 'p’ or ‘pe’

  • Singing songs/rhymes and reading and discussing books together provides a great opportunity to talk about and learn new words

  • Try to use new words in a range of different sentences and situations

  • Older children and young people can keep a vocabulary notebook and practice using a dictionary

  • Play word games!  There is lots of evidence to show that these are effective.  See our leaflets for some ideas.


Have a look at the leaflets for more advice and help

Social skills and making friends

A child or young person who has difficulty with making friends may find it hard using conversation skills such as:


  • Beginning a conversation or starting a game with another child

  • Taking turns in conversation

  • Staying on topic

  • Asking appropriate questions

  • Negotiating conflict

  • Talking about topics with others and accepting their opinions.


How do I help a child/young person to make friends?

Depending on the age of the child or young person, some of the following may be useful:

  • Provide lots of opportunities for paired and small group working/conversations

  • Consider opportunities outside of school such as clubs and activities with other children and young people

  • Talk about and practice using different ways to start conversations

  • You could talk to the child or young person about their interests. Then come up with topics of conversation and practice asking one another questions

  • Praise the positive behaviour and interactions that you notice.  For example, ‘I like the way you waited for your turn in the game’

  • Label feelings that the child or young person may be experiencing eg ‘You look excited! You must have had PE’. Also label your own feelings and emotions eg ‘I’m excited too. My parcel arrived in the post.’ 


Have a look at the leaflets for more advice and help