Monday, March 13, 2017

Language and Learning

In this Language & Learning Intervention workshop I attended, speech-language therapists worked with teachers and some parents in our cluster to provide learning support for our children with high language and communication needs. The support we were given was around being reflective of our communicative behaviours and how we can adapt and differentiate our interactions with students who have communication disorders.

Module 1 (Planning Language and Learning Goals):
Some children might have language, but can’t retrieve it...
Incentive: Think about your day yesterday... What activities did you do that involved language? What activities did not involve language?

Three components of language:
  1. What? (are kids talking about) e.g. family, hunting, birthday, other children in class, farming, tractors, weekend activities, learning. This includes vocabulary labels, action and describing words. Think about the meaning of the message.
  2. How? (understanding content and express in various ways) This may involve pointing, gestures, facial expressions, smiling, physical leading, eye contact. 
  3. Why? (the reason for communicating?) e.g. gaining attention to express feeling / telling the rules, needs met / want something, greeting, ask questions - can I?, responding, re-tell.

We need all three these components, otherwise something might break down.

When a child do not have the language they need to use, it is like a can of coke that is being shook, waiting to explode. Pressure was building up, they feel like they are on the back foot all the time. Anxiety might be increasing. Some children might be holding it together at school, but explode when they get home. Simple change in routine could inflict as well (e.g. reliever). This could be tiring for children.

Language underpins all learning. The four language steps are: Early Words User, Word Combiner, Early Sentence User and Complex Sentence User.

Reflection: It is therefore important to build children's expression and feelings about things and to build vocabulary.

There are four Conversational styles: Participator, Responder, Do My Own Thing and Reserved Communicator.

Children rarely start the conversation and may find it easier to respond more to adults than peers. Adults might say the child "takes awhile to warm up".

Do my own thing:
Children mostly communicate about their needs and interests. They rarely respond to attempts to engage them in conversation. Adults might think they are "in their won world".

Reserved Communicator:
Children often have little or no response to your efforts to engage them. They rarely initiate and show little interest in people or objects in their environment. Adult find it difficult to engage the child.

Children who initiate and take part in interactions. They are responsive and will try (and keep trying) to communicate. Adults might describe them as "easy to talk to".

Reflection: Think about strategies children might use to figure out what might be happening in classroom e.g. categorize, body language, ask, sensory cues, process of elimination etc.

Module 2 (Language and Learning in Action):
The features of a great conversations is the opportunity to talk, ask questions or to clarify.

Incentive: Think about the 'ideal classroom'
Teacher (that you like)
Class Culture
Physical Setting
Motivator, interested, care/time, dynamic, calm, surprising, creative
Ask questions, safe - take risks, make mistakes, valued
Different props - creative, ties with children's name who will be the leader, classroom displays  (with care), work hanging up

Classroom conversations could include: Initiation, Response, Feedback.

Strategies to Encourage Engagement:
- Be face-to-face with children
- Respond to their attempts to initiate
- Notice children who are feeling 'left out' or uncomfortable
- Pause to give time for responses
- Make comments and wait for the child to initiate a comment
- Repeat and go slow
- Provide encouragement and explicit feedback

Acknowledge that you heard what child has said, by affirm, model, and extend.
Reflection: To extend is really important as you increase the opportunity for conversation. Don’t just label things for kids, otherwise they will do it back. Describe what happens in a picture, so that they can learn to do the same.

Idea: Feed in four 'comments' about the topic, before asking a question. That way language is 'fed in' and this will enable children to gather language to interact.

Reasons for asking Questions:
- To check children understand new information
- To check reading comprehension
- To prompt for more information
- To ask for clarification
- To stimulate thought

Blank’s Levels of questioning
Blank’s  Level 1 is about immediate
Blank’s  Level 2 is about properties, punctuation, comparing
Blank’s  Level 3 is about what they know, relating
Blank’s Level 4 is about reasoning and why something has happened, justify

Reflection: When the goal is successful communication, match the question complexity to the child's language level.

 ~ "Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow." - Olivier Wendell Holmes ~

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