I wrote about my “Communication Station” over a year ago and decided to incorporate it in my classroom this year with a different structure. Communication Station is a time in the students’ schedule where they are specifically practicing communication skills. I created it as a way to at least help me to make sure the students’ communication devices made it out of their backpacks (sorry speech pathologists…). This year, I structured it like the other stations in my classroom and it has become a very enriching, enjoyable and productive part of our day! Here are five parts to my Communication Station routine…
Everyday, I follow the same basic schedule above and incorporate skills my students are working on. I get these skills from their ABLLS-R results or their goals. This is an easy way to make sure I am incorporating practice time for intraverbal and social skills each day. I have been using mantras at all my stations to make students aware of what they are learning. For communication station, we start out by saying the mantra together. The repetition helps students to understand what they are doing and it gives me the opportunity to explain what communication is, the ways there are to communicate and why we communicate with others.
The warm-up at each of my stations is like a review or engagement activity. For my communication station for the past two weeks, it has been categories, which is an intraverbals skill on the ABLLS-R. I have been having each student name one item of a specific category. This is a great way to practice intraverbals and get students who use a device familiar with the categories of their device. I kept the warm-up general because I would like to try to work on other intraverbal skills that are on the ABLLS-R. Also, it is a good way to sneak some extra reading/language arts instruction (I have also used Haggerty Phonemic Awareness and plan on using it at different points during the year).
This next part of communication station is the activity. I have been incorporating 1-2 activities with my students each day. I have been working on prepositions with my students and social skills, but as the year goes on, I will be working on a variety of topics. I have been using cups and little Halloween trinkets to help teach the concepts of in, on, under, above, below and next to. The students seem to enjoy this hands on aspect of Communication Station (and as the students master preposition skills, I can make it as their warm-up). The second activity I have been doing is a social question asking activity. I first modeled by asking the students questions about their favorite things, but now I have students asking their classmates. It is an easy way to get started with questions so I can have students answer more complex questions later in the year.
The share time is to create student awareness of what they are learning and help them to pay attention to what their peers are saying (which is another ABLLS-R skill). For now, I have students share what they heard another person say, by giving them short verbal structure (“I learned that Jaylen’s favorite cartoon is Dragon Ball Z”). Students who don’t remember what another person has said ask the question again to another student and then report it to the group. This sharing time could also be about another skill I am teaching or just what they learned during communication station in general.
5. Set-Up & Extra Ideas
Previously, I set up my Communication Station to the side and students brought stools to the station. This year, since my structure is a large group format, almost all my students have their desks in a U-shape and the visuals for Communication Station are on the front board. Having the U-shape encourages it to be more social and makes it easier for students or myself to go around and ask individual students questions. Having communication at the front of the classroom helps to demonstrate that communication is in everything we do and to incorporate it during all parts of the school day.
There are so many different things that I want to Incorporate with my Communication Station this year. I found a few games in my classroom that I can incorporate (the Visual Conversation Starters and other communication-based resources and products, go to The Autism Helper’s Teachers Pay Teachers page). I also found some extra coffee cups that I hope to create a little segment around (“Coffee Chat”) in which I can model conversation skills and have students practice their conversation skills.
I hope this has given you some ideas and inspiration for your own classroom. Share ways you incorporate social, receptive or expressive language skills with your students!