A teacher hoping to foster autonomy and mastery in her/his students should ask themselves a few questions about communication: First, What different types of communication are used in my classroom? This is an excellent question. The simple answer is “English.” To reach a wider array of students, I think one must branch out beyond that. Visual aids are probably the most obvious form but audio, video, realia, and gestures are also some to consider. The advent of document cameras and projectors has brought visual aids to a new height. Kids can see visuals now on the screen that we had to open encyclopedias to see when I was in elementary school. Instead on one source in the classroom having a few visual aids to help us understand, we have access to Powerpoint and the internet to give abstract concepts a concrete foundation. In planning lessons, I try to be aware of what visuals I can use to get the lesson across. Audio and video are the same way. The more modalities a teacher can appeal to the better the chance of getting the student to master the information. Besides that, it’s been proven that we learn in different parts of our brain. Something stored in visual and auditory can be recalled longer and with more clarity than something stored in only one. Another way a teacher can communicate with students is by putting their work on the wall.
Next is this question: Do I teach my class any sort of non-verbal communication, such as sign language? Most teachers don’t use sign language but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea. Even if you do not have hearing impaired students, gestures can go a long way toward communicating new knowledge. Slowed speech and gestures are part of the foundational SDAIE instruction I learned in teaching college. The first several years I was teaching, I called upon SDAIE strategies and listed them in my evaluation lesson plans. They are always received with high support by administration. Non verbal communication, including sign language, is a big part of SDAIE. It is often referred as a way to “shelter” students who are on an IEP or otherwise need intervention to gain equal access to the core curriculum.
The last question is rather obvious but extremely important to know and plan around: Do any of your students speak other languages? Every morning at my school we switch our kids around into their ELD or EO groups. The ELD kids kids sheltered instruction because these are the students whose home language is one other than English. The program we use to teach this group includes spoken CDs, huge and colorful lyric posters along with giant books full of pictures. Considering the needs of student who speak other languages is crucial and in California, it’s the law. Can we use this to our advantage and teach them more effectively? This is the challenge of communication in the classroom.