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Language and Communication Three key word expression  This resource has been viewed by a moderator.


Pupils use phrases with up to three key words signs or symbols to communicate simple ideas, events or stories to others, for example 'I want a big chocolate ice cream'.

Early years skill:Speaking
Early years typical range:30-50m
P-scales/Nat. Curriculum skill:English Speaking
P-scales/Nat. Curriculum level:P7
TAP skill:Language Expression
TAP level:TAP42
Section:Early Years (0-5yrs) info; Primary (5-11yrs) info

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Activity/strategy name and materials required How to do the activity Key principles for doing the activity and comments
Shopping games:

Everyday objects, bag.

The child is asked to go and 'buy' two and then three items. He/she must name or sign each item he wants. Use pictures or symbols as a 'shopping list'.


Two boxes, one with a picture of a monkey, another with a picture of cat. Cut a posting hole where the mouths are. Play food.

Introduce the monkey and cat saying they are very hungry.

Give instructions to the children such as 'Give Monkey the apple', 'Give the cat the banana and the ice cream'. Comment on what happened, for example 'Monkey ate the apple'. Give the child a go at saying what you should do.

Encourage the child to give up to three key words by simply looking puzzled if you haven't got enough information. You could also ask questions such as 'Who shall I feed the apple to?', 'What shall I give the monkey?' if he doesn't give enough information.


Tea-set, play food, doll, teddy.

Animals and actions

At least two toy animals or dolls, for example a doll, a teddy, a rabbit.

Prompt cards for actions the animals can do if needed.

If the child doesn't use all three key words, you can try saying what the animal is doing but getting a bit wrong (so they can correct you), for example, if they say "rabbit's jumping", you can say "oh...rabbit's jumping on the banana?" (there is no banana). The child may correct you, e.g. "rabbit's jumping on the table!" - though they might say "no, table!" - which conversationally is equally OK. They are more likely to use more words if you get more of it wrong, e.g. "oh, Teddy's sleeping on the banana!"

To make this easier you could ask for example "Is rabbit jumping on the banana" or "Is the teddy sitting in the house" (here you've changed all the words for your alternative choice, but you could try having less differences in the choice and see what happens.

If the child just accepts your incorrect statement, you can pretend to pause and think for a while, and then say "Oh, rabbit's jumping on the table!" (Getting it correct this time).

IMPORTANT: you should try and use as many different verbal support strategies as you can in order to help the child say the target sentence. In general, you should try and avoid getting the child to simply repeat what you say as this will be much less effective for helping them to learn how to create the target sentence for themselves.


Dolls/ teddies, tea set, play dough in two colours, cutters.

When the child is the waiter if they don't select the right cookie repeat the key information that has been missed.

When the child is ordering look puzzled if they don't give you enough information.

When the child can do this easily try asking for big, blue square cookies etc.

Stories using miniatures

Play people, bricks, etc. as required

Can be done 1:1 or in a small group

Suggestions for stories:

1. dad, mum, baby, bike, bricks: dad: bye bye baby, bye, bye mum, etc., gets on bike, drives into bricks, falls off;

2. helicopter rescue: helicopter comes and rescues those on an island;

3. dog eats picnic when others aren't looking;

4. fire!: children spot a fire in a building - make a story about what they do next;

5. swim across crocodile infested river.

Give minimal prompts to help the child keep the story going. See also activities English Reading and English Writing P8 for picture sequencing activities.


Paper and pen/pencil for adult.

Big/little (or small) food

Big and small pictures of food items (for example from board maker, clipart, etc or enlarge/decrease pictures on the photocopier)

2 posting boxes, each with a picture of an animal on the front - you could use the animal's mouth for the slot; or 2 hand puppets with opening mouths

Check to see whether the child uses the word "little" or "small", then use the same word.

Don't have too many different foods available at once, as that will be confusing. You can put more pictures out as the foods are 'eaten'.


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