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Welcome to Talking Time©, the intervention programme empowering staff to enhance oral language in the early years.

We support early years practitioners to develop their expertise and integrate evidence-based language-supporting strategies into their routine practice.

 

What is Talking Time©?

Talking Time© supports oral language through high quality conversations with children.

Talking Time© is a universal oral language programme for children aged 3 to 5 (pre-school). It supports Early Years practitioners to offer engaging, structured small-group activities to children and enhance oral language through high-quality interactions. Although manualised, the programme is designed to be flexible and adaptable to suit individual children, settings and contexts. It has three main elements:

  1. A flexible intervention programme
  2. A practitioner manual and story books
  3. Evidence-based professional development for staff

Talking Time© is underpinned by a framework of evidence-based language-supporting strategies and five high-quality texts, which you will receive as part of the resource package.

Books

Talking Time© is not a scripted intervention programme. Instead, it takes a longer-term perspective, supporting practitioners to develop expertise with oral language strategies and enhance their everyday practice. There is a Talking Time© manual with flexible plans and conversation prompts to support delivery of the activities; but these resources are flexible, and we will actively encourage and support you in adapting them for your children. This investment builds capacity within your setting, supporting the oral language development of future cohorts as well as the children you work with in the current year.

Previous evaluations have found that Talking Time© had a positive impact on children’s vocabulary and that it supported staff to:

  • develop confidence and expertise with language supporting strategies
  • engage in more back-and-forth conversations with children.

About the Intervention

Talking Time© is all about having high-quality conversations with children. During the programme, staff and children take part in two 15-minute activities per week during regular provision. Activities take place in small groups of mixed language ability. There are three engaging, structured and evidence-based activities:

  • Story Conversations: shared storytelling and conversation using the illustrations in storybooks as prompts, designed to promote comprehension, narrative, and higher order skills (e.g. prediction, inference) as well as word learning

Teacher reading to children

  • Word Play: games and guided role play designed to develop vocabulary breadth and depth;

Teacher playing game with children

  • Hexagons: creating and re-telling stories based on familiar, real-life scenarios. This activity focuses on narrative skill development and offers opportunities for vocabulary learning.

Teacher reading with children

Professional Development

Staff implementing Talking Time© will be offered professional development and face-to-face support by an expert mentor. The programme includes:

  • 3x Twilight workshops – introduction to key programme principles and materials, three activity types, underpinning language-learning strategies and the reflective tool
  • 4x In-class/room mentoring – practical sessions involving observation and rehearsal of language learning strategies ‘in action’ to build confidence and expertise with language supporting strategies; support for longer term implementation
  • 3x Video-mentoring – online reflective discussion of practice based on a video of staff-led sessions and support for planning, adapting and sustaining Talking Time©
  • Weekly reflection – we will also encourage you take part in a weekly individual reflection on your practice using the reflective framework

Our aim throughout the programme is to increase staff confidence so you feel equipped to adapt and embed the programme longer-term to suit your children and your setting.

Professional development aims to support staff in:

  • implementing Talking Time© confidently and effectively;
  • learning to apply strategies flexibly and intentionally to meet children’s individual language needs;
  • adapting Talking Time© in a way which suits your context and children;
  • embedding Talking Time© longer term and integrating language-supporting strategies into routine practice

 

Who is Talking Time© for?

Talking Time© is designed for delivery to nursery children aged 3-5. It is a universal programme therefore the small group sessions are delivered to all children in the class. The professional development training element is available for all nursery staff members but settings identify two Talking Time© leads to receive the bespoke mentoring and coaching elements.

 

Why is Talking Time© important?

Oral language is a foundational skill which underpins children’s literacy, wider academic development and social relationships. Children need good language skills to do their best at school and become confident and successful learners. Many preschool children do not have the language skills they need to access the curriculum, with children from areas of social disadvantage at greatest risk of delay. Children who enter Reception with poor language skills struggle with literacy and are at risk of social and behavioural difficulties. Because of this, investing in oral language development during the early years will not only support children at that time, but will impact their learning across future school years and beyond.

 

What do practitioners say about Talking Time©?

 

1. "I felt it had an impact on the children. And I liked that time to have the conversation, you know, to take time, not just read the stories to them and do circle time but actually to have that concentrated time on ‘let’s just talk’." 2. "We didn’t need to see the data to see the difference it made with our children. I could see it in their play and in what they were doing in continuous provision…. At the end of last year, the children went into reception at a better level of language than they have been previously." 3. "We know that children are more confident, children developed more vocabulary, more language. So our quiet children, our EAL children, everyone benefited. Even the more able children because of the mixed ability groups. It was a positive outcome for all our children in terms of communication and language." 4. "It was something that the children seemed to enjoy and engage well with, and we were able to fit this quite nicely into the timetable." 5. "The staff really enjoyed delivering Talking Time. They really enjoyed that quality time with the children every week. All of the staff were really keen to continue it as well. They also felt it had a big impact on their day-to-day practice and they wanted to keep that up too. So it was beneficial to the children and the staff."

Get Involved

We are looking for 130 settings to take part in a new research study evaluating the Talking Time© programme in 2024-25. Schools with nurseries, nursery schools and private, voluntary and independent (PVI) group settings are eligible and would receive the programme at no cost.

As part of the Department for Education’s Early Years Recovery Programme, four Early Years Stronger Practice Hubs across England are working with the Education Endowment Foundation to fund Early Years settings’ access to Talking Time© and to evaluate the influence of the programme on practice and children’s outcomes. This initiative aims to support education recovery following the pandemic, whilst also developing our understanding of effective professional development in the early years.

Settings who register for the evaluation study will be randomised into intervention and control groups. Intervention groups receive the programme first as part of the research study. Control group settings receive a £1000 payment and after the evaluation is complete, they can choose to use this to access Talking Time© resources and some professional development to support implementation.

The Early Years Stronger Practice Hubs involved are: Liverpool City Region & Beyond, REACH Out (East of England), Thrive Together (West Midlands) and A Brighter Start (East London).

State-maintained and private, voluntary and independent nurseries in the following local authorities are being invited to take part in this research project:

  • North West: Liverpool, Sefton, Knowsley, parts of Lancashire (Burnley and Rossendale)
  • Yorkshire & Humber: Calderdale, Kirklees, Wakefield
  • West Midlands: Walsall, Shropshire, Stoke-on-Trent, Telford& Wrekin
  • East of England: Hertfordshire, parts of Essex, Thurrock, Bedford, Luton, Central Bedfordshire
  • London : Camden, Barking and Dagenham, Westminster, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Enfield, City of London, Redbridge, Brent, Islington, Barnet, Haringey, Harrow, Havering.

The programme is being independently evaluated by National Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER).

If you are interested in being part of the project, please read the information sheet and complete our Expression of Interest form.

 

Introductory Webinars

Learn more about Talking Time© and the evaluation study by joining one of our webinars.

Register by clicking the date you would like to attend:

22 February, 3.30-4.30pm

29 February, 3.30-4.30pm

13 March, 3.30-4.30pm

16 April, 10-11am

Team

 

Julie Dockrell

Professor Julie Dockrell, University College London

Talking Time Co-Author and Lead
Sandra Mathers

Dr Sandra Mathers, University of Oxford

Talking Time Co-Author and Lead
Wendy Lee

Wendy Lee, Lingo

Talking Time Expert Mentor
Clare Williams

Clare Williams, Inquisitive Minds

Talking Time Expert Mentor
Liz Hewitt

Dr Elizabeth Hewitt, University of Oxford

Programme Manager