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.
Labeling Objects to Increase Vocabulary
On the surface, labeling can simply be seen as the naming of objects. For teachers, the success of a student is measured quarterly and relies heavily on the words they have learned and the student’s eventual ability to read and write the word. Parents are also happy when they ask their child, “What is this?” and they get the appropriate response. However, parents can also grow frustrated when they ask their child to say a word many times (e.g., “Say ‘dog.’ Dog. Woof-woof. Now you say it.”) without success.
Educators need to efficiently teach vocabulary to students who are struggling and it requires a different strategy when a child isn’t acquiring words at the same rate as their peers. We begin by choosing objects that are meaningful to the student. These are objects that they like to use or objects that they are already familiar with so they can get kudos for naming the object in front of their friends. Then, we name the object in isolation (without articles or adjectives) while pointing or ensuring that the child sees the object. Lastly, we do not alter what we say. When a typical child does not respond to a request to name an object we often change our phrase: “What is this? A dog. It’s an animal, it goes Woof, do you have a dog?” This doesn’t enable the meaning of the word to glue itself to the object. An improved interaction would sound like: “What is this? Dog. (pause), Dog. Look here. Dog.”