The magic behind increasing communication is choosing one major goal (e.g. following directions) and focusing on improving this communication during one routine (e.g. morning calendar). Teacher Children to Communicate series provides simple instructions on how to increase students communication in a small amount of time.
Parent involvement is critical so each packet includes parent-friendly suggestions so that parents and teachers are on the same page. Early language development has been show to increase when signs are incorporated into the routine. We have included 6 signs related to each communication objective. Best of all, the parent materials and classroom suggestions are also in Spanish so that our diverse families are rapidly able to assist you in the process of increasing their child’s language.
These materials were developed by a group of bilingual speech-language pathologists who have provided therapy services to young children and their families through home-based early childhood intervention programs and in the school setting. The goal of many programs is to incorporate language strategies into the daily routines of the home and classroom.
This content was driven by theory and research in the fields of child development, communication development, and early intervention. These lessons and activities are based on Vygotsky’s (1967) social learning theories. Social learning theories view social interaction as critical to development. Therefore, teachers and the family members are seen as the child’s guides, and the child is the apprentice who learns from the adult models (Rogoff, 1990). Every strategy and every activity incorporates the care takers and teachers as important social interactionists and as key models of communicative behaviors.
Some very simple principles from theory and research are incorporated. Frequency and consistency are two of those principles. Simply put, the more a child hears a word or phrase, the more likely he or she is to use that phrase. Secondly, the more consistently a word or phrase achieves the desired outcome, the more likely a child is to use it. Two strategies that drive these two principles are modeling and imitating. These are very simple ideas that can produce great change when used frequently and consistently.
Another key component of these materials is the use of sign language. Many teachers and parents of children with communication delays and disorders become very concerned when a speech-language pathologist proposes the use of sign language. When probed further about their concerns, many parents have reported that they are afraid their children will learn to sign and not learn to talk, or that they will no longer be motivated to learn to speak if they can communicate with sign language. Current literature suggests that the use of sign with children leads to earlier and clearer parent-child communication, accelerated spoken language development, reduced crying and whining, improved parent-child bonding, and increased intelligence (Goodwyn, Acredolo, & Brown, 2000; Thompson et al., 2007). Additionally, Pizer, Walters, & Meier (2007) found that families of children who learned signs to communicate stopped using signs when children began to communicate well orally (around 2 years of age).
While parents may be resistant to the use of signs to help their children develop early language skills, sharing data about sign use with families may ease concerns and help increase family participation.
Improve Vocabulary with Categorization
As educators we are constantly grouping things. In the classroom with our favorite set of materials we can sort objects by size or color. The average person may not spend as much time thinking about categorization because in typical children it develops without much focus. However, the ability to categorize is the foundation of vocabulary development. Cognitive research suggests that when we learn new words we associate the word with its descriptive qualities and then group it with similar things. We see this on a daily basis when a child cannot encounters a new object (tortoise) and calls it something that is familiar (frog). We hunt through our brain for the “category” that it most resembles and name it or learn the concept and place it in the same group with other things that can be described the same way.