I first heard about Chatta about a year ago when our school was invited to a Chatta training day. I was immediately struck by how much of a helpful tool this could be for the classroom.
The school I work in is McMillan Nursery School (Hull). The school is in an area described as having higher than usual levels of deprivation and currently has 109 three to four-year-olds and 52 two-year-olds on the roll. These numbers will rise next academic year.
Using Chatta for early years
As an early years practitioner. I find it great that Chatta develops language in a way that can be differentiated to every child’s specific needs or interests. It can be very ‘in the moment’, too, if you need it to be, consolidating whatever learning is going on at the time.
The app allows us to take a picture of an activity as it’s happening and then come back to it later in the day, using the picture to focus on the vocabulary surrounding it. We can then come back to it over the coming days and listen back to recordings, helping with memory recall and to consolidate learning.
The ‘chats’ can be very simple or more complex, depending on the individual child’s needs. When we use Chatta consistently, we always see progress. It helps contextualise the language if the children can see it in action and put themselves in the actions. Then we discuss the language, and it links it for them.
The approach works amazingly for all children, but I usually use it for my one-to-one sessions and small group times with our EAL students and also those with SEN.
Chatta for EAL children in early years
I’ve been using Chatta regularly, and it’s been having a positive impact on our children, particularly those with SEND or EAL. We’ve seen a particularly positive effect on our children with speech, language and communication needs.
We tend to make the groups mixed ability, so those with more confidence can support and encourage their peers. Over the weeks, the children grow in confidence, and they go from not contributing to being keen to speak up.
A student whose first language is not English initially often goes through a ‘silent phase’, as they digest and process everything. They probably can talk, but often they appear to be quite mute, lacking the confidence to speak up – for fear of getting it wrong etc. As we work with them, they’ve usually gained more confidence through friendships towards the end of the year. Things like Chatta help with that development. Especially if we’re consistent with it and do the same sort of routine, using Chatta, for example, helps them consolidate vocabulary in a familiar, fun, interactive way and develop the confidence to have a go.
Seeing a child grow in confidence
When we were only open to a few students during the first lockdown, we had really low numbers. In this time, we had one particular child who was EAL and did not speak much English. I focussed on using Chatta with her every day. We quickly saw tremendous progress with her.
The pupil in question was initially relatively mute at nursery – she didn’t speak in her home language nor English. I saw her confidence grow as she could use it on a one-to-one basis. The pupil’s mum said it had made her cry hearing her speak English through the app– Mum had been concerned about how she would cope transitioning to a primary school, yet now she’s thriving. It’s been a fantastic transformation to watch.
Chatta for SEN in early years
We have a wide range of children and many who have speech and language and communication difficulties. They’ve often been referred to the speech and language team. They may have speech and language targets they’re working towards, and we can use Chatta to work towards those targets.
We also have some children who are on the autistic spectrum, where we use Chatta to outline our routines. This helps the children make the connection between the action and the language and helps them prepare for what’s coming next – so that nothing’s a surprise to them. By talking through things, the children feel calmer about what’s next – having already had visual cues of what’s to come.
Visuals to support language
We’re always told using visuals to backup your language is great, but you don’t always have a nice visual to hand for EVERY activity you’re doing. With Chatta, you can do this through the app – it’s very convenient. You can make a really quick Chatta capturing the activity you’ve done, which helps consolidate the information. It’s very simple for the students too – they love to press the record button and hear their voices back.
Great for engagement with parents
Since the start of the pandemic, we had to re-think many of our strategies to reduce the chance of transmission. Using something digital significantly reduced the amount of physical resources that we needed to touch. It’s great to have everything on the app, and it can be used remotely – so we can use it at school and home. We can send the parents an insight into what the children have been doing, improving the children’s communication and engaging with their parents.
It’s not just the approach – the support has been fantastic
Another thing that’s been brilliant is the support that we get from the Chatta team. Support both for ideas that we can implement in the classroom and also the tech support. The team is always available if we have any questions, and it’s been great to have the reassurance that there’s someone we can check with how we’re doing too. It gives us peace of mind that we’re moving forward in the right way.
The approach has been so versatile and has so many uses. In my mind, it’s not just something for early years. That’s the beauty of it. You can adapt it and use it to suit who’s using it, across all ages.
If you’d like to find out more about how Chatta could help your school or setting, contact us today.