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Canada Edmonton Catholic Schools unveils image board to help students learn language and communicate

03:45  25 june  2020
03:45  25 june  2020 Source:   cbc.ca

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Edmonton Catholic School District unveiled the first of its Say & Play sign boards at St. Monica's school on Wednesday. © Scott Neufeld/CBC Edmonton Catholic School District unveiled the first of its Say & Play sign boards at St. Monica's school on Wednesday.

The Edmonton Catholic Schools is rolling out sign boards aimed at helping young children learning language to communicate through pictures.

The first of 40 Say & Play signboards was unveiled at St. Monica Catholic School Wednesday morning.

The signboard features simple words and images — from actions like "jump" to feelings like "happy" — that children can point at to communicate with their teachers and each other.

St. Monica's is a specialized early-intervention school for three- and four-year-olds that require extra attention or are learning English as a second language.

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It is one of nine hosts of the district's 100 Voices Program, aimed at helping pre-schoolers build skills in communication as well as social and emotional learning.

Speech language specialists are part of the daily supports available to help prepare students for kindergarten and beyond.

"It's such an amazing tool not only for children to develop their expressive language but to understand the directions we're giving them," said teacher Laureen Yakemchuk.

Schools would typically have something similar in the classroom and teachers might take a laminated sheet of paper during outdoor lessons, Yakemchuk said.

"To have something permanent like this is honestly such a gift," she said.

"It's amazing that this is now a thing and I hope to see it spreading out throughout our city parks and playgrounds, just because it gives children such a valuable voice."

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Core vocabulary words

The boards give the children a chance to connect with one another, said Shannon Kolt, speech language pathology manager with the district.

"Oftentimes kids who can't use the words, they're the ones who are off on the side of the playground," she said.

The board's selection is based on "core vocabulary words" that comprise about 80 per cent of daily speech, Kolt said.

Images designed by a graphic designer illustrate 40 such words that can be combined to produce more complex sentences and thoughts.

"Communication is central to everything that we do at school," Kolt said. "One of the ways that speech language pathologists help people do this is through using pictures to communicate. And this is a really great example of exactly that."

Funding has been committed to install 40 boards across the district with the goal to have them in every school that hosts the 100 Voices Program.

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