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Language and behaviour: classroom strategies

Notes on language and behaviour

Generally, activities working on particular skills need to be short and frequently changed.

Useful activities

Use of role play:  use an actual situation that has arisen at home or at school; investigate the differences made by using another tone of voice or phrasing.

Circle time: the adult may need to be more directive than usual and set the scene very carefully so that the child can participate - initially, this may need to be in a very small group of protective peers.

Alternatively, to avoid children simply repeating what others say, they could be put in pairs and asked to report on each other's views.  This needs to be monitored carefully, however, so that the child with difficulties does not become over-dependent on friends.

As the child gains in confidence, the group size and composition can be more challenging.

Practising what they want to say: learning a 'script' for situations the child finds difficult can be achieved through role play, puppets, watching and talking about DVDs.

Playing card games can teach turn taking and learning to cope with other people's idiosyncrasies, such as pace or an extra need for explanations.
Musical and rhythm games can reinforce:
  • social listening;
  • involvement as part of a social group;
  • valuing individual contributions.
Shared activities, such as creating a group picture.  For children with language difficulties, this may require 'fading technique' in order to teach them how to work and talk together.  For example, at first, three quarters of the picture may already be drawn.  Adult involvement may be needed to model how to ask questions/instruct others.

These activities can also be reviewed - how did we do this task? What went well? What were we pleased with? What were we less pleased with? Does the adult need to 'reset the scene' next time, so that there is more group interaction?

Group/individual focus

Self-esteem/confidence to communicate.  Teachers can ensure that:
  • they are aware of any individual difficulties and differentiate tasks - or their own language - appropriately to fit the context
  • they can interpret the child's nonverbal messages
  • the chld has personal strategies for coping with misunderstandings: this might include learning to count to ten
  • the child has a way of letting others know when they need to say something, but are finding this difficult: this might be a concrete signal, such as putting out a red card; adults will need to be very alert and respond fast for this to be successful
Issues of cause and effect

For some children, adults may need to go over what happened several times.  Simpler language, and gesture, may be needed and the links between cause and effect made explicit.

Classroom management

Self-esteem/confidence to communicate.  Teachers can:
  • make sure the physical organisation of the classroom is clear without verbal explanation, for example, where you hang your coat
  • use visual clues whenever possible, such as photos to remind children of events;
  • make sure class rules are known to all
  • make sure that adults share and reinforce the same understanding and conventions
  • use 'plan, do, review' systems about the process of learning: how did we carry out this taks? What helped us to learn from each other?
  • ensure there is a class ethos of self-advocacy: what do I do if I don't understand?
  • allow for class discussion of emotions: identifying aspects of happiness/sadness
  • make sure the class have strategies for responding when a child says or does something unusual.