I created a communication station in my classroom about two years ago. Communication is a key part of social/emotional learning (SEL). What my communication station consists of is a large print core communication board and a few other TAH communication products with visuals (Complimenting & Greeting and Visuals for an Autism Classroom) . Select students would have “Communication Station” in their schedules each and bring over stools to the board to this teacher-run station. There are so many different ways to use the communication station…here are five benefits to implementing a communication station in the classroom…
1. It Helps to Establish a Routine
One of the main benefits to establishing a communication station routine everyday is that it forces students to get their communication devices or PECS books out first thing in the morning. I’ll admit, I wasn’t always the best at reminding my students to get their communication devices out in the morning, but having a communication station time as part of the schedule first thing in the morning helped to remind me and the students to have their devices out. While communication happens all day long, getting started in a formal way through use of the communication station, help to set the tone for the day. The routine I had established was that students checked their schedules, and brought over a stool from the reading table and their device. There were certain things we did each day, which would help students to get multiple practice opportunities…
2. It Helps to Teach SEL Skills
As we know, communication is one of the essential SEL skills, but there are so many other SEL skills you can teach your students to using a core board at a Communication Station. I used communication station time to work on expressing feelings or preferences. For feelings, we pointed to the visuals, practiced making the faces and eventually put together the sentence “I feel _____”. For preferences, we would use the sentence starter, “I like” and depending on what the question or category was presented, I brought in other visuals (such as the Visual Questions product or the Category Mega Pack).
3. It Helps to Learn Basic Academic Skills
In addition to teaching SEL skills, using the communication station has been helpful in teaching students foundational academic skills. I use the core board to prepositions. One activity I like to do with students is to take them and their stools in the hallway to teach “up” and “down” using the stairs. I also use some of the extra visuals to label parts of the classroom. I have “on” and “off” by the light switch. Not only do they enjoy this, but it gives a concrete and functional way to apply prepositions in the everyday classroom experience. I also use it to teach adjectives. Sometimes I have an item or a picture for students to describe or I use it with an adapted book. You can also introduce verbs by having students act them out (sit and stand are especially easy to do in a classroom setting). You can also use extra verb pieces to label parts of the room as well.
4. Use It as a Reference Chart
Not all my students had a time to go to the communication station as part of their schedule. I mainly focused on the students that used devices and picture exchange, but all students can utilize the core board in other ways. Since it is color-coded, I would use it to teach students parts of speech and describing. Additionally, students were able to use it as reference in their spelling since it included pictures. And of course, it was very useful for any student to use the large core board for communicate because of it’s large print and central location in the classroom.
5. It Makes it Fun to Communicate!
Having the Communication Station in my classroom helped me to think outside of the box to utilize different parts of the board to get students excited and motivated to communicate. If they used the core board to say, “I feel thirsty” I would let them go get a drink from the drinking fountain, which for some reason they found kind of funny. There was the verb “ride” on the board that had a picture of a scooter-type looking thing on the visual. If students requested “I want ride”, they were able to use the scooter in the hallway for a short amount of time during the meeting. I also used the individual pieces to play a modified “Red Light, Green Light” style game in the hallway to teach about adjectives like “fast” or “slow”.
I hope you are inspired to set up a communication station in your classroom! TAH has amazing resources you can use to establish a communication-based “meeting” with your students. Share ways you make communication happen in your classroom!