The first thing that we must consider is that communication is the number one way for students to actively participate in academic activities. Communication is in part how we all learn, and teachers need to be able to communicate with students in order to understand how they think and where they struggle. We also have to consider that students communicate on different levels. There are students that can expressively communicate to participate in activities. There are students that may have 1 or 2 strategies down that are reliable for them to convey their messages. Then, there are students that mainly communicate through signaling behaviors (e.g., pointing, touching, one word comments, etc.). The emerging communicators are why I am blogging about active participation. Here are some ways to work towards active participation:
- Have expectations that the student will communicate. Let them know you are interested.
- Look for opportunities in every activity that you do with them.
- Pause when you are waiting for a response. Count to 10 to give them time to process and respond.
- Expand on what the student is saying by adding your own thoughts. ("I smell tacos in the cafeteria. They smell good!")
- Avoid sentences that begin with "tell me" or "show me". These can be threatening to the student.
- Use the students modes of communication when interacting with them (e.g., pointing, signing words, etc.)
- Avoid yes and no questions. It is not motivating for students to communicate when they feel pressured to reply with the correct response.
- There is nothing wrong with telling a student that you did not understand what they were trying to communicate. Try to help them find ways to clarify.
A Tender Teacher for Special Needs