Effective communication is much more than being able to read and write well. We urgently need an approach to learning that recognises the role that all curriculum subjects can play in developing children’s communication skills.
The National Curriculum in England for 5- to 11-year-old children places a huge emphasis on reading and writing. This means that not only is speaking given a back seat but also all other forms of communication. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that English is seen as the pre-eminent subject, to be taught separately from other subjects whose own role in fostering communication is neglected as a consequence.
Life-based learning brings together each of the curriculum’s individual subjects under the umbrella concept of communication education, opening up the possibility for all subject areas to contribute to and enrich children’s learning about communication in all its forms — reading, writing, mathematical, verbal, dance, drama, music, graphic/art and multi-media.
Through the Communication learning theme children’s learning is boosted by focusing not just on English and mathematics but on all the various ways that ‘information and understanding is passed from one person to another’ — the dictionary definition of communication.
The expressive arts — art, dance, drama and music — increase the breadth of children’s communication skills and strengthen their connection to the cultural and creative sphere.
Science, design and technology, history and geography all have their own communication languages for children to discover and set about mastering.
Learning a foreign language broadens horizons and opens up a world of amazing cultural and language diversity. Computing, itself a language, is the bedrock of the modern digital world.
In the life-based approach to learning, communication is the glue that joins individual National Curriculum subjects in a focused understanding that proficiency in each different subject language enhances our ability to communicate with others in increasingly rich and varied ways.
At the same time, the opportunity is there for teachers to ensure that facility in the use of spoken and written English permeates all subject learning, with children constantly increasing their vocabulary and their ability to express themselves through highly interactive, broad-based activities.