As you begin to set up your classrooms think about how to plan areas in your classroom which target various language skills on level with your students’ communication abilities. If you can include different language opportunities into your daily routine it makes the communication happen! Here are just a few ideas which may be beneficial to include in your
- Morning Greetings – Have the students greet you and the other adults in the room every day when they enter the room. For non-verbal students you might hang a “hi” sign on the door and the student can touch the sign and direct their attention toward you or the other adult to greet them. Students with AAC devices can take the time to get out the device because they will need it for the school day and use the greetings page on the device after they enter the classroom to greet others. For verbal students you can have the students practice saying “hi” and the teacher’s name and maybe even the “how are you today?” question. This helps students practice answering and asking how another person is on a daily basis. The students can work on answering with different emotions such as “tired”, “happy”, or “grumpy” because the student should not feel the exact same every day!
- Calendar Time/Morning Routine – Take time every day for the students to help you fill in the parts of the calendar and practice the days of the week/date. If the students help fill in sections within the calendar and participate in the routine it makes it more meaningful. For example, if you have a lower functioning student, the student can take the day of the week (Monday) label and attach it over the Monday word on the calendar. For another student, you can give the student a choice of 2 days. “Is today Monday or Friday?” and have the student select the correct word to add to the calendar. The students can also practice saying the days of the week and counting to the current date every day to practice counting. If you have a non-verbal student in the group, the student can help point to the days of the week on the calendar as you and/or other students say the days of the week or if the student has a dynamic AAC device the student can push the days of the week on the device. This is a great time for students with AAC devices to use their device to participate in a calendar routine. Depending on your students skill levels you can add other things such as greeting a peer, weather activities, or monthly holidays into the routine.
- Question of the Day – Have a question of the day the students need to answer during morning group/teacher time. The question can be different for different groups of students but this really incorporates that important skill of understand and answering “wh” questions every day. It’s also great because each student can get the opportunity to answer the question and listen to how his/her peer answers the question as well. This is also another opportunity for students with AAC systems to have a chance to answer a question too. You might need to change or simplify the questions to match the student’s ability on the communication system. For example, if the daily question is “what is your favorite dessert?” The verbal students can answer in a single word utterance or expand the utterance to a complete sentence….”my favorite dessert is ice cream”. A students with a dynamic device should be able to navigate the device to the food section and find the dessert item he/she likes. For a student with a core board you might have to change the question to give the student the opportunity to answer using core vocabulary words. You might ask “do you like dessert” because the student can touch yes/no on the communication board. Then you can ask them maybe a few different dessert options to see if he/she likes that dessert. Such as “do you like ice cream?”, “Do you like cookies?”, and “Do you like cupcakes?”. That way the student can practice using the yes/no pictures on the core board since core boards don’t have all those noun terms on the board. Question can vary from very simple concrete questions to more elaborate. For example “what color is a lemon?” or “where do you sleep at night” are very concrete questions. Asking “what if your favorite…or “when/why” questions can be more challenging.
- Word of the Day – Have a word of the day/week. You can have a word of the day so at the end of the week the students will have been exposed to 5 new vocabulary terms. The goal would be for the student to be able to identify a picture of those new vocabulary terms, verbally tell you what the word means, or use the word in the sentence. Again, you can have different level words for each day. You might have 3 different words – one for your lower group, middle group, and then higher group. Again, if you have it set up then you can just change up the words daily/weekly and incorporate them into daily activities so the student gets lots of exposure and practice to those new words. It is so important we continue to build up those vocabulary skills. Even if you just add one new word a week for some of your students it still is important.
- Vocabulary Board – For some of your higher students you can have a vocabulary board. You might work on synonyms, antonyms, multiple meaning words, or idioms. You can set up something similar to the word of the day. Maybe every day in your teacher time or during morning routine you add another pair of synonyms and focus on synonyms for a month. The next month work on antonyms and add a new set of antonyms every day. In Sasha’s classroom I had the higher group of students I worked with put up an idiom and multiple meaning word each week. Sasha was great and had a place on the wall that each week I added a new idiom and multiple meaning word from a pack I bought at Lakeshore Learning. I usually added the new cards at the end of the speech session and Sasha was awesome and reviewed them during the week until our next speech session. The students had fun acting out some of the idioms and multiple meaning words. These are very difficult concepts for the students so having that exposure really helped with understanding and retention.
There are many ways you can incorporate some of those critical language skills into your daily routine. If you take the time to set up some systems it makes communication happen and the school year run smoother!