Last Updated: Thursday, June 09, 2022

Talking, listening and questions

What is this?

Talking, Listening and Questions (TLQ) is an intervention for improving the expressive language of children with vulnerable language skills in nursery, primary 1 or primary 2.

Quality Improvement cycles designed by Speech and Language Therapy, Educational Psychology and EY practitioners have refined the approach. The evaluations of the impact of TLQ have included assessments of children’s progress and evaluative comments from practitioners in EY settings who are implementing the approach.

​The average overall gains of around two years in information (vocabulary) and grammar have been consistent throughout the first four years of the project. Additional benefits in terms of confidence, social skills and academic progress are also evident from practitioners observations of change pre and post TLQ intervention.

TLQ is one way to raise attainment and close the poverty-related attainment gap, in line with National Improvement Framework (NIF) priorities. Additional funding such as Pupil Equity Funding at Primary level may provide an opportunity to extend the use of this intervention. 

Who is this for?

This practice exemplar will be of particular interest to teachers and practitioners working at early level, including leaders of learning and partners in Psychological Services and Speech and Language Therapy.​

​How to use this exemplar to improve practice?

TLQ is running in approximately 60% of Dumfries and Galloway Nursery and Primary 1 / 2 settings, to develop children’s talking and listening skills. We know it is vital to improve these skills as these are the building bricks of future learning and wellbeing.

TLQ is a targeted approach with universal application and aims to equip teaching staff with the skills to identify children with talking and listening difficulties and to deliver differentiated support.

To support children involved in TLQ small group work the approach requires opportunities for inclusion of the TLQ approach into everyday nursery and classroom activities for children.

​SLT Services train Practitioners in a 2 stage assessment process. Stage 1 involves a general screening of all children’s spoken language skills. The traffic light approach is then used to identify needs and support required. Stage 2 assessment gathers data to be used measure change following TLQ intervention.​

Traffic light graphic


(Text in red) Children with speech and language disorders - need to be referred for specialist Speech and Language Therapy. TLQ may still be part of their package.

(Text in amber) Children with impoverished language skills who need targeted TLQ support. This is the main group of children that TLQ is designed to target. These children can have transient issues where support is given.

(Text in green)​ Children who are developing typically – no support needed but these children could benefit from reference to TLQ themes in everyday activities.




PDF file: Summary of results (331 KB)

PDF file: TLQ top tips (280 KB)

Powerpoint presentation: TLQ poster (217 KB)

Explore this exemplar

What was done?​


Talking, Listening and Questions key information:

  • ​TLQ is a structured way of teaching children the basics of oral narrative ‘storytelling’ skills, how to answer and ask questions and how to share information in longer sentences using a wider vocabulary.
  • TLQ 20 weeks and can begin at any point in the academic year.
  • Groups run three times a week and the children work through specially designed games and activities suited to their stage and age, i.e. Nursery or P1/2. Commercially available packs are used offering materials and lesson plans.
  • The groups include a maximum of five children and last 30-40 minutes each time. They work outside of class/nursery to allow a quieter place for talking.
  • A TLQ lead must be identified for the setting. In authority settings this is a teacher while in Commissioned Provider settings this is a manager. The TLQ lead runs at least the first session each week. This session is repeated by identified keyworkers on two further occasions that week.
  • TLQ’s two-stage assessment process begins in term two.
    1. All children complete an informal talking screening activity, e.g. the adult writes down verbatim what the child says during a drawing activity.

    2. Where staff are concerned that the child’s performance in the Stage 1 task was limited, e.g. shorter sentences, single word answers, poor grammar skills, the lead practitioner is trained to use a commercially available test to explore the child's talking skills further.

      Th​​e commercially available test scores​ are used as a measure of the child’s progr​ess.

  • Children with Autism and Selective Mutism should not complete TLQ, their needs will not be catered for by this approach.
  • TLQ is designed for children in their preschool year and P1/2, i.e. the youngest would be 4 years old.
  • Children with developmental delays can be included in TLQ groups but should be monitored closely as their attention, listening and cognitive skills may not be at a level to allow them to access TLQ activities.


Research tells us that 50% (higher in areas of increased deprivation) of children come into nursery and school without the talking and listening skills needed to support learning in the curriculum. These children are under-identified and often fail to reach their potential, as minimal support is available.

Children with identified language disorders require additional support to develop the foundations of spoken language to underpin further learning and well being.

Children with EAL require opportunities to develop their English language skills.

What was the impact?​


Pilot studies in schools and nurseries run in Dumfries and Galloway over three academic years (14/15, 15/16 and 16/17) have shown improvements in children's attention, listening, concentration, better play and social interaction, improved understanding and saying longer sentences. In many cases, progress of up to three years plus was achieved in 20 weeks of targeted support using TLQ.

The children engage with TLQ group work through playing games, hearing and telling stories, playing with puppets and generating ideas for games and activities. The children like to answer and ask questions: Who, Where, When, What Happened? This builds into telling oral stories and offers a template similar to that used to support planning in written tasks later in school. Targeting these skills may prevent children from requiring significant levels of support for learning and literacy later on in their school careers.​​

Improvement questions​


  • Is there an identified need to implement an intervention such as the Talking, Listening and Questions (TLQ) approach into our school or early learning and childcare setting?
  • ​Do we have the capacity to…. or do we need to plan for additional training, staffing and resources?
  • What support might we need from key partners such as Speech and Language Therapy (NHS) and Educational Psychology?​​