I talked about the importance of using adult language in the classroom in a purposeful manner to model communication for students with autism in my last post . Today I am following up with a freebie to help teachers share the information with classroom staff. And I’m also sharing 3 ways that you can help all the classroom staff stay on track with adult language in the classroom. If you didn’t see the earlier post, please hop over and read it (I’ll wait) so that you know why being quiet can be an important goal and when it is appropriate (and when it’s not).
It isn’t easy to be quiet, refrain from repeating directions and be careful about what we are saying in the classroom. And I realize that it is piled on a task that is already difficult of running the classroom. However, you can reduce stress of everyone in the room by reducing the adult noise in the classroom. Noisy environments promote stress.
So hopefully these ideas can help get adult language in the classroom back on track.
How Adult Language in the Classroom Gets Off-Track
It’s really hard to know how much you are talking in a classroom with everything else going on. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a classroom and asked someone to stop talking for a minute for a student to respond. And the adult told me, “I’m not talking.” The person isn’t being difficult-. She didn’t realize she was talking.
It’s happened to all of us. We are so programmed to talk to the students and give directions. We have so much to get done, that we tend to talk and talk and talk, giving directions over and over without even realizing it. No one is immune to this problem–I promise. So how can we fix it?
1. Make a Pact About Adult Language in the Classroom
Have a team meeting and discuss why it’s important to take care about talking in the classroom and to talk purposefully. Remind staff the importance specifically to give clear directions and model well for the students. Then, the team can make an agreement that you will call each other on it with a subtle sign when you see a staff member talking too much. You could designate a sign (a quiet sign, a tug on your ear) ahead of time that means, “stop talking for a minute.”
In order for this to work, it needs to be universal. It means that parapros can give you (the teacher) the sign when they hear you talking too much and you can do the same for them. It’s a way of helping people self-monitor and making them aware of when they are talking too much. The other nice thing is, it’s not a direction. Instead, it’s a friendly reminder.
To keep it friendly, it needs to be something that everyone on the team agrees is a priority. It also needs to be accepted by everyone. As a teacher the more you encourage staff to give you feedback on your behavior, the more they will be willing to accept feedback from you.
2. Get an Outsider’s Opinion
One of the advantages I have of consulting in classrooms is that I’m an outsider. In other words, I don’t live in the classroom everyday. That gives me a different perspective than when I’m the teacher or the parapro running the classroom. When I’m running the classroom, my brain is immersed in what I’m doing. When I’m a consultant, I get to stand back and watch.
Sometimes it’s helpful to have an outsider’s perspective. If the team doesn’t agree, ask a colleague, a speech therapist, or an administrator come in and do an observation. I know this can be uncomfortable, but sometimes an outsider can make the point more clearly to everyone on the team that we have to address adult language in the classroom. Speech pathologists can also come into the classroom to model and demonstrate how to effectively model communication and language.
3. Use Visuals
And finally, you know how much I love visuals for the students and for the adults. Put up reminders in the room about what to say and what to wait for.
You can put up posters with examples of scripted language for the adults. We used to do that in the Baudhuin Preschool. I’m terrible at pretend play. I get caught up in trying to figure out what I’m teaching, and I don’t always feel like the language that I’m trying to model during play sounds right. You can use scripts for the adults for pretend play to help them model during pretend play. For instance, narrating the child’s play, it might expand language that they might not think about in the midst of the activity. Similarly reminders of waiting for a student to respond or not repeating directions can be helpful.
I have a free download in the resource library for you! to help with training your staff in monitoring adult language in the classroom. I’ve included signs to post as reminders. And I also included a brief handout to use for training with staff. The handout gives you the tools to talk about it as a team and work on sharing feedback with each other as reminders. They have the same color scheme as my Visual Reminders for Staff, so if you use them, these will fit right in. Just click the cover page to sign up for the Free Resource Library and download them.
Until next time,