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TV blamed for poor conversational skills

[Leicester Mercury story, June 5, 2002]

Leicester children are growing up with poor conversation skills because they spend too much time glued to the TV, an expert said today. Dr Rosemary Sage, a Lecturer in the University's School of Education, has studied the speaking skills of city children over 20 years and found their inability to communicate is a major obstacle to making progress at school.

However, she said programmes she has developed with Leicester schools are leading to dramatic improvements in standards.

Now, the technique, which uses conversation and discussion to stimulate children's thinking skills, is being adopted by schools across Britain.

In a study of children aged three and four at Knighton Fields Primary School in Saffron Lane, all had a speaking ability at least two years behind the expected level. In a vocabulary test, only one of the children could recognise more than 11 out of 400 words.

Dr Sage said: "If you gave them an object such as a cup or spoon, none of them could make as many as three or four observations about it, which we would expect at that age.

"About half of them could say one thing - it was the level of language of a one-year-old.

"Families used to gather together every evening and recount what they had done during the day.

"Children learned in that context to put verbal ideas together in their minds. Today, children come home from school and sit in front of the TV."

Dr Sage used the research findings to develop a teaching programme in speaking and thinking skills.

The programme was trialed at two Leicester primary schools and three secondary schools.

Knighton Fields Primary School, in Saffron Lane, has run the programme for three years with selected children.

Head teacher Sue Houghton said: "We have been very pleased with progress."

Liz Heron

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Last updated: 7 June 2002 10:55
Created by: Rachel Tunstall

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